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Creative Business

Please Stop Comparing Your MLM Sales To My Small Business

hopes and dreams and sales pitches

Dear Friend Who Sells For A Multi-Level Marketing Company,

Before you get pissed, hear me out.

I am a small business owner. I create and develop my products, source materials and shipping supplies, and manage all marketing. I am the customer service representative, I keep track of inventory, order supplies, take most of my own photos and manage equipment. I am a copywriter. I print, package and ship every order that my business receives. And those are just the duties I have the brainpower to remember off the top of my head.

I am a work at home mom. So on top of the business duties, I have two boys running around underfoot on any given day they aren’t at school or daycare.

My family’s income is directly correlated to how well my business does because I choose what I pay myself after the expenses of the business. We’ve had some terrible, anxiety-inducing low income months and some let’s-take-a-vacation high months. Building a business is a rollercoaster because all of it rests on the shoulders of the business owner. There is no magic, quick, or passive way to make it successful; my tears, grit and creativity are what drive it.

As an MLM distributor, you do not have control or say in the key things that define a business. You work by using social media to inundate your friends and family with sales pitches to make your pyramid larger. You are told if you fail, you didn’t work hard enough when in reality the culture of the company you buy in to almost always guarantees your failure. Don’t trust me though, read this, this, this, this, and this.

Selling for a network marketing, or multi-level marketing, company does not make you a small business owner.

The other day, a friend who is an MLM distributor, posted a meme in her sales pitch that read, “When you buy from a small business, you are not helping a CEO buy a third vacation home, you are helping a little girl get dance lessons, a little boy get his team jersey, a mom or dad put food on the table, a family pay a mortgage, or a student pay for college.”

I call bullshit.

The company you are representing is neither small nor local. You are, maybe, making extra money for your family (doubtful, since 99% don’t make a profit) and I have no issue with that. However, MLM companies made a staggering $36 billion and employed over 20 million people in 2015 according to the Direct Selling Association. There is nothing small about those numbers.

These problems are not your fault.

You are told by your company that you are an “entrepreneur” and you are going to make millions building “your business.” As a small business owner, I take offense to the use of these terms in that context and I’m insulted when you put what we do on the same playing field.

Below are even more reasons being a sales rep for MLM companies does not make you a small business owner:

+ Competitors

In an MLM company, the goal is to have people sign up for your “team.” Essentially, you are creating your own competitors and saturating an already saturated market. Imagine if you walk in to a room of people and everyone sells the exact same thing to only people they know. How does that set you up for success? As a small business owner, I create unique gifts that don’t exist anywhere else and sell them to a carefully planned target market. It is the key to my success.

+ Control

Small business owners have control over every aspect of their business: the product, the distribution, the marketing, the shipping, the accounting, the branding, the design. If you don’t, you are an employee. Furthermore, if you have to buy in to get started, you are a customer.

+ Questionable products

My product is my lifeblood. I can market, talk up, FB message the crap out of my family and friends but if the product doesn’t deliver, I don’t have a business. MLMs main goal is to recruit distributors under them, to work toward the goal of a steady passive income (the triangle!). Most of the time (most! not all) the product is the afterthought.

I understand the drive to do more for your family. I was you; searching for a way to stay home with your kids and support your family at the same time is the dream for a lot of people. My plea is that you be honest about what it is you do. I hope you represent something that you really believe in and stop pitching the “easy way to make income from your smartphone” myth.

In the meantime, on behalf of all small business owners, stop comparing your multi-level marketing sales job to my small business.

MLM is not a small business

 

Creative Business

4 productivity tips you can start using today

get s*** done notepad and coffeeI won’t lie to you and say I am wildly productive all the time. In fact, the opposite. I often feel like I struggle to get my work done and have been living for years with that pit in my stomach that there is always more to do.

If you didn’t know already, my family and I moved to the Sacramento-area 2 years ago. I quit my day job and had the opportunity to pursue BGD full-time. Awesome, right? I was stoked. What I didn’t anticipate was the adjustment period. The adjustment to working from home with two little ones. The adjustment to a new home. The adjustment to feeling pressure to make it all work.

The adjustment has been rough, to put it mildly.

I can’t pretend that I have it all figured out now but what I can remind myself is: nothing is permanent. Below are a few tweaks I’ve made in my day to day to help me be physically productive and mentally at peace.

Create a done list

At the end of the day, write down every single thing you accomplished. You will end your day on a high note even if the list has one item on it: Kept my kids alive. Check!

A change of scenery

When I get to a point where I feel like I’m going to erupt because it’s one distraction after another or I’m having a hard time staying focused, I go elsewhere. Outside for a walk. To the park with my kids. Upstairs to mindessly fold laundry (lies, my laundry stays piled on the bedroom floor, but maybe laundry is your jam!). By stepping away, I am more productive longterm as I can return to work with a clear head and laser focus.

Find a physical outlet

This has been key for me–I run. It’s something that brings me joy, stress relief, adult interaction and alone time. I know myself well enough that if I force myself to work 100% of the time, I will accomplish less than if I fuel myself with something I love. You know that old saying “you can’t pour from an empty glass?” Totally true.

