Saturday, May 31, 2014

How to Think Like a Marketer

Ok guys I made a mistake.  Well not a big mistake but I learned a lesson that I want to share with you.  In my last post I told you about a situation I was having on Facebook with commenters.  Well this week at work I had my private student who is a marketing manager for Michelin tires in Mexico.  He is one of my favorite students because we always have great conversations.  I was telling him about the comments on Facebook and my reaction to them.  He gave me a little insight, and advice, about how large companies handle these situations.  It's a good lesson: sometimes we have to step outside ourselves and seek advice from professionals.

At Michelin their Facebook page is monitored by an outside company.  The company answers the Facebook comments and messages that they can, and directs more difficult questions to customer service at Michelin.  They rate the comments on three levels.  Level one is for comments that are spam, or are hateful and purely inappropriate.  Those messages are deleted.  However as my student informed me, they rarely delete messages even when they are negative or inflammatory.  He told me that the reason they don't delete messages is because it gives the impression that the company is trying to hide something, and this in fact enrages commenters and/or customers more than anything.

This was his suggestion for me based on his experience at Michelin.  He suggested that I actually respond to these messages with a question.  For example, to the person who said my dolls scare her, he suggested that I ask her what scares her.  Furthermore he recommended asking specific questions like, how could the eyes, mouth, hair be improved/changed as to not look so scary?  Now when he was telling me this I wanted to argue with him.  And I did argue, "No!  These people are just being mean.  They just think dolls are scary and no amount of changing the doll will make them like dolls!"  To which he replied, "yeah maybe, but when you respond this way the person will have one of two reactions.  First, if they are a meanie your cordial response will probably shut them up.  Otherwise second they might actually offer you constructive feedback and/or because of your pleasant response, they will soften to the idea of your work and who knows, become a customer.

I think as artisans it is easy to be very protective of our work.  What this conversation taught me is that turning your craft into a serious business requires you to step back and see your business as a business.  You have to be able to think like a professional salesman, marketer, financial officer, etc.  To do this might require speaking to others who are professionals in these areas.  Ask questions whenever you have the opportunity to talk with a professional in the business world.  When I decided to try and turn BeBe Babies into a business which can sustain me financially, I began writing more seriously on my blog.  The reason is because I want to share my journey with you, even all the mistakes and setbacks.  Hopefully I can prevent others from making my same mistakes.  That is all.  :)

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

How to Stop Bullies

In middle school I was in the vice Principal's office a lot.  I also was sent to the counselor's office on a semi-regular basis.  One particular time it was because I was supposed to correct a girl's paper and I wrote the lyrics to Green Day's Dominated Love Slave on her paper and then erased it enough so that I could say I erased it but also so that she could still read the lyrics.  The girl had been home schooled until that year and I don't think she had ever encountered a kid like me.  I dressed like a boy.  I was loud.  Really I was like an older Dennis the Menace, but a girl.  I never considered myself a bully because I never did anything to maliciously hurt anyone.  I just thought I was funny and I liked shocking people.  I saw that girl later in college and she didn't seem to have any hard feelings.  I imagine she had seen worse than me by then.

I also was "bullied" if you can call it that.  Boys at school called my friend and I lesbians, and threw rocks at us, but really I never cared.  I guess I would say people tried to bully me but I always thought I was a lot cooler and more interesting than the whole lot of them.  I found people quite boring, as I do now as an adult.  In middle school I was going to punk shows, learning to play guitar and publishing a magazine (yes I actually wrote my own magazine in middle school which I sold around town and traded through the mail).

For some reason this week my BeBe Babies Facebook page has been getting a lot of action, lots of new likes and comments.  Early last week there was a comment in Spanish that said something like "this doll doesn't look like your others and I don't like it."  Ok fair enough.  Then yesterday I got another comment also in Spanish that said "these dolls scare me."  Again fair enough.  After that a man commented "noooooooo..."  I wasn't sure what that was supposed to mean so I left it.  But then he returned to comment much later saying "these are just wrong."  Maybe I was feeling a little touchy last night, because I'm going through a break up and am about to get my period, but the comments just rubbed me the wrong way.  

