Shelby's Princess Party

I had to share the highlight of my day yesterday with you. On the way home from the office, I stopped by Sara’s house. Shelby was having a birthday party, and the house was full of five-year-old princesses! Sara had invited me to stop by, and I was so glad I did.

I knew I couldn’t stay long—I actually got there late and left early—but the few minutes I was there made my heart sing. The festive mood was set by the pink banner on the front door.

Inside were about 10 little girls dancing around wearing pink tulle tutus (Sara had made them, with our own Stampin’ Up! ribbons as accents) and crowns they’d made themselves, enjoying their party favors. (Sara had used our own Princess Party Kit, so I was partial, but I really did think everything looked adorable!)

I didn’t stick around for Shelby to open up all her presents, but it looked like she’d made quite a haul! And the princess party theme had carried over to the gifts; they all looked pretty girly-girl!

I needed to feel that five-year-old energy yesterday; I left way earlier than I would have liked, but feeling happy and lighthearted! That’s what hanging around a houseful of princesses will do to you!

 

 

 

Hello, Sydney--Again!

Four years ago, we gathered in Sydney, Australia, for our first-ever Australian/New Zealand convention—and last week we were there again! Four years ago, there were many empty seats; this year we met in the same room and pretty much filled it. How fun and exciting to see the growth that is taking place Down Under!

Of course, one thing that hasn’t changed in the passing years is the enthusiasm of the demonstrators. My favorite part of convention has been, is, and probably always will be the people. Connecting with demonstrators, sharing stories and experiences, and strengthening our dedication to each other and what we all believe in is what convention is all about for me.

I also really enjoyed spending time with our staff. Despite our growth, we still haven’t reached the numbers we see in the United States and Canada, so in many ways it reminded me of the early years of Stampin’ Up!, where everyone pitched in, did whatever needed to be done (whether they’re assigned to or not), went the second (and third and fourth and more) mile, and smiled the whole time! There’s a camaraderie that occurs when a fairly small group of people works together to create something special, and I love being a part of that. I was so proud of our staff!

(A side note—it’s also this mentality that explains the lack of photos. I was so focused on helping out and fulfilling my assignments that I totally forgot to take photos! We had an outside photographer there assigned to take photos for the company, but we don’t get those from him for days. . . and I didn’t even stop to think that I’d need photos for my blog! I’m so sorry!)

We simply loved the entire experience. (Sterling is right here and he said to mention that he didn’t necessarily love the flight over and back!) The Managers’ Reception, which was held the night before convention started overlooking Darling Harbour, started things off perfectly. The Harbour is one of my favorite places to be in Sydney; there’s always something happening!  About 75 demonstrators attended the reception, and we had a yummy hot chocolate and pastry bar, along with great conversation. I invited them so ask questions, share comments, and talk about what they loved—and didn’t love—about Stampin’ Up!, and their compliments outnumbered their complaints by a long shot!

The two actual days of convention were full of wonderful presentations and classes, done by both staff members and demonstrators. I attended most of them, and was very impressed. The focus of convention was the workshop, and many demonstrators commented on how appropriate and helpful they thought everything was.

Our numbers are still small enough that we can do a dinner along with the awards program, which is fun. I always look forward to recognizing our demonstrators for their amazing achievements, so the Awards night is a highlight for me. And the announcement of our 2012 Australian/New Zealand incentive trip to Fiji was complete with talented Fijian dancers, who pulled demonstrators—and Sterling!—out of the audience to perform with them.

I talked to many demonstrators who had attended previous conventions, including several who had been to all four, and they all agreed that this was the best one yet! And as we left for the long flight home, both Sterling and I had to agree.

 

G'Day Mate

I’m in Australia for convention. Wanted to write more before we got started here, but there’s just been a lot going on and I haven’t even had a minute to gather my thoughts. I’ll report after convention. . . . .

