“To Market, To Market”

Natalie Beaver

I love this time of year. We are on the cusp of summer with warmer days, shorts and sandals making an appearance, and color back into our homes and gardens. The market canopy tents are sprouting up like the flowers and vegetables, and we were fortunate enough to be selected as a vendor at our first outdoor market, The French Nest Open-Air Market. Unlike a farmers market with an emphasis on food, this market showcases Northern Colorado’s artisans, with a distinct vintage, European flair. It is an elegant, boutique-style shopping experience in which you can stroll among the handmade and hand-collected goods with your dog (a big thumbs up for us dog lovers!).

As first-timers in the outdoor market world, we were nervous yet excited and started prepping 2-3 months before. What we did not want was a last-minute scramble to get everything together. The key to being prepared is a checklist. I don’t think it matters if it’s your first time or your tenth time; the checklist is a serious need. There are many resources online for market checklists, which was great, and we modified one to suit our store needs.

A week before the market, we did a mock set up. This was essential for several reasons: 1) we practiced the tricky, non-intuitive way to set up a canopy tent (grrr!), 2) we figured out the best eye-catching display for showcasing our products, and 3) we determined table placement for the best traffic flow.

The day before the market, it rained practically all day, and it rained hard! I kept thinking it was going to be a muddy mess and setting up was going to take us twice as long. Fortunately, this was not the case. It certainly was dewy and cool at 7am, but the grass was hearty, and we were not slipping in mud. The tent was still tricky, but we figured it out, and total set up time was about an hour and a half. Whew!

Once our “doors” were open, it was then a matter of where to stand (or sit) and whether to approach people or not. We didn’t want to make a sales pitch with everyone who entered the tent, but we also didn’t want to pass up on an opportunity to outline what we offer and potentially make a sale. I don’t know the best way to go, but I can tell you that we explored a bit of both methods with the folks who strolled into our tent. Some people were receptive when we gave them more information and some were not. Some asked us for more information and some silently looked over our products and moved on. Saying nothing seemed odd and did not do us any good. I think a warm greeting and letting them know you are available should they have questions are the bare bone minimum to say, if you are concerned with sounding too “sales-y.”

This was a really good experience and, as an online retailer, a very nice change. To be able to interact with people and show our products as well as being part of this community event, meeting other vendors, was like a breath of fresh air. We are looking forward to the next one! For those of you who are local, we will be at the French Nest at Civic Center Park on the dates below:

June 15

July 20

September 14

October 19

We hope to see you there!

P.S. The title of this blog is also a nod to our ‘To Market, To Market’ bag, which you can find in the Free Spirit gift box or pair with other products and create your own gift box.

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Navigating the Network Scene

Natalie Beaver

 

If you’ve been reading our blog posts, you may remember January’s blog included our goal of stepping out of our comfort zone and stepping up our network game. I am happy to report that we have rocked this goal so far! That said, it hasn’t been the easiest thing to do. Both of us each had to attend a networking event solo (gulp!), but we did it, shaky voice and all during introductions. For the most part, we’ve been fortunate to attend events together, which relieved a lot of anxiety; I am a big supporter of the buddy system!

During these past couple of months, we averaged about two networking events per week. Some of these meetings were themed (e.g. women in business), some based on geography (e.g. northern Colorado), some were with local businesses to get to know each other and discuss possible collaborations, and some with network organizers.  All very different, but worthwhile, nonetheless. One thing Jamie and I learned as we explored the networking functions is that you can spend a lot of your TIME and MONEY networking.

How do you decide what to attend, who to join and how often you should get out there? Not every free event is worthwhile and sometimes it pays to pay. But, how do you know? Well, we simply asked for advice when we met with a network organizer. She told us that many networking groups offer free events for new guests. If the event or group sounds interesting to you, try it. You may need to try several to get that vibe that says, ‘this is my tribe.’ If that’s the case, assess the cost to join, what the group offers, and your ability to attend and meet with like-minded individuals during scheduled functions. Some groups require attendance at weekly meetings. What? That kind of inflexibility wouldn’t work for us, but maybe it would for you. In our area, there are hundreds of networking groups, and it can be overwhelming. I like to keep it simple: try before you buy and pay attention to the “my vibe, my tribe” feeling.

