When One Door Closes….

When One Door Closes….

If you will recall my last blog post was titled “When Opportunity Knocks”… Well that was almost three years ago, and the door will soon be closing on that chapter of my story as I have announced my resignation as the Executive Director of the Excelsior Springs Area Chamber of Commerce. I will be staying through July 1st to see the organization through our biggest events of the year and to give ample time to train my successor. I am honored that the Board of Directors and the members entrusted me to lead this organization in a community that I love so much. I am proud of the accomplishments and progress we’ve made together over the past three years, but I believe that now is the time to move on from this role.

 
So what’s next for me? I am really not sure, and I am okay with that. I’m going to take the next few months to look around and see what’s out there. I’m also eager to dive back into TYPOGRFX and graphic design. Who knows? I might get the truck out of hibernation and start doing events this summer. I’ve even been thinking about getting certified to teach yoga (I started yoga about 9 months ago and I LOVE IT!). The options are really wide open at this point, and it’s an amazing feeling. I have always believed that everything happens for a reason. I don’t regret taking the Chamber job at all, and I will treasure the relationships and knowledge that I have gained because of it. Now that this door is closing…. I wonder what door will open for me next? 

 

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When Opportunity Knocks….

Don't miss out on something that could be amazing, just because it could also be difficult.

There are few moments in one’s professional career where opportunities come along that can be so life changing, exciting and terrifying all at once. Last week one of those opportunities knocked at my door.

As many of you know, I began working part-time at the Excelsior Springs Chamber of Commerce in January as the Creative Director – fulfilling all of the creative needs for the Chamber, creating the new trolley wine tours, and redesigning the office space for better efficiency and visual appeal. Working with the Executive Director, Courtney, was a dream come true. Someone so like me, passionate about her job, about her community and her family. It was refreshing to find another person that is so much like myself! At the end of February, Courtney seized a fantastic opportunity to move up in her career, and thus announced that she would be resigning from the Chamber at the end of June. This left the Board with the task of filling her role and me not knowing if my position would continue or not. Of course, I have TYPOGRFX and the TYPO Truck, so I was prepared to continue dedicating all my time to my business.

Within hours of Courtney’s announcement came the flurry of Board members and Chamber members alike that all asked me, “Are you going to apply?” The answer was easy, “I’m flattered, but I’ve got my own business and it’s doing fine.” As the months went by and the search for the right candidate continued, the Board president again approached me asking me to reconsider applying. I talked it over with my best friend, my dearest business acquaintances, my mother-in-law, my husband, even Ryker. After much consideration, I figured what do I have to lose by applying? I walked into the interview with 80% of my mind made up that regardless of what happened, I would still politely decline. I love the freedom of working for myself. I love spending time with Ryker during the summer. And yet, I thrive on the busyness of the holiday season, meeting new people and helping them tell their story with a personalized TYPOGRFX. It’s been great, why would I give that up?

During the interview, the four people I sat across the table from were well aware of my existing, successful business. I told them at the beginning that this was as much of an interview where I convince them I’m the right person for the job as they were going to have to convince me that this job was right for me. They made it very clear that they didn’t want me to give up my business, they were confident that we could work together to allow me to serve as the Executive Director, while still running my business – albeit at a somewhat scaled back capacity. They were willing to be flexible to let me scale back my Chamber hours a bit during my busiest holiday rush, but also expected a lot from me during the biggest Chamber events of the year. One interviewer said it would be “very progressive” of the Chamber to have a business owner as the director, recognizing the unique perspective I can bring to the table as a fellow entrepreneur myself. So I left the interview feeling excited, nervous and overwhelmed with a flurry of emotions.

After being officially offered the position with a good, steady salary, I again consulted with my friends and family. Anyone who’s a small business owner knows that a steady paycheck isn’t always promised. And while we definitely aren’t struggling, a good paycheck could make a big difference in our household. My husband’s exact response was, “Why wouldn’t you?” He’s always been supportive in the sense that he doesn’t tell me what to do, because he’s smart enough to know I don’t like it when he does, but he lets me figure out what I should do on my own. And being a big believer in fate, I knew I couldn’t let this opportunity slip through my fingers just because it was scary. I had made up my mind even though there were still a million things to figure out. Between my racing thoughts and the thunderstorms that shook the house that night, I didn’t sleep a wink.

You know when someone gets eliminated from a reality TV show and they play highlight clips of their time on the show with some emotion-inducing song playing over it? That’s what was playing in my mind – the highlights of the past eight years of TYPOGRFX.

Helping a woman who was losing her battle with cancer leave behind encouraging words for her children.

Helping a friend propose to his long-time girlfriend with a TYPOGRFX.

