Wednesday, June 30, 2010

It's coming...

What is coming to Java Jess Publishing? Stay tuned to find out! :)

In the meantime, feel free to come visit us! Our website is: and our Etsy shop is

We also just opened up a second shop that deals only in our crafts! :) Though there is rarely "spare" time when you are a business owner, one thing I do to relax is crochet. Check it out today at


Tuesday, June 29, 2010

BP Stands for no "Backup Plan"

By now, the only people in the world who don’t know about the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico are those without access to mass media. It has caused devastation in the whole region, killing wildlife and ruining many Americans’ livelihoods.

BP’s response to this disaster brought to light several examples of failure in strategic business planning. In fact, they had a previous history of safety violations and had been fined several times before the Gulf oil spill occurred. They were notorious for not having plans in place to deal with disasters, and had put off much needed safety testing on many of their rigs. BP had no crisis management in place.

Not only that but their response to the press has been poor at best, a shocking thing for a company that has been around as long as BP has. You would think they would be able to better reply to accusations and be more involved in giving helpful answers. Instead, they plan on pouring their money into an advertising campaign meant to improve their image, which I believe is causing their reputation to slide further rather than achieve the desired result. Current CEO Tony Hayward has been denying that he knew anything about safety concerns, which shows his lack of responsibility and reflects poorly on the company as a whole.

BP’s corporate culture has also been faulty, causing many of their top level employees to quit as they didn’t like the way the company was handling budget issues. Some of their “cost cutting” solutions included giving engineers less of a safety budget but expecting their products to continue to remain just as safe, and seemingly targeting the more seasoned workers for layoffs and firings (presumably because they made more than less seasoned workers). Also, when BP decided to change from “British Petroleum” to “Beyond Petroleum” because they wanted to join the “green movement,” it felt like an oxymoron to many of the employees because they knew that their company was still always going to mostly be a petroleum company.
In fact, one person that they fired was Ken Abbott, a former Project Control Supervisor, who had explicitly warned his managers of the safety concerns he was facing. I’m sure in hindsight they wished they had listened to him!

One of the mistakes is that BP set increasingly more ambitious production and exploration goals, while cutting out their focus on safety. They put quantity of oil wells and rigs compared to the quality of the oil wells and rigs, and in doing so played a more active role in the accident rather than a passive one. They also prioritized their PR and ad campaign over safety. This was, without a doubt, a very preventable disaster.

With all that has happened, BP no longer stands for just an oil company or “Beyond Petroleum,” but rather many other not-as-kind definitions: “Beyond Parody”, “Beyond Propaganda”, “Broken Promise, “Beyond Pathetic”. I prefer to think of them as having no “Backup Plan.”

What can we learn from BP? First, that while a company cannot focus on every area of business, they should never focus so narrowly that they ignore safety. Second, that plans should ALWAYS be in place for worst-case scenarios. Even if they had formed a plan slightly pertaining to this oil disaster, they would have had a much more effective response. Third, remember that your response to press about your business can be a positive or a negative, so you also want to plan how quickly and how knowledgeably you can respond to any press regarding your company. Fourth, if you want to cut costs, it is much better to retain your more knowledgeable employees and find a different area to save money. Finally, when your employees bring something to your attention, it is better to address it than to ignore it (and then subsequently fire that employee).


Losing a Pet...

Just this weekend, my brother lost his beloved cat Topher. Topher was a very sweet boy, always up for cuddling with his loud rumbling purr. The circumstances surrounding his death were difficult, and it has been a sad passing of such a sweet and loyal companion for my brother.

As a memorial, I created an Etsy treasury for him... if I had the money, I probably would have purchased each item from it! Since I don't, I am instead making a memorial pillow for him with a picture of Topher on it.

I hope you will all consider sharing your thoughts and condolences at this memorial treasury:

I would also like to share this beautiful poem that is commonly shared when someone loses a close pet:

Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.

When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge.
There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together.
There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.

All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor; those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by.
The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.

They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent; His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.

You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.

Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together....

