Jan 17, 2016

Stamping Destroyed My Life: Chapter 11

To start this story at the beginning, please start HERE and follow the links.

Chapter 11:  "This was my chance."

After I placed the camera on top of Sean's file cabinet, I bolted out of his office, raced through the waiting area, and ran through the doors, as if the place really was on fire.  My heart was racing and I could almost smell the smoke. Yippee! I did it!  I did it!  I was a genius.  In just a few days I'd have all the inside information I needed to start my own stamping company, and take down Get Down.  How hard could that be?

Sean rushed up to me, grabbed my arm, and pulled me away from the building.  "I was worried about you!  Where were you?"

"Oh wow,  Sean, that was scary!  I was in the ladies' room and when the alarm went off, I ran out and got turned around. I couldn't figure out where the doors were.  Is there a fire? Oh my Banana Blush!; I could have been trapped in there!"  I shuddered.

Sean replied, "Here's your jacket.  I grabbed it on my way out.  No idea if there's a fire, but I sure hope not.  Here comes the fire trucks.  We'll know soon enough. I'm glad you're ok! Everyone was accounted for except for you.  I was really scared."

Gee, Sean is nice, I thought.  Really nice.  Would he lose his job if I accused GDWS of copying my designs?

We stood around in the parking lot on the cold gray day waiting to see what was up.  Laura came running over to Sean and asked him what was going on.

Sean said, "I have no idea.  The fire alarm went off, but I don't smell smoke or see anything.  The firemen are in there. Maybe it's a false alarm.  At least I hope so."

After 10 minutes, a fireman walked over to Laura and said, "We don't see a thing. All's clear. Suspect the alarm had a short.  You need to get that checked right away."

"Thank you so much," said Laura.  "You guys are the best. I'll get that taken care of right away."

Suddenly, the adrenaline left me and I went limp with exhaustion.  As the employees returned to work, I thought, "Good Greenish Grunge!  I pulled a false alarm and planted a camera and a recording device.  Maybe I'm allergic to something in the rubber stamps and it has affected my brain. Guilt for what I'd done, and terror that I would be caught, pingponged in my head.  Could I go to jail for this?

Between Andy's legal fees, the cost to become a demo, the GDWS order I placed, the camera and recording devices, and the costs for hostessing the workshop, I was in for over $35,000.  I hadn't figured out how to pay for all of this and still hadn't made a single card.  This made the quilting fiasco look like a walk in a neat and tangled meadow.  I could barely remember how it happened.  It started to dawn on me that perhaps I had made a few mistakes.  I had to fix this.

Laura turned and said to me, "Wow, what a day!  M, if you don't mind, I'd like to drive you back to the B&B now, all right?"

What could I say?  I had to think fast.

"Sean, Laura, I have a huge favor to ask.  I'd love to spend some time with Sean just shadowing him. I just want to see how he does his job.  I'll be a quiet as a sleeping fox.  Sean, would you mind? And could you give me a ride to the B&B at the end of the day?"

Sean and Laura looked at each other.  Sean said, "That's fine with me.  After the scare you've been through, it's the least I can do."

Good Grape, his niceness just made me feel worse.

Laura looked at him and said, "Sean, are you sure?"

"Don't worry, Laura.  I think we can trust M not to share anything she sees."

This was my chance.  I practically shouted, "Absolutely.  I understand confidentiality.  My husband is a lawyer.  I know how important it is. I won't share anything. I Pretty in Pink promise."

Laura shrugged, "Well, if it's ok with Sean, it's ok with me. M, I'll pick you up tomorrow at 9:30. We meet with Kitty and Jackson at 10."

"Oooh," I squealed.  This is my lucky day!  Thanks so much."

***

I removed the camera and the recorder from GDWS that afternoon.  I'll never say how.  Nevertheless, I didn't sleep that night. When I got tired of tossing in the bed, I sat in an overstuffed wing chair until I could figure out my next steps. I began to pace.  Eventually, I stood in front of the full length mirror and placed my hand on my heart. I swore that I would never do anything this stupid again.  And that's when I decided to drop my plans for my own company.  I mean, why start my own company when I could earn a lot of money as a demo!  Look at all the money Gina had made.  Where else could she have gotten the money to send both her twins to Ivy League schools?