Now I'm not saying these people are bullies, but I think it's in the same realm and here's why.  Both of the commenters from yesterday came back to comment a second time.  Now I know what normal people do when they don't like something, they stay away from it.  These types of people are fishing for conflict on the Internet.  There is absolutely no other reason to post these types of comments.  Certain types of people troll the Internet leaving comments on Facebook, news stories, Youtube, forums, anywhere they can stir up some emotional drama.  I've seen it many times in many places.      

And how did I feel about these comments?  Well they don't make me feel one bit bad about my dolls.  Opinions are like assholes and all that.  What bothers me about people like this is that they want me to feel bad.  They want to manipulate me into a confrontation by playing on my emotions.  I imagine them sitting at their computer, while life goes on around them, waiting for their little red notifications to light up.  Really how incredibly boring some human beings can be.

So how can you stop bullies?  You can't.  It's as simple as that.  Stop trying to stop people from being mean.  Just remember they are boring and you don't have to be.  You don't have to react like they want you to.  I know this issue is more complicated in the schools, but really why is everyone trying to expel the bullies?  Young bullies grow up to be adult bullies who harass people on the Internet or at work.  You cannot expel all the meanies in life.

As for my Facebook commenters I deleted their comments and banned them.  I deleted them not because they were particularly offensive, but because that is my business page and I don't need anyone putting off any potential customers.  And it's my page therefore I have the right to control the content on it.  I did write this comment on the post "I'm not sure what's going on with the people writing negative comments on my posts. If you don't like my dolls please don't look at them, and definitely do not post that you don't like them, because I really don't care what you think. My dolls are a positive place for me and anyone writing negative comments will be banned and deleted."  to which one of the original commenters responded with the typical "it was just a comment calm down". Ha ha ok!

On a positive note I'm slowly organizing my life little by little.  My friend moved back the US this weekend and gave me a much better phone than the one I was using.  Plus she gave me some cute baskets to organize with.  

I also finally went to Home Depot to get nails for concrete walls.  After a year I have finally put up some of my art.  Emotionally it's the little things that are helping me, the big things still look very far away. 

Sunday, May 25, 2014

How to Write a Successful Blog

Last week at the school our advanced students were studying topics related to success.  We discussed how the definition of success is objective.  Some measure success by the amount of money they make.  Others measure success by their health and/or relationships.  I mention this because I am going to talk about what makes a successful blog, in my opinion.  Lots of people probably won't agree but it depends on what your goal is with your blog.  It's important to understand your purpose in blogging so that you don't lose your way.  My purpose in blogging is to reach more customers, have an outlet to write about my personal life, and offer a resource for my friends in the doll community.

I read many blogs for many different reasons.  For humor I go to Hyperbole and a Half, Badder Homes and Gardens or Awkward Family Photos.  For craft and design I go to Apartment Therapy, Design Sponge and A Beautiful Mess.  For food I like Skinny Taste, Everybody Likes Sandwiches and my friend Morgan's blog Fo Reals Life.

One of my favorite lines from Hyperbole and a Half.

I have been reading a lot of business blogs lately which sparked a lot of ideas for my own blog posts.  However recently I have become disillusioned by them.  I used to be very excited to see new posts and I was enthralled by the advice and inspiration.  I gave it some thought and I think I know what bothers me about "business blogs".  Once you read the same blog for a while the author begins to repeat topics and themes.  It starts to feel as if they are only writing for new readers and have no concern for retaining long time readers.  They repeat the same stories and advice every couple months or so.  This does not give the impression of evolution.  It makes me feel as if the purpose of their blog is to grab new readers who will be so impressed or shocked they immediately buy the author's book or seminar, which is fine if that is the purpose of their blog, but honestly I think that makes a bad long-term blog.

One of the best blogs I have ever read was written by a fairly wealthy Mom living in silicone valley.  The blog was called Sweet Sweet Life and was generally a lifestyle blog.  Mostly she shared beautiful and interesting things she found on the Internet.  I liked her style and loved her choices.  Well then her husband lost his job and the blog slowly turned into a heart wrenching story about a family who lost their affluence in the blink of an eye.  As the money and job opportunities dried up they eventually moved across the country, taken in by family.  I don't believe she writes her blog any longer but the reason it stands out in my mind is because it was a great story.  The blog evolved and was interesting and well written at all stages of her life.

