Friday, October 9, 2015

Why Things Catch On - A Review of Contagious by Jonah Berger

Every once in awhile I’ll find a business book that I can’t put down. Contagious, by Jonah Berger, is one of those books. He explores why some things catch on and other things don’t. His research is compelling and his collection of stories made this book a page turner for me. 

Contagious - Why Things Catch On - by Jonah Berger |


Beginning with the premise that people love to share stories, news and information with those around them he explores the concept of “social transmission”. We are so much more effective at sharing ideas and influencing the purchasing decisions of people we know than any paid advertisement method.

Our daily conversations are filled with opinions and recommendations aimed toward the topic at hand. We share about a new restaurant we just tried, a great movie we just saw, a new product we just bought. And depending on who we are talking with, our recommendations are targeted specifically toward their needs and interests.

Even though we would all agree that we are great at socially transmitting information to each other, it’s thought provoking as to what makes some things more contagious than others? Are some products and ideas just born more contagious while others aren’t?


Jonah Berger’s book explains what makes content (stories, news, information) contagious. His research reveals a “recipe” for making products, ideas, and behaviors more likely to become popular.

He and his colleagues narrowed it down to six “ingredients” or principles that are often involved and cause things to be talked about, shared and imitated.


Knowing about something cool, having the inside scoop on something big or being the first to own the hottest new product, it all make us feel important, and socially speaking it makes us look important. Sharing information that make us look good - that's social currency!

One of my favorite stories in the book is about how Snapple came up with the idea of adding a message on the inside of their bottle caps.

During a marketing meeting someone suggested that the space under the cap was unused real estate. They tried putting jokes under the caps with little success and asked if “out of the ordinary” real facts might work better.

Have you ever opened a bottle of Snapple and found yourself ready to share it with your friends like you have a big secret? This is genius! This is social currency!

This idea causes me to ponder how I might create social currency through an aspect of my business. Does this stir ideas in your head? I'd love to hear your thoughts. 


Triggers are words or ideas that we automatically associate or connect together. Peanut butter reminds us of jelly. The smell of suntan lotion triggers thoughts of the beach.

Some of these are personal but many of them have been programmed into us through advertisements or our social patterns.

I was first surprised by Jonah’s stories about how our environment can influence our decisions but it all makes sense. From the music they play in the market to the location where we cast your ballot at election time.

As consumers we make associations that we aren’t even aware of and I appreciate how the stories in this chapter highlight the negative and positive impact that our brand, our photos, our words, etc can make.

Jonah suggests that we take advantage of existing triggers that will work to our benefit. What ideas are triggered when you think about this? 


It is so true that when we care, we share. If it touches us in some way we can’t help but share it by word of mouth but especially through email or social networking.

When it comes to our business, it’s easy to focus on the function of our product, but what if we turn our focus from function to feelings.

Part of the discussion in the book is about how some emotions will increase sharing and others will decrease it. I appreciate how Jonah dives into this subject because so much of our business promotion is done through the internet - either by us or our customers.

What makes one image on Pinterest get pinned and repinned 100s of times when others don’t? What ingredient of a facebook post causes a page fan to click the share button? This kind of information is necessary for us to understand if we want to use this free resource to increase our sales.

My biggest take away from this chapter is that I'm merely skimming the surface of this subject. Have you tried anything lately that seems to be working? 


How public is my product? That is a good question.

This is a hard principle to integrate into a small business. A bigger brand is more visible and has valuable social currency. So what do we have that is visible and can work to our benefit?

The first thing that comes to mind is our customer feedback. It is public information for our customers. Not only is it visible in your online shop but also on the web. Have you ever searched for your business on Google? If not, take a minute to do that. Your custom feedback star rating is right there on the Google page for everyone to see without even going to your shop.

So this is only way for us to be "public". What are other ways that we, as a small business, can use this principle?

With so many beautiful photos coming to us on Instagram and so many amazing ideas flowing through our Pinterest page stream sometimes what catches our attention most is a tip or practical advice that adds value to our lives.

In some cases it may seem like a crazy question to ask ourselves, but what problem are we helping our customers solve with our product or through our service?

