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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Entrepreneur at Heart

Since August of this year I have been juggling writing, art, ministry and entrepreneurship after stepping out of a full-time job for a non-profit that had more job responsibilities than a centipede has legs. I haven't missed the insanity of the job, but have missed the reliable pay check (even though it was lousy pay) and the friends I left behind. The non-profit's exponential growth coupled with unrealistic goals and expectations made for an increasingly stressful and miserable existence. I'm glad to have my life and emotional health back.

In the time following my departure, I've had no choice but to pursue entrepreneur- ship wholeheartedly in order to pay the mortgage and because finding a real job in Hickory, NC is like trying to find an iceberg in the Fiji islands. I have to admit that though we are as poor as church mice, I am happier now than I have been in a long time. I've found that I have good administrative abilities coupled with a strong creative streak and I thrive on "new and exciting." Developing new ideas is wildly appealing to me. Maintaining something for the long-term is not, because it becomes mundane and life-sucking.

So, when my friend Lena Bengston, a silhouette artist, asked me if I would consider taking over management of her Pet Silhouette business, an offspring of her people silhouette business (see www.silhouettesbylena.com ), I decided to give it a go. The business, which sells attractive pet silhouette ornaments, was seasonal,and was sadly neglected because Lena just didn't have time to manage it. We agreed I would work on straight commission but the problem was this would peak during November and December and dry up after Christmas. With 170 different pet silhouettes developed by Lena (mostly AKC dog breeds) I knew she was sitting on a potential gold mine. There were so many things she could do with these silhouettes besides just ornaments. My task, then was to make this fledgling business into something that could provide for us year round.

We needed to a) find stores that would carry these ornaments year round. (Lena knew that Christmas stores do), b) develop other products with the pet silhouettes on them, products that people would want year round and c) get our own website, which I worked on www.mypetsilhouette.net.

After mulling over these options, I started toying with the idea of coasters. Everybody needs coasters, right? And everybody loves their pet. What could be a better combination? So I researched how to do it in a manner that would cost minimum investment but produce maximum profit. Here's what I came up with --stamped coasters

The second option was to go to a trade show where retailers or Christmas stores would attend. Lena, who already has done several trade shows, knew the ins and outs and after talking with other retailers, learned that the very best trade show in the country was AmericasMart in Atlanta. In my next posting I will talk about the ins and outs of the trade show, the amazing creativity I saw there and the invaluable experience gained from it. If you've ever kicked around an idea for making a hobby a vocation, you might want to stay tuned...That's how many retailers and corporations get their start.

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