#MyBestFriendsWedding Chapter 6: Serendipitous Gifting

This is a super quick entry I just HAD to write about!

So remember last year, when my best friend Michelle got engaged, I helped plan/decorate the engagement party at her parents house, but the gift I had ordered for her didn’t arrive on time to give it to her that day (I ordered late, and usually things from Etsy take a bit longer than from other sites).

Since they obviously didn’t have a registry and were already living together, I didn’t quite know what to get them, until one day the idea occurred to me: I should get them a stamp with their names and address, that they could use for anything – maybe even for their wedding envelopes! I found this gorgeous stamp on the BettyLuPaperie Etsy shop and I pulled the trigger. And when it finally arrived, Michelle loved it and without me saying it, she mentioned she could use it for her wedding invitations. Great minds thinking alike, and that was that, for the time being.

Fast-forward to when she ordered her invitations on Mint, originally we had talked about me doing the calligraphy, but since Mint offered to print addresses and names on envelopes as part of the package, she figured I had enough to do and it would be easiest to just get it printed.

So guess what?

The font she picked from Mint’s options was THE SAME FONT ON THE STAMP THAT I GOT HER!!! What are the chances? At the end, it worked out perfectly and the look on the envelopes was cohesive, front and back. Check out her invites on the left versus the stamp font on the right!

That’s all 🙂 Just wanted to jump on here and share the serendipitous joy with you all!

#MyBestFriendsWedding Chapter 5: The Bridal Shower

Ok guys, so by this point I’ve shown you the invitations and the place tiles, and I’m going to try to make this as short as possible so – welcome to my best friend’s Moroccan Bridal Shower!

AH! The first big event I’ve been preparing for for MONTHS as Maid of Honor finally came and went and I have to say, mishaps and all, it went so well and the most important part is that Michelle loved it and had an awesome time! Michelle’s mom and I planned it together and she was a crucial part in all of it turning out as nice and great as it did, so thank you Marta for all of your help and support with it! Some behind the scenes info:

  • Michelle had mentioned she wanted a Moroccan themed bridal shower before she was even engaged, so I knew that would be the theme, BUT it usually comes with an extremely colorful scheme. When I started my Pinterest board, I tried to focus on the ideas that had the most white, orange and pink to make it more bridal. And then, Michelle fell in love with rose gold, so that became the main accent color next to the white.
  • A few months into the planning, Michelle said to me: “you know I want people to actually come dressed in Moroccan attire, right?” and I was like no, I did not know that, but we can absolutely make it happen! And so we did, as almost everyone came donning their best kaftans and headpieces ❤

With this all said, let’s split the party in sections so that I don’t keep you reading for three hours:

  • Custom Glasses: when Marta and I were looking into tableware, I didn’t want to have plastic cups because they would cheapen the look, and then I remembered the acrylic stackables I used for my Friendsmas party a couple of years back. The problem was, people don’t usually keep track of their cups at parties, so I decided to use vinyl to put their names on it, solving the missing cup issue and also adding a favor they could take home! Win, win!
  • Décor: all I will say here is that I depleted Home Depot of their rose gold spray paint (but good thing rose gold/copper is in because I was definitely able to find TONS of things that were already rose gold, and in some cases, Moroccan too!)
  • Favors: I found these jumbo tea lights from IqraMehndiDesigns on Etsy. She was so great to work with and made the order to fit our color scheme beautifully. Did I mention she’s all the way in Bulgaria and thank God for planning with due time, because it takes two months between making and shipping these to arrive?!?! After the timely arrival, all we did was put them in boxes with filler, a ribbon and a tag 🙂
  • Food & Desserts: Marta took care of ordering the food from a Mediterranean restaurant and it was very yummy! I also asked the groom’s mom, Mayda, to make her infamous Greek salad which is always a hit at parties, and it absolutely was! For dessert, we ordered baklava, and also had some delicious “bundtinis” from Nothing Bundt Cakes, as well as some Ferrero Rocher chocolates, which you guessed it, we sprayed them rose gold too 🙂