One of Those Days

 

 

Yesterday was simply one of those days—really and truly! I got to bed at midnight the night before, and had to be up by three to get to the airport to catch my flight for Arkansas, and the last Workshop of a Lifetime (with Megan Wheeler) for a few months. (The last two aren’t scheduled until August.) I arrived in Little Rock with plenty of time to spare, and I was feeling confident. “I’ll have plenty of time to get to the hotel, repack (I always carry the absolute essential stamping supplies with me just in case my luggage doesn’t arrive), review my projects, grab lunch, and get to Megan’s workshop,” I thought.

Then the fun began. I stood in a long line to get the rental car, lugged my suitcases out to the car and loaded it up, then plugged in Garmina (our fun nickname for our GPS). She, meaning Garmina, didn’t work. I tried all the outlets, fumbled around, tried everything I could think of, and she still didn’t work. So, I went back inside, still thinking I’ve got enough time, stood in the long line again, and got another car. Went outside, unpacked the first car, walked to the second car, packed it up, and plugged in Garmina. Nothing.

Now I’m wondering if the problem is with Garmina, not the cars. So I stop a passing motorist and ask him if I could plug Garmina into his car. Although he probably thought I was slightly odd, he agreed, and Garmina worked fine in his car. So I headed back inside, now starting to panic—my comfort zone of time had slipped away.

Third time was the charm (or so I thought), as Garmina finally worked in the third car, and I hurried on my way. I mentally started going through my list and checking the things I didn’t have time to do anymore—review my projects, grab lunch (hadn’t eaten for hours). . . oh, well. At least I’d gotten all the bad luck out of the way early, I thought.

Ha! I followed Garmina’s directions and ended up in a vacant lot. Seriously. A vacant lot. There was nothing there. Nothing. I called the hotel, now totally panicked. I was going to be late to the workshop. Me, the head of the company, the person who is supposed to have everything down pat, was going to walk into the workshop late.

I finally found the hotel (no thanks to Garmina!), stood in line again, raced to my room to repack for the workshop, and frantically rushed off to Megan’s. And once again, things went wrong. Garmin had me turning places where there were no streets, going places that didn’t exist.

Needless to say, by the time I arrived at Megan’s, I was a mess—I wanted to lay down and die! I walked in and all the guests are sitting there in a semicircle, patiently eating snacks—and waiting. I breathlessly unpacked, making jokes about one advantage of being late is at least you know where the workshop is—it’s where all the cars are parked.

Everyone was so gracious and kind. And I was grateful it was Megan and not anyone else, because she is the epitome of calm and cool. I had a chance to visit with her on the incentive trip a couple of weeks ago, and seeing her yesterday just reassured me that all was well and that everything would be OK. She has a sweet, soothing presence, which I was so grateful for!

From there on, things went better—mostly. I was frazzled and had problems with my builder wheel—I couldn’t get it to work, despite the fact that I had used it at home AND at the hotel the night before. Just wouldn’t work.

But I had saved some of my favorite projects for this last workshop (I’ll be designing new projects for the August workshops), and everyone seemed to like them, especially the Make & Take.  I enjoyed being with Megan and her customers—what a great group! Because it was the last workshop for awhile, we had a few more drawings because I gave away the extra incentive stamps and spots. I noticed that all four of the booking cards were gone too, so that’s good!

Megan’s demonstrator event last night was the bomb! She is organized and takes her business very seriously, and she planned an incredible event. It was themed, using all the tropical island products from the Summer mini (pages 26-27); the cake was the Designer Series paper, and it was amazing. There were demonstrations and Make & Takes for the 75 or so demonstrators and guests using the same products. The atmosphere was bright and fun, the group was lively and friendly, and it was a wonderful way to end this portion of the Workshops of a Lifetime!

