Major Giveaway Going On At The Crafty Branch!

Creative Business

Good morning, friends!

Most of you know I started a craft kit business last fall–I’ve mentioned it a few times in passing–and this week we’re hosting a rather massive giveaway on the new The Crafty Branch Blog with more than $350 in prizes.

Hemiversary Giveaway (1)

Clicking the image above will take you to the post with all the details and the amazingly long list of items included in the grand prize, plus the other four prizes up for grabs. You’ve got all week to enter, until noon (EST) on February 24, 2016, and I really encourage anyone who loves crafting and craft supplies to enter.

It’s true that I started the kit business after my plans to open a brick & mortar shop didn’t pan out, it was my “Plan C” this time last year, but it’s a little more than that, now. After six months of putting together kits (5 so far) I’ve learned a lot, both about the vagaries of this sort of business and about myself as well, about what I’m capable of, the parts I like and maybe the parts I’d outsource if I could. Maybe one day, depending on how things go, you never know!

It all comes down, though, to helping people be more creative. Or, more to the point, helping people access their own, innate creativity. I still believe we all are creative beings, and I still believe you can do a lot with just the stuff around you, but more and more I come to realize that the “fancy” tools and supplies out there exist not merely because someone figured out a way to market them but because, by and large, they work incredibly well! And that, while I can get by with the stuff I have on hand or can pick up here and there for cheap, investing in good tools and supplies is worth it because they will take you farther.

So when I put the Creative Mischief Kits together, I’m striving for a good mix of basics and high end. For brands we recognize and suppliers we might never have heard of. For the tools that get us started as well as those that can take us farther, beyond the scope of the kit and that will last for a good long while. Granted, that also means that our headliner kits are not the inexpensive things you find in the craft store or your local big box. Maybe we’ll come out with some smaller kits in the future, I’m still noodling around on it, but for now, the Creative Mischief kits are there for people who want to discover a new technique or hobby but don’t want to have to search out all the bits and pieces on their own. They offer convenience , wrapped up in gold tissue paper and a paper twist bow.

The giveaway that’s running right now gives you a chance to win favorites from our kits so far–both tools and supplies–plus some original art. If you’ve been curious about the Creative Mischief Kits, now would be a great time to check us out, dig a little deeper into what we do, and maybe that prize, above, will be landing on your doorstep in a couple of weeks.

Good luck!

It’s November 4th, Do You Know Where Your Christmas Cards Are?

In The Studio

What does November 4th have to do with it? Nothing specifically, just that–as various Facebook friends and email lists like to remind me–we’re 7 1/2 weeks or 51 sleeps away from Christmas. I’m already seeing gift guides in my inbox and on some blogs. I shudder to think how early the Black Friday sales are going to start (and I don’t mean on Thanksgiving, I mean I’ve already received one email with that subject line this week).

Makes you want to head for the eggnog, doesn’t it?

While you can shop up until the last few moments of December 24th, if you wait until then to send out your Christmas or Hannukah greetings, you might as well call them New Year’s cards because that’s about when they’ll arrive. The time, my friends, to make plans and take actions for timely holiday happy mail is now.

So what are your options? In relative order of acquisition ease…

  • Pre-Made boxed card sets;
  • Photo cards on a prefab background;
  • Custom-designed cards; and
  • Handmade cards

First of all, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with boxed cards you buy by the dozen: sign, stamp, done. If you want to you can even dress them up a little with some well-chosen embellishments. One of my most popular articles from my eHow days was How to Embellish Store-Bought Cards (I haven’t the foggiest why it’s on that blog and not eHow; I’m guessing Demand Media sold it, as was their right, since I was on a work-for-hire contract back then.)  The only real issue I have with boxed cards are my tendency to buy them and never send them out. Kinda defeats the purpose, right?

Photo cards are also a good way to go if you have a great family picture from earlier in the year or can organize one pretty soon. I don’t recommend waiting until Thanksgiving for this one, since that’ll be cutting it close by the time prints come back or you’ll be forced to pay exorbitant shipping prices to get them in time to send before the holidays. We did one the year we got married (thanks to a speedy turn-around of our November wedding pictures). I did the layout and design and ordered them as postcards from Overnight Prints (whom I prefer over the more common VistaPrint option, though there’s nothing wrong with VP, I use them for other things without any complaints).

