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Friday, February 19, 2010

An Entrepreneurial Spirit for Dummies


About 3 years ago, I had a 3am moment.  The name "Red Easel" popped into my head and I wanted to do something with it.  And so began my blogging career.  My first experience with the internet on a personal level was selling on eBay.  I had become a PowerSeller at one point.  I had been selling a bunch of unnecessary "stuff" that Big Bear's parents had accumulated over 50+ years of marriage and was, at the time, stored in the basement of our home, making it impossible to move through the basement without scooting sideways.



Bob's parents had lived with us for almost 5 years and we also, during those years, completely remodeled and cleaned up their home in Olney of 34 years so that we could sell it for them.  You can't believe the stuff they had in that house.  Bob and I, together with Ken and Geneva, decided what we wanted to sell on eBay and what we wanted to keep for sentimental reasons and use.



So I got busy, and I started selling on eBay everything from toys and baby clothes to cars and appliances.  It was fun!  I wanted to go a step further, though, and after I had sold most of the massive mounds of "stuff" around the house I decided I wanted to open my own online baby boutique.  I did research and paid a designer to design the website for me.  I had envisioned it and put pencil to paper to sketch it out.  The web designer did this for me and I launched "La Bonne Vie Bebe" in late 2005.  It was a beautiful baby boutique and it was a success.  It received a lot of press, was mentioned and recognized in the Charlotte Observer and a number of great magazines including Parenting and Bride Magazine.  (The Bride Magazine was because I represented a designer of children's clothes that created the most beautiful gowns for little girls).  I had some wonderful designer relationships and promoted their wares with enthusiasm.  La Bonne Vie Bebe was also a part of the Oscar Gift Suite at the Academy Awards in 2006 and a few of my designers helped me to create a gift basket for the Stars.  Not that celebrities needed anything, but a lot of stars were pregnant that year and I was approached by a gifting company in LA to put together a gift basket.  I put together 50 baskets with the support of my designers.  It was a great promotional effort as well.



I loved my baby boutique and was proud of how successful it had become in a short time, however, it was taking up so much of my time that my children were not getting the attention they needed.  So, I decided to sell the boutique.  I posted "La Bonne Vie Bebe" on an online business "for sale" platform and sold it within 2 months to a nice lady in Virginia.  It was difficult for me to part with a business that I had put so much of my heart and energy into creating and growing.  As an entrepreneur, I knew quite well how a business can be a part of who you are.  Still, it was the right thing to do.  I was exhausted and my children needed me far more.  Besides, I was doing this for them, but when it started to cut into my time with them, it needed to go.



I've always had an entrepreneurial spirit I think.  I owned a business in South Florida "Real Estate Services of South Florida" back in the mid 80s whereby I assisted attorney's in preparing real estate settlements.  I was a paralegal for years and enjoyed preparing real estate settlements.  I had it down to a science. 

Then in the late 80s I opened a nail salon in Olney, Maryland - Armonds Nail Salon, and then moved it to another shopping center and renamed it NailWorks.  I moved back to Florida and opened another nail salon in Boca Raton - Altesse Nails.  It was a busy time and nearly broke my back and my spirit.  It was all consuming.  If you've ever owned your own business you know what I mean about it being all consuming.

A few months after I sold my baby boutique and the house was clean, the laundry was done, the kids were happy and getting "too much" time with Mom now on the schoolwork front, I spent my time reading blogs.  Mommy blogs and Art blogs.  And then it happened.  3am and I couldn't sleep.  I had ants in my pants and ideas in my head.  And so "Red Easel" was born.

That morning I sat up in bed with my Mac in my lap and I did some research - namely, I tried to figure out how some of my favorite blogs were "blogging."  I had never blogged before so I had a lot to learn, and being the perpetual student that I am, I found it challenging and exciting - and frustrating at times too.



In about 2 days I had opened an account with TypePad and had created "Red Easel."  My idea was to have a blog that covered everything from visual art tutorials and demonstrations, to art history, featured artists, and an online gallery.  I knew nothing about html, css, or javascript.  Absolutely, positively nothing.  TypePad's easy wizard and basic platform allowed me to take baby steps in the learning process and I was amazed at how simple and intuitive the process was to learn.  I didn't need to know any coding at all and it was as easy as drag-and-drop.



I was just learning Photoshop at the time too, so I created my first masthead in Photoshop and uploaded it to TypePad.  It was a great day for me, let me tell ya, when I created my first masthead.   I felt like I had crested the hill of web design and that I could do anything.  Well - almost.

I bought Dummie books on CSS, Javascript, and HTML.  I learned what I could online too.  I was determined that I was going to learn web design and design my own website myself.  I asked questions of TypePad and the folks at Six Apart were gracious and professional and excited about their product.  They were more than willing to help, answer questions, and teach me coding.