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Learning the Hard Way: Small Business Survival

*I wrote this as an assignment for one of my Master's Degree business classes, but thought that it might be nice to share with other small business owners and those interested in starting up a small business*

When you are a small business owner, it can feel like you are outnumbered, overworked, and grossly underpaid. But it can also give you a sense of pride, and even relief, that you work for yourself.

As the owner, designer, manufacturer, marketer, etc. for my own small business, I have experienced firsthand many of the traps and pitfalls of small business ownership. Ever the optimist, though, I have also experienced many of the milestones that keep me moving forward and hopeful for the future, and I don't like to dwell too long on what didn't work. Therefore, I will discuss some traps and pitfalls along with things that have worked for me.

I found this table online that really helps put things into perspective:

Common Reasons Why Businesses Fail:

32.1% Poor management of financial activities
14.6% Lack of management competence or experience
12.4% Inflation and economic conditions
12.3% Poor books and records
10.7% Sales marketing problems
9% Staffing problems
6.2% Union problems
2.7% Failure to use external advice.i

Therefore, only about 19% of reasons why businesses fail are outside the control of the small business owner! This can be good, as it means that if something is going wrong that is causing your business to be unsuccessful, the business owner has an 81% chance to turn things around. I think it boils down even further to three main groups: 1) Money/Bookkeeping Reasons; 2) Experience/Skills Reasons; and 3) Marketing Reasons.

One of the hardest obstacles I had to face (and still face today) was that I just plain can’t do everything all the time. “Entrepreneurs tend to concentrate on what they love, whether it's the artist who paints but doesn't spend any time marketing or the chef who lives in the kitchen and ignores her financials. Every business owner needs to be his or her own CFO. Delegating that task to a bookkeeper or an outside accounting firm means putting your life into their hands. They generally don't know the ins and outs of your business well enough to make critical decisions.ii” Let’s face it – if I’m designing new shirt ideas, I may not be focusing on advertising. If I’m create ads and spending time promoting my business, I may not be keeping up with my orders. If I’m only focusing on getting orders cranked out, I may not be coming up with new designs.

Since my budget is limited and I cannot afford to hire an employee, I’ve found the most helpful thing I can do is create a schedule (which has to be loose enough to allow for interruptions by customer calls, yet tight enough to make sure I’m touching on each important area of my business) and know when I need to spend a little extra to get things done properly. I’ll openly admit that accounting isn’t my strong area, so instead of trying to find an outside accountant (who then would be more aware of my business finances than I would) I decided it was worth the cost to invest in Quickbooks and just learn how to use the program instead. That way, I still know each bit of money that comes in and goes out, but I don’t have to know every detail about accounting.

My Quickbooks example touches on how I am responding to both the Money/Bookkeeping issue and the Experience/Skills issue.

Money also comes into the picture when I work on Marketing. Let’s face it – I don’t have the resources for things such as Super Bowl ads or magazine inserts. But by using online networking (such as Facebook, Etsy, and T-Shirt Forums), I have created some word of mouth interest and come up with several low-to-no-cost advertising and marketing options. I also know as a small business I can offer aspects of customer service that larger firms are lacking, so I make sure to emphasize the point. I strongly believe that “It’s the people who make a business successful, not the product, not the service and not the new invention.iii

I have made my fair share of mistakes in my 10 months of small business ownership, including getting scammed by a merchant and trying to “cut corners” by investing in a lower-priced piece of equipment (which I then had to replace only 3 months later, after it almost burnt my office – and my house – down). But I have also had the opportunity to work with other small business owners, share frustrations, and learn new aspects that can help my business continue to grow and succeed. In my opinion, the best thing that a small business owner can do to avoid traps and pitfalls is to be aware of them in the first place, and then educate themselves to avoid them as much as possible. Mistakes will always be made, but it’s how you respond to them and move on that can mean the difference between success and failure.


Tuesday, June 15, 2010

A blog post that describes it all!

I just hosted another Sneak Attack yesterday, and it was a whole lot of fun!! :) I managed to find two newer Nebraska shops to "attack," and it felt so great to be able to find local shops to help!

A fellow "Sneaker" wrote up a really great description of what The Handmade Movement and Sneak Attacks are all about, and I wanted to share that with you:

Please stop by there if you'd like to know more about us!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Hoppy Monday!!