"Wishing you the happiest of holidays and toasting to good fortune in the coming year!"

The picture came from our wine-blending unity ceremony and I thought it was pretty perfect for a holiday “toast.”

Todd and I aren’t generally mug for the camera types, though, so photo cards require planning. Instead, I’m much more likely to put my illustration skills to use and design a custom card for us.

One year I designed and screen-printed (on my Print Gocco) this funky monkey Christmas Card (printed in white on a navy linen background)


See, instead of Ho Ho Ho, Santa Monkey says Oh Oh Oh!

And then, the year we ended up moving the week before Christmas (fun times!), we sent out combo At Home/Christmas Cards:

front and inside copy, address omitted

front and inside copy, address omitted (even though we’re not there anymore)

But I don’t just use my artistic talents for myself, I’m available for hire, too! (Just email me!) Last year I was commissioned to create a card with a dragon in a Santa hat, reading a book in front of a fire…

Please note the book title: Fiery Tales

Please note the book title: Fire Side Tails

And earlier this year I was commissioned to create a blog header of caricatures of the author and her family members. While not a Christmas card, I’m sure you can see the possibilities. Plus you could have a large print made up and framed for your gallery wall.


This flying high family caricature could be used on a number of printed items, on a Facebook header, and is 100% unique to them.

A few things to keep in mind if you decide to order a custom illustration for your holiday cards (or any other time):

  1. Budget. Truly custom illustrations are going to run you about the same price as a mid-range photo session (at least in my area). I know that there are folks on Etsy offering family “portrait” illustrations for  $50 or less and I honestly don’t know how they can do it for that and pay themselves a living wage. My prices start at $75 for a single subject (aka 1 person or figure) and go up depending on how many people, animals, etc. you want included. A good illustrator will work with you to find a way to work within your budget by giving you options, but don’t expect them to work for free. After all, you’re not just paying them for the time they spend putting together your custom illustration, you’re paying for their unique skill and style, honed over years of practice.
  2. Timeline. The earlier the better is always a good rule of thumb. Depending on the number of “moving parts” to a commission and the number of revision rounds you go through, you want to allow a couple of weeks for a custom illustration. So, for Christmas cards, now is the time to find your illustrator and ask if they have any openings.
  3. Communication. Unlike ordering a card design through a print on demand service, custom illustrations require back and forth communication. The way I work, we start with a consultation where you tell me what you want, show me some samples of things you like from around the web, and I ask a few questions to get a better feel for the project. After that I prepare a round of sketches or mock-ups (usually 3 options, unless we’re dealing with a very specific request) and I ask you to pick the one you like best and for any changes you’d like made. I come back with the revision, you sign off on it, then I create the final art. If you’re going to be out of town or in an Internet dead zone for a few days during the process, send up a flare so I’m not wondering if you’ve changed your mind all of a sudden.
  4. Contracts. You might think a simple thing like a card illustration wouldn’t need anything more than an email agreement, but I urge you to reconsider. A good contract answers the important questions: who, what, where, how much, and–most importantly–by when. It protects both you and I, and I don’t even start sketching on your job until the contract is signed and a deposit is paid. I’d be wary of anyone who starts work without a written agreement in place as you have no recourse should the unthinkable occur and they disappear on you.

Finally, handmade cards are a way to get the custom treatment without any art or computer skills required. I put it last on the list only because it takes more of a time investment on your part compared to the other options, but can be the most rewarding knowing that you made them with your own two hands! But time investment is relative–there are lots of ways to make handmade cards that can be done in just a few hours. I’m a fan of the assembly line method for making holiday cards: do all the cutting at once, do all the stamping or stenciling in one go, put everything together, then add final embellishments. But just because you’re approaching them like an assembly line, doesn’t mean you have to make them all the same, either.

Winter Whimsy Cards

Winter Whimsy Cards (we also have a set that’s red & green, our Classic Christmas option)

Above are just four examples of the twenty cards you can make with one of my CPR Holiday Creative Mischief Kits from The Crafty Branch. (CPR stands for Cards Prepared and Ready, by the way.) For $40 you get everything you need to make 20 cards, that’s only $2 per card, including cutting diagrams and card “recipes” to get you started putting everything together. It’s up to you how you use the included stencil to embellish the cards (dry embossing, stamping, or texture paste supplies are included). Plus you’ll have paper left over to make gift tags, scrapbook layouts, or even more cards. Order your kit here and it’ll be on its way to you the next day.

