Monday, October 09, 2006

It's HOW MANY Days Until Christmas??

Princess Bear, Pink Bear Gift for Breast Cancer Research Month Whether we want to think about it or not, Christmas will be here in 76 days!! If you want to buy unique, personalized, handcrafted items, there's even less time left. For myself, the cut off date to order for Christmas is December 1st. There are others who offer unique items whose cut off date is closer to mid-November. What does this tell you??? It's time to look over that Christmas gift list and consider what you might buy for each one. Who would like something out of the ordinary? Who would like something personalized? Who would like something cute? Who would like a keepsake for a first Christmas? Who collects teddy bears, who collects bunnies, who likes unique ornaments for their tree?

Mother Daughter Bears, Teddy Bear Keepsake on Special during October, 20% off I, personally, like all of those things!! But you have to think about who you're giving to and what they would like. Give yourself some time to really think about the people on your list. If you find that a teddy bear or bunny (or cat, lamb, or cow) would be a good gift for someone, check out my site. I have my monthly specials going on, holiday specials (which will change as each holiday comes up), and you can always join my mailing list to get 10% off of anything you buy, everytime you buy. For the month of October, you can help fund mammograms for women who can't afford them by buying from my Pink Bears category. I will give a portion of each sale from this page to help fund mammograms. And I still have some really good deals on my clearance page.

Now, maybe no one on your list needs or wants a teddy bear, bunny, cat, lamb, or cow. I understand that, my gifts aren't for everyone. But maybe there is another type of unique gift they would like. Maybe something in a country decor style, , or maybe some other type of handcrafted item, . Check out these other sites and see what they have to offer to bring something unique to your Christmas gift giving experience this year. People love to know that a gift for them has been well thought out with their needs and wants in mind.

If you don't buy much for Christmas, I understand that too. Neither do I. Everyone has to do what is right for their families and friends. Sometimes the best gifts are gifts of time or just a hug and an "I love you." Above all, Christmas should be about considering what is best for someone else and doing it! After all, that is what God did and He started this whole Christmas gift-giving thing by sending His Son, Jesus to us as a baby.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

A Mom's Lament - School is back in session!

As we embark on yet another school year and close another summer, I wrote down some thoughts that probably all moms can relate to.

Good News: School starts tomorrow!!!

Bad News: I have to start getting up at 6:30 again and don my taxi cab hat.

Good News: My daughter is officially going to high school (our high school is 10-12th grade)

Bad News: It's only 3 years until she graduates and is off to college. Boo hoo.

Good News: My daughter has been noticed by the high school orchestra teacher as a very good player and has some plans for her to do some extracurricular things.

Bad News: My daughter may not want to do these things or have time, since I think her course load is going to provide her with lots of homework. We have to be thinking what is best for her college endeavors, and at this time, that doesn't include orchestra, so it might have to take a back seat.

Good News: My daughter has become a good violinist because she is self-motivated and works hard. We have not given her the benefit of lessons too often in her almost 6 years of playing. The lessons were good for her, but they just didn't always fit with the rest of our life (or maybe I should say my life). So she's accomplished much on her own.

Bad News: Don't see any bad news there, how can it be bad to have a child work hard at something?? (Something that is good for them, anyway. My boys work hard at video games, but I don't see the benefits there.)

Good News: My youngest son got the 6th grade teacher that I wanted. She was my daughter's 6th grade teacher and she is a very nice woman, easy to talk to, and prepared my daughter for Junior High quite well.

Bad News: He's not looking forward to going back to school, has voiced that more this year than in the past, so don't know what he's thinking exactly. Perhaps he is not looking forward to the hard work aspect that he will need to do in some areas. On the other hand, he really loves science and social studies (he wants to be a meteorologist), so I would think he is looking forward to learning more in those areas. The other bad news is that my "baby" is in 6th grade!!!!!!! We are almost done with elementary school forever. Doesn't seem possible.