I just had to be a smart demo and follow my rules.  Then I remembered that Kitty wanted my rules and all I had with me were the phony ones I had intended to share.  Luckily, there was a computer and printer in the game room of the B&B.  I had time to write up my real rules for a successful workshop and made 5 copies of them.  Then I put my other notes -- the ones with the fake rules -- through the shredder and into the trash.

After a shower and an amazing breakfast (fresh orange juice, apricot stuffed french toast, bacon, and fabulous coffee), I felt so much better.  And I was excited to meet Kitty and Jackson.

****

Laura escorted me into a lovely conference room.  Oh those GDWS folks!  Sitting on the table in front of my chair was a large basket full of GDWS supplies wrapped in cellophane with a cute tag!  Coffee and tea and little plates of the best brownies were on a sideboard.  These people were so thoughtful.

Laura said, pointing to the basket, "M, this is just a small gesture of our thanks for meeting with us."

"Oh, wow.  You guys are the best!  Thanks so much," I gushed.

Thank goodness I had removed the recorder and camera.  I just wanted to make up for my actions by sharing everything with them.  I wanted to be part of the GDWS family.  I imagined being a top demo, or maybe even more.

Soon enough Kitty and Jackson arrived with another woman, whom they introduced as Chris Franco, Laura's assistant.  I didn't have time to think about her because I was too busy checking out Kitty and Jackson.  Wow, they looked even better than their pictures in the catty.  Kitty was stunning.  Her long dark hair fell down her reed thin back.  I wondered if she had been a model.  She was wearing a luscious Grout Gray cashmere cowl neck sweater over slim black pants.  A thin silver belt was tied around her waist.  I checked and her earrings were diamond studs. Perfect.  Jackson was wearing jeans, boots, and a plaid shirt.  Men can get away with wearing anything!

After a few niceties, Kitty said, "M, we are dying to hear how you managed to pull off an 11K workshop.  Did you bring your notes?"

I was in a real business meeting!!! "Yes, here they are."  I passed out copies of my notes to each of them and waited while they read them.

M's 13 Workshop Rules 

1.  Food.  Looks are more important than taste.  Cater if possible.  If you elect to do it yourself, use the following menu -- choose two savory and one sweet and make 3 each for each attendee.  (For example, 20 people means (3 x 3 x 20 = 180 items total). Remember, size matters.  MINI food is a MUST.  Everything looks better when it is small.  Elect from:
  • Mini cut-out brownies (no nuts).  Bake brownie mix in a shallow jelly roll pan and adjust the time accordingly. Cut out with mini star and/or heart shapes.  Place on mini doilies. Dust lightly with confectioner's sugar.
  • Puff pastry cups filled with lemon pudding.  Buy pre made puff pastry shells.  Fill with lemon pudding.  Add blueberry on top. 
  • Fresh fruit skewers.  Use tooth picks and stab a couple of pieces of fruit onto each one.  
  • Mini taco biscuit bites.  Bake pieces of canned biscuits in mini muffin tins.  Add heated beef or chicken taco filling.  At the last minute, top with shredded cheddar and melt under broiler. 
  • Mini pizzas.  Make a pizza with canned pizza dough.  Add small amount of sauce, whole fresh basil leaves and shredded gouda.  Cut into small squares.
  • Stuffing bites.  Make stuffing (boxed is fine).  Add sautéed chopped apples and one egg to stuffing.  Make into tablespoon size mini balls.  Bake 10 minutes at 350.  Stick toothpicks in each one.
  • One drink:  Lemon infused sparkling water.  Freeze lemonade into cubes. Drop 2 cubes in a glass; add sparkling water.
2.  Use the good stuff. No paper or plastic plates or glasses.  Paper cocktail napkins are acceptable, but buy high quality ones such as Caspari.  Use those silver or china platters that are on the top shelf of your cabinets. If they are Christmas ones, cover with linens or doilies.  Borrow if needed.

