By Oh My! Guest

Creative Bag: Good things come in pretty packaging

{A sponsored post by Lorrie Everitt from Creative Bag}

Creative Bag, DIY Packaging

I left my corporate day job in 2005 to purse my dream of starting my own creative business. While working for over twenty years as a visual merchandiser and marketing director for a number of large retail companies, I learned a couple of valuable lessons about selling anything.

First, more often than not, customers are driven to purchase something not because it is needed but because it was packaged so nicely that they had to have it. And secondly, your packaging is an important part of your branding story and the way you choose to package your products says a lot about your business.

When I started purchasing packaging materials for my own creative business ten years ago Creative Bag was my “secret” resource. I approached Creative Bag in the fall of 2011 with the concept of collaborating on some creative projects and I ended up working as creative blogger and packaging expert for them. Honesty, I feel like I’m in my happy place whenever I walk into a Creative Bag store.

Creative Bag, DIY Packaging

Creative Bag is a family owned business from Toronto, Canada that has been supplying custom bags and packaging supplies to retailers, advertisers and marketing companies for over thirty years. Whether you are just starting out and need to purchase creative packaging supplies that you can DIY into something special for your small business or you are ready to invest in custom packaging for a growing business – Creative Bag is your packaging resource. You will find a vast selection of packaging products like bags, boxes, wrapping paper, tissue, ribbon, twine and so much more at Creative Bag’s three retail stores in the GTA and online. If you are looking to save money, most products offer discounts on larger volume purchases.

Creative Bag, DIY Packaging

Your product packaging will be the first thing your customer sees if you are selling on Etsy and your own website, or the last thing your customer remembers if you are selling at craft fairs and markets. You don’t have to use expensive supplies to create great looking packaging. It’s amazing what you can do with custom stickers, stamps and baker’s twine to embellish something as simple as a kraft box or bag.

Creative Bag, DIY Packaging

Magazines approach us every month to feature our products in editorials and DIY projects. I have been invited to appear on local television shows and to take part in workshops and YouTube videos to demonstrate DIY projects using Creative Bag products.

Creative Bag, DIY Packaging

Creative Bag has just launched their new and improved website and is celebrating this week with daily giveaways and product specials. Today is all about doing-it-yourself! Our daily giveaway includes a tote bag that I created filled with lots of DIY goodies that can be used for a display or photo shoot, a Brit + Co diy Ecourse of your choice and a copy of Brit’s new “Homemakers” book. Select DIY products and tissue paper are today’s online specials. Check our website and blog daily for more opportunities to win and save. You can join the Creative Bag email list on our website for weekly updates on new products and special offers.

Creative Bag, DIY Packaging
 

If you are looking for packaging inspiration, follow me on the Creative Bag blog for packaging projects and simple how to tutorials. You’ll also find lots of great packaging and branding ideas on our Pinterest boards and, of course, on the Creative Bag Facebook page.

About Lorrie Everitt

Lorrie EverittI have always led a creative life. With the encouragement of my parents and grandmothers, I learned to craft and sew at a very young age. I graduated from university with a degree in art history and from college with diploma in graphic design. If I’m not creating something I’m working out the details on what I’m going to do next. You will always see me with my camera bag, a blank note book and a fine tip black pen. My computer is my best friend and I spend way too much time on Pinterest. I prefer to read books that teach me something and magazines with lots of DIY projects and visual inspiration.

I enjoyed working for many years in retail as a Visual Merchandising and Marketing Director for a number of fashion and home decor companies. I learned a lot during that time and it gave me the background and connections that I needed to become a branding and marketing consultant, to design products lines for retail businesses and to license my art to giftware companies.

I started a small online business with a close friend that specialized in customizing stationery products that I designed. I love to do workshops and teach mixed media art classes – when I have time. I have sold my handmade products and jewellery making kits on Etsy and in local stores.

My projects have been featured on websites such as Buzzfeed and in magazines such as Somerset Studio’s GreenCraft and Weddingbells. I still dream about someday publishing a DIY creative book although the three “CreativeLiving” (online) magazines that I created for Creative Bag last Christmas came very close to making that dream come true.