 

A Class Act

You would never guess it by the name, but can I just tell you that Pitman is a quaint little town? Both Sue and I commented as we drove into town yesterday about how beautiful it is! And Melissa’s home simply added to the charm of the whole experience. As most of you know, I’m an antique lover, and her home is older, with wonderful doors, creaking floors, stained-glass windows—it was delightful to just walk around and feel the history of the whole area.

I told Melissa and her guests yesterday that whenever I do a workshop, an interesting thing happens. As I approach my destination, my heart beats a little faster and I get butterflies in my tummy. There are a few moments of apprehension and nervousness as I wonder how the workshop will go—and then within seconds of entering the house, it all disappears as I meet the hostess (and in my case demonstrator), share a warm hug, and start chattering about all the things we have in common! It happens over and over again; I suspect most of our demonstrators feel the same way.

Melissa’s workshop was a great experience! She teaches first grade, and many of her guests were fellow colleagues, or friends of colleagues. I thought the conversation might center on that, but except for a brief update (Melissa had taken the day off to prepare and one of her guests was the substitute teacher for her class, so she had to check on how the day had gone), the conversation mostly centered on the other thing they all had in common—stamping.

Although there were a few newbies, many were seasoned stampers. They seemed to love the projects, and I certainly enjoyed sharing them. It was fun to hear that many of them have Idea Book & Catalogs tucked inside their desks at school, and they’ll sometimes run between classes on breaks, sharing their ideas and brainstorming with each other.

Melissa’s demonstrator event (a group meeting) was actually first, and that gathering was equally enjoyable. It was open-house style (although most people stayed the whole time), with no set agenda. We stamped a couple of Make & Takes (one was a card that the group is donating to the Ronald McDonald House Charities), chatted, snacked (of course!) took a few pictures, and just had a great afternoon.

One of Melissa’s recruits is a fellow schoolteacher, and one thing that impressed me is that they had talked up front about the fact that they might be “in competition” with each other. However, they realized that they had different personalities, different skill sets—as well as a different group of friends outside of work—and they wouldn’t let that bother them. They could have felt threatened by each other, but recognized that there are plenty of customers to share. I like that approach!

I got to steal a few minutes on the front porch with Melissa and her husband, which was one of the highlights for me. I’ve mentioned it before, but getting to know the demonstrators—and their families—has really been one of my favorite parts of this whole experience, so it was delightful to be outside in the perfect weather and connect in a personal way.

And in between the group meeting and workshop, we took a short walk around town and then enjoyed authentic Philly cheese steak sandwiches; the husband of one of Melissa’s recruits actually drove into Philadelphia to get them, and it was the best Philly cheese steak sandwich I’ve ever had!

Maryann's Practically Perfect Workshop

It’s not every day that you plan a workshop and pull it off exactly as planned—or at least it seems that way to everyone who attended. But last night, I have to say that Maryann had as close to an ideal workshop as I’ve been part of! (And I’ve been a part of a lot of workshops recently!)

First of all, Maryann is simply a jewel. She’s efficient and well-organized. But above and beyond that, she is funny, caring, and kind. You could tell that both her demonstrators (upline and downline) and customers adore her. She naturally reaches out to people and makes them feel valued and important—she treated me like a rock star, yet I instinctively felt honored to be with her, because I sensed she is simply a good person.

The evening started with her demonstrator event, which was a tasty, home-cooked meal together—hit the spot! The event was very casual; we just sat around eating and visiting.  Maryann had invited her upline, as well as her new recruits (she’s going to make a great upline, I can tell), and you could tell they were a caring, close-knit group that had lots of fun together!

After a couple of wonderful hours chatting, we simply walked downstairs (Maryann had scheduled both events in the charming church where she works) for the workshop. Maryann had created favors, name tags, a banner, etc.,—the workshop decorations featured a beach theme. It was fun and fresh, and I was impressed with Maryann’s attention to detail.

She had a great workshop group—19 in all (not counting us), and there was a nice mix of young and old, new and experienced stampers, etc. The energy was high—almost tangible. Everyone was enthusiastic; they asked lots of questions and enjoyed spending a fun time together.

