Jan 31, 2016

Stamping Destroyed My Life Chapter 12

If you want to start this story at the beginning, please go here and follow the links.  And thanks for reading!

Important Note to the Reader:  This is fiction. The tax "laws and rules" discussed in this chapter and throughout the story are made up and absolutely should not be relied upon.

Chapter 12:  "His income was my income."

By the time I got back to DC, I had decided to put off starting my own stamp company.  Without access to Get Down's designs, I wasn't quite ready to launch.  I thought about just "almost" copying other companies' designs that were already on the market, but someone might notice, and I wasn't big enough -- yet -- to fend off copyright or trademark or whatever other killjoy claims that jealous competitors would throw my way. 

It was time to refocus my energies on my demo business. Within two months I'd gone from wasting money buying greeting cards at CVS (how do card companies get away with ripping off so many people???) to flying in a private jet to consult with a stamping company.  I had that something something, and it was just a question of time before I had the everything everything.

With the teeny exception of the $35K in bills that were coming in, my stamping business was going great. I would pay the minimum payments on those bills and hope that John never found out.  And if he did, I would remind him that it was a short-term cash flow issue. 

In the cab on the way home from the airport, I pulled out a GDWS pen that I had found on Sean's desk and made a To Do List.  I desperately needed an assistant, but decided to put off that idea until my cash flow improved.

To Do:

1.  Meet with Andy the lawyer.
2.  Hold the 3 workshops that were scheduled.
3.  Household crap.
4.  Blog? 

Great Gorgeous Gray!  I had a scary amount of things to do, but first things first -- a meeting with Andy. 

Andy was sitting behind his desk, leaning back in his leather chair.  "I'm almost afraid to ask.  How did the meeting in Vermont go?," he asked.  I was in his office, and with him charging by the hour, I wasn't about to pay him to tell him what had happened. 

"Fine," I said.  "In fact, it was amazing.  But, I've changed my mind.  Rather than start my own stamping company right now, I'm putting it off until I learn more about stamping.  I'm going to concentrate on my demo business.  I know I asked you to put together the paperwork for a Limited Liability Corporation, but I won't need it right now.  Can we just file that away for the future?"

"Well, that's a surprise.  Sure, of course.  May I ask what happened to change your mind?"

"No you may not," I said, laughing off his question.  I had no intention of telling him about the cameras and the fire alarm fiasco.

"Ok," Andy said, also laughing a bit and shaking his head.  "So what I can do for you if you are not going to be creating a company right now?"

"I'd like to discuss taxes.  I figure there must be a way for me to write off most of the money I'm spending on my demo biz, including your fees.  Is that correct?"

Andy put down his pen and looked up. "M, it is true that you can write off those expenses.  However, you have to have an income against which to write them off.  For example, if you spend $100 on stamping, but earn no income, you cannot deduct the $100.  Correct me if I'm wrong, but so far, you have tons of expenses, but no actual income."

Duh.  I hate when men treat you like an idiot.  I was totally on top of that issue. John earned money and we filed a joint tax return.  So, in the eyes of the United States of America and the Commonwealth of Virginia, his income was my income.  If it was good enough for them, it was good enough for me.  I'd just write off my stamping expenses against our joint income. Double duh.

"Of course," I said.  Why should I pay Andy to remind him of the law?  It made no sense.  So I moved it along.

"I totally understand.  But I still want to know all the types of things I can write off. For example, can I write off our mortgage if I use the house in my stamping biz?"

"Whoa, there,"  Andy responded, looking all sorts of nervous.  "There is nothing the IRS loves more than auditing folks that write off the expense of a home office.  There are a lot of rules associated with that and almost everyone does it wrong."

"Andy," I said.  "I'm not Al Capone. I get it. I intend to pay every cent I owe on taxes.  I just want to know the rules on deductions."

"Ok, M," Andy said. "But it is my duty to make sure you understand that the IRS does not mess around.  Filing a false tax report can land you in jail, not to mention owing thousands in back taxes, interest, and penalties."

He was treating me like a criminal and all I wanted was information on legitimate tax deductions.  So I told him, "Andy, I didn't come here to pay you for a lecture on the ten commandments.  I'm not a thief or a cheat.  I just want to know the things I can deduct."

"Ok, ok, M.  I apologize. Let me get you a
tax memo I've prepared for all my clients."  He walked over to a file cabinet and pulled out some papers and handed them to me.

"This covers exactly the information you want.  Rather than paying me to basically read it to you, if you'd like you can take it home and read it. If you have any questions, I'd be happy to discuss."

Michael Kors Jet Set Tangerine Tote
"Perfect," I said, and stood up while taking the memo and putting in in my Totally Tangerine Tote.  "Andy, it has once again been a pleasure.  I'm not sure when I'll be starting my own business, but when I do, I'll be back."

