2018 UPstudio Planner - Monthly Layout Feedback April 27, 2017 05:00
We really appreciate you all taking the time to share your thoughts and vote on your favorite potential UPstudio Planner cover color options.
We compiled the votes from the poll and all of our social media platforms:
- First Place: Gray
- Second Place: Red (only a few votes shy of first)
- A Close Third: Satchel
- A Far Last: Black
Our thoughts on the results:
- They affirm that we made the right decision to go with gray for 2017!
- We were hesitant to put black in our top four because we are fearful of a few things on that front, but we wanted it there to see how men specifically felt about black, the ultimate neutral color. We are happy to see it came in dead last.
- We thought red would be a run away, but we are happy to see satchel could hang in the crowd.
We are still working through the cost implications of offering two colors for 2018 but we are very hopeful this is an area we can grow this year. We will keep you all posted on the progress.
In regards to the layout of the 2018 UPstudio Planner we are currently only entertaining what we view as one large modification. We have had some users reach out to us specifically requesting the month layouts to start on Monday to be consistent with the week layouts.
This would affect the month layouts that proceed the week layouts and it would also affect all of the mini month layouts found on various pages including the goal sheet, month layout, and weekly layout.
We would love to hear your opinion. We've included a sample of our current month layout along side an altered layout below to help you visualize what we are considering.
Do you feel strongly one way or the other? Are you neutral on the topic? How much do you utilize the month layout? Would you like that the months now align with the weekly layout?
2018 Planner - Your Last Chance for Feedback April 20, 2017 05:00 1 Comment
We love hearing what you think about the UPstudio Planner. The good, the bad, the ugly, we want to hear it all! Your thoughts and opinions about how to make the planner better are one of the best ways that we can grow, so we welcome any and all feedback. That being said, we're busily working on the 2018 version, and it will go to print shortly. Here's your final warning to tell us everything! Do you love it? Do you hate it? Do you wish it came in an academic calendar version?
We honestly take every opinion into consideration before making final decisions, so don't miss out on your chance for your voice to be heard. Don't forget to vote on another possible cover color option too!
2018 UPstudio Planner Cover Color Poll April 13, 2017 05:00
Did the color of the UPstudio Planner play a part in whether or not you purchased one?
The 2017 UPstudio Planner was the first year that we chose to have a leather cover. Due to the fact that we are a young, small company with a limited budget we could only provide one color option. We chose gray because we felt it was gender neutral and personally we are both avid gray fans.
We've heard a lot of good feedback regarding the gray, but also some requests for other colors. That being said we are hopefully to offer two options for the 2018 UPstudio Planner and we'd love your input. We plan to still have the same binding type and for the cover to still be leather.
We've created a poll with our top four choices below. We'd love for you to vote for your favorite.
Is there a specific color you'd love that isn't on our list? Comment on this post or contact us to share your thoughts.
Follow UPstudio! April 06, 2017 05:00
Did you know that UPstudio is more than just social media? If you're reading this blog post, chances are you do. But even if you're a faithful reader, you might not know all the ways you can follow UPstudio. Here's a reminder - take advantage of any or all of them!
Lessons Learned: North Carolina Sales and Use Tax March 30, 2017 05:00
As we have mentioned before, starting a business means you end up wearing a lot of new hats. Some are enjoyable and fulfilling and inline with why you starting your side hustle to begin with, others are more frustrating and take a lot of time because they are outside of your personal strengths.
Luckily since we are a partnership we can delegate 'new hats' based on our different strengths. And also luckily, our strengths don't overlap too much, so we can pretty evenly divide and conquer. The bulk of the business administrative side falls in my, Mary Beth's, wheel house. One of those pesky items is taxes. Today I was going to share what I've learned thus far regarding North Carolina Sales Tax, or more accurately "Sales and Use Tax".
I've set this post up as a question and answer that walks you through the process and answers some questions about North Carolina sales and use tax. If you have any additional questions, comment on this post or shoot me an e-mail. I'm no expert, the breadth of my knowledge is limited to how these taxes apply to our specific business, but I can help you find your answer, or point you to some resources that will help.
What is sales and use tax?
The North Carolina Department of Revenue overview:
"The general State and applicable local and transit rates of sales and use tax apply to the sales price of each item or article of tangible personal property that is sold at retail, sourced to this State, and is not subject to tax under another subdivision in N.C. Gen. Stat. § 105-164.4. Tangible personal property is defined in N.C. Gen. Stat. § 105-164.3 as "personal property that may be seen, weighed, measured, felt, or touched or is in any manner perceptible to the senses. The term includes electricity, water, gas, steam, and prewritten computer software." The general sourcing principles are set forth in N.C. Gen. Stat. § 105-164.4B.
In those instances where the appropriate sales tax has not been paid on taxable tangible personal property, a use tax applies to the tangible personal property purchased or received from within or without this State for storage, use, or consumption in this State."
Who should file sales and use tax in North Carolina?
Based on North Carolina law, every individual or business 'engaged in business' in North Carolina is required to collect and pay sales and use tax on retail sales or leases of tangible personal property and certain digital property not specifically exempt by law. Some services are also taxable. When they say 'engaged in business' I associate this with a physical presence. We live and are part of the business community in North Carolina. Most other states are similar. So we collect sales tax on every product purchased at a North Carolina show/pop-up (currently we do not have shows outside of North Carolina, that will be a new obstacle this year). For those of you coming to North Carolina to participate in a market from out of state, even if you don't have a brick and mortar in North Carolina, you are still required to register with the Department of Revenue and pay sales tax. You can read more about the specific requirements for 'specialty markets' here.
In regards to our online sales (includes sales directly from our website, Amazon, or Etsy), the tax required is based on the billing/shipping address of the recipient. So if the recipient is in North Carolina, we collect sales tax. If the recipient is in another state, where we are not 'engaged in business', we do not collect sales tax. The tax on that merchandise would be the responsibility of the purchaser as a use tax as required by their respective states.
For all of our products sold in local shops the retailer collects and files sale tax.
What is the difference between sales and use tax?
As indicated in the overview from the department of revenue above, sales tax is a tax collected on the sale price of each item or article of tangible personal property that is sold at retail, in this case specifically within North Carolina. Most people deal with this everyday, so it is easy to wrap your head around. Use tax is a little more tricky. The department of review defines use tax as "a tax due on purchases, leases, and rentals of tangible personal property and certain digital property purchased, leased or rented inside or outside this State for storage, use, or consumption in North Carolina." If you break it down it is tax owed by the purchaser of an item when the North Carolina tax has not been collected by the retailer.
An example of when we at UPstudio have to pay a use tax: When we get cards printed by our local printer we have to first purchase the cards from them. When we purchase cards we do not pay sales tax to the printer because we are purchasing them with intent to to resale (we provide them an E595-E form for the exemption). If we were to pay sale tax on the card, and then our purchaser also pay sale tax on the same card, that would be double taxation. So, we only collect and pay sales tax on the cards sold. But all of the cards we 'use'/consume ourselves, give away, or can't sell due damage or other reason and thus we store, we have to pay a 'use' tax on them. Since the retailer, or our printer, did not collect sales tax from us initially, it would then be our responsibility as the purchaser to pay it as a 'use' tax on the cards we are not reselling. The use tax is based on our purchase price from the printer.
What are the current sales and use tax rates?
This webpage gives the current sales and use tax rates. Use tax is calculated at the same rate as sales tax. How sales tax is broken down is that you have a state rate and a county rate. The state rate currently is 4.75% and each county varies, refer to this document for the current county rate. Make sure to note the footnotes regarding additional county transit taxes. Wake County approved an additional 0.5% transit tax starting April 1, 2017. To simplify it a bit, you can reference this page to look at the total sales tax (state and county combined) for each county. But note that when filing your sales and use taxes there are separate line items for the state portion and each county portion.
When do you file sales and use taxes?
If the tax owed is between $100 and $20,000.00 a month you must file it monthly on or before the 20th day of each month for all taxes due for the preceding calendar month.
If you aren't a high roller, and fall in our category of less than $100 of taxes due a month you can file quarterly. These returns are due on or before the last day of January, April, July, and October for the preceding three-month period. You can read in more detail about when to file here.