When I am not blogging for Creative Bag you can find me posting creative ideas on my personal blog at Lorrie Everitt Studio or planning new things to make and do with my family and friends.

 website |  blog | pinterest | facebook | twitter

{Part 4} Dig A Business Foundation: Intellectual Property

{Part 3} Dig a Business Foundation: Intellectual Property | Oh My! Handmade

Also in this series: {Part 1: Website}  | {Part 2: Contracts} | {Part 3: Structure}

First off, I’m super proud of you for tackling each of the areas so far. We are going to wrap up with how you bring home the bacon: your business’ intellectual property.

For the vast majority of creative businesses, your intellectual property is your most valuable business asset. It’s how you get paid and the reason people love your brand. Because of this, creative businesses should have a process to regularly identify any copyrights or trademarks that have been created and to assess if registering them is in the best interest of the business, and if so, to complete the registration. Plus, once you’ve identified these valuable assets, you can start thinking about ways to monetize them via licensing, digital products, or service packages.

So what kinds of creations do copyright and trademark laws cover?

Copyrights

Copyright protects “works of authorship in a tangible form”. The tangible form part is easy, it just has to be memorialized in something that you can hold, view, or perceive (even if only for a few moments). The works of authorship part can be a little trickier.

I often like to back into it, by explaining some of the things that are not protected by copyright. As you’ll see there are times where parts of a piece do have copyright protection, while other parts do not.

  • Titles. Titles, names, short phrases, and slogans are excluded from copyright protection. So I could make a photograph called Necessary Silence and you could publish a book under that same name and neither of us could stop the other. However both my photograph and your book would have copyright protection, just not the title.
  • Factual Information. Another category not receiving copyright protection is works containing only commonly available information (think calendars, lists, or tables) and facts. Calendars are a great example of this; the 7×4 grid representing the month of June does not have copyright protection (because it’s a table). However, the calligraphy lettering and illustration that you pair with that grid would be protected by copyright.
  • Ideas. How you carry out your idea is what’s protected, not the underlying idea. For example, you can’t stop someone else from drawing animals riding bicycles. What you can prevent is someone tracing your illustrations, downloading them off your website and printing them, or buying a print from you and making copies of it.
  • Functional Items. The final area that trips up some creatives is that copyright does not protect objects that have a primarily utilitarian function. Common examples of this are clothing, accessories, and furniture. Once again, portions of the design could have copyright protection. For example, the elements required for a chair to work wouldn’t get protection (the back, seat, and legs). But if I carve an intricate pattern in the back of the chair, that design could gain copyright protection.

Trademarks

Like many of the laws we’ve covered in this series, trademarks are actually centered on consumer protection. This set of laws grants brand owners the exclusive right to use a word, phrase, or logo as a brand identifier. So that when consumers see that brand identifier they know exactly who is providing them the product or service.

For example, when we go under the golden arches into a McDonald’s and order a Big Mac we know that McDonalds Corporation is providing that service and selling us that product, not some random mom and pop burger stand.
Because of this, if you want to register a trademark there are a couple important rules to consider when adopting your brand identifier.

Cannot be generic or descriptive. Since you will be the one and only business allowed to use this identifier, you cannot be granted a trademark for a generic term (e.g. earrings) or something that only describes the products or services you are selling (e.g. design studio). However, this doesn’t mean that you can’t use a generic or descriptive term if it doesn’t apply to your products or services. Apple is a great example, apples are a generic term when applied to food; but we never associated apples with computers until Apple made that association for us.

First to plant the flag. The second rule is that trademark laws are playground rules. The first one to plant the flag gets the trademark, as long as they keep using it. So if I adopted and registered a trademark here in the United States in 2010, I could stop anyone from using that trademark that wanted to use it in the United States after me. But if I found out later that a small mom & pop had been using it since 1965, I wouldn’t be able to stop them. This also brings up the concept that trademarks are registered in individual countries, so just having a trademark here in the U.S. doesn’t prevent someone in Canada from adopting the same mark.