3.  Nothing from Costco.  

4.  Parking.  No one should walk more than 5 houses away.  Hire a valet or get a friend to do so.  

5.  Coats.  Assign a friend to take coats, hire someone, or do it yourself.  Do not use your kids.

6.  No kids or pets. Get them and their junk out of sight. They aren't as cute as you think.

7.  Seating.  One seat per guest.  Rent or borrow chairs if needed.  People who stand will wander right out the front door. 

8.  Ice sculpture or floral centerpiece with GDWS logo.  Ice sculpture, if possible.  If not, I have copies of the logo on bamboo sticks that you can use in a floral arrangement.  

9.  Dress -- I must approve in advance.  Think Talbots.  No sandals.  No denim.  Get a mani no more than 3 days before.  Check the mustache day of the workshop.  Pale lipstick.  Small earrings. 

10.  Provide one pen for each guest.  

11.  Hire someone to clean during the workshop or DIY.  Subtly clean as it goes.  Casually pick up empty plates, abandoned napkins, and replace with clean ones.  Do NOT go around carrying a garbage bag.

12.  The day before the workshop, clean.  Sweep the front porch.  Clean the window on the front door.  Clean chandelier and light bulbs.  Remove everything from coffee and tables.   Clutter kills sales!  10 minutes before guests are due to arrive, check the powder room.

13.  The morning of the workshop, call or email each attendee and remind her of the workshop.  If anyone tries to cancel, say the following, "I'm sorry to hear this. I ordered food and drink expecting you to attend.  Can I count on an order from you?"  Almost everyone will agree to order something.

They spent some time reading my rules.  I didn't realize it, but I was holding my breath.  Jackson said, "M, these are fascinating.  You have the floor.  Please tell us why you think these rules will work."

I let out a deep breath and said, "Well, a successful workshop is ALL about the look, the feel, the je ne sais quoi. Stamping is secondary.  It doesn't matter what the demo is selling as long as she knows how to sell."

Jackson, Kitty, and Laura were exchanging looks.  I could tell they liked where I was going.  Then Chris piped up.  "Excuse me, I hope you don't mind my saying this, but I am a demo and I would never think to do any of this.  It sounds like so much work and money.  How do you get hostesses to agree to this?"  They all waited for me to respond.

"Well," I said, "GDWS sells amazing products at an amazing price.  It is a privilege to host one of my workshops, and I make sure that everyone knows that.  I don't want people to buy because they feel obligated. I want them to buy because stamping is a fantastic hobby that will change their life.  It's an upper class, elegant, hobby."

No one said anything.

I continued.  "So, if you want to really sell, and sell big, it is important to make the workshop feel like a cocktail party. This isn't Tupperware!  I mean, I love Tupperware, but let's be honest. Stamping is expensive. Guests deserve to be treated like guests, at a real party, not a salsa-and-chips, please buy something in exchange for a night out, neighborhood thing.  I really believe that, when presented the right way, most women will take out those credit cards and want to be part of the GDWS family."

Kitty leaned in to me and said, "Yes, yes yes!  I love your attitude."  And then Jackson said, "Hot damn M, I think you're on to something."

Laura looked uneasy and said. "Well, your ideas are intriguing, but our target customer is a woman in a one income family or a an older woman.  They don't have a lot of discretionary income."

I jumped in.  "Well, maybe your target needs to change.  Just maybe you'll keep those women, but we also target higher income women.  I mean I heard that Barbara Bush stamps!"

Laura responded. "M, we really appreciate these thoughts and will carefully consider them."

Was Laura giving me the Berrylicious Brush Off!

Then she said, "By the way, exactly how many workshops have you held?"

I knew they could look it up, so I had to be honest.

"Well, none.  Not yet.  However, I practically ran the 11K workshop and I have 3 more scheduled.  I fully anticipate dynamite sales."

Kitty nodded, but Laura continued to look skeptical.

I was getting worried and had to think fast.  I looked right at Laura and said, "I know that most hostesses will not have the vision to do the ice sculpture, valet, or catering, but they can do a reasonable fake.  I'm new at this, but I plan on guaranteeing my hostesses $200 in sales per attendee if they follow all my rules."

