Sammy’s Rock

I can’t tell you how many women I speak with that, like me, find themselves waking at 3:00 a.m., their hearts pounding and their minds filled with anxious thoughts.  We joke about how we should have a 3:00 a.m. chat room.

Most of the thoughts are irrational, like Sammy’s fear of this rock.  I’m not saying the thoughts are untrue, but irrational because in the scheme of things they don’t matter a hill of beans, or they are out of our control so why worry at all.

Off camera the lady picked up and put the rock out of sight in a wood bin.   Immediately Sammy bounded away happy to have saved the park from what we all laughingly saw as an inanimate object with no power except in Sammy’s imagination.  That really got me and I wondered what rocks in my life, either in or out of my control, I was making into a problem.

The only thing that has helped me calm the hamster wheel in my head is Hatha Yoga and mindfulness.  If you are like me, it took many gurus, classes and forms of yoga before I found something that worked.  That and Sleepytime Tea.  If you have tried and given up on yoga, perhaps you have just not found the right class and I encourage you to keep trying.

Till then, we are all still up at 3:00 a.m. CST if you are 😉

Falling Back in Love with Halloween

Halloween, and the Fall in general, was always my favourite time of year.  Cosy layers of my Dad’s old cashmere and my mom’s Cowichan sweaters.  Brilliant colours of red and yellow maple leaves set against a crisp blue sky.  Freshly picked Macintosh apples with gooey Kraft caramels.  The smell of wood burning fireplaces and maple and rosemary in buttered yams.  Mmmmm.  What’s not to love?

AJ-Thea&Adam Sponsored Toronto Zombie Walk 2014 and I found a rare moment to pose with TZW Rock Stars Thea and Adam. [L-R] Thea Munster, Franken Me, Adam Paradox.

… and Halloween, which is rooted in ancient Gaelic tradition called Samhuin literally meaning the “end of summer”.  It is a time when the veil separating the worlds of the living and dead softens and the dead can cross over.  The only way to keep your milk from going sour or from getting a wart, it is said, is to disguise yourself like the dead or demons to avoid their attention.

I love disguise and Halloween so much that I opened a costume business, FeeFiFoFun, in 2010.  Most people I meet believe that costumes are just for Halloween.  They are surprised when they find their way back to me desperately needing a costume piece for a birthday gift, a business event, but mostly for their children’s school performances.

Every day for the past four years I have lived and breathed the business of costume play.  It starts with the Halloween & Party Show every January.  There I walk miles of corridors displaying bright balloons and party table wear, gory Halloween decor and tall smiling half naked girls who are modeling the costume trends their manufacturers believe will be profitable for me.  Stock arrives weekly throughout August and September allowing me time to organize for the frantic last two weeks in October when every child changes their mind and all the Halloween business happens.

The rest of the year does pale in comparison to my Halloween sales, but I’m amazed still at the abrupt transitions into Christmas, New Years, the School Year and Fan Conventions.  Like a switch on and off.

I wake up at 3:30 a.m. every day with my mind full of ideas and my heart racing with worry and excitement.  This is normal I understand from my Mom Biz Coaches Lara and Sheila.  Normal for entrepreneurs whose  perfectionism and incredible passion clashes with our sense of self preservation.  In my case, my sleepless night’s are also the drive to find meaning in my life.

My father, mother and little sister Jo died all died around my birthday in September 1994, 2004 and 2007 respectively.  Cancer sucks.  I’ve pretty much let this ruin the Fall for me.  It came into sharp contrast when last Halloween a neighbour came to the door with his two children after the pumpkin light was put out.  I thought, how rude, but then he remarked, “We thought, you being in the costume business, that your place would be the one all dressed up and out til the wee hours.”

He was right.  I’d spent so much time on others costumes and decor that I had little energy left for myself.  I had ruined Halloween.   I love my work, but I was exhausted.  Then came my granddaughter and at four she is now able to share all of her innocence and wonder with me about dress up and Halloween.

I’m not there yet.  I’m still struggling, but the mindfulness of finding meaning in every day life and watching my granddaughter is helping me slowly get back to loving the Fall and Halloween.

Creative Collaboration in Small Business

My teeth were cut in the 80’s as an ad executive in traditional advertising and public relations and opening a costume concierge business in 2010, I embraced social media.    I’ve noted,  working with other new entrepreneurs, especially women, that cash poor and product heavy businesses choose collaboration or cross promotion to market themselves.

However, these collaborations fail or are horribly unsatisfying for the Entrepreneur and this is why.

Entrepreneurs are creative, passionate and energetic … and hopeful.  You feel if you offer a quality product for free, including your time, that the collaborating company will give you something equal in kind.  Right?  Wrong.  How could you not help but be disappointed with yourself or the result?

Here are some tips and case studies about entrepreneurial collaboration that work for different reasons.

