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Is This Interesting to You?

If you've spent much time on this site or read an article about us, you probably know that starting and running a thriving small business is a dream that Gary and I worked toward for years before the idea for Urban Maille came along. It's a great adventure and we've learned so much and continue to learn on a daily basis. I love talking about business, second only to talking about maille, and for some time now I've been contemplating the idea of adding a section to our News area for sharing what we've learned in hopes that some of the information might be helpful to our customers who are working to build their jewelry businesses.

I've written a couple of little essays on sales and targeted marketing but I haven't gone into some of the what I feel is most important in business because it's pretty unconventional. The topics I have in mind are based more in philosophy, psychology and even spirituality than any of the areas usually addressed by business advice, yet they're all things that have made such profound impacts on our business that we know we couldn't have come this far if we hadn't learned them.

I don't have a problem with being unconventional but I'd also rather not be annoying. I get so annoyed with celebrities who talk politics and I often think (quite uncharitably, I admit) that they're paid to act, not to tell me how to think. A lot of the business topics I'd like to address have to do with learning to see things differently, even to think differently. So it's possible that some people reading it might have that same feeling, that I'm paid to make nice rings, not to tell anyone how to think. On the other hand, it doesn't seem right to keep information to myself that I'd like to share and that could be really helpful to others.

So I thought I'd just ask you what you think. Unconventional as it might seem, are these things you'd like to read about and discuss here? Or should I just save it all up and write a book in my golden years? *s*

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Zen Business

I didn't expect so much positive response to this idea so quickly but of course I'm delighted. Thank you so much for your enthusiasm. I hope it turns out to be a rewarding exchange of ideas for all of us. *s*

I looked up 'zen' to make sure I was using it correctly in this context. It refers to a school of Buddhism "that asserts that enlightenment can be attained through meditation, self-contemplation, and intuition." While I'm not a Buddhist, that's exactly how I live my life. I meditate for inner peace; I constantly contemplate my own feelings and the reasons for them in order to grow and evolve; I trust my intuition above all things and never, ever make a decision that runs counter to it. And I am certainly struggling for enlightenment. *g* I think that makes it a pretty good description for the topics we'll be discussing. *s*

There are so many facets to cover and it's so interconnected that there's no real logical order but I'll do the best I can. No segment is ever going to seem complete because each answer leads to more questions but it's good to have time to reflect and assimilate different ways of looking at things and, of course, to discuss. The first installment takes something you already know and focuses on the why of it. *s*

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Good Results Are Never Born of Bad Intentions

No matter what you choose to call it, karma exists. It's never wrong and it never misses. There is no avoiding it. What goes around never fails to come around and you will always reap what you sow.

I decided to write about this first because, although the things I want to talk about don't necessarily fall into a nice, neat linear order, intention of some sort is underlying every action so that has to be right before anything else can be.

Personally, I don't think karma is a mysterious unknowable; I think it's physics. Invisible physics, unquantifiable in a laboratory setting, but physics nonetheless. Whatever energy you put into the world comes back to you and it comes back in a magnified form. It goes out, it gets big, it comes back. Emotion is a form of energy that you put out into the world all day, every day. All emotion falls under one of two headings: Love or Fear, positive or negative.

Every positive emotion, from gratitude to joy, is a form of love. Every negative emotion, from jealousy to hatred, is a form of fear. Fear isn't all bad; it serves a purpose that aids our survival and our learning. It can get seriously out of control, though, and needs conscious management.

The way that energy manifests itself into physical form, and therefore becomes stronger, is through physical action. Imagine that you're feeling grateful for your family. That love radiates from you and they all feel it as a sense of well-being, regardless of distance or conscious awareness. Because of the way you're feeling, you might be inspired to do some things around the house, to make it nicer for them, and maybe cook a special meal. By taking actions that stem from your loving feelings, you manifest that loving energy into a clean house and a nice dinner... love in tangible form. Regardless of whether you say anything about your feelings, the nice meal and pleasant atmosphere make your family feel loved, filling their emotional reservoirs and soothing anxiety and other negative emotions they might have built up throughout the day. They, in turn, naturally feel more loving toward others and pass that energy along in every way from petting the cat to smiling at strangers, who then feel better about themselves, and so on. In this way, your loving energy travels from person to person, growing exponentially. That's how it gets bigger. The way it gets back to you has to do with like attracting like... but more about that in a moment.