When I got home I read his memo.  It was gold. I found a notebook in John's office and started to keep track of all my business expenses.  Immediately I could see that I'd be able to pay off the $35K with the enormous tax refund we would get in the spring.

In the meantime, though, I had a business to run and turned my attention to my three workshops.  I pulled out some literature from GDWS on what to demo and practiced.  My cards didn't come out like the ones that Get Down made, so I just kept practicing until I figured it all out.

Like the overachiever I am, I was doing it all wrong.  Pretty soon, I learned to slow down, not press the stamps so hard, and to measure before I stamped.  I learned how to use a Stamp A Ma Jig, how to emboss without burning yourself or the paper, and how to score and fold the paper the right way.  I learned to trim layers (more layers = more sales) and adhere them evenly.

I was happily surprised to see that stamping was more than paper and ink.  This was a goldmine!!! You needed to buy a ton of stuff just to make one card:
  • paper
  • ink
  • stamp
  • stamp cleaner
  • score thing
  • paper cutter
  • adhesive
  • embellishments
  • heat gun
  • embossing powder 
  • envelope
  • place to store all this stuff
And that was just the beginning.  The trick was to let newbies think you only needed paper and ink and then slowly sell them one thing after the next until they had spent so much they had to spend more to justify the initial expense.  Whoever started this hobby was a genius.

And that's what I did.  My 3 workshops went pretty well, totaling over $12K in sales.  I'd never do an $11K workshop because none of my hostesses thought BIG.  Nevertheless, I was happy.

And, I loved being a demo.  It was like being on stage.  I told cute stories and demo'd my brains out.  I embossed and networked and passed out my business cards.  I made phone calls and blanketed my world with catties.  I sold and sold and recruited 7 ladies to join my team.  I was handing out tax advice to my team and at my Level Three workshops. I was on fire. 

The only negative was my workshop with Michele VanderWater Ferguson, who did not hire a valet, and did not stick to my menu.  What can I say?  Well, I will tell you what I did say.

"Michelle, your workshop was a disappointment to me.  We had only $1875 in sales.  That might be a lot for other demos, but I'm not other demos.  You didn't follow my rules.  You didn't get a valet, and some of your guests just drove away before the workshop even started because there was no easy place to park.  And you used your own menu!  ONION DIP?"

Onion dip makes salsa look like caviar.

Michele wouldn't make that rookie mistake again and neither would I.  After that, I had a standing contract with a valet with a substantially discounted rate, but charged my hostesses full price in order to cover my admin fees.  I was doing 2 or 3 workshops a week.  Those school moms that wanted nothing to do with me 4 months ago were now begging to attend or host one of my workshops.  I had to turn down lunch dates because I was too busy prepping.

Christmas flew by.  John was happy. The kids were happy.  I plowed my profits back into my business, and kept meticulous records of all my expenses.  I still had to run my house, cooking and cleaning and driving the kids around.  I worked it all by using a big master calendar in my office and learned to make take out food look homemade.  And the best part was that all those rotisserie chickens were a tax write off -- I only bought them in order to find time for my business. They say women can't have it all, but I did.  I hadn't taken the time to figure out what a blog was, but it was still on my list.

And, in the middle of a very busy day, I went to the mail box and found an envelope addressed to me.  Why would Dee, Mand, and Delay, a law firm with a return address in Vermont, be writing to me?

Next:  Chapter 13!  



Jan 30, 2016

Hero Arts Succulents


Colored with Prismacolor pencils, a few Copic markers, and a white gel pen.  It uses the fun Hero Arts Stamp Your Own Succulents set, which I just got and love.  The sentiment is from a retired Hero Arts set. 

Also used a Memory Box circle stencil to place the black dots -- the stencils gave me a spot to use a marker to dot in an even pattern.  Learned this trick from Julie Ebersole.  She's got a ton of tricks up her stamping sleeve.

I owe a few of you answers to some questions, one about doing some design work, and one about how I made a particular card.  Promise that I will get to these!  The recent snow storm damaged our home, and most of last weekend and this week was taken up addressing that problem.  Luckily, it turned out to be relatively minor damage, but good grief, weather! 

MOOD WHEN DONE = Happy

Jan 24, 2016

Stamping Destroyed My Life Will Be Delayed a Week

The snow and a few other things interfered with my writing and editing.  M will be back next Sunday, January 31st!

Jan 21, 2016

Essentials by Ellen Pin-Sights Challenge

So. very. happy. to be participating in the January Essentials by Ellen Pin-Sights challenge as a guest designer.