Their website also released a directive stating that "North Carolina will consider any tax payment with a due date on a Saturday, Sunday, or legal holiday as being timely paid if delivered in person or mailed to the Department on the next business day after the Saturday, Sunday, or legal holiday." You can read more details here.
How do you file sales and use taxes?
You must first register your business with the North Carolina Department of Revenue. This is pretty simple on their website. You will get your sales and use tax account ID immediately upon application. They will also send you a certificate of registration which you are required to present to patrons at local markets/pop-ups.
We file our sales and use tax online electronically through the state's e-file system. You can access the system here. In preparation to file electronically make sure that you have all of your gross receipts for the month/quarter. Make sure that each receipt is broken into product price, state tax collected, and county tax collected. You'll be asked to break it down per county on the form. Also make sure that you have your sales and use tax ID number and your Federal Tax ID or EIN handy.
I've tried to cover the basics, hopefully this will help you start to understand how sales and use tax works and whether or not you should be collecting and paying it. There is plenty of additional information on the North Carolina Department of Revenue website, just follow the links provided within the post above. Please reach out to me if you have any additional questions or if something I said didn't quite makes sense.
2017 UPstudio Planner Feedback March 23, 2017 05:00
We are almost three months into 2017. Which means three months into our 2017 UPstudio Planner. How is it going so far for you?
We feel like the 2017 version is leaps and bounds above the inaugural UPstudio Planner in 2016 however there is still and will always be room for improvement. Believe it or not, we are already working on the 2018 version, discussing between the two of us and soliciting input from others regarding where we should target our growth for 2018. Taking note of items that need to be tweaked, things that need to be completely reworked, and potential new options we want to explore.
We appreciate your reviews and e-mails regarding areas of improvement and directions you would like to see the UPstudio Planner take. Please keep them coming! We also encourage you to share your comments on this blog post as well by clicking here and scrolling to the bottom.
Here is a recently published youtube review by Tara from Earn Spend Live to help get the gears turning:
Some additional questions to help spur conversation:
- Do you like that the week layouts start on Monday, or would you prefer a Sunday start?
- Currently the monthly layout week runs Sunday through Saturday. Many have shared that they don't like the inconsistency between the month layout and the weekly Monday start. Do you agree?
- Would you like an academic calendar option?
- Is the overall planner the right size for you, would you like different sizes?
- Would you like a thinner only monthly version with graph paper at the end?
- Do you think you'll have enough graph paper for the year?
- Would you like a different color cover? If so, what color? Red? Satchel/Tan?
- Do you find that you use the subtly ticks we added for the times? If you don't, do you find they are distracting from how you use the top large section?
- Do you think three subdivided sections is the right amount? Do you want more or less?
- Do you like the quality and thickness of the paper? Do you have any bleed through issues?
- Do you like the folders? We personally feel like they need to be more durable, do you agree?
- Do you use the page markers? Is two the right amount?
- Do you think any of the spacing needs to be adjusted? Areas with too much or too little space?
- Did you find any errors?
We look forward to hearing your thoughts however you feel comfortable sharing them with us!
Links and Things March 16, 2017 05:00
- As moms who have breastfed and pumped for our kids, this woman who destroyed her breast pump in a field á la the Office Space printer scene is kind of our hero.
- I thought MB was the biggest Cheerwine fan until I read this article.
- This family was cute before but this interview makes them adorable. "A hippity-hoppity mood"
- This lego tape looks amazing.
- If you get seasick, you may want to skip this video from a recent Royal Caribbean Cruise in hurricane force winds.
- On a serious note, this article on what not to ask someone suffering is very real and very helpful.
- These concrete earrings are so tiny and detailed and I want them all.
- This article depicting graphs of the winningest types of mascots can help you fill out your March Madness bracket.
Day Jobs March 09, 2017 05:00
If it seems like we've been a little absent lately, well, it's because we have been. Usually there is a huge advantage to working as a pair, because majority of the time if one of us has too much on our plate, the other can pick up the slack (see: babies, moving, life in general). Since before the end of 2016, our day jobs have been taking up most of our time. You may remember from our FAQ page that we work as an architect and engineer, and we generally try to maintain a good work/life balance. Right now though? Deadlines. Fire drills. Survival mode. (But, good projects, and good employees)
We're still working hard on UPstudio projects, we just haven't been around on social media as much lately. We promise we're going to be more present. Let us just go put out this fire real quick first, brb...
Lessons Learned: Check The Mobile View March 02, 2017 05:00
Desktops and laptops are quickly taking second fiddle to the cellphone. People are using their mobile devices to do more and more on the internet everyday. Case in point: one day last week we printed shipping labels, invoices, and fulfilled orders from my cellphone.
This particular lesson learned is kind of a no brainer, but it is still something we have to remind ourselves all of the time: ALWAYS CHECK THE MOBILE VIEW OF YOUR WEBSITE AND E-MAILS!
Every tweak you make has to be considered from the perspective of all viewing platforms. On many occasions, even though the new website tweak / addition looked amazing on our computer screen, we had to make adjustments in order for the mobile view to be functional. Sometimes this came at a cost to the computer screen perspective, leading to a final decision that was a little less amazing but bridged across platforms. Here is one example:
On the 2017 UPstudio Planner page we have a viewer loaded that enables you to flip through a sample of the planner to get a feel of the layout:
Do you notice how the viewer looks a little small? It doesn't align with all of the other text when viewing it on your computer screen? However when you view this same section on your phone it all aligns perfectly:
Originally when we loaded this viewer, we customized the size to fit your computer screen, and we thought it looked great:
But this meant that on your cell phone in most cases it exceeded the screen width and required you to scroll left and right, making the navigation not as seamless:
Since we haven't figured out how to write code for this view to change sizes based on the viewing platform (on our list for the future), we had to decide what was a higher priority. In this case, the mobile view won, and the viewer looks a little small on your computer screen, but it is easy enough to click to enlarge.
Over the past few months I've saved other examples I've run across. Some of these examples are pretty large companies, so don't beat yourself up next time you come across something on your site you forgot to check out on your mobile device, it happens to us all. I'm sure all of these look great when you're sitting behind a computer screen.
For your viewing pleasure:
2017 UPstudio Planners on Sale! February 23, 2017 05:00
Have you been holding off on getting your 2017 UPstudio Planner? Well the wait is over, because all planners are on sale! The already competitive prices have dropped 25% which means that the 2017 Planner is now just $30 and the 2017 Scratch and Dent Planner is only $15! With 10+ months left in the year, these prices are a steal. Head on over to the store and get one (or two or three!) today!
Don't just take our word for it, check out this great review of the 2017 UPstudio Planner (for more reviews, click here):
I absolutely love the UPstudio 2017 planner! I just received it and I already started using it to plan ahead for next year, as well as using the December 2016 monthly layout the provide. I was drawn to this planner at first, because of the binding. It it great, and feelshe really strong. A plus to this particular sewn binding is your planner opens flat, even in the beginning months (I've come across other sewn bound planners you have to hold open). I also love the 2 ribbon bookmarks. It is very helpful having the integral tabs printed on the edges, very helpful finding the pages you want (this is also better than most sewn bound planners as those usually do not have tabs and it the do, they are cut in and the edgesemester tent to curl or tear). I love the goal sheets before each month (sort of wish they were gridded) and I also love all the grid paper in the back. I also absolutely love the weekly layout. It's perfect the way it has sections for appointment and we'll as 3 separate sections for different tasks or whatnot under each day. And the elastic bandd closure is a must! I really love this planner and I cannot wait to continue using it for all of 2017. I cannot wait to see what the 2018 planner will look like! On a side note: customer service rocks. I had a slight error in check out and I emailed them and they responded to me and fixed the problem within minutes! I definitely recommend this planner and this company!
Lessons Learned: HTTPS February 16, 2017 05:00
Have you ever noticed that some web addresses begin with "http://" and others start with "https://"? What is the difference?
It means that the website is either using HyperText Transfer Protocol (HTTP), or HyperText Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS). Again, what is the difference?
