Let’s catch up with three women who have been featured here in the last few years and find out what’s new: Bonnie Hillman Shay of Mariposa Photo Organizing; Judi Schindler and her first book Husbands: An Owner’s Manual; and Lena Georas’s expanding Lamou furniture and tableware business.
Bonnie Hillman Shay: Emerging from a chrysalis, a butterfly takes flight!
Since I was featured in December, 2014, I have continued to grow my business. In September, 2017 I transformed my business just like a caterpillar transforms in to a butterfly. My new business name is Mariposa Photo Organizing and since Mariposa is the Spanish word for butterfly, it is apropos that I have spread my wings and flown in a new direction.
After 10 years of providing general AND photo organizing services, I am now working exclusively as a photo organizer. Though I like making order out of disorder whatever shape it comes in (I have the organizing gene), I am diving deeper in to making order out of my clients’ family photo collections. I love telling my clients’ stories through their photographs and movies/videos. Whether they have boxes and boxes of printed photos, negatives, slides and more or now computers and phones filled with 1000’s of digital images, I help a client make sense of it all.
People are feeling stuck and overwhelmed with the quantity of printed and digital photos they have accumulated. They have become disconnected from their photographic memories and they don’t know where to start or even what is possible. It is my honor and thrill to lead them through the process including going down memory lane with them. My ultimate mission is to make sure my client’s photo collection is available, shareable, enjoyable, manageable, safe and secure, both for now and for generations to come. I achieve that by editing their collection, scanning their printed photos, establishing a cohesive digital photo collection on the best photo sharing platform for their purposes, making sure their photo collection is backed on a regular basis and establishing systems for managing photos that they will continue to take over time. I also offer photo books, movie/video conversion, online photo web galleries for families spread out geographically and more. There are infinite possibilities once a collection is all digital.
I am blessed to be a member of the Association of Personal Photo Organizers (APPO) that is full of passionate, talented and dedicated people. We are a relatively new industry, so we are developing the industry standards and establishing best practices. That is very exciting. In fact I just returned from our annual conference where I was honored to have been selected to participate in the Pre-Conference Intensive Masterclass, limited to 15 high level photo organizers. This 2 day peer-to-peer learning session, led by a skilled facilitator/business coach, encouraged brainstorming and collaboration with like-minded professionals. I even participated in a story slam during the conference. Telling stories is what I love doing, whether mine or my clients. My motto is “Curating your photos. Preserving your legacy. Telling your story”.
Connect with Bonnie Hillman Shay
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Judi Schindler: Publishing her First Book, Husbands: An Owner’s Manual
My “Next Act” story, which appeared October 31, 2016, was about transitioning from a 40+ year career in public relations and marketing to a new career in acting. As it turns out, that wasn’t the end of the story. On my 76th birthday, last November, I went a step further by becoming an author and publisher.
A little background: one of my acting projects has been a humorous, one-woman show I wrote, titled Husbands: An Owner’s Manual, which I have performed for women’s groups, senior centers, social clubs and libraries. Employing funny audiovisuals (photos, recordings and sound effects), the show explains how to select a husband and how to maintain him in good working order.
Audiences learn: the benefits of same-sex marriage, even for couples who aren’t gay; how to translate the phrase, “I need to find myself”; whether selecting a “previously-owned” husband is right for them; why, at all cost, to avoid professional athletes; what to do about replacement parts, and other facts of life I have accumulated over 53 years of marriage.
Since I first performed the piece some five years ago, people have urged me to turn it into a book, but I was reluctant. For starters, I wasn’t sure the material was as entertaining on paper as it is in performance. When I finally decided to move forward, I hired a content editor: Cheryl Lavin Rapp, a funny lady and great writer with several syndicated columns to her credit. Cheryl helped me add amusing anecdotes and examples, tightened the writing and reorganized the content so that it flowed better.
I also realized that the cover and interior of the book had to instantly communicate “fun.” For this, I hired a first-rate book designer/illustrator, Mike Wykowski, who added a number of humorous cartoons to the ones I had previously commissioned for the show and created a colorful, layout that pops on every page.