The Pin-Sights challenge is a monthly inspirational challenge based on a Pinterest Inspired photo that is located on the CLASSroom blogI've also posted it here.  Isn't it a beauty?  So romantic!






A random challenge participant will receive a $50 gift certificate to the Ellen Hutson store.  To be eligible to win, you MUST use Essentials by Ellen products and the photo badge as inspiration.  Trust me, you are going to love the photo inspiration!  




And here's my card.  You can also see it, and the supplies I used, on the Classroom blog.  (That picture is a little different because I forgot to add the watermark to my card on the Classroom blog.)






I die cut the large heart from Essentials by Ellen Folk Heart dies (seriously, I cannot put them away), and then die cut the flower from Essentials by Ellen Wild Garden dies right into the heart.  After "painting" the petals with a bit of dye ink, I adhered them back onto the flower and added Stickles to the centers.  

Now, jump on over to the Classroom blog and check out the details and how to participate.  I hope one of my readers wins!! If you do, please let me know. Hey, $50 is serious crafty cash!!  


MOOD WHEN DONE = Romantic!

Jan 19, 2016

Cherish (and thank you for your responses)


Experimenting. 

Die cut a paper mask with MFT striped die and added gold speckles through the stripes in the mask. 

Painted red stripes right on 80# Neenah Solar White.

Then I just went bananas and die cut the word cherish (from a Pinkfresh Studio kit) and then die cut the heart (from Essentials by Ellen Folk Heart dies -- addicted to those dies).  Die cut both 3 more times and stacked and adhered with Tombow Mono Multi glue (a big mess, will try another adhesive in the future!)  Made sure the "heart" was die cut with some gold foil cardstock scrap in my stash.

MOOD WHEN DONE = Cheerful. 

****

Thanks for responding to yesterday's question. I read every response.  I need to use my common sense and take the time to acknowledge influences when in my heart I know that it is the right thing to do.  It reminds me of former Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart, who, in 1964 famously said about pornography, "I know it when I see it."  

Jan 18, 2016

Bonjour (and can we discuss when to give credit?)




First things first:

This stack of macarons was inspired by the incredibly talented Therese from Lost in Paper.  You can see her soft, gorgeous card (and watch a video on how she made it) here.

Colored the macarons with Ranger Distress Inks, Inktense Pencils, and regular colored pencils on watercolor paper.  Stamps are from Bonjour by Avery Elle.

MOOD WHEN DONE = I'm satisfied that I'm learning!
 

****

Now can we please talk (again) about when it is proper/nice/required-or-you-are-bad/ to acknowledge sources of inspiration?

I am always inspired by someone.  And by that I mean that I often start by looking at someone else's card and brainstorming from there.  Stickles around a layer?  Yup, Julie Ebersole.  Softish macarons? Yup, Therese.

But I don't copy because I would be bored.  I am inspired.  I'm also kind of lazy in the acknowledgment department and this is starting to bother me.

I've seen this discussion on Splitcoast a million times and, even after all these years, I'm torn. When it was just the blog, or just uploading to Splitcoast, it was easy to remember to say, oh, I got this idea from blank.  But now there is Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and probably a dozen other places that I don't know anything about.  And sometimes I cannot remember where I saw the idea.  I had to ask on Facebook who posted the gorgeous macaron card that I was thinking about when I made mine, and luckily, one of my friends remembered that it was Therese. 

Do we acknowledge our inspiration in each of these places?  Is the blog enough?  If it's not an exact copy, is any acknowledgment needed?

Would love to hear your thoughts!

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

Jan 14, 2016

Folk Heart Die Again (Ellen Hutson Mix It Up Challenge #2)


I was inspired to make this card after I saw Julie Ebersole make this one on the Ellen Hutson classroom blog.  Gorgeous isn't it?


 
Isn't stamping fun?  I make a bunch of junk all the time, and toss it, but every once in a while it comes together.  When it does, it makes it worth the money and time.

Stamped the Penny Black All You Need heart image on watercolor paper.  Used Ranger Archival Black, then Versamark, and then clear embossing powder.  Die cut the watercolored panel with this awesome Essentials by Ellen Folk Heart die designed by Julie Ebersole.

Masked the card by making a frame and speckled black ink into the middle of the frame, and then adhered the heart.



Because I used an Essentials by Ellen product (the die) and a My Favorite Things Product (a sentiment from Pretty Poppies), I'm entering this in the Essentials by Ellen January Mix it Up challenge.

MOOD WHEN DONE = Happy!

Jan 12, 2016

Blog is Under Revision

This may take a few days!!  Sorry for the mess!

Encouragement

Imagine we took the time to address the envelope and put the cards we make in the mail.  Your friend is down.  She goes to the mailbox and sees a card.  Hmm...what's this?

