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342 – Paying It Forward to New Handmade Product Entrepreneurs with Nicole Stevenson of Dear Handmade Life
Episode 34230th October 2021 • Gift Biz Unwrapped • Sue Monhait
00:00:00 00:45:53

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Nicole Stevenson of Dear Handmade Life Every person's business journey is unique. But we can still learn from each other. Our guest today shares handmade business advice from lessons she's learned over her 20 years in the business. Nicole is the CEO and Creative Director of Dear Handmade Life. At 24. she turned her passion into a profession with her handcrafted clothing line called Random Nicole. She started selling at flea markets and backyard craft fairs and has grown it into a thriving, international wholesale business. Nicole's desire to help other creatives pursue their dream business and discover the joy of making led her away from her own handmade business and into teaching, consulting, and running her own workshop studio. This eventually led to co-founding Dear Handmade Life in 2007. Now, she connects, educates, and shortens the learning curve for other creatives by sharing what she's learned through the Dear Handmade Life events, blog, and podcast.

BUSINESS BUILDING INSIGHTS

  • The learning curves and even mistakes in your business development will contribute to your overall knowledge and learning experience in the future.
  • Challenges will not last forever. You will develop confidence and resilience each time you rise above them.
  • Push yourself out of your comfort zone.
  • You don’t have to post on all platforms. Just pick a platform and put out content you enjoy making.
  • Keep moving, keep pushing, look for your community and reach out for help.
Tune in to the full conversation to hear all of Nicole's handmade business advice!

Handmade Business Advice

  • Community over competition. Your connection with other people in your industry will help you progress and get more visibility to your customers.
  • When you first start, your "put yourself out there" muscle is small and weak. But the more you do it, the stronger that muscle gets.
  • "A rising tide lifts all ships" is especially true in the handmade world. Don't be afraid to collaborate and network with others in your industry. Everyone benefits when you do!
  • Find someone to whom you can delegate work so you have time to focus on more important matters.
  • Understand that everything in your business can be done by someone else.
  • Your goal should be for your to work FOR you instead of you working for your business. <-- Pro tip!
  • Find a mentor who will guide you in scaling and systems.
  • Look for your community and don't be afraid to reach out for help.

Resources Mentioned

Nicole's Contact Links

WebsiteFacebook | Instagram | Twitter | Linkedin

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Become a Member of Gift Biz Breeze If you found value in this podcast, make sure to subscribe so you automatically get the next episode downloaded for your convenience. Click on your preferred platform below to get started. Also, if you'd like to do me a huge favor - please leave a review. It helps other creators like you find the show and build their businesses too. You can do so right here: Rate This Podcast Apple PodcastsGoogle PodcastsSpotify Thank you so much! Sue Know someone who needs to hear this episode? Click a button below to share it!

Transcripts

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Gift biz unwrapped episode 342.

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The types of stores that we're looking for really unique and

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different stuff found me and were like,

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this is awesome.

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And I was like,

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yes, this is awesome.

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You understand what I'm doing here At Tinton gifters bakers,

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crafters and makers pursuing your dream can be fun.

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Whether you have an established business or looking to start one.

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Now you are in the right place.

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This is gift to biz unwrapped,

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helping you turn your skill into a flourishing business.

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Join us for an episode,

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packed full of invaluable guidance,

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resources, and the support you need to grow.

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Your gift biz.

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Here is your host gift biz gal,

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Sue moon Heights.

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Well, hi there.

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It's Sue and welcome to this week's show.

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As we inch closer and closer to the holiday selling season,

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I hope you've been putting your plan in place to capture

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your fair share of the sales.

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As we've talked about many times,

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having your products available for purchase online,

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isn't going to do it just because you have a website

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or a social shop set up that alone.

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Doesn't bring in customers.

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You should think of it as an avenue to conduct the

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final sale,

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not the attraction and connection necessary to get people to buy

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and posting on social over and over again about your holiday

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products that are available as gifting options.

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Well, we all know the low percentage of our followers who

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actually see these messages as a handmade creator.

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The fourth quarter holidays are the perfect time to get in

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front of your customers.

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Through holiday craft shows and church bizarres entry costs vary,

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but there are options to fit every budget and holiday shoppers

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need you as a handmade small business,

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even more this year with all the supply chain issues we're

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experiencing. I encourage you to sign up for your local shows

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and get in front of your soon to be customers because

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we need you this year more than ever.

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I talked about this in my recent tips and talk episode,

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number 34,

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go back and take a listen to hear how you can

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both help your business and customers get gifts for the holiday

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shopping season.

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We are going to need to depend on you this year.

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So the time to act is now moving on to today's

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guest. You're going to hear from a maker who's experienced struggles.

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We are all too familiar with.

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In fact,

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at one point selling her purses was the difference between paying

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rent or not.

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You'll hear how she had to overcome her fear of selling

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or be out on the street.

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Now I get that your hesitations within your business may not

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be as dramatic as this,

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but I do know for a fact that you shy away

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from some uncomfortable activities that you know can grow your business.

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Perhaps Nicole will say something that's going to hit just right

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to prompt you to stretch further,

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take the chance and go for it.

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From the point of needing rent money,

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Nicole went on to build an international wholesale business,

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and today she pays it forward through teaching and hosting her

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own events.

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Let's not waste any more time.

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I want you to meet Nicole Today.

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I am so excited to have a conversation with Nicole Stevenson

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of dear handmade life.

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Nicole is the CEO and creative director of deer handmade life.

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At 24.

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She turned her passion into a profession with her handcrafted clothing

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line called random Nicole.

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She started selling at flea markets and backyard craft fairs and

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has grown it into a thriving international wholesale business.

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Nicole's desire to help other creatives pursue their dream business and

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discover the joy of making led her away from her handmade

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business and into teaching consulting and running her own workshop studio.

