Thursday, 13 March 2014

One thing at the time.

Do you ever get the feeling that your head is buzzing with everything on your mind? The feeling where everything would be better if you to-do-list was shorter or that it just magically vanished?

This could happen for example at work, where you've got deadlines, research, promises to be kept and orders from others piling up on your desk and it feels like you'll never get over them?
Or at home, where there's dishes and laundry and homework and business stuff and kids and garden and the significant other?

If you do, I say stop still. Stop now.

Pour yourself a cup of your favorite stuff (I'm having green lime tea, yum!).

And now think.

All of the things you have on your mind are somehow important. They have a valid reason to stay on your to-do list and on your mind. And it isn't wrong to want them all to be done as-best-you-can. They deserve your attention, and in order to get them sorted and done some attention will need to be given to them, at some point.
But thinking about them all at the same time doesn't do them any justice. Trying to do them all at the same time will work even less. Multitasking divides your attention to smithereens, and the amount of effort and attention that can be given to a single task in the middle of everything else is probably not enough to get the thing sorted as-best-you-can.

Instead of trying to do it all at the same time and worrying about whether you'll get anything done at all you could try out a new approach. The approach of ONE, and the approach of NOW.

*When you're making dinner, don't do the dishes at the same time. Try making Dinner instead, with a capital D. Give it your best shot, and don't go checking Facebook in the middle of boiling potatoes.

*When you're checking email at work, don't try to answer the phone at the same time. Concentrate on responding to and dealing with emaily things at once. Reply to those who need replying, delete the ones that do not require your attention, unsubscribe at once to the spam someone has sent you without your permission, and file the leftover emails appropriately so it's easy for you to come back to your inbox the next time you visit.

*When you're cleaning, concentrate on making the space as clean and tidy as you can with your skill and level of energy and time you have. Rather than going for a whole house at once, which could sound quite daunting, start with a small section and work your way outwards from your chosen beginning spot. And rather than haphazardly moving one thing to another place to get it out of the way, concentrate on finding a permanent home for your belongings.

*When you're out on a date or have promised a board game night to your kids, -this goes without saying- make sure you know where your attention is.

Rather than letting your mind wander about and figuring out new things to be put on your to-do list, take one single task -whatever it may be- and finish it. Do as much of it on one go as your time allows. If something else comes into your mind that would need your attention, write it down on a piece of paper, and resolve to think about it after you're done with what you're doing now.

Do ONE thing at the time, whatever the time.

And if you don't know where to start, start anywhere, and start now. You don't have to be on your best mood, you don't have to be well rested, and you don't have to have a plan. Pick up the first thought that comes to your mind or the first sight that you see and go for it. Follow it through and finish it if you can. Give it all the concentration it deserves, and when it's done, notice how well you just did. How happy it makes you feel. How time flew when you concentrated. And most of all, congratulate yourself on a job well done.

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Market stall simplicity

As a micropreneur, you might get the occasional chance to take your work out on a stall to a fair, a conference, a competition or a market. It is a wonderful opportunity to tune in to the essence of your work and to show a glimpse of it to people who've possibly never heard of you and your work before. And at best, it can be a time, when you also meet your most loyal customers, who come in time after time to support your work.

Building a market stall can be inspiring, exciting and fun, but it can also create a whole array of stressful feelings, especially if you've never built one before.

Here is a part of one of Tanssiina's early stalls - outside in the open air.

When you're designing and creating a market stall, and find yourself overwhelmed, you might find some of these 5 simple points helpful:

*Designate a sturdy, medium sized box for stall making purposes. 
This can be a permanent place for receipts, pens, papers, the calculator, some sticky tape, stickers for labeling, the business cards - the basic office stuff you need to take with you every time you take your business out of the front door. Leave some space for petty cash, the card machine (if you use one), and other bits and bobs to be thrown in before you leave. Most of the office stuff can live permanently in this box, especially if you build stalls regularly. This will take away most of the "did I remember to take everything" -stress, as you know for certain, that everything you need is already there in the box. For extra comfort, you can set a card inside the box that has a tick-list of things you need to add to the box before you leave.
My box is a see-through plastic one with an attachable lid. The lid has also a handle for carrying, and this helps me a lot when there's a lot to carry. Our seven year old prides himself on carrying "the most important box" when he helps out.