Most of my customers are looking for a way to thank someone special in their life. My custom made personalized items are a solution for them. Until I heard it summarized like that I didn’t understand how this question could apply to my business.

Jonah explores this concept of practical value on so many levels and it can get a bit overwhelming to consider all the different ways we might do this in our business. I’m not suggesting that we dive all at once into making videos and recording podcasts and jumping onto Periscope, etc, etc. My personal guiding motto is “just because I can doesn’t mean I should”.

Perhaps there is a new way of offering a valuable service to your customers that you’ve already thought of but you’ve been putting off for a while. Is it time to make an action plan and get that started?

Good customer service speaks volumes to me and I know I'm not the only one. What are some ideas for pumping up the value of your customer service? 


I mentioned up front that the stories in this book kept me engaged. Although Jonah includes statistics about his research, I stayed interested because of those stories.

If you put a bow on a box it becomes a gift. The narrative of our message can become a beautiful part of our business “package” if it’s wrapped up in a story. I’ve always know that but have struggled in how to do it. Jonah’s insight has helped me unwrap some of the mystery about that.

Our stories can become contagious content and I'm eager to explore how I can make that work for me. What are your thoughts on this concept?  

Needless to say, I’m intrigued by this book and eager to brainstorm how I can weave some of these concepts more thoughtfully into my business. 

I found Contagious at my local library but if you want to purchase it you can find it on Amazon. Jonah also shares the short version of this book in this YouTube video.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

How to Easily Import Your Etsy Items Into Your Shopify Shop

If you are an Etsy shop owner with at least a couple of pages of items, the thought of opening a Shopify shop and transferring all of your products over may feel like an overwhelming task. There is a much easier way to do this other than entering all the data one listing at a time. You can easily import them with just a few steps!

Have you ever wondered if there is an easy way to import your Etsy shop items into Shopify? The thought of adding your items one by one may be enough to keep you from opening your own shop - a dream you've had for a while. This step-by-step tutorial will show you how easy it is to import all of your Etsy items into Shopify with just a couple of steps.

Whether or not you are happy with your current Etsy listing photos and descriptions, it is still valuable and helpful to backup your information into a CSV file. If something were to happen to your shop, either your choice or not, this file will collect all your information as a backup and the process only takes a few minutes.

I suggest that you do this a couple of times a year even if you don't intend to transfer them.  You've invested a lot of time in creating your listings so this will ensure that you don't lose any of this valuable information.


You’ve probably stumbled upon the page where this is found and not even known it. There are several resources available in the back end of our Etsy shop that get overlooked. Clicking around and taking a look at some of them may answer some questions you've had for a long time. 

To find the download location simply click on your Shop Icon for the drop down menu to appear. Click on SHOP SETTINGS > OPTIONS > DOWNLOAD DATA tab. Easy peasy!

Referring to  the “Currently for Sale Listings” box, click on the blue download button and click OK when the download prompt box appears.

tutorial on how to easily import your etsy shop items to your shopify shop

tutorial on how to easily import your etsy shop items to your shopify shop

The navigation menu for Shopify is fairly easy to understand. Since this import file is for your products, you will find the link in the PRODUCT section of your Admin Page.

Once on your product page you’ll notice three choices in the top right corner - Export, Import, Add a Product. You’ll need to click the IMPORT button and a box will pop up asking you to browse for the file that you want to import.

As I walked through these steps myself for the first time I kept wondering if I was really doing things right. I was comforted to know that Shopify understands that. Once I clicked on the Etsy file for downloading another box popped up and asked if this file (showing me a preview) looked familiar. Phew…..I did it right!!


Another thing I was hesitant about was showing all my Etsy information on this brand new website without double checking that it all looked good. Well Shopify makes that easy too. While you are still on the PRODUCT page you can check the box of all the newly imported products. This will then activate a menu with a “bulk actions” option. By clicking “hide selected products” your customers will not be able to see any of these listings until you are ready to make them available. 

Tutorial on how to easy import your etsy items into your shopify shop

I appreciate finding out tips that are time saving and make it easier for me to handle the daily tasks of keeping my business running smoothly. If you are have a shop on Etsy & Shopfiy and have any business tips that help you I'd love to hear about them!