She opens the envelope and finds:


Someone understands!  Someone knows that my life bites at the moment.  Someone sent me a card with glitter!

She feels better!  She knows she's not alone.


Aren't you glad you mailed the card?  This happened to me recently.  I sat down and mailed 5 cards. I got the best email from one recipient.  Made my day brighter!  I've got to do this more often.

Of course, it's not the card itself, it really was the thought that counted.

By the way, used Concord & 9th's Shine Brighter stamp set on Papertrey Ink pre colored paper.

MOOD WHEN DONE = Happy!


Jan 11, 2016

Ellen Hutson Mix It Up Challenge


Ellen Hutson is running an Essentials by Ellen Mix it Up Challenge for January -- use an Essentials by Ellen and a My Favorite Things item in one card.  So I combined the images from Essentials by Ellen Wish Big with a sentiment from Pretty Poppies by My Favorite Things.

This turned out exactly as I had hoped (how often does that happen?).  Started by speckling the card with watercolor paints (Kuretake Gansai Tambi).  Stamped the candles and birthday hat and colored with Tombow markers.  Added the sentiment, which is popped up with dimensional foam and hightlighted with Little B washi tape. 


MOOD WHEN DONE:  Happy!

Jan 10, 2016

Stamping Destroyed My Life: Chapter 10

To start at the beginning of this story, go here and follow the links.

Chapter 10:  Copyright Killer


Trust me -- fly on a private plane just once and commercial will always make you cry.

Vermont was cold in November.  The leaves were gone, but the black and brown trees painted against the clouds held their own beauty.  The sky was a shade of gray that I had never seen.  It reminded me of old faded wood.  Faded Wood ink and card stock??  Catchy name.  At this point in the game, anything was possible.

Laura and I hadn't spoken much on the flight.  As soon as we sat down and buckled up, she took out a folder and a pen and began editing a document.  I had no idea what she did at GDWS, but it didn't look like it had anything to do with stamping.  She seemed busy.  Rather than talk, I spent the flight looking out the window and thinking.  I wanted to have a pen and a folder and a desk and a chair.  I wanted an office. I wanted folks to have to make an appointment to meet with me.  And I had a plan to get it all.

When Andy and I had met, he explained that I could get sued if I copied a company.  So I asked him, "What if another company copies my images?"

A look of understanding came over Andy's face, and he advised, "Yes, of course, if another company copies you, you'll win."  And then he continued, "Look, M, I'm not sure what you are up to and I don't want to know.  If you tell me you are planning on committing a crime, I'll have to report you. So watch what you say to me."

This guy was a genius.  If I didn't love John, I'd marry my lawyer.

Andy continued, "So yes, if for some reason, you come out with a stamp set first, and GDWS then comes out with the exact same images, you could sue them -- and likely win -- for copyright infringement."  There was a lot of blah blah proof intent blah fair use stuff thrown in, but I got the drift.

I stepped off the plane and imagined moving to Vermont.  Ever since September 11th, I dreamed of leaving DC.  No traffic or high prices or planes falling out of the sky up here. I could see sitting on the front porch of a darling farmhouse, peeling apples for a pie, and waving to our neighbors as they walked their dogs.  I bet the schools were smaller too.  Buffy's rank would go way up if there were only 100 kids in her graduating class.

But that's not why I was here.  I had no intention of moving to Vermont.  I got my head out of those dreamy clouds, and walked with Laura to her car, a Red Hot Mercedes.  As we pulled out of the parking lot,  Laura turned to me and said, "We are so excited to meet you and hear how you pulled off an 11K workshop!"

"Oh my gosh, I am so flattered!  Listen, I promised Gina, the demo who held the workshop, that I would give credit to her."

"Well, aren't you sweet!," said Laura.  "Did you work together or just follow her lead?"

Now how was I supposed to answer that?  It killed me to give Gina any credit, but I wasn't here to impress GDWS, so what the heck.

"Oh, I had some ideas, and Gina and I discussed them, and just played off each other.  It was fun.  Gina's a peach.  Too bad she's leaving GDWS to go to law school."

Laura turned and said, "Really?  Gina's one of our top demos. Sorry to hear that."

And just like that, Gina was toast. Hope law school works out.

Everything about Laura was so perfect that I started to wonder if she was on something, so I poked around.

"What do you do for GDWS?"

"I'm the Director of Profitmaking."

"Wow, I never heard of such a thing."

"Well, most companies have a marketing department.  Jackson decided, though, to be more specific.  The purpose of my team is to make sure that GDWS is profitable, so we call it as it is."

"How long have you been working at GDWS?"

"Oh, about 5 years."

