WE'VE MOVED!! You can now find us at Sunshine and Spoons!

Sunday, July 31, 2011

1 Year Anniversary Giveaway!

As of August 1st, my boutique will have been open for a whole year!!  It amazes me to see how much it's grown and changed since I first opened up. 

It may be my boutique's 1st birthday, but I'm celebrating by giving gifts to my wonderful fans and customers!  I also have some generous sponsors who have donated some of their products to the celebration.  Be sure to check them out!
Tutu Cute by Jill
Baby Bug Boutique
BrooKota Designs
Grape Soda Photography
Lilac Joy Designs
Michelle's Handmade Boutique
The Ruffled Edge
Sweetie Marie Designs
Nanna's Threads

It would have made sense to open the giveaway on August 1st, and that was my original plan.  However, I forgot to take into account the fact that I will be gone all day August 1st so won't be able to open the giveaway.  Therefore....I've decided to open it a day early!  Click here to visit the album.  To enter to win each item, all you have to do is click on the googledocs form under each photo, fill it out, and be sure to like both pages (Annalie's Baby Boutique and the sponsor's page)  Winners will be selected using random.org on Monday, August 8th at 2 pm and notified through email.   They will also be posted on my blog.

Good luck everyone!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

WAHM-Part 2

In July of 2010, I realized that I could start my own page on Facebook and use it as a platform for selling things I made.  I shared my excitement with my older sister, and talked her into starting this business venture with me.  It was agreed that we would each pay for half the supplies, get half the profits, and do half the work.  She had an old sewing machine that a relative had given to her, and so we set it up and got to work trying to figure out how to run it.  She had never touched a sewing machine before, and I hadn't used one since I made a wrap skirt for myself while staying with my grandma during high school.  We soon realized that the sewing machine was too old and didn't work properly anymore (thus the relative no longer wanting it).  Not to be deterred, we decided that we'd just sew everything by hand until we could afford a new sewing machine.  The first thing I made was a pillowcase dress for Princess.  It took me 2 straight days of handstitching, but it turned out pretty cute.  I made a kerchief to match and we were in business.
I opened our Facebook page in the beginning of August, 2010 and we dubbed it Annalie's Baby Boutique.  We came up with the name by combining our names together (Hannah + Leah = Annalie) and by playing around with my daughter's name a little.  Thanks to some friends who spread the word about our new venture, the page was soon gaining fans rapidly.  The most exciting moment came when I was scrolling through the list of fans and realized we had our first fan who was not an acquaintance or a relative! 

We dove into the boutique head first, making shopping trips to JoAnn Fabrics and cutting out fabric like two scissor crazed maniacs.  We started out making pillowcase dresses, baby washcloths, burp cloths, snuggle taggies, and a few other miscellaneous products.  Before we knew it, the orders were rolling in...to the tune of approximately less than 1 a week.  Hey, it was a start! 

We knew that handstitching all our products wasn't exactly time efficient so I asked around and ended up borrowing my mother-in-law's sewing machine.  It was around 50 years old, very heavy, and the bobbin winder didn't work.  I used it for several weeks, teaching myself to thread the machine by watching videos on youtube.com.  And then, I moved it from the kitchen table to a small area I'd created behind the couch in the living room to be my sewing "room".  And somehow, the wiring went out during the short 4 yard move.  It was time to go shopping for my own sewing machine.  I ended up buying a Babylock Natalie edition...a $400.00 machine that was on sale for $200.  I love it and it was worth every penny of the 50% off price.

My sister soon dropped out of the business.  She still helped me out with cutting fabric or watching my kids when I needed to get a lot of work done, but by October, it was MY boutique.  The profit was all mine and *gulp* the expenses were all mine.  I continued to add new products to the boutique and began branching out on the internet.  I opened a shop on ecrater.com because the price was right (ecrater is completely free :).   I knew several other boutique owners who used it and they seemed to be doing pretty well.  I started a Twitter account and linked it up to my Facebook page.  I started advertising on Facebook pages that specialize in helping small boutiques out (look for a complete list in WAHM-Part 3).  I ordered free business cards and other business merchandise at Vistaprint.com.  I signed up for craft shows and expos.  I worked hard at promoting my boutique and it was worth it.  I found out that you can't just sit there and expect people to find you, you have to go out and find them.

At some point, my products began changing.  As I tried out different ideas, I soon came to realize what I enjoyed making the most.  My boutique evolved from selling baby items to boutique style clothing for girls AND boys.  Most boutiques only sell girl clothing, but since I have a little boy too, I felt I needed to include boys in the picture. 

In January, I started my own website... and found out how much work that is.  I also realized that, while having your own website is a good thing, you're really on your own there.  On Ecrater and Facebook, I was one of many sellers and so people were more likely to stumble on my shop.  At this point, my website badly needs a makeover, but I just don't have 87 free hours to make it happen.

Since I started my boutique, people had been suggesting that I start a shop on Etsy.  I checked it out and was intimidated by the impressive photography and the professional feel to the shops already on Etsy.  I definitely wasn't at that level yet and didn't feel as if I could compete on Etsy.  Finally, in April, 2011, I bit the bullet and I went for it.  And I'm so glad I did.  It's been a great way to get more people to stop by my boutique, and I'm at a level professionally that it works well for me. 