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Six Creative Resources to Help You Stay Motivated and Inspired

During times of burnout or stagnation in your business it can often be hard to stay motivated. If you are in this season of your business, believe me, you are not the only one to ever feel this way. Staying continually motivated is an ongoing process but there are some things that you can do to trigger that place of creativity again. 

Six Creative Resources to Help You Stay Motivated and Inspired


One of my favorite pastimes is walking through a bookstore. Since they are far and few between these days it is a real treat for me to spend an hour or more checking out the books on business,  creative processes and more. Just flipping through and reading the pages of books and magazines is an incredible source of inspiration.  I’m constantly adding to my personal library because I believe that being a student of your field can help you keep things fresh and continually motivated.

Style Your Brand - Creative Inspiration


The next best thing to a bookstore is your local library. Our library is quite small but I still find several books that I don’t own myself. When you purchase a book it may sit on your shelf for a length of time before you read it, but when you borrow a book from the library it gives you a sense of urgency to dive into it immediately. 


Although audio books are not a source of visual inspiration, they can help you get through some of your reading list much quicker. I don’t always have the time to actually read a book, but listening to one while I’m working is so convenient. 


Another convenient way to listen to amazing information is through podcasts. Learning about this resource of information has changed my business. If I’m not listening to music while I’m working, I’m enjoying the stories and insists of other entrepreneurs!


A constant stream of inspiration, Instagram is a living magazine of photos and stories. It’s like flipping through your favorite publications on a daily basis. 


Setting aside time for  “artist dates” is a great way to stir up those creative juices. I’ve experienced significant benefits from scheduling these into my monthly calendar or letting them happen spontaneously when I’m out doing errands.

An artist date can be spent walking through a book store or visiting your local library.  Try strolling through an art supply store and picking up a new color of paint or a brand new sketchbook. Anthrolopogie is always a great  field trip. The level of creativity in the store displays is enough to load you up with inspiration. My daughter and I took a free workshop there last Fall and it was so fun. 

Finding your Creativity and Inspiration

Whether you are in a stuck in a place of stagnation or completely burned out from overwork or somewhere in between, schedule some creative inspiration time for yourself. It will pay off in dividends!!

I’d love to hear about resources you have found to be inspirational! What are you reading? Where do you like to go? What is your favorite podcast?

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Things to Consider When Hiring Help for Your Small Business

I experienced a tremendous growth spurt in my business in 2013 and couldn’t see keeping up with my orders without hiring someone to help me. This was something I had never done before so I learned a lot as I went through that season.

When the year ended and things slowed down, I no longer needed extra help but the experience was eye opening for me. There are parts of that process that I did well and there are other parts that I could have done better if I had known more going into it. I'm sure it would have at least helped my stress level through it all!

Things to Consider When Hiring Help for Your Small Business


One of the best decisions I made was to work with an accountant that specializes in working with small businesses. I asked her lots and lots of questions. I called and emailed her about anything that was confusing.

She emailed me all the forms for each person to fill out as they were hired on. She filed all of the paperwork and made sure I knew about things that needed my attention. It was a relief to know that she had my back in areas that were completely outside my understanding and comfort zone.

For help in choosing an accountant you may want to read about the process I went through.


This was something I struggled with because I thought more about what worked for the ladies who were helping me than what worked best for me. I literally worked ALL weekend just to get things ready for them on Monday.

I also thought that we needed to start at 9am. This eliminated any possibility of getting exercise in the morning before my work day started.

The best lesson I learned from working that kind of schedule was what DIDN’T work for me. I now start my work day later and realize I was delegating some of the wrong tasks.


It may take a bit of extra time to train someone to do a task that they aren’t familiar with but it will be well worth the time invested.

If your items have lots of little details as mine do, having an extra pair of hands helping with them can make a huge difference. With deadlines looming I was feeling a bit panicked so I did most of the detail work myself. I would definitely have taken the time to hand more of those little jobs to someone else.

After a few days of working together I found out where some of the rough spots were and it was tough to ask them to do thing over and over again until they were right.

Building a Small Business

Details of a Small Business


Working closely in my small studio made for an environment where spontaneous conversations could happen. I knew that we needed to start off our working relationship with an honest and open talk about how I run my business, what my customers expect and what they could expect to happen each day/week. I also knew that the volume of orders would drop considerably after the first of the year and I may not need their help anymore at that point.