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This eventually led to co-founding dear handmade life in 2007.

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Now she connects,

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educates and shortens the learning curve for other creators by sharing

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what she's learned through the dear handmade life events,

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blog, and podcast.

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Nicole, welcome to the gift biz unwrapped podcast.

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Thank you so much for having me Sue.

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I'm excited to be Here.

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Me too.

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I can't wait to dive into the conversation,

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but before we do,

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I have a question for you.

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That's become a tradition here on the show that is to

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have you describe yourself in a little bit more of a

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creative way and that's through a motivational candle.

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So if you could help us imagine what a candle would

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look like,

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that would speak all you,

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what would it be by color?

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And quote,

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Color goes,

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my signature color is a light teal,

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and it's because it's so relaxing.

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And I remember trying to describe what that color was.

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And I was watching it.

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Might've been one flew over the Cuckoo's nest.

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It was a movie in the sixties and a mental hospital.

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And I was like,

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that's the color?

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It's the color of those walls.

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And so when anybody would ask me,

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I'm like,

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yeah, I want that mental hospital blue.

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And it's because it's so calming.

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So my candle would for sure be that light calming teal

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color. And as far as the quote on it,

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ever since I dove into art as my career,

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when I was much younger,

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I always thought about this quote,

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it's all grist for the mill,

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meaning that nothing is discarded.

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Everything that goes in will be part of the results that

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you get.

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So I've taken a lot of risks,

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made a lot of decisions that I didn't know if they

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were going to pan out and you know what,

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some of them did not pan out,

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but even the ones that ended up feeling more like missteps

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or mistakes at the time all contributed to my knowledge and

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my learning experience for whatever my next step was going to

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be. Even if it was something way down the road.

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So kind of thinking about it that way and trying to

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think about,

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instead of thinking about things as a mistake or a waste

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of time or something like that,

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I think about them as all being grist for the mill

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as part of failing forward,

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as they say.

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Yeah. And I wish people could understand this more when they're

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in the depths of it,

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even me.

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And I'm sure you feel the same way.

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Like when you're in the middle of things that aren't working

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out the way you want,

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it's harder to see the light at the end of the

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tunnel, but it's there,

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like it's the path we've all had to walk those kind

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of uneven steps to get to where we're trying to go.

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It's part of the gig as well,

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how I say.

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Yeah, exactly.

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And when you were saying that and you were saying,

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even you were saying about yourself,

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even me,

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even me too,

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after being in business for over 20 years,

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there's still,

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I was just thinking about COVID what happened in 2020 and

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being someone who produces events for a living,

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my entire business relied on huge amounts of people being super

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close together,

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you know,

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usually indoors.

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So when that all happened,

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I definitely felt like even though it wasn't a mistake necessarily

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that I had made or,

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you know,

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a decision that I had made,

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I definitely felt like,

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oh wow,

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what am I going to do?

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And it took a while,

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you know,

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we've been in COVID for a year and a half,

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but I hate to use the word pivot because I feel

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like we've all heard it so much,

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but I ended up going in a different direction,

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we'll say,

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and doing a different kind of event.

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And I learned so much from it.

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And it's leading me into what I think is my next

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kind of zone of genius area.

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My next place,

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where I want to be creatively.

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Oh, that's intriguing.

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I'm going to keep that for a few minutes from now,

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because now you've piqued all of our interest.

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So clearly,

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I mean,

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COVID forced us all to be nimble first to be optimistic

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that everything can be okay in a different way.

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The thing with COVID that was so crazy is it was

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unknown to all of us and it was changing by the

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day. You didn't know if you had the right information,

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wrong information,

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what was going to happen next?

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And we made it through at least to the point where

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we are right now.

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And there's a lot to say to that.

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We'll see where it goes from here.

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But I think we face these types of things in our

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business all the time,

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maybe on a smaller scale and we need to expect them

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and we're just going to have to work through them.

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Yeah. When you set that about these types of things in

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our business,

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it made me immediately think back to when I had my

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first business.

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Well, my first business was actually a little stationary shop when

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I was a little kid,

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my first real business,

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which was my t-shirt company.

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It was a clothing line and accessory line,

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random Nicole.

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And I would order blank t-shirts from a manufacturer.

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And then I would screen print on them and do sewing

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on them and like embellish them with vintage fabrics.

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My artwork,

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these blinked t-shirts became this very one of a kind thing.

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But my t-shirt manufacturer,

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I was at their mercy.

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And when they decided,

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oh, you know what,

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we're not going to produce this style shirt anymore.

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And it was my best seller.

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It was like,

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okay, Nicole,

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what are you going to do here?

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So all of those lessons that I learned from that kind

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of showed me,

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okay. Even like lessons of being outside of business,

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of having a heartbreak and getting over that,

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I knew that it wasn't going to last forever.

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You know,

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what my business was going through during COVID I knew that

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I just had to hold on.

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So it was good that I already had that other stuff

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under my belt.

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And I already had those experiences.

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So that the muscle that I had to use to be

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resilient had been built up by these other things.

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Absolutely. Well,

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I want to talk a little bit more about how you've

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developed, because I think that'll resonate a lot with our listeners.

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So you started with a stationary store when you were little,

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so that's like it got you kind of playing in business,

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I guess.

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Maybe we could say Yeah.

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When my mom and I lived at,

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we lived at a little condo and I was just always

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making stuff and then trying to sell it.

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And then when my mom met my dad,

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who's technically my stepdad.

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He was a barber and I used to answer the phones

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at his barber shop.

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And then I got this idea that I was gonna double

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my time.

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So while I was getting paid to answer the phones in

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sweet pair in his barbershop,

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I also started a chocolate business.

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So I would make chocolate lollipops and sell.

