Monday, February 21, 2011

Back on Track or Just another Monday

   I want to apologize to those that have been following or checking in for letting a whole week lapse without an entry.  I threw a Bridal shower this past Saturday for my future Daughter in law Alex. I hate to admit that I am easily overwhelmed and needed to totally focus on this event last week!
   The fact that Chesapeake Bay Christmas Company operates from my home ( and many of my co-workers homes too!) means that I had a lot of moving of messes to do in order to pull off this shower! Since my office is always in a state of total chaos I  did not even try to clean it up for this event. I just made sure on the day of the shower that this door had to remain closed...preferably dead bolted if I could have managed it. My office is actually a converted formal Living Room right off my front foyer! If my guests caught a glimpse of this chaos my cover would have been totally blown!!  But my office is really just the proverbial tip of the iceberg! In order to throw this shower I had to reclaim my Dining Room, ( Santa Central...where we put together our Santas and all other construction of our ornaments, garland etc!) my kitchen, ( where all of my paperwork that is currently being addressed such as bills, marketing, and scheduling... amasses in many small piles) and my den  (where all of my painting of ornaments occurs!) Basically I had to move mountains before I could even begin to clean my house and pull off this bridal shower. The real challenge was moving my organized chaos in such a way that I could be able to go right back into production as soon as the shower was over. So everything got picked up and moved into guess where?....the office!
   While doing this, my anxiety level was constantly trying to ramp up and take over...I had to fight valiantly to keep it beaten down to a low roar! It made me realize just how much I have going on in my many balls I am trying to keep in the air...and how many of them may be on their way to the floor before I go in for the catch!  There goes my anxiety again!!! But on the other hand it made me see how invested I am in Chesapeake Bay Christmas! much of my creative being  has been forced  to thrive under its need to grow and survive! I realized how I love this business and how it has brought me so close to my dedicated friends who are in this with me!
     Back to the original point of this blog...the bridal shower! I moved my mountains, scrubbed my floors,  polished my furniture, cleaned my carpets, decorated with pink and Tulle and flowers to my hearts content, and made some pretty decent addition to Shawnette and Carolyn's wonderful contributions. I do need to say that without Shawnette's help on the day of the shower I would have locked myself in my bedroom and had a full blown anxiety attack! but since she was there to help...we had a very nice event and nearly everyone on the guest list attended! I met members of my future extended family, we took pictures and laughed and laughed some more. It was all good. I was happy that I did it and I spent all of the next day doing nothing! I am still picking up bridal confetti and eating pink chocolate kisses!
   Today I am back to CBCC business. I have emailed vendors and reps, called my working friends to give them 1099's, made my 22nd list for this month, blogged, made several business calls, paid bills,  spoken with two friends, walked my dogs, and brushed my teeth! and most important I am busy making my messes again...back into the swing of CBCC! I still have 10 more items on my list to accomplish today so back to work I go!
Thanks for reading!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Viva Valentines Day!

     I want to take a break from writing about the early history of Chesapeake Bay Christmas Co. to wish all of my friends, family, and customers a Happy Valentines Day!  Even though we are in the gift business  we have always rather ignored this holiday ...probably because it is a holiday that usually causes me( and a lot of women friends) to  stress over coming up with something new and unique and somewhat romantic year after year. We usually just fall back on the traditional stuff,  a card,  a teddy bear...candy! But you know what...that is OK! Even though again we are in the gift industry... I hate feeling like I have to buy something to  fulfill my Valentines Day responsibility. So as a gift business owner I am absolving all of my friends, family and customers of thinking they have to buy a gift to have a great Valentines Day. Give a card, write something from the heart, do something for your spouse or loved one that shows them you are thinking about them. Let all that is unspoken be the focus of the day!   
    Ladies we all know that there is only one thing that truly makes it Valentines day for our guys... and it is not chocolate! Now guys... we ladies need to know that you are thinking about us and appreciating us. See what you can come up with besides buying something!! It might be harder, but I would bet it would be much more memorable. I remember the best Valentines day I ever had was  when my husband left written clues all over the house that led to some kind of gift. For the life of me I cannot remember the gift but I will always remember the romantic clues and searching through the house laughing the whole time. It was the effort he put into making the occasion fun and  that made it special.   Don't let the gift retailers be the only reason you feel you have to celebrate Valentines Day, you know it is a day driven by marketing expectations. Set your own expectations and then surpass them!
    I have been inspired.... next year look for a small thought driven gift from Chesapeake Bay Christmas for Valentines Day. It will be something beautiful that you can write your feelings on to be preserved and kept for years to come! But you don't have to buy make your day a special one! Just make it your day! Be in love!