A nice meal isn't, by definition, a manifestation of love... though one would hope it is more often than not. *s* If you decided to have a dinner party and invited someone you felt jealous of or threatened by and you cooked a lavish meal for the purpose of showing up that person and proving you were better... well, that meal is not a manifestation of love. Rather, it's a manifestation of fear. No one will have a sense of well-being from it and there might well be a choking incident or at least some indigestion afterward. ~dry smile~ Harboring such negativity is bad enough but taking action on it and thereby manifesting it in reality ensures that, sooner or later, it's going to come back around to bite you and it'll be a lot bigger when it does.

You're probably wondering what all this has to do with business. If your business is founded in negativity, it cannot become a positive force in your life. All that negativity will come around and bite you, which might well prompt you to learn some things and avoid the same mistake next time, but your business will suffer while you learn that lesson... so better to learn it first and spare yourself starting over. *s* By founded in negativity, what I mean is that neither the vision that you begin your business with, nor the way you conduct your business, can be based on any negative emotion. If you're trying to prove something, to yourself or someone else, fear of failure will cloud everything you do. If your sales practices are in any way deceptive, if you lie, cheat or steal in any way at all, however small and unlikely to be noticed, guilt -- which is just another form of fear -- will dog your every step, no matter how you rationalize it to yourself. That negativity will crush your business in the end. Sometimes a person will have success initially, despite lots of negative intention. Personally, I think it's the universe's way of giving them farther to fall.

If, on the other hand, you operate with the best of intentions in all things large and small, are scrupulously honest and above board in every way, deliver more than you promise, keep the highest standards of quality in everything you do, treat kindly even those who are unkind to you, and help others when you can, the universe will smile on you and aid you in all that you do. *s* Positive energy attracts positive energy. The more you put into the world, the more the world gives back to you.

I believe that there are people so evolved and enlightened that they can turn away negativity before they even have to feel it. I'm certainly not there yet, I definitely feel it. But I've learned not to act on it, thereby depriving it of physical form, and the results of just that much evolution have been amazing. When you consciously choose to turn your attention away from negative energy, you starve it out. When you consciously choose to focus on positive energy with good intentions, you feed it and make it grow bigger. You attract more and more of what you focus on and the result is that you become... lucky. *s*

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Business Minus Profit Equals Hobby

Hobbies are great fun, excellent creative outlets and there's hardly anyone who wouldn't benefit from having one. If you're genuinely trying to build a business, though, a hobby is not what you want to end up with, so you have to clearly distinguish the difference in your mind. If your work is priced such that you just recoup the cost of your materials or you're just trying to make a little spending money, you're enjoying a hobby not building a business. There's absolutely nothing wrong with that... unless you actually are trying to build a business, in which case it's time to seriously rethink your pricing structure.

Money is not evil. It's the love of money that leads to trouble. Loving money and being willing to step on anyone to get it is definitely a bad thing. But making a healthy profit from your own hard work does not make you a soulless, unfeeling corporate vampire. Until and unless you make peace with the concept of charging what your work is actually worth, you have no chance of building a solid, profitable business that will actually support you. That's blunt, but that's the way it is.

Personally, I think this incredibly common problem relates directly to self esteem, though it's often disguised as nobility. Ego is another term for self esteem, used here in reference to how well one thinks of oneself. Ego is necessary to life but, like all things, must be in balance. Too much ego and a person is obnoxious; too little ego and a person feels the need to apologize for taking up space.

Low self esteem can result from messages of worthlessness received in childhood. They might be overt and right out there, from an abusive parent, or they might be subtle and completely subconscious from well meaning adults whose own self esteem isn't as healthy as it could be. An example of such an unconscious message might come from something as small as teaching a child to share everything he owns, all the time, whether he wants to share or not. The underlying message is that the needs and wants of others are always more important than your own wants and needs and that it's not ok to keep something for yourself unless no one else wants it. Obviously, that isn't a healthy message to send a child but it's so subtle and so well meaning, coming as it does from people who are simply trying to raise their children to be nice people, that it's hard to even recognize it as unhealthy. Nonetheless, that subtle message is assimilated by a sensitive child, becomes a subconscious belief, and then must be overcome in adulthood in order to grow a level of self esteem healthy enough to allow a person to charge a fair price for their work rather than virtually giving it away simply because someone else wants it. Most creative people were sensitive children and therefore more likely to have been shaped by subtle messages.

