October 31, 2015

30 Day Small Business Cleanse: Day 30

We just wanted to start off by thanking everyone for their support over the past 29 days! This has been an amazing, sometimes grueling experience and we are so appreciative of all of your support! Sitting down and working on these assignments isn't easy. This was quite the undertaking with a small babe and a business to run while working other jobs. It's been a lot of late nights and early mornings, but it has been worth all of the hard work. To anyone thinking about doing something similar, do it!!! It's hard work, but the reward is so great!


Yesterday: What does your marketing plan look like? If you haven’t looked at it in a while, now is the time. Make sure that it reflects the changes in your mission statement and business plan as well as what you’ve learned from your analytics. If you don’t have a marketing plan yet, now is the time to come up with one!

The last few years have been a little crazy. Two years ago, we were launching our Kickstarter campaign, moving ourselves and our studio, meeting wholesale and retail orders, and getting ready to do all the holiday shows that we'd signed up for. Last year, Rosemary was almost completely out of commission, and Robin was trying to take care of everything life and business related. This is the first time in two years that we've been able to sit down and come up with a schedule for the next twelve months without it being completely destroyed before it even begins.

We approached this exercise the old school way, with pen and paper. We started off by choosing three marketing goals for the coming year. Then we divided a piece of paper into three columns with the months of the year. Our next step was to add any deadlines, important commitments, vacation time etc. Then we chose what our ideal launch deadlines would be for 2016.

From there, everything just sort of fell into place. It's still just a rough draft, we'll be refining it over the next few weeks, and trying it out over this next year. Some things will work out the way we planned, others just simply won't and we'll have to figure out how to schedule those differently. Either way, it's a good start.


Today: Yay! You made it! Take a look at the list of goals you made on Day 2. Where have you succeeded and where have you come up short? What 3 steps can you undertake to maintain this momentum or what can you do to help you reach your goals if you weren’t able to within these 30 days. 

October 30, 2015

30 Day Small Business Cleanse: Day 29

It's so crazy, we're already at day 29!!! Nearly there, we're in the home stretch!

Yesterday: Take a look at your analytics. Where is your traffic coming from? What are your most popular posts, items or pages. Why is that? What are your least popular posts, items or pages. Why is that? Where are you putting your energy and is it paying off?


For this assignment, we looked at our Etsy shop, blog, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter. Ugh, that was a mouthful! We decided not to include Tumblr or LinkedIn, or you know Ello (ugh! Ello!).

It was helpful to sit down and look at all of our data all at once. Some of the information we gleaned was surprising (both good and bad) and some of it was more or less what we'd expected to see. It's no surprise that anything baby related was an instant winner on any social media platform. On the other hand, we never knew just how much blog traffic comes from Facebook.

The information from today's task is already proving useful in a more practical sense as well. Since we're currently in the process of evaluating our line of paper goods, we're weaving in the analytics to help us decide what to keep, what to change and what to discontinue.

With this exercise, we realized just how much we tend to focus on the shorter term in regards to our analytics and don't look at the bigger picture quite as much. When you widen your scope, it changes your perspective quite drastically. It's so easy to live and die by the daily or weekly numbers, but it's only when you look at the broader picture that you realize things are not as bad as they seem.


Today: What does your marketing plan look like? If you haven’t looked at it in a while, now is the time. Make sure that it reflects the changes in your mission statement and business plan as well as what you’ve learned from your analytics. If you don’t have a marketing plan yet, now is the time to come up with one!

October 29, 2015

30 Day Small Business Cleanse: Day 28

Yesterday: What tools does your business need to grow? What would make your life and your business easier (other than winning the lottery!)? Make a list of 3 moderately priced purchases for your business that you can make over the next year. Then create a financial plan that will allow you to acquire them. Be realistic!

L-R: Lundeen's in Culver City, a wholesale order heading out to Lundeen's
Sitting down to discuss yesterday's assignment, we realized how far we've come over the past 27 days. As we work through the different steps of this project, it's becoming easier to identify the areas that need work. One of our goals for this cleanse is to learn to work smarter rather than harder and this is the lens through which we viewed this task.

As our business has grown over the past three years, shipping has become a bigger and bigger aspect of our business lives. We ship everything, online orders, wholesale orders, custom print jobs, Kickstarter rewards, samples... And one of the stupidest things we do right now is print all of our shipping labels on our office printer. So the first order of business really needs to be a real shipping label printer (and our inkjet printer sighs with relief!).

It was relatively easy to come up with three tools that would allow our business to grow and/or make our life and business easier. The second step is always slightly more complicated. As Robin mentioned in passing when we sat down to work on this step, "it's always easy to come up with new ways to spend money on the business!" This is definitely true! After some careful planning, we're pretty confident that we'll be able to make our three purchases within the next twelve months.

A trip to the post office!
Today: Take a look at your analytics. Where is your traffic coming from? What are your most popular posts, items or pages. Why is that? What are your least popular posts, items or pages. Why is that? Where are you putting your energy and is it paying off?

October 28, 2015

30 Day Small Business Cleanse: Day 27

Yesterday: Think about your branding. Does it still fit your company and it’s newly polished mission statement? Does it reflect your refreshed business plan? If it does, then think about 3 ways to strengthen your message. If it doesn’t, think about 3 ways to bring everything in line.

L-R: old blog layout, new blog layout.
Branding for Ink+Smog Editions is something that we've always approached as a work in progress. As our business grows and changes, we think it's important to have our branding grow and change along with it.

For the purposes of this exercise, we've defined branding as the entirety of the Ink+Smog Editions experience. As we've made our way through this 30 day small business cleanse, we've worked on many aspects of our brand's overall identity. Still, there are a few items that need to be brought into line.