Around the origination of the world wide web, network administrators had to determine how to share information that they put on the internet. They agreed to use the HyperText Transfer Protocol (HTTP). Eventually everyone understood this protocol and how it exchanged information, which lead to intercepting information. To battle this issue, the administrators agreed on a new procedure HyperText Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS) to protect the information. In short, the data being sent is encrypted using a "code" that is only known by the sender and the recipient. If anyone intercepts the information, they won't be able to decipher it because they won't have the "code". The computer on each end uses a document called an SSL Certification (Secure Sockets Layer) containing character strings that are the keys to their secret "codes".
Typically your browser will identify clearly which sites are secured.
You can see that we at UPstudio use HTTPS...
We are fortunate enough that our website host provides us an SSL Certification as part of our monthly subscription fee, thank you Shopify. It is however something that each store must activate. We recently received an e-mail from Shopify saying that all stores are required to activate their SSL Certificate and migrate to HTTPS by March 1st, 2017, or it will be done by Shopify automatically. For directions to activate, click here.
During the activation process you are required to fix any errors that prevent the encryption process. In short, all links found on your website must be to other secure (or https://) websites. You will be required to fix these "mix content errors". Shopify provides some guidance to aid in understanding and fixing the errors found.
When we were upgrading we kept being directed to pages where we couldn't find any errors, all content and links were referencing secure locations. We finally figured out that it was our newsletter sign up, which is in the footer of our website template, and therefore shows up on all pages. So this lesson learned is for all of those Shopify stores using MailChimp as their newsletter provider that are having issues with activating their SSL Certification. There is a very simple fix that worked for us.
When we first set up our theme and included a newsletter sign up in the footer we followed the directions at the bottom of this page to provide the MailChimp form action url. Which meant that the url we entered appeared like this:
The simple fix is to just add "https:" in front of the provided form action URL, so that it appears as follows:
It is that easy!
For more lessons learned, click here to view our blog series. Have any questions for us about how we approached/accomplished something? Comment below or contact us, we are firm believers of collaboration over competition.
Where in the World is the UPstudio Planner February 09, 2017 05:00
The 2017 UPstudio Planner is only sold in stores in North Carolina (for now anyway!) but this little gem called the internet makes it possible to get one from literally anywhere in the world. It's pretty amazing. We took a look at the reach of the 2017 Planner, and thought it would be fun to share with you guys. Who doesn't love a good map and graph?
These maps show the states and countries where UPstudio planners now call home. The first map is of the United States, and the second map shows our lone international traveller - all the way in Estonia! (Shipping prices get a little steep outside of the continental US, but we're willing to ship anywhere! Send us a message if you want more details.)
If you're wondering, that's 29 of the 50 states - and yep, you're reading that right, there's an UPstudio Planner in Hawaii (aloha!)
The official language of Estonia is Estonian, however English is one of the most popular foreign languages to learn in the country, so the UPstudio Planner is still right at home overseas.
These next graphs show the distribution of quantities sold throughout the different states and countries. No surprise, the most planners have sold in North Carolina, but we were interested to see that the next most popular state placing orders is Texas.
Did your state make the map? We would love to see all 50 states and even more countries represented for the 2018 Planner!
2017 UPstudio Planner : Scratch and Dent Sale February 02, 2017 05:00
Some of the 2017 UPstudio Planners arrived with some imperfections. All of these flaws are aesthetic and do not render the planner unusable in any way. Snag one of these imperfect planners for $20 while supplies last! Benefit from our printing/delivery/storage issues with this great deal!
Examples include but are not limited to:
- Minor scratches on cover
- Slightly bent cover corner
- Binding adhesive remnants on cover
- Over or under zealous with the deboss stamp
- Corners of pages not cropped perfectly
- Small marks on edge of pages
Imperfections vary, we can not guarantee which you will receive.
(PS... if you've got a coupon code lying around, you can combine that with this amazing deal!)
The Best Planner for Making Lists January 26, 2017 05:00
This blog post is a part of the series "The Best Planner for..." which provides suggestions for ways in which you can use the UPstudio Planner. Each post in this series will focus on a different way to utilize the planner layout. The UPstudio Planner is designed for versatility, and is suited for many uses and not limited to the featured suggestions. Show us how you use your planner by sending us an email at email@example.com, or tagging us on social media (all handles can be found on our website).
Lists: they make us feel organized, productive, and efficient. They can reduce anxiety when tasks get overwhelming or start to feel out of control, and can help to improve your focus to accomplish those tasks. Lists can help to organize thoughts, and are a helpful part of many people's daily lives.
The UPstudio Planner is stocked from start to finish with a variety of areas to make lists of all different kinds. Lists can be made on the weekly layout in each daily section as well as in the graph area below, on the blank space of the monthly layout, on the blank space or graph space of the goals layout, or on the graph sheets in the back of the Planner.
If you're in to making lists, this is the planner for you.
To-do lists, birthday and anniversaries, books to read, movies to watch, restaurants to try - the possibilities are endless. Make a list and cross some things off, the progress will make you want to make another one!
UPstudio Blog 2016 Year In Review January 19, 2017 05:00
Looking back at our blog history, our first blog post was July 27th, 2015, when we launched our website. We've posted every Thursday since then (with a few extras thrown in here and there). We have written a total of 86 blog posts so far.
2016 was our first full year of blogging. We've definitely increased our audience this year:
The two main features on the UPstudio website are our shop and our blog. In 2016 our shop pulled in a whopping 19,660 views with our blog coming in second with 13,990 total views.
Our top ten viewed blog posts in 2016 according to Google Analytics:
- What is Bullet Journaling? (1,738 views)
- Dress Your Tech (520 views)
- Lessons Learned: UPS Mailbox vs PO Box (272 views)
- Lessons Learned: Shopify Blog Images Not Showing Up in E-mail Subscriptions (205 views)
- Planning a Planner v 2017, Part I (190 views)
- FTD Free Downloadable Calendar (182 views)
- Lessons Learned: Free Shopify Apps to Install (161 views)
- August Bullet Journal Collections (98 views)
- Bullet Journaling and the UPstudio Planner (98 views)
- Pre-order a 2017 UPstudio Planner Today (96 views)
So, the clear run away was bullet journaling taking the top viewed spot by a landslide and making the list two additional times. Our Lessons Learned series and the UPstudio Planner each made the list three times, and digital downloads took second and sixth place.
Take aways are: You enjoy bullet journaling, reading about things we've learned along our small business journey, free digital downloads, and the UPstudio Planner. So, we'll make sure we keep those topics in our rotation. Is there anything else you would like to read about this coming year?
The Best Planner for Keeping Resolutions January 12, 2017 05:00
This blog post is a part of the series "The Best Planner for..." which provides suggestions for ways in which you can use the UPstudio Planner. Each post in this series will focus on a different way to utilize the planner layout. The UPstudio Planner is designed for versatility, and is suited for many uses and not limited to the featured suggestions. Show us how you use your planner by sending us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or tagging us on social media (all handles can be found on our website).
New Year's Resolutions: we all make them with the best of intentions and full of motivation. The beginning of the year is like a fresh start, and the perfect time to begin a new goal, develop a new habit, or just do 'better' in general. If you're anything like me, then those goals and that motivation starts to fizzle out a few weeks into the year. Life tends to get in the way, and my resolutions turn in to "if I have time", later to be forgotten, and then turn back into resolutions for the next year. It's the circle of life, New Year's Resolution style.
I've learned over the years to make attainable goals so that I'm not too hard on myself if I don't achieve something that's really lofty. This year, my attainable resolution is to make chicken pot pie. Not a Marie Calendar's CPP (because I'm already a PRO at that), but 100% from scratch with a woven pie crust top and everything. But there are plenty of other things that I need daily encouragement on to make real changes in my life.
There are many people that are taking advantage of that first of the year momentum to start new challenges with more traditional resolutions: lose x amount of pounds, do a better job of keeping in touch with friends, pack a lunch more often, etc. With the right tools, those resolutions could be easier to keep, helping ensure that they last not just the first few weeks of the new year, but all year long, or even all life long. The UPstudio Planner could help to keep those resolutions by holding yourself accountable with planning, and encouraging your motivation by seeing progress made.