So again I ask… it’s November 4th, do you know where your Christmas cards are?

The Crafty Branch Meets the 64 Arts

Creative Business

Which is to say, I’m moving forward by picking up a lost project, at least in part.

It’s clear that opening The Crafty Branch as a full-fledged arts & crafts supply shop isn’t in the cards right now. But I can do two things to work towards that goal:

  1. Teach classes through the local arts center
  2. Launch the kits that the store was going to carry

The classes tap into my desire to support and encourage the local creative community in Thomasville. To accomplish this goal I need to make some class samples and put together the individual class proposals. I’m gravitating towards altered books and art journaling classes for the time being. Once I see how those are received, I’ll have a better idea of where to go from there!

The original plan for the kits was that they’d be good for giving as gifts, a good starter set for the curious without having to wonder if you had everything you needed sort of thing, and perfect for people who liked to learn things on their own instead of in a class setting. I knew that they were also something that could be sold online, and it was in the back of my mind that it would make for a good Plan C if the store didn’t work out.

But then it was pointed out to me that subscription boxes are wildly popular right now. This shouldn’t have been news to me, I’ve subscribed to several off and on over the last couple of years, and enjoy getting fun stuff in the mail–be it stationery, makeup, clothes, jewelry, or anything else–it’s like every month is your birthday! A little digging shows that current subscription boxes focused on arts & crafts range from the sample supplies idea (4-5 products, usually single items like a pencil or a tube of paint, that sort of thing), finished crafts, or project-focused kits (often but not always aimed at kids). My plan is to focus on techniques or skills, putting 8-10 items in each box, including tools that will take you far beyond the suggested projects that can be made with just the supplies in each box, packaging them up with a small booklet or pamphlet that explains the basic process to get the recipient started.

That’s where the 64 Arts blog project comes along. My plan with that always ended in a course or journal, encouraging us to work a little creativity into each and every day by offering prompts and activities to help delve into new hobbies or skills. The kits can and will serve a similar purpose, and I’ll be digging through my 64 Arts archives for inspiration, as well as looking at the remaining 20 or so arts to see what can be built from them, while picking back up the 64 Arts posts again. (Monday’s is something I’ve wanted to get to for ages, but a snafu with a partnership opportunity that, obviously, didn’t pan out played a major hand in derailing the next project on my list. No more!)

Some of the kits I’m already planning are focusing on skills like…

  • Calligraphy
  • Bookbinding
  • Mail Art
  • Needle felting

and half a dozen more at last count. While I work out the details of what each kit will include, trying to keep the value of each box pretty consistent, and setting the final price-point for the subscription, I need to find out who might be interested in these kits when they’re ready to roll! If you are at all curious about the kits or where the next steps for the store will be, sign up for The Crafty Branch mailing list using the very simple form below. I have set a goal to get 200 people to sign up for the list before I’ll feel comfortable launching the kits out into the world, so lease spread the word, too!

Be the first to find out what’s next for The Crafty Branch!

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The end result, I’m hoping, is that the kits will launch and I’ll be able to build that up over the next several months, using this as my start-up company and, when steady enough, revisit opening The Crafty Branch as planned. Provided, of course, that someone else hasn’t already opened a supply store here in Thomasville, negating the need for mine (gotta be practical). But if the kits prove as popular as I think they will, they will continue on, with or without the store. Who knows what’ll be the next great idea then???

So…. tl:dr I’m going to start an arts & crafts supply subscription box. Sign up for more info. Get other people to sign up for more info. When I have 200 people signed up for more info, then I’ll open the kits up for actual subscriptions. More details to come, sign up for the list!

And, you know, stick around here because I’ve got all sorts of other fun stuff planned, too!

What’s in a Name: Filing an LLC in Georgia

Creative Business

Instead of lying and telling you that the business plan is done (though it’s really close, the light at the end of the planning tunnel is really super big!), I have a little story to tell you about how not to register your LLC in Georgia. (And, possibly, other states, but I can only swear to Georgia).


