Chapter 19: Beautiful
The next morning, Beth and I met for breakfast at 7:30. Beth was just a few pounds short of chunky. She was wearing khakis and a cute smock top embroidered with little pink flowers. Her dark hair was in a bob and she had the clearest blue eyes. She seemed friendly. I liked her.
Beth ordered first. Waffles and a hot chocolate. With whipped cream. I liked her even more. Nothing worse than eating breakfast with "I'll have an egg white omelet with black coffee please." I wondered where she lived, was she married? Would they like the Outer Banks? Who needed Gina and her family? The fireflies were starting to twinkle again.
"Listen," I said. I emailed Andy Farther, my lawyer, last night and it's going to cost about 25 thousand to get the patent and put together a business. Here's the email exchange." I handed her my phone. I didn't want to hide anything from her.
Beth read the emails and then said, "Well, I'm not surprised."
I asked her, "How much have you invested so far?"
Beth looked a little uncomfortable. I couldn't blame her. Everything was moving so fast. So before she could answer, I added,
"Look, I know I'm moving fast. It's just that I think this really is a goldmine and after today we are going to go our separate ways. If you want to go it alone, I will back off. Why don't I tell you a little bit about myself?"
Beth smiled. "That would be nice."
Ok, I'm married and an almost stay at home mom. I say almost because lately I have been looking to get into a business of some sort. My husband's name is John and he's a lawyer. But don't hold that against me! He's nice! We live in Northern Virginia, right outside Washington DC. I have 2 kids, a boy and a girl. Buffy is 16 and Garrett is 11. I was a Get Down With Stampin demo for a few months and had such high sales that Get Down flew me up to their headquarters in Vermont to pick my brain."
Beth looked interested. "Wow, I am impressed. Are you still a demo?"
"No," I said. "I gave that up. I decided that I wanted to spread my wings a bit farther. Now tell me a little about yourself." No need to get into that story.
Beth explained, "I'm also married. My husband's name is Ted and he works for Hershey."
"Wow, so you live in Pennsylvania?"
"Yes, not all that far from you. We live right in Hershey."
"Yikes," I said. "That's one of our favorite places to visit. We've been to Hershey Park and the chocolate factory and store a thousand times! It's the happiest place on earth!"
"That's awesome," I said. "If you are ok with it, why don't you tell me a bit about Clearly Superior? I'm dying to know how you came up with the idea of clear stamps. It's genius."
"Well, it's kind of a funny story. I volunteer at my kids' school and I offered to come up with an arts and crafts project for a booth at a PTA fun day fundraiser. I decided to have them make paper place mats. I didn't want the kids using my real stamps so I had them stamp circles with the rim of a clear plastic glass. I watched them and some of them were very carefully placing the circles so that they would form a pretty pattern. A light bulb went off. They could see through the glass and knew exactly where to place the rim. Wouldn't it be great if all stamps were clear so that we could see where to place them?"
"Beth, OMG! You're a genius. Seriously. This is brilliant!"
Beth laughed. "Well, I'm glad you think so. It took my husband a while to come around. I had to do a lot of research and trial and error before I found the right materials to use."
"Yup," I said. "Sometimes the husbands are the last to see our brilliance. I totally understand. I hired a valet and bought an ice sculpture for a GDWS workshop and my husband flipped."
"No you did not!," Beth shrieked.
"Oh yes I did, and I sold 11 thousand dollars worth of stamps that night."
Beth put down her fork and said, "You know what? I know this is crazy, but I really like you. I think we could work together. To answer your earlier question, so far I've invested about 15 thousand in Clearly Superior. Some of that is packaging, but most of it is for the stamps themselves."
Wow, I thought. She likes me! She likes me! I have a new best friend!
"Yes. I mean I have 5 sets. One is from copyright-free art I found on the internet. One is a sentiment set and 3 are ones I drew myself. That flower set you used yesterday? I drew that."
"Wow, it's awesome. You drew those? What kind of flower was that? Cherry blossoms? You have a lot of talent!"
"Well, thank you. And, yes, those are cherry blossoms. I've always had a flair for design. I have a degree in graphic design."
"That's Almost Always Artichoke!" I said. "No wonder your stamp sets are so fantastic. My degree is in journalism. I've always had a way with words, but I'm not that artistic."
By then I had finished my Pigs in a Blanket. Whoever thought of wrapping little sausages in pancakes and dousing them with syrup was a genius. It was probably some cook at IHOP who got paid minimum wage while the corporate fat cats counted their millions. I'm telling you. You have to fight for every dime. But, it was getting late and we needed to move this along.
