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June 2012

June 27, 2012

Business Questions

I've loved sharing some of my insights into business recently. What have I missed?

If you have any questions, please feel free to post your questions here and I'll do my best to help.

Hugs,

Serena

Questions and answers below!

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Image by Ray Kachatorian from a story of mine in Country Living Magazine.

Question from Kelley: How do I build internet traffic for my webstore. . . blog. . . etc? Any resources you can point me to, or advice would be awesome!

Answer: Make sure to use social media to your advantage. Build a Facebook page for your business and connect with others there. You really need to build a following and this can take time. Make sure not to be spam-like with those you connect with (Try not to bombard people with posts). If you build a slow and steady following, it will be filled with others who are truly interested in what you have to offer. Best wishes on your webstore!

Question from Reese: I would love to hear your advice on turning an idea into reality. I've got some great ideas, but I have no idea how to actually execute them.

Answer: Truly, my business has been a lot of work. It's taken ten years to get where I am with my business. In the beginning, I worked really hard to reach out to others who it made sense to connect with. Country Living Magazine, Emma Lee Turney (The founder of the Round Top Antiques Show), etc. to tell them about what we were doing and hoping that we could connect in some way. Along the way, I had a strong vision for the business and made sure to stay true to that. I think you need to get your vision into place and then run with it. Build up your business and then reach out to others, promote your business, do everything you can think of to make it strong and viable.

Question from Stacey: What do you do when what you love (interior decorating and styling) is not something "new" like you talked about in your previous "idea" post...how do you stand out in a crowd? The only real difference (or possibly limitation) i have is that i specialize in cottage decor. I just started a new decorating site at http://cottageindustryinterior.com. I'd love for you to take a look and welcome any advice you may have.

Answer: First, I think it's important that you are specializing in something that you obviously love and that's your niche. I'd bet there are no other interior decorators in your area that specialize in cottage decor - and that's perfect! You wouldn't want to open a muffin shop on a street with five other muffin shops. :) I think you have a beautiful website that's really easy to navigate. One tip: Make sure to credit any images you post that aren't your own to the original source - anywhere you post them... your website, facebook, etc. Good luck!

Question from Camille: Where does one start when taking a storefront business online? What do you see from your experience as being the biggest challenges with going online? Which program would you say is best to use for the shopping online? And, if you were asked what would you do differently now regarding your business both online and other avenues like shows, what would you say?

Answer: Make sure you have a really great website that is easy to navigate, and with working links. You really have one chance to pull someone in and if it's not easy, they'll be gone in a few seconds. There are so many shopping cart services that it's mind boggling. You may need to work with a professional to get yours set up. Really, it's going to take a lot of work on your part to do the research on what you like, what you don't like and then go from there. What I did differently with my business is that we originally had a webstore that I eventually was filling the orders for. It was just way too much work and not what I had in mind for the business, so I closed it down and now focus on other parts of my business that I enjoy. Take care.

Question from Cyndi: In your opinion, what's the single best and single worst thing a new small business can learn from?

Answer: My style in business is to just go for it and to learn from successes and mistakes along the way. It's important to not let failures bring you down, because you will fail at some things and that's okay. If you're tenacious and believe in what you're doing, you'll be okay.

June 21, 2012

To Trademark or Not to Trademark

Before I talk about trademarks, I want to preface this post by saying that I am not an expert in trademarks, nor do I have any authority on the matter. My insights are based on my experiences as a trademark holder and business person. You may want to consider talking with an attorney if a trademark is something you are seriously considering for your business.

Now on with the post...

I find that trademarks are a pain in the neck. I don't like them, but do find them absolutely necessary for my business. Here's why: My business is something I've worked really hard to build into a nationally known brand. In business, much of your success hinges on the reputation your business has and is identified through its name. Without my business name and what I've built, I'd really have nothing.

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One of the very first things we did when we started The Farm Chicks, was to trademark it. We knew that we wanted to build the show into something big and wanted to protect what we were going to build. Now, if our plans were to have a little sale in a barn on a casual basis once in a while, I wouldn't have bothered. Because trademarks are not easy. In fact, I find them to be a whole lot of no fun.