Originally I was very into Penelope Trunk's blog but as I said above I've lost interest.  Mostly it's because I've noticed a theme in these types of personal business blogs.  The theme of how poor they were at some point in their life continues to come up.  It's like telling us how they had no food and slept on the floor will hook us.  Here's another example on James Altucher's recent post.  I just want to shout, it's not shocking anymore!  It feels like such a disingenuous sales pitch.  The theme of rising from the ashes is so over played.  It screams to me "buy my book/seminar and you too can get off your living room floor and stop eating expired cans of tuna!"  I suppose it works, but after hearing it so many times on the same blog it becomes tiring for a long time reader.

Here's what I mean about your definition of success.  By all means James and Penelope have successful blogs for their purpose.  I still recommend reading them.  But if your definition of a successful blog is one in which you build a readership invested in the story of your life, then I believe Amy's blog Sweet Sweet Life was much more successful.  There's evidence of this on Penelope's own blog as the most popular posts are about the violence in her relationship and even the relationship itself.  So whether you're rising from the pit of poverty or slowly sinking into it, let your blog evolve to keep it fresh.  In my opinion in the long run you will receive a lot more personal and financial gain from this strategy.  What do you think?  What are your favorite blogs and why?

Monday, May 19, 2014

How to Make Leggings

A while back I was smitten by some beautiful fabrics at the fabric store here in Mexico.  Every trip I find myself drawn to this one display.  All the fabrics are so vibrant and beautiful.  I love running my hand through them.  I wanted to buy them, all of them, but I wasn't sure what to do with them.  Originally my Mexican fabric shop was only carrying a traditional Mexican fabric called Cambaya.  The original idea for the shop was to only carry exclusively Mexican fabrics.  After some investigation I found that this other fabric I love so much is also made in Mexico.  It occurred to me that my fabric shop should carry more than Cambaya.  I decided to buy some of the fabric I had adored so long.

The fabric is a polyester lycra from what I can tell.  It is light weight and very soft.  I need to return to the fabric store to get better information about this fabric, but it's hard with everything being in Spanish.  Also many of the cards on the fabric are not completed with all the information.  I find the fabric store employees to be also very unhelpful and uninformative.

I imagined this fabric would be awesome for leggings, however with my anemia and doll work I only got around to trying my hand at a pair yesterday.  I used this video as a guide.  I was so so pleased with how they came out.  The first pair was too short at the waist but I added 5 inches and the second pair came out perfect size-wise.  I did decide though, that if I am actually going to make some leggings for sale I would like to improve on this pattern a bit first.  The first thing I would like to do is buy a serger/overlock sewing machine.  I mean these look great for me but to really give them a professional finish they need to be serged.  I also think these pants might need to be lined, especially in the crotch.  I'm going to wear my pair around for a while and see how they hold up.  Overall I am really excited about them.

The funniest part about this project was that the woman in the instructional video used a solid white material.  Leave it to me to use a material with so many lines that needed to be matched up perfectly.  I'm getting much better at pinning!  (This is a little inside joke.  I took a quilting class once and the older woman instructor was appalled by my refusal to pin anything.  She tried to tell me over and over it was necessary but still I refused.  She became exasperated when all my lines came out perfect with no pinning.  She stopped hassling me after that!)  Ha ha!

Next step will to get these sewn up professionally with a serger and then get them on some models!

Or make your own!  Find this fabric for sale in my Mexican Fabric and Fashion shop here.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Boys, Boys, Boys!

Well since my last post it has become apparent that I am very very anemic.  I only became aware of my anemia problem last year and now when I really look back, I think I've struggled with it many times in my life.  The doctor says it can be caused by an infection, but also extreme stress, which I have both of.  Let me tell you I have been sleeping 8-10 hours a night, taking 3 hour naps during the day and losing my energy after being awake for about 2 hours.  It is making it very difficult to work and do anything that might help the stress I'm feeling as well.  I'm trying to take it easy on myself but the solitude is making everything worse.  I have started iron therapy but it will take a few days to build up in my system.  