Red Easel was on a successful track.  In a little over a year I had almost 100 artists in the gallery and over 500 subscribers to my monthly newsletter.  I had interest in the content and Red Easel was growing and developing into what it is today.  Still, I wanted to do more.  It can be painful being a creative person.  A lot of pent-up creative energy just waiting to escape and not enough hours in the day to do all that I want to do.



One morning, while reading some of my favorite Mommy and family blogs, I decided that I wanted to also have a personal blog.  I wanted to share my family and stories with my family and friends scattered around the country, if for no other reason than to have a better platform to journal and post pictures other than using email.  I have grown to dread email.  And so, "Raisin Toast" was launched in June, 2007.

In the last 3 years, my professional life has changed dramatically.  I have learned so much about web design, Photoshop, TypePad, and coding I could probably write my own book, instead, I share it with you - my wonderful readers - when I can.  When I learn how to do something in Photoshop, for instance, I take pictures and write tutorials in my "In the Studio" section.  I like to share what I have learned with you and I am always thrilled when I get comments and emails from readers thanking me for the tutorials and telling me how easy it was to understand and grasp the concept.  Your comments and emails make my day.

Raisin Toast and Red Easel have received a lot of press and I am so grateful!  TypePad featured Raisin Toast and did a great story about my blog and beginnings in blogging last year.  Raisin Toast was also a Top 10 winner in the 2009 Bloggers Choice Awards in these categories: Best Blog About Stuff, Best Education Blog, Best Parenting Blog, and even - God only knows how this happened - Hottest Mommy Blogger.  Thank you all for your votes!  Your enthusiasm and support of my blog has been greatly appreciated!

I've learned a heckuva lot in the last 2 years and I have also become a TypePad Champion on "Get Satisfaction" for helping other TypePad users improve their experience - including my own!



Well, yesterday afternoon I heard Adolf going nuts (which simply meant that someone - namely the UPS guy - was in our driveway.  He didn't even come to the door.  He just ran up the sidewalk, staying a good 30 feet from the door and pitched the package to the front door so that he could make a be-line to his truck before Adolf jumped through the window.  Adolf is intimidating that way.  So after he left, I picked up the package and was so excited to find my complimentary copy of "TypePad for Dummies."  Why was this so exciting?  Well, I'll tell ya - because I'm in it!  Yep, your friend here at Raisin Toast is on pages 335 - 336 together with 9 other blogs that use TypePad well.  Isn't that exciting?!!!


I'm in a Dummie book!  Woohoo!  It really is exciting.  I love the Dummie books.  I have a bunch of them from Caregiving for Dummies to Wordpress for Dummies (of all things) and HTML - XHTML - and CSS for Dummies to Nikon D300 for Dummies, and Dreamweaver for Dummies.  I love the Dummie books!  I'm such a dummie.

Now I have the TypePad for Dummies book and to boot I'm in it!  I told you I was a dummie.  Of the thousands of blogs who are using TypePad, and using it "well,"  I was more than honored to be chosen as a featured blogger in this very informative book.  TypePad for Dummies is available on Amazon.com and also in Barnes & Noble and Borders and other bookstores around your town. 

Of course, you can also get it at the Dummies Store too. I am going to spend the weekend reading the book and then do a review next week.  From what I've read thus far and can see, it looks to be a great book, easy to understand and follow, and a great resource for any blogger who wants to create an awesome blog - using TypePad of course!

Thanks to "TypePad for Dummies" Authors Melanie Nelson (BloggingBasics101.com) and Shannon Lowe (Rocksinmydryer.net) for contacting me about being a part of their book and for including me in the process.  I am honored. 



This has been an interesting journey.  From real estate settlements and nail salons to baby boutiques and blogging - at least my professional life hasn't been boring.  I still have a long way to go - a   l o n g   way.  Building a blog and a readership takes time, commitment, and years to develop.  It doesn't happen overnight, but there is something that I have learned through all the years that I have discovered - it is the journey - the creative journey.  The professional journey - that means the most.  Like most things in life I believe it is the journey that should be valued the most, no matter how difficult, how frustrating, or how treacherous, we should value the journey for the experience and the lessons.

I never thought of blogging as an experience that would change me, but it has in a positive way.  It is like writing my life book in pictures and stories on a regular basis.  It is recalling stories from the past, and daily experiences. I can't imagine not having Raisin Toast to share whatever is on my mind and being able to look back on those stories that were special to me. 

Like this story, I know it doesn't mean much to most, but for me it has been another step forward and another story to share with family and friends.  It's pretty cool being in a Dummie book. 

Do you have a blog?  Do you use, or have you tried TypePad?  I'd love to hear from you about your experiences in blogging!



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