Here's why: When you trademark your business, that is only the beginning. As the trademark owner, you must police your trademark, or you run the danger of not being able to enforce it. For example, if my attorney discovers there is someone in Timbucktoo holding an event called The Farm Chicks or anything similar, we must let them know I am the owner of that trademark. Anything that can be confused with The Farm Chicks (whether or not it is the same name) has to be acted upon.

So what do we do when this occurs? (And yes, it does happen...) I reach out to the person/people in a very friendly manner and explain to them that I am the legal owner of that trademark. I also explain that I need then to stop using the name immediately. Usually, that resolves the issue, but there are times when they just don't understand. They think they should be able to use it because I'm in Spokane and they're in Timbucktoo. Or they don't see how they're event could be confused with mine and so on. So, I or my attorney very politely try to explain how a trademark works. It's a frustrating and very stressful process and sometimes they can become defiant. And that part of business is just no fun for me. I do what I do because I love it and sometimes those sort of things can really be hard.

One time, two individuals started a very similar business with a very similar name and then took my story and Teri's story (back when Teri was still a part of the business) and copied them as their own. Their website had out bios on it!

Another time, two individuals started a very similar business with a very similar name and their logo was almost an identical copy of mine, complete with the star.

And many more...

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But this is why trademark law exists. Anything that can cause confusion in the marketplace (can cause any confusion for the consumer) must be addressed, if you own the trademark. If you are the owner of the trademark and you just ignore these violations, you run the risk of not being able to enforce it. And really, if you dont have any plans of enforcing it (and it can get very expensive to do so), why get a trademark in the first place?

Did you know that you can search all current and pending trademarks that exist? If you are starting a business, this is really something you should check before you choose a name. You definitely don't want to choose a name that someone else already owns. It's called the Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS). You can find the website here.

When you see the TM mark on a logo, that usually means the business has applied for a trademark and is in the process. Once the trademark has gone through, the (R) can be used.

Filing for a trademark can also be expensive. I think it is around $500 for a filing fee and additional for every single category you are trademarking in. It can get complicated. My attorney handles all of my trademarks, and that can get costly as well, as I pay attorney fees in addition to the actual filing fees described above. Again, I'd never do it if I wasn't taking the business so seriously.

It's all food for thought. Really, it's all about how far do you intend to take your business? If nothing else, I do hope you will search the TESS site before choosing a name. It will make life so much easier for you and your business in the long run, whether you choose to trademark or not. Because after all, someone else could already own the name you would like to use.

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Between posts on my website, I document my life on Instagram. You can follow along with me there.

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June 20, 2012

Your Circle

One thing that can have such an impact on your business is the people you choose to surround yourself with. Your circle. Your circle is really a lot of circles: friends, business friends, businesses, etc.

You know I talk about choosing to surround myself with people and businesses who are good. And that's really important to me. Do you know how you feel after you've visited with someone who was negative or arrogant? You leave that encounter feeling bad. Imagine if all of your time was spent with people who were positive and uplifting. It would be life changing.

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I really believe every choice we make, from the tiniest things to the biggest things have an impact on the world. If we're good to our children, they're good to others. If we support one another, others will do the same. If we build positive minded businesses, we are building a greater good. I can tell you that if you build a life of trying to be the best person you can be, it becomes who you are. And I say that because it's important to do good things because you just want to do good things - not that you're ever expecting anything in return.

But guess what? Life isn't perfect, and sometimes you'll be disappointed or betrayed by someone you've pulled into your circle. And that's just life. You can spend time dwelling on it and let it bring you down, or you can just deal with it, scrub yourself clean from it, and move on. And you'll be better for it. Because in the end, you'll learn that's a blessing too. You'll grow and be strengthened, and land on your feet.

Because you're a good person.

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Why am I talking about being a good person when building your business? Because it's all intertwined. Your circle, your life choices - it all affects your life - and your business.