It's times like these I am so thankful for my dolls.  Without them I think I would have lost my sanity a long time ago.  It's not always work to me.  Many times it's my therapy.  So when anemia strikes me this badly I feel defeated.  It becomes difficult to even push the sewing machine peddle or pick up the stuffing bag to stuff a doll head.  But I never give up...

I have two new dolls to share with you and surprisingly they came out as boys!  I don't make a lot of little boys because girls seem to sell a lot better.  But sometimes they are unmistakable boys!  The first is a new realistic preemie, who I have entered in a contest on The Doll Net.  The doll needed to be made just for the contest and I only had this little guy finished.  I'm happy with him but there were a few details I would have liked to improve.  By the time I heard about the contest I only had a few days to get a doll ready so Max had to do!  I hope you will check in on the contest when voting begins and give Max come love.  He will be available for adoption after the contest.

Then today I finished up a little boy who I listed in my shop.  He was finished a few days ago but needed a hat and booties.  Today when I got up I took advantage of the little bit of energy I had to walk to the store.  It's difficult for me in Mexico with no car because it is impossible to have a quick errand.  Everything requires walking, or a bus ride, and honestly I barely have the energy to walk up the stairs let alone walk 30 min to the store and 30 min back.  I did it though and got little Albert listed.

For now all things are on hold business wise until I can get my energy back but I'm doing the best I can.  Hopefully I will be back soon with more uplifting business oriented posts...

Thursday, May 15, 2014


(Disclaimer:  If you are here to read about business or dolls this post is not for you.  I have wanted to express the feelings I have when I am experiencing anxiety and usually it comes out in a dark way.  But anxiety is a dark place.  I want my blog to be a place where I can express all the good and bad in my life.  Right now I'm going through a rough patch and this is what it's like...)

There is a small spider crawling over soft hills of cotton.  Suddenly the terrain changes.  Skin is warmer, but damper.  The spider stops, presumably thinking.  Sensing nothing he sputters on like a fox darting through the woods.  At night, less things are moving.

The clock laughs herself awake at 4 am.  She looks around for someone to play with.  Her frustration with her own loneliness makes her angry.  Eventually she kicks me in the stomach and I come up sucking for air.  I worry that the fan in the room is not creating air but instead consuming it.  Regular breathing returns slowly.  The dreams, which are always nightmares, dance around the room joining the clock in an early morning party.  She is satiated by the excitement.

I lay there with my eyes clenched tight.  Waves of nausea roll from the back of my neck down my spine.  My stomach twists and turns.  Cold chills bring my skin to attention.  I am Jack's cold sweat.  I am Jack's broken heart.  The clock is laughing and twirling as I lay there until the alarm goes off.

Later I peer at myself in the toothpaste speckled mirror.  Two bites side-by-side stare back at me under the shadow of my eye.  A fight has broken out in the bedroom.  The bed is lonely and is asserting her feelings to the clock, but the clock always wins I think with a sigh, so I turn on the water and wait for it to heat up.

Sleeping is like drinking.  I crave it most of the day, I long for any relief, but the hangover is unbearable.  It solves nothing.  It takes nothing away for long and eventually it just makes everything worse.  Deep breathing feels like walking on hot lava that stretches out as far as the eye can see.  Music only reminds me of this or that so it is better to wait in frozen silence.

In the kitchen the food is casting menacing shadows on the counters and in the cupboards.  The bananas are only lifelike models made from styrofoam and painted yellow.  I chew the styrofoam like an uninterested cow that has all day to graze the field.  I haven't forgotten I need to eat, but it's almost impossible when everything tastes like paper or metal.

She is telling me about her latest exploits and plans.  I'm responding appropriately, albeit truly uninterested.  Tears well up in my eyes for no reason.  I mean I wasn't thinking anything.  I was listening to her.  Embarrassed I look at the sky and hope they are burned away by the sun.  No one seems to notice.