Thanks to Cheryl and Mike, the book now looked and read laugh-out-loud funny. The next hurdle was a little trickier. Most self-published authors (and some two thirds of all books produced today are self-published) do so with minimal up-front investment by using a print-on-demand service, such as CreateSpace, which can also design the book and provide a full range of pre- and post-publication services. As I quickly learned, print-on-demand is only economical for books that have black and white standardized interiors. At this point, “Husbands: An Owner’s Manual” was 80 pages, with full color bleeds throughout. When I sent my specs to a print-on-demand company, I learned the printing price would be close to $20 per copy, more than I thought the book should sell for.
Another friend suggested I get quotes from traditional book printers. This lead me to Versa Press in Peoria and a price per book of under $5. Of course, to get that price, I had to take delivery on 1,500 books. (For the record: 1,500 books = 27 cartons, each weighing 30 pounds — not exactly a stash that fits on a closet shelf.) So how do you sell 1,500 funny books about relationships and marriage? Bookstores were not an option, because my margins were already pretty thin. With a cover price of $16.50, bookstores would typically pay $8.25, plus they would want the right to return unsold books. I would have to pay shipping and handling, which would further cut into my profits.
The bottom line: I was going to have to sell all 1500 copies myself, one book at a time. The first several hundred were purchased by friends and family. Unfortunately, I do not have 1,500 cousins, in-laws or grandchildren to buy the whole print run, so I currently employ a score of different marketing tactics. I updated my website to promote the book and installed an order page with shopping cart. I set up a vendor page on Amazon.
I write a weekly blog, titled “The Toilet Seat Must Go Down,” to build an audience and enrich my website with “searchable” content. Topics have included: Japanese love hotels, marrying incarcerated men, Joan Collins’ secret to a happy marriage, and why men can’t find the mayonnaise behind the pickle jar. I tweet, post and boost posts on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn and am currently learning how to build a following on Instagram. (Of course, to navigate these platforms, I’ve had to enlist consultants who are decades younger than myself.)
I have arranged a number of book readings and performances where I will be allowed to sell books to the audience. I am also experimenting with videos for social media even though I am boggled by the notion that anyone takes the time to watch some of the mind-numbing “live chats” you see on Facebook and Instagram. Finally, I have fallen back on my old PR skill sets to promote the book by getting interviewed for radio shows and podcasts as well as print interviews. A major story in the Chicago Tribune has been picked up around the country and has been my most successful tactic by far. In other words, I am back in the business of marketing and public relations. Only, this time, the client is me.
At a stage of life when women my age are supposed to take up basket weaving or pickle ball, I have found myself with a full-time job, complete with deadlines, lengthy to-do lists, budgets, sales projections, tax collections and record keeping—not to mention a garage full of books. I couldn’t be happier.
Connect with Judi Schindler
Book on Amazon: Husbands: An Owner’s Manual, How to Survive a 50-Year Marriage
Lena Georas: Expanding Lamou Furniture into Tableware
My interview on Next Act for Women was almost a year ago, just as we were getting ready to go down to High Point Market with our Lamou line of personalized furniture. It is remarkable how much has happened in one year. One significant development for us was introducing digitally printed wood tableware in December of 2017, first at Holiday shows and then on ETSY. The response has been terrific!
We decided to branch into the tableware market to give customers the opportunity to buy printed wood products at a lower price point. LAMOU now has a collection of printed wood trays, placemats, and coasters.The wood placemat is an interesting object and one that our customers are starting to embrace. After printing, it is coated with a poly acrylic and is impervious to water and stains. A wood placemat is much more durable than table linens, is eco friendly, and needs virtually no care. The various patterns that we offer make for a festive and lovely tablescape. We have also launched a line of jewelry trays and recently previewed them at Style Week RI, New England’s premiere fashion event.
When you bring a new product to market, or have a new business, I think it is important to keep an open mind and be ready to pivot. There are many creative ways to get your idea out but as a business owner you have to be flexible enough to change course or set a parallel course that can benefit the business. We will soon add the new LAMOU printed wood tableware line to our website with the ability to customize. Until that update, please take a look at our LAMOU ETSY STORE, and feel free to contact us with any questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.