Good News: My youngest son is so excited about being in band again that he wanted to talk to the band teacher when we were at school last night meeting his classroom teacher. He gets to march this year in a city parade in early September. He wanted to find out how soon he could bring his clarinet to school.

Bad News: Don't see any bad news on that one, either.

Good News: My oldest son is playing football for the first time (real football, not that flag football stuff - he didn't consider that real football) and has spent the summer in training to play. He found out today that he will be in the starting lineup as a wide receiver on offense and a safety on defense. These are the two positions that he wanted to play, so I think he is happy.

Bad News: I'm going to be a nervous wreck watching him play and fearing that he will get hurt. He doesn't talk much, so he could be hurt and not tell anyone, which bothers me. I'm going to be watching him like a hawk to see if he drinks water during the games. It is going to be hot in the beginning and he needs that water! He had an issue in the spring with possible dehydration. We don't need to be messing with that on the football field.

Good News: Getting ready to play football is lot of hard work. He has spent most of the summer either lifting weights, doing agility drills, going to camp, etc. He told me today that he really likes football and the hard work was fun. He's never been one to care much for hard work, so if this would spark his ability to work hard in other areas, that's good. If playing football makes him a little more assertive in the classroom and in his relationships, that's a good thing too.

Bad News: He likes football!! I thought that after he was done with the season and all of the pre-season work, he would either really like it or really not like it. I wasn't sure which way I wanted it to turn out. I love football, but it's different when my son's body is the one getting hit. I'd rather he stick to basketball in that sense. I guess we'll see how it goes.

Good News: My oldest son will also be playing in the jazz band (trombone) which he has been wanting to do. And he has developed in interest in being a graphic artist and will be taking an art couse this year to help propel him in that direction.

Bad News: Very little bad news here, other than he has so many interests, he is going to have a hard time choosing in the future. For now, he can do a little of everything and maybe that will help him decide later on.

Off and running through another year of my children's lives. It all goes by so fast, I know that's a trite saying, but it feels so true. These are exciting times because my children are coming into their own with their opinions, their interests. I enjoy seeing them develop. But it's kind of scary too. The world is scary, and soon they will be living in it on their own, mom and dad won't be there to help them with decisions and to talk through problems. While a parent's work is never totally done, at least I hope we have the kind of relationships with our children that they can always come and talk about anything with us, it's not the same when they are young adults as when they were little children. Do I want them to be pre-school age again? No way!! I'm just a normal mom who is concerned about her kids and excited to see them becoming independent people too. I am so thankful that God is watching over them and that they believe God is there to help them through. Now if I could just hand over the reins to God! LOL

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Do You Know Why You are in Business?

If you have a business, have you ever wondered why you are in business? I wonder that quite often, especially since my business does not contribute to the family financially, and it takes a lot of time and energy. I sometimes feel that the business takes away too much of me and maybe I should cut back or quit.

My goal is really to provide a gift that provides meaning or bridges relationships, or does SOMETHING good in a life. Today, I got an e-mail from someone who has given me the ultimate compliment and motivates me to stay in business and keep going even though sometimes it seems too much for me.

This is what happened. A lady called me on a Saturday a few weeks ago and seemed very upset. I really had a hard time understanding what she wanted and hoped when it was all done that I had understood everything correctly. I understood her to say that she wanted a sister angel for her sister that had just been diagnosed with cancer. She also wanted another angel for her daughter, but I was a little confused as to what all was going on. I sent her two angels, personalized like I believe she wanted, and prayed for the best result. She e-mailed me when she received them and thanked me for talking to her in a calm way as she had been very upset and almost incoherent. I did get the order right, and I had understood her correctly about her sister. She had just been diagnosed with liver cancer and was terminal. It was no wonder that she was so upset. Turns out she wanted a sister angel not only for her sister to have now, but also to bury her with. Wow, I didn't know what to say to that.