"Really?  Can I ask how you got the job?  I'm so curious."

source:  thekitchn.com
Laura responded, "Sure, I was the Cotton Candy Girl for a traveling carnival and we spent a week up here.  Everyone in town goes to the carnival in the summer.  Jackson and Kitty love cotton candy so they dropped by every night for a cone.  We got to talking.  One thing led to another and they hired me to answer phones at GDWS.  Since then, I've worked my way up. They are fantastic that way. They see talent and support you all the way."

I stated,"Oh, so that's why you have ink and papers called Cotton Candy?"

Laura laughed, "Yes, I like to think so.  It is one of our bestselling color lines."

"I hope you don't mind my asking, but your life sounds pretty amazing.  Are you married; do you have kids?"

"No way.  There was a hot hockey player hanging around me a couple of years ago.  I kind of fell for him, but he thought stamping was a waste of money, so I had to end it.  We all have our priorities."

"Oh, that makes perfect sense.  What exactly does a Director of Profitmaking do?"

"Well, my team is in charge of ensuring that GDWS makes money.  It's not just about sales, although that is a big part of it. It also includes pricing our products well.  Too high and no one will buy.  Too low and you lose money. Without a decent margin, we can't stay in business."

"Wow, I never thought about that."  I was learning a lot.  Glad it was all getting recorded.

"Yes," Laura said.  "You can have tons of demonstrators and huge sales, but if you don't price your product right, you won't make any money.  We learned that the hard way with our line of cat food."

"You guys sold cat food?"

"Yes, for a time."  Laura chuckled.  "It was a disaster.  We had an amazing organic product and it sold pretty well, but we lost money on it because we had to price it too low in order to get folks to buy it. We won't make that mistake again.  It's an art.  Too low and you go broke.  Too high and your customers will go somewhere else."

"Gee, Laura, I have to say, you are pretty impressive.  How do you generate sales?"

Laura responded, "Well, there are a lot of ways.  We do product placement -- we had one of our stamp sets in a Law and Order episode called Copyright Killer.  Now that was fun!  We also place direct print and online ads.  But, mainly, we develop strategies for demonstrators to sell our products and to recruit more demonstrators.  It's demanding, but I love it."

Copyright Killer?  Yikes.

Before long, we pulled up to this gorgeous, right out of a movie, bed and breakfast with a wrap around porch and white picket fence.

Phineas Swann Bed and Breakfast
It was in town and just darling.

Laura said, "This is where you'll be staying for the night.  Tomorrow we'll meet with Kitty and Jackson, so there is nothing really planned for this afternoon.  Why don't you check in and freshen up and I'll swing by in a couple of hours to take you to GDWS.  Interested in a little tour?"

Hallelujah!

"Yes!  That would be awesome!  Thanks."

Sure enough, two hours later, and Laura's car pulled up in front of the B&B.  I hoped my plans would work.  If not, it would be just a fun, all-expenses paid, overnight trip for absolutely nothing.  Or worse.

Laura drove us right to GDWS, about 20 minutes out of town.  You couldn't miss it.  Its logo was by the road, carved out of wood and stone.  All Vermont artsy, I guess.  There were two buildings.  The first was two floors, but in the back, there was a low sprawling building.

Laura gestured to the back building.  "That's where we manufacture our products and pack them for shipping.  This front building is admin and design.  We'll start in the back."

We walked over to the back building.  There was a guy in a guard's costume and we had to sign in. So there was a bit of security.  As the tour began, I noticed a few security cameras.  Not good.

"Now this is where we make our stamp molds and stamps," Laura said as she pointed out a large area full of red rubber piles and big machines.

Before I could look around much, Laura had me in the next room.  We were moving fast.  "This is where we package the stamps.  We outsource the labels and stamp boxes, but pretty much everything else stamp related is made right here."  I looked around and there were hundreds of stamp sets, each in its own large cubby with a label under it.  "We are very proud of the fact that our stamps, card stock, inks, wood blocks, and catalogs are all made in the US."

All the images were straight out of the current catty. Nothing new.  I was stalling for time.

"Why the cameras?," I asked.

"Oh, kind of a quality control thing," Laura said rather vaguely.

"Do you make your own ink and card stock?"

"No, we outsource those."

"Really?  Who makes them?"

Laura responded, "Sorry, M, but there is some information we keep close."

"Oh, I understand."  I tried again, "But I am a demo now.  I'm part of the team, right?"

"That's not how it works.  We keep our sources confidential for a reason. I'm sure you understand."

I did understand.  Stamping was a competitive business.  GDWS wasn't the only game in town.  But, if things went well, Laura would be back to selling cotton candy soon enough.

