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Countdowns & Cupcakes Store

Countdowns & Cupcakes Store

Lessons I Learned In My First Year As A Business Owner

December 1, 2017

One year ago today, I wrote this blog post that announced the opening of my very own Etsy shop. It almost seems impossible that I’m a year in already, but you know what they say: time flies when you’re covered in glue dots and glitter.  Seriously, I’ve spent the better part of the last year covered in glitter and tiny bits of paper and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

As I’ve gone through my first year as a small business owner, I’ve learned so much!

Lesson #1: Success isn’t just measured in dollars. When I first hit “publish” on my Etsy shop, I had no idea if I’d be successful or if I’d fail completely. But looking back on the year, I can definitely say I succeeded. But I’m not sure that everyone would consider my first year terribly successful. I didn’t turn a huge profit (or really technically a profit at all) and Forbes won’t be writing any articles about my business prowess anytime soon.

But happy repeat customers and making quarterly donations to non-profits that support military families are both markers of success to me. Yes, it’s nice when there is a little extra money in my bank account each month, but sometimes getting feedback like this is what drives me to keep going.

Lesson #2: Running your own business is exhausting!

There is ALWAYS something to be done when you run your own small business: social media, product development, marketing, newsletters and blog posts to write, ordering supplies, post office runs, emails to answer and oh yes, orders to fill! When you try to fit that around a personal life or another job, there never seems to be enough hours in the day before you fall into bed each evening. Sometimes you have to let things slide, but overall you actually get really good at squeezing the most out of your time.

Lesson#3: Learn from others who’ve been in your shoes.  

Even though I’m a year in and writing a post with lessons learned, I have so much left to learn when it comes to running my own business! Lucky for me there are so many fantastic entrepreneurs who are willing to share their hard-earned knowledge. I’ve joined quite a few Facebook networking groups and have picked up so many tips from just reading posts and conversations. Whether it’s how to make the most out of your time, new revenue streams or ideas on how to better market my product, I’m going to learn from as many experts as I can.

Lesson #4: You should be passionate about your business. 

When I tell people that my business is making care packages, I’m not sure everyone gets why I would want to do that even sort of professionally. The why goes beyond enjoying gluing paper to other paper. It has to do with being part of other people’s deployment journeys. Each time I ship out a care package, I know that a deployment or TDY or training is being made a little easier for both the service member and his/her loved one at home. That is HUGE, y’all! Yes, I enjoy crafting, but the part I’m really passionate about is the people and their relationships to each other and to me.

Lesson #5: The best is yet to come. 

If there’s one thing starting your own business guarantees, it’s that it will make you want to GROW your business. As I look back on the past year, it makes me so excited for all the potential that the next year holds for Countdowns and Cupcakes. I’m ready to expand my product offering, share more high quality posts here on the blog and find new ways to serve military families, both during deployment and when everyone is home.

Thank you to everyone who’s been a part of the first year for Countdowns and Cupcakes! I can’t wait to share the second year with you!

Countdowns & Cupcakes Store

Charity Spotlight: Operation Homefront

November 27, 2017

Oh my word, what a weekend! My sale did so much better than I could have ever imagined and I made so.many.care.packages the past few days. I can’t thank you all enough for shopping with me; I love being a small part of your deployment journey. But what I love even more are posts like today’s, when I get to share my quarterly donation recipient.

Each quarter, I donate 10% of each sale to an organization that supports military families. It’s my favorite part of the job and is a small way of paying forward the generosity my customers show by shopping with me. I’ve previously given to United Through Reading and Service Dogs for Heroes. For the third quarter of 2017, I’m happy to announce that my donation will be made to Operation Homefront.

One of my requirements for each organization is that they are a non-profit in good standing; I research each one through Charity Navigator, which independently ranks each non-profit on a variety of criteria, to ensure that my money (and your money) is going to the right spot. It put a huge smile on my face to see that Operation Homefront puts 92% of its funds towards programming. And they have some fantastic programs that assist military families.

Operation Homefront focuses on three categories of assistance for military families: relief (through Critical Financial Assistance and transitional housing programs), resiliency (through permanent housing and caregiver support services) and recurring support (programs and services throughout the year that help military families overcome the short-term bumps in the road so they don’t become long-term chronic problems).

The impact Operation Homefront has on military families is astounding and you can view their lifelong impact report here. What speaks to me is that their true focus is the military family as a whole; when one member struggles, the entire family struggles and organizations that support the entire family should be celebrated.

You can learn more about Operation Homefront and their many assistance programs on their website.

Many thanks to all who have shopped with me the past few months and to all those who will shop with me in the future!

Countdowns & Cupcakes Store

Countdowns and Cupcakes Sale Week

November 20, 2017

Happy Monday, everyone! We are officially back in town after the most amazing few days in Ireland. I’m going to have oodles more about our trip over the next little while here on the blog, but definitely check out my Instagram for a sneak peek.  Today though, it’s all about all the money you’ll save if you shop with me this week!