Now, I'm not saying you need to rush out and befriend every business person you ever meet or save the world. Just do what makes sense. Here are some examples:

  • If you're on Facebook and see a business that would be great for you to connect with, reach out to them. I met my friend, Alisa this way. I noticed her vintage rental business and then visited her facebook page and website. I liked what I saw. I knew she could be a great addition to my antiques show. The vendors who might need to rent props for display could do so through her. Her business was young and I figured it could use a tiny boost. So I reached out to her. We met for coffee and I learned more about her business and her expertise. One thing led to another, and she ended up supplying me and several of my vendors with rentals at the show, and she ended up working with me on a big book shoot project I was working on. She is a wonderful person and as I've learned, someone I can really rely on, and her with me.
  • Find local businesses who can supply you with what you need. Your patronage supports them and their family and helps your local economy. If you're loyal to them, they'll be loyal to you. Imagine you discover you need some last minute signage for your antiques show. If you've been working with the same business for years, they're likely going to help you in a pinch.
  • If you discover a business or product you love, spread the word! We can all use a little boost.

You need to understand your circle is more than those you befriend or talk to every day. It's anyone you choose to do business with as well.

I've learned to choose wisely. And if someone or something doesn't work out, I just move on. I'm an optimistic entrepreneur but I'm realistic too.

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P.S. Do you recognize the ladies pictured above? If you attend The Farm Chicks Show, you probably do! There's Kathy and Melissa - they've been vendors at The Farm Chicks Show for many years. And Pam and her daughter. Pam has been selling her famous treats at the show for quite some time. I love that they're in my circle.

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Between posts on my website, I document my life on Instagram. You can follow along with me there.

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June 19, 2012

The Big Idea

We all seem to know that having a good business idea is pretty much the best thing you can do when setting out to build your dream. We all want that idea, don't we? The one that everyone says, "I wish I had thought of that!"

I'm here to say that you don't have to come up with something earth shattering to become successful. Here's what I believe:

The most important foundation of a creative business is that it's something you love. LOVE! What do you enjoy? What are you passionate about? Can you work that into a business?

Start from there.

But don't stop at that. Begin thinking about it from your perspective. What would you enjoy if you were the consumer? Try to always think of things with that angle - as if you were experiencing it. Would you love it? Don't stop until it's something that you would love, if you were the consumer.

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I also really want to say that although success in business is often defined by how much revenue your business creates, that's not something I ever focused on when starting out. I believe that developing a business is much like raising a child. You love your child and you work hard to make sure you raise him/her to be the very best they can be. Nurtured, loved, carefully guided - and hopefully someday, successful. And if you work really hard and do the very best you can, chances are, things will turn out just fine. And most likely, very well. You became a parent because you WANTED a child - just like you start a business because you WANT a business. You're going to get out of it what you put into it.

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I should also take a minute to talk about originality. I think that's so important. Important to find your niche - to carve your path where others haven't gone before. This will take work, patience, and some time. But it will be worth it in the end.

And on that topic of originality, let me tell you this. I love shining a spotlight on others and I'm always seeking to share stories of other women in business. What I'm looking for is something unique. Something I haven't seen before. And I'm not alone. That's what magazine staffers, television producers, and editors are always seeking. And consumers are too.

A great example is my friend Heather Bullard's new magazine, Souvenir. Sure, there are lots of magazines out there but hers is unique. Really grass-roots and wonderful because it's full of stories from everyday women like you and me. But SO. Well. Done.

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Which brings me to this: There are so many of us entrepreneurs and creative women out there and we can all support one another. You can surround yourself with a wonderful circle of supportive women.

I'll be talking about that tomorrow...

In the meantime, do you have any questions? Leave me a comment and I'll do my best to help. xo

Serena 042-2

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Between posts on my website, I document my life on Instagram. You can follow along with me there.

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June 18, 2012

Building a Creative Business

I often think about how blessed I am to have found a path in life that allows me to be a mom and wife, while living my dream of building a creative business. Getting to do something I love is really a dream come true.

It’s funny how life twists and turns and then suddenly you’re in a place you never knew you’d be. That’s me.