As we went through the building, Laura pointed out the employees whose job it was to put labels on stamp sets.  Others packed orders.  As Laura put it, "each employee has one job and learns to do it perfectly. "  I guess that made sense.  It was a pretty open space, but surprisingly quiet.  Not at all what I expected.  It was fantastic seeing how it all came together.  But, it was also kind of boring. Take a box, slap a label on it, put it back in the cubby.  Repeat.  I couldn't imagine spending the day doing that.  And there was no sign of any new products.  I had to get out of here and into the admin building soon.

Eventually, we made it to admin.  Again, we signed in.  Even Laura.  I asked if I could use the ladies' room.

"Sure, go down the hall and it is on the left.  Come back here and we can chat in my office."

The bathroom was empty.  After I was finished, I washed my hands and then checked in each stall to make sure they were still empty.  I didn't see any cameras.  But I was careful nonetheless.  Women love to talk and they love to talk in bathrooms.  I opened my bag and took out a tiny mini voice recorder.  It had a magnet on it and I attached it to the top of a stall divider.  It was practically invisible and I hoped that no one cleaned up there.  The recorder would send its information through a cell phone satellite to the receiver in my craft space.  Perfect.

I had to see what GDWS was planning on releasing in the future.  I left the bathroom and met up with Laura.  We headed for her office.  I looked around, but didn't see any art work.  "Laura," I asked, "Who draws the images for GDWS's stamps?  Does that happen here?"

"Absolutely.  We have graphic designers on staff whose only job is to draw stamp sets and design paper products and the samples we use to market them.  They are amazing.  Sean Fetterman is the Director of Design.

I stopped walking and said, "Oh, that would be so exciting.  I wondered how stamps got designed. Thank you so much.  Any chance I could meet Sean?"

Laura shrugged.  "Sure," she said, "I don't see why not."

Laura buzzed a door and a woman came and opened.  Laura said, "Come with me, M.  This is our Design Department.  We keep it locked because our designs are our "gold."  We have to keep things confidential."

"Got it. Mums the word, Laura."

Laura laughed.  "Sorry, M.  I can't let you see our designs, but Sean will be happy to talk with you about the process."  Laura turned to the woman who opened the door, and said, "Dotty, can you ask Sean to come out here?"

Dotty came back with this gorgeous guy.  His eyes!!!

Laura introduced us and said to Sean, "Do you have a few minutes to talk with M?  She's the cracker jack hostess behind the 11K workshop we've all been talking about.  She's here to meet with Kitty and Jackson and me tomorrow.  We want to pick her brains!  In the meantime, M would love to hear about the creative process."

Sean responded, "So your M?  Awesome.  I'd love to chat. Let's go in here and talk." He brought me into a conference room.  It didn't appear to be anywhere near the design area.  Laura turned and told me she'd be back in a half hour to drive me back to the B&B.  I had 30 minutes to get the job done.

Sean talked with me about his design process.  He had 12 others on his team.  They created at least 3 stamp designs for every one that got selected.

"How do you decide what designs to use?"

"Well, it's not easy.  I designed a fabulous flamingo set that bombed.  Two years later, flamingos were hot and every stamp company was selling them.  You have to stay on top of the trends.  Plus, there will always be a market for two things -- flowers and Santa doing goofing things. It makes no sense to me, but stampers love to see Santa doing all sorts of things -- surfing, skating, in a rodeo. You name it and I can draw Santa doing it!"

We went back and forth.  He was a really fun and nice guy.  And super talented.  Wonder if he'd work for me?  After 10 minutes, I decided I had to make my move.

"Sean, excuse me, but is there a ladies room back here I can use?"

Sean looked concerned, but then said, "Um, sure. I guess that's ok.  Go out this door, turn left and then another left when you see the big design room.  Go all the way to the back. It is on the left, away from the side with the windows."

"Thanks, it will only take a minute."

I found the design room.  It was huge.  One wall was all windows, which kind of surprised me.  I looked around quickly. I didn't see any cameras.  Bingo.  A fire alarm right near the bathroom.  Luck was on my side today. Cubicles filled the room and I didn't think anyone could see me.  I had to take the chance.  I stopped by the alarm, checked quickly to make sure no one had popped out of a cubicle, and just pulled it.  Slowly, I took two steps and was in the bathroom.  I closed the stall door, got on top of a toilet and crouched.  Sure enough, someone came in and shouted, "Anyone in here?"

I said nothing and she left.

The noise was deafening.  I waited 25 seconds and peeked out into the design room.  Drat, the ceiling was too high.  No time to be careful.  This was my chance.  I scooted around quickly. The design room appeared to be empty.  Up in the front was an office with glass walls.  Sean's!  I went in, placed my mini video recorder on the top of a file cabinet behind his desk, and ran out of there.