Thanks for reading!



Saturday, February 12, 2011

Neptune Nightmare

   I am going to pause our early history after this blog. But first  I must share the experience of doing our first very large juried outdoor craft show. It was the end of summer 1996 and Chesapeake Bay Christmas was now having moderate success . We had built a small wholesale clientele. We were attending some small craft shows, church bazaars, high school shows, and local park shows but  we were ambitious and started applying to some of the biggies! Our first success came when we received our  acceptance to participate in the Neptune Festival Boardwalk Art show in Virginia Beach. This was a show that had over 300 exhibitors and drew huge crowds every year to celebrate the end of summer.We were elated!
   So we spent weeks figuring out our displays and tents and inventory. We packed it all up in my very large conversion Van (mommymobile) and headed to the beach in a state of excited anticipation. This was one of those situations where ignorance was bliss. Had we known what we did not know we probably would have  tucked our tails and run for the hills...not the beach! But we had a Van full of coastal treasures and we were going to make some money!
   We arrived and set about setting up when we realized our first mistake. We had come with a $50 sun shade type tent and what we saw was an endless row of perfect 10X10 $500 artist tents. Oh boy...embarrassing...but we set it up anyway...and rationalized that it would make us stand out...grey and white stripes were cool??  Right? Unfortunately we were soon to find out why they were not!
   The tents were set up tight as sardines. There was no space in between at all... being a good neighbor would take on new meaning!  Our tents backed up to the back rail of the boardwalk( which would ultimately be our salvation!) again leaving no space on any side. So we had set up our entire booth in a row with not an inch of space on either side and guess who our neighbor was???That's right a stained glass vendor..with gorgeous very expensive pieces hanging on all three sides of their tent.  We had set up our display without taking into account that we needed to leave a space to come out from behind our desk to restock and help customers etc. So every time we tried to squeeze our way out front some part of our bodies would brush against the side of their tent to the tinkle tinkle clank clunk of very expensive glass with nowhere to go! We were not being the best neighbors and it showed in the faces of these poor glass artists who had had the unfortunate luck to end up next to the new kids on the block!
    This would have been bad enough...but we were not through with our learning experience! We were at the beach. What force of nature do you always encounter at the beach? Wind! We had wind like a monsoon ( oh never fear...the rain was on the way!). Wind that picked up our entire little tent and wanted to carry it down the beach a couple of blocks! We did not know about tent weights and bringing buckets to fill with sand to anchor down the tents...all we had to fight this wind was a small bag of Bungee cords! So while I held on to the tent to keep it from flying and knocking down our neighbors displays, Shawnette took to the back railing with her bag of bungees and went to work! We had bungees going everywhere...and our poor neighbors reluctantly had to let us bungee our  unsecured  little tent to the front legs of their very well weighted down tents ( in self defense ... of course!) To this day Shawnette has the title of being the Bungee Queen and she still makes sure that every year at the beach...even though we now have our sand buckets in place...we are bungeed properly to the back rail just to make sure! She is a true Bungee artist!
   What next? the rain of course! Wind was just the appetizer and rain was going to be the main course of this nightmarish Neptune Festival! Our cute little  grey and white sunshade was just that... and only that! What do you mean it is not waterproof?? Could we have been anymore unprepared! Oh and one more thing did not have any sides! So what were we to do...give up and go home?? No way..we had brought an enormous blue tarp for just such an occasion! Only one problem...our tent was squeezed in tight between its neighbors...and it was starting to rain..and how were we going to get this tarp around and over our cute little tent after the fact? I think all we had left in our bag of tricks were a couple more bungees and a couple of clamps and absolutely no room to work in the wind and the rain. Have you ever tried to tarp something in the wind???and the rain?? Step in Shawnette once again! She was fearless! While I held and handed and pushed and pulled, she scrambled and climbed and squeezed and bungeed and clamped. We both said we were sorry to our neighbors at least 100 times! Then finally it was done! Now we were  a blue wrapped monstrosity in a sea of stately white artist tents! We really stood out now, but miraculously we had done all of this tent wrapping without breaking any expensive stained glass Hallelujah!
   We survived the weekend. The weather got better. We made a little money. We learned a lot of lessons. We were now on our way to becoming seasoned veterans of the art/craft show circuits.
Shawnette is still the Bungee Queen! We still do the Neptune Festival every year  and  we still bungee to the back rail...just in case!

Thanks for reading!