Prioritize

What are the 3 most important things you have to do? Write them down. Check them off. The rest can wait.

My hope is that you can learn from all the time I’ve spent losing my mind and learning lessons the hard way. 😉 Here’s to making your Monday wildly productive!

What are your tips for staying productive with your biz?

productivity boosters

Creative Business, Motherhood

I half-ass my life and I’m whole-ass ok with it

Blog-083016-LifeHack

At least once a week I get an acquaintance who asks me or emails me this one question: “How do you do it all? Teach me your ways!”

And I get a good laugh.

Two things come to mind: 1. I’m doing a really bad job of portraying myself realistically on social media, and 2. Doing it all is bullshit and no one should feel like they have to. I sure don’t.

I think about the Four Burners Theory a lot. Like, a lot a lot. It is a concept that represents work-life balance. Imagine your life is a stove with four burners: the first burner represents family, the second represents friends, the third health and the fourth work. In order to be successful, you must completely turn off one of the burners. To be really successful you must turn off two. NO PRESSURE OR ANYTHING.

Or, if you’re me, you half ass it. Turn all of those burners to 50% heat and you’ve got enough of yourself to go around. This is a different form of “balance” (side note: hate that word) and it helps me function.

work at home mom problems

Take these photos for example. On the right is an Olympic inspired photoshoot I did in my home office for an outfit post I was working on. On the left is Sullivan, pissed that I won’t give him more Cheerios and didn’t let him wear my American flag shorts until I was done. He sat there the entire time I was shooting (maaaybe 3 minutes). I had to turn that mom burner down so I could fire up that work burner and not miss a deadline.

This is the half-assers version of balance.

More often than I’d like to admit, my kids get PB&Js for dinner. Some nights, I sit next to my husband and mindlessly scroll to decompress. I ignore text messages. My BGD shipping turnaround time is terrible right now. Multiple times per week, I plop my kids in front of screens so I can answer emails. I watch trashy TV. I sacrifice running for sleep. I sacrifice sleep to run. I have hid in my closet with a glass of wine. I avoid making new friends because I’m terrible at keeping up with the ones I have. I never do laundry. I forget to wash my face.

I used to let these things eat at me until I was driven crazy by guilt. But now, when I know one burner is going cold I focus on the one heating up.

The boys ate PB&J because we had a blast swimming at a friend’s house all afternoon. I ignored texts because I was super inspired to create new BGD products. I don’t seek out new friends because the ones I have are beyond stellar; they understand who I am and what I stand for. The laundry suffers but I keep the kids fed and (mostly) happy all day. I’m exhausted but still get up and run miles with friends in the mountains, for my sanity.

It’s a little give, a little take and a freakload of flexibility. 

It works for us. It works for me.

The kicker that allows me to be at peace with being a half-asser is that I know these days won’t last forever. This season of my life will end. Kids grow up and won’t need me to fulfill 732 snack requests before 8 a.m. (Ok, maybe I won’t miss that part.)

What are your day to day tricks to keep it all in “balance”? Comment below!

Pin-Updates-02

BGD, Creative Business

Resolutions, BGD style

2017 incoming

Can we all just take a collective deep breath and raise our middle fingers in solidarity to 2016? Such a doozy of a year. Good riddance.

And I realize it’s ridiculous to blame an entire year for some bullshit buuut if not 2016 who (what) do we blame? I just need a scapegoat, people.

OK GREAT. Glad we’re all on the same page with that one.

The promise of a new year is intoxicating. 2017! It sounds so fresh. The goals, the clean slate, the accidentally writing 2016 on checks for at least three months. I am so freaking excited.

When it comes to BGD, I’ve never really been one to set goals. I run my business like I run my life–flying by the seat of my pants. It has worked up until this point but as kids get older and I have more time to dedicate to BGD, measurable goals feel attainable (as opposed to stressful) and exciting (as opposed to overwhelming).

So, here’s to something new in the new year…

BGD’S 2017 RESOLUTIONS

Focus on the BGD community
Through this blog and connecting on social media. We have a few things up our sleeve this year and can’t wait to share.

Say no by default
I can’t do it all. In 2016 I sure as hell tried. Saying ‘no’ to more is key to defining BGD’s (and my) priorities.

Create products with intention
We started this goal in 2016 with the release of collections. It has already been freeing and helped me to become more focused as opposed to overwhelmed. And in a sea of one million “designers” putting out half-assed products on the daily, my goal for BGD is to rise above that trend. Well-designed, sassy, FUN products and a whole lot of valuable, rad (and free!) content along the way.

Share everything
For the better part of my small business owning career I’ve made it a point not to share too much of my process for fear of judgment. I’ve been afraid to share personal opinions for fear of offending some people. I’ve been afraid to lose customers by being too me. I don’t want to run a business based on fear. So, I figure, if you’re my people you’ll stay my people no matter what. So, get ready for the over-sharing, my friends! 😉

Treat yo’ self
Or myself. Whatev. It’s always on my list is to take better care of myself. What’s that cliche saying? You can’t pour from an empty glass. It’s true.

Do you set resolutions for yourself or business? I’d love to hear your 2017 goals in the comments below!