Gah.

Laura interrupted.  "Wow, M, that is taking quite a risk.  Do you think that's a good idea?"

"Yes.  Yes, I do.  I know it is risky.  But, here's the deal.  First of all, I really do believe that my rules will result in Robust Red sales.  But, secondly, I doubt that any hostess will really follow every single rule.  So, even if the sales aren't as high as I think they will be, I don't think I'll ever have to make good on this guarantee.  In any event, I'm willing to stand by my guarantee."

Laura responded with a cool, "I see."  She didn't look satisfied.  So much for little Miss Rainbow Dress.  I didn't think she got it at all.  Whatever.  I had to get Kitty and Jackson on board, or I'd go home just a regular demo and never see or hear from them again.  And that wasn't going to happen.  I wanted Jackson and Kitty on my side.  So I just made it up as I went along.

"I offer three workshop options to my hostesses.  Option 1 is for newbie stampers; Option 2 for mid level stampers, and Option 3 is the Banging Blue option.  I won't charge a thing for the first two options, but I charge my hostesses $300 for Option 3.  I'll pull out all the stops for a Banging Blue option, including my special presentation on how to Deduct Stamping Expenses on Your Taxes Even if You Aren't a Demo, big ticket prizes such as a weekend in the Amish Country, and a small fireworks display.  And Banging Blue hostesses get a $300 per attendee guarantee.

Laura looked at Kitty and Jackson and said, "Can she do that?  Do we have any rules about charging to hold a workshop and giving out tax advice? It just isn't ever done."

Jackson looked at Laura and responded, "I don't care. If there is anything in our demo agreement that bans charging for a workshop, let's get it removed right way.  M, your ideas are terrific.  I love them."

Then he pushed back his chair, grabbed a brownie, and said, "Unfortunately, I have another meeting to go to, but you are in good hands."

Kitty chimed in, "I agree with Jackson.  I think you are on to something and I would love to see other demos do what you are doing.  I'd like to talk some more in the future.  Would you be game for coming up here again after the holidays?  By then you'll be able to tell us how your workshops went."

Am I dreaming?, I thought.  John is going to be so proud of me.  Gina is going to flip!  I calmed down and smoothly replied, "Of course. I would love to do so."

****

Later, after a terrific lunch, Laura asked Chris to drive me to the airport.  On the way to the airport, Chris talked a lot about stamping.  I kind of felt sorry for her.  I mean a demo will never make money if she's all about stamping.

Then Chris told me she had a stamping "blog".  Wasn't sure exactly what a blog was, but it sounded kind of lame -- what could people possibly talk about on a stamping blog?


Next:  Chapter 12

20 comments:

  1. Fantastic installment!! So glad to see M had a change of heart about the camera.... I'm sure she'll have a change of heart once she starts thinking about this "stamping blog" stuff some more. :) Can't wait until next Sunday, Joan!

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  2. So glad she ditched the camera too!! Your imagination is hilarious!!

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  3. Hmmm...the plot thickens. Guarantees, tax advice, ice sculptures?? I can't wait to see what happens next.

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  4. another wonderful chapter - can't wait to read about the blog adventure.

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  5. M redeems herself! But now it sounds like she's getting crazy again. Is this what stamping does to you? Sheesh, I'd better be careful. Maybe I'm crazier than I think.

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    1. Exactly. Stamping drives us over the edge!

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  6. Wonderful! I enjoy this saga so much! Can't wait to see what's next! Thanks for the fun!

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  7. Finally the big reveal of the workshop rules! Can I tell you how many times I've held my breath hoping no one else would see the cobwebs draped across my kitchen chandelier? Can't wait to read what happens next!

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    1. think of how rich you'd be if you just cleaned!

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  8. I look forward to this post each week.

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    1. this makes me smile. thanks so much!

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  9. I liked M as a theif but I'm ok with her going straight. Love reading these

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  10. Wow! What a twist! I'm worried about M's debt, lol! Laura's getting kinda cranky, though, ha ha!!!

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    1. Yup, Laura's a little too smart for M!

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  11. 😂😂😂 I love this! Keeps getting better and better!!

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