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And I’ve always believed that if life gives you blessings, you should try to pass them along, however you are able to do so. So this week, I thought I’d talk about building a little business from scratch, what I’ve learned, what I believe, and so on.

I’ll get started with that tomorrow.

xo,

Serena

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Between posts on my website, I document my life on Instagram. You can follow along with me there.

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June 12, 2012

Italian Veggie Sandwich

The last year brought a lot of changes to my world - many of them health related. I've always really prided myself on cooking healthy food for my family, but I've never tried harder than I do now, really in an effort to be as healthy as I can be (and my family too!) As I've made big changes to what I've been cooking, it's been a challenge. For me, someone who has always cooked for enjoyment, it feels like I'm learning to walk again. I recently created this delicious veggie sandwich, which is an adaptation of my Olivada Crostini recipe from the first Farm Chicks cookbook, and a success in my quest for more healthy eating.

Italian Veggie Sandwich

2 small hearty Italian bread rounds or 1 regular-sized

4.25 ounce can chopped black olives

1/3 cup pimento stuffed green olives, chopped

1/2 cup bottled roasted red or yellow peppers, chopped

3 teaspoons red wine vinegar

1 large clove garlic, minced fine

Fresh onion slices

Fresh zucchini slices

Romaine lettuce

Cut rounds in half and remove soft inner bread, leaving just the crust. (Save the soft bread for snacking!)

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Add the olives, peppers, vinegar and garlic to a small mixing bowl and stir until combined.

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Spoon about 1/4 of the mixture onto the inner base of the bread round and spread evenly.

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Top with the onions, zucchini, and lettuce.

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Add a bit more of the olive mixture to the inner top of the bread round.

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Place top round onto bottom veggie-filled round and press. Cut in half or in fourths and serve. (These sandwiches are also really delicious if they are wrapped and placed in the refrigerator overnight).

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Repeat the process with the remaining bread round, filling, and veggies.

June 06, 2012

The Farm Chicks Show - 2012

The week of the show is always a busy one for me.  This year was even more so with the addition of a photo shoot for an upcoming book by Jenny Doh that I'm contributing to. We spent Tuesday shooting in World Headquarters. Me, Ifong, and Alisa:

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(That's Ifong shooting and Alisa styling a shot).

Wednesday was full of what seemed like 9,000 errands. Last minute supplies for the show, Costco, the party supply store, dropping off signs to the crew at the fairgrounds, and working out the details on some new signage with my sign maker, Bob, at Thinq Visual. He's been making signs for the show for many years now.

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After a crazy day of errands, it was perfect that my last stop was at my friend, Barb's, who lives just down the hill from me. Living in the country is such a blessing in times like these. Even when I feel anxious, my surroundings calm me.

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Thursday started bright and early with our oldest son, Cody, and me at the fairgrounds. This year, Cody was responsible for bringing my entrance vision to life.

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Later, Hannah, the daughter of vendors and friends Lisa and Randy Souers, helped Cody with the installment. The display took two full days to complete.

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While Cody worked on the installment, I readied the fairgrounds for the vendors coming in to set up the next day. I hire a crew to mark out the spaces on the floor throughout the buildings and then I come through and place each vendor's packet in each space. It's a surprisingly time consuming process.

Next, The Attic and LCD Expo rental company bring in various items needed for the show such as tables, chairs, tents, backdrops, and props. Lisa and Randy help me get things moved into The Farm Chicks booth and my friend Erin works all day getting Farm Chicks merchandise priced and ready to be displayed. I call an end to the day at 5pm so that I can get home and prepare for my family coming in for the show and so that I can have dinner with Colin and the boys.

Friday morning when Cody and I arrive at the fairgrounds at 8am, the place is hopping with vendors all anxious to get in and get going on their displays. I remember one floor marker for a vendor space that had woken me up in the middle of the night, knowing it needed to be changed, so I zoom over to Bay 1 to fix it, and then we're able to open the doors and get the set-up underway. It's always hard for me to accomplish much after the doors are opened because I want to stop and talk to everyone I see. It feels like a family reunion.