I love one idea in particular from my friend Katie. Katie has always loved photography, but lately has fallen out of practice with taking photos due to the daily grind of life. At the new year, she started a 365 Project to take a photo a day. More than the idea of the project, I love her thought behind it: "I figure even if I don't make it a whole year, the amount I do make it will improve my skills."
The 365 Project doesn't apply to just photography - it can be suited to almost anything you can think of. What better way to continue on with the 365 Project or any New Year's Resolution than to plan and track your progress? Motivation doesn't breed progress, progress breeds motivation. Keeping track of daily accomplishments by physically writing them in the UPstudio Planner will only help encourage you to keep on going, and ultimately, keep your resolution.
Are you working on resolutions this year? Leave a comment and let us know!
Note: The above example planner layout and photographs were not by Katie. Here are a few of her photos from the 365 Project for your enjoyment!
Dress Your Tech v2.0 January 05, 2017 05:00
Happy New Year Everyone! Hopefully this first week back to the daily grind hasn't been too rough.
New year for me means new desktop background! This is a big deal because I sit at my desk in front of a computer all day. Me and DELL are BFFs.
I shared previously on the blog that DESIGNLOVEFEST is where I have the best luck when in search of a new desktop background. There is a "Dress Your Tech" section where desktop backgrounds are featured once or twice a month. Her collection is perfect for me, simple and creative (and also FREE).
Some of my favorites while I was on the hunt yesterday:
Link to Download (this was the big winner for me)
There are tons of options. Your tastes might not line up exactly with mine, so go check it out for yourself. You just might find something perfect!
Out with the Old, In with the New! December 29, 2016 05:30
This week is the first week included in the 2017 UPstudio Planner. Ever since the new planners arrived I've been itching to start using one. With all of the new features, I just couldn't wait to dig in and get my year started off right. I've definitely felt the giddiness this week (I know, such a loser, but you get me... hopefully), but I've also felt a little sadness. It is bittersweet as I see my 2016 UPstudio Planner on my desk, it symbolizes so much growth for us at UPstudio. It is what started it all!
But the giddiness is definitely winning! I've been finding every excuse I can to write something down!
We at UPstudio hope you had a very Merry Christmas filled with joy!
Happy Planning Everyone! And Happy New Year!
(Use code 'MERRY' at checkout on our website to get 15% off your order today!)
The Best Planner for Surviving the Holiday Rush December 22, 2016 05:00
This blog post is a part of the series "The Best Planner for..." which provides suggestions for ways in which you can use the UPstudio Planner. Each post in this series will focus on a different way to utilize the planner layout. The UPstudio Planner is designed for versatility, and is suited for many uses and not limited to the featured suggestions. Show us how you use your planner by sending us an email at email@example.com, or tagging us on social media (all handles can be found on our website).
It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year! For many, it's also the busiest, and the most stressful. Having the right planner to help you navigate through parties, family gatherings, time spent with friends, and coordinating gift exchanges can help you make it through the holiday season a bit easier.
The UPstudio Planner can serve as your dashboard to keep track of your own, your significant other's and your kids' schedules. In this example, the month layout serves as the 5,000 foot level view of festivities. Having a visual of what is coming over the course of the month makes me feel that much more organized, and that way nothing can sneak up on me. (Don't forget to include December birthdays! Too often these are lost in the hustle of the season.)
The week layout shows more detailed information about parties, what needs to be prepared for each one, when to give gifts (this is especially tricky with coworkers and kid's teachers as everyone is out on vacation at different times), etc. It also includes a to-do list of things that make my own Christmas season feel more complete... there are those Christmas cookies that I just HAVE to bake, movies that HAVE to be watched, or else it just doesn't feel quite right.
The goals sheet for December or graph pages at the back are a great place to keep track of gifts to give, and what has been purchased. I like to keep a running list throughout the year of ideas for people - that way when it comes time to shop for Christmas presents, I'm not starting from scratch. (Note: this sheet is not pictured because it's before Christmas and it will spoil gifts for family that reads these posts! Hi, Mom!)
Right after Christmas, New Year's Eve parties are in full swing, and there is still plenty to prepare for, gatherings and side dishes and binge eating before your New Year's diet kicks in (tell me I'm wrong). The UPstudio Planner can help you get and stay organized as we round out 2016 and get started in the New Year. Make sure to order your 2017 Planner today!
Even though Christmas and the entire holiday season can be hectic, we do hope that you'll make the effort to slow down, enjoy time with family and friends, count your blessings, and remember the true meaning of the holiday. We at UPstudio wish you a very Merry Christmas!
UPstudio Gift Guide December 15, 2016 05:00
Everyone has someone on their list that would enjoy UPstudio under the tree this Christmas! We've pulled together a few ideas for inspiration.
The list maker/planner in your life would love a new 2017 UPstudio Planner!
Do you have any teachers you need gifts for? A recent customer decided to buy their teachers a book for their classroom paired with an UPstudio Journal, notebook elastic pencil holder, and a catch-phrase pencil.
For every journal sold we'll send a free pencil and notebook elastic. Simply reply to your order confirmation e-mail with your pencil and elastic preference (see available options below).
Do you have a friend that is an avid letter writer or thank you card giver? UPstudio has plenty of cards, including two Christmas cards. Buy them individually or in packs of 6, and choose your envelope color.
Need a stocking-stuffer for the lover of office supplies? We've got you covered! Check out the UPstudio accessories collection.
To ensure Christmas delivery, place your orders by:
- Planners: December 20th
- All other UPstudio Products: December 19th
If your presents need wrapping don't forget about our free printable gift tags!
(PS... Sign up for our newsletter and use code NEWSLETTER to get 10% off your order today!)
The Best Planner for Multitaskers December 08, 2016 05:00
Who here can honestly say they aren't a multitasker? I generally have about a thousand things going on at once between work, family, personal projects, friends, side job, community involvements, etc. Without a way to keep things straight, I would probably lose my mind. I know I'm not alone out there in needing a way to keep track of individual commitments and tasks. The UPstudio Planner works great for me, but today we're going to look at how another multitasker uses hers.
Lindsay is a 20 something year old professional engineer. She works an 8 - 5 day job, has a boyfriend, is close with her family and sees them regularly, volunteers with ACE Mentoring on a weekly basis, is treasurer for SEA (a professional engineering organization), works out consistently, is the social chair for the Triangle Chapter of the Virginia Tech Alumni, and runs a flower arranging business on the side. Yeah, I'd say she's a little busy.
She uses the UPstudio Planner to manage the different things she needs to handle on a daily basis. She uses the top portion of the weekly layout to organize her meetings, appointments, or time sensitive tasks. The bottom sections are divided up as "Friends and Family", "VT Alumni", and "ACE Mentor" because in this particular week, these were the 3 things she needed to focus on. The graph paper at the bottom includes notes about what flowers need to be ordered for her company holiday party.
On other weeks, her categories were different. This is one of the major perks of the UPstudio Planner: as your needs change, your planner can easily adapt. When weddings that she was providing flowers for were coming up, one category would be devoted to flowers. When she was studying for her PE, another category broke down specific sections of study (spoiler alert: she passed!)
We love seeing how other people use their UPstudio Planners and what works for them. Thanks, Lindsay, for sharing yours with us!
Now for fun (and because they're beautiful), we'll share some images of her floral arrangements with you:
Free Printable Christmas Tags December 01, 2016 05:00
I'm not sure about you, but once I finish my last bite of turkey, the Christmas music begins! My absolute favorite part about Christmas is giving gifts. I love sifting through recent interactions to figure out the perfect gift for each of my loved ones. I find such joy watching them all open their presents, there is nothing better!
Since I'm usually done with my Christmas shopping around the first of December (I know, type A, planner, right here) I have plenty of time to wrap my presents and enjoy their beauty under the tree. I enjoy being creative and crafty when it comes to my wrapping. I'm also a huge fan of being economical, because lets be honest, they enjoy the wrapping a fraction of the time they enjoy the gift.
This year we at UPstudio have designed some Christmas gift tags that you can download for free. What is more economical than free?
Add the free download to your cart and proceed to checkout. Once you've completed the checkout process there will be an option for you to download right then. But don't worry, you'll also receive an e-mail with instructions on how to download at a later time as well.
