15 September 13

10 years later

Ten years ago, I was occasionally making bags to donate to a handful of nonprofit organizations in Chicago to use as fundraising items at raffles and silent auctions. Sometimes the bags earned the organization $10. Sometimes the bags earned the organization $300. It was pretty hit or miss, but considering there was a large number of organizations that I wanted to support, but my budget didn’t permit many cash donations on my part, it seemed like a good way for me to use my skills to help organizations make money. But all of that changed at the end of 2003 when I realized I could sell bags online thanks to Paypal buttons, and then I could take the money I earned from selling those bags and give it to various organizations that I wanted to support.

First I registered my domain, this very one, then I created a rather hinky shop page (which was later redesigned by Naz Hamid and looked so much better), and I began selling bags of various types online and taking the money I earned and donating it to various organizations.

This was the same year that Amy Carlton and I started the DIY Trunk Show, which gave me even more sales that enabled me to donate money to nonprofits. And there were several other indie craft shows that started to pop up and I began applying and selling and 10 years later, I’m still doing the same thing.

20% of all profits I make from a bag are donated to nonprofit organizations and I’ve gone through various ways of determining which organization gets what. I used to pair up a bag and an organization. But that resulted in some organizations getting a lot more money while some got now. (Not every bag I’ve designed has sold well, sadly.) Then I picked an organization a month and donated funds that way. But that meant whoever was my November or December organizations got a lot of money, but others got little. Last year I chose 7 organizations to donate funds to. This year that number is less, because I wanted my donation to have a larger impact. And thanks to the increase in my sales, I think it will.

In the interest of transparency, and because I don’t think enough companies share how they determine what their donations will be, here is the formula I choose to determine what the donation will be.

Cost of bag – (cost of supplies to make the bag + PayPal/Ets fees) = profit
I think take 20% of that profit and add it to the kitty that will get donated at regular intervals during the year.

This year the organizations I’m supporting are Women In Media & News, Chicago’s Read, Write Library, Chicago Abortion Fund, and the Greater Chicago Food Depository. These are just a small handful of the organizations that I have desire to support, but they cover most of the various types of organizations I support emotionally as well as monetarily. There are also many other organizations that I donate to outside of my business, so these are but a drop in the bucket of deserving organizations.

But it makes me happy to know that 10 years into this business venture that began from a desire of wanting to help others, I’m still able to help others while also helping myself and slowly making the word more attractive.


06 May 10

The Purse-onal Is Political

I’d intended to publish this on May 1st, but due to some still unfinished research, I hadn’t. Then, the gloriousness that is Anne Elizabeth Moore prodded me so I’m posting.

Thanks to the fantastic customers that I’m lucky to have here at Poise.cc, I am going to be able to make a donation to Harpswell Foundation in the amount of $100. My generous employer will be matching that to make it $200, and the even more generous Pritzkers will be matching that to make it $400. Based on the information available on their website, this means that my selling a handful of bags means that one woman in Cambodia has a year’s worth of tuition and a portion of her meals paid for.

I’m generally a pretty humble person and rarely pat myself on the back, but I gotta say that this is amazingly fantastic. And I do mean AMAZING. I get to do something I enjoy (making cool bags with pretty fabrics), other people find the things I make useful and attractive so they buy them, and in turn I get to donate money to an organization like Harpswell so they can have a marked influence on one person’s life. Who will have an influence on 4 people’s lives, who will have an influence on 4 people’s lives. You dig? That Pay It Forward theory seriously works, people.

So, craft matters people. Seriously. Craft is feminist. And if you don’t believe that craft can suck the verve out of the patriarchy stitch-by-stitch, then I dare you to go to a dormitory in Cambodia and tell that to a young woman next year.

And I haven’t announced my organization for May, because I haven’t found one. I want to donate money to an organization that will be assisting with the cleanup efforts in the Gulf area but haven’t found the one that I feel most connected to. If you have any suggestions, feel free to send them my way. If I don’t find an organization soon, then I’ll just make any May purchases benefit Harpswell. I will be announcing another organization for June. I’m pretty excited about them. I’ve wanted to give money to them for years and they’re excited to have me announce who they are. But May is up in the air for now.