Next:  Chapter 11















Jan 7, 2016

A Sweet Heart

A non traditional thank you card using Folk Heart dies from Essentials by Ellen by Julie and Concord&9th's Love You Mean It stamp set.  Colored with Tombow markers on watercolor paper.


Die cut a folded piece of card stock, leaving a space on top uncut.


After wrapping the stamped heart with twine, adhered it to the top of the folded card.  Love shaped cards!

MOOD WHEN DONE = Grateful


Jan 4, 2016

Happy Mail from Right at Home

It's Happy Mail time! And these babies are already in the mail.  What a great way to start the year.

Got an email from the adorable and nice Nicole (check out her blog -- she is so cute!), the owner of Right at Home, asking me if I would do a post or two using the Right at Home Happy Mail set and I was more than happy to agree.  Her stamps are high quality and the designs are fun.  Nicole also carries supplies and stamps from other companies.



Used the Happy Mail stamp set to make a set of 5 flat A2 note cards with room on the front for a quick note.  Perfect for those occasions when you want to surprise someone with a little something something. The round stickers went on the back of each kraft envelope.



Love how these came out, and they were fast to make (the scalloped stitched dies are from Waltzingmouse).

Hope your week/month/year is off to a good start.

MOOD WHEN DONE = Happy!

Jan 3, 2016

Stamping Destroyed My Life: Chapter 9

To start this story at the beginning, go to the Press Release and follow the links.

Recap:  "M," a stay at home mom meets Gina K at a local craft shop and is introduced to rubber stamping.  Gina is a demonstrator for Get Down With Stampin and invites M to a workshop.  M is thrilled and imagines becoming Gina's best friend.  One thing leads to another and M buys a bunch of stamping stuff, and agrees to host a workshop for Gina, where she sells over 11 thousand dollars worth of stamp supplies in one night.  M then signs up to become a demo.  She also learns that Gina is leaving stamping to to to law school.  Get Down With Stampin hears about the 11K workshop and invites M to fly up to Vermont at GDWS' headquarters at their expense.  M, and M's husband John, are impressed.

Chapter 9:  "They can be downright useful."


"I just want to know how much can I steal and get away with."

"Well, I have to say that's the first time a client has ever asked that question quite that way," said Andrew Farther, laughing and sitting back in his big leather chair.

"Listen, Andrew.  Can I call you Andrew?  I don't have time for chit chat.  At $175 per hour, we need to talk fast."

If Andrew Farther, attorney at law, thought he was going to shoot the breeze with me while his clock was ticking at my expense, he was Wisteria Wrong.  I was now the CEO of my own business and about to go on a bonafide all expenses paid business trip on a private jet.  I wasn't some Mrs. Please Help Me.  I was somebody and about to be a whole lot more.

Kitty had asked me to write down my "secrets for a successful workshop."  At first I was so excited, so complimented, that Kitty Richman would want my ideas.  But then I thought, wait a minute. Wait a berrylicious minute.  Kitty Richman wants MY ideas?  Of course she does!!  They want to just take my ideas for nothing.  I realized that my secrets for a successful workshop were MY SECRETS for a successful workshop.  If I spilled it all to GDWS, every demo in the country would have them.  Did she really think I could be bought off by a flight to Vermont and a one night stay in a B&B?

I didn't sleep a minute the night Kitty called me. The next morning, after getting John and the kids off, I scheduled an appointment with Farther, a local attorney, whose claim to fame was successfully defending a stripper accused of stealing dance pole designs from a competitor.  John would FLIP if he found out, but I was a businesswoman now.  John didn't check in with me every time he made a decision at work, and I wasn't about to get his permission to run my business my way.

I needed advice and I needed it before I got to GDWS.  Besides, I could write off Farther's fees as a business expense.  Two days later I was sitting in Farther's office.

Andrew sat up straight, put down his pen and said, "M. I apologize.  Please call me Andy and explain exactly what you mean."

Whew.  He was taking me seriously.

I pulled out a stamp, ink pad, and piece of card stock from my favorite Ralph Lauren tote, and stamped a flower right then and there.

"See what I just did?"

"Yes."

"That's a rubber stamp.  People are making millions of dollars selling stamps just like this, and the ink, and the paper and everything else that goes with it, to women who make greeting cards with this stuff."

"Really?"

"Yes, really.  Let me tell you something, Andy.  Barbara Bush stamps.  And I want to be one of the people making millions selling stamps to people like Barbara Bush.  And to Liz Cheney and Susie Stamper down the street."

Andy was taking notes.