The clock is pleasant during the day, keeping mostly to herself.  While at night she likes to roar with laughter and seethe with longing, during the day she only likes to lay quietly, each hour swinging by like a lazy hammock on a slow summer day.

Just the thought of my Mom makes me cry.  She is in pain when she looks at me.  I don't feel guilty.  I don't feel anything that I can name.  The reasons are separated from the emotions, severed as an umbilical cord.  Everything is louder than it should be.  Everything looks very far away.

At night I both long for sleep and dread it.  I lay with my eyes clenched shut.  I wish I could think of something that would soothe me.  I poke at thoughts in my mind looking for a viable one to focus on.  Anything to keep my fears manageable.  My happy place drifts away no matter my determined concentration.  Thoughts rise and fall like waves between peace and terror.  Peace and terror.  Peace and terror.  I am always sailing towards the relief that is bobbing calmly on the horizon.  I can see it in the distance but I know it is a long long way away....

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Jennifer Williams of Lali Doll Nursery

Happy Mother's Day everyone!

Today I'm going to feature a wonderful doll maker who is also the proud owner of a BeBe Baby!  Jennifer of Lali Doll Nursery makes the tenderest little dolls I have seen in a long time.  Another great thing about Jennifer is that she sells patterns too.  For those of you looking for baby doll patterns, her shop is a great place to start.  One thing that I admire most about Jennifer, is that she makes her own doll clothing.  I would really love to branch out some day and sew more clothing for my dolls but I find making clothing so frustrating.  I truly admire doll artists who can create the entire vision for their dolls, including the outfit.  Jennifer was kind enough to answer some questions for me about her dolls and process.  I invite you to read about her and her dolls as well as visit her shop and give her some love.  The "notes" are my words/responses.

1.  When did you begin making cloth dolls?
I first began making cloth dolls in 2009.

2.  Have you always made cloth dolls or have you made other types of dolls?
Before I started making cloth dolls, I made Sock Monkeys and other sock animals, actually, my very first cloth doll design was made out of socks since I already had those on hand.

3.  How did you learn to sew and make dolls?
I have always enjoyed art, so have made a few things here and there over the years, including a few stuffed toys. I took a sewing class once at school and my Grandmother gave me a sewing machine when I was a child that I use to play around with. My doll making skills originally developed from the sock toys and quite a lot of trial/error. I learned new techniques from doll magazine articles, online articles and old patterns as well.

4.  Do you have any advice for new doll makers?
My advice would be just to jump in. Don't think that you can't do it, I really think that anyone with a desire and love for art, crafts and dolls can make something beautiful if they are willing to put in the time and effort to learn it. If it's something you're interested in doing, start investing in patterns or classes to learn new skills and just enjoy the creative process of all the different doll making styles.

5.  Does anyone help you in the creation of your dolls?
Yes, My husband. He constructs the inner heads on most of our dolls, cuts out parts, packages up kits, supplies and takes care of post office trips. He's quite a good organizer too. He keeps the work area very neat and organized and it makes it so much easier to work. He does some of the less fun stuff too, like paper work/taxes, which allows more creative time for me. (Note: I am slightly jealous of all the wonderful doll makers who enlist the help of their husbands or partners. I always tried to get my significant others involved in my business but it's never worked out mostly because we alway break up, :(

6.  Is making dolls just a hobby for you or a serious business?
Making dolls started out as a hobby but it has turned into an actual business over the past couple of years. We not only make dolls but I also write a lot of patterns so that others can learn to make them too. We also sell many of the required materials and patterns with kits etc. Our pattern/supply shop is on Etsy here.

7.  Do you belong to any doll clubs/groups/forums?
Yes, I belong to tons of doll making, doll collecting, doll chat groups. I have met a lot of very sweet and helpful people online that enjoy doll making as much as I do and it is so great to be able to share ideas and just discuss all kinds of doll related things together. When you work from home, you almost miss having co-workers to chat with. They are quite a lot like co-workers. (Note: Jennifer says most of the doll groups she belongs to are on Facebook and she found them just by searching for "doll making" and "doll collecting".)

