As I commuted down the hallway to my home office, I caught sight of one of my cats in the bathroom perched on the edge of the tub. Tator was in stalk position, mesmerized by a likely spider in the vine of satin grape leaves that I had wrapped around the shower curtain rod. (Don’t ask. It seemed like a good idea at the time.)
Living next to a woods in the Upper Midwest, the Fall begins a mini-battle with Nature’s critters seeking winter shelter, and evidently spiders like that homey leaf feeling. With spiders come sticky webs that turn into flying dust bunnies, so it’s best to stop construction before it starts. Well, I didn’t want to kill anything. I was in a creative mood and didn’t want to lose it to a splatter. So, I grabbed a goldfish net, planning to catch and return it to the outdoors where its purpose is more worthy, like chowing on small insects before they get into the house, or perhaps, feed a chickadee. (Let Nature do her own killing!)
A closer look revealed what appeared to be thick web silk poking out from a shaking leaf. And then, as my eyes adjusted to the shadow under the leaf, the wiry strands morphed into long white whiskers, twitching from the end of a pink nose. One big round eye was visible, but closed tightly, either from fear or exhaustion, or both. A mouse. Not a common grey house mouse, but a brown and white Deer Mouse – the cute cuddly-type that you see on holiday cards wearing Santa hats – the mouse that prefers to winter in burrows and logs, and rarely near people where they also might have to compete with the grey mouse for shelter (if our three cats didn’t do their jobs). Most likely, it had been attracted to the abundance of crab apples falling near the garage – an easy profit of sweet sustenance – and then strayed through a tiny hole in the door frame where Tator keeps watch.
Earlier, my husband had mentioned that Tator might have brought something furry in from the garage, but after not seeing any evidence he assumed he was mistaken or that the victim had been devoured. Tator is assigned to garage mouse patrol in the evenings and I always know when one has tried to set up house. She doesn’t eat mice. She just torments them. And after she tires of the flip-and-rip hockey game, she drops the puck of a bloody carcass at the kitchen door – a fair trade for a can of Fancy Feast®, she figures.
So, after I set the wicked kitty in the hallway and closed the door, I prodded the net at the fur ball, now quivering and sobbing. (I swear, I saw a tear!) I attempted to gently catch it in the net, but it fell into the cleaning bucket I was holding in my other hand and then bounced out into the tub. That’s when I noticed it was a he – an adventurous young lad out learning a tough lesson. Obviously, Tator hadn’t done too much damage, I determined, as he sprang back up to the curtain rod with the grace of his namesake. The 30 minute chase ensued. Finally, he scurried between the folds of a towel that was drying on the edge of the tub. “Gotcha!” I proclaimed, gathering the edges of the towel together like a hobo bag. Then I carried the bundle back to the woods and released him in the habitat where he can be of purpose – instead of being tortured and annoying me.
About this time of year in the embroidery industry, when business picks up with approaching holiday orders, I see many digitizers venturing to new territories lured by the temptation for fast, easy profits, most especially in the form of unsolicited emails. Now, I’m not referring to spam from “custom digitizing factories” offering $.50 per K stitches (a subject for another day). I’m talking about the spam obviously sent by new, independent digitizers who assume it’s the best way to get started. Sure, I read it – or at least what I don’t assume is from the factories. I want to know who my new colleagues are! I have survived in this industry for 25 years by networking and exchanging information with other digitizers, both new and masters alike. We’ve learned much from each other, including the art of successful marketing. Spam is not on that list.
Digitizers need to make their services known, but sending volumes of unsolicited emails with unrealistic promises and unprofitable pricing is certainly not the answer. Proving yourself is. Word of mouth is the most valuable marketing tool. Find your clients through trade organizations like NNEP, attend industry events, connect on social networks and run ads where embroiderers will see it, such as Stitches Magazine. Correspond with an occasional email, yes, but make it a pleasant introduction with basic information. If you include sample pricing, choose numbers fair to both parties; be aware that too low can mark your service questionable. Perhaps offer a sample of your work, but never attach a file to the introductory email or you’ll risk immediate deletion.
If you produce quality at a reasonable price and in promised time, and you are willing to make necessary revisions immediately, embroiderers want to know who you are. Concentrate on skill and ethical business practice and there will be no need to compete – and I won’t have to sift through my spam filter to find you.
So, to all the digitizers out there who are just starting a new business: your skill and eagerness is most welcomed by the embroidery industry, but take a lesson from the Deer Mouse. Don’t be tempted by the illusion of fast easy profits found in the mound of crab apples where there’s the probability of a short life. The industry needs you where you are most useful – where your skill can grow and contribute to the continued existence of quality embroidery. Choose to build your business by focusing on one client at a time, one design at a time; learn from each and excel. Word will travel and the work will follow.