Oftentimes when people are selling their work at prices so low that they can't possibly make a profit, they claim to be doing so because they want everyone to be able to afford their work, as though it's cruel to exclude those people who can't afford to pay what the work is worth. It's important to remember that what you're selling is purely a luxury item. You're not selling surgery or plasma or even groceries. No one *needs* jewelry to live; no one is going to go hungry if they can't afford your work. There is no one so poor that he or she cannot afford some sort of adornment. For as long as there have been people, those people have adorned themselves with whatever was at hand. A seashell hung on a piece of string is a necklace that can be had for nothing more than the trouble of finding a shell with a hole in it. Charge what your work is actually worth in the marketplace and if you see someone who truly can't afford something you wish them to have, make a gift of that piece. Offering a gift from the heart is a far more generous and noble act than keeping prices artifically low in order to avoid feeling misplaced guilt.

Many people feel guilty for charging fairly for their work if they genuinely enjoy their work and would be willing to do it for nothing. Most people have no trouble expecting a fair wage for work they truly define as work; in other words, something they don't like doing. If you're digging a ditch for hours at a time, you probably have no issue with expecting to be paid well for such hard labor. But conversely, if the work doesn't feel like work, there's a tendency to expect little in the way of compensation for it, despite the fact that the finished product is at least as desirable as a well dug ditch. *s*

I think of this as puritan guilt because it probably comes from our culture's tendency to associate suffering with virtue. Try adopting this new belief: There is no virtue in suffering. Your work is not better, more valuable or in any way superior as a result of suffering while you do it. Actually, the opposite is true. If you are joyous and happy while you work, you suffuse your work with a joyous energy that accompanies the work to its recipient as surely as the energy of your suffering would suffuse that ditch. Your joy adds to your work making it more valuable, not less.

Life is much better if you love your work. If you are fortunate enough to be able to earn a living doing something that you would do for free, that's a gift from the universe. Don't squander that gift away with misplaced guilt and low self esteem. Honour and respect what you've been given by charging what your work is worth and using the money you earn to support yourself and your family and to do some good in the world. *s*

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Begin As You Mean to Go On

We've covered why you might find it difficult to charge a fair price for your work and why you really need to get past those issues and do it anyway. That brings us to how. How do you know what to charge? What is a fair price? There are countless formulas that say triple the price of this and add that and it all seems rather arbitrary. In truth, there's only one formula that matters: You have to cover your costs and make a profit.

Your costs are materials, facilities and labour. You know what your materials cost. The rest is easy to understand if you plan for success. If you make a success of your business, there will come a time when you can't do everything yourself. Figure out what it will cost you to pay someone else to do what you're doing now. That's your labour cost. There will come a time when your house isn't big enough for your business. Figure out what it will cost you to provide facilities for people who work for you. If you work out the cost of facilities for 10 people, then divide that cost by 10, you have the facilities cost for one person.

If that's all you charge, then you don't make a dime off your work once you become too successful to do it all yourself. Work out a profit margin that provides you a comfortable living wage. Add that to your costs and the figure you come up with is the minimum you can charge for your work. If it seems high, then you need a better target market.

Until you have employees, you're wearing all the hats. You're management, design, labour and everything else. That's fine while you're small, but you won't be able to do it all later. If you don't cover the costs for all those jobs now, then 1) you won't have any money to put back into your business to make it grow and, 2) you won't have the money to pay the people you'll need when it does grow. In other words, you'll either never get bigger than you are now because you won't have the funds to put into growing your business, or you'll have the good fortune to get some big attention, your order volume will increase tremendously and you'll go under because you don't have the funds to hire the people you need to meet the increased demand. All the great publicity in the world won't do you a bit of good if you can't meet the demand when it comes.

While you're making your jewelry, you get to live completely in the moment and that's a wonderful feeling. But for the business part of things, you have to live in the future. You have to build infrastructure now that you'll need then because you won't have time to build it at all if you wait til you need it. Always think ahead... and always bet on yourself. *s*

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Being True to Yourself and Your Vision

When you begin to think about starting a business, you have a vision of what it will be. That vision evolves and deepens as you ponder the idea and begin to make plans. As the idea takes shape, your enthusiasm is boundless and the possibilities are infinite.

When you begin to take practical steps toward manifesting the idea into reality, such as buying supplies, acquiring new skills and designing your packaging, you begin to hit obstacles. Maybe things cost more than you thought they would and when you start working out your pricing, you might realize that what you were planning to do isn't so practical and you won't make any real profit unless you scale back your plans, maybe even drastically.