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Those was my side hustle.

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When I was probably like 10 at the time or something

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old enough to use a double boiler.

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That's in melt by chocolate.

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I always had that entrepreneurial drive in me and everyone in

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my family is self-employed my dad's a barber.

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He has a barber shop.

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My mom was house cleaner.

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She had her own house cleaning business.

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My grandma was a guitar teacher who had a guitar school.

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So I wasn't raised in a family where I had the

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example of going out and getting a job and working for

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someone else.

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It was like,

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what are you going to make out of what you have?

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What are you going to create from what you have?

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Well, that's amazing because you had examples all the way around

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you and in different realms,

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you know,

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different types of businesses.

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And you had experience with business because you were able to

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get your feet wet at 10,

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which is amazing.

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I mean,

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so many people don't have that because I sure you run

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into this with people that you're working with,

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many of our parents are like,

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what are you thinking?

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Are you crazy giving up your nine to five,

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let's say with insurance and all of that to start something

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of your own.

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So you had that advantage right from the start,

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which is fabulous.

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But let's talk a little bit more about random Nicole,

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because doing some of those smaller sideline things gave you a

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ton of experience.

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And then what made you decide to land on random Nicole

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and really get that rolling.

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It wasn't really a decision.

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It kind of landed on me.

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So I was in graduate school in San Francisco.

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I was studying to get my master's degree in creative writing.

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And I was feeling really disenchanted with my program.

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I had gone to our department chair and basically said to

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her, what am I supposed to do with this degree?

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I'm graduating in a couple of months.

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Like why isn't there a class on what's next?

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And she said,

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well, pretty much you can get another job and right.

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Or you can be a teacher.

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And I felt really depressed by that.

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I was only 23 and I didn't feel ready to be

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a teacher,

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to people who were,

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you know,

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there are a lot of people in my program who were

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twice my age and I didn't want to keep being a

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waitress and writing and just trying to get a story published.

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And at that same time,

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I had a friend that I was a waitress with.

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After we get off our waiting tables shifts,

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she was an art student.

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We would go to her apartment in the Tenderloin and she

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had one of those apartments with a Murphy bed.

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And so she would pull back the Murphy bag and put

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it up and we would bring out all the paints and

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all the canvases and all the magazines and collage material and

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Jesso and matte medium and drink beer and sit on the

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floor and make art.

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I wish I was there with you guys.

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It was so fun.

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I didn't have a purpose for the art I was making.

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I was just hanging out with my friend and keeping my

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hands busy,

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but I ended up making a bunch of paintings that were

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kind of similar.

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They were mixed media.

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They were kind of these portraits of women with like a

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lot of weird,

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bright colors and a lot of weird stuff on them and

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like texture and collage and things.

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And my friend Paige was doing this open studios show down

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in San Francisco.

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And she said,

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Hey, do you want to like use a little bit of

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the wall space?

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And you can put up these paintings.

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And she said,

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do a couple more.

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So it's like a series and you can put them up

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there. And I did.

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And all my paintings sold and I was like,

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this is awesome.

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This feels great.

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I loved making these.

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And something else happened that coupled with that experience with my

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department chair at school.

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And I was like,

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all of those things together,

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just kind of combined to make me think that the path

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I was on wasn't right for me anymore.

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So she and I packed up our Stephanie U-Haul.

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We moved down to Hollywood where her sister lived and stayed

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with her sister and a couple other girls in this tiny

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one bedroom apartment.

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And we went down to Venice beach on the boardwalk and

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we would sell our art there,

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which was a very intense experience.

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Most of the other artists there were homeless.

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Like we were considered lucky,

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even though we slept on a bean bag on the floor,

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you know,

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we had a roof over our head.

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So we were kind of like the rich girls,

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you know,

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even those,

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a lot of times we wouldn't even have gas money to

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get home from there.

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And we were in like a borrowed truck that didn't even

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have a seatbelt in it.

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So I was down there for,

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it was only a summer,

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but it was just,

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life-changing being down there seeing these other artists who had given

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up everything for their art and who welcomed us into their

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circle there.

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Like I said,

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most of the artists there lived on the streets and they

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would stay really close by to where the boardwalk was and

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an alley or something.

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And we were the only girls down there,

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so they kind of protected us and they would get to

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the beach before we would.

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So they would save us good spot.

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And they really taught me community over competition.

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Like truly living that.

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Tell Me what year that was approximately.

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That Was like probably,

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I would say 2000.

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I think I was 24 maybe around there.

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Okay. And I can totally envision it because my son used

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to live in Venice beach.

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Yeah. So I was one of the people down there and

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do that.

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If you ever saw two women down there,

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it was me and my friend page.

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We were the only ones down there I moved on from

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there. I started selling at flea markets and decided to do

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paintings on canvases and sew them onto purses that I sewed

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from. Like,

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I kind of took all of us girls that lived in

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that apartment,

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all of our old jeans that we were done with.

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And I cut them into little squares,

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like square patches and sewed them together and then did a

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little painting on a piece of canvas.

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And so that on the front as a pocket.

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So then that was when I started making purses.

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So I put my art onto something more functional,

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and I kind of liked that more than just painting,

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having it be functional art.

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And it really just kind of chose me.

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I had to work really hard to do a lot of

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things I didn't want to do.

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I mean,

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I remember eventually all the other girls moved out of that

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apartment and it was just Paige and I,

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and our rent was more than a hundred dollars a month.

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So it was like friends do I don't have the money.

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And I would put all my purses that I had made

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in like a Rubbermaid tote and just drive around to boutiques

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in LA and casual Woolley.

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You walk in there and like with one of my purses

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and wait for you to start a conversation away for the

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shop keeper to say like,

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oh, that's a cute person for me to say,

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oh, thank you so much.