For me, keeping things open ended was the best solution. I could not guarantee a set number of hours each day or days per week of work for them and I made sure they knew that before we started working together. This goes along with setting expectations. I was so grateful to have women working with me who could handle a flexible schedule.


In order to hand off responsibilities and tasks to someone else, it is really important to have some systems in place. Whatever information you have in your head that someone needs to know in order to duplicate what you do, needs to be put into some kind of format or organized in a way for someone to easy learn and follow.

Samples of finished products, reference notebooks with written instructions and measurements, photos or drawings, categorized materials, etc. are all systematic tools that can help someone work independently and efficiently. 

Hiring Help for you Small Business

Details of a Small Business

In 2013 I was desperate and couldn’t see any other option but to hire some people to help me. This past April, when my daughter was getting ready to take the Summer off from her teaching job, she was hoping to join me in my studio so she could be mentored in how to build her business. We work side-by-side, bouncing ideas off of each other, making products and trying new things. She is learning-by-doing about how to manage and grow her small business. 

It may be that you need to hire someone during a busy season of your business. It may be that you just need to bring in a student intern or someone who wants to be mentored. Whatever your choice, I encourage you to have open conversations with them about your expectations AND talk with your accountant about what you can expect in the way of taxes, paperwork and other things you may need to consider when hiring someone to help you.

Whatever your situation, unless you’ve been down this road before, be prepared for a huge learning curve. For instance, I learned the hard way that I can’t start my work day at 9am. I now start at 10am after I’ve taken my morning walk, taken a shower and had a good breakfast!

If you have a small business and have brought someone on board to help you in one way or another I would love for you to share your tips and insight here in the comments! Thanks!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Hashtags for Creatives to Follow and Use on Instagram

Instagram is by far my favorite social networking platform. And as I mentioned earlier this month, a single photo post and/or the right hashtag can open up endless opportunities.

If you are using your Instagram account to grow your blog or business, you must use hashtags.

Hashtags for Creatives to Follow and Use on Instagram


Hashtags are a word or a series of words (without spaces) that follow a hashtag symbol(#). They are used to tag a photo so it can be easily found. Much like the tags we use for Etsy or our Blog, these word(s) help us find all the postings or photos that pertain to that specific hashtag.


You may have gone to a wedding where they have a sign posted at the guest book table that asked you to use a certain hashtag if you post a photo to Instagram from the event. This is a super easy way for everyone to see all the candid shots that were taken throughout the day.

Hashtags can be used in the same way for your personal or business Instagram account. You can create your own hashtags and tag photos that you want to find easily.


If you are using your Instagram account to grow your blog or business, you must use hashtags.
You will be amazed at how powerful these little words can grow your followers. They are super valuable! They are hugely beneficial for getting your Instagram out to the right audience.

It’s important to know that the idea isn’t to just add a bunch of hashtags to your photo without thinking about whether they relate or not. Look through each photo and decide which of them truly match the hashtags and the communities they represent. You want your photos to relate to the tags and to stand out so you attract new followers who are intrigued and want to check out your account.


There are “influencers” (individuals with the power to influence others in their social media circle) who create hashtags with the intention of creating a community. A Beautiful Mess is a prime example of this. They are highly influential on Instagram and have created several hashtags for the purpose of identifying photos that they can share on their Instagram account.

You can only imagine the exponential growth of your followers list if they choose to share your Instagram post! It is beneficial to you to use one or more influencer hashtags on your photo in hopes of getting chosen for a post on their account, but it also allows that hashtag community to view your photo. This may not open the door to the enormous growth of getting featured but it certainly makes others aware of you.

I have found that my Instagram community grows every single day just from using influencer hashtags!!


#ABMLifeisColorful / @abeautifulmessofficial
Beautiful Mess has a good number of hashtags that they use and they add more as the seasons change or as they add new features to their blog. Some of their other hashtags include #ABMLifeisSweet  #ABMCrafty #ABMathome #ABMlittlethings #ABMtravelbug #ABMhappylife

#FlashesofDelight / @glitterguide
Glitter Guide started this hashtag to feature anything fun and girly. They also look through this hashtag feed and feature selected photos on their Instagram page.