She wrote to me again today to tell me that her sister had passed away yesterday. Here's an excerpt from her e-mail, with a few changes to protect her privacy:"My sister J passed away yesterday from liver cancer and it was horrible to watch the stages that a person with that disease goes though. J's bear sat on a shelf watching her in the hospice hospital through it all and it will now go with her to heaven, I wanted to let you know what comfort it gave me, her having that sister bear and to say thank you so much , your bears are a wonderful feeling of comfort not only to my sister but to me..."

I am so humbled, I was in tears reading this. I think this is what God gave me this business for, an extension of His comfort.....

Situations like this, sad as they are, put everything in my life into perspective. What is really important in my life? What is really important in my business? The people who purchase my products and find comfort in that product for themselves, or bring comfort to someone else through the visual aid of my product, makes it all seem worthwhile.

I believe that products made by someone's hands, like those of my friends at Unique Crafters, are ones that can express the heartfelt sentiments that this woman did with my sister angel bear. Check out the other crafts that are available, I think you'll find many that you would like for your own purposes.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Communication Makes Happy Customers

I have been dealing with a local organization, trying to get a refund for a service that was not performed. I have been very disappointed in the person that I have been in contact with. His communication skills are very lacking. I called and left numerous voice messages, he never returned my calls. If I called the office and happened to catch him in, he would talk to me, but never took the initiative to follow up. I have e-mailed and have finally gotten a response after a few weeks.

I truly believe that I will get my refund, as this is a well known organization and a good one. But, the thoughts that have crossed my mind while this person was not communicating with me has shown me just how important communication is. Communication is especially important when someone's money is involved. When there was no communication, it was easy to think that this man was unconcerned about taking money for a service that I did not receive. How was I to know if he was even telling me the truth about making sure that I got a refund? Had he followed up with me, I would have felt assured that he believed I should have a refund and would see to it that I got one. As it was, I didn't feel like he cared at all. I have considered not being involved with this organization again, as I didn't feel this person was doing his job by not communicating with me. It made me wonder what else he was not doing well and I questioned whether or not I could trust him.

So, what does this tell me? I need to communicate with my customers when they place an order so that they know a real person is handling things and it has not been left up to faceless machines. I need to let them know when their order will ship, make sure I have the personalization correct, and confirm anything else that is appropriate. They are entrusting me with their money, I need to make sure they are kept informed. This seems so simple and we might think that we would never consider not communicating with our customers. But how often do we get so busy that we don't even remember if we have communicated with them? That happens to me! How often do we get interrupted and lose track of what we intended to do. That happens to me! The nice thing about communicating via e-mail is that we can keep copies of our communication. I do that so I not only know that I wrote to them, but what I wrote to them. Now, the next step I am going to take is to make sure that my sent e-mails are in the same folder as the customer's order so that I can easily find that communication.

Communication makes happy customers. Happy customers are what makes my business go. No communication, no happy customers. No happy customers, no business. It's as simple as that.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Why Would You Give Someone an Angel Teddy Bear?

Kailie's Angel Teddy Bear, a very special teddy bear gift

I am finally going to answer the question about angel teddy bears. Someone could choose to send an angel teddy bear just because they are pretty or because someone likes teddy bears and angels. But I've had people choose my angel teddy bears to send to someone for various reasons, all of them good reasons to send a gift from the heart.

~Bereavement (Bereavement Angel in two sizes, Bereavement Angel Ornament, Blue Angel, Baby Guardian Angel )

~Serious Illness (Guardian Angel, Kailie's Angel)

~Breast Cancer Patient (Pearl Angel in two sizes)

~Gift for Sister (Sister Angel)

~Gift for Friend (Friendship Angel)

~Birth of Baby (Baby Guardian Angel, Trinity's Angel)

~Get Well Wish (Get Well Angel)

~Birthday Gift (Birthday Angel - dressed in dress color to correspond with birthstone color)

~Ornament for Tree (Angel Ornament, Baby Angel Ornament)

~Let someone know you care (Prayer Angel)

~Angel Decor (Country Angel)

As you can see the angels have been used for many occasions, some of which I probably am not even aware of. I don't know if there can be a better gift to send someone who is facing a difficult time than an angel, a reminder of God's love and care for them.