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I made it,

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you know,

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dah, dah,

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dah, it start kind of telling my story.

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And it's actually,

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I have some purses out in my car.

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I bring those in.

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And it was like a hated doing that.

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I had to psych myself up.

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I would sit in the car sometimes for like 20 minutes

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going, come on,

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Nicole, you have to go in,

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you have to go in.

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And every time I went in,

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I would have a good experience whether they bought something or

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not, but it was just like,

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I didn't have a choice cause I had to pay my

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rent and that was how I was going to do it.

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So it really forced me to push myself way out of

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my comfort zone and get my stuff out there.

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Yeah. Yeah.

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But thank you for sharing that because your story about how

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you started and then getting scrappy,

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like doing what you needed to do first on the boardwalk,

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then going into the stores,

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even though you didn't want to,

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because boy,

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can, I relate to that?

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The fear of having to do something and thinking,

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and just like psyching yourself up to actually do it.

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But then when I loved what you said is that you

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always had a good experience,

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you know?

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No one's shooed you out of the store or was mean

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to you,

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I'm guessing.

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Did that help motivate you or allow you to get easier

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for this time that you still needed to do that?

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Yeah. I mean,

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like I said earlier about the resilience and kind of building

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up that muscle,

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that's where it comes from everything.

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Like if you've never taken a risk before,

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if you've never experienced rejection,

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if you've never had to put your art there before your

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muscle to do that is really small and weak.

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So it's going to be really hard.

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But the more you do it,

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the more you build up that muscle.

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And it's not that you're just going to park the car

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and like bound in there with like all the confidence in

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the world.

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But that time period you spend in the car,

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psyching yourself up,

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we'll get a little shorter because you know,

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I was able to say to myself,

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when I would feel like,

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oh, I don't want to go in there again.

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I would say,

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listen, Nicole,

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you've done this before.

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Dozens of times,

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every time,

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even if they don't buy your stuff,

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just like you said,

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no one chews you out of the store.

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Everything's going to be just fine.

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So it would be two minutes of psyching myself out versus

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20 minutes of doing it.

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I mean,

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I'm thinking of the people who are listening here,

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who haven't done their first flea market or no,

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there's a craft show in the community,

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but they're like,

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should I do it this year?

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Maybe I'll wait and presenting all of the excuses in front

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of them instead of doing it,

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the best thing is get that first one under your belt

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because you will survive.

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You'll learn.

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And the next one gets easier and easier and easier just

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like Nicole sharing with her experience.

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So that's amazing.

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How then did you go from that to your international wholesale

Speaker:

business? What were the steps there?

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So I was selling regularly at a flea market in Hollywood.

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It's still around,

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it's called the Melrose trading post.

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And I sold there every Sunday for like a year and

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a half.

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And that kind of created a regular fan base for me.

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And because it was LA,

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there were some celebrities there.

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My stuff ended up in some TV shows and things like

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that. And I met other designers who wanted to build their

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businesses too.

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So I think that that part about meeting the other designers

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was key.

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And the community that we started to build together was key.

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So another,

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at least two girls that had a booth whose stuff was

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very, very different than mine.

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Not the same style at all said,

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Hey, listen,

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you know,

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we are going to do this trade show and we have

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a little bit of room in our booth.

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Do you want to split it three ways with us?

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But this,

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I think it was like a 10 by 10 or something

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split three ways.

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So I had three and a half feet wide by 10

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feet long or six feet long or something.

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Cause somebody had the back wall and then like we shared

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the front sides and I was like,

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yeah, that sounds awesome.

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And I think my share of the booth was $900,

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which was like,

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it might as well have been a million dollars.

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It was so far from an amount of money that I

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could put together at one time.

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But luckily the girl said,

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listen, we already paid for the booth.

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You just pay us every week.

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Every Sunday pay us however much you can pay us as

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long as you're paid off.

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By the time we do the show.

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So that's what I did.

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And I just put everything I had into that booth.

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And I ended up getting a bunch of wholesale accounts.

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My stuff was all handmade,

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which this was,

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I don't know,

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15, 20 years ago.

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And there wasn't handmade stuff at trade shows like mine.

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So the types of stores that were like looking for really

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unique and different stuff found me.

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And we're like,

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this is awesome.

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And I was like,

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yes, this is awesome.

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You understand what I'm doing here?

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Whereas like some other shop owners were like,

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are these all going to be different?

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They were bummed out about it.

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Other ones were like,

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these are all going to be different.

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And I'm like,

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yes, I use vintage fabric.

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And they were like,

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that's so cool.

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So it was just a matter of me finding my right

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people. And so I got some shops that way.

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In fact,

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just recently somebody contacted me on Instagram and she was like,

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do you remember me?

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I was one of,

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I met you at that.

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And I was like,

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you are my first store ever that I was ever in

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any way.

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So I did that trade show and then just kept reinvesting

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everything I made into my business ended up getting a rep.

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So at a showroom in downtown LA,

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I mean,

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that was terrifying going in there to show my stuff off

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to an official rep,

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you know,

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pretty much did their,

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and like criticized.

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Everything was like,

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Hey, if you want me to rep you,

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here's what you have to do like this,

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this and this.

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But I also liked that she,

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you know,

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knew what she was talking about and she meant business.

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And she was like,

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if you want to sell,

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this is what you need to do.

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If you want to make whatever you want,

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go back to the flea market.

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So I had to make a decision,

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like, do I want to just mess around with this?

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Or do I want to turn this into like a serious

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business that I can scale?

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So from there I got more reps and more trade shows

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and it just really built from there.

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And I moved away from doing the craft shows in the

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flea markets and the retail shows and into being,

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doing more wholesale,

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The great story.

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So a couple of things I want to point out and

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underline, and then I have a question for you.