*Make your stall colourful in your own way. 
Take colors from your logo or website design - the colors that people remember you by, and add them to your stall. This shows people in a very subtle way who you are, what you represent, and when they want to be in touch with you later and come looking for your web-based home, they'll find the same colors there and are reassured they've found the right place.
You can add extra color by choosing the way you show your products, making sure the overall color scheme matches the idea your company has. If it's fun and perky and imaginative, there can be splashes of color everywhere on top of your basic color scheme, and the most colorful items can have center stage, or if it's calm and centered and professional, the color changes on the stall can be much more subtle.
In any case, by making the colors of your booth represent you and your business, you're creating a stall-size business card that'll stand out from the crowd and invite people in.

In figure skating competitions, we sometimes have the privilege to offer luscious skating jewelry from a friend's shop.

*Design your stall with the easy-to-carry -method. 
When you're taking out products and building a stall on site, the amount of stuff you need to carry is most often more than one human back can easily handle. Design your stall from the beginning on to be easy-to-carry. It'll save you time, it'll save you effort, it'll save you from cursing and it'll save your back. When your stuff is boxed conveniently and the boxes are easily stackable, and/or have handles on them for easy carrying, building and taking the stall down gets a lot easier. And even more conveniently, if your boxes are pretty enough to show to the public, you can pack everything in advance to be in the right boxes, and then all you have to do to build your site is show off the boxes in a pretty setting. For extra stock I love the big sturdy shopping bags you get from grocery stores or Ikea, they are easy to carry when full and sturdy enough to be tossed around aimlessly, and if you've had a good day of sales, they are light to pack away and fold into a small space.
I have sturdy and stackable, pretty weed boxes that fit most of the stuff I'm taking with me when I go stall building. The boxes have little holes in them on the sides so they are easy to carry. And one can easily stack three of them on top of each other and still see over them when loading. I also love the big shopping bags you can see below - I can fit two weed boxes inside a big grocery bag and easily carry two or even four bags at the same time. That means my stall set up is usually all carried with two or max three trips to the car, and I don't need to hire extra help.

Here we're going out to an oriental dance festival, all packed up and ready to roll.

*Make it easy for people to get back to you. 
You've probably taken out your business on a field trip for this reason - to invite more people to be a part of your work (whatever your work is). This is an area where you can constantly hone and develop your approach, and try out new things every time if you want. There are a million ways to invite people in, but here are a few basics to consider. My approach is to tune things so that people do not have to ask.
-Make sure your business name is clearly visible. 
-Get creative with your business cards. Make them fun and inviting, in fact, make them so much fun that people will want to stick them on their fridge doors when they go home. AND make them visible and easy to grab from your table, even if the customer is not buying anything right now.
-Consider collecting email addresses for a newsletter subscription (and follow up within a week of the fair so they'll remember you for certain).
-If you have bags to give out to your customers, have a business card or a flyer ready inside every bag, so that when people go home, they'll be reminded who they've done business with.
-If you're selling something at your booth and there are people who are not buying now, but who are interested in your products, get them to try on what they're interested in, write appropriate information of the product on your business card (perhaps they found a pair of shoes, or a piece of jewelry they were interested in) and hand it over to the customer. It's much easier to order the pair of shoes from your web shop when they have clear information on what they've tried on and of the right sizing for the customer. Better yet - snap a picture of the customer with the product on them, ask for their email and send the picture off with the appropriate information (and a link to your site) after the fair. 

The shop's business cards are fun to make - a bit of scrapbooking card stock and glue. Each of them is different.

*Remember, that money is not the only currency.
Sometimes the day at the stall doesn't produce even enough income to cover the expenses of the day. Do not beat yourself over it. Your venture out of your ordinary premises is a breath of fresh air to your business in a lot of ways. Sometimes the income turns up later - people come visiting your website and become paying customers after the fair day is over. Sometimes you find new inspiration from other stall makers and turn a new page in the life of your business because you've seen something different as you've stepped out of your front door. Sometimes you find another small business owner and get together to create something new or figure out other ways to work with each other. And every time you take your stall somewhere, you're a walking, talking advertisement for your business, and that's usually worth much more than an array of FB ads or notices on a local paper.

Here is me on the right with my lovely Bailamama-friends Emilia and Maija taking care of the connections.
If you're looking for more inspiration on how to create your stall, you can go and have a look at how 'Ihilani at SoPupuka has done hers. Her products are so deliciously coloured, and they shine on her display!
I've also found this Studio Exsto's excellent blog post an inspiration lately.

March will play host to two different stall building happenings for me and my little shop. I'm really looking forward to trying out some of the tips I've come across lately.

Do you have a top tip for stall building? What has helped you keep the stress at bay on a day when you're taking your business out for a walk?