The PDF has two pages, the first has nine different designs in green and red and the second page features the same nine designs in black and white.
To show off our gift tags I wrapped a few of my presents:
I used letter size (8.5"x11") sticky labels where I cut out each tag for a couple gifts. You can purchase these on Amazon: Inkjet, Laserjet. You can also find them at your local Walmart, or office supply store. I've been using the same pack for about four years now.
For the others I printed the designs on a heavy weight paper (80# index) to use as tags where I either wrote on the back or incorporated into my bow.
I'm usually not a fancy bow person, but I tried a few new things for you guys. Here are the resources I used and some lessons learned:
- First lesson: video tutorials are a must when it comes to bow tying, the pictures get really confusing.
- A standard bow, similar to the red bow with white trim, is easier to tie with a satin ribbon, without wire. And make sure you decide how you want to fasten it to the present before you begin, I definitely didn't think that through. The Better Homes and Garden blog has a some great videos for four different simple bows.
- The larger traditional Christmas bow (the red and white stripe) was surprisingly easier than I thought. It is best accomplished with ribbon that has a wire edge. It also requires some type of wire, string, pipe cleaner, or other ribbon to secure it, so make sure you add that to your cart when you purchase your ribbon. I personally used bakers twine. And again, make sure you think about how you plan to attach it to your present beforehand. Video tutorials: tutorial 1, tutorial 2, tutorial 3.
Do you have any lessons learned or any great resources for Christmas wrapping inspiration?
(Don't forget to download your free printable Christmas tags today!)
The Best Planner for Moms (and Dads!) November 24, 2016 05:00
Mom brain is a real thing. So is Dad brain. If you have kids, then you know what I'm talking about. My husband likes to describe his Dad brain as functioning at the same level as our kids - a 3 year old and a 7 month old. Because we hold a lot of conversations with a baby and a preschooler, our own minds naturally tend to think in a way that they can understand things. Also, there's that whole lack of sleep thing... it's just a fact of life that having kids = less sleep, no matter what age they are. You have to keep going and functioning, sometimes on little to no sleep, and sometimes your brain just can't handle keeping up with the plethora of information it needs to after hearing "Mommy, Mommy, Mommy, Mommy, Mommy" a thousand times a day - hence, Mom or Dad brain.
Having the right planner can be a lifesaver when you're juggling a lot of things and need to keep them straight (aka not forget when picture day is and accidentally let your kids wear pajamas to school). In my daily life I manage: the responsibilities and schedule of my day job, the responsibilities and schedule of my side job (UPstudio), my husband's schedule, my 2 daughters schedules, keeping a relatively put together house, and keeping us all fed - including our 2 dogs (working with my husband on all of these things). That's a lot to keep track of.
The UPstudio Planner is perfect for me to manage my family and my jobs. The flexibility is essential, because the items I need to highlight the most change from week to week. With the UPstudio Planner, the weekly layout allows for me to use the top section as a schedule for my appointments and meetings (although it's just as easy to use this section as a daily to-do list, etc), and the middle sections can vary based on what's going on that week. My 3-year-old has a theme at school every month, and each day she brings in something to school, or we talk about a particular item or idea that relates to that theme. In the example below, I'm able to see what she has planned for each day so I can prepare it the night before. My 7-month-old is branching out in what foods she is eating, and I can easily track what she has each day. If she has any allergic reactions, I can look to see what might have been the cause. I can also take notes on what foods she likes and what she didn't like. The remaining row in the middle section of the layout was used in this example to plan meals for the week. It's amazing what a difference it makes when I come home with a meal that is already planned instead of blankly staring into the fridge for 10 minutes before cooking a frozen pizza (for more on this, check out The Best Planner for Meal Planning).
The bottom section in this example is shown as a to-do list. I also like to use this space to write down funny things that my 3-year-old says: "Would you like a brownie? They're really brown!"
The best part is that the next week I can change this up completely or leave it exactly the same. It's truly the most versatile layout you can use, and if there's one thing I've learned as a parent, it's that things are constantly changing, so having a planner that can adapt to my needs is crucial. I foresee this layout being extremely useful as more after-school activities are added to our schedules as my daughters grow up as well.
The graph pages of the UPstudio Planner can also double as a coloring book (at home, at the DMV, in the car, etc) - mom tested, kid approved (and no bleed through!)
UPstudio Christmas Cards November 17, 2016 05:00
Last year this time we were just releasing our inaugural 2016 UPstudio Planner. After its release we focused nearly all of our efforts on marketing and promoting the planner through the end of the year. We generated a few Christmas card designs but the time slipped by and sadly we didn't have time to produce and release them.
We were not going to let that happen again!
We are excited to announce that this year UPstudio will have two Christmas cards available!
Our first card, Trees, is printed similarly to our Everyday Cards (double sided offset printing on 160# cover paper). The design is featured on one side with the opposite side having a single tree and enough space for you to write a message. You can purchase them individually or in packs of six.
(Add a little yuletide spirit to your organization with the Gold Christmas Tree Paper Clips featured above.)
This beautiful Reindeer is featured on our second Christmas card!
This is our first color card with a design of a pixelated reindeer on the front that opens to "Merry Christmas" on the interior. This card is also available for purchase individually or in packs of six.
We have also added a new envelope color, lockwood green, to make your cards feel even more festive. Both cards look great with all envelope color options (red, real gray, kraft, and lockwood green).
We only printed limited quantities of Christmas cards, so get them while you can!
The Best Planner for Tracking your Health November 10, 2016 05:00
It's all downhill after Halloween - in regards to my eating habits at the end of the year that is. Even before Halloween is here, that bowl of candy waiting for Trick-or-Treaters is too inviting to pass up, and then there's the leftover candy... Someone's gotta take care of it, right? The weather is cooler, which means it's acceptable to start wearing bulkier clothes, and of course there's no explanation required for Thanksgiving and Christmas. There is food everywhere, and we're not talking veggie trays. With all of the tempting goodies, I need a way to plan and track my health, and hold myself accountable so I don't go too far off the deep end.
We've already discussed the Best Planner for Meal Planning, and staying healthy through choosing wholesome meals. In addition to that, the UPstudio planner is the perfect way to keep everything in check and track basic aspects of my health. Some might believe that there are better ways to track health, in wearable devices or even through your phone, but I would argue that keeping track in a planner (perhaps in tandem with use of a fitness tracker) is the best way for a few reasons:
- You can actually make a plan, instead of just tracking, and then compare what you did to what your plan was.
- While a fitness tracker is great for some things, there is more to health than just how many steps you take in a day. Writing everything down in a planner then allows you to visualize each aspect together - including exercise, water consumed, meals, sleep, etc. Think of it as a dashboard for your whole health.
- Your health plan can be side by side with your daily schedule, therefore it's easier to schedule realistic goals and not feel discouraged by not completing a lofty task.
- Writing things down keeps you accountable to yourself.
The UPstudio Planner is suited to address all of these and more with its versatile layout. The monthly goals sheet can address long term goals - losing weight, trying new recipes, even posting a photo or your beginning of the month stats to compare from month to month.
The monthly layout can be used in a variety of ways. Suggested here is showing which days you exercised with a key - a great way to visualize how you did at the end of the month.
The weekly layout shown below is just one example of a way to both plan and track your health. For this, I used the information logged on my iPhone and transferred it into my planner to see it at a glance, paired with my daily water intake, exercise goals and achievements, hours of sleep, and meals. Because I could see everything in a 'dashboard' style, it was easy to see how things related: I was working on 2 big deadlines last week and my meals suffered because of it.. when I ran errands, I walked a considerable amount more than just walking around the office.. and when you have kids you just really never get enough sleep. A harsh reality.
We challenge you to use the UPstudio Planner and test it our for yourself based on your own health needs!
UPstudio Features and Upcoming Events November 03, 2016 05:00
We shared in our recent blog series, Planning a Planner v2017, the changes and improvements made to the 2017 UPstudio Planner. We gave a lot of insight into why we made certain decisions. Since its release, we have loved hearing your feedback and reviews. Check out some of them for yourself...
RECENT FEATURES AND REVIEWS:
We would love to meet you and would appreciate your support at our upcoming events. High fives are always free!