Being selected as a finalist for Country Living magazine’s Pitch Your Product.

When I went to an open casting call for Shark Tank and made it onto the show’s outtakes.

Getting to go on the local morning TV shows.

The crazy decision to buy a truck! The incredible amount of work that went into that truck and how much it’s changed the entire way I do business……..

But the thing is, my journey with TYPOGRFX isn’t over. It’s just changing, evolving, like it always does. Despite the lack of sleep, I was at peace with my decision.

The next morning, coffee in hand, I accepted the offer.

So what does this mean for TYPOGRFX and my customers? On the surface, there won’t be much difference. Orders will still be fulfilled. Emails will still get answered. The truck will still make appearances throughout the metro, just not quite as often. I have several internal things to work through to prepare for the busy holiday season, but I trust that I will have the people and processes in place to continue providing my customers with the best gift ever, the best customer service ever, and the best of me. Wish me luck!

Whenever you find yourself doubting how far you can go, just remember how far you have come. Remember everything you have faced, all the battles you have won, and all of the fears you have overcome. (unknown)

The Art of Telling Your Business Story

Business owner Tosha Jackson of TYPOGRFX shares her tips and tricks for crafting the perfect narrative for your business!

I’m in the business of telling people’s stories. Whether it be the story of their family, their career or business, or something else, I create a story in the personalized artwork I create. Storytelling is an important part of human nature and one that has helped us preserve our past. The art of telling a good story is something nearly anyone can do. Every good story has key elements that can be learned, practiced and perfected over time. Telling the story of your business is no different and can be the key to a successful pitch, presentation or just introduction of yourself and your business.

The Beginning

The first few lines of a story draws you in – sets the stage if you will. This might include a bit about your background. What were you doing before you started your business? Where did you go to school? Were you in a totally different industry than you are now? Any interesting details that can draw a person in and capture their attention are crucial.

The Inciting Incident

What event triggered you to start your own business? Did you feel an overwhelming need for a change? Were you laid off or “let go”? Did you get fired for something out of your control? Don’t be afraid to share the nitty gritty details here. As an example, I used to shy away from using the word “fired” because it sounded serious – like I had done something terrible. In my case, it was simply because I had announced my pregnancy, something that I did not expect would affect my immediate job security. Including this in my own business story is important because it causes an emotional reaction from the audience, which compels them to want to know more.

The Realistic Challenges

Very few businesses launch and experience immediate, overwhelming success. (Good for you if yours did!) Most businesses face some challenges along the ways. Maybe it was financing. Maybe it was finding the right location or right people to build your business. Either way, don’t leave out these details. Again, it helps you to build up to your climax, which is hopefully a successful and thriving business! Be sure to mention what actions you took to overcome these challenges. This will help people relate to your story, and will be encouraging to other entrepreneurs who might be going through the same thing as you did.

The Conclusion (aka Looking Forward)

Unless you’ve sold your business, your story likely isn’t over – it’s continually evolving. What are your goals? What are your next steps to reach those goals? What kind of help are you seeking? It never hurts to ask, because you never know what kind of connections people may have.

Hopefully, these tips will help you craft and perfect your business story. Even if you don’t have an immediate need to present your story, it’s always a good thing to have prepared and practiced, because you never know when your next opportunity might come up and you’ll have to be ready in a moment’s notice!

The Evolution of the TYPO Truck

Well, it’s safe to say that my hare-brained idea of adding a mobile boutique to my business was a good gamble. After debuting the TYPO truck last fall, with just a few months left in the selling season, I quickly realized that that truck was worth its weight in gold!

My friend and fellow creative Jennifer Allwood recently wrote a blog about the paint-chip dress she created as eye candy to draw crowds at events. Having something unique that catches people’s attention and gets them to stop is brilliant. Enter BIG, GREEN TRUCK. It’s definitely a show-stopper anywhere it goes. It doesn’t matter if I’m driving down the interstate, parked with food trucks or set up inside of Bartle Hall convention center for the Home Show. People stop and stare. They smile with a look of wonderment and curiosity. And then I hook ‘em with the uniqueness of my TYPOGRFX artwork, which is usually followed up with comments like, “Oh wow, this art is pretty cool!”

The TYPO Truck mobile boutique set up at a Food Truck brunch hosted by the Roasterie in Kansas City

Since it was already so late in the show season after the truck was finished, I quickly filled my calendar with any and all events I could get into with the truck. My first couple events were small and learning experiences.

Lesson 1: I needed handrail for the stairs. While I certainly didn’t expect people with mobility issues to be able to come into the truck, I found that the average person reached for the door frame as they stepped up into the truck. And a couple people even rudely complained. Easy fix though.