#ThatsDarling / @darling
This hashtag was started by Darling Magazine. The idea is to share darling moments in your life so it’s a pretty open-ended concept and you can really get creative! Darling also reposts photos quite often. Other hashtags they use are #DarlingWeekend #DarlingMaker

#DSColor / @designsponge
A Design Sponge hashtag that features colorful photos which they often repost to your Instagram page. Some of their other hashtags include #DStexture, #DSpattern, #DSart

#Craftsposure / @craftsposure
All things creative


With so many hashtags to keep track of I have found it difficult to remember them all. What works for me personally is writing them down in a notebook. Every time I find another one that works well for me, I write it down.

Using hashtags can be a little overwhelming at first, but the most important thing to remember is to stay true to yourself. Search for hashtags you might be interested in by looking at the tags other creatives are using.

What are some of your go-to hashtags? Have you found any that have significantly grown your community?

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Don’t Put off Opening Up Your Own Shopify Shop

I know it can be a bit scary to actually take the step to set up that online shop you’ve been thinking about for a long time. I held onto that thought during all of 2014 and never acted on it. When 2015 rolled around I was determined to set up my Shopify shop before summer started. Yes, it was a bit daunting at first especially because I kept going about doing things with an “etsy” mind set. 

A new series on Shopify Tips to help you get past the fear of taking the first step to opening your shop

I remember the night about 3 weeks ago when I opened a chat with a customer service “guru”. I’ve always put backl inks in my Etsy shop listings and was wondering how I could do that in my Shopify shop. I was totally blown away at how easy it is!!

When I have a question I’ve never waited more than a couple of minutes on the chat line and their answers are always on the money. I really appreciate getting my questions answered so quickly!!

So here’s the thing…..I know that taking the first step is the hardest. Staying in your comfort zone, even if you aren’t getting the results you want, is the easy answer. It takes hard work and a lot of brain energy to make decisions and get it done.

I’m starting a new training series here on my blog to walk your through all the things that I have learned about setting up a Shopify shop. My hope is that it will take some of the fear out of taking the first step toward your dreams and goals of having your own website.

Some of the great things about opening a Shopify shop is that they offer you a 2 week trial period for FREE. After that you can choose a plan for as little as $29 a month. If you are ready to get started and have things going for the holiday shopping season I’d appreciate it if you’d use my affiliate link to sign up.

One of the first things I was overwhelmed with was choosing a template. I didn’t know where to begin. Shopify has so many great choices and I had a hard time narrowing it down. So how did I choose? I started looking at other Shopify shops and seeing what templates were appealing to me. It was a process of elimination that turned out to be a pretty easy choice after all. The beauty of it is that you aren’t stuck with your choice forever. If you want to change it later you can.

I am looking forward to sharing lots more with you in my SHOPIFY TIPS series in the coming weeks. In the meantime…...use this link to get signed up and get yourself one step closer to your dream!!

I’d love to hear from you!! Share your questions about Shopify. What are those nagging questions that are holding you back from getting started? Or, if you have opened your Shopify shop already, what questions are still hanging around in your head?

Thursday, May 14, 2015

How to find Wholesale Supplies for Your Small Business

It can be a daunting task to find resources for your business. Whether you are first starting out or just refining your list of suppliers, it definitely takes time and effort. 

How to find wholesale supplies for your small business | Mama Bleu

I’ve tried reaching out to other creative entrepreneurs to ask their advice in finding reputable companies and reliable resources but often get a negative response or no response at all. I can completely understand their reason for holding onto information that took them weeks or months to obtain.

I wish I could tell you that I’ve learned the secret to finding great business resources that you can go through step-by-step, but I haven’t. What I have to share today are some sources I use and ideas for obtaining your own list of suppliers that fit the needs of your small business.

Back when my mom was making dozens of dolls for her business she repeatedly bought muslin from our local fabric shop. I looked at the end of the cardboard core and took note of the company name. It was definitely outside my comfort zone to call the company and ask for a wholesale account but it was the first step to a repeated practice in my business.