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Thursday, February 10, 2011

Back at the Beginning Again

    Ok ...I have been writing the story of CBCC  in a bit of a circle. I am sorry for any confusion but I can only say that that seems to be the way my brain functions these days! I started at the beginning, then digressed back twice and now I am back to where Chesapeake Bay Christmas Co started to become its own entity, to breath on its own, to stand on its own legs so to speak.
    It was 1995 and I had made my first several sales, was working like a fiend, had entered many craft shows that were BIG shows ( I did not have the sense to start small!) I was scheduled to do the Neptune Festival in Virginia Beach at the end of September on the Boardwalk. It  was a huge deal for CBCC a great launching pad so to speak! This was a big show right in the heart of our customer base. It was three days of marathon of crowds, beach weather, and a set up nightmare! I NEEDED HELP! Circle back once again to my good friend Shawnette!
     I asked Shawnette,  my friend from PTO and play group, ("In the Beginning" blog) if she would give me a hand....because I was in over my head! She graciously jumped in with her signature high energy and encouragement and positive outlook...and  we have been doing this together ever since.  Honestly this little business would have never come to life without her steady influence. She has been  the calm force that has allowed me to continue on as the creative mess that I can sometimes be. She is always positive, always has my back, and always cuts through the crap! (whoops....sorry) I will not gush anymore except to say that Chesapeake Bay Christmas Co would have been shipwrecked years ago without her help!
    It was also at this time that two other wonderful friends and artists came on board with CBCC. Lindy Brammer a wonderful gifted artist who gave my line such an upscale boost! She designed many new ornaments and painted like a fiend to help us keep up with busy show schedule and new wholesale accounts. I also got the help from her talented husband Lee who was a graphic designer/photographer. He was such a help in the early days when we were trying to figure out website stuff and brochures and everything marketing! Then we still needed help and Lindy led us to an acquaintance of hers, Mary Albert. Mary was an artist like no other. She could paint in the most amazing detail. I would sketch out rough ideas and she would bring them to life in such an amazing way. Her level of detail was so refined that our customers had trouble believing her designs were actually hand painted . My team was in place now and we had something really outstanding going on!

      Follow our next Blog ""Neptune Nightmare" to hear about that first big  boardwalk craft show in Virginia Beach!

Thank you so much for reading!


Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Out of Order

    As I started sharing the history of the Chesapeake Bay Christmas Company I had made an unconscious decision to leave out  a part of its story that was a very unpleasant part of my life. But in order to be honest I felt I had to give that part of my story a place on the page. .
    When I first arrived in Virginia (1990) I met my first friend. We became very close very fast as I had left my life behind in Oklahoma and did not yet know anyone in New Kent, VA. She was a good friend. She admired my painting and encouraged me. We spent many hours together doing many craft projects and eventually decided to start our own craft company together and to start attending craft shows with the items we produced. We did this together for a couple of years but our friendship began to feel the pressure of a business that we did not see eye to eye on. It ended badly. It was not either one of our faults it just was what it was. I bought my partner 's stake in the business to end it as positively as I could, and sadly (after trying every way to save our friendship) I had to leave them both behind. It was one of the hardest times in my life.    
    As this chapter closed I knew that I would continue on and start over with a business of my own... and I knew that I would call it  "The Chesapeake Bay Christmas Co". That was all that I knew though, and those first steps toward building a business were not only scary but marked with the failure of a small craft partnership that went before it. I would take stock over the next couple of years of what I had learned from this...and try not to make the same mistakes again. I would also try to heal my hurt of losing a friend over business...a lesson that I vowed I would never repeat!
   So I guess this blog should actually precede the last one. I just  made the decision to share this part of my history because it is actually a part of Chesapeake Bay Christmas Company's foundation. The good the bad and all in between have brought me forward to this point in time where I am who I am and that is good.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

There is nothing like that first sale!

   I cannot begin to tell you what making that first sale of something that I had created by my own hand felt like! To see my product being sold on the shelves of a gift shop (well really a gift shelf in our local drug store!) was a most incredible high. I really have never quite reproduced that feeling since. It gave me such a shot of courage and confidence that I could do this...I could make this into a business, I could start making my own income!
   That was really the pivotal point that changed a hobby into a business. I became a driven saleswoman... making cold calls on shop after shop within a days drive of my home. I think many of those first sales were really pity sales because I was so bad at selling my product. My voice would quiver, my hands would shake..I was a mess, but thankfully my ornaments were selling themselves! My list of shops was growing....enough that I was working 20-30 hours a week painting. That may not sound like much, but as a mother of three small children it was a lot.  But the satisfaction of having a business that was mine, was intoxicating. It kept me focused when it was hard to find the time get everything done, when it was hard to stay up late into each night painting, producing, and doing paperwork. It was hard work but so much more satisfying than any job I had held in the past. I was home with my kids putting my all of my energy into them and into building the  foundation of  The Chesapeake Bay Christmas Company.
Thank you for reading and being our cheerleaders!