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20 April 10

We know education is important

We know that. We know that having access to knowledge should help you. We know that having the ability to access the information you need can change your life. But not everyone does. And not everyone has the ability to use that information, that knowledge, that education to affect their lives.

Watch this video that purchase a bag to help me make even greater donations to Harpswell Foundation.


29 March 10

Diversity in Design

There have been occasional discussions over the past few years online about how only white designers, crafters, artists, etc. get noticed. And it’s a mostly true criticism. There are some great designers who are not who deserve coverage and who deserve credit.

A little over a month ago, Tina Shoulders of Laidback Home started a series called 28 Days of Diversity. She created 28 posts, describing one designer in each, and showing a few images of things they’d created. it’s a fantastic series and I wished I’d followed from Day One but was glad to be able to go back to get caught up.

Even if you aren’t interested in the politics of race in relation to design, you’ll want to check these designers out. They all deserve credit in their respective fields and they’ve all created things that are beautiful, innovative, creative, and deserving of praise. Huge thanks to Tina Shoulders for giving them that praise and doing it in a way that we can also follow along to support them. Or create a list of dream future purchases.


06 March 10

You Win When They Call You a Bitch

On Sunday, March 14th 2010 I’ll be giving a 15 minute solo presentation as part of the Future 15 XX titled “You Win When They Call You a Bitch”. The description that is available on the SXSWi site is:

Eradicating self-doubt, increasing self-confidence, and trying to get what you want will make people dislike you because no one likes to get “beaten by a girl.” We’ll look at some creative online attacks against sexism to show if you fight smarter instead of harder you can come out a winner, feel better about yourself, and maybe inspire other women to stand up and fight back with you. You’ll know you won when the haters resort to calling you a bitch and other personal attacks.

I’ll be describing some examples of how social media and online “tech” have been and can be used to fight sexism. Many thanks go out to Glenda Bautista and Hugh Forrest for considering me a replacement for the original speaker who had to back out at the last minute.

I’m excited (and a wee bit scared, honestly) to be giving a solo presentation. But thanks to some wake-night brainstorming I think I’ve come up with something that is going to be very interesting to others. And I can promise lots of slides, so you’ll have something interesting to look at, too.


19 January 09

A real toughie

Cinnamon In Studio

So apparently this shot makes me look like the Craft Mafia member that I am. I honestly was trying to look pleasant.


30 December 08

2008 Resolutions

Ugh. The year-end review. Too unwilling to even go back and look at what I wrote I would do, because I know I didn’t do most of what I wanted to do. And I may have saved the post in draft mode, so no use digging through my archives looking for it.

But the one thing I did swear I would do, because January and early February for three years in a row were so awful, I did actually accomplish. I kept up with my bookkeeping goal. Every two weeks, I would sit down and enter my receipts, my sales, balance my checkbook/paypal account. It sucked. I hated doing it, but now all I have to do is fill out my sales tax form, write a check to the state of Illinois, and print out my totals for my bookkeeping categories to turn over to my accountant. So all those 15-minutes of annoyance add up to knowing that I’m 30 minutes away from being done with my year-end bookkeeping. For the first year since I started a business, it’s going to take me longer to get my personal info together than my biz info for tax filing.

So, while annoying, my discipline paid off and now I’ll get to reap the rewards. I’m thrilled and delighted by myself right now. And that, my friend, is a priceless, priceless feeling. Hopefully this feeling keeps me on track for 2009 bookkeeping, cause I think two years in a row makes it a habit.

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27 October 08

Poise.cc Joins The Pear Project

But only for internet domination. Kinda.

The Pear Project has added a few of my bags to a great web consignment shop owned by Brooke Fuller. There are a number of wonderful items and I’m glad to have my bags included with these other items. If you’re looking for a great place to find some new wonderful items for yourself or for a gift, head on over and take a peek at the bags I have for sale. There is also a great sale section, too.

I’m excited to join her in her quest for internet domination.


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