The other valuable piece of advice we were given was to not think of everyone you meet at the above functions as potential clients. Many people don’t want to hear the elevator pitch and simply want to know who you are. These people may buy your product (or service) or they may bring up your name if someone they know is looking for your product/service. I tell you what, by not looking at everyone as a potential client, it takes a lot of pressure out of networking. The key is getting out there, discovering new people, learning new things and exploring your community. Now, go find your tribe!

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A Tribute to Randi Ellis

Natalie Beaver

Today is World Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) Day.  It is the day to recognize the inspiring people involved in non-profit organizations at every level.  Worldwide, there are numerous charitable organizations, large and small, representing scores of interests and activities.  Each share the crucial role of protecting and respecting fundamental human rights.

As a young business, donating money to charity didn’t seem to be a priority. It certainly wasn’t on our top 10 list of must-do’s when it came to what was most important in growing our business.  Money had to be allocated to inventory, marketing, ya-da, ya-da, ya-da…right?  That said, we do have the heart and desire to be charitable.  As Mother Teresa once said, “It’s not how much you give, but how much love you put into giving.”  I’m about to get personal and talk about one of the organizations Pinwheel Gift Co. supports and why.

A few years before Jamie and I launched Pinwheel Gift Company, her mother was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s.  She was just 60 years old.  Watching Jamie struggle with this news was nothing compared to the brutal, aggressive nature of the disease.  Over the span of five years, Jamie’s mother, Randi, went from someone with an occasional look of confusion to essentially a non-verbal woman with the inability to care for her most basic needs.  Five years ago, Jamie had conversations with her mother.  Today, Jamie can only speak to her mother, the disease having stripped Randi’s ability to reciprocate.  Over the course of five years, I listened to Jamie recount the changes in her mother’s personality after every visit.  The downward spiral is heartbreaking.  Randi now requires 24-hour care in a supervised nursing facility. 

As of today, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s and those with the disease always get worse. 

Jamie and I support the Alzheimer’s Association.  We joined the 2018 Walk to End Alzheimer’s and plan on doing it again this September.  Jamie is even more involved in our local chapter and is currently the Logistics Chair.

For more information on Alzheimer’s, please go to www.alz.org.

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New Year, New Comfort Zone

Natalie Beaver

Happy New Year!

Last week, Jamie and I met to discuss Pinwheel Gift Company’s 2019 goals and objectives. First on my list was to rename “Goals and Objectives in 2019” to “Get ‘Er Done in 2019.”   If you are scratching your head as to why this was important to me, that’s okay. A little history, if you will. When I left the corporate pharmaceutical world to start Pinwheel Gift Co., I eschewed any terminology that would remind me of what I was required to do within the corporate structure. I flinched at words and phrases like deliverable, one-off, bandwidth, let’s take this offline, etc. Funny thing is, I complain more about it now than I did when I was working in the pharma industry. I don’t get it either, but it obviously hits some uncomfortable trigger points.

So, it’s a new year and time to evaluate what worked last year and what did not and what we can do to continue to grow. As most of you know, if something doesn’t work, you need to do it differently. Some people say think outside the box, but more recently, it seems the popular phrase is to get out of your comfort zone. I love it in my comfort zone. It’s like snuggling under my favorite blanket with a good book, blissfully stress-free. I know, I know, nothing is going to get done if I stay nestled in my happy place. I realize there are more happy places out there, but why does my anxiety level climb several notches thinking about a foray into unfamiliar territory? It’s not as if this is the first time I’ve been presented with a challenge or new experience. According to Abigail Brenner, M.D., getting out of your comfort zone is necessary for growth (https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/in-flux/201512/5-benefits-stepping-outside-your-comfort-zone).  She states, “Challenging yourself pushes you to dip into and utilize your personal store of untapped knowledge and resources. You have no idea what you’re made of unless and until you venture outside of your own familiar world.”

For Jamie and me, former science nerds with introvert leanings, we are stepping up our networking game and stepping out of our comfort zone. This is hard. There’s no hiding at Pinwheel headquarters (aka Jamie’s house) where we enjoy our online business with electronic communication, primarily. No hiding behind social media posts, which are critical, but by no means require our physical presence. Networking means we don’t miss out on meeting new people, sharing stories, learning, listening, and having new experiences.  It sounds a lot like going to a party where you may know one or two people and they introduce you to other people who may become someone you want to know better, and so on and so forth. Looking at it that way, I guess I’m ready to party.

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Is Friendship Affected When You Become Business Partners?