So I said to Beth, "It's almost 11:30 in the east. Do you want me to call my lawyer and see what he says?"
"Why not,?" Beth said.
There were a lot of reasons why not, as in Andy charged by the minute.
"Beth, Andy charges by the minute. As a gesture of good will, I'll pay for the entire cost of this conversation. Who knows where it will lead, but since you've already invested a lot in the company, I'll pay for this just to see if it is worth pursuing."
Hey, I could write it off, right?
Beth responded. "He charges by the minute? I should have gone to law school! I appreciate that, M."
Who starts a business without talking to a lawyer? Beth had a lot to learn! I had Andy on speed dial and, luckily, he was available. I introduced him to Beth and the first thing he says is:
"Beth, I want to make clear that I am M's attorney, not yours. Before you enter into any partnership with M, you'll need to get your own attorney to review the papers unless the both of you agree to hire me."
UGH. Mr. Ethical. Already the legal kiss of death language. Just get to the good stuff.
Beth said, "Thank you. I appreciate knowing that. For now, I'll just listen and then decide."
Andy said, "Fair enough." He went on to explain the differences between a design patent and a utility patent. There was a lot of blah blah blah. But then he said, "The first thing we'd need to do is do a search to see if anyone else has already filed a patent to protect this same concept. If so, you can't make a dime using this concept."
Beth and I looked at each other. I could tell she was worried. So was I.
Beth said, "Ok, I've heard enough. I want to go forward. If M agrees, we'll form a partnership and hire you to handle it. M's agreed to pay for the expenses of the patent and the partnership."
We spent the rest of they day roaming through CHA, getting to know each other and walking the floor to see if we could see any other clear stamps. NONE! So far it looked like we were safe.
We took down Beth's booth and hoped no one had paid any attention to it. We left CHA, agreeing to talk with our husbands before finalizing a deal. I kind of resented having to do that. John didn't call me up to discuss his business, but I was determined to make up for Vermont and the MAN, so I discussed it with John when I got back.
John was, surprisingly, ok with the idea. I explained that I had committed to only $25K and that all of it would come from my craft account. Apparently, Beth's husband Ted was good with it as well because, after a lot of back and forth, and a few meetings between Beth and me and Andy, we agreed to the following.
1. We'd form a partnership or a limited liability corporation, name to be decided.
2. Beth would give her design idea, or as Andy called, intellectual property, and the current inventory to the company.
3. I would pay the first $25K in expenses. After that we would split all expenses and profits, 50/50.
4. We agreed not to take a salary at first but to put all profits back into the business for the first 2 years.
5. We took out disability and life insurance policies protecting each of us in case something horrible happened to the other.
Andy was fantastic and worth every dime.
It took a few months, but when it was done, Andy reported that no one else had filed for a patent! We were the first one to do so. Andy suggested we look into licensing the idea -- get other companies, like GDWS, to pay us a royalty for every clear stamp set we sold. That way we could just sit back and let the money roll in. It was mighty tempting, but Beth and I decided to create our own company that would start with stamps, but eventually expand to other products.
We decided to name our company "Beautiful" and start by introducing Beth's clear cherry blossom set and a set of sentiments. We would limit our sales to the internet and concentrate on well, beautiful designs. No Santas playing the guitar. Just classic and gorgeous images and sentiments. Not many craft companies sold only on the internet, but we didn't want to pay a retailer or a bunch of demos a cut of our profits.
At my suggestion, Beth had designed a simpler, and more modern and colorful packaging with a gorgeous Cherry Blossom logo and a bunch of samples featuring the two sets. Clearly Superior was no more; Beautiful was the future. We both ended up investing a bit more than we planned, but once we were in we wanted to do it right. Besides, the tax benefits were fantastic.
We planned to go public on September 1st. We had enough inventory to sell 500 of each set. I was in charge of marketing and getting the orders out. Beth was in charge of the designs, ordering materials and production. We had a website. It was simple but could process orders. It featured our logo and tag line: "Beautiful is Clearly Superior." That was my idea and if I say so myself, genius.
Beth's samples were fantastic and featured on the front page of the store. At the last minute we got nervous and decided to place a banner ad on Splitcoast. It would pop up every 15 minutes for a 24 hour period starting on September 1st. I decided to create a fake user profile on Splitcoast and start talking about the company to stir up some excitement. Hey, only my name was fake; my excitement was real!
On September 1, Beth and I each sat by our computers and waited for the orders to come pouring in.
Next: Chapter 20