That’s right: I have a big sale going on in the Etsy shop that runs through Cyber Monday. Starting today, when you use the code THANKFUL at checkout, you’ll get 30% off everything in the shop (including the Christmas and New Years care packages).

30% off is huge, y’all! If you’ve had your eye on something for your next care package, now is the time to purchase it. The sale includes all of my care package flaps, the kiss kit and countdown frame.

This sale will run through next Monday, but quantities are limited (especially for the Christmas and New Years care packages) so shop early!

Countdowns & Cupcakes Store

Four Takeaways From The Military Influencer Conference

October 27, 2017

Every so often, you find yourself in exactly the spot you’re supposed to be at exactly the moment you’re supposed to be there.  Maybe you took steps to get there or maybe it happened by accident, but in that moment, you’re completely at home. That was me earlier this week when I attended the Military Influencer Conference in Dallas.

I was so excited to be a part of more than 250 military entrepreneurs, bloggers and companies coming together to network and share ideas.  But I was also insanely intimidated: by the success, by the number of people, by the overwhelming “small fish in a big pond” feeling. But I shouldn’t have been! This was the most welcoming and encouraging groups of people I’ve ever come across, from bloggers just starting out to multi-million dollar companies. Everyone was ready to engage with all who crossed their path and the energy was contagious.

Learning from those around me, meeting individuals I admired and finally connecting with my Internet buddies all made for two and a half fantastic days. I took so much away from Dallas, beyond just business cards and new contacts.

Takeaways from the Military Influencer Conference

Takeaway #1: These are my people. I posted yesterday about being a military spouse in a primarily civilian world. Because of this, I tend to feel a bit isolated from people who get my lifestyle, so being at this conference with so many other military spouses was a breath of fresh air. There was this unspoken understanding between us all, this immediate feeling of camaraderie. We got each other, no questions asked. I made connections that I foresee lasting long beyond the hotel ballroom.

Takeaway #2: The military spouse community is mighty! At a conference that was billed for military influencers, I was so incredibly impressed with the large number of military spouses in attendance. I’d guess that we made up at least half, if not more. I felt lucky to find myself in the company of so many inspiring men and women who are busting their butts to take care of the home and their families and a business. Our interests and backgrounds may be varied, but our passion for supporting the military community binds us together.

Takeaway #3: Community over competition is where it’s at. Most people perceive the world of business as very cutthroat with everyone out for just themselves and to some extent, that’s true. But I didn’t find it to be true at this conference. Even individuals who did similar things were more than willing to help each other take their business to the next level. People kept saying that there was room for everyone in this niche and that’s so true. I didn’t walk away feeling like I needed to compete with people I met so that I was the only voice, but instead, I left feeling inspired to learn from people I met so we’re a strong collective voice.

Takeaway #4: I want to make Countdowns and Cupcakes a thing. Ok, so this was probably my biggest takeaway, but it was the easiest one to settle on. As I listened to our keynote speakers share their stories of success, as I networked with companies and bloggers, as a I sat in on educational sessions, all I could think was “I’m ready to take Countdowns and Cupcakes to the next level.” I started making a list of my 2018 goals right there at the conference because I was so pumped!

I have grown to love this little corner of the internet so much and I am so passionate about it continuing to grow, on the blog, in the shop and on social media. I so hope you’ll be a part of it!

P.S. The conference is coming to Orlando on September 23-25 next year! If you couldn’t make it to Dallas (or we didn’t get the chance to connect), I can’t wait to see you in Orlando.

Care Packages Countdowns & Cupcakes Store

New Year’s Care Package

October 23, 2017
New Year's Care Package

Christmas last week, New Year’s this week…the pages are flying off the calendar! Ok so it’s not really 2018 yet, but when you’re shipping care packages halfway around the world, sometimes you have to think ahead. That’s why I’m excited that my New Year’s care package is now available in the shop.

I modeled this one after my husband’s New Year’s care package from last year and, just like my Christmas product, I’m really pleased with how it turned out! I wanted paper that was sparkly without being glittery (if your loved one is anything like my husband, glitter is a no go). But what’s a New Year’s care package without some sparkle?!

The shimmery black paper is the perfect backdrop for my design and a type of paper that I keep coming back to for care packages. It’s a nice thickness and the shimmer adds a little extra to the design.  The gold cutouts really pop against the black and add just the right amount of sparkle to this New Year’s care package.

New Year's Care Package

The gold lettering and black background sell the whole New Year’s theme, but I think the fireworks really make the box! You can almost hear them explode amid the oohs and aahs of the crowd. This New Year’s care package is a great way to start off 2018 with your loved one and make it your best year yet.

While it doesn’t quite make up for not being able to kiss them at midnight, it’s a very close second. You can fill it with lots of photos and wishes for 2018. Other contents could include confetti, Hershey’s kisses, sparkling apple cider and fun decorations.

You can shop this New Year’s care package now. As always, it ships free and 10% of your total is donated to an organization that supports military families.

Want even more care package ideas? I’m giving away 165+ ideas (plus what to put in them) here.