- November 12th: Come check out our booth from 9am-4:30pm at the Mistletoe Market Holiday Fair at Wakefield High School. This is a fun event filled with crafts, holiday merchandise, and food! Find us outside in the "Reindeer Run" booth 8. Admission is $5.
- November 20th: We will be participating in the Annual St. Jude Kick Off, "A Night of Giving" hosted by West Elm. The event is from 6-9pm. Donations will be going to the St. Jude Miracle Network. Local vendors will be spread through out Pottery Barn, Pottery Barn Kids, Pottery Barn Teen, Williams Sonoma, and West Elm. There will be catering and live demos all with an emphasis on Holiday gift giving and entertaining. The stores are also raffling a $1000 gift card. Come out and support a great cause!
- December 11th: We will be part of The Holiday Patchwork Market at The Durham Armory (220 Foster Street, Durham, NC 27701) from 12pm-5pm. Come finish (or start) your holiday shopping!
Our Featured page always has the most up to date list of reviews and features along with a list of upcoming events.
Tune in next week for the second installment of "The Best Planner for... " series. We'll be focusing on 'Health'.
The Best Planner for Meal Planning October 27, 2016 05:00
This blog post is a part of the series "The Best Planner for..." which provides suggestions for ways in which you can use the UPstudio Planner. Each post in this series will focus on a different way to utilize the planner layout. The UPstudio Planner is designed for versatility, and is suited for many uses and not limited to the featured suggestions. Show us how you use your planner by sending us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or tagging us on social media (all handles can be found on our website). **This is the first post in this series.
I don't know about you, but I love the idea of meal planning. Not even the kind where you buy everything on a Saturday morning, then spend the rest of the weekend chopping and prepping and organizing recipes in Ziplock bags so that you have a freezer full of meals on hand (although this is beyond impressive!) I'm talking about just picking out recipes, shopping to make sure that you have all the ingredients, and then having a loose plan of knowing what you're going to make for each meal during the week. If I don't have a plan, I flounder. After a long day at work, a lot of times my husband and I will ask each other 'what do you want for dinner?' while repeatedly opening and closing the refrigerator, the freezer, and the pantry, eventually wasting enough time that we will pour a bowl of cereal and call it a night (don't worry, we still make sure our kids are fed well). If I have a meal plan for the week and am actually prepared, then my entire week runs so much more smoothly!
Being able to make a meal plan takes a couple of items to really work well: a way to plan and track what meals to make and what items need to be purchased, and good go-to recipes. The UPstudio Planner is so versatile, with open categories that can be filled out from week to week. Some weeks I'll use the same categories, and sometimes I'll change it up - it really depends on what my current needs are. For meal planning, I like to fill out the headings with "Breakfast", "Lunch", and "Dinner" (I didn't say it was rocket science). Then I'll fill them out accordingly with meals to make, factoring in my plans for the week (my schedule is right above my meal plan - how convenient!) (Photo below)
I was lucky enough to receive an early copy of the new 100 Days of Real Food - Fast and Fabulous cookbook, and was able to use this all last week for my meal planning. Let me tell you - I LOVE THIS COOKBOOK! If you don't know Lisa Leake and her team at 100 Days of Real Food, then you're missing out. I encourage you to check out her website and purchase her cookbooks (or try a few recipes from her website first!). Lisa is 100% real. She cooks real food from real ingredients, but is also realistic about what to make yourself and what's ok to buy at the store. She openly cheats and lets her kids cheat on 'non-real' foods occasionally, but part of what I love about her is that her kids are so involved with food shopping and cooking, they will choose the real food over the processed. Her "Fast and Fabulous" cookbook even has a guide for the best types of foods to buy at regular grocery stores - from Wal-Mart to Whole Foods to farmers markets and everything in between. Seriously, order this cookbook today.
After looking through the cookbook first, I had my husband highlight some meals in every category that looked good to him. I chose meals to make based on what I knew my whole family would like, what ingredients I had on hand, and honestly what seemed easy enough that I could make it on a weeknight after a full day of work. Here is what my plan looked like:
Having my overall schedule for the week in the same place as my meal plan is so convenient! After making each meal, I wrote notes about them in the graph section at the bottom of the page so I can reference for next time I make the recipe.
Next, I referenced the recipes from 100 Days of Real Food - Fast and Fabulous with my food supply, and made a list of everything I needed to buy:
I prefer to write my grocery list on a smaller single sheet of paper - like this sticky pad
I did all my shopping on Sunday afternoon, then Sunday evening I made all my breakfasts for the week (overnight oats!), as well as sour cream and onion chicken salad for sandwiches all week:
I'm a big fan of overnight oats and the recipe in this cookbook didn't disappoint. The sour cream and onion chicken salad was also delicious and will be made again soon!
I only made 3 dinners that week, because I knew we would be out one night, and knew that the recipes would make more than we could eat in one sitting. Each of them were delicious, and I went out of my comfort zone for my Friday night meal - but it turned out great!
After we ate the veggie and bean burritos with cilantro lime crema, my husband high fived me - this one was a big hit. The sloppy joes were a fun and tasty meal, and a good way to sneak in some extra veggies. The parmesan crusted chicken also got rave reviews from my husband and MIL!
Without my UPstudio Planner and the easy and delicious meals from 100 Days of Real Food - Fast and Fabulous, my week would've felt more hectic, rushed, and unprepared. Arm yourself with the right tools, and meal planning can really help alleviate any extra stress from not knowing what to cook!
Recap: 2017 UPstudio Planner Release Party October 20, 2016 05:00
We were overwhelmed and excited by the turn out last Friday at the 2017 UPstudio Planner release party. We had a blast celebrating with both old and new friends. We feel so encouraged by all of the conversations of the evening. Your support is amazing. Thank you.
For those of you that weren't able to make it to the party, we hope to see you next time!
A few highlights courtesy of our great friend Steve...
We had a table set up to share about the development process of the UPstudio Planner.
Waiting for you to arrive!
The party wouldn't have been complete without our biggest supporters!
or a team picture..
2017 UPstudio Planners are now on the shelf and available at Ramble Supply Co.
Bullet Journaling and the UPstudio Planner October 13, 2016 05:30
Hi, Mary Beth here, let me preface this blog post with: I am 1/2 owner and designer of a company founded on creating the perfect paper planner, I know this. So why am I sharing about bullet journaling? Isn't it competing with the traditional paper planner? Kind of would be my answer. The UPstudio Planner is however one of the most versatile on the market. There are great components of the bullet journal system that can be incorporated into the UPstudio Planner format. The tweaks we made to the 2017 UPstudio Planner make it even easier to utilize the bullet journal system.
Today I'm going to share one way to accomplish this. Just as the UPstudio Planner is versatile and adaptable, so is the bullet journal system, thus, there are plenty of different ways to pair the two together, this is just one idea.
The bullet journal system is comprised of 4 key concepts: Indexing, Collections, Rapid-Logging, and Migration.
Typically your index is at the front of your bullet journal where you keep track of what you use every page for, every collection you make, whether it be your weekly layout, or a list of books to read. In the new 2017 UPstudio Planner layout the first portion of the planner is our monthly and weekly layouts and then the second half consists of 54 numbered graph pages. So the first two pages of the graph paper section can be your index to catalog what is on the remaining 52 pages. The nice parts is that you don't have to use this section for your monthly or weekly layouts, just your additional collections. I also plan to keep my "key" on the first page to remind me of my bullet types and signifiers for my rapid-logging.
The remaining pages of the graph paper section can be used for all of your collections. Whether it be a habit tracker, a birthday list, meal planner, whatever you want. Just remember to log your collections in your index for easy reference. The page markers also make it easy to turn to your next fresh page.
Rapid-Logging / Migration
The UPstudio Planner weekly layout is what really sets the planner apart. The flexibility of the layout really lends itself to rapid-logging and migration. I use the top portion for my list of tasks, and then I use the lower sections to separate out events and notes. I personally like separating out these lists instead of incorporating them all together, helps me prioritize better. Tasks that I don't complete that day, I mark as migrated, and add them to the following day, or later that week. When I add a new collection to my "collection section" or graph paper at the back I reference it by its page number on my weekly view to help me locate it faster.