Several of them took pictures of the display samples I had, as well as the demonstration project and Make & Take I showed. Maryann had a couple of bookings, pretty good sales (I think—she won’t close until Friday), and even one or two people who might be interested in becoming a demonstrator. See what I mean by a practically perfect workshop?

What makes this even more impressive is that, like many of the demonstrators I’ve met through the Workshops of a Lifetime Challenge, I don’t think Maryann’s ever actually been to a workshop herself. One of the things she mentioned to me before we started was that she was going to be watching me closely (no pressure there!), so she could learn.

She certainly doesn’t need to learn how to be a good hostess—she has it down pat! She’ll be able to offer great hostess coaching to her hostesses, because she’s such a great hostess herself!

 

 

Dawn's Dream Workshop

My last official Workshops of a Lifetime week has begun—in grand style. At the end of this week, all the workshops except for two (which we’ve had to push back to August because of scheduling conflicts) will be done! I can hardly believe it!

The drive here set the mood through beautiful wooded countryside. I arrived Monday night and stayed with my good friend, Sue, who is accompanying me on this round of workshops. We didn’t realize how long the drive was until we googled it and discovered that we’d need to get up quite a bit earlier than we anticipated! But it wasn’t too bad—the drive was gorgeous and peaceful (we only got lost once), the conversation was lively, and I learned that U-turns in New Jersey aren’t really U-turns; they’re jug handles!

Dawn’s workshop was scheduled to start at noon (we started a little late because we waited for a few guests), and it was one of the smaller groups, which always makes for a cozy workshop experience. We had a wonderfully diverse group, ranging in age from a 13-year-old avid stamper who is counting down the days until she can sign up (five years and one month—her mother is a demonstrator, and no, she didn’t attend) to several guests who were a few decades older (smile), as well as a handful of people in between.

We had grandmothers and Girl Scout troop leaders and mothers and women from all sorts of different areas, and by the end of the workshop, we’d all enjoyed our time together. (Dawn and her workshop hostess, Elise, are in this photo with me.)

I felt like a couple of the guests weren’t very excited about being there; I think they felt obligated to come. (None of you demonstrators have ever experienced that, have you?) I was pleased when, after the workshop was over, they hung around a little to chat, and one even said, “I can’t believe that you can take a piece of paper and make a card out of it in five minutes!” That always feels like a success to me, when you capture someone’s attention who was initially not very interested. I was grateful they took the time to be there, and even more grateful that they had a delightful (I hope) experience.

The projects went over well; they featured products from the mini, as well as the May promotion. Most of the guests were newbies, and they caught on quickly. Dawn isn’t closing the workshop until Friday, so I’m not certain how her sales were, but she did get one booking—and  hopefully a new recruit in about five years!

Tonight was Dawn’s demonstrator event, which was a large group gathering. Dawn called the event a “Dream Night” and invited everyone to come wearing pajamas. She gave me a darling pair of handmade pajamas and slippers (that matched hers!), so I got to spend the night in my jammies. Loved that!

We took lots of pictures, enjoyed a to-die-for chocolate fountain, stamped, and chatted. It was a great night, and they were all still partying when I left!

 

Father's Day Fun

Here’s a project that I planned on demonstrating at the Puerto Rico regional (I mentioned it in the blog), but I didn’t have one of the supplies I needed, so I wasn’t able to show it. I promised the demonstrators who attended that I’d post it on the blog, so here it is—along with more than enough step-by-step photos to show you how to make it!

Spoiler alert—Stop reading here if you’re a Gardner male: I’m going to make these for Sterling, all the dads in my life, and all my sons-in-law. By switching out the Designer Series paper, I can change the look and feel of each piece. I’m excited!

The outside front cover of the On Board briefcase.

Add Designer Series paper; trim and sand edges.