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  • Games: I asked the rest of the bridesmaids to help me figure out games that were fun, and we came up with: wear the ring and don’t say bride/Michelle, how many kisses in the jar, Michelle trivia, and find the groom (a picture of Brian hidden somewhere in the party, which he hid himself and it was hilarious!) The prizes were baskets filled with a small bottle of Rosé, a picture frame, a notepad, and a pen – all rose gold of course.
  • Guestbook: since Michelle didn’t want to have a traditional guestbook at the wedding, I thought it would be cute to get her a photo book with pictures of her whole relationship with Brian, and ask guests to fill it with advice for her. She absolutely loved it and it wasn’t a big expense since Shutterfly constantly runs free album offers, so all I had to cover was shipping (plus a few extra bucks for a specific theme that had rose gold, of course).
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The digital proof of the guestbook cover ❤

  • Setup: from the moment I started thinking of the party, I knew that I wanted it to be in my backyard because I had a very specific vision of the table setting around the pool, with a tent for the weather + vibe. It all came together so nicely and Michelle kept telling me she thought the layout was genius, and she loved it all! With a little math figuring out table sizes and organization, it all worked out great!
  •  Snapchat Geo-filter: after Michelle’s engagement party, her sister Andrea was like “we forgot the filter!” and ever since then, I had a mental note to do it for the bridal shower. I worked with DesiPaperThings on Etsy to bring it to life, of course, in white and rose gold.
  • Welcome Sign: I had spray painted my silver easel to make it rose gold for Michelle’s wedding, so I figured we could use it for the shower as well. And because repurposing is queen, I recycled a canvas from a “Paint With a Twist” party that I didn’t like by using gesso to flatten the surface, and with the stencil I created for the failed backdrop I turned the whole thing into a welcome sign 🙂

Of course, I also made props, including a big frame. Marta brought over a portable speaker for the music (we used a Latin music Spotify playlist). We made frosé as the signature drink of the event, and everyone genuinely seemed to have a great time ❤

Because I really try not to make everything seem perfect as we tend to do in social media, here are some of the things that didn’t go as planned (but of course we didn’t let it tamper with the day):

  • Restaurant forgot falafels, which Michelle was looking forward to the most
  • The weather: the amount of wind we got that weekend, we’ve seen only for tropical storms. It was INSANE. The setup was a mission, the tent people got there late because they had to buy sandbags for everyone they set up that day, and it was madness. We also got some rain the morning of while we were setting up the linens, but thanks to the unruly wind and the sun that came out later, everything dried off in time for the guests’ arrival.
  • A table flipped: the wind was so crazy that one of the tables flipped AFTER we had set it up with plates/place tiles/cups (and we used bottles of water and the tiles as weights to prevent things from flying off, but this entire table fell into the pool). Michelle’s dad helped us fish everything out of the pool, but a couple of the place tiles remained under water until the next cleaning… Action shot of the fishing out!

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ALL IN ALL – amazing time, so happy with how it all turned out, and I know Michelle enjoyed it so: Mission – ACCOMPLISHED!

Check out this 1-minute video slideshow that showcases the whole event in just 60 seconds 🙂

Etsy is Getting a Facelift!

A couple of months ago I created an editorial calendar with topics to write about so that I wouldn’t struggle to keep up with my blogging commitment, and one of the items I wanted to touch on is my love for Etsy. Besides the benefit of the platform over every other e-commerce site out there (in my humble opinion), I truly believe that Etsy is always in touch with its community of sellers, and tries to do right by us as well as by buyers. I’ve participated in multiple surveys and I’ve seen implementation of changes I’ve written to them about (probably along with a few other sellers), and the improvements just keep coming.

Then, two weeks ago, sellers were notified that Etsy shops were getting a makeover, and I was like “HA! Perfect timing!” Let me tell you, I’m apprehensive about change, but this is a GREAT one! The new shop look is much more modern, clean, manageable by sellers, and easy to navigate by buyers. It’s definitely in line with the wave of “power pages” (basically, having the bulk of the information about the website in one single page where you just scroll down instead of figuring out the menu) and I for one can’t wait until it launches for everyone on April 5th. Here’s the detailed breakdown of the most noticeable changes:

Etsy Shop Looks - Before and After

Etsy Shop Looks – Before and After

First of all, the new look will allow sellers to choose between having no banner, a small banner (which will not be mobile-optimized), or a cover photo (mobile optimized!). As you can see, I’ve already gotten a head start on mine, and I’ve chosen to use this set up because I think it’s a great opportunity to showcase my items being used by my customers, which buyers don’t really see unless they’re following me on social media (::cough cough:: Facebook, InstagramTwitter). It’s a little overpowering on the screen, but I really think it does more good than harm (if done right).