Our table display at the Unique LA 2014 summer market.
The three areas that we feel need the most attention at the moment are our collateral, our website and our signage. Believe it or not, we are only just coming to the end of our old offset business cards. We need to sit down and design our own letterpress business cards, it is long overdue. Second, as we've discussed in earlier assignments, it is high time that we get our own website up and running. We also need to go through and update all of our Etsy listing images. And third, our show signage could use some work. We update our display every year, and while last year's metallic balloons were a crazy hit, we haven't really found anything that works quite as well this year.

We have integrated each of these three tasks into the scheduled workflow for the next few months that we created on day 23 of this project. We're hoping that by creating a deadline, we'll have the impetus to move forward on these projects that have been on the back burner for too long.


Today: What tools does your business need to grow? What would make your life and your business easier (other than winning the lottery!)? Make a list of 3 moderately priced purchases for your business that you can make over the next year. Then create a financial plan that will allow you to acquire them. Be realistic!

October 27, 2015

30 Day Small Business Cleanse: Day 26

Yesterday: Buy yourself some flowers today, or reward yourself with an inexpensive treat. You’ve earned it, you’re nearly there!

L-R: Lunch at Proof, Rosemary and the babe, delicious!
Yesterday was delightful! We started the day off going to The Mama Circle's Mama Mornings meet-up at Individual Medley in Atwater Village. It was both our first mama meet-up and our first time at Individual Medley. What a lovely organization and a great way to meet other mamas. It was so kind of Individual Medley to host us for the morning, their shop is full of so many beautiful things! The babe had a great time hanging out, she'd never seen so many babies before!

From there, we took care of some business and dropped off a new order of Greetings from Atwater Village cards to our retailer Treehaus across the street. Their new space is beautiful! So light and airy and full of so many great pieces!

Our 30 day small business cleanse reward was lunch at Proof on Glendale. It was delicious! We haven't spent too much time in Atwater Village. We had such a great time today, we can't wait to go back!

Today: Think about your branding. Does it still fit your company and it’s newly polished mission statement? Does it reflect your refreshed business plan? If it does, then think about 3 ways to strengthen your message. If it doesn’t, think about 3 ways to bring everything in line.

October 26, 2015

30 Day Small Business Cleanse: Day 25

Yesterday: Look at your space, do you have boxes that have never been unpacked? A stack of papers you never have time to deal with? Create a window in your day today, put on some music, turn your phone off and tackle those tasks without interruption. Try to get as much done in that window of time. If you can’t finish it in the time you set aside, do the same every day until you’re done.

Robin printing on Sunday.
We would really like to say that we buckled down, turned on the music, turned off our phones and took care of business yesterday, completing our task. We'd love to say that, but we can't. Instead, we had earlier print jobs to finish up, reprints to take care of, a custom project to research and a whole lot of running around to do. By the end of the day, it felt like two days packed into one!

But, we're going to take our own advice, and try to set some time aside today to work on yesterday's task later this week. We'd love to work on it today but we have a whole other day of crazy errands, meetings and projects that need to be taken care of before the week starts in earnest.

Proofing yesterday's prints while we eat breakfast in the studio this morning.
However, we really need to make time for this project in particular. When we moved into our current studio space, we were exhausted. We moved in the middle of December, in the middle of holiday orders and holiday craft shows. We were both still working full time at day jobs and we did our best to move as much as possible on weekends and in the evening. It was a complete nightmare move. Two years later, we're still recovering. And, we still have boxes here and there, lurking in the corners that have yet to be unpacked and dealt with. Now that we're preparing to move again, we need to make it a priority not to move with these boxes still packed.

Scenes from a traumatic move, December 2013.

Today: Buy yourself some flowers today, or reward yourself with an inexpensive treat. You’ve earned it, you’re nearly there!

October 25, 2015

30 Day Small Business Cleanse: Day 24

Yesterday: Develop a calendar system that you will actually use. Try to map out your workflow for the next week to see if it’s going to work for you. Work on it until it does!

When we first started Ink+Smog Editions, Robin was working full time and Rosemary was between freelance contracts. Our product line was rather limited and it was pretty easy to stay on top of things. As we began to pick up steam and Rosemary started a new part time contract, we knew that we needed to come up with a few ways keep everything on track.

One of our solutions was to come up with a monthly workflow sheet. Towards the end of the month, we would sit down and think about the things that we wanted to work on during the next month. What were our goals, how were we going to organize our time, what did we want to blog about... Nothing was set in stone, it was just a way of organizing our thoughts and priorities for the coming month.


We stopped using our workflow system somewhere along the way, probably right around the time we moved to our studio space downtown. Some of the early difficulties we had with the space (unreliable electricity and internet, the struggles of being the second tennant in a new construction that was still under construction!) interrupted some of our good work habits.

Yesterday, we sat down and revisited our old workflow sheet and updated it for November. We've made a few adjustments, adding set printing days for one, removing more elaborate social media goals now that we're more established for another.

We'll see how well this plays out over the next month. Our workflow sheet combined with our giant wall calendar from Paper Source and our daily notebook should be a pretty good overall calendar system. We'll be working out the kinks for the next few weeks, wish us luck!


Today: Look at your space, do you have boxes that have never been unpacked? A stack of papers you never have time to deal with? Create a window in your day today, put on some music, turn your phone off and tackle those tasks without interruption. Try to get as much done in that window of time. If you can’t finish it in the time you set aside, do the same every day until you’re done.

October 24, 2015

30 Day Small Business Cleanse: Day 23

Yesterday: Create a customized checklist of daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly and yearly tasks for your business.