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Also, what I love about what you've been talking about is

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how your connection with other people in the industry helped you

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progress further first.

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It was all the other people,

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you know,

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on the boardwalk and all that.

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But when you got to the trade shows,

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it was the other two people who helped you be able

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to be in your first show.

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And you probably helped them just as much because they probably

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couldn't afford that whole booth price too.

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So even if you paid weekly,

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you know,

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it helped all of you,

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but then you also got in that environment and learn the

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system. And then when you were working with that rep who

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was critiquing a little bit,

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she's got her finger on the pulse of what's selling.

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So that helped advance your business.

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Totally also.

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So it's all connections and interactions and working together with people.

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So I'm saying that to any of you who are listening,

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because I don't know Nicole,

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if you see this,

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but people are so concerned about sharing what they're doing,

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because they're afraid someone's going to steal their idea or take

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their customers or that type of thing.

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But once you start doing it and you realize that there's

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enough business for everybody and people who buy handmade purses might

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buy multiple hand-made purses.

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So it's not just one or another.

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If someone likes your product,

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they're going to like your product in multiple ways potentially.

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Yeah. I definitely agree with that.

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I mean,

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that's the rising tides raise all ships and I feel like

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it's so true in the handmade world.

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So here's your Question with this story?

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How did you then handle the increase in production for your

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handmade product?

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You'll hear what Nicole has to say about this right after

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a quick break to hear from Anita,

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who's our community and customer service specialist over at the ribbon

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print company.

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Hi, I'm Anita community manager for the ribbon print companies,

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customer support program.

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You'll also find me when I accompany suit to exhibit at

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trade shows where we get to meet many of our existing

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customers in person and introduce new people to the world of

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ribbons printing.

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It's always fun.

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Seeing the reaction people have during a demonstration,

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when a ribbon is created with their company name,

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a related image or their own message that they helped to

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design on the spot.

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They're always amazed that within seconds their message will print right

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before their eyes.

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Of course,

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that's rewarding for me too,

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as I get to enjoy the smiles and the excitement that

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this is even a possibility.

Speaker:

And that's when they realize how easy it would be to

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do this in their stores too.

Speaker:

So can you,

Speaker:

you can personalize ribbon for your customers to celebrate birthdays anniversaries

Speaker:

or whatever you like,

Speaker:

but we're also seeing a lot of our customers use the

Speaker:

ribbon printer for their branding by adding logo,

Speaker:

ribbon, or labels to products or for flavor or scent designations

Speaker:

to our number.

Speaker:

One comment we hear when we're out with our customers is

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that the ribbon printer is a game-changing addition to any business,

Speaker:

large or small.

Speaker:

I'm proud to be part of the ribbon print company team.

Speaker:

And I'm even more thrilled that we're there to ensure our

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customers, that they can use their printer with ease all while

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bringing in additional revenue along the way to learn more,

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go to the ribbon print company.com.

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I had to figure it out as it happened.

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So it started getting to the point where I couldn't so

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everything myself and I had a couple of things happen that

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forced me to delegate.

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Like I was sewing and I sewed through my finger.

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So I couldn't so for awhile.

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So I had to find someone to help me.

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So I wish like looking back that I would have had

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a mentor who told me that I was running my own

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business, not to have myself working for my business,

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but out to have my business worked for me.

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I knew that,

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but I didn't know how to live it at the time.

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And I was really attached to the idea that I had

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to have my hands on everything.

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You know,

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that it was my small handmade business.

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And I had to be the one picking up the fabric.

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This was sewn by me.

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This was made by me.

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And then eventually,

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you know,

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it was handmade,

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not necessarily by me,

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but by individuals like based in LA.

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And I wish that I had someone to kind of hold

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my hand and guide me through the idea of scaling and

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systems and things like that,

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because it got to the point where the business was.

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I did everything that I could do with it.

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You know,

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I grew it as big as my imagination could see.

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I couldn't see any further than where I grew it.

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And then I was kind of like,

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now what?

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Yeah. And then you limit yourself too,

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because you can't grow anymore.

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You're only one person.

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How do you possibly do it?

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Yeah. I mean,

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I did have employees,

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I had six people part-time working for me,

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but I just didn't know what was the next step.

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I didn't know where I was going.

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I had gotten it to the point as far as my

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imagination could see.

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And then I had a really big company found me when

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I was at one of the trade shows and wanted to

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buy out my company.

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And so I met with them.

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It was a bunch of corporate business men in suits and

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in big,

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beautiful office building.

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And I showed up with my way of wacky dressing and

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my blue hair at the time.

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And looking back what they offered me was really good.

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But at the time I said no,

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because they were going to own my designs.

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They were going to own my name.

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And I wish I would have said yes,

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maybe in retrospect,

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but I just wasn't willing to give up that control.

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And as it turns out just a few years later,

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I was like,

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I'm done with this business anyway though.

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So I think that that was a big lesson that I

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learned there.

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That is probably my biggest lesson of all of my business.

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That I'm still learning now that I have definitely not perfected

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yet. So what would be the advice then?

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I mean,

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I think for makers where that came from the value of

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your product that someone wanted to purchase,

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there's more of that to come cause that's inside you.

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Yes. So you might be selling off just that portion of

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whatever the potential purchase would have been,

Speaker:

but that doesn't mean you've tapped dry.

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You know,

Speaker:

there are so many more things that you can create,

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but it's hard.

Speaker:

Like I think that everyone who's listening would feel the same

Speaker:

way. Like nobody can create the product as good as you.

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And if it's your designs,

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your artistry designs,

Speaker:

it's even more so.

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Yeah. And I have this mentality,

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like I remember thinking they're gonna own me.

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Like, they're gonna own my art.

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I'm not going to do that.