Tip 1 – The Six W’s.  Whose going to be there that is important to me?  When am I expected to be at this event?  What do I have to provide for this event?  Where in the event am I situated?  Why am I going to this event?  HoW the hell do I get the most out of this collaboration?

Case Study 1 – Hockey School Fundraiser  – The question Where found me in a private venue for an adult-only event with lots of food, drink and dim lighting.   The challenge was how to feature my product amongst hundreds of others.  With my mannequin dressed in as Elsa [the hottest 2014 costume] beside a rotating photo frame of my product, the event coordinator said it was a total hit, attracting attention to my table while improving the overall quality of her event.

Tip 2 – Value can be measured in many ways. Contradicting myself, sometimes a charitable event meets your company’s mission statement, or free product for a photo shoot gives you lifestyle shots of your product.

Case Study 2 – Photography Collaboration – I invited my co-op students to a participate in a free photo shoot.   The goal for the photographer and myself was to break creative boredom by working in a new genre called Cosplay.  I agreed to let the students pose in their own costumes as long as they were holding/wearing at least one of my products and if I could use the photographs in social media.   I learned a great deal about Cosplay and how I might make money from these young adults and was cool by association.


Photo Shoot with Welcome Aboard Photography

Tip 3 – Ask for what you want out of the deal.  They will either say yes or no.

Case Study 3 – Library Workshop Collaboration –  I’d hoped this event would give me data on how to proceed with the development of additional teaching units for middle schools and private playgrounds.   I asked if the Mississauga Public Library would use their substantial electronic and paper distribution systems to publicize the events.  They said yes, and I thought I was a shoe-in.    After six weeks of marketing, we had only six teens attend the workshop, a total bust.  I’m still not sure why the marketing failed, but the positive outcome was testing the ideas without having to carry the entire cost. #BigGuysCanAlsobeNiceGuys

Emma-Library Sign

Costume Workshop at Local Library

Tip 4 – Don’t just value your products.  Put a value your time.

Case Study 4 – Sponsorship of The Toronto Zombie Walk & Halloween Parade.  Not exactly a “collaborative” event since I am paying for vendor space and banner placement, but with this group IF you are creative the opportunity over and above the sponsorship is substantial.  What did I get?  Sponsorship means that my advertising banner, on TZW web site, is linked to my web store for a full year.   TZW has other events all year long that I can springboard from.  TZW also pimps me in other ways.

I zombify Blindsighted Host Kelly Macdonald for TZW 2014

I zombify Blindsighted Host Kelly Macdonald for TZW 2014

For example, they introduced me to AMI whose one hour filming on site with Blindsighted Host Kelly Macdonald, airs in January 2015, not in October when I am over saturated with “opportunities”.  Finally, the buttons I give away annually at TZW have my website address.  Because the TZW event, like Cosplay, is a highly photographed event,  people with our buttons will show up in photographs until digital kingdom is done.   The bang for my buck of time is amazing value. #ExploitinaNiceway

Cole Arthur, and our 2011 button complete with web address, appears ad infinitum, thanks to photographer Henry Chan

Cole Arthur, and our 2011 button complete with web address, appears ad infinitum, thanks to photographer Henry Chan














Case Study 5 – Through Twitter I met Murder Mystery Maven, Leigh Clements.   Having made custom flapper head bands for many of her guests at a Toronto event she hosted, I impressed photographer Wales Wong.  With Wales and her team, on a rainy day in Toronto, I helped style a photo shoot published in Dark Beauty Magazine.  My credit styling this event, again, appears on the internet in multiple places giving weight to my store’s web metrics in ways I will never understand and making me feel very cool, just by association. #FollowtheThread

IMG_5621DangerousAffairs IMG_5770

Case Study 6 – St Joseph’s Health Centre HallowSuperJohnsoneen fundraising campaign in Bloor West Village.  I created looks and styled five families as super heroes.   The ad campaign would appear on a web site, posters, banners, elevator doors.  I did it because my kids went there for every major crisis, it was a challenge and it was very cool. #CommunityService #Volunteer







Tip 5 – Some people or companies may just be dicks.  If they are really all that and it’s worth riding on their coat tails, just be grateful.  If they think they are all that, you either bought into it or were naive and in either case, you’ve got to just accept it and move on.

Case Study 5 – Shall Remain Nameless Collaboration.  I was invited to do something cool, a workshop on prosthetics and make-up and I spent months designing and over $1,000 in products, staff and hotel with a promise of reciprocal social media promotion, being in the paper program, blah blah blah.  I was so excited I said yes, pulled out all the stops, created an amazing event, fizzle, burn, nadda in return.  It was humiliating.  It was embarrassing and … my ego and enthusiasm is definitely to blame.

I’m sure I will make more mistakes in this entrepreneurial journey at FeeFiFoFun Costumes and in my blogging Off the Porch, Black Oaks and In Disguise, but if I enter with my eyes wide open I can enjoy the best and throw away the rest.