This is the point at which compromises begin. Instead of using the best materials, you might decide to settle for cheaper but almost as good. Instead of that beautiful packaging you'd planned, you might settle for packaging that's more practical and good enough. To save money, maybe you decide to design your own website and make your own business cards even though you might not be all that skilled in those areas. Make enough of these compromises and you'll end up with a business that bears little resemblance to your original idea but bears a great deal of resemblance to a thousand other businesses. Then you're going to start wondering how to distinguish yourself from those thousand other businesses. That leads to spending a lot of time looking at what everyone else is doing, trying to figure out ways to be better than the competition and an overall feeling of anxiety. That's not good. Anxiety is a form of fear and good decisions are never based in fear.

It doesn't have to be that way and, if your business success is going to be based on anything other than having the lowest prices, it can't be that way. Assuming you didn't just start making jewelry yesterday, chances are pretty good that your original vision was, in fact, original. By that I mean that you probably wouldn't have been so excited about your idea if it wasn't special and different in some significant ways from everything else you've seen out there. Chances are that the reason it's not so special anymore is because it got dumbed down to ordinary by all the compromises.

Evaluating the Vision

So let's back up to the original vision and see if it's workable, then we'll talk about how to manifest it. The very best business ideas come as a result of unmet needs; trying to find something that you want to buy and not being able to find it anywhere. No one is an island; chances are, if you're looking for it, other people are looking for it, too. If you go into business making that thing, all those other people will buy it from you and -- this is really important -- you will have no competition for that market, because you already know that item is nowhere to be found. Competition will come because nothing truly good goes uncopied but you'll get an incubator period in which to become established... and that can make all the difference. The other great benefit of starting a business this way is that, because you were trying to buy the thing you're now selling, you are your own target market. Nothing makes marketing easier than being your own model customer. I know this very well because it's exactly how Urban Maille came to be and I am our model customer. *s*

The second best kind of business is founded on the idea of doing it better; a business in which the market is occupied but the customers are unhappy. If you want to buy a widget and there's only one place to buy them but their widgets are crappy and their customer service is terrible and no one wants to buy there but they have no choice... you can be the choice. In a case like that, you can smoke your competition because they're complacent as a result of feeling that they own the market.

The worst thing to do is try to sell into a market that's occupied by an established business that's doing a great job and really pleasing their customers. If you try to start a 'Me Too' business going head to head with a business that already has name recognition and an established, happy customer base, your only real opportunity to compete is on price. Low prices will attract customers but you're also very likely to lock yourself into the bad situation discussed in Begin as You Mean to Go On, in which you aren't making enough money to invest in your future infrastructure. That means that when your business grows enough that your workload is running you into the ground and you need to hire people to meet the demand, you won't have the money to do it because your pricing has been too close to the edge all along. That will leave you no choice but to raise prices in a last minute attempt to correct your course and, since your business was built on the fact that your prices are low, you'll lose your entire customer base when you do it. It's a bad situation to be in, so just don't go there. Avoid a Me Too business scenario at all costs.

So if the business you envision meets unmet needs, get busy meeting them before someone else does. If the business you envision is about doing it better, be very clear in your mind what you're going to do better and how you're going to do it better and emphasize that difference in every way you can. If the business you're planning is a Me Too, spend your time collecting the skills you'll need for business and save money while you wait for a better idea to come along. It will. *s*

Manifesting the Vision

If your vision is workable it has a good chance to succeed, so now we'll talk about why the most important thing you can do to assure the success of your business is to be absolutely and unequivocally true to yourself and your vision, without compromise, no matter what. Sometimes that will seem to fly in the face of all practicality and good business sense. But it only seems to, it doesn't really. Your challenge is to find the way to make it work without compromise.

I have an example for you that will seem unrelated at first, but trust me, it'll all come together in the end. *s* When Gary and I were househunting here, we gave the realtor the standard list of searchable terms for what we wanted; how much land, how many bedrooms, how many bathrooms, etc. Then we spent days getting discouraged while we looked at houses we didn't like. One night in the midst of that, we started talking about what we *really* wanted. We didn't actually need a certain amount of land, we just wanted privacy, a place that was tucked away a bit. Sure, acreage is a way to get that, but it's not the only way. We worked our way down the list of requirements, replacing searchable terms with what we really wanted. The next day we gave our realtor a list that included such things as privacy, trees, big windows and a cozy fireplace or stove. She read the list, nodded and took us straight to our new house. *s*