Speaker:

That's like selling out and now I'm like,

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no, it wasn't.

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Yeah. I think of it differently now.

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So I think my advice to anyone is to realize that

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everything in your business can be done by someone else,

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even the creative work,

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which is the work that we are last to delegate.

Speaker:

So thinking about it that way,

Speaker:

and now I do this thing,

Speaker:

I call it delegation a day.

Speaker:

So every day I try to find something to delegate.

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Even it could be something that's like a long-term delegation,

Speaker:

like from now on,

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I'm going to have so-and-so reach out to my podcast guests,

Speaker:

or I'm going to have so-and-so prep,

Speaker:

these blog posts or something like that.

Speaker:

Or it could be like a short-term or personal delegation.

Speaker:

So for example,

Speaker:

I'm going to ask my husband to give my son a

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bath tonight so that I can read book or do some

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extra work or whatever it is.

Speaker:

Cause even something like that,

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I was like,

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no, I have to give my son a bath every night.

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It has to be me,

Speaker:

even though I had spent the entire day with him.

Speaker:

So I was not the one who had to give him

Speaker:

a bath.

Speaker:

My husband is a grown adult man in his middle forties.

Speaker:

That's perfectly capable of giving a one and a half year

Speaker:

old, a bath,

Speaker:

especially when I give him such specific instructions for how to

Speaker:

do so.

Speaker:

So that's what I try to do now.

Speaker:

And I don't necessarily do a delegation every single day,

Speaker:

but every single day I'm like,

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okay, Nicole,

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what's going to be your delegation today.

Speaker:

Like, what are you going to do?

Speaker:

Yeah. And,

Speaker:

you know,

Speaker:

I think just keeping it top of mind that there are

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always things and being on the lookout for things that could

Speaker:

get delegated out,

Speaker:

because look at what's happened to you.

Speaker:

I mean,

Speaker:

moving into the next part of your story,

Speaker:

your interest in the creation part kind of was waning because

Speaker:

that's what you had just mentioned earlier because your interests were

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going somewhere else.

Speaker:

I mean,

Speaker:

we change and evolve over the course of years too,

Speaker:

so you never know what's going to happen.

Speaker:

So this is I believe where you're going to talk to

Speaker:

me about how you started to gravitate into wanting to share

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forward. What,

Speaker:

you know,

Speaker:

in terms of coaching,

Speaker:

is that where this comes in?

Speaker:

Yeah, for sure.

Speaker:

I think I had been running random Nicole for about 10

Speaker:

years and all of that stuff was going on.

Speaker:

Like I mentioned with the company trying to buy me out.

Speaker:

And around that time I had already been teaching.

Speaker:

I taught when I was in college,

Speaker:

you know,

Speaker:

I taught creative writing and I was teaching art classes to

Speaker:

kids and adults and things.

Speaker:

And I really enjoyed teaching other people to be creative.

Speaker:

And I just started getting more into that sphere.

Speaker:

So my aunt who was my we'd be ended up becoming

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business partners.

Speaker:

We're no longer business partners,

Speaker:

but together we started a craft show called patchwork show.

Speaker:

And that was because I had moved out of San Francisco

Speaker:

and out of Hollywood and down to orange county and orange

Speaker:

county was like kind of a bummer at that time.

Speaker:

It was like not a lot of cool stuff going on.

Speaker:

So she and I created this cool event called patchwork show,

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which was a maker's festival where we had vendor booths and

Speaker:

food and all kinds of stuff.

Speaker:

And at that time there were only like 20 vendors and

Speaker:

that's been happening for 13 years now.

Speaker:

You know,

Speaker:

we have several different cities.

Speaker:

We're just coming back now after our COVID break.

Speaker:

And then around that time,

Speaker:

we started having these kind of vendor nights for our vendors

Speaker:

where we would invite them to all come.

Speaker:

She and I had stores next door to each other.

Speaker:

So we would invite all of our vendors to come to

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the store and we would have like cupcakes and drinks and

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we would have somebody do a talk about marketing or whatever

Speaker:

it was.

Speaker:

And we just saw there was such a need for not

Speaker:

only the education that we were offering them,

Speaker:

but also the camaraderie that they were experiencing.

Speaker:

Because when you're at the craft show,

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you're busy trying to sell your stuff and you see other

Speaker:

makers you want to talk to,

Speaker:

and maybe you have a minute here and there,

Speaker:

but this was an opportunity for them to talk to each

Speaker:

other and share resources and say,

Speaker:

yeah, B2.

Speaker:

And we saw how just transformative that was for them.

Speaker:

And we started a craft cation conference,

Speaker:

which is a five day business and makers conference that happens

Speaker:

once a year in the spring in Ventura where we have

Speaker:

over 200 craft and DIY workshops,

Speaker:

everything from jewelry,

Speaker:

making a stained glass to sewing,

Speaker:

to screen printing.

Speaker:

I mean,

Speaker:

it varies every year.

Speaker:

We've had perfume making,

Speaker:

I mean,

Speaker:

all kinds of different things weaving and then also business classes.

Speaker:

So everything from panels about imposter syndrome to marketing and branding

Speaker:

and social media and profit and loss and planning your financials

Speaker:

when you're a freelancer and things like that.

Speaker:

And then a lot of fun social stuff there too.

Speaker:

And plus it's at the beach,

Speaker:

which is a great part of it because I think that

Speaker:

when we are creative business bosses,

Speaker:

we are very dedicated to our businesses.

Speaker:

So this offers people,

Speaker:

a chance to get that community,

Speaker:

get that education,

Speaker:

get that creativity.

Speaker:

And then also get that time for themselves to relax at

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the beach.

Speaker:

And we have meditation and yoga and all those kinds of

Speaker:

things too.

