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!  


Glorie said...

I can't wait for the next chapter! Rotisserie chicken can be written off ;)

katrynka said...

This installment business is killing me!! I'm dying to know what happens next!!!

IamDerby said...

As always, awesome!

Leslie Miller said...

Oh dear oh dear oh dear. Could the other shoe be about to drop? I shall wait to find out.

Colleen said...

Anxiously waiting for Chapter 13!

I Card Everyone said...

Oh I won't ... but I stand by my onion dip recipe ... every time!!! So funny, J.B. - Tom once valeted cars at a baby shower I held. A one-lane, 330ft. driveway in the middle of the woods was a little more than he thought women could handle! Pfffft!

Diane Jaquay said...

Whew, just finished reading all 12 chapters, can't stop laughing, this is marvelous, Joan! You definitely have a gift!

Glorie said...

Chapter 13!? Is this where M's life is destroyed?

Unknown said...

Oh how I wish the chapters were longer! I can't wait to read about what happens next.