"Here's the deal.  There is a company called Get Down With Stampin that manufactures these products.  They sell them through home parties the way Tupperware or Mary Kay Cosmetics are sold.  I went to one of those parties and loved every minute of it.  Their products are high quality and made in America.  Ladies love this stuff.  I also held a workshop in my home as a hostess for another Get Down demonstrator and sold eleven thousand smackaroos of this stuff in one night."

And then I handed him the GDWS catty.

"Barbara Bush stamps?," Andy asked, while starting to flip through the catty.

"Yes, she does.  And I have it on good authority that she held a stamping party at her son's place -- you know, the White House -- last month."

Andrew put down the catty and looked impressed.

"Wow.  And you sold 11K of this stuff in one night?," he said, gesturing towards the catty.  "That's amazing."

"Yes and it is amazing.  In fact, I am amazing.  I am so amazing that the owners of Get Down called me up and are flying me up to their headquarters next week to 'learn my secrets'.  So I got to thinking. Why should I give them my secrets?  What if I offered to sell them my ideas?  But then I had another idea.  What if I used the trip to learn their secrets instead and start my own company?"

Andrew interrupted, "So you want to know how much of Get Down's ideas you can copy and get away with?"

This guy got it.  Why does everyone hate lawyers?  Get the right one and they can be down right useful.

"Exactly. And I'm going to need your help incorporating or whatever I need to do to start my own business.  And, you know, tax tricks."

"Ok, I can do that.  Let's set aside the business part for a minute and discuss your trip.  How are you going to get away with not giving them your secrets for a successful workshop?"

"Oh, that's easy. I'll pull together some crap.  Basically, I'll give them the opposite of my secrets."

"Perfect."

"Yeah, I thought so."

Then Andrew said, "Well, to answer your question, anyone can make a stamp that says common words and phrases like, Hello or Happy Birthday.  And you can probably get away with quotes.  I mean that's a little tricky, but the chance that the estate of some dead guy is going to sue you is remote.  Images are a little trickier.  You risk a law suit if you copy an image exactly.  See this bear?," he said, pointing to the Best Birthday Bears stamp set in the catty.

I shook my head yes.

"Well, it clearly is not a real bear.  It evokes the idea of a cute little teddy bear.  You can't copy it exactly.  But you can change up the face, the size, the width of the lines.  Make it just a bit different so that it would be too expensive to go after you."

"So basically, I can almost copy?"

"Yeah, that's a good way of putting it.  The law is actually kind of vague in this area and that confusion is to your advantage."

"Excellent," I replied. "I was hoping you would say something like that.  Ok, here's another question.  Get Down has 75 ink colors, all with catchy names.  Can I come up with a line of ink pads, with different names and slightly different colors, and sell them?"

"Absolutely, but I'd strongly advise against it."

"Really, why?"

"There's something called good will.  It exists in every industry.  If you want to make a go of it, you can't look like you are ripping off another company even if you really are ripping off another company."

"Oh," I said, a bit depressed.  "You want me to come up with my own ideas?  That never occurred to me."

"Good lord, no.  'Borrow' from a bunch of different companies. There are other stamp companies, right?"

This guy was worth every dime.

"Yes, there are. I saw a bunch of them at Craft Stuffing, that craft shop down the street."

"There's a craft shop down the street?  Where?"

"The corner of Concord&9th."

"Oh yeah," Andy said.  "I know that store.  My wife loves their stuff."

"See," I told him.  "Your wife can be my first customer!"

Andy laughed.  "Ok, we'll see about that.  Listen, I am happy to be your lawyer.  And the most important advice I have for today is to discuss this with no one.  Not your best friend.  Not your neighbor.  Not your kid's friends.  Not your kids.  Husband is ok, but no one else."

"You don't have to worry about that.  I'm not even ready to tell my husband. I want to get the details worked out first.

Andy nodded and said, "You have a lot of homework to do.  It's a lot of work to start a business and it takes a significant investment."

"I know.  Wait, let me get out a pen.  Can you give me that yellow pad?  I want to make a list."

Andy got out another yellow pad of legal paper and handed it to me with a pen.  "Ok, let's make that list."

And 45 minutes later I walked out of his office with a long list of things to do and an appointment in two weeks.

****

The next week went by in a blur.  On Wednesday I was at the terminal for private planes at Reagan National Airport.  I didn't even know there was a terminal for private planes!  Who knows, maybe I'd have one someday.

A gorgeous woman with dark chocolate brown eyes and a ton of thick, wavy, glossy hair in the same color walked towards me.  She was wearing hot lips patent leather sling back heels and a rainbow colored dress that I'll never forget.


"Hi, I'm Laura Bassen with GDWS," she said, smiling.  "And you must be M.  On behalf of GDWS, welcome to our little family."

Next:  What else?  Chapter 10


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