Natalie Beaver
To use the dreaded answer that’s not really an answer, it depends.  In our case, the quick answer is no.  But that is not always the case, and it would certainly make sense for some to go solo in their business venture.  I can think of many reasons for starting a business on your own; however, I would like to focus on why being business partners works for Jamie and myself.  Perhaps some of you will be able to relate or even better, ask the right questions of one another if you are thinking about going into business together.
A little background is in order, so you can understand where Jamie and I were before Pinwheel Gift Company was created.  We met while working for the same company although different departments, and in fact, rarely, if ever did we actually work together.  Regardless, both of us were submerged in a corporate culture that upon looking back is hard for my brain to wrap around (did I do that?).  I’m not saying it was a terrible experience, I had many good years there, but it still meant investing time and energy in someone else’s vision.  Back to us.  Our friendship developed over a couple of years when there was a lot of personal and professional crises happening in our lives.  The support we gave each other solidified and deepened our friendship, as you can imagine.  Still, an abiding friendship is not enough to want to start a business together, at least not for us.  This underlying trust and respect we had for each other; however, was an essential ingredient in our friend-to-business partner recipe.
Another important ingredient in our recipe was sharing the same vision.  If the ideas of what we wanted or foresaw for a business pursuit diverged, it would not have worked.  Having a shared vision meant we both felt passionate about our goals, our long-term strategies, and our responsibilities.  It meant we saw eye to eye on the business blueprint which helped when developing our brand, selecting vendors/products, etc.

As we’ve grown (and continually grow) together in our company, we’ve adopted certain roles and try to maintain that delineation.  It keeps us organized because we know who is responsible for what.   

Finally, the most important ingredient, in my opinion, is communication. Duh.  Seems obvious, I’m sure, but remember, you are two people.  You can’t do something with the business without telling your partner.

To recap the ingredients that work for our successful Pinwheel Gift Company partnership:

  • Trust and respect
  • A shared vision
  • Defined roles
  • Communication
So, how has our friendship fared?  We laugh a lot, especially when we are learning new business skills outside of our comfort zone.  We use goofy voices when packing gift boxes, we sing vendor names when we get new catalogs…we have a lot of fun together.  We also do more together socially, loving the freedom of entrepreneurship and paving our own path.  She now gets to see me when I’m grumpy or having a bad day and vice versa (can’t escape that, folks).  She also sees me sweaty and tomato-faced after going to the gym and vice versa.  And guess what?  We still like each other!  We have forged an even stronger bond since starting this business venture.  I feel very lucky.

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Looking for Inspiration

Natalie Beaver

Last weekend in Fort Collins, Colorado, we experienced beautiful, sunny, upper 70s weather. Most folks headed outdoors, many to the mountains as we are nestled in the foothills of the Rockies, and Jamie and I were no exception. Our 4-hour hike at Greyrock Trail provided the perfect landscape for brainstorming new business content, discussing social media strategy, and taking stock of our, well, stock.

Greyrock Trail is a looped trail, meaning exactly what you think it means; if you stay on the trail from the start, it will loop around and take you back to the beginning. However, one direction of the loop, the meadow trail, follows an easier path while the other is more challenging with a steeper grade and rockier terrain. So, if you decide to do the loop you will encounter the harder trail, whether it’s at the start of your hike or at the end. Make sense? Jamie and I are, shall we say, novice hikers. We have the proper hiking gear, wear sunscreen and bring plenty of water and high-protein snacks, but our quadriceps are not accustomed to the terrain of this hike. This sort of worked in our favor because we stopped often enough to catch our breath and along with our breath the striking views. It’s very clear where the canyon suffered fire damage. It is also very clear where the charred trees ended and gave way to undamaged live growth. In a way, it made me think of winter versus spring. We are on the cusp of a new season and an ideal time to shed our winter parkas and all the layers underneath to expose ourselves to a fresh outlook and fresh ideas. A surprising find along the trail were the wildflowers; not just blooming alongside the trail but within the fissures of the rocks! Imagine that. Where you least expect it, you can find growth.
It’s no secret that exercise can sharpen mental acuity. Hiking boosted not only our cardio fitness but our brain power as well. It opened our minds to ideas we may not have realized in another environment. During our hike along the trail, Jamie and I bounced ideas off of each other like a championship ping pong match. Did we discuss business for 4 hours? Certainly not, and that’s how it should be. We breathed deeply, stopped to admire the view, took pictures of the wildflowers, saved some ladybugs, typical hiking behavior. Most importantly, as we neared the end of our journey, our legs jelly, we figured out how to turn wishes into plans.