There's nothing quite like making a list of all the things that you do on a daily basis to make your head spin! Yesterday's exercise definitely brought home that we need to be working smarter not harder.

Especially lately, it always feels like we're rushing to do things. That we're constantly printing or packaging or shipping. Somewhere along the way, our carefully crafted work schedule gave way to a little bit of chaos. A good deal of this can be attributed to the arrival of the wee babe, it's hard to print during nap time. But some of it started during the pregnancy when everything revolved around energy levels and nausea.
A little of what's on the press this weekend, hurry up and get your postcards before they're gone. We won't be carrying them for much longer!

Sitting down yesterday and making the initial list and then organizing it into daily, weekly, quarterly and yearly tasks was very helpful. It's very calming to feel like everything is finding it's place. We're going to test out our checklist over the next few weeks to see if we've covered all our bases and to see how it actually works with our lives. A plan is great, but it isn't worth much if it isn't something you can actually stick to.

Today: Develop a calendar system that you will actually use. Try to map out your workflow for the next week to see if it’s going to work for you. Work on it until it does!

October 23, 2015

30 Day Small Business Cleanse: Day 22

Yesterday: Review your business plan. Does it need some polishing? I bet it does! If you don’t have a business plan, now is the time to write one down!


This was a hard one. Not only because it's a big project to undertake, but because it's been a very long very draining week.

Over the years, we've had various business plans for Ink+Smog Editions. As our vision of the company has grown and changed, we've updated our plan to include our new directions and ideas. After three years, we decided it was time to start over and create a new business plan for this new chapter of our business. We've followed different models over the years, but we decided to give this one a try this time. It's one of the links we've been pinning on our Professional Practices board on Pinterest lately. We didn't follow it exactly, but customized it to fit our business and our objectives.

In the interest of full disclosure, we did not fully complete the task today. We got the broad strokes filled in but still need some time to finesse the finer points. This is not the sort of project that you complete in one day. Or even really in one week. It takes a lot of thoughtful conversation and careful consideration. It's a process and not one that should be rushed. We're still ironing out some of the details about our dream client, our promotional strategies and our continuing education, but we're pretty happy with our brand summary and our operations.

We're going to keep working on our new business plan over the next few weeks, we're hoping to have it fully fleshed out by the end of this 30 day project. It is so incredibly helpful to set deadlines for your goals, especially on days when all you want to do at the end of the day is crash out on the couch after putting the baby down to sleep!

Today: Create a customized checklist of daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly and yearly tasks for your business.

October 22, 2015

30 Day Small Business Cleanse: Day 21

A snapshot of a corner of the studio this morning.
Yesterday: Make a list of the business goals you would like to accomplish by this time next year. For each goal, list 3 concrete steps you can take. One in the next few days, one in the next few weeks and one in the next few months.

For this assignment, we tried to keep the scope narrow. It's so easy to come up with a gargantuan list of goals that exist somewhere in the future. But, since we're trying to keep this project firmly rooted in the possible rather than the fantastical, we thought it best to start small.

Over the course of the day, we came up with a list of goals that we would like to accomplish by this time next year. We started off by each thinking independently about what we would like our goals to be and then we started discussing our ideas together. As our discussions progressed, it became clear that we had five objectives that we could agree should be our priority for the coming year.

Our next task was to decide on three concrete steps to take for each goal. It was really helpful to break down the exercise into three temporal levels. By creating a plan for the next few days, the next few weeks and the next few months we were able to each take on specific responsibilities as well as make a more detailed plan for overseeing the project over the next year. We both feel very confident that we will at least make great progress in these areas over the next year if not reach our goals entirely.

Today: Review your business plan. Does it need some polishing? I bet it does! If you don’t have a business plan, now is the time to write one down!

October 21, 2015

30 Day Small Business Cleanse: Day 20

Yesterday: Donate or recycle any old tools, supplies, technology, phones, materials, furniture etc. that you no longer use.


On a regular basis, we find that we have tools, or materials or technology that we no longer use and do not plan on using hanging around in the studio. We like to donate these items to a local charity like Goodwill or the Council for Jewish Women Thrift Shops.

It's really helpful to go through your work space periodically and not just clean things up but clean things out. We all end up holding onto things that we don't need. This exercise finally gave us permission to get rid of an electric pencil sharpener that hasn't worked in months. We've tried fixing it, we've tried banging it, we've tried cursing at it (amazingly that last one, didn't do a thing!) but nothing worked. We also donated a few items from our studio kitchen and bathroom as well as some supplies that we no longer used.

It feels really good to clean house every once in a while. We don't always make the time to work on these smaller tasks. But when we do, it can make a world of difference.

Today: Make a list of the business goals you would like to accomplish by this time next year. For each goal, list 3 concrete steps you can take. One in the next few days, one in the next few weeks and one in the next few months.

October 20, 2015

30 Day Small Business Cleanse: Day 19

Yesterday: Think about the businesses that you admire, that are similar to yours. Carefully choose one or two whose trajectory you would like to emulate. Spend some time looking at how they handle their business. What are their marketing strategies? How do they use social media? What steps can you take to get yourself to where they are?

Pages from Rosemary's notebook from the very early days of Ink+Smog Editions.
When we first started Ink+Smog Editions, we were very confident in our process and in our means of production, but we were uncertain about the business side of our business. We had very little experience setting up an online store, managing business accounts on social media or dealing with wholesale customers. One of the ways that we dealt with our knowledge gap was to look at what other businesses were doing and how they were doing it. We reached out to the small business owners we knew and asked them questions, we looked at how other people had set up their Etsy shops and we spent hours exploring Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Some of the examples we followed were in our field but many weren't. It was so helpful to see the ups and downs that other people had gone through in order to figure things out for our business.