If you like wooden angels, my sister-in-law has some beautiful angels. I have one hanging on my wall and it is a "feel good" type of decor. You can see her angels at Bear Farm Woodcrafts, Angels.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Business Observations

Pirate Teddy Bear holding silk Rose

After whining about how slow my sales and traffic were in early January,things really started to change about the last full week of January. It's like someone opened the floodgates and suddenly my traffic tripled and orders started coming like crazy. Many of those orders were for Valentine's Day, of course, so we shall see what happens in the next few weeks. Of those many orders, I had at least 5 that were obtained via toll free phone calls. I've never had that many people call me in such a short amount of time. In fact, I'd almost bet that those 5 calls were more phone calls than I received all of last year. Very strange, but good business, so I'll take it.

Here are some interesting things about the traffic. Monday I received a sale from a lady in Germany who wanted an item delivered to a city in Kansas by Valentine's Day. It just so happened that the city is only about 30 minutes from my home, so her chances were very good that Priority Mail will get it there Tuesday. I offered the Express Mail option, but she didn't want to pay more for shipping than for the item she ordered and I couldn't blame her. Anyway, in checking my stats to see if I could find how she found me, I saw that she had searched for "gifts for valentine's day in kansas" or something like that. In google, I came up #13 in this search, which I thought was not bad at all considering that "kansas" is only mentioned once on my index page down towards the bottom where I have listed my name and location, toll free number, etc. I believe that is the first time I have received an order because someone searched for gifts in a certain location.

Then there's the traffic from blogs. No sales from this traffic yet, but still I thought it was interesting. The first traffic from a blog, was not from my own blog, but someone else who has linked to my site, in reference to Valentine's Day as being "Freaky Teddy Bear" and something else day. Not exactly a complimentary link, but people have clicked on the link to see my
freaky teddy bears. Sort of funny really.

Now for the ultimate funny and the reason why I do not make up a lot of any bears ahead of time. I AM A TERRIBLE PREDICTOR of what people will buy. I put in the time and effort to make a very nice page of Valentine gift ideas. I thought I was being very clever in having several different sizes, a wide price range and making the shopping easy by it all being on one page. There were a couple of items that sold well last year and if I had had my helper
working on clothing ahead of time, I would have had her making those items. Guess what! I had almost no sales for those items this year. Know what I sold the most of?? PIRATES! They were not on the Valentine page, people searched for Pirate teddy bear and found me. I don't know if the pirate movies have caused a surge in interest in Pirates or not, but I would never had predicted that many pirates going out the door for V-day. If I had made up items ahead of time, I would have been stuck with that inventory and really have no use for it until next Valentine's day. Some people have told me that there were ads on TV for a pirate bear (not mine, of course!) and perhaps that put the thought in people's heads. I don't know, but I sure sold alot of them and I am glad. That Pirate Bear is one of my very best sellers. Who da thought??

Friday, January 20, 2006

Today is a Significant Day!

Today is a very significant day in the life of this teddy bear clothier! Today is my official 2 year anniversary of finishing chemotherapy for the treatment of breast cancer. While this is not as significant as the 5 year anniversary, reaching 2 years being cancer free increases greatly my chances of staying cancer free! Yippee!! You can read my story on my website . I also wrote a poem about my situation and what gave me the courage I needed to face being diagnosed with cancer. The picture to the left is of an angel bear I designed as a gift for someone just diagnosed with breast cancer. Her name is Pearl Angel Bear , she is dressed in pink satin with pearls hanging from her neck. She comes with a card that has another poem I wrote. This poem is the voice of a friend who is coming alongside the person who has been diagnosed. I had many friends who did that for me and their support, encouragement, and practical help was more valuable than I can ever describe.