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Saturday, February 5, 2011

"In the Beginning"

    Now that I have relived our  amazing trip to Sanibel Island in the first five blogs, it is time to come back to the present so that I can do what I set out to do with this blog about  the Chesapeake Bay Christmas Company and all of the folks who have been a part of it for the past 16 years! That's right 16 years...just typing it was surreal because it does not seem possible that it was that long ago that Shawnette and I started building this little business that has become part of our hearts and souls.We have been growing Chesapeake Bay Christmas Company little by little year by year.
    In the beginning...we started this business based on my love for painting and giving of handmade gifts, combined with a love for the area ( New Kent, Va) in which we live...between the gentle  rivers the Chickahominy and the Pamunkey which in turn feed the majestic rivers the James and the York which flow into our country's most noteworthy bay "The Chesapeake". Our love of this place and the resources it provides were the beginnings of the niche we would start to carve out for ourselves in the gift industry.
     I had grown up in Virginia but had spent 17 years of my life moving around this great country with my husband Van as he climbed the corporate ladder of Reynolds Aluminum Recycling Co. We moved back to Virginia ( New Kent) in 1990 with two young children and our third on the way. Our first son Matt was born in California,  our second son Jake in Oklahoma and  #3 Joshua would be my  fellow Virginian. It was the desire to stay at home with my children that fueled the need and the desire to create a business that would contribute to our household and allow me to be at home when our children were small.
     I met Shawnette soon after the kids entered school. She also is the mother of three sons (our first thing in common!) We were both moms who were  involved with our kids at school so we became PTO moms and room mothers and everything else that that entailed. We also were part of a play group that  got our younger children together once a week for some major roughhousing and playtime. This play group was an amazing source of friendship and creativity and support that we all provided to each other. It was during this time that I started to paint on local oyster shells mostly to entertain myself and to give to family and friends as gifts. I then started to attend some local craft shows with what I considered moderate success. My self esteem was growing so I made  an amazing first step as a business woman. I ventured into our local Cardinal Drug  Store  and made my first sales call!  Success!...I actually sold 25 hand painted oyster Santas... and that was the fire that ignited the creation of  The Chesapeake Bay Christmas Co.!!.           

Stay tuned history continues in next blog

Friday, February 4, 2011

Farewell Sanibel

   Friday of our week on Sanibel had arrived and with it a feeling of sadness that we would have to leave this warm, whimsical place and go back to the cold of our mid-Atlantic homeland. Now don't get me wrong...we also come from a beautiful place where tourists come from across our country to see. But we were in a full out love induced state with Sanibel Island where we were looking at real estate magazines and imagining ourselves there a stress free blissful existence with nothing more than shell collecting, beach walking, eating, reading , bike riding, swimming, paddle boarding, kayaking, and sunbathing to fill our days, prioritizing them in different orders each and every day.
    Dream on Golden Girls!! our destiny and our  plane awaited to whisk us back home to our  our hubby's, our kids, our work and more snow!!! We packed in a subdued state, talked in low tones about our wonderful week, started coming down with a cold, and once again wondered whether our suitcases would make the 50 pound weight limit with the extra shells we had packed into them. We went to bed that night  to dream of ankle deep shells on beaches, walks to Sanibel Lighthouse, unlimited chips and dip every night, Zinfindel, Kahlua and vodka beverages, bike rides to Tarpon Bay, fog like no other fog, a stare down with an angry mob of seagulls, a  paddle boarding ponytailed senior, shell bombing birds, a dolphin drive by, Spoon Billed Roseates, gators and skunk-apes, Tomlinson and Capt. Austin and last but not least  Randy... I mean Doc Ford!
Farewell Sanibel....we'll be back!