Whenever we've mentored other small business owners, we often suggest that they start off by doing the same thing. Look around, see what other people are doing and learn from how they've set their businesses up. How do they handle the things that you are having issues with. How have they gone from startups to whatever stage they've currently reached. How can you learn from what they do well and what they don't.

Three years in, we still do this. Whenever we go to do something we've never done before, we look at who else is doing the same thing and how they handle it. We then try to incorporate some of those elements into our process. We try some of the tricks that they've mastered and see how they fit with our company. We're still inspired by some of the companies that we chose as role models early on. We've also added companies along the way. It's been helpful to find new inspiration at every twist and turn.
Some of our role models. L-R: Iron Curtain Press, Anemone Letterpress and Dot&Lil.
Today: Donate or recycle any old tools, supplies, technology, phones, materials, furniture etc. that you no longer use.

October 19, 2015

30 Day Small Business Cleanse: Days 17+18

L-R: Robin printing postcards, the lovely sky at the end of the day outside the studio, the babe watching Robin work.
Saturday: Catch up and relax! Take some time today to tie up the loose ends from any of your earlier projects. All done? Then relax!

Well it would have been nice to spend the day doing nothing but relaxing and enjoying cute little baby cuddles (omg, they're totally the cutest!) but there was printing to be done this weekend, and orders to be caught up on and a few loads of laundry as well. We enjoyed our day off tremendously, especially since the weather has been cooling off a little here lately (it'll be back to hell-adjacent by Wednesday though!), we hope you enjoyed your day off too!

Sunday: Know your numbers! Figure out the cost of doing business. What are your fixed costs, your variable costs and your bottom line?

One of the reasons why so many small businesses fail is poor management. New business owners often lack relevant business and management expertise in finance, purchasing, selling, large scale production and the management of employees. In order to run your business efficiently, you need to work on the business side of your business just as much if not more than you work on the production side of your business. If you don't know your numbers, you'll find yourself sinking fast.

We didn't always know our business inside out. As we mentioned the other day, we started our business in a very roundabout kind of way. We knew we wanted to work on something together, and then it turned out to be this. We had some experience going in, but there was still a rather big learning curve.

There are two types of costs incurred by a small business. You have fixed costs, these costs stay the same month to month and sometimes year to year. A good example would be the rent for your studio space, utilities, hosting fees, payroll, memberships to professional organizations etc. Then you have variable costs. These costs vary from month to month or year to year. These can include trade or craft show fees, advertising, short-term help, special purchases among other things.

In order to make your business profitable, you must first determine your bottom line. This is done by adding your fixed costs and your variable costs. A good way to do this, is to look at last year's numbers. If this is your first year, then combine your year to date with your projections for the rest of the year. This bottom line number tells you how much of your product you need to sell or how many clients you need to maintain in order to turn a profit.

It's important as you run your business to keep up to date on your numbers. Check in every once in a while to make sure that you're still on target. Set goals, create action plans, keep pushing yourself to be better at what you do. And know your numbers, know them backwards and forwards. If you don't know where you are financially, then who does?

We've just started working with a new online accounting program called Wave. It's similar to Freshbooks but free. We've got high hopes that it will work well for us until we're ready to make the jump to Quickbooks.

Today: Think about the businesses that you admire, that are similar to yours. Carefully choose one or two whose trajectory you would like to emulate. Spend some time looking at how they handle their business. What are their marketing strategies? How do they use social media? What steps can you take to get yourself to where they are?

October 17, 2015

30 Day Small Business Cleanse: Day 16

Yesterday: Sit down and read over your mission statement. Does it still accurately reflect your business and it’s aspirations? Polish it until it does. If you don’t have a mission statement, now is the time to write one!

Before we started working on this step of the 30 day small business cleanse, we really didn't think that we had an official mission statement. Like a lot of small businesses, we started off with an idea about what we wanted to do and we just started doing it. In fact, I'm not even sure that we really knew that we were starting a business when we started our business. A friend of ours was organizing a pop-up shop and asked us if we wanted to participate. At the time, we'd just started working on some linoleum blocks using photographs that Rosemary had taken of neon signs. So we thought, well why don't we just turn them into cards rather than prints and sell those. We printed them by hand (literally with our hands!) and that was the beginning of Ink+Smog Editions.

Ink+Smog Editions in the beginning.
Fast forward three years and here we are, still working with urban imagery, still crushing on neon signs, still interested in the city that surrounds us. As we've grown and changed, we've developed what we like to call our elevator speech. Our thirty second spiel about who we are and what we do. But we'd never really thought about it as a mission statement. But it is. In a nutshell it explains who the company is and what we're interested in. We probably couldn't have come up with a better mission statement if we'd sat down and tried to come up one.


One of the really interesting parts of this 30 day project, is that it is giving us the opportunity to connect with our company. We're sitting down to do work only to realize that we'd been slowly working on or thinking about a lot of these things over the years and in many cases, we've already down at least the foot work if not the actual work of the assignment. This project is bolstering our confidence in part because we're realizing that even though we've never sat down and worked on some of these points in as concrete a way as we felt we needed to, we'd often done the work more organically along the way.

Today: Catch up and relax! Take some time today to tie up the loose ends from any of your earlier projects. All done? Then relax!

Oh we are so looking forward to this! Baby cuddles here we come!

October 16, 2015

30 Day Small Business Cleanse: Day 15

Yesterday: Review your client/project process. What works, what doesn’t? What are your road blocks. Brainstorm 3 ways to simplify your workflow and then create an action plan for implementing them.

