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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Hard times are Coming....are you the Ant or the Grasshopper?

This is going to be a more personal post....you know, the "pull up a chair, pour a glass of wine, and share a moment" kind of post that would embarrass friends and family if they were to read it....but a gal has to do what a gal has to do and recent events have me in need of a brain spew.

OK....here goes........

I live in Florida. The economy is bad here.  My family feels it.  Most people I know are feeling it.   Of course, your little pocket of the world might not be feeling it as acutely.   Better yet...perhaps you have been preparing for it.  That is, you might be the Ant to my Grasshopper.   Remember that?  One of Aesop's fables.  I like the cartoon version from 1934.  The grasshopper was playing and frolicking throughout the spring and summer while the ants dutifully prepared for the coming winter.  It has been my tendency to play the Grasshopper in that scenario.   I was never a saver.  I was always a consumer.  A rabid, frenzied, "gotta have it" kind of consumer.  Shopping is something that I did for sport.  I hardly even know that person any more and thank God for it.   I have scaled back.  Doing more with what I have on hand.  Enjoying the process of creating more than the process of consuming.  Several years ago I had a pivot point in my life.  I had  too much debt with too little income--in business and at home.   I had some serious decisions to make and I made them.   It was not pretty.  It was not fun.  Yet...after a lifetime of overspending, I finally "got it."  I had to stick to an austerity budget to make headway with the debt and although it hasn't been easy, it has been joyful.   It is good to feel in control of your life.   If you are not a shopper, substitute your own personal secret vice and imagine the delight in kicking it.

 The deal is....I honestly (and PAINFULLY) looked in the mirror to examine what I had done to bring me to the bed I was so uncomfortable laying in.  I did not blame my partner, my husband, my customers, or my accountant.  I don't control them, I only control me.  I was brave enough to own my personal dysfunction,  figure out what I had done to contribute to the mess and  make it better.  Cool, huh?  It isn't perfect....I still have some debt and income is down, but it is better. I am in control.  I have power.  ROAR!

 The glory of "getting it"  three years ago is that I have had some practice to prepare me for what is coming our way.  Hard times are knocking at the door, folks.

We had dinner with some friends recently.   They are good people and we have known them and loved them for years..  They are like me...Flawed, happy, solid people fighting the good fight and trying to keep it all together.  Like many Americans, they lived right to the edge of their means.  The husband is an incredibly hard worker.  They have a small family business that has afforded them a luxury lake front home and nice vehicles.  Unfortunately, their house is in foreclosure.  The husband is depressed, the wife is trying to keep him glued together.  She finds herself spending money they do not have because shopping is what she does to calm her nerves.  She isn't spending much money at all...a nail polish here, a $10 shirt there.  No, it is not much, compared to what she was spending when times were flush, but it is more than they can afford.  The business income has slowed to a trickle.  The are in the dental industry and sell what for many is now a luxury, not a necessity.  Tactics that worked before to bring in new business are not working now.  They are eating a lot of cereal for dinner because that is what they can afford.  The husband is feeling hopeless.   Hard times are coming.
 
I see it in my neighborhood.  Lots of  "for sale" signs are now dotting the lawns in my  community.  My favorite restaurant is always half empty and the owner's fear is showing.   There are more empty stores in the strip center down the street.  Times are tough.   I get it---I am living it, too.

My husband is in a state of flux....in 2009 he sold his interest in his business.  He has 7 months remaining on his Non-Compete Agreement.  He has to stay out of the only industry that he knows until November.  We have lived through this sort of thing several times in our marriage.  Nonetheless, it is always a bit scary and unsettling.     We watch the bank balance go down, while we figure out WHAT COMES NEXT.  We have never done it while facing such a grim economy and don't want to sit around and wait.  So....after much deliberation we bought a business in an unfamiliar industry because we are determined to BE THE ANT.

This week-end my husband and I went through our budget. [BE THE ANT]  There is nothing quite like trying to slash 20% from the budget to get the love flowing in a marriage.  [Was it good for you, dear?]  It is exactly the sort of thing that we avoid talking about because it is so unpleasant and presses so many buttons.  [BE THE ANT]  We got through it without an argument because we are on the same page.  [BE THE ANT]  It is not about power struggles....it is about survival.  [BE THE ANT].

The cuts we made three years ago were luxury cuts. An Excessive Clothing Allowance became a Reasonable Clothing Allowance.    A Ridiculous Entertainment Budget became more appropriate for our reality.  The cuts this time are going to cause some real bleeding ---both inside and outside of our home.  We still have the money for our NEEDS, but our WANTS have been hit hard.  Rosie the Wonder Dog has had medical bills that have left me weak in the knees.  I pray that she is on the mend because there is a limit to our ability to pay the extraordinary bills required for high falutin' medical care.  The cuts we are making are deep.  I have a housekeeper I adore.  She and her husband have worked for me for years and I care about them. My kids are grown and I can certainly deal with the house myself.  Yet, I have been loathe to end the service.   They have a daughter with serious medical issues.  I worry about the economic impact on the family because I know that they have lost a number of other accounts recently.  This is what puts food on their table...yet, I can no longer afford the luxury.  It makes me sick to my stomach.....but I gotta BE THE ANT.

  We cannot control the economic tsunami heading our way...it is coming whether we want it or not.  We are going to live though it either way so I am going to do everything in my power to keep my family safe, happy, and secure.  We can come through it new and improved or we can come through it broken.   How about you?  Are you doing what it takes --in business and in your personal life--to BE THE ANT?