Second, hello modernization! I never really noticed how “old-school” the current look is until I saw the new layout. The set up is fresh, and I think they got it right by emphasizing the shop itself over the owner, which is currently reversed.

Third, sellers can choose the order of their listings and OMG THANK YOU SO MUCH ETSY!!! It was so frustrating to feel like my shop was “disorganized” because right now the items show up in the order of “recent purchases,” and to my OCD self, it throws off the vibe. We can also choose to feature certain listings that will show up above the full shop. Where is my ::hands in the air:: emoji when I need it?

Fourth, the listings themselves are bigger, which is a great way to show buyers more in less time.

Fifth, the reviews are right under the listings. This is going to be YUUUUGE for buyers (#Elections2016!). As a frequent shopper myself, I know how much reviews influence my decisions to make a purchase, and having this information so visible is definitely going to make the process much quicker.

Sixth, the Shop Updates. I think I need a separate blog post to explain these, but basically, Etsy is going social on us! Through the use of the “Sell on Etsy” app (which is absolutely necessary if you’re a seller ::ehem:: customer service), Etsy has created a new way to push content through the platform and out onto other channels like text messages and the aforementioned Facebook, Instagram & Twitter, and going as far as Pinterest and even WhatsApp! These updates are going to tip the Etsy algorithms in favor of active sellers, as they’ll showcase more of the shops that use them, and honestly, it’s a great way to post different angles of our products by stepping out of the 5 picture limit. When sellers post these updates to their social media channels, they work as a cute little hooks to bring perspective buyers directly to each listing. In conclusion, if you’re a seller and haven’t posted your first Shop Update yet, get on it!

Seventh (and last one I’ll include here because I’m running out of screen), sellers now have a chance to upload a video of themselves and up to 5 pictures of their work spaces (or whatever they want) to help buyers fall in love with them even more.

Maybe I’ll have to make this post a trilogy or a Harry Potter-sized novel to cover ALL of the great new features Etsy is rolling out, and all the reasons why I already love them, but the point is, April 5th, check out my new swagged out shop and buy something from me 😀 Kidding, but really, SO excited for this. Thank you Etsy for being so awesomesauce! T – 1 week!

Copyright Infringement, Plagiarism, and ‘Imitation is the Most Sincere Form of Flattery’

Creating something brand new or finding truly original content/products is very hard these days. For example, think about current TV executive board meetings… In my head, they go a little something like this:

  • TV Guy 1: Hey guys, let’s talk about ideas for a new show for next fall
  • TV Guy 2: How about we remake/reunite Friends/Full House/Charmed/Sabrina the Teenage Witch/Gilmore Girls/literally any 90s show ever made?
  • All the TV Guys in unison: SOUNDS LIKE A PLAN!

Whatever happened to predictability? Ha, had to! No, but seriously, they really need to stop bringing back everyone and everything, especially when the shows had perfect closures – except Friends. They can bring back Friends forever until every cast member dies.

Anywho… The point is, a lot of times it can feel like everything has already been created/thought of, and it’s hard to think about something from scratch. After all, we have Pinterest!

I completely understand the struggle. As an Etsy seller, it’s my ultimate goal to have fresh and new items that my customers can only find at my shop, that keep them coming back, and that provide me with a stable income. I’ve tried from day 1 to make things people want, and because I’ve taken enough business classes, I know the key is to look for a market void and try to fill it.

The whole “photo booth props” niche was a very happy accident, but an accident nonetheless. I know there are plenty of providers of photo booth props in both digital and physical format, and I know they’ll continue to come up. I for one have tried very hard to create designs that are 100% authentic, different from what’s already out there, of good quality, and fun. Even though the bulk of my items are inspired by Disney, every single prop has been hand drawn, cut and put together by me – just like I make 4th of July, graduation, or wedding sets. The ideas/events/institutions have been around forever, but the designs themselves are mine.