Discussing yesterday's tasks over a late but very civilized breakfast.
Huzzah! This was just the impetus we needed to figure out some of the issues with our custom project work flow. Up until now, we have only ever done a few select custom jobs here and there. But, one of the benefits of purchasing the Heidelberg Windmill press a few years ago, was that we would be able to take on more custom jobs. Here is one of the roadblocks we tackled as part of this assignment, the outcome of which we're hoping will help simplify our workflow.

For the most part, we've figured out the back end paperwork for custom work as we went along. We have all of the components, but we've always had trouble keeping track of the project from start to finish, especially since there are two of us and we're each responsible for different stages. After a fair bit of discussion we decided we needed to create a client work sheet. A printed sheet that would follow each stage of a custom job from start to finish. We were inspired by similar sheets created by Zie Campbell a graphic designer, illustrator and blogger. She constructed several layouts to help her keep track of her different freelance projects (her sheets are available as a download here for purchase). We're hoping that these work sheets will function as a roadmap of sorts for our custom work from now on.

Some custom client work. L-R: Enclosure note cards for Love&Arrow, wedding invitation for Sharon+Jared, note cards for Véhicule Press and Love&Arrow, stationery for Outfit Home.
Today: Sit down and read over your mission statement. Does it still accurately reflect your business and it’s aspirations? Polish it until it does. If you don’t have a mission statement, now is the time to write one!

October 15, 2015

30 Day Small Business Cleanse: Day 14

Yesterday: Evaluate your current accounting system. What is working? What isn’t? What would make things easier?

Finding an accounting system that works for us has been one of our biggest frustrations over the past few years. For a while, we were using an online system called Outright that worked pretty well. It automatically kept track of every purchase and all we had to do was go through periodically to make sure that everything was properly classified. The system wasn't perfect but we were able to print out reports that helped us file our taxes and it was really easy to keep track of everything. It was very low maintenance and it was free to use. However, it was eventually purchased by Go Daddy and everything changed. Updates made it clunkier and it became more complicated for us to use, so we decided against making the jump when Go Daddy decided to make it a paid program.

We're currently stuck deciding between Quickbooks and Freshbooks. It would be far easier with our current banking setup to go with Quickbooks but it's a steeper learning curve and more of a financial investment. We can't currently choose Freshbooks because our bank isn't supported. From everything we've heard, Freshbooks is amazing for businesses like ours.

What it comes down to really though, is sorting out our banking situation before we move on to choosing a new accounting system. We love our credit union, but it's so incredibly limited in what they are able to offer. We so badly wanted our foray into cooperative banking to be a success but we've been miserable almost since we joined. We just can't put it off any longer, we need to sort things out so that we can move on and simplify our lives and our business.

Today: Review your client/project process. What works, what doesn’t? What are your road blocks. Brainstorm 3 ways to simplify your workflow and then create an action plan for implementing them.

October 14, 2015

30 Day Small Business Cleanse: Day 13

Yesterday: Assess your product line. Lay out one of each of your items in such a way that you can see exactly what you’re producing. Does everything work well together? What is missing? Where do you go from here?

Our product line laid out on the wall in the studio.
We started out by taping each of our items up on the wall across from the press at the front of our space. We organized them by type and by set.

It was really helpful to lay everything out together. We're always working on pieces here and there that it's really easy to lose sight of the bigger picture. Having the physical item in front of you is really very different than looking at your items listed in your online shop or when working on layouts for your look book or catalog.

Some of our cards and prints pinned to our studio wall.
Working on this exercise together led to some very interesting discussions about the design directions we've taken as well as where we are currently headed. We're thinking about making some pretty big changes to some old favorites as well adding some really fun new pieces.

Overall this was a really fun exercise! Seeing our whole line laid out in front of us was really interesting and really gratifying. It's really easy to forget all of the effort and hard work that has gone into each and every design. We get so caught up with prints, reprints, packaging and shipping that we rarely look at the individual pieces anymore. Even when going through and spot checking or doing quality control, we hardly look at the piece itself. This was a nice reminder of where we came from and will definitely help us get to where we want to go. So much so, that we're planning on leaving everything up, at least for the time being.

Today: Evaluate your current accounting system. What is working? What isn’t? What would make things easier?

October 13, 2015

30 Day Small Business Cleanse: Day 12

Yesterday: Review your wholesale process. Come up with 3 ideas to streamline your process and begin implementing them.

L-R: packaged wholesale order ready to ship, Wholesale street in DTLA near the studio and a display of Ink+Smog Editions cards at Urban Radish in the Arts District in DTLA.
Over the past two years, we've been slowly building up our wholesale presence. You can see some of our retailers here. One of our objectives is to turn more towards the wholesale end of our business. This was the main impetus for upgrading to a Heidelberg Windmill press a few years ago. In order to do this, we have spent a lot of time recently reviewing our wholesale materials and trying to rethink our wholesale process.

We've spent a great deal of time discussing where we want our wholesale business to be, but have only just begun working on how to make the process simpler and faster. Yesterday's exercise was really great, it forced us to think about all the different ideas and obstacles we've been talking about but then we had to boil everything down to three ideas.

Working on the wholesale exercise yesterday with coffee.
One thing that keeps coming up time and again in this project, is that it is more than time for us to build our own website. It would be particularly helpful in this regard since it would allow us to create a wholesale portal that would simplify the process both for us as well as for our wholesale buyers.

The second idea we discussed involves our invoicing process. At the moment, our invoicing is cumbersome and a little complicated. We need to do some research into a new method for creating as well as keeping track of invoices.

And third, we would really like to move to Freshbooks. This is very much tied to our second solution. In order to do this, we need to change banks since ours is not currently supported by Freshbooks.

These three ideas are really just a beginning, an entry point into a much more complicated discussion. We will start with these three and see where we go from there.