When we were first planning the kits, I planned to package them in wooden boxes. There were problems, though. Wooden boxes are heavy and bulky, expensive to make, both difficult and expensive to brand with our name and expensive to ship. They would significantly increase the price of the kits and they would add to the shipping costs our customers would have to pay, especially our international customers. In other words, they flew in the face of all practicality. But I could not bring myself to use paper or plastic or anything that any practical business person would have told me to use. I searched and floundered and searched some more... and then I remembered the lesson of the house. So I made a list of what I *really* wanted. Of course I wanted to protect the kit contents but I also wanted the packaging to be something people would keep and use, not trash to be discarded. I wanted our packaging to be beautiful and substantial and natural. With all that in mind, I started searching again... and found our beautiful tins. They're everything I wanted our packaging to be but they're also incredibly practical because they're lightweight, easy to brand and inexpensive to ship. And the bonus is that people love tins; even more than wooden boxes. *s* In using them, we didn't compromise anything I wanted, yet they're perfectly practical.

The packaging saga might seem like a small thing but it's analogous of everything in the way we run our business. The biggest challenge is remaining absolutely true to yourself and your vision of what you want your product to be, what you want your business to be, what you want your life to be, despite the obstacles. If you aren't really happy with any of the available options, don't choose the best of the lot and resign yourself to it. Instead, find more options. Don't stop until you find one that's just right. You'll know when you have because it will be better even than you envisioned.

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Waiting for the Seed to Fall

If you've ever read my interview with Rena, you know that Gary and I waited a long, l-o-n-g time for our perfect business idea to come along. We rejected a lot of not quite right, almost right and nearly there ideas along the way. It was hard to do that because we so wanted a business of our own but I'm a perfectionist and I have a wide streak of donkey in my personality so I dug in my heels and picked every potential business idea to death. I think that, more than anything else, is the reason we were sure enough to bet the farm on this idea being The One... because I couldn't pick any holes in it.

If you're in that position now, you really want your own business but you aren't quite sure what it's going to be, the best advice I can give you is... don't rush it. Everything happens when it's time and not one minute sooner. And there are always good reasons for the timing that you can only see in hindsight. Every time Gary left on a business trip, I was so sad and I'd wonder why the universe hates us. (Yes, I was pitifully sorry for myself and I admit it. *s*) But you know what I was doing night after night, all alone with so much time to kill? I was writing code, building websites, making graphics and getting better at it with every passing day. I can't tell you how many times we've wondered what we would have done if I hadn't had those skills when our idea came finally along and we really couldn't afford to pay someone to build the site we needed. When I wanted more to do than write code and make pretty pictures, I started bellydancing which led to shopping for a jingle belt, which led to not liking any of the cheezy belts I found for sale, which led to wanting to make my own, which led to... chainmaille. If Gary hadn't been out of town all the time, if I wasn't sitting alone every night feeling sorry for myself and collecting hobbies, we'd never have been in the right place at the right time for the business idea that's making all our dreams come true. However long it takes, there's always a reason.

If you know your business is going to be jewelry, you're making progress. We all start out in the same place, learning weaves, designing things in our minds that are beyond our current skill level and feeling frustrated because we can't translate those ideas into reality. That's normal, that's what everybody does. But if you don't rush it, if you trust your intuition and follow your interests and let them lead you, you will amass a unique collection of skills that, when combined, produce jewelry that doesn't look like anyone else's jewelry. There will come a day when you'll suddenly realize that you aren't frustrated anymore; that you've stopped hitting obstacles and now you just have new ideas, things you've never seen done before, that you're eager to tackle because you want to find out which of the several different methods you've thought of will work best. You think you're having fun now? *That's* when it's really fun. *g*

That's also when you see your own style emerge. It's only then that you can put your finger on your target market. I remember the day it happened for me. I made a bracelet for my sister. What I was thinking at the time was that I wanted to make her something that was so rich and sumptuous with silver that it was downright decadent. I pulled out all the stops, used everything I knew and made something truly spectacular. I loved every moment of it and when I was finished, I was stunned because it looked like nothing I'd ever seen before. It was mine... in a way that nothing I'd made before had been. That day I raked every piece of jewelry I'd made to that point into a box and put it away. I couldn't sell it, it was too ordinary. That was the day I stopped just making jewelry and became a jewelry designer. I know it all sounds very dramatic... but it was. It's like suddenly realizing who you are.

