Press Release Announcing the Publication of Stamping Destroyed My Life
Stamping Destroyed My Life: The Prologue
Chapter One: "It's Kind of Magical"
Chapter Two: A Match Made in Heaven
Chapter Three: "Just do it."
Chapter Four: Salsa and Chips
Chapter Five: "I have a plan."
Gina and I sat in John's home office, relaxing after the Best Workshop Ever. Everything was working out so well -- except for the fireflies and law school and all that. But really, I had a plan and it was on fire.
Gina was now my biggest fan and was more than happy to sit on my cozy wing chair, sip my Chardonnay, eat leftover crab beignets, and talk to me. An $11K+ workshop will do that.
"Ask me anything," Gina said.
And so I said, "What's up with the cats? Why does GDWS give away cats to its top demos? Is that legal?"
Gina laughed. "Of course it's legal. They don't actually put a cat in a box and send it by UPS along with ink pads and eyelets. Rather, the very top demos get the exclusive right to own a cat selected by GDWS."
And I'm thinking: Not sure I can sell to crazy people, but I can try.
"Why would anyone want a cat selected by GDWS?"
"Well," Gina explained, "Why do folks want hand stamped sneakers? Glittered eyeglasses? Not everyone can have them. Exclusivity always sells."
Gina continued, "You have to know the backstory about Get Down to understand. Jackson Richman and his wife Catherine started the company about ten years ago. Jackson's parents were both veterinarians and he grew up surrounded by animals. Jackson got his MBA and went to work in the finance department of Scramway, where he learned the ins and outs of multi-level marketing."
"What's multi-level marketing?" I asked.
"Well, GDWS is an example. It's a way to run a very profitable home based business without investing a lot of your own money, while at the same time getting the support of a big corporate office. You sign up to represent the company and sell its products and also recruit others to do the same. For example, as a demo, I earn a certain percentage of everything I sell, but I also earn a small percentage of what my downline sells and what their downline sells -- down to 14 levels. I don't have to design stamps, manufacturer them, or create a catalogue. It's all done for me."
This is going to be a piece o' cake, I thought.
"Can you make a lot of money being a demo?," I asked.
Gina put down her Chardonnay, and said "M, the products sell themselves. Put them in the same room with the right women and bingo, sales."
Exactly what I thought, but I wondered what she meant by the "right women."
"Do you have a lot of stampy friends?" I so hoped the answer was yes. I wanted to make some money of my own. But, I could also imagine lunch time card making over gossip, ribbon and cardstock.
"Yes, I do. Some of my downline and customers have become my closest friends. We've even vacationed with a few of them and their husbands."
I almost fainted.
"That's so nice."
"Now can we get back to the cats?"
Gina laughed a bit.
"Don't worry, I'm getting to it. When Jackson was working at Scramway, he met Catherine at a fundraising thing in Rustic View, their Vermont town. One thing led to another, and Jackson and Catherine got married. They lived on a gorgeous farm, entertained lavishly, and people noticed them. They quickly became the "it" couple in Rustic View and then all of Vermont.
Catherine dabbled in drawing and, one year, as a lark, illustrated her own
I interrupted, "You mean I could sell my cards? I hadn't though of that." Holy gadawba, this just keeps getting better and better...
Gina responded, "Absolutely. In fact, originals of Catherines's first cards now sell on Ebay for over $5000. Catherine even trademarked her "Merry Catskunk" greeting.
"Oh," I exclaimed. "So that's where that greeting comes from!"
Gina reached for another crab beignet. How that tiny frame could handle so much food amazed me.
"So, as I was saying, Jackson was growing restless at Scramway. He wanted his own business and could see the potential of multi-level marketing. After a lot of research, he and Catherine started Get Down With Stampin. It was a way to combine his business and her artistic skills.
The business got off to a slow start, but the first catalogue included a Catherine the Cat at Christmas stamp set. It sold like crazy. They got offers from big stamp companies like Heroic Deeds for Catherine to illustrate cat stamps for them. They declined, but kept at the business, traveling around the country, doing workshops. Eventually, they held a workshop at the Bush place in Kennebunkport, and that was the turning point. The company is now quite successful."
"Wow," I exclaimed, "Barbara Bush stamps? I had no idea."
"M, I didn't say a thing about Barbara Bush. You'd be surprised who stamps," Gina whispered, making it clear that she really couldn't say much else about it.
Hmm, I thought, the Bushes! My fingers started tingling.