8.  Where do you sell your dolls?  Where can people buy them?
I sell my dolls in my Hyena Cart shop; When I have things available, they are listed in my shop on Friday evenings. I am also in a group shop on Hyena Cart called Dollectable. It is a group of over 20 doll makers from all over the world. We sell together as a group once a month; The best way to stay updated when new dolls will be available is by signing up for my blog ( you can get email updates when we have new things available.

9.  Do you collect dolls yourself?
Yes, I do. I have different styles of dolls that I collect. 3 of them are cloth dolls. I have some vintage dolls, several of which are the 1979 Strawberry Shortcake figures. I have a Naber Kids doll that was given to me by my grandmother. Planning to add a Ball jointed doll soon. (Note: I collect Strawberry Shortcake dolls too! Well I did in the past, not so much now. I sold a lot of my collection before moving to Mexico but did keep one nearly complete set. I love Strawberry Shortcake so much, and I'm absolutely in love with Jennifer's version!)

10.  Who are your favorite doll artists?
I recently really love Kaye Wiggs dolls. They are Ball jointed dolls and I'm hoping to add one to my collection soon. I adore the little Waldorf dolls made by Ineke Gray. It is one of the cloth dolls in my collection as well. I love the endearing and detailed faces of the dolls made by Darlene Rausch.

Thanks for visiting today and getting to know Jennifer. As always if you are a doll artist and would like to be featured on my blog please send me an email at

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

What's Happening...

I really don't have a solid topic for this blog post, but I really want to post, so it's going to be a little random "what's happening" here at BeBe Babies.

It was my birthday on Saturday and I turned 32.  Birthdays don't mean much to me other than to remind me that my biological clock is ticking.  This is complicated for many reasons as I am still not ready to have children for mostly situational reasons, but also financial ones.  Sometimes I feel like I can't breathe when I think about it, so I try not to.

Mental Illness
I can't get by today without telling you that someone I love very much was recently diagnosed with a discouraging mental illness.  Mental illness runs strong in my family.  I myself have battled depression in the past, and anxiety in the past, present and assumed future.  When I sat down and checked my notebook for blog post topics I found that the only two ideas I haven't posted revolved heavily around my problems with anxiety.  Due to my emotions today I didn't feel I could write an upbeat post related to business.  Sometimes I feel like everywhere I look I see mental illness.  Sometimes I feel like we are all crazy.  Sometimes I feel submersed in it.

In my opinion, and experience, mental illness requires intervention only when we cannot support ourselves by performing basic human expectations; working, eating, sleeping, general happiness.  I don't know if it's easier to have a mental illness, or watch someone you love battle with it, but today I think the hardest thing is feeling helpless to stop it.

I'm having a hard time finding a balance with my business.  While I love the business side of doll making I find myself unable to force the self discipline on myself that is required to really make it grow.  I get stuck feeling the pressure to complete dolls, so that I have money coming in, as well as taking time out to do all the online stuff I need to do to make the business grow.

Recently I had the idea to write a financial plan to determine what it is I need to do to earn enough money from dolls to work at it full time.  What I decided was that I need to be making enough products per week to replace the income I make now.  The realization that I came to though was that I most definitely cannot make that many dolls on my own.  Even if I didn't have another job, and I sewed all day from sun up to sun down, I could never make enough.  I see two options:

1.  Manufacturing
This is a viable idea I have been contemplating for a long time.  I finally received my financial records from the US and have entered them all in the computer so I am ready to approach investors and manufacturers.  Honestly though I don't know where to start.  And then I thought about another idea...

2.  Hiring Sewers
Mexico is full of women who know how to sew and need to make an extra income for their families.  My plan right now is to hire someone here, who I can train and can work with me right here in my home.  This is sounding like a much better idea for me as it is still difficult for me to lose the hands-on control I would like to have with my dolls.

The plan now is to get my patterns organized, come up with an hourly wage, find stores willing to carry my dolls (and support the stock I will be producing), set up a better sewing area, and advertise to hire someone.  It's a lot to plan.

I hope to share the process with you as I go but for now I'm going to turn back to sewing, as it is one of the only things that calms the anxiety bubbling within...