Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Be Generous

It is tempting in a teensy business to keep all of the cash in the business ---to keep investing in the business to make it sustainable. 

Let me argue in favor of generosity. 

This has been a good year for my little business, AvantGarb. Besides giving a few raises, and paying myself just about every payday, we have been able to give money away. 

We make wonderful big mascot heads and bodies. It's a joyous business. We try to spread the joy by donating to some cool, do-good orgs. 

Some cool, do-good orgs we support 

We give to the Heifer Project, one of the coolest organizations I know. They give animals to people for whom an animal makes an economic difference. If you're at a loss for what to give the person who has everything, may I suggest the Heifer Project. You can give a hive of bees, a bunch of chicks and even an ox in their name, to support people around the world for whom a bunch of fluffy chicks is a big deal.

I'm an artist in business. In the interest of promoting the arts and entrepreneurship, AvantGarb is an ardent supporter of CreativeCapital, an organization that promotes innovative and adventuresome artists with funding, counsel and career development. 

Sometimes I even get on a plane & fly to NYC go to their wonderful parties where I get filled to the brim with art, conversation and pure delight.

 Other do-good, feel-good things we do 

During the summer, we spend some time working with children, in something we call the Handmade Parade. 

The children make big critters with cardboard and paint, tune up the kazoo band, practice some moves and parade through the neighborhood.

 Our Awfully Big Puppets have been making yearly appearances at the PRIDE Parade.

Our holiday balls and shiny, holiday trees appear in community parades

Generosity is good for the heart and soul.

©Jennifer Smith 2014

Friday, August 22, 2014

Biz, blessings & a martini

AvantGarb has been a growing, productive business for a really long time.

I started AvantGarb in my Berkeley, California garage when my youngest daughter was about 3 months old.

Month after month I have made money, and those dollars have increased through the years.

AvantGarb is a real, ongoing operation.

Even though we have been making money, and I've been paying my mortgage, buying shoes, clothing my children, sending them to college & helping them buy cars, getting my hair done and my eyebrows tamed, I still think, it could be over tomorrow.

This is crazy thinking.

When I am sitting with a curved needle, stitching yellow muppet fleece to green muppet fleece, I have taken to counting my blessing.

Here are some of them:
  • I have a really grand family. They keep me involved and interested in their lives. My husband is funny, handsome and sexy. My daughters are gorgeous, glorious adults.
  • I  love my biz - making fuzzy critters that add a great dollop of fun to the landscape.
  • I've traveled everywhere--okay, not everywhere, but a lot of places - Kenya, India, China, Mexico, Mexico, Mexico, Taiwan, Egypt, and oh yeah, Europe. I feel fluent in the world. I like to be places where I can't speak the language.
  • ... however, I can speak Spanish, stutter through French and be polite in Swahili
  • Every Monday I look forward to the week ahead.
  • Every Friday I come home to a really good martini.
  • I love going to church on Sundays, singing hymns w/ the congregation, listening to the sermon and being blessed for the coming week with the benediction.
  • I love reading the New York Times and napping on couch on Sunday afternoons.
  • I have gotten bit of fame for doing what I do.
  • ...and I have friends, friends, friends and ohmygoodness, a huge, ever-growing & always fascinating family.
There are more blessings than I can count.

I have imagined my life, and it became real.

I suspect the story of other small biz people is similar.

Monday, August 18, 2014

How to keep your soul, make art, do biz and tell a story

How to keep your soul, make art, do biz and tell a story.

...of course, that's the kicker. I read recently that truly successful people don't have a Plan B.

I never had a plan A. 

When I was young, this is what I knew:

I knew art made me swoon, and made me stand up straight and pay attention.

I liked cool clothes, big cities, funky apartments, meals with friends, and boys.

I liked stumbling through foreign countries and foreign languages.

It's a recipe for a rich life. 

...and a life filled with stories. I feel like a historian for my generation. I protested the war in Vietnam in DC & got maced. I met my first big deal boyfriend at a "Peace-in" at Cornell University.

I lived in Seattle when it was cheap and full of artists and punks. I made costumes with a costume performance group, Friends of the Rag. I was an artist in NYC (with a studio at P.S.1) during the disco years  and before AIDS broke our hearts. 

I celebrated my 19th birthday on top of the Pyramid of the Sun in Mexico.

I can start sentences with phrases like, "When I was in Mumbai" ....or "compared to Shanghai, NYC looks like Colonial Williamsburg" 

However, not to seem too exotic, Thirty-four years ago, I married the handsomest of the boys. I have 2 fascinating, twenty-something/30 something daughters, and a funny, arty business that keeps my fingers and my brain nimble. I live in Indianapolis, Indiana and I'm a church lady.

After a couple decades making mascots as the Queen of Fuzz at AvantGarb, my soul is intact, art makes me swoon, biz is good, and ohmygoodness do I have stories to tell.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Get a Payroll Service

Most art students dream of making their mark through their art, and that often means they are going to step into the small business world.

When there is too much work for one person to handle, the hiring begins. It's an exciting time for a small, art biz.

When people are hired, they have to be paid.

Anyone who works in my little mascot-making business, AvantGarb, is put on the payroll immediately. This mean we're taking out taxes, Social Security and whatever else is required.

Here's an easy little tidbit to save on time-consuming calculator or Quickbooks time  - Get a payroll service!

When you start hiring people with some regularity to work in your arty biz, it's time to get a payroll service. At AvantGarb we use Prime Pay.

A payroll service: 
  • makes out the checks - real or virtual - 
  • pays all the taxes, social security and whatever else gets deducted---ok they don't pay the taxes, they swoop the money out of your account and send it to wherever it needs to go.
  • sends all of the end of the year W-2s
  • understands all of the quarterly reports that have to be done
  • keeps you sane
  • ...and it doesn't cost much
A payroll service keeps everything neat and clean, so you can pay attention to getting the work done and bringing in more work.

I love my payroll service. You'll love yours too!