I'm leading a GREAT Sneak Attack today, please come join in by clicking here.

Also, if you stop by the thread today, you'll be able to see our newest pet - a Giant Angora bunny named Alfie!

Alfie is a beautiful smokey gray, and is 10 months old. He was already in a home with both cats and dogs, so he hasn't been a problem to our other animals! In fact, so far we only had one "incident" when we opened to his cage to let him come out at his leisure and our cat Gypsy (by far the most nosy!) poked her head in to his cage. All he did was hop up to her to say hi, but she hissed I think mostly because she was startled. Otherwise, everyone has been getting along perfectly! The dog didn't even think twice - he probably thinks that Alfie is just another cat anyway, since Alfie is already about 8-9lbs or so!!

If any of you are in Nebraska, and have taken care of a rabbit before, I encourage you to stop by the Humane Society and consider adopting Alfie's former roommate Bandit, or one of the large litter of baby bunnies that just got dropped off yesterday (that appear to be Jersey Wooley's or maybe Netherland Dwarfs):

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Help another Etsy Artist WIN!!

As someone who suffers from chronic daily pain, I have a soft spot for others that understand. When I heard about this from a fellow Etsian, I promised myself to spread the word and help her win if possible!!

Judy of is one of 5 semi-finalists in a blog contest to win an Accuquilt Go! cutting system (value $350). Judy is the ONLY contestant with an etsy shop!!!!!!!!!!!!

Since Judy was recently diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, having this cutter will certainly help enable her to create longer with less pain.

Will you please help Judy? She really really really wants to win this. Time is running out and Judy needs more votes. - AS OF RIGHT NOW, THERE ARE ONLY TWO VOTING DAYS LEFT!!

All you have to do is:

1. Click on this link

2. Click the radio-dial for SEW MEOW (Judy's blog ID) in the top left hand corner (no scrolling needed) - it's on the top left side of the blog page.

3. Click the VOTE box and you're done! Thank you!

Let's help another Etsian win a GREAT prize!!!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Starting School... Again.

Yesterday was my first day of class for my Master's Degree. I'm happy to say I made it through - barely!! ;)

I decided to head back to school for two main reasons:
1) In running this small business by myself, I've found some areas where I just don't know what I'm doing well enough! So getting a Master's in Business with an emphasis in Marketing should help me to run a better business and become more successful in the process.
2) To put it frankly, we needed the money from me taking out student loans and putting my current student loans into deferment. Yes, it's just using debt to pay off other debt, but at least it should be a lower interest rate than the debt I'll be paying off!

Not only was it my first day of my Master's degree, but it is going to be the first schoolwork that I take almost completely online! They make me go to campus for proctored exams, but otherwise everything else is via the web. There's a lot of new technology out there since I got my Bachelor's degree, so it's a little scary to dive in and see what I can do!

So, I guess I'll be more busy from now on, between running Java Jess Publishing full time and going to school full time. But I'm hoping it will be worth it!!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Why there is sometimes cat hair on my items...

I'm a proud pet owner of 3 cats and 1 dog, and have no problems admitting it to just about anyone. I show off pictures, and even have it in my Etsy shop profile that we have a "pet-friendly" home.

However, it can sometimes create more work for me when it comes to running a business from my home office. I meticulously run lint rollers over my items, usually once before printing and then twice before shipping/delivering.

That being said, sometimes you just plain miss one or two stray hairs! It stinks, but it's part of having an office with pets.

There's also this, which I discovered yesterday while getting ready to work some more on a beautiful rug:

Needless to say, I was slightly unhappy with our youngest cat! ;)

My guess is that I'll be using many many sheets off the lint roller for this particular project...

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

What to Blog About

I've been slow at blogging lately, mostly because I've been overwhelmed with certain life complications and enjoying all the orders that have come my way. :)

That being said, sometimes I just can't come up with something original to blog about!

I thought about blogging about Memorial Day, or maybe choosing some favorites from Etsy again, but neither of those encouraged a creative spark.

So, do you have any good suggestions for things to blog about? Maybe something I can use at any point throughout the year when I hit a blogging roadblock like I have recently? :) Feel free to comment below and help me out!