Speaker:

So everything that I did kind of evolved into that as

Speaker:

to being more of a curator and to trying to give

Speaker:

other whether it was,

Speaker:

you know,

Speaker:

curating vendors for the event or curating presenters to share their

Speaker:

knowledge or curating an experience to try to give these creatives

Speaker:

the things that I wished I had that I feel like

Speaker:

would have helped my business grow faster or grow smarter.

Speaker:

And that's pretty much what I do now of what's behind

Speaker:

it. But I think there wasn't that opportunity as you were

Speaker:

growing and building,

Speaker:

we didn't have the linkage that we do now,

Speaker:

you know,

Speaker:

either technology or even getting together as we're doing these days

Speaker:

and the events that you're describing sound amazing for our industry.

Speaker:

Absolutely. For sure.

Speaker:

So, and the patchwork show is still going on,

Speaker:

right? Yep.

Speaker:

I think this is our 13th year.

Speaker:

And so we're having a fall season in fall 2021 and

Speaker:

all of our shows are in California,

Speaker:

so Northern and Southern California.

Speaker:

And then we're planning our craft vacation conference for 2022.

Speaker:

And we're crossing our fingers that everything's going to work out

Speaker:

with that COVID wise.

Speaker:

Cause it's been postponed since 2020.

Speaker:

Yeah. I think you're going to be in luck.

Speaker:

Cause like I said,

Speaker:

I just got back from my first show.

Speaker:

I have two more coming up in September and I think

Speaker:

by 2022,

Speaker:

we should be well on our way.

Speaker:

I hope so in whatever that's going to look like,

Speaker:

right. Like I'm not blind.

Speaker:

I know that we're not done with this yet,

Speaker:

but that's very exciting.

Speaker:

Do you have a date already tentative date?

Speaker:

We do have a date it's April 6th through 10th of

Speaker:

2022 in Ventura,

Speaker:

California. And if you're listening and you're not familiar with Ventura,

Speaker:

it's about an hour or so,

Speaker:

depending on traffic north of LA and it's a beach city.

Speaker:

So the hotel where we're at as a block from the

Speaker:

beach and it's a really cool beach town and that it

Speaker:

kind of has that old school,

Speaker:

California beach field where you'll see surfers in vintage VW buses.

Speaker:

And it's not really pretentious.

Speaker:

Like some beaches can be,

Speaker:

it's a really good fit for conference.

Speaker:

We are.

Speaker:

I would say that we're kind of like a down to

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earth, diverse,

Speaker:

inclusive group of people.

Speaker:

So it fits really well for us to be in a

Speaker:

kind of a down to earth beach town place.

Speaker:

Got it.

Speaker:

Let's talk a little bit,

Speaker:

some challenges that you see that are really specific to the

Speaker:

handmade community.

Speaker:

If you were to share maybe three things that you find

Speaker:

that people,

Speaker:

when they come to get help or they come to Craftcation,

Speaker:

where are they?

Speaker:

A big struggle that I see is in marketing.

Speaker:

I don't do a lot of consulting and coaching right now,

Speaker:

but I do do it occasionally whenever I can make the

Speaker:

time for it.

Speaker:

But marketing is such a big one.

Speaker:

And having that,

Speaker:

wanting to make a business off of your art because you

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enjoy making your art and then finding out when you make

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a business off of your art,

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you spend a lot more time on the business part than

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the art part.

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And a huge part of the business part is the marketing

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and feeling like you have to be everywhere on all the

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social media and all of the newsletters,

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building your lists,

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doing stories,

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doing reels on Pinterest,

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making evergreen content,

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all that.

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But right.

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You know,

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I had a call this morning and someone was,

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well, I did a Q and a this morning in my

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group. And one of the questions that came in is I

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need help with my marketing.

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I'm like,

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okay, so let's break that down.

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Like what specifically do you want to talk about?

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Because marketing,

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we could sit for a week,

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right. And talk about marketing.

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But I think that whole point that you're saying is getting

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the visibility and getting the attention to your product and then

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being able to share it is the only thing that's going

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to make it a business.

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If you agree that to be a business,

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you have to be exchanging money.

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Exactly. No one's going to know you unless you're marketing in

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whatever way that's going to be.

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And I think that the most helpful advice that I can

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give to people who are feeling overwhelmed by having to post

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all the things in all the places is don't post all

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the things and all the places look for what type of

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content you enjoy baking that you feel is your strong suit

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and that you enjoy and then look for where your customers

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are and figure out where that overlap is.

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If you can imagine that's a Venn diagram,

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where do those two circles intersect in the middle?

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Is it on Instagram?

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Is it on Facebook?

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Is it on Twitter?

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If you're a creative business owner,

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it's probably not on Twitter.

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It's probably on Instagram,

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depending on your age demographic.

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And then what kind of content on there?

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Just because video is where it's at right now and everything

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is moving towards video doesn't mean that everything you post has

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to be video or you have to dance on a reel.

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So maybe you do IgE lives,

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Instagram lives or Instagram TVs,

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maybe longer format video is a better fit for you.

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So just looking at it and trying to find,

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I've been trying to think about social media as an opportunity

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instead of as an obligation.

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And that changed my whole thing about it.

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I mean,

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I kind of started this in November and then I took

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a break from social media and kind of rethought my strategy.

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And then I just came back from another social media break

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where I took three weeks and I just studied for those

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three weeks.

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I studied a ton of social media strategist for creatives.

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I watched a bunch of stuff.

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I took a course.

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I started working on my own strategy.

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I created like 25 reels and I just did what I

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thought was going to be fun.

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I was like,

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okay, I've got this really fun sequined jumpsuit.

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Like what can I do in this?

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I feel like putting this on and wearing a wig,

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you know,

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what am I going to do here?

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Okay. Nicole 25 reels is super impressive.