Punch out holes.

Set eyelets.

Back side of front cover; two strips of card stock cover the holes.

Assemble book; spine is made from Designer Series paper; cover both sides of briefcase with DSP.

Fold envelope flap backwards.

Adhere flaps together to make an accordion. You can use as many envelopes as you like, depending on what you’re going to give the man/men in your life. You just need one if you’re giving a gift card. I’m giving photos, so I’m going to use several.

Adhere envelopes to inside of briefcase.

Create the tag.

Finish the bottom edge of the briefcase with a strip of Designer Series paper.

Finished project!

 

 

 

 

A Southwestern Flavor Day

I knew when I left Phoenix yesterday morning and drove to Tucson for Mary’s workshop, it was going to be a great day—the sun was bright and warm, and I looked forward to a quiet and thoughtful desert drive! Most of you know that I’m a warm weather girl, but I’m also a desert girl. There’s a distinct beauty found only in the desert, and Arizona boasts cactus like nowhere else. And with all the rain this spring, the cactus flowers were in full bloom and absolutely gorgeous!

When I arrived, Mary and her husband and 16-year-old daughter greeted me so warmly, and I couldn’t help but feel welcome and comfortable in their beautiful southwestern home filled with sunlight and warmth.

Six of Mary’s downline (one man—woo hoo!) were also at her house—they’d been in town since Thursday! Some flew in (one from Wisconsin!) and others drove several hours. We had a delightful lunch, chatting and snacking on yummies.

About an hour or so later, the Southwest Stampers arrived. These ladies are a group of local demonstrators (not all in the same group) who meet once a month for fun and stamping. Mary met them when she moved to Tucson last July, and they welcomed her with open arms. The chatting and snacking continued, with me sharing my Stampin’ Story and talking a little bit about recruiting and workshops and other business-related topics.

Then the demonstrators left, and it was time for the workshop to begin—and the fun continued. Mary had 9 guests, none of whom she’d met before! It was a smaller group, so we all gathered around her dining room table, and it was cozy and intimate. We stamped, talked, laughed, and had fun.

They all seemed to like the projects; the Make & Take used a set from May’s promotion, and the demonstration project featured a stamp from the Summer mini. One guest mentioned that she didn’t usually like to stamp in front of others because it made her nervous, but because the projects seemed so easy, she was willing to try—and her project turned out beautifully! One thing I’ve learned is to keep the projects, even the demonstration one, pretty simple. Because there’s so much going on at a workshop, even experienced stampers seem to appreciate simple stamping.

And guest what?  Mary got five or six bookings (I’m not sure how many—I just know that my four booking incentives were gone and I had to pull out a couple extra), plus a couple guests talked openly about their interest in signing up as demonstrators! Mary’s never done a workshop (she’s been an online demonstrator), and she was very excited about the possibility of getting some workshops on her calendar. And to identify some potential recruits was just icing on the cake. What a great day

 

Warm in Arizona

I’m in Arizona today, attending a National Advisory Council retreat for Brigham Young University. I’m attending a few sessions, and yesterday I actually taught one session myself! The group was small but fun; we made a couple of Make & Takes and I talked a little bit about creativity and papercrafting . It’s always fun to introduce people to the art of stamping!

Since I’m not presenting today, I think I’ll be able to relax a bit more—and maybe fill my cup a little too! I’ve already attended a session or two that have enlightened me, touched me, and strengthened me. And this morning, I took a fabulous walk outside—you know I’m a warm weather girl, so the clean, fresh desert air was invigorating. I’m glad I came.

Tomorrow is another workshop of a lifetime; we’re winding down a bit—only seven left! (The last two are actually scheduled in August, because schedules just wouldn’t work out and we had to postpone them.) I’ll let you know how it goes. . . .

All About the Demonstrators

 Although it feels almost like it didn’t happen (I’ve been so busy since we’ve returned!), I had to blog about the incentive cruise last week! What a great opportunity to spend time with some wonderful demonstrators!