At noon, my friends at Sweet Frostings Blissful Bakeshop came with a delivery of scrumptious cupcakes for the vendors.

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Soon after, Colin called to tell me that he's arrived and he has my sister and mom and dad with him. I tell him I'm going to cry and sure enough, as soon as I see them I begin to weep. I hadn't seen my mom and dad in a really long time and they'd never been to the show. Having them there at that moment was sort of like an approval I'd always hoped to have. I always say that you can work hard and be successful, but unless you have your family, it really means nothing at all.

After I pulled myself together, we got on with finishing our set-up and all around us, the show and vendor spaces began to come to life.

This year was especially exciting to me as I was able to bring in a slew of wonderful new vendors after some unexpected cancellations. Most of them were new to selling their wares and had a refreshing excitement and optimism that was contagious. They were welcomed by my longtime established vendors and it was perfect. I work so hard at making sure each vendor is a good fit, and each time I bring a new one into the family, it feels a lot like bringing home a new baby and hoping the siblings accept them. Of course, it always works out because these are wonderful people. (Thank you, vendors! I love you!)

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Hannah and Cody working on the entry display.

By 6pm, we were done and ready for the show to open the next day. My family and I went home and enjoyed enchilada casserole and fresh veggies and spent the evening catching up.

Saturday morning came in like a lion with wind and rain and what looked to be a very blustery day. Luckily, it finally cleared up and all was well. And the rest my dears, is best told by you....

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Image by Katelyn Foutch, Kate Jennings Photography

Foutch Couch

Erin Hudson Photography

Cary Burnett Photography

The Little Red Shop

FRESH Photography

Dandelions on the Wall

Bennie Ray Photography

Elaine Tolson (Vendor!)

Gather & Hunt (Vendor!)

Four Corners Design

Living With Porteous

Meghan Rickard Photography

Sweet Peas and Happy Things

Junebug Furniture & Design (Vendor!)

Junebug Furniture & Design - Part 2 (Vendor!)

Holly Joy in the Morning (Vendor!)

Salvage 18

Forget Me Not Dreams - Part 1 (Vendor!)

Forget Me Not Dreams - Part 2 (Vendor!)

Trash to Treasure Art

Cutie Pie Cottage

Sweet Paperie

Happy Holiday Girl

Valley Girl

Perfectly Imperfect

Heads Carolina/Tails California

Jems & Jules

Past Blessings (Vendor!)

I Wish I Were A Walton

Moments With Michele (Vendor!)

Re-stock Vintage (Vendor!)

Grandiflora Home

Post Road Vintage (Vendor!)

Annette Monary

She Uses Her Words

Fiber and Fire

Wanderlux (Vendor!)

Who did I miss? If you have a post you'd like to share, please email us your link and we'll add it here! (mail@thefarmchicks.com)

A don't forget: our show sponsor, Harry & David is offering a special discount to everyone throughout the month of June! Check it out!

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Once you're ready to place your order online with Harry & David, type in promo code CHICKS when checking out.

When ordering from Harry & David by phone at 1-800-547-3033, ask for The Farm Chicks Blog 06-12 Show Discount.

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Between posts on my website, I document my life on Instagram. You can follow along with me there.

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June 05, 2012

A Lifetime in 48

The Farm Chicks Show has wrapped for another year and it all feels like a dream. It always feels as if there are lifetimes spanned within those two days.

Tomorrow I'll be back with a show wrap-up and invite you to email me (mail@thefarmchicks.com) any links to posts you may have done on the show and I'll be sure to post them here for everyone to see.

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Image courtesy of Katelyn Foutch, Kate Jennings Photography.

I also want to let you know that our show sponsor, Harry & David is offering a special discount to everyone throughout the month of June! Check it out!

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Once you're ready to place your order online with Harry & David, type in promo code CHICKS when checking out.

When ordering from Harry & David by phone at 1-800-547-3033, ask for The Farm Chicks Blog 06-12 Show Discount.



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