Before approaching any wholesale supplier there are some things you will need to be prepared to provide them. The first thing they will ask you for is proof that you are a retail business.

As a business in the US, you need to file your business name and obtain a reseller’s permit. You can find out more on business set up at the US Small Business Association. A wholesaler will most likely ask for a copy of your reseller permit. I’ve scanned mine into my computer so I can easily send it off in an email or make copies to give them in person or through the mail.

Many times a wholesaler will have a minimum order requirement. The first order is usually larger than the following orders. These requirements often restrict me from dealing with some suppliers but not all ordering levels are beyond my budget.


I live fairly close to Los Angeles so I am fortunate enough to visit the fashion and floral district in person. The general public is welcome into these stores but discounted prices are offered only to resellers. Sometimes the items are marked with a code for wholesale pricing, Some establishments offer a percentage discount to resellers. Most of the places I shop don’t even have prices posted. 

How to find wholesale supplies for your small business | Mama Bleu

How to talk with wholesalers for your small business | Mama Bleu

Michael Levine’s - There are two locations in downtown Los Angeles. One side of the street sells home decor fabrics and the other side carries a full line of fashion and craft fabrics.

At the cutting tables they like to know if you are resale or not. They write up your purchase ticket accordingly. At the front of the store there are two separate purchasing desks. During your first purchase there they will ask for all of your business information which is usually found on your resellers permit. I always carry 4-5 copies of mine in case they also want one for their files. Upon repeat visits you only need to tell them your business name. They should have all of your info in their database.

Trims, Buttons and Zippers - There are dozens and dozens of trim, button and zipper shops to visit and it's a good idea to establish a relationship with the shop owner. They often offer a deeper discount for larger purchases and then cap it at a certain price point. Taken note of product specifications so you can call before coming in. If they take will call orders over the phone you may be able to have your order waiting for you when you walk in the door. 

How to find wholesale supplies for your small business | Mama Bleu

When you are just starting out as a purchaser in the wholesale market don’t be afraid to ask questions. Each and every supplier has a different requirement. Don’t make assumptions!

I often ask questions of retail stores that I frequently do business with. Ask them if they offer discounts on large purchases. Ask if they honor a reseller permit in any way. I have registered my permit with a large chain fabric store and they don’t charge me tax on my purchases. Always ask questions. You may be very surprised at what they will offer you!!


It's not always possible to find a wholesale resource for what I need so I collect coupon codes in multiple ways. I go online and print off coupon offers. I am on mailing lists for major craft and fabric stores so they send me coupons in the mail. I’ve registered for text messages with coupon codes.

The next time you shop at a retail craft, art or fabric supplies, ask them if they have a text code for coupon offers.

I have several Apps on my phone that offer coupon codes that can be scanned at the checkout register right from your phone.

SnipSnap - Allows you to snap photos of your coupons so you don’t need to carry them with you. This is a new app to me so I don’t have any experience with it yet. One review for this app reads “Amazing app! It breaks down the coupons in categories, so no more shuffling through our purses or wallets. The location feature is an awesome addition which alerts you when you enter a store of a coupon could be relevant! You save time and money... What could be better?!”

RetailMeNot - I’m often finding an extra coupon offer on this app. If you activate the locator a message will pop up when a coupon is available where you are shopping.

Other Apps you can look into are Michael's Crafts, Hobby Lobby and Joann Fabrics

There are websites I visit for smaller purchases. If I know the exact color, style and manufacturer of what I need, shopping online can save me money and lots of time. I’ve signed up for email alerts about sales and often act on them. My time is valuable so this is a viable option for me on many occasions.

How to find wholesale supplies for your small business | Mama Bleu

I often place orders online. You may want to consider ordering from Joann Fabrics when they have great coupons and offer free shipping. Another great resource for fabrics is I usually don't like to order anything if I haven't seen or felt the fabric. I like to know the quality of fabric before I make a purchase. They do sell fabric swatches if that will help you.

I love supporting fellow Etsy shop owners. My best resource for small purchases and out of print fabrics is Etsy!

Did you learn something new from this list? What advice would you offer to someone looking for business resources and suppliers? If there is a resource that you’ve found helpful in saving you money or time I’d love to hear about it!