Are you a bullet journaler or want to give it a try? We shared some great resources previously to help get you started. When you're ready, try out a free sample of the 2017 UPstudio Planner and see if it works for your bullet journaling style.
Lessons Learned: Starting a Business With a Friend October 06, 2016 05:00
"Should I start a new business with a friend?"
Mary Beth and I have been asked this question multiple times because this is exactly what we did with UPstudio. We are in a unique position, since we work together in our day jobs, so in actuality, we had been working together for years prior to the founding of UPstudio. We knew we worked well together because of that, and because of our friendship. But, we have given a lot of thought to this question since we've been working together. Our short answer is yes, start a new business with a friend - with the huge caveat that it has to be the right person. Starting a business is kind of a big deal, and there are a ton of factors that go in to it - more than we realized when we started out. During a 'Real Talk' interview that we did with Earn Spend Live, we discussed a bit about what it's like to work with a friend and if we would recommend it. The article touches on a few points, but here are some more in depth thoughts that we highly recommend considering before you jump in with a partner:
Do you like this person?
Seriously. This seems like a silly question, but you have to take into account how much time you'll be spending together... even when you're not together, you're still communicating all day long. MB and I often text early in the morning, talk on our lunch breaks at our day jobs, and then text / call / skype again in the evenings. We have meetings on nights and weekends, and we go to festivals and shows together where we sell our products. You're basically committing to a level just below marriage, so make sure you actually like your potential business partner.
Do your goals align?
What does the idea of this business mean to both of you - is it a hobby? A career? A creative outlet? If you're not on the same page with where your business is headed, then it could be an awkward and unfair division of responsibilities. In addition to your business goals, you need to consider your overall life goals (this sounds intense, but hear me out) - for example, MB and I both have families with small kids, and it's extremely important to both of us that even if we dedicate a lot of extra time to UPstudio, our families are always still our top priority. If you start a business with someone who has kids and you don't, then there's the potential for things to feel a little one-sided on occasion. MB and I are also both Christians, so we know that our top priorities outside of working together always align.
Do you work well together?
This is another one of those questions that seems silly to ask yourself, but it is a legitimate question. You might like someone, but not be able to work with them. If you don't agree on something, will you be able to work it out and make a compromise? We make all kinds of decisions for UPstudio on almost a daily basis. Most of the time we agree, but sometimes we don't. In those instances, we take the time to understand each other's point of view, and are able to make an informed decision from there. In the end, we're always both on board with whatever decision is made. As mentioned above, MB and I have the unique advantage of working together in our day jobs. I am an architect and she is a structural engineer, so we've coordinated a number of buildings together, and we knew from that experience that our communication was open and we are able to solve problems together.
Do you have the same financial goals and responsibilities?
Starting a business isn't free. There are a lot of legal things that need to happen before a business is official (but that's all for another blog post!) but even if your business is something like running an Etsy store, there is generally always some sort of cost associated with what you're doing. Who purchases supplies for your product? Marketing and promotion materials? Money is a sensitive area, so you want to make sure that you and your partner are either 100% equal on what is invested, or that you are both 100% comfortable with the division of financial responsibilities (but we recommend the 50/50 split!)
Do you both have passion for your business?
This one is pretty simple. If you aren't both willing to give it 100% most of the time, then you probably shouldn't start the business. It's pretty obvious that if one person feels 'meh' while they other one is 'YES' then whoever is less enthusiastic will continue to be less enthusiastic, leaving majority of the work left for the other person. You have to love what you're doing for there to be a future, or for starting a business to make sense in the first place.
Do you have a balance of responsibilities?
When we were first kicking around the idea of creating UPstudio, MB and I sat down and talked about what each of our responsibilities would be. MB shared that she was much more interested in the business side of things, including accounting, determining which website host would be best, writing code, etc, while I was much more interested in the design and creation of our products. This does not mean that the other one of us is not interested in the other side and that we don't invest effort in those things too, but it gave us a pretty clear division of responsibilities that just happened to work out perfectly. One of us will generate an idea, whether it's business or design related, and the designated person will run with it, then we'll meet again to talk about it, make changes, and finalize. Basically, it's a huge team effort with our main roles defined. Another note about working with a partner is that life happens. Sometimes you just can't make things work with your personal schedule, and that is to be expected. When you're working with someone that you can count on, they can help pick up your slack when you just can't do it. MB and I have each had babies in the short time that UPstudio has been founded, and during those times, one person is clearly doing that majority of the work - but we're happy to do that for each other, because we know that we'll get that same effort in return when something comes up for us, no question.
All in all, working with a partner is great. They can inspire you, challenge you, and share all the joys and struggles of running a business. You're also held accountable when someone is counting on you - I believe you have more of a chance of being successful in a business with a partner - the right partner. I know I have the right one for this! (awwwwwww)
Awesome outtakes from a photo session earlier this year
2017 UPstudio Planner Release Party September 29, 2016 05:00
To celebrate the release of the 2017 UPstudio Planner, Jessie of Ramble Supply Co. has graciously offered to host a release party at her shop!
We would love to celebrate with you all. It will be very casual, stop in when you can for free wine and donuts. (Only the best donuts ever, provided by Manhattan Cafe.) We plan to have a display set up to share some of the behind the scenes work that was put into creating the UPstudio Planner. There will also be a raffle and giveaways (who doesn't like free stuff?).
If you haven't done so already, don't forget to pre-order your planner and save 10%. If you plan to attend the party and want to pick up your planner there, use code RAMBLE at checkout to take off the cost of shipping. (Feel free to throw in other items you've been eyeing, you can pick them all up at the party.) If you plan to attend the party but something comes up, no worries, you'll still have a planner reserved with your name on it. We'll send you an invoice for the shipping cost and once paid, we'll get it in the mail within one business day.
10% pre-order sale ends October 10th at 11:59pm (EDT).
We look forward to celebrating with you! Please comment or shoot us an e-mail (email@example.com) if you have any questions.
Behind the Scenes - How We Make Decisions: Pencil Edition September 22, 2016 05:00
If you purchased a 2016 UPstudio Planner, then you know that we give away a little treat to go with it - a pencil. Pencils and planners go together like... peas and carrots... Forrest and Jenny... donuts and sprinkles. Take for example a week in the life of my (Becky's) planner usage: on Monday I wrote down all of the game times for my husband's volleyball team in my planner - in pen. On Tuesday, I crossed those out and wrote the revised ones. On Wednesday, same thing. NO JOKE. If I had been using a pencil, no problem, but that pen seriously messed with my perfectionist goals. *Le sigh*
The 2016 pencil is black and we decided to use it as a marketing tool as well as a gift, so it reads 'www.upstudionc.com'. We decided that we needed a little flair for the gift to go with the 2017 Planner. Spoiler alert: we stuck with pencils, but wanted to add a phrase on there too instead of just straight marketing. At a meeting between MB and myself, we generated ideas and came up with a list of phrases, narrowing that down to a short list, and choosing from there. (Keep in mind, this was after a full day of work at our day jobs (remember, we're an architect and engineer, UPstudio is our side hustle), we both have mom brains on fleek, and at least half of us were sleep deprived with a newborn, so things got a little silly. We're keeping it real in this post.)
These are the ideas that we used as a guide to generate phrases:
- We love planners.
- We love lists.
- We love hard copies.
- We love mail.
- (Disclaimer: We also love trees despite our love of paper products, let's just clarify that right now)
These are the phrases that we considered for the pencils:
- No need to click save
- Take note
- Paper products are my BFF
- Send real mail
- No internet required
- No need for a backup
- Don't worry about crashing
- Save As
- I like the way you work it - no digital (If you're not singing Blackstreet in your head right now, then forget being my friend. Just kidding. Kind of.)
- No charging required
- Digital schmidgital
- Digital is for dummies
- Digital tools are for tools
- Old school rules
- Who needs trees, use paper*
- This only killed one tree*
- Paper vs Digital
- Paper for the win
- I look perfect on your desk
- I <3 paper
And the winner is...
In white! With gold letters! Perfection! What other phrase would you like to see? Leave a comment below and we'll consider all ideas for 2018 (it's coming faster than you think!)