When you come to that point, you will know who your market is, where you need to be selling, what your website should look like... everything. You'll know because that look that's uniquely your own puts everything else in context; everything else becomes the frame for your style.

If you haven't reached that point yet, spend your time following your interests, acquiring your own particular collection of skills, and preparing the ground for the day that seed will fall. Be serene, be happy and trust that it will happen at exactly the right moment for you. *s*

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Minding Your Business

Every small business person is intimately familiar with the concept of wearing many different hats. My business card could quite accurately and honestly list my title as owner, president, designer, operations manager, webmaster, secretary, gopher, flunky or janitor. That's with three other people working here; the list used to be much longer. If you're running your own business, I'm sure you could make a similar list.

Just recently, while answering an email, I found those positions separating in my mind in a way they never had before. It led to a revelation in my understanding of what it really means to grow a business from an embryo to a thriving entity separate from oneself. It made me realize that you can't just wear different hats; you have to actually occupy each position separately in your mind, as well.

The question I was answering was from someone who was trying to replicate our European 4-in-1 Collar using his own rings. He was having trouble with the collar bunching up and wanted me to tell him what ring sizes I use and how they're laid out. And while the questions could certainly be considered a bit cheeky, given that it's my own design and we sell a kit to make it, the tone of the email was very nice and he obviously didn't see a problem with asking in the spirit of one hobbiest to another.

The problem is that this isn't a hobby for me, it's my business. In answer, I explained that I am Urban Maille's designer and spent many weeks, on the clock, working out the very precise ring sizes needed to make that collar. Urban Maille paid for my time to do it, owns the copyright on that design and retains the sole right to teach it. I went on to explain that, unlike many other companies, Urban Maille does not in any way limit your right to sell the item made from the kit or to make and sell as many more as you like, with your own rings or anyone else's, once you've purchased the kit that teaches the pattern. Most companies and even classroom instructors only grant the right to make a single item for personal use, not even allowing the sale of that single item. Urban Maille retains only the sole right to teach their own designs. I went on to say that respecting one's own assets while working hard to help customers become successful is such a completely fair and reasonable policy for any company that I have no problem at all respecting it.

I realized as I was writing my answer that I was speaking as an employee of my own company... and that's when I had the epiphany. I *am* an employee of my own company. Sure, I'm also an owner and I hope someday that pays off and yeah, I wrote the very policy I'm abiding by, precisely because it is fair and in the best interests of the company I helped to found. But he was asking me, as the designer -- a designer who is employed and paid to produce work that is owned by the company that pays me -- questions that I have no right to answer.

If I were paid to write code by a software company, that software company owns the code and I would have no right to give it away just because I wrote it. A chemist hired to develop a perfume does not have the right to give out the recipe for that perfume; it belongs to the company that hired him to develop it.

This all seems quite obvious in retrospect but I honestly never thought of it this way before and it really was like a light going on for me. Before I had a business, when I made maille as a hobby, I never hesitated to share anything with anyone who asked. When I went into business, a lot of the reason was because I was spending so much time teaching informally and feeling frustrated with the fact that I couldn't spend as much time on it as was needed to really do it well. Selling kits gave me a way to buy the time to really do it right and solved the problem of a hobby grown out of control. Yet all this time, in my mind, I never completely made the leap from designer working on her own to company employed designer.

That leap is bigger than it seems... and I'm guessing that I'm not the only one needing to make it. Most every good designer gets cheeky questions in her email or at her shows from people wanting everything from a list of sources to step by step instructions in how to do what you do. If you're making a business from what used to be your hobby, you're probably uncomfortable with those questions but feel bad if you don't answer them. It's nice to share; sharing is good and, if you began making jewelry as a hobby, sharing your sources and teaching what you know comes quite naturally. But if you were employed as the designer for some big House of Jewelry, you would know very well that you don't have the right to share your company's proprietary information. There would be some things you could share but you would know clearly where to draw the line based on the company's policies.

So here's where you make that leap. If you're building a business, you are the designer employed by a House of Jewelry. You are that company's primary asset and the fact that you own the company doesn't change that. You owe your own company at least as much loyalty as you'd give another company that employed you in that capacity. So what is your company's policy on sharing your designs? What's considered proprietary information and what is public domain? What's in the best interests of your company and therefore your future? Are you politely giving away your company's eleven secret herbs and spices or are you developing your company's assets in the form of a growing list of trade secrets? Have you really and completely made that leap from hobbiest to business person?

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