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Gift What You Love

Natalie Beaver

Do you get stressed when thinking about giving the perfect gift? You are not alone! When it comes to gift giving, unless friends or family tell you what they want, it’s hard to find that perfect gift. I adhere to a simple concept passed on to me by my mother: gift what you love. Really. It’s that simple. If you love the gift then it’s very likely they will love the gift. You can pick this concept apart and find it certainly doesn’t always ring true. If you love gardening and know that your mother-in-law can’t stand it, well then, you are not going to buy her a trowel and flower seeds.

One of the most popular gifts of 2017? Gift cards. Do you know why? People asked for gift cards because of bad experiences receiving gifts. I’m not knocking gift cards. I have given them and I love getting them, too. However, I must admit, the gleeful feeling I get in anticipation of opening a gift-containing box beat the gift card experience hands down. It’s the not knowing what’s inside the box that sends me into a state of giddiness. Am I the only one who feels this way? I’m guessing no.

If you are reading this blog, you have obviously landed on Pinwheel Gift Company and the products we offer. Maybe you have someone in mind to gift and are looking specifically for a gift box. Or maybe you don’t know what to get and are looking for something a little out of the ordinary. Whatever got you here let me tell you about our custom gift boxes.  Some of our gift boxes are great for some people, but we also understand that we curated them, and maybe you would switch some of the products around for your perfect gift box. You can do that! Let us know what products you would like to see together and we will create your own custom box.

Happy Gifting!

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How We Get the Perfect Shot

How We Get the Perfect Shot

Natalie Beaver

Welcome to our photography studio (otherwise known as Jamie's kitchen)! Hiring a professional photographer may be ideal, but when you are a new business with a limited budget, you have to get creative with what you have. 

Jamie and I almost got sucked into the photography equipment vortex but found with just a few key items, we could get a photo worth boasting about. Our essential equipment includes a smartphone, with photo editing app, a tripod, and a white tri fold poster board. The poster board diffuses the light coming from our source, which happens to be sunlight streaming in from French doors and windows. Sidebar: We live in northern Colorado which experiences almost 250 days of sunshine a year, on average. Yay sunshine!

That wraps up the photography equipment we use. What? That's it? I hear your incredulous gasp loud and clear. However, I stick by my words; that's the photography equipment we use. We use a lot of other items to get our perfect shot, but I guarantee, you won't find them at any photography supply store. Roll out the white flat sheet for our backdrop, grab some Tupperware lids and a spatula for propping purposes, and a variety of very small items around the kitchen to elevate products. Voila! The recipe to find our perfect shot lies in kitchen products! Just kidding. Don't forget the fishing pole in the garage to tackle the larger products that need help staying upright...

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Recycled Wrapping Paper Gift Cards

Recycled Wrapping Paper Gift Cards

Natalie Beaver

You’ve picked a gift that’s sure to wow her. Make sure she has something just as exciting when she opens the envelope attached to it with a handmade greeting card. Even if you’re not the arts and crafts type, greeting cards made from wrapping paper will be (almost) as impressive as your Pinwheel Gift Co. gift box.

Start with one of those leftover scraps of wrapping paper you end up with at the end of a roll. In addition to your favorite bit of leftover wrapping, you’ll need:

  • A blank gift card*
    * You can make one yourself from card stock, but to save time, we recommend grabbing inexpensive blanks from a stationary store.
  • Wraping paper scraps
  • Scissors
  • Card stock
  • Double-sided tape

Once you get your supplies, making a card that’ll make even veteran crafters happy is a snap!

  1. Cut a piece of card stock so it’s about 1 inch smaller in both directions than the card you plan to place it on.
  2. Trim the wrapping paper so it’s about a half inch larger than the card stock in both directions. (When you place the card stock on top of the wrapping paper, you’ll have a 1/2-inch border of wrapping paper around it.
  3. Center the card stock on the wrapping paper. Starting at the corner of the card stock, diagonally cut across the corners of the wrapping paper so that each corner of the card stock touches a flat, freshly cut edge of the wrapping paper.
  4. Fold the wrapping paper around the card stock. Use double-sided tape to secure it.
  5. Using the same double-sided tape from Step 4, stick the assembled paper-and-card stock to the front of your gift card.

 And just like that, you have a one-of-a-kind handmade card!

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