L-R: A display of our cards at Los Angeles County Store in Silverlake (photo courtesy of their Instagram), the cover of our 2015 Look Book, some of our cards on the Beautiful Things LA bus (photo courtesy of their Instagram)
Today: Assess your product line. Lay out one of each of your items in such a way that you can see exactly what you’re producing. Does everything work well together? What is missing? Where do you go from here?

October 12, 2015

30 Day Small Business Cleanse: Day 9+10+11

It's pretty clear by now that Friday (and most of Saturday) was a bit of a disaster! We are back up and running however so now we'll try to catch up and get back on track!

Working on Friday's exercise, listing our strengths and weaknesses.
Friday: Make a list of your company’s strengths and weaknesses. Be honest and ruthless. Create an action plan to implement the changes you need.

Friday's exercise was a version of SWOT analysis (Strengths Weaknesses Opportunities Threats) often used to assess a business, it's resources and environment. It's a great way to understand your business and discover what you do well as well as where you could be improving.

This was a hard task to undertake, maybe one of the hardest we've worked on so far. It's really difficult to step away from your business in order to examine it objectively, or as objectively as possible. We were surprised at how easy it was to see all of the flaws or weaknesses but difficult to see our own strengths. It was a very valuable exercise, not only because it allowed us to isolate what we thought we were doing wrong, but because it showed us how easy it is to get caught in the failure trap, to see only where there is room for improvement rather than celebrating what you're also getting right.
L-R: working on Saturday's tasks, our workflow calendar, Herman Heidelberg.
Saturday: Try to think of 3 things that are holding your business back, and come up with two solutions or plans for each one.

We felt like this exercise really built on what we had worked on during Friday's task. By examining our weaknesses, we were able to ascertain where our business was doing well and where it needed more work. But most importantly, we were able to figure out what our weaknesses had in common. And these are what we see as the things that are holding our business back. By going through and working all of the steps of this cleanse, we're slowly working our way through issues we've always had as well as learning how to address new issues as they arise. Hopefully this will make us a stronger and more resilient company going forth.

Our composing table before the cleanup.
Sunday: Clean up and declutter your production space. Do the same for your shipping area if you have one!

It's always more challenging to declutter our production space than we think it'll be. We seem to have a tendency towards workspace creep, projects and materials slowly spread out until they cover all surfaces. This has gotten much worse since the baby made her appearance. It felt really good to go through and tidy things up, and we took the opportunity to get rid of a lot of things that we'd been holding onto for a while. We're very much looking forward to dropping off a few bags of stuff at Goodwill!

Today: Review your wholesale process. Come up with 3 ideas to streamline your process and begin implementing them.

October 10, 2015

30 Day Small Business Cleanse: Day 9 (sorry no posts today!)

Hi there,

Unfortunately we won't be able to post today's installment of our 30 day small business cleanse. As many of you know, we've been weathering a heat wave here in Los Angeles, and as a result we had a power outage yesterday during the day that lasted into the wee hours this morning. We needed to get ourselves, and most importantly the wee one into some air conditioning. All the moving around and lack of familiar surroundings turned everyone's schedules upside down, including the baby's. We will be back on track by monday, we promise!

Best,
Rosemary+Robin+bébé


October 09, 2015

30 Day Small Business Cleanse: Day 8

Yesterday: Delete apps from your phone or tablet that you don’t use. Organize the apps you do use in order to optimize your device’s layout.


This exercise was pretty straight forward, but applied to us differently. While we share a lot of the responsibilities of running our business, we also play different roles. We decided to each talk about how we approached yesterday's assignment. We do not have a tablet at this time, we both have iPhone 5S smart phones.

Robin: I don't use my phone for business as much as Rosemary does. I began by reorganizing the layout of my apps within my phone. Previously, I had my business-related apps spread out over my phone's three screens. So the first thing I did was to move everything Ink+Smog related to the first screen. I then played with the layout, taking apps out of folders and making them more accessible. I also deleted a few apps that I'd tried at different times but never really used for one reason or another. The one thing that I still need to do, is go through and delete old text messages, the data portion of my phone keeps growing and I feel like I need to get it a little more under control.

Rosemary: I've been spending a lot of time on my phone over the past year but especially over the past few months. I was really sick for a lot of my pregnancy, and so ended up working from my phone a lot. In that time, I've moved my apps around countless times, optimizing the apps I use for the business while make room for pregnancy and now baby apps. Overall, I'm pretty happy with how my app layout. The first thing I did, was go through my apps and delete ones that I use infrequently or not at all. I then went through and cleaned up the ones that I do use. Honestly, cleaning up my favorites in Safari is what has made the most difference for me. I used to keep countless windows open all the time. Now, with the pages I actually need stored as favorites, I don't have to spend all that time hunting around for what I need. I too need to delete old text messages. I've already downsized a great deal, but there's more to be done.

We both found this to be a really helpful exercise. It helped us figure out what tools we're each using and how we're using them. It was also a great opportunity to share the tips and tricks we've each come up with along the way.

Today: Make a list of your company’s strengths and weaknesses. Be honest and ruthless. Create an action plan to implement the changes you need.

October 08, 2015

30 Day Small Business Cleanse: Day 7

Yesterday: Sit down and look over your website critically. What needs work? What needs to be freshened up? What have you been putting off? Get to work, create an action plan!

Before we get started, why not take a look at our online shop to see what we're talking about!
This was not a difficult task to undertake, but for some reason it's been the hardest blog post to write so far. Maybe it's because it's our seventh day in a row, maybe it's because it's been a particularly long and exhausting day, or maybe there's no good reason at all. Whatever the cause, we might as well start at the beginning.