She continued, "Since then, every catty has a kitty. There's Catherine the Cat painting, taking out an appendix, skeet shooting, driving a minivan, surfing, filling out an order for GDWS, etc. There was even a Catherine the Cat Becomes a Demo set. And, in a bow to Jackson's parents, GDWS donates 1% of its corporate profits to the Catherine the Cat Foundation, which makes high end clothing for homeless cats. Its motto is "Dressed to Wander."
This is genius, I thought. Every cat lover I know spends thousands on her cat.
I said, "That is interesting. But how to demos get a cat?"
Gina explained, "The top 3 demos in sales every year get a certificate entitling them to receive a cat in a shelter in the demo's home community. Catherine hand selects the particular cat. The cat comes with all its shots and its ears pierced, because the demos also get gold earrings with the GDWS logo on them for the cat to wear. Isn't that fabulous? Everyone who sells kitties out of the catty craves a Catherine the Cat."
Gina paused to sample the lemon pomegranate lasagna, and I asked,
"So here's the thing. What if the demo doesn't want the cat? Can you get cash instead?"
Gina turned quickly towards me, her black hair whipping around her face, and almost shouted. "Are you kidding? No one has ever declined a Catherine the Cat. It would be shocking! I cannot imagine the scandal."
"Oh sorry, I didn't mean to suggest anything bad."
Gina calmed down and asked, "Why, are you thinking of becoming a demo?"
"Well, yes I am!
"Oh, that is fabulous. You have all the makings to become a fantastic demo," Gina said.
You can file that, Gina.
"Thanks. But, I was wondering about something else. Gina, you're going to law school, right? And you said you'd be resigning then?"
Gina put down her lasagna and turned to me. She said, "Yes, I am planning on resigning in a year."
"Well, what happens to your customers? And your downline?"
"The downline stays without anyone to guide them. They are called "orphan kitties" and are really kind of sad. But once your business is solid, you don't really need an upline. It's like anything else, the strong survive; the weak fade away. And my customers will find other demos."
Hmm, I thought. Time to negotiate. Let's see how smart this wanna be lawyer is.
"What if I give you $50 for every downline, and $25 for every customer you have? You stay a demo in name only and I work the business and keep the profits. GDWS doesn't need to know a thing and we both win."
I poured Gina another glass of wine.
"No," she said, "That wouldn't be right. I live by my reputation. When all is said and done, you can be the greatest stamper in the world and make a ton of money, but if you aren't running an honest business, you have nothing. I cannot do that."
Bingo! I knew she'd be tripped up by "rules." Anyone who frets over a melting logo clearly has no business sense.
So I said, "Oh, of course. I'm sorry. I didn't think of that. I wouldn't dream of suggesting anything dishonest. Silly me!"
I got up and stood by the window, appearing to think. I twirled around, the pleats in my kilt fanning out.
"Gina," I told her, "You are so good at this and I really want to succeed and become a top demo. I think you can see by this workshop that I am serious. If I become a demo under you now, would you be willing to give my name to your customers when you quit a year from now? I mean, if it's legal to do so, of course."
Gina looked away, brushed some crumbs off her cashmere twin set and said, "Absolutely."
So we had a deal. My plan was working!!!
Gina explained that there were two levels of demoship -- the basic "Calico Cat" where you could only buy for yourself. You got a discount for personal purchases and it cost $195 to sign up. You had to agree to buy at least $200 a month to stay a demo. Or, you could go for "Siamese Cat," which entitled you to sell to others. The cost was $995, but it would give me everything I needed to succeed and I only had to sell $300 per month. There was a bunch of blah blah blah thrown in, but I find details tedious.
"I assume you want to be a Siamese," Gina purred.
Just call me M the Siamese Cat.
After I signed endless paperwork (including a promise not to call any of my cats "Catherine"), and I slapped down my credit card, I asked Gina, "Hey, there's one more thing. Can you teach me to stamp?"
"Sure, how about I come over after your starter kit comes and do a mini class just for you?"
"Awesome. It's a plan, Gina!"
Gina left and I went upstairs. John was still awake. He had that serious look on his face, but didn't look angry.
"How did it go tonight?," he asked, somewhat nervously.
"Fabulous. Oh, John, it was AHHMAZING. I sold over $11 thousand dollars of stamps and did not buy anything for myself. None, zada, zip."
The stamps in the starter kit were not part of the workshop, so why confuse the issue with the difference between a workshop and becoming a demo? Once John saw the money rolling in, it really wouldn't matter.
"Oh good," John said. "I guess you made your money back then. Good." He sighed, "I was a little worried when I saw the caterer."
"John, darling. I promise. You have nothing to worry about."
Next: Chapter 7