Lynn McPherson

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Stalking "Doc Ford" Again

Shawnette ( my friend and business partner in Chesapeake Bay Christmas Co), and I have wanted to go to Sanibel Island since 1996 when we both read our first Randy Wayne White Novel "Sanibel Flats". We have read and reread every novel in his series of 18 books!  Mr. Whites protagonist of the series is Doc Ford. He is an intellectual/marine biologist/ex-NSA operative who takes you along on awesome Florida/global  adventures laced with wonderful Florida and world history, political intrigue,amazing character development, twists and turns,and some of the most evil bad guys one could ever imagine. After years of reading his books and being dedicated fans we are also sure that Doc Ford is probably a character that Randy  loosely bases( with lots of fiction of course) on himself ! Therefore now that we were here on Sanibel Island we felt compelled to identify all of the spots we had read about in his books, and walk the same paths that our beloved characters had walked, and imagine where Dinkins Bay, the stilt house, and Tomlinson's Sailboat were.....but most of all we wanted to meet Doc Ford...I mean Randy!!
   We were really not very good stalkers. We arrived on Sanibel one month before Randy was scheduled to be at his two local restaurants (Doc Fords) signing books. Good planning!... but we still had this little bit of hope that we would just coincidentally through good karma... trip over him sitting in the corner of "Doc Fords " waiting for us to come by and say hello, or maybe run into him walking on the beach, or shopping at Jerry's market, or eating lunch at the local marinas... Fantasy laced with hope is a wonderful thing! Just the possibility of a Doc Ford/Randy encounter kept our entire week at Sanibel  high with child like anticipation . We explored and visited as many Doc Ford hangouts as we could and talked about the books as we went. We drove our other two  travel companions crazy with our talk! ( although I am sure they will read the books after listening to us for the week!) Needless to say we did not randomly run into Doc...I mean Randy...but that was OK because it gave us reason and permission to come back to this magical time with better stalking intelligence.
   We are waiting anxiously for Randy's  next book to be released on February 22nd (see link below)
Visit our website(below) to find the finest  Bay Santas and  Coastal Christmas Decor anywhere!!
Follow us tomorrow for  "Farewell Sanibel"
Lynn McPherson

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Into the Everglades

   For those few friends and friends who are actually reading this blog...we say thank you for hanging with us as we learn the art... and nuts and bolts of blogging. We will not  deceive you and so we must say that it is our #1 intention to increase our  company's visibility on the web and to drive more folks to our website ! Shawnette and I are both technologically challenged ( I much more that she...I do not even have my own facebook page yet...for fear  of knowing too much about my kids lives!) once  again thank you again for  bearing with us.
        Ok that does it!! back to our story...Into the Everglades

       It was now Thursday of our week long trip to Sanibel Island...and we were now ready to venture off the island for a side trip to Everglades City (about 60 miles SE of Sanibel and known to be  the gateway to the everglades).  We were on a take an air boat ride into the everglades...with our clipped coupon to Speedy's Air boat Adventures!! Wow what  adventure seekers we are ...the Golden Girls meet...the wild Florida swamplands full of Alligators, snakes, Skunk Apes( oh yeah!), and best of all Captain Austin!!!...our 20 something  air boat driver at  Speedy's! He was a blue eyed cutie about the same age as the statistical average of all of our own sons ( and we have 10 between us!) and we could tell he was elated to be the lucky purveyor of  our menopausal group into the the "Glades".
    We all stepped on board, trying to act air boat savvy, our hats and sunscreen in place, my arm linked through my mom's (76) who was such a trooper! Captain Austin told us we could not wear hats because it was going to be a wild and woolly ride like a roller coaster....Yes!!! so hats came off, ear protection went on and we were off!!!  Well almost...we puttered across the canal to be shown a large alligator parked conveniently on the bank, he looked ferocious...or did he?? We would later wonder!
    And we were off...again...this time through he mangrove tunnels, where Captain Austin navigated with amazing he could have easily decapitated any one of us at will with a minor steering adjustment! We needed to stay on his good side for sure!  We were looking , looking , looking for the illusive Skunk Ape (Big Foot of the Everglades) and most of all for Gators!  We looked and looked some more only to see a few birds ( that we could now identify due to our Tram tour of the Ding Darling Nature Preserve on Sanibel...we were such good students!) flushed from their peaceful perches by our extremely noisy air boat! I really do think someone should invent a silent air boat so we could actually have a chance of seeing a gator or a  Skunk Ape!!! But nevertheless we did get a great ride full of back sliding turns out of the mangroves and across the grasslands...enough to quench our mid life quest for adventure! After all we did have Captain Austin to talk about for the rest of the day... and whether or not the one alligator we saw was real or a plant!!?
      We drove back to Sanibel that afternoon only to find that all of the Everglade Gators were parked on the banks of the canal that ran right along the shoulder of HWY 41 The Tamiami Trail. I think they were car watching  along the HWY,a gator's version of Nascar, which must have been much more exciting for them than hanging out in the actual Everglades Swamp...go figure! We must have counted at least 100 on our trip back to Sanibel...lounging ever so  contentedly along the banks of a man made highway ditch!!! We checked Gators off of our list and that only left the Skunk Ape to titillate our imaginations of  unknown and unseen Swampy Things!
    Join us for the next installment  "Stalking Doc Ford... Again"
Thanks for reading and once again check us out on!