Cannot be confused with existing trademark. Finally, we have to check that your trademark cannot be confused with an existing trademark. For example, I wouldn’t be able to get a trademark for a clothing store called Anthro, because the trademark would easily be confused with Anthropologie. However, having a trademark doesn’t protect you for every product or service in the entire marketplace (think Delta – am I talking about water faucets, airlines, or dental insurance?). We only have to check for confusingly similar trademarks for related products or services. So if I wanted to open a gallery called Anthro, I’d probably be safe.

{Part 3} Dig a Business Foundation: Intellectual Property | Oh My! Handmade

Print out this worksheet by clicking here or on the image above and sit down with your favorite beverage. At this point I’m thinking you probably deserve a glass of wine.

As you work through the worksheet think about all the items you have created in 2014 that could be copyrighted or trademarked. Once you’ve got a list, then place a star next to anything that you’ve already protected with a registered copyright or trademark. If something is not starred and is critical to cash flow, then put that at the top of the list to register.
After you’ve done that, spend some time daydreaming about ways that you could create cash flow from some of these items: should you approach a new licensing agent, create digital products, design an e-course to teach your system to other business coaches?

Congrats! You’ve now reinforced four critical areas of your business foundation. If you didn’t drink a glass of wine before (or even if you did), reward yourself with one now.

I’d love to know in the comments below your biggest aha! moment from this series and what aspect of your business foundation needed the most TLC.

Kiffanie Stahle | The artist’s JD

artistsjd_2001Kiffanie Stahle is a lawyer, photographer, and small business owner. In April 2014, she created the artist’s JD, a place where creative business owners can get the tools and resources they need to tackle the legal aspects of their businesses. Kiffanie believes that the law doesn’t have to be scary or hard to understand. And she knows this to be true because she’s been practicing law since 2011. When Kiffanie is not creating art or running her business, you might find her concocting something in the kitchen, soaking up the sun, or plotting her next adventure.

WEBSITE | FACEBOOK | TWITTER | INSTAGRAM

This is final post in a 4 part series publishing every Thursday in January to help you dig a solid foundation for your business in 2015! Join us today for a special Q & A#OMHG chat with Kiffanie on Twitter, January 29th from 1-2pm EST. 

Also in this series: {Part 1: Website}  | {Part 2: Contracts} | {Part 3: Structure}

{Part 3} Dig A Business Foundation: Structure

{Part 3} Dig a Business Foundation: Structure | Oh My! Handmade

Also in this series: {Part 1: Website}  | {Part 2: Contracts} 

You are halfway through shoring up four critical aspects of your business foundation. Next we are going to focus on making sure your business structure is solid.

This group of tasks is my least favorite; they have very little creativity and involve lots of red tape! But I do them because keeping my business legit is my top priority, even when it involves tasks that I don’t like so much.

Business Type

Most creative business owners start by operating as a sole proprietor or a partnership. We do this because the cost is low and it’s easy to set up. Often the most difficult task in this process is a trip to City Hall to get a business license.
But as our businesses grow, operating as a sole proprietor or partnership often isn’t the best solution and many businesses opt to become a limited liability company (LLC) or a corporation. This is because of the legal concept of limited liability (Sorry, Canadians – LLCs only exist in the U.S.).

I like to think of the concept of limited liability as a fence. When in place, it puts a fence between your business life and your personal life.

Say your business gets sued. Maybe because someone slipped and fell during an open studio, because they had an allergic reaction to your products, or they took your e-course and implemented your ideas and their business tanked.

When you are operating as a sole proprietor or a partnership and they sue you and win their lawsuit, your business assets first will be used to pay the judgment. But if your business assets aren’t large enough to pay the judgment, then your personal assets must be used to make up the difference. This means that your home, your personal savings, and in some locations your spouse’s income might have to be used to pay that judgment.

However, if you are operating as an LLC or a corporation and they sue you and win their lawsuit, only your business assets can be used to pay the judgment. Your personal assets are off limits.