BGD, Creative Business

4 Ways To Stay Inspired

The hardest question I get is always, “How do you come up with your stuff?” 

Uhhh, my brain? is usually my answer. Duh, that’s true but I usually come off sounding like an asshole. The truth is, my inspiration comes from everywhere–the things I do, people I know, motherhood, my hobbies, being married, owning a business. All of those things are a part of me and when I’m not completely overwhelmed (ha!), these are the things that inspire me.

mother of wildlings

I pride myself on how I put who i am in to what i do.

So it should be no surprise that the majority of things that get (and keep) me inspired are people I love and things I enjoy. Look, this isn’t a magical post that will teach you how to live an inspired life 100% of the time. It is a post about how being inspired starts with a choice. I choose to stop, look around, appreciate and find joy. It’s a conscious decision and I’m still a rookie. But here are things that help keep me inspired:

MY KIDS KEEP ME INSPIRED BY MAKING ME AWARE OF MY LIMITS.

My kids have taught me patience like I never knew I was capable of and that translates so well in to the business side of my life. A deep breath and reminder of what the “big picture” is keeps me (mostly) sane in both parenting and being a boss.

Brittany Garner and kids

Take, for example, the entire Lady In Charge collection. It’s a pairing of mom life and business life while taking the time to enjoy the things that make you happy (wine) on a daily basis.

MY HUSBAND KEEPS ME INSPIRED BY REMINDING ME TO FIND HUMOR IN EVERYTHING.

I married a smart ass who sometimes drives me crazy. I have a tendency to suck the joy out of life when I’m stressed out. He reminds me that it’s necessary to laugh. A lot.

RUNNING KEEPS ME INSPIRED BY TAKING ME OUT OF MY COMFORT ZONE.

trail running as a creative outlet

About a year ago I started trail running. There is nothing like running in the mountains. Nothing. As someone who has struggled with anxiety all my life, my mind never feels as at ease as it does running the trails. I’ve gone distances I never dreamed I would. I’ve gained amazing friendships through running–you get to know a person realllll well when you’re on an 18 mile run with them. More than anything, after every run, I’m reminded that I can do hard things.

THE KEY TO STAYING INSPIRED IS GETTING THE F*CK AWAY FROM MY COMPUTER

It took me a long time to realize that I’m much more productive overall if I give myself a break by doing something I enjoy. I have to get out of the house. Maybe go on a run. Play outside with my kids. Sitting in front of my computer for hours on end is the ultimate killer of creativity.

What do you do to stay inspired?

4 ways to stay inspired

Creative Business

Resources for creatives 03: shipping

resources for creatives

This edition of Resources for Creatives I’ll be letting you in on all of my shipping secrets! This post will be most useful for product-based businesses. All of these recommendations come after five years of experimenting with maaany different systems and programs and sweat and arguments with my Logistics Manager (husband 😉 ). These are the tools I currently use and swear by. Here we go!

SUPPLIES

ULINE: We get all of BGD’s boxes, bubble wrap and pink tissue paper that we stuff everywhere from ULine. They are the best. Super awesome customer service, next day delivery and they have, literally, everything. Buying in bulk is definitely a money saver, too.

Amazon: I get all of BGD’s shiny pink mailers from Amazon because they’re just a tad cheaper than ULine. Plus, with Prime, free shipping!

Dymo LabelWriter 4xl: This printer has single handedly saved me the most time and money on shipping. It is solely for labels but requires no ink (big savings!) and prints super duper fast. It is standard among shipping programs so the labels are already sized and optimized for it. I spent way too much time printing labels from my old InkJet printer, I’m so mad at myself that I didn’t make the Dymo investment earlier. Learn from my mistake! 😉

SHIPPING

ShipStation: I have used a whole bunch of different shipping programs and ShipStation is BY FAR my favorite. It automatically imports orders from all of my sales channels and it’s easy to batch together like shipments. It is hugely helpful in cutting down my shipping times. My favorite features include being able to copy/paste an address in it’s entirety instead of tab-ing and typing in to each field. I know that sounds nit-picky but it is a serious time saver. Another thing I love about ShipStation is the ability to import across all sales channels. I have Etsy, BrittanyGarnerDesign.com and my wholesale site all in one spot. It’s aaaaahhhhhh-mazing.

An actual, physical shipping station: somewhere in your home office/garage/corner of your dining room where everything you need to get ship done is within reach. Mine is a corner of my home studio (pictured below). The only thing not within reach is the actual product, which is sometimes a pain but it’s what works for the space I’m in right now.

shipping corner for product based business

 

OTHER

USPS Home Pick Up: If you are still schlepping your orders all the way to they post office, STOP. Your mail person will pick them up off your porch FOR FREE. You can schedule a pick up online, put them out that morning and they’ll be picked up during your regular mail hours. Awesome, yeah?

4over Trade Printing: To build brand recognition, I also include inserts with information on how to contact me if anything is wrong and social media links to keep the customer-biz relationship going. You can get them printed wherever but I highly, highly recommend you give a lot of thought and time to your branding–it’s EVERYTHING.

What are your must-have shipping tools and tips?

resources for creatives