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I'm just going to start with that.

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It wasn't my goal to do that.

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My goal was I'm going to come up with some real

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ideas and make a dozen reels or something.

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And by the time I started brainstorming and my list of

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ideas was I think 72 ideas on my spreadsheet.

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So then I just picked out some of them and started

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doing them good for you.

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I'm actually taking a different approach to all of the social

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media options.

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I want them to pile them on to the point where

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you couldn't possibly do everything because then to your point,

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you pick and choose.

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Then what's the best for you in the beginning,

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it used to be only Facebook,

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Twitter. So of course,

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as they started developing,

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you felt like you needed to be on everything.

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Now it's getting to be just so It really is.

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And I think the other thing is to realize that you

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don't have to be constantly turning out content and you can

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repurpose your content and you can use the same content on

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other platforms because maybe two to 3% of your audience is

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actually seeing your content.

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And out of that,

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two to 3%,

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how many people there are going to remember it when you

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post it a month later?

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I mean,

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I don't think it's ever happened where I've seen a post

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and thought I already saw this.

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I'm sure I have.

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That's a good point too,

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for sure.

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And on Pinterest,

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you can take the same content and just make different images

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also. So yeah,

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there's a lot of opportunity and every platform is unique,

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but I think the breath of fresh air that you're presenting

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Nicole is you don't need to be on everything.

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No, you do not.

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And there was such a thing as business before social media

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too. You know,

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I think we forget about what we call old traditional ways

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of marketing.

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And I think once social media becomes not the new child

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anymore, which I think there's still that hype around it.

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A lot,

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some of it might even level out like I'm even hearing

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people talking about doing billboards more.

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Now it's a little bit,

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I actually just did radio ads for my last round of

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patchwork shows and direct mailing.

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So I just decided I'm going to try a bunch of

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different things.

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So I did in-house advertising,

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you know,

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through our newsletter and social media and all of that.

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I did paid digital advertising,

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paid advertising in our local paper,

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paid radio ads.

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And then I also did direct mailing and I was just

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like, let's throw it off and see what happens.

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Absolutely. Well,

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and especially now with the way Facebook ads are performing.

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So it's going to be interesting things keep changing.

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They don't leave us without anything to talk about.

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That's for sure.

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So talk a little bit more about dear handmade life.

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What's coming up in the future.

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What do you want everybody who's listening here to know.

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So what's coming up in the future,

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our fall patchwork shows,

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and I think everyone will be listening to this sometime in

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November. And that's when our shows are.

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So you can just head to our website,

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dear handmade,

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life.com to check out our show schedule and see if there's

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a show near you.

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And then of course Craftcation conference in April of 2022 and

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then our newest venture that actually isn't public at the time

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that we're recording this,

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but it's your handmade life,

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the club.

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And it's an exclusive members,

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only online community for creative business owners,

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where we have expert led business classes,

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group mentorship,

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sessions of resource hub,

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and so much more in there and membership opens every quarter.

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So you can head to dear handmade life.com/the

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club. And you can see if membership's open at the time,

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you're listening to this.

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So I'm very excited about that.

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It's completely remote and everything is also recorded.

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So it's self paced and you can join from anywhere in

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the world.

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That sounds amazing.

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And back just a few minutes ago,

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when you were talking about starting off and being at the

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shows and how you felt like you were all by yourself

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as a handmade creator,

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and now you fill that niche,

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none of us need to feel alone with support,

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with education and all of that through the services that you

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provide and the events.

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That's why I started this because it's great to have that

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community when we're at our patchwork shows or once a year

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at Craftcation.

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But so many of people in our community myself included want

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that year round.

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Absolutely. Well,

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this has been fabulous.

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Any parting words for our listeners Nichol?

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I would just say,

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I mean,

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thinking about that first thing that I said,

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when we were talking about my candle,

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that it's all grist for the mill.

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And if you happen to be in a low valley right

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now, you will come out of that valley.

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And the only way you're going to get out is to

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keep moving.

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So just keep moving,

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keep pushing,

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look for your community,

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reach out for help.

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And you can totally do this.

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It's hard,

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but it's worth it.

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Absolutely. Couldn't agree more.

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Thank you so much,

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Nicole. I really appreciate your being here today and sharing with

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us your story and all that you are now offering in

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the world of handmade.

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Thank you.

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So it was great to meet you and chat.

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As a reminder,

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Nicole shared a lot of information that you may want to

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resource. If you didn't catch it during our talk,

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it's all available for you on the show notes page to

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access that head over to the gift biz unwrapped website,

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or scroll down on your podcast app.

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And the notes with links will appear.

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Make sure to join me next Saturday for more business advice,

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from a seasoned strategist who has many tips to share.

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And of course you can also tune in on Wednesdays for

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my tips and talk episodes.

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I really,

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you spending time with me today.

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If you'd like to show support for the podcast,

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leaving a rating and review helps the show get seen by

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more makers.

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So it's a great way to pay it forward.

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Also make sure to follow the podcast.

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So episodes,

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including that tips and talk series automatically download to your phone.

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That way you don't miss a thing and now be safe

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and well.

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And I'll see you again next week on the gift biz

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unwrapped podcast.

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I want to make sure you're familiar with my free Facebook

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group called gift is free.

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It's a place where we all gather and our community to

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support each other.

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Got a really fun post in there.

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That's my favorite of the week.

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I have to say where I invite all of you to

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share what you're doing to show pictures of your product,

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to show what you're working on for the week to get

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reaction from other people and just for fun,

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because we all get to see the wonderful products that everybody

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in the community is making my favorite posts every single week,

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without doubt.

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Wait, what,

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aren't you part of the group already,

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if not make sure to jump over to Facebook and search

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for the group gift biz breeze don't delay.