As is tradition, our family (the adults—daughters and their husbands) went, although we did miss Nate and Megan; he couldn’t get away from work. Sean and Jon took literally hundreds of photos of the demonstrators, and Brian (our own Stampin’ Up! videographer) took hours of footage, and those will be available for the home office to use in all sorts of ways.

I decided not to post any demonstrator photos, however, because as soon as I started looking through them, I realized I couldn’t post one without posting hundreds! I would want to make sure every qualifying demonstrator was recognized, and that’s just not realistic! (If you want to see demonstrator photos, I’m sure dozens of demonstrators have blogged about their adventures on Royal Caribbean’s Adventures of the Sea.)

I’ve chosen to post a few family pictures, although this cruise was not about family! I made it very clear at the general session that we wanted demonstrators to visit with us. While we were there as a family, our main focus was our demonstrators—recognizing and thanking them for all their hard work over the past year. I was thrilled that many demonstrators did exactly that, pulling up a chair to chat for a few minutes, walking alongside me on the beach, stopping me on the street when we were docked. . . . I never got tired of visiting with demonstrators. 

The ship was larger than some we’ve been on, so I didn’t see demonstrators as often as I would have liked. Cruise highlights for me were the exclusive Stampin’ Up! events (welcome session, general session, the midnight Make & Take), but we don’t schedule a lot of those, because the cruise really is about giving some of our top achievers a well-deserved vacation! The pillow gifts are always fun to see too. Again, these are a great way to recognize our demonstrators, and because I don’t always know what pillow gifts have been selected, I enjoy seeing what each day’s special treat is. I especially liked the purse (the grand finale pillow gift) on the last day—what a great way to catch people’s attention and start a conversation about Stampin’ Up!

 

I hope everyone enjoyed it—I know I did. Every cruise is different, and a lot of people have favorite cruise food, or cruise activities, and even cruise lines. My attitude is when someone is serving you meals, making your bed, and cleaning up after you 24/7, it can’t get better than that—no matter where you are!

 

¿Habla Usted Español?

I know I’m more than a week late, but I always post about the regionals I attend, and I couldn’t not mention our first-ever regional in Puerto Rico, which took place the Saturday (April 24) before we headed off on the incentive trip!

What a wonderful experience! I got teary-eyed more than once as I met with these inspiring, gracious people. First, during my opening remarks when I looked out at the audience; it was an impressive group for our first-ever Hispanic regional! I could feel their excitement for being there, and I was overwhelmed.

Second, I teared up a little as I watched the Workshops Wows, which are scattered throughout the regional. Because it was a Hispanic regional, we had Spanish translation services for any presentations made in English, including mine. But we didn’t have any English translation services for anything presented in Spanish.

The Workshops Wows were presented by our own lovely Hispanic demonstrators, and I was reminded again of what I’ve already known—creativity knows no language! We don’t need to know the same language to watch someone create a fun project and to be inspired and excited by what we see.

The language certainly did add a different aspect to this regional, though. We were all a little more nervous than we might otherwise be because of the different languages. But no one laughed when we tried to say a few phrases in Spanish, and everyone was so appreciative of our efforts to communicate.

We also had a larger group of guests at this regional, probably about half. It reminded me of regionals in the United States years ago. It’s fun to be reminded of our early years. . .

I’m posting three projects, which I showed. Enjoy! I planned on showing one more project—a Father’s Day project—but I forgot a critical supply and so I couldn’t. I promised those in attendance that I would complete it once I got home and post it on the blog, so watch for that in the next few days. . . .

I’ll also be posting about the cruise in the next day or two, before heading off on another Workshop of a Lifetime. We’re heading down the home stretch on those, and while I’m looking forward to being home (and in the office) a little more, a part of me will miss meeting people face-to-face so often. I’ve loved that!