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)

Shark Tank Casting Call Recap

While browsing social media just a few weeks ago, I stumbled across an open casting call for the hit TV series Shark Tank, set to happen in Des Moines on Monday, July 14. Over the years many of my customers and supporters have encouraged me to take my personalized word art and pitch it to the investors on Shark Tank. I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. I mean, what are the odds that I would discover that there was a casting call so close to me just 13 days before the event? I didn’t even know they did casting calls like this. I assumed you had to travel to LA or New York City to be considered.

With just days to spare, I decided to make the two and a half hour drive up to present. I  worked diligently on my 15-page application, wrote the 60-second pitch and gathered up samples to showcase the many formats TYPOGRFX artwork is available in. I also had to decide what kind of investment I was seeking and what I would use the money for. Last fall, I launched my direct sales pARTner program that allows anyone to sign up and earn commission from sales they refer. I’ve successfully ran this business debt-free for 6 years. It’s not always been easy, but I’ve figured most everything out along the way. Since launching the pARTner program, I feel like there is so much more that I need to learn about how to run a direct sales company. That is why I need the Sharks. I need their investment – and more importantly – their guidance in this unfamiliar territory of transforming my business into a successful and well-known direct sales opportunity.

I arrived in Des Moines Sunday evening and settled into my hotel room just across the street from the Iowa Events Center where the casting call was to take place. Having never been to the area, I walked over to explore the venue. Much to my surprise, there were already a handful of people camped out in line. A gentleman who traveled all the way from southern Oklahoma immediately offered to let me borrow a camp chair and to hold my spot in line.

I was quite surprised at the generosity and instant camaraderie of the group that had already gathered there in line. They welcomed me into their group without hesitation. One guy had ordered pizza and drinks for the group. Another had brought an extension cord and power strip so everyone could charge their devices. And best of all, everyone was eager to learn about each others businesses and to share ideas.

As the evening went on, a plan was devised to take shifts to stay at the makeshift camp inside the convention center and to reserve the spots in line that each person had claimed. Some of the entrepreneurs had family or friends there, so they could get sleep back in their hotel rooms. Several, like me, were there alone, so the others kept watch.

The next morning, most of the group had reconvened by 5:30am all dressed up and ready to present their ideas to the casting producers. There was still 3 ½ hours until the numbered armbands were to be given out, so the group took turns taking photos of each other with the Shark Tank signs, giving advice on each other’s pitches and trying to keep things lighthearted to ease everyone’s nerves.

Tosha waiting to pitch

Tosha waiting to pitch. And for the record, I did wear dress shoes into the pitch – not flip flops!

Around 8:00am the casting director Scott Salyers and others including a film crew from ABC arrived. Salyers commended those who had waited all night, saying he admired their enthusiasm. At 9:00am the armbands were distributed all while the film crew captured every angle. I received #8. Shortly after 10:00am the doors were opened and the crowd was lead into a large room with rows of chairs. Salyers explained how the day would go and offered encouragement and advice.

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Then the first group of 5 was lead in, followed by the next 5. It was such a relief to hear how relaxed the pitches were going to be. They allowed us a short time to set up our stuff and they weren’t going to time us to the second. Don’t get me wrong, it was still very stressful, but easier than I imagined.

When it came my turn, I confidently walked up to the table where I was to pitch my artwork. I set out samples to show most of the formats I offer – gallery-wrapped canvas, wood, burlap and metal prints, and a keepsake blanket. I also presented the Shark Tank-themed TYPOGRFX I had designed specifically for the event. After explaining what the artwork is about and how I got started, I answered questions about earnings and growth. The casting producer was excited to hear about the business’ tremendous growth over the past 6 years.

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After it was all over, I walked out to meet up with the others from our initial camp-out group. All seemed very confident in their presentations. Everyone said their good-byes and headed their separate ways.

Since returning home, I have been overwhelmed with support and words of encouragement from friends, family and customers. I’ve also answered a lot of the same questions.

Did you get to actually meet the sharks? No, it was an open casting call. I met the executive casting director Scott Salyers, and I pitched directly to one of his casting producers.

Did you see any other really great ideas/products? Yes! I met Sherri from Nashville, TN. Her product Bowling Buddies shoe covers are pretty awesome! You’ll probably be seeing those in a bowling alley near you soon. I also met Brian with Moonstruck Meadery. I had never heard of making spirits from honey. I also got to sample some yummy treats from Alotta Brownies.

When will you know something? If chosen to move on to the next step, I should hear something in the next few weeks. The casting producer said, “Chances are you won’t hear anything. Last season, out of 40,000 applicants, only 180 were filmed in front of the Sharks for the show.”

How do you think you did? Afterwards, of course there are things that I wish I would have said or done differently, but I think my presentation went really well considering the immense pressure of presenting next to 4 other people with cameras going. Overall, the experience was great and the group of people I met were phenomenal. Even if I don’t make it onto the show, it was worth the trip!

You can see some of the event coverage here:

Des Moines Register