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!

 

Interior Build Out

With the exterior finally done, I immediately got to work on the interior build out. I knew that the help from my husband had all but run out, so I would (mostly) be on my own for this part of the truck renovation.. But I wasn’t really worried, painting and interior work is my thang. I thought to myself, I got this! So I drafted an aggressive schedule for the finish work:

Monday – primer
Tuesday – paint
Wednesday – pallet wall
Thursday/Friday – bookcase (I knew this was going to be a project and a half and I honestly had NO idea how I was going to bring it to life!)
(Saturday – outing with my family)
Sunday – flooring
Then the fun part – decorating!

interior_beforepaintMonday morning, I was so fortunate that the weather forecast had taken a drastic plunge towards cooler temperatures! (Oh how bad I feel that all of Jackson’s work was in the scorching heat!) I primered every inch of the interior surface except the floor. I forgot or apparently wasn’t aware how difficult and neck-breaking it is to paint directly over one’s head. Luckily I could easily reach the ceilings without a step stool, but my neck and shoulders paid the price dearly the next few days.

Painting on Tuesday went much faster than the primer had the day before, so I decided to start installing the pallet wall a day early. Me running ahead of schedule, how could this be?! I had already done the majority of the work a month before, so all of the cutting, staining and layout was already completed. (See tutorial here.) All I had to do was glue those babies to the wall with liquid nails (one of my new favorite building materials)!

palletwall_progress_TYPOGRFX

It was actually pretty easy!

This right here? It's called Tosha-riggin'.

This right here? It’s called Tosha-riggin’.

With both pallet walls completed a day early, I decided to start trying to figure out how to convert a metal cabinet that once housed police tactical gear and that was dented, scratched and banged up inside into a book case with crown molding and an extra shelf (keep in mind I knew Jackson wouldn’t want to weld a metal shelf in place – he was done. Period). I have a ton of scrap trim thanks to a neighbor who let remodelers toss all of their waste into a burn pile on the corner of our property, so I dug through my stash to figure out what pieces I had the right lengths of. I figured I had enough trim, but didn’t have enough scrap anything to cover the back of the cabinet. I toyed with the idea of beadboard, covering it with the same pine paneling I made the pallet wall out of… heck, I even considered cardboard, because Lord knows I have a TON of that!

Wednesday morning I headed off to Lowes with measurements in hand to see what I could come up with for the least amount of money. An hour or so of walking around gathering ideas and I was finally ready to purchase two sheets of 1/4″ paintable smooth paneling, only to be told that their cutting machine was ‘out of order’ (for the second time in 2 months!) and I wouldn’t be able to fit the whole sheets in my SUV. Frustrated, I drove across the highway to Home Depot and searched out the same kind of panels. Finding someone to cut them proved to be difficult since their lumber guy “didn’t show up for work” that day, but they finally found me someone who could cut them down into the sections I needed. Why are these things so hard!?

During this excursion, I also had to figure out what kind of sub-floor to use under the sheet vinyl. I didn’t want the extra cost or weight of plywood, so I came up with what I thought was a pretty genius idea: anti-fatigue mat. In my mind, I thought it would be perfect to level out the ridges, while providing a nice cushy floor to stand on during long show days. I consulted with the flooring “expert” at Lowes and she said, “You can’t do that!” while looking at me like I had three heads. I said, “Why not?” And she quipped, “The vinyl won’t stick to that, you HAVE to glue it down!” I tried explaining that it was going in a truck and that I was going to secure the edges with metal trim and screw that directly into the floor, and that the space was only 5′ wide, but the more I explained the more she seemed irritated. So I walked off and loaded up enough anti-fatigue mat and floor trim to get the job done. What does she know about flooring in a mobile boutique anyways?

Back in the shed, I began the audacious task of adding paneling and trim to the cabinet. It’s pretty complicated what I actually did, and I am very confident that no one else will EVER have a project quite like this, so I didn’t take but one picture of the process. Basically, I cut paneling to fit along the back and sides of the cabinet. Then I cut 1×2 boards to the exact length needed to wedge them in tightly with a rubber mallet. (See below the bottom of the top shelf) I used liquid nails behind the boards and nothing else but sheer tightness to hold them in place, which in turn held the panels in place. I also repeated the same wedge-the-boards in there process to create the middle shelf where there previously was not one and I topped with paneling (therefore this shelf will hold less weight than the top or bottom). Using liquid nails again, I glued baseboard trim to the fronts of the shelves. Not knowing what to do with the corners, I made a trip to the local lumber place and grabbed quarter round to hide the small gaps between the paneling. Unfortunately, they didn’t have enough to do all of the seems and I had vowed NOT to make another trip to the city, so I decided I would caulk the rest of the seams. By the way, I have never caulked anything in my life, but at this point, I was willing to try anything to get. it. done.

bookshelf_typogrfx

Two more days of frustrating trial and error and I finally achieved what I was going for! So I primed and painted it! Because of the quarter round and caulk seams and since I thought it would be too dark, I decided to paint the entire thing white instead of having the green panel in the back. Another note: caulk is my second new favorite building material!

Hallelujah!

Hallelujah!

I laid out the puzzle format of the anti-fatigue mat and layered the sheet vinyl over top of it. It felt like heaven to walk on! Just like I had planned, I screwed the trim down along the edges and it was done! I did learn from a friend who had done something similar in their house that high heels will poke through the flooring since the ‘sub-floor’ has so much give. As someone who doesn’t wear high heels, I decided that I was okay with it. And I made a small note on my “WATCH YOUR STEP” sign about no high heels. Problem solved.

flooring_typogrfx

It was exactly one week from the day I began the interior buildout until it was done and decorating could begin! Before I started piling in my stuff, I took a quick video of the interior. And that’s the last view of the truck until it’s BIG REVEAL! :)