At the beginning of the year I wanted to go ahead and nail down a name for the business. I generally start with names or themes for projects, so why would the store be any different? After all, it’s just a really really big project, right?

After brainstorming (name-storming?) a couple dozen possibilities, the next step was to vet them for .com and social media availability (in my case I checked twitter, pinterest, instagram, etsy, and Facebook). It’s tedious as hell, but a necessary step in this digital day and age. I mean, you don’t want to get your heart set on The Name only to find some idiot is using it on twitter already. Sure, you could add a ‘the’ at the beginning or a ‘shop’ or ‘store’ to the end, but what are the odds your customers are going to find them before you? Exactly. It’s just not worth it.

Then, because it never hurts to test your favorites, I polled a few private Facebook groups I’m in as to their favorites, then I ended up picking one that wasn’t even in the top 3.

Because sometimes you just have to go with your gut.

Part of that was that I had put Scraps of Life in the hat, and it won by a landslide, but I realized that if the time came to sell the business, I’d be selling my online identity for the last decade or more. Since I wasn’t comfortable with that possibility, whether it was 5 years or 20 away, it and any other names I was personally attached to went out the window.

So, now to the good stuff: filing with the state.

Thankfully Georgia has a pretty simple online system to register your company with the Secretary of State. You’ll need to create a cGov360 account, then you can handle pretty much anything you need from this one login. One thing that came highly recommended was to reserve the desired business name before filing your official registration. It’s an additional $25 fee, but the name reservations will come back a yay or nay fairly quickly and, if you do it online, refiling in case of a problem is really simple.

Ask me how I know?

I was pretty sure that The Crafty Branch wasn’t going to have any obvious conflicts in Georgia, so imagine my surprise when my initial name reservation failed!

Turns out, just because you tell the state you’re registering an LLC (or a Corporation, I’d imagine), you are still required to include “LLC”, “L.L.C.” or “Limited Liability Company” as part of the name (or “INC”, “Inc.” or Incorporated, respectively).

So this is how I know just how simple it is to log back into your cGov360 account, make the necessary change, and click on refile.

Not surprisingly, the name went through just fine the second time.

Now, the name reservation is good for 30 days, so sometime within that window you go back to your cGov360 account and complete your Articles of Organization online and pay the $100 registration fee. The Articles of Organization, online at least, involve typing in your name and business addres 3 or 4 times and digitally signing it. It really is that simple. The down side to registering early, is that I didn’t have a business address yet, so I was using my home address (also could be referred to as a records address). That’s not a problem until I get an actual business location and need to update the records with the state: that privilege costs the same amount as the annual filing fee, $50. But you want to be sure of the name and registration before you go shopping your business around the investors, so you do what you have to do!

Again, with such a simple process, how could I screw it up?

Apparently easily.

The failure notice, this time, said that I entered a title (when I digitally “signed” the application) that was not appropriate for an LLC registration. The only appropriate titles for the signer of the LLC application are Member/Manager, Organizer, or Attorney-In-Fact. The first screw-up I take full blame for as it totally didn’t occur to me to include LLC in the registered name, but I’m going to have to insist the State of Georgia take partial blame for the second error. You see, I listed myself as the Owner (which is technically correct) but it’s not like I typed it in–I selected it from their drop-down menu of about a dozen options.

So, listen up programmers, how about another If>Then statement to narrow the drop-down options for the type of registration being filed, mmmkay?

Anyway, another login, update, and refile (thankfully these refiles don’t require re-paying the fees) and another week of waiting and I finally had full and clear license to The Crafty Branch, LLC; at least as far as the state of Georgia is concerned.

And while you’re in a filing mood, you’ll probably want to register the name with the IRS to get an FEID number (instead of using your social at this point) as well as set yourself up with the Georgia Department of Revenue for sales tax (and any other taxes you may need to file, like employment taxes and unemployment insurance if you’ll have employees in the near future).

And a disclaimer, just to cover my butt in case something of the above is wrong or becomes wrong by the time some stranger reads this and takes it as gospel: I am not a lawyer and I am giving absolutely zero business or legal advice, because that would probably be illegal. This is just my experience to date, as of it’s original posting. You should always verify the current regulations and fees in the state you are looking to organize in for the most up to date information, and seek actual legal counsel if your organization is in any way, shape, or form more complex than a single-member LLC. And even probably then.