Debbie Huntoon of Alada Beads is one Crafty Retail Superstar who is all about BEING THE ANT.  This woman never stops and she has the success to prove it.  Her bead store is in Michigan.  The economy there is even worse than the economy in my home state.  Yet, Debbie's store is thriving.  She is totally self supporting and cannot afford a failure, so she makes sure that she doesn't have one.  Is it easy?  Hell, no!  Is it rewarding?  Absolutely.

Debbie told me that she is the Queen of the Gimic and cannot imagine how she would get the rent paid if she was not so focused on promotional events.  She has events going on ALL OF THE TIME.  The photo at left came from PET-A-PALOOZA where customers were invited to bring their four legged pals into the shop for a photo session.  the photos were "shrunk to size" and used to create one of a kind charm bracelets for the doting owners.

 Next week she is offering Mom-a-Palooza in honor of the Crafty Moms that support her business.  There will be a number of Make and Take tables set up with special projects so that kids can make a present for Mom while she makes something  a bit more sophisticated for herself.  The photographer will be back in business so that photo charm bracelets and pins can be created for Grandma!

 Last week Debbie  hosted her 11th Carnival Event.  It is always an impressive event...Debbie works with her teachers to create some stunning make and take projects.  There are 10 different stations, each manned by a different teacher dedicated to assisting with a particular project.  The one day event resulted in $9,000.00 in sales.  Not bad for a Saturday in Michigan in a bad economy.  Debbie has a knack for entertainment.  She is willing to co-opt a good idea if she hears one and tweak it so that it becomes hers.  She took our idea for a "Sparkle and Spirits" night and it has become an important part of her crafty community.  The concept is simple:  invite customers for a free night of beady comraderie.  They all receive a nice gift to go along with the alcohol and munchies.    When I say a "nice gift" I mean it....Debbie recently spend $300 with me for the gifts for one week.  However, this is not to say that she does not have an evil capitalist plan working in the back of her little blond head.  Miss Debbie always has two samples made to highlight the gift item:  one relatively simple and inexpensive, the other more elaborate with a higher price point.  Guess what?  She sells lots of beads as a result of that little free gift.  She regularly has 25 people show up for the party every month.   She is building community and having fun.  Oh...and she is making money.  Yup, Debbie is truly a Crafty Superstar.

So, get busy....there is work to be done!


IN OTHER NEWS:
NEW FIBER CHALLENGE!

Finally, a fiber challenge for all of you "jewelry challenged" readers!  We have enough product to send out 12 kits as pictured below--for FREE--for the first 12 volunteers!  Kit includes a huge Swarovski hot fix transfer (apply to fiber with an iron), some Swarovski yarn, and assorted crystal and seed bead embellishment.  Show us what you can do!
Think outside the box!  A purse?  A jean jacket?  A journal cover?
                            Whatchagonnado?

19 comments:

  1. I love a good challenge! :) I'd really like to try your crystal challenge.

    :) Linda

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  2. You got it! Send me your shipping info and we will get it out this week.

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  3. Okay, give me the challenge! I've got something in my head!

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  4. Way to go, Cheryl! I am sure that you will have fun with it.

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  5. Hi Pat,

    You are the best! Can I play, too?

    Patty Harrell

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  6. Absolutely!!! This is going to be fun!

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  7. I would love to participate!! Count me in!

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  8. You got it! Have you been running any wonderful promotions lately, Janice?

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  9. I'd love to try - I'm a quilt shop owner with a passion for beading...

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  10. Yes please if I'm not too late!!

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  11. Brenda and Jane:
    You are in! Send your shipping info to me at
    TheCraftyRetailer@gmail.com.

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  12. I live in Montreal and was wondering if I could participate in a challenge ? I just read the article on the craftu retailer and it just so happens I am going through the very same rough patch including my dog having to be operated for baldder stones for the third time. I felt better knowing I am not alone. Keep up the good work.

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  13. Marie:
    Sorry to hear about your pup---hopefully the third time will prove to be the charm and the issue will be resolved!

    You are welcome to participate in the challenge and we are delighted to have you. Please send the shipping details to TheCraftyRetailer@gmail.com.

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  14. Pat, has anyone told you today that you rock! I mean it! I get so many good, practical ideas from your blog! Thank you! Yes, I to am trying to be the ant!
    I'd love to play too, if you have any kits left. If so, please send to:
    Amanda Carroll
    Bead Boutique
    1820 Windsor Square Dr
    Concord NC 28105

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  15. Amanda:
    What a nice comment to wake up to this morning! "Be the Ant" has become our new family slogan! LOL

    You snagged the seventh challenge spot..we still have room for a few more. The kits will go out next week.

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  16. Is there still room in the challenge?

    Business is great so I am taking two days off each week - time to be creative :-)

    Erica in AZ
    Knit 1Bead 2

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  17. Wow! Two days off for creativity...you are going to LOVE IT! So, who is minding the store in your absence?

    Re the contest...we have room. Kits are going out this week. Have fun with it!

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  18. Pat: I'm still waiting for my purse frame to come in for this. It should be in by the end of this month (slowpoke). When is this due??? I hope I haven't missed it.

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  19. Hannah:
    the challenge pics are due July 1, but if you need an extra week, no problem........

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