So here I am today...my business is growing slowly but surely and I'm loving every minute of it (most of the time).  I was planning to put all my tips and advice in this post, but apparently I'm too longwinded, lol.  Look for all that WAHM-Part 3 which will be posted sometime in the next few days.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

WAHM-Part 1

Oh, did I say a while back that I was going to be sure to post at least once a week from now on?  And it's been 21 days since I last darkened the door of my blog?  Oops.  Well, here I am.

I'm a WAHM mom.  Sort of.  I also babysit outside the home, but I take my kidlets with me so I'm not giving up any time with them.

I used to work part-time at a B&B and the library, but I was miserable dropping my precious little girl off at my sister's house everyday instead of being with her myself.  My sister would send me text and picture messages throughout the day to tell/show me what Princess was up to, but it wasn't the same. 

I was getting more and more depressed about working outside the home because I've always felt that my place was at home caring for my children and husband.  Sounds 50's, I know, but that's what I wanted.  For those of you who think that staying at home to be a wife and mother mean you're not accomplishing anything with your life...I happen to believe that raising future functioning mature responsible adults is a HUGE deal.  And a LOT of work.  I have hobbies, but at this season of my life, my family is my life and I wouldn't want it any other way.  Someday when the kidlets are grown and moved out *sob* I'll be able to focus on those hobbies more and cultivate new ones.

Oooookay.  Back on track here.  One day I went to talk to my Pastor's wife because I was so depressed about my job situation.
I said, "If God really loves me and wants what's best for me, why isn't He enabling me to stay home with the baby that HE blessed me with?!?"
She said, "Maybe God is trying to teach you to be content no matter what."
I said, *Gulp* "Wow."

Because it had just hit me like a ton of bricks.  I'm one of those pessimistic, the world hates me, my life kinda stinks people.  I'm never quite happy with what I have and being thankful is something I really need to work on.  I went home, did some serious time on my knees and came up realizing that she was right.  And somehow, admitting my lack of thankfulness to God and asking forgiveness changed my outlook.  I still wasn't crazy about the job situation and my boss wasn't any nicer, but it didn't bother me like before.  Less than two weeks later, I got a call from someone I knew from an ECFE class I took Princess to.  She was looking for someone to babysit her two children in her home and was willing to pay enough that I would be able to quit my job at the B&B.  I told her I'd talk to Hubby about it and let her know.  When I hung up the phone, I started crying because I couldn't believe how quickly God had provided for me when I changed my attitude.  Hubby was all for the change and so, I called her back and said "YES!" 

I've always been crafty (in more ways than one, my siblings would say).  When I was little, I designed and made clothes for my dolls and once, for my little sister.  Since my mom doesn't like sewing or crafts, I was self-taught (aka used the wrong techniques, end product didn't turn out well, etc.) But it was a start and that desire to create things never left me.  After Princess was born, I found myself drooling over custom made baby things that you couldn't buy at wal-mart and thinking, "I could make this."  But I wanted to do more than just make a few things for my own baby, I wanted to make enough to sell!  I wanted to make unique baby items that other mommies could enjoy and use too.  But I didn't have a sewing machine and I had no idea how I could market my products.  Then, one day, everything changed.  I clicked on a sidebar ad on Facebook for Listia.  While browsing the auctions there, I came across a taggie blanket made with adorable blue and brown guitar print flannel.  I fell in love with it and...lost the auction.  Which led me to follow the link to the seller's website to see if I could buy one directly from her.  I was surprised to be directed to her Facebook page and was really surprised when I realized that one could actually operate an online store of sorts on Facebook (disclaimer: Facebook rules state that an individual or business cannot actually sell products on Facebook due to liability issues, but can post products and direct potential customers to a website to purchase.)

I'm going to stop now before this post gets too long.  Check back for WAHM-Part 2 to hear the rest of my story and to get tips on how to start your own WAHM business!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

New Experiences

Over the weekend, we went to Chicago to help Hubby's younger sister move.  The actual moving part only took several hours, but since we were all there, we made a vacation out of it. 

My favorite part was shopping at the outlet mall right across the road from our hotel.  Got some good deals on a few outfits for the kidlets plus I found some t-shirts to make some more dresses and hoodie shirts out of.  I'm completely addicted to making upcycled clothes right now (http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.173977972661135.39962.102347329824200).  Here's a picture of the dress I made on Thursday:

Princess and Little Man had a ton of fun playing with their cousins.  They also enjoyed their first trip to Chuck E. Cheese.  Much to Hubby's chagrin, Princess had no interest in playing games to win tickets.  All she wanted to do was ride the different rides.  Don't worry, Hubby appropriated some of her tokens and won enough tickets for her to pick out two very cheap tacky toys from the "store." 

Princess's favorite ride was the carousel.  To her right is Little Man who also enjoyed riding.    

Little Man loved dancing to the music at Chuck E. Cheese (why didn't I bring the video camera?!?!) and was fascinated by the racing games.  He spent a good 1/2 hour sitting at a game with a steering wheel and probably annoying the other kids who wanted a turn on it.  No tokens needed, he was thrilled to be sitting there "driving."  When I tried taking him somewhere else, he threw a tantrum worthy of the hall of fame and toddled right back over to the game.

The kids are both taking naps.  I have a t-shirt and some fabric that's just begging to be turned into an adorable little dress.  See you all later.
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