So you can imagine, it’s disheartening/frustrating (to say the least) when you find that your designs have been copied by other sellers, right under your nose. And that’s what inspired this blog post. Is imitation REALLY the most sincere form of flattery? I’m not sure.

Yesterday, I was doing my routine SEO self-check, where I search random keywords associated with my items and I see in which pages they land, so I can make sure I’m staying relevant and top-sided in Etsy’s algorithms. As I start scanning for my props, on the very first page my eyes pick up on some familiar shapes, and I’m confused for a moment. Wait… Is that… Did I… No that’s not… Who… Woah. That’s my design, but that’s NOT my picture, or my shop.

As you all should know by now, I’m obsessed with everything Disney. So when the Descendants Movie came out, I was front row (to my TV) ready to watch it and fall in love with yet another new classic. It worked. I did. I died. And then, a customer saw my standard set of Villain-inspired props, and asked if I could make her some Descendants villain props. I already had 3 out of the 4 parents (Evil Queen, Jafar & Maleficent) designed from prior sets, so I got to work and drew out the last parent (Cruella), plus the 4 children: Evie, Jay, Mal & Carlos. I’m pretty proud of how they turned out, and I’ve already received a few orders for the set. So you can imagine, that when I see someone copied my design to the T, I’m a little bit flabbergasted. Let me show you what I mean:

I’ve checked for Descendants props on Etsy before, but there were none. Mine were the very first set of Villain parents and children on the marketplace. Until, quite literally, last week. On March 14th, another shop posted a set of Descendants props that looks like this:

Quite honestly, I couldn’t believe it! So eerie to notice the ends of the hair on the girls, Carlos’ (black and white hair) spikes, Jay’s hairstyle… They literally copied my design inch by inch. On the side of the parents, I think most of those props had been done before, but again, I hand drew my designs based off of the original cartoons, not other people’s interpretation of them.

Do you know what I did when I saw this? Wild guess? I laughed. I was in shock, but I try to avoid going crazy over things I cannot change, because ultimately, it only affects me. So I just laughed and, tried to figure out what I should do next. These were my options:

  1. Let it go (whaddup Frozen reference?! Whaddup iiSuperwomanii reference within the reference? #inception): be the bigger person, not care that my work was copied, move on…
  2. Report the listing: Etsy has an option to report listings. I’ve never done this before so I’m not sure under what grounds you may report something (probably over graphic or offensive content?). But, I really don’t want to start drama with another shop. I’ve been on the receiving side of crazy before, and it’s not fun.
  3. Send the shop a direct message: should I let them know I know? I would crap my pants if another shop messaged me telling me I plagiarized their item. I would for sure take it down, possibly apologize, but that’s just me. I’m not sure how the other shop will react.
  4. Write a blog about it to open up a dialogue and hear different perspectives on the matter? Sounds like a plan 🙂

I won’t do anything other than #4 right now. I really just wanted to put this out there for two reasons:

  1. For aspiring or existing Etsy owners – I know of one owner in particular who went through this recently. She was devastated that her design was plagiarized and I believe she reported it, but I’m not sure how much she could do about it or how the case turned out. I just know that it tortured her and stole her peace for weeks. We all work hard to make our shops stand out, hoping for stable sales and happy customers eager to leave reviews. It’s not an easy process trying to make a shop grow and go from hobby or side gig to a business, and this is potentially a roadblock. It’s not a “fair” competition. It’s a dirty play. It sucks but it’s not a make or break situation, so I really just wanted to showcase the story and hopefully have it serve as a “everything will be alright” reassurance, which I’ll need to confirm in the future. But I really think it will.
  2. Trying to honor my #WCBBloggingTuesdays commitment, and always #KeepingItReal (also, please help #KeepInstagramChronological)

In any case, as shocked and surprised as I was, this hasn’t really affected me the way other events have (I’m an ultra sensitive person), so I’m proud of myself for that. At the same time, I know social media makes it seem like everything is peachy 100% of the time, and I don’t tend to share the down moments, but I think it’s an important part of my journey, and in every moment, there’s a lesson to be learned.

Please share your thoughts below, and any personal stories of dealing with plagiarism or copycats are a plus!!