"Walk forward in faith,
Let the Lord work His ways.
His unfailing love is with you
For all of your days."

Monday, January 16, 2006

Back to the questions about teddy bears

Another question you may ask is - How did you get started dressing teddy bears as gifts? Good question! I was a typical child who loved her teddy bear - my favorite was a pink teddy bear with a white tummy. I had other teddy bears, too, and I loved them all. I felt a special connection with my teddy bears because my last name was Bear. Yes, my maiden name was Debbie Bear - can you imagine the names the kids made up about me at school? Actually, I thought those names were rather funny and some were even clever. As I grew older, I started collecting other types of bears, just seemed to fit my name. A few years ago, I needed a baby gift for a friend and wanted to make something. Well, what could be a better gift for a baby than something involving a teddy bear? So I dressed a teddy bear, added a matching padded picture frame, then decided it needed one more thing. I took some wooden blocks, spelled out the baby's name and - wahla - a personalized teddy bear gift was born. From there I thought of so many things, I had to try my hand at selling them. When I decided to try selling on the internet (I did some craft fairs and home parties first with minimal success), I never dreamed that I would eventually have over 100 styles of teddy bear gifts to offer, much less that I would have so many customers!!! I didn't know that I could actually make my own patterns for the clothing. I could sew, but had never tried making patterns. Wow, I found out I could do it! (there's an encouragement to try something you've never done - you just might find out you can do it and do it well!) I found out I could cross-stitch and make personalized pillows to go with lots of my teddy bear gifts.

I'm sort of getting off the subject here, but this is my way of explaining that I sort of fell into the business. First because of a need for a gift, then a desire to make something different than I could find in a store. My affiliation with teddy bears just made that choice easy, and they are readily available. I also offer bunnies and a kitty cat angel. I would offer other plush animals if I could find a steady supplier. I'm always looking for something new to add to my line.

Next question to be answered: For what occasions are your angel bears appropriate for?

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Who's Your Special Valentine?

Now that I've answered some of your questions, let me ask you a question - "Who's your special valentine?" I'm going to do some blatant advertising here. I bet that whoever your special valentine is, he or she would love a teddy bear this Valentine's Day! Now is the time to buy your special teddy bear gift. Don't miss your opportunity to buy your Valentine's Gifts at a discounted price. Choose your gifts for Valentine's Day now, save 20% on your order, and have your item sent just in time for Valentine's Day! This sale lasts through January 31st , visit my valentine gift page for details. Over twenty neat teddy bear gifts, different styles, different sizes, something for all ages. Wide price range - spend a little or spend a lot! See all the items on one page for your ordering convenience. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised at what I have to offer.

Here I Am!

Well, I've done it. I've started a blog - what have I gotten myself into? I really don't know, but as long as I'm here, I might as well just jump in feet first.

You may be asking - what in the world is a teddy bear gift? My definition would be: it is a teddy bear that is used as a decorative keepsake (not as a toy). The bear is dressed in clothing appropriate to the occasion (wedding clothes, graduation robe, angel dress, flannel nightgown, etc.), and items are added to complete the theme. They're cute, evoke positive emotions, and in general just make you feel good. Often a teddy bear gift will make a recipient feel good simply because someone thought about them. Flowers also evoke that thought, but once they die, it's harder to bring back that good feeling of being thought of. Teddy bear gifts don't wilt and eventually die. They stay cute forever!

The next question you may have is - why a teddy bear? My simple answer would be - why not a teddy bear? What other item brings to mind comfort, solace, happiness, and innocence like a teddy bear? Almost everyone had a teddy bear when they were younger, and that teddy bear was a loved companion. Someone to hug, someone to listen, someone to keep you company at night. Why not turn those childhood memories into a lasting memory?

Okay, that's it for my first post. More lessons on teddy bear gifts later.