Determining when it’s time to make the switch is a balancing act. On one side you want to consider your risk of being sued, on the other your personal assets. If you have substantial personal assets, then even if your risk of being sued is low, changing over might be a good idea. If you have little personal assets then it would take a greater risk of being sued before the switch makes sense.

If you are not sure, pick up the phone and call your favorite attorney or accountant* and they can help walk you through how the switch will impact you and your business.

Appropriate Documents

If you are currently operating as an LLC or corporation, then pull out your business’ Operating Agreement or By-laws (If you don’t have this document, contact whomever helped you set it up and get a copy). These documents will list very specific items that you must keep in a central file. Often these are things like financial statements, tax returns, minutes of meetings, and the entity’s formation documents. Double check that you have all of the documents listed in your formation documents, and they are organized and easily accessible. If you’ve only got them electronically, make sure that they are backed-up regularly to another location or that you’ve got a printed backup.

The reason these documents are critical is they are required to keep the fence up around your business. These documents show that you are doing everything in your power to treat your business like a business, and not like your personal piggy bank. Keeping your business life separate from your personal life keeps the fence strong around your business.

Failing to keep these documents, holding meetings or other things that the Operating Agreement/By-laws require means you are poking holes in your fence. And if we poke holes, then when you get sued the opposing attorney will drive a bulldozer over your fence and your personal assets are once again up for grabs.

Licenses and Permits

Regardless of your business type, you probably need one or more license/permit to run your business. This could be as simple as a business license from your City. Or you may need a Seller’s permit so that you can purchase components at wholesale price and collect sales tax from consumers. I exclusively work with businesses in California, so this is my go-to resource for finding out what permits and licenses are required. Even if you don’t live here, it is a good jumping off point for thinking about the kinds of permits and licenses your business might need.

Team

At some point in your business, you’ll have to hire a team. If you are there, congratulations! This is a huge step.
As a business owner, hiring someone as an independent contractor and not as an employee sounds appealing. It eliminates the need for payroll, taxes, and worker’s compensation insurance. But calling someone by the wrong “name” can result in a huge tax bill and fines.

The rules vary a little country to country, but they all come down to the same principle: control.

They are an employee if you control how the work is done, what equipment they can use, and when they can do it. If they have the freedom to decide how to get to the final outcome, they use their own supplies, and they can do it at 2am or at 3pm; they are likely an independent contractor.

If you’ve currently got any independent contractors, evaluate who is the boss: you or them. And if you are, then switch them over to an employee.

{Part 3} Dig a Business Foundation: Structure | Oh My! Handmade

Print out the worksheet by clicking here or on the image above and pull out any business structure documents you can find: employee agreements, independent contractor agreements, formation documents, licenses, and permits.

As you work through the worksheet think about if any gaps exist between where your business is and where you want it to be. Maybe you need to talk to your CPA about switching over to a LLC, or you need to block off time to get your LLC paperwork in order. If you’ve got any gaps, take out your calendar and block off time to tackle these not-so-fun tasks.
Congrats! You’ve solidified your business foundation by getting your business structure secure. I’d love to know in the comments below the first gap you are going to tackle. Or if you are all squared away, let us know so we can give you a high five.

Kiffanie Stahle | The artist’s JD

artistsjd_2001Kiffanie Stahle is a lawyer, photographer, and small business owner. In April 2014, she created the artist’s JD, a place where creative business owners can get the tools and resources they need to tackle the legal aspects of their businesses. Kiffanie believes that the law doesn’t have to be scary or hard to understand. And she knows this to be true because she’s been practicing law since 2011. When Kiffanie is not creating art or running her business, you might find her concocting something in the kitchen, soaking up the sun, or plotting her next adventure.

WEBSITE | FACEBOOK | TWITTER | INSTAGRAM

This is part 3 of a 4 part series publishing every Thursday in January to help you dig a solid foundation for your business in 2015! Mark your calendars for a special Q & A#OMHG chat with Kiffanie on Twitter, January 29th from 1-2pm EST. 

Also in this series: {Part 1: Website}  | {Part 2: Contracts}