We approached this exercise from two different directions. First, we sat down and wrote down all the things we've been talking about over the past few weeks. We discussed what we thought was working well and what wasn't. We tried to approach the matter the way we would approach a studio critique in art school, to look at our site as though we were complete strangers. We were honest and forthright and we tried not to go too deeply into any one point.

L-R: our discussion list and the Etsy worksheet, our Etsy shop's front page, working on our shop critique
Our second approach was to try critiquing our shop using the Shop Critique Worksheet that Etsy sent out to all of it's sellers who had signed up for their holiday season email seller's seminar. When we were first starting out, we signed up for community critiques rather frequently in order to get feedback on how we were setting things up. We had mixed results with this line of attack. It was very helpful in that it sent us off in search of very specific information and asked us to look at that information in a different light than we had previously. However, it's scope was rather limited and didn't really help us come up with an action plan.
Some of the listings in our Etsy shop. We need to change our background, the wood just doesn't photograph well.
With the information we gathered from our discussion and the results of the critique worksheet, we then sat down and came up with our action plan. We now have a much more specific list of tasks we'd like to accomplish and a number of items to research further. Chief among those is to reshoot all of our items since we're not entirely enthusiastic about the background we used as well as updating our shipping profiles and finally utilizing the new shipping tools that Etsy made available in the spring. We also need to go back and research shopping cart websites again as well as finally secure our url!

Some of our Greetings from... cards.
In the meantime, we've updated the look of our shop to fall into line with the update we made to our social media accounts earlier this week. It's nice to have everything all fresh and tidy!

Today: Delete apps from your phone or tablet that you don’t use. Organize the apps you do use in order to optimize your device’s layout.

October 07, 2015

30 Day Small Business Cleanse: Day 6

Yesterday: clean up your inbox, organize your email. Unsubscribe from any mailing lists you don’t read regularly.

L-R: cleaning out the inbox and baby cuddles!
The instructions for yesterday's endeavor were relatively simple but good grief it took a long time!
Having a small babe has definitely changed how we get work done around here. The majority of this task took place on our phones while balancing a sleeping or near-sleeping baby on the other arm. It also hasn't helped that we're all slowly getting over a pretty nasty cold.

Be that as it may, it felt good to delve into the wilds of our email inbox after putting it off for so long. It's amazing how easy it is to flag an email as important and how hard it is to unflag it after the matter has been dealt with. We had soooo many flagged emails, it was ridiculous. Now that we've reduced the number of flagged emails, we feel so much lighter. We've also gone through and unsubscribed from a number of email lists that we rarely read. This was always such a pain, every time they would arrive in our inbox, we would groan and talk about unsubscribing. Instead of taking the time to unsubscribe as they arrived, we would always just quickly delete them and move on. It feels so good knowing that the added pressure has been removed once and for all. We also took the opportunity to send emails that we'd long been putting off. After this exercise, we feel rather virtuous. Now the trick will be keeping up with the regular maintenance!

So far, the tasks for this project have been pretty simple and relatively easy to deal with. Our main obstacle has been making sure to create the time to work on them carefully and consistently. But then, that is one of the main goals of the project, to become more organized and to get back to healthy work habits. So we seem to be on the right road.

Today: Sit down and look over your website critically. What needs work? What needs to be freshened up? What have you been putting off? Get to work, create an action plan!

October 06, 2015

30 Day Small Business Cleanse: Day 5

Day 5 of our 30 day small business cleanse!

Yesterday: Take a look at your social media accounts. Refresh your about pages, change up your profile pictures and cover images. Have you combined work and personal accounts? Does that work for your business or brand? If it doesn’t, then think about creating a separate account for each. Also look at the people and businesses you follow or like. Carefully evaluate who or what you can unfollow or unlike.
Our new Twitter design, including the profile photograph taken by Duran Castro for his blog The Diligent Hand. The background photograph was taken by Rosemary atop the Ace Hotel in DTLA on a very cold day in January of this year.
Yesterday's assignment was to breathe some fresh air into our social media accounts. We'd been toying with some new ideas on various platforms for the last few weeks but as part of this exercise we unified them all under variations on the same design.

We were particularly excited to finally use one of the photographs taken of us last year by Duran Castro during the photo shoot we did in our studio space for his blog The Diligent Hand. We like all the photographs that he took that day but especially love this one of us proofing prints while setting up the press.

We also devoted a great deal of time to tidying up our social media accounts. While we share a lot of media across different platforms, we've found it increasingly frustrating to look through them. We had never really found the time to systematically go through each and every person, page or business we liked or followed. There were a number of inactive or neglected accounts, an inexplicable amount of pages that we had no recollection of ever following and several accounts that made sense during our earlier and less focused iterations.

L-R: our blog yesterday before we refreshed our design and afterwards.
It was really interesting to sort through who and what we wanted to follow. It led to numerous conversations about who we are as a company and what our brand and thus scope of interest should include. As we've grown and shifted over the past nearly three years, we've assumed and shed several identities as a company. We've moved further away from our fine art studio training and are really learning how to function more in the sphere of graphic design and illustration. It was fascinating to see how our InstagramFacebookPinterest and Twitter feeds changed almost instantly as we pared things down.

As part of this task, we also closed down a number of profiles on social media platforms that never quite panned out (ummm, we still don't know what to do about ello!). We've always known that it's important to keep an eye on our online identity, but it's sometimes hard to find the time. Now that we've really gone through and streamlined everything all at once, it should be a lot easier to keep up with as we go along. And we look forward to utilizing tools like Twitter and Tumblr much for frequently now that they're much more manageable.

Today: Clean up your inbox, organize your email. Unsubscribe from any mailing lists you don’t read regularly.