Lesson 2: I needed lights for outside of the truck. My first outing ran until after dark at a place that didn’t have any outside lighting. Minor fail. I found carnival style “patio” string lights on clearance at Target as they were getting ready to put out their identical lights labeled “Christmas”. Score!

Lesson 3: All you can do is ask. As fate would have it, on November 5th (the day before first Fridays – a big deal in the Crossroads Art District) I saw a guy on the morning news talking about his new brewery and how great first Fridays were for them. So I took a chance and messaged him asking if he knew of a place I could set up. The owner Eric offered to let me park in his parking lot off the street between him and a neighboring brewery. He even used his own vehicle to keep the spot saved for me, helped me get backed in and let me use his power for my lights (I hadn’t purchased a generator yet). What a great guy! Show them some love at Border Brewing Company!

Lesson 4: I definitely need help at larger events! During my first big event, Holiday Mart, there was a line outside of the truck for 4 days straight of people who just wanted to come in and see what it was all about. Hours went by without me ever stepping foot outside of the truck. My friends who graciously worked with me saved me by greeting shoppers, handing out business cards, answering questions and even selling items as best as they could with no cash box or credit card swiper outside the truck. It was a good problem to have!

fordisplay

 

 Lesson 5: People want to buy everything. This was perhaps one of the biggest surprises to me and in hindsight, one of my biggest oversights. Many people would come in the truck, look around and say baffling things like “So, uh, do you sell clocks?” (and point to the little clock I had painted) or “Can I buy this globe?” (another décor piece I worked so hard to find to complete interior). I would chuckle and say things like, “Well, it’s not really for sale. But you can buy this artwork!” Then I would go into my sales spiel. This happened often enough that something finally clicked in my head, “What IF they could buy the clock or the pillows on the couch or the faux plants that decorated the truck?” It was a crazy idea and in the midst of being buried in holiday orders, I dismissed it.

Flash forward to January that was spent sleeping (almost kidding) and February that was spent planning out my year’s marketing strategy and my show calendar, I started pondering how to utilize the truck more to grow my business. I put together “truck show” hostess packages and explored new business partnerships and venues to take the truck to. But I couldn’t help but think of those lingering, and at the time annoying, questions I kept getting from people about buying my display pieces. I consulted with a few friends and my ever-wise mother-in-law.. Does selling items that I didn’t personally make dilute my brand? Does it take away from what I actually do? Will people get it? And more importantly, would they buy it?

My mother-in-law raised several valid points. People often ask me home decorating and interior design questions anyways. Wouldn’t it be great if I had something right on the spot to sell them that would compliment the personalized artwork I was already recommending to them? I could maintain the living room feeling of the interior while having décor pieces that were actually for sale.

It seemed too easy. But then again, eight years ago, designing artwork out of people’s words seemed easy, but no one was doing it back then and I capitalized on that and created a thriving business! So I decided to start researching home décor suppliers and tried finding pieces that fit both my own personal tastes in home décor and also the ever-changing trends. I placed my first order in March and it arrived about the same time I got the truck out of winter storage. I dusted her off and decorated her with all of the new, sale-able décor. What a novel idea – a boutique truck filled with stuff people can actually buy! And personalized samples of artwork they can order. Brilliant. (like I said before – it was a minor oversight)

With a little bit of brainstorming, I decided to call my new line of home décor my “curated collection” since they were items I personally selected to be included in my truck and to compliment TYPOGRFX art. I also decided to rename my cash-n-carry items to be called the “designer collection” since those are all things personally designed by me. I also made another as-for-now choice to make the curated collection exclusive to the truck – or “trucksclusive” as I came up with – mostly so I don’t have to manage inventory between the truck and my website. This may change in the future, but for now, these items are great sellers in the truck.

TYPOGRFX curated collection of home decor accessories - pillows, faux-real plants, frames, candles and more!

People are intrigued by the truck itself, impressed with the artwork, and love the satisfaction of walking away with a newly purchased item on the spot.

So ultimately, I guess the moral of this story is to always be willing to adapt and to change to what your customers want. Over the course of eight years, my business model has evolved dramatically while the basic concept and product of personalized art has stayed the same. This has allowed me to not only survive, but to thrive, and I wish the same to you and your business!

TYPO Truck Debut!

Yesterday, the TYPO truck to made its big debut with a ribbon cutting sponsored by the Excelsior Springs Chamber of Commerce in downtown Excelsior Springs. I was so honored to have my family, friends and many members of the Chamber come out and see the truck. The weather was phenomenal and everyone on Broadway stared as they drove by. A few even pulled in just to check out what I had going on with my “little green truck”. And I sold some artwork too!