This is one job we are definitely not looking forward to!

October 05, 2015

30 Day Small Business Cleanse: Day 4

Welcome to day 4 of our 30 day small business cleanse!

Yesterday: clean up your computer. Start with your desktop then move on to your files. Choose a file structure then implement it. You’ll be amazed at what you find lurking in unexplored corners of your hard drive.


L-R: our inspiration for the day, hard at work, how we really felt at the outset of this project.

Our assignment yesterday had us plumbing the depths of our computer hard drive. In the interest of full disclosure, we only worked on our business files and left our personal files out of it (or else we could possibly still be working on it today!).

This was not a project we were particularly looking forward to and we did make a last minute shopping trip to Target as well as spend a little time on Facebook and on the internet looking at memes before we buckled down. Then we listened to Ice Cube, drank some coffee, put on some gangsta rap and adulted!

When we finally got down to work, we were pleasantly surprised to find that for the most part, our computer files are pretty organized. Over the years we've come up with a relatively easy to follow file structure. However, there was definitely some room to improve. We ended up focusing on cleaning up file names and locations as well as resolving a few redundancy issues.

It felt good to go through and clean things up, it certainly makes finding things a lot easier since we don't need to do quite as much digging around for things anymore. All in all, it was helpful exercise, we feel like we're getting things organized and making our lives a little easier with each day of this project.

Thank you for all of the encouragement we've been getting from all corners, it definitely helps to hear!

Today: take a look at your social media accounts. Refresh your about pages, change up your profile pictures and cover images. Have you combined work and personal accounts? Does that work for your business or brand? If it doesn’t, then think about creating a separate account for each. Also look at the people and businesses you follow or like. Carefully evaluate who or what you can unfollow or unlike.

Don't forget, it's not too late to join us on our 30 day small business cleanse, here's our schedule!



October 04, 2015

30 Day Small Business Cleanse: Day 3

As we get to work on day 3 of our 30 day small business cleanse, we're starting to settle into a pretty good routine. Happily, this is one of the project goals that we worked out as part of yesterday's assignment.

Yesterday's undertaking was to assess your overall situation. Where is your business now and what are you trying to achieve with this cleanse? Make a list of goals for this project.


Our list of goals for this project, but first coffee...
In many ways, this gets at the crux of why we've embarked on this project in the first place. The past year has been erratic at best. Many of the work habits we had gave way to stealing moments here and there to get things done. This has led to a certain level of chaos. The first order of business then, is to get ourselves organized.

Our second goal for this project, is to clean out the dead wood. It's an opportunity to examine what we do and how we do it in an effort to figure out what is working and what isn't. To pinpoint our weaknesses and come up with strategies for dealing with them.

Third, to create healthy habits. Constantly working on the go is the obvious outcome of not having much of a set schedule for the past year. It was very difficult to plan very far in advance, and as a result, we were often flying by the seat of our pants. Working this way all of a sudden meant that things got missed, or forgotten, or done twice. By getting back to healthy work habits, we will be able to get more done in less time. The obvious and immediate reward will be more baby cuddles!

The fourth goal may seem the most obvious but important to mention nevertheless. Our main objective is to figure out the lay of the land. Where are we now and where do we want to be. This includes a year from now, two years from now, five years from now...

And lastly, our intent is to learn how to work smarter and not harder. We've been doing a lot of reading lately, and one of the things we've found the most helpful are the creative business blog posts by Sycamore Street Press. Their post 10 Steps to Working Smarter (not Harder) has been especially helpful since we find ourselves in a very similar situation. We're not able to maintain the crazy, all-out work schedules we once had. This last goal may sound a lot easier than it is.

All in all, yesterday's task was a good early step. It led to some really great discussions and has allowed us to chart a path that we both feel comfortable with. And most importantly, it's getting the creative juices flowing!

Today''s goal: Clean up your computer. Start with your desktop then move on to your files. Choose a file structure then implement it. You’ll be amazed at what you find lurking in unexplored corners of your hard drive.

Ugh! Wish us luck!

October 03, 2015

30 Day Small Business Cleanse: Day 2

Well here we are, day 2 of our 30 day small business cleanse.

Yesterday's Task: Clean up and declutter your physical workspace. Clean off your desk, create a space to work over the next 29 days!

The assignment for day one was a good way to get our feet wet. We were lucky enough not to have to start out from absolute scratch. We were both really sick with a nasty cold last week, and as a result we did a mini cleanup early in the week in order to de-germ the studio. There were still a few piles here and there as well as some materials that had been shifted around from surface to surface for the past few weeks that were finally dealt with properly (there is nothing like a good deadline, and a little public pressure to help you get things done!). Oh, and miracle of miracles, we finally fixed the work calendar that hangs above the standing desk! It may seem like a small victory but it was pretty huge for us!

Our desks look much better after today's cleanup!
There's something about clearing your work surface off, washing it down and re-organizing it again that makes you feel like you have things under control. Like you're clearing out the cobwebs and are ready to get to work. Overall it was a pretty gradual way to get this project started but probably just the right speed for us right now.

L-R: We finally fixed our wall calendar (btw, just above the calendar are our very first experiments in letterpress, from grad school!) and afternoon baby cuddles as a reward!
Today's Task: Assess your overall situation. Where is your business now and what are you trying to achieve with this cleanse? Make a list of goals for this project.

Today's undertaking requires a little bit more consideration. It'll be a good exercise to help us put down on paper some of the ideas we've been throwing around for the past few weeks. Although we're over the moon that the little one is sleeping through the night, we do sort of miss those 3am nursing/pumping sessions. Not only because of the irresistible baby cuddles, but also because we often had great impromptu business meetings strangely enough.