*We really do love trees
August Bullet Journal Collections September 15, 2016 05:00
In the last blog post focusing on bullet journaling we gave you a brief introduction and pointed you to some great resources regarding what bullet journaling is and how it might be perfect for your life. So, head back for a refresher.
On the bullet journal website there are great free starter guides that you can stick in your journal as a reference as you get started to help you create some consistency. But the beauty of bullet journaling is the versatility and flexibility to adapt the system to what works for you.
Every page in your bullet journal is referred to as a collection (of which you index). Today I wanted to share some of the collections I created in August to help you visualize the system and for inspiration. (For quick reference: If you're using the UPstudio Arrow Journal for your bullet journal system each page is 44 spaces by 28 spaces when you're dividing up your layout.)
I am super bad at remembering birthdays so I decided to start gathering them together (from phone contacts, planner, outlook calendar, husband's brain, etc) and make a master list. Don't worry if you haven't made the cut yet, it is a work in progress!
I've been trying to hold myself more accountable to things I'd like to do more regularly, to try and create better habits. I thought a visual representation of some of those things might help to motivate me.
Daily To-Do Lists
I'm a list maker, that is for sure! I tried a new layout one week for my rapid daily logging. A little more appealing to the eye when compared to my average week, I think I like it. Pretty and still 100% functional.
Have you started using the bullet journal system (or been at it awhile)? If so, we'd love to see some of your collections. Comment on this post with a link for us (and our readers) to check them out. Looking for ideas to try in September!
FTD Free Downloadable Calendar September 08, 2016 05:00
Flowers are my go-to gift. No matter if you're celebrating a birthday, anniversary, or thanking a hostess, flowers can always make a person smile. When sending flowers, I typically order online, pick out the arrangement that I think the recipient would like best, and that's that. Who knew that a lot of these companies actually have more than just flowers and gifts on their website? FTD recently reached out to us about their printable calendars, and we were surprised to learn that they not only have printables, but a blog too! We dug around and found these fun posts about rainbow tulips and rainbow roses. Seriously, how cool are these roses?!
The calendar is also right up our alley. We love that there are options on styles, and the bright colors are fun, especially as summer is winding down and cooler temperatures will soon set in. Here is how FTD describes them:
"It’s never too late to start fresh and to revamp your calendar for the rest of the year. To help you stay organized in style, FTD created these printable calendars inspired by vintage floral prints. Featuring beautiful blooms like peonies, poppies, and tulips, these calendars are a colorful and fun way to help you plan. Choose from either a foldable desktop size that can sit upright, or a larger wall size that you can hang up. These calendars will be sure to add a pop of color and inspiration to your workspace!"
We love that September even features succulents!
What month is your favorite design? Oh, and if you want to send us flowers, we won't turn them down (hint hint!)
Free Weekly Layout Download Available for the 2017 UPstudio Planner September 01, 2016 05:30
For some, the flexible and non-confining format might be a little overwhelming. If you're not familiar with this type of layout, we encourage you to try it out! A free download of the 2017 weekly layout is now available in the shop. This is a great way to figure out how the design can best work for you and give it a test run before committing to a purchase.
Please note that the layout has been scaled to fit on an 8-1/2" x 11" sheet of paper for your convenience, which makes it slightly smaller than actual size.
Love the sample? Think the layout would be perfect to help you organize your life? Well, you're in luck, 2017 UPstudio Planners are available for pre-order. Place your order by October 10th to save 10%!
Use the free download to help finish out 2016 and prepare for 2017 or there are still a few 2016 planners available for purchase at a discounted price.
Pre-Order a 2017 UPstudio Planner Today! August 26, 2016 05:00
Over the past four weeks in our blog series, Planning a Planner v2017, we've shared the upcoming improvements and changes to the 2017 UPstudio Planner. We personally are thrilled about the new 2017 version and can't wait to start using it!
Today, we are excited to announce that you can pre-order one of these beauties for yourself!
What is even better? A sale! If you pre-order your planner before October 10th, you'll save 10%. Pre-ordered planners are only $36, regularly priced at $40! All planners will ship Monday, October 10th.
We would love for you to join us to celebrate the release of the 2017 planner on October 14th in Raleigh, North Carolina at Ramble Supply Co. If you plan to attend and want to pick up your planner there, use code RAMBLE at checkout to take off the cost of shipping. (Feel free to throw in other items you've been eyeing, you can pick them all up at the party.) If you plan to attend the party but something comes up, no worries, you'll still have a planner reserved with your name on it. We'll send you an invoice to cover the shipping cost and once you've paid, we'll get it in the mail within one business day.
We thought extensively about all aspects of this planner, down to every last line and letter. The difference in a quality product is in the details. At UPstudio, we believe in creating products that are affordable, attractive, versatile, and fit for people in all walks of life. We hope the flexibility and non-confining layout of this planner works for you. Flip through a sample of the UPstudio 2017 Planner by clicking here.
Details and Highlights:
- 12 month calendar from January, 2017 to December, 2017.
- Planner Dimensions: Roughly 6.25" wide and 9.25" and 1" thick.
- Binding: Smyth Sewn Binding
- Cover: Gray leather with simple deboss design.
- Gray elastic closure band to aid in portability and durability of planner.
- Each month includes: A two page goal sheet, a two page month view, followed by a two page week view for each week. The main design goal of the layout is versatility. We want every space to be useful, but for you to be able to set the purpose.
- 54 pages of graph paper are included at the end of the planner. They have page numbers for easy reference. (IE: On your month or week layout you can easily reference the graph page where you took notes or jotted down a quick list.)
- A two page month view included for December 2016 and January 2018.
- There are two different colored ribbon markers to help you flip to your desired page quickly.
- Integral tabs are printed along the side of the layout to help you flip to the desired month.
- Interior pages are 70 lb text paper. We did a lot of tests with different types of pens, pencils, and sharpies to choose a paper type that has minimal bleed through without making the planner too thick.
- Includes two folders affixed to the front and back covers (We personally use it for invitations, coupons, and receipts, but the options are endless.) They are large enough to safely store a 8-1/2" x 11" sheet of paper folded in half.
Planning a Planner v2017, Part IV August 25, 2016 05:00
The week layout of the UPstudio Planner is what we feel most sets us apart from other planners on the market today. While we still believe that all details are important, in the end the layout needs to be 100% usable or else you are just left with a (very attractive, high quality) unused notebook. We worked hard to create our initial layout, first studying designs of planners we had each used in the past, and discussing how we liked to work and keep track of schedules, appointments, lists, etc. From these conversations we designed a prototype and polled a focus group to use the sample for two months. After receiving comments and seeing how each individual used the planner, we re-evaluated the layout with fresh eyes. You can read more about our process of using a focus group here. We took all comments into consideration and made a number of good changes based on feedback, and the UPstudio 2016 planner was born.
Fast forward several months to when we started producing the 2017 planner. We had been using our individual planners but were also still welcoming comments (good, bad and ugly) from other users as well. We previously discussed the changes in binding type, the struggle with tabs, and overall features in earlier blog posts. In general, the week layout has stayed largely the same, but we've made some tweaks that we think will take usage to the next level.
For starters, we wanted to evaluate overall aesthetics. We believe in versatility so there's not any frill in the planner. If you like bright colors or inspirational quotes already printed, then this is not the planner for you. This planner is designed to work for the executive or the stay at home parent just as well as it works for the college student, and therefore simple aesthetics and layout are critical. If you're feeling artsy one week, add all the color! If you are in to washi tape and stamps, go crazy! This will add life and personality to each individual use, but the layout is also perfectly suited for the professional or the minimalist who may not prefer all the extras you might see in other planners. We LOVE seeing how you've personalized your planner, so please feel free to send us photos or tag us on social media. Check out how this 2016 planner was personalized by a user:
Similarly, if you want your planner to tell you exactly how to use it, from planning out your breakfast, lunch, dinner, finances, goal setting, and how to run your day 12am-11:59pm, then you'll be disappointed. The layout is once again meant for versatility - not just from person to person, but for a single individual from week to week. On the week layout the only labels provided are for each day and date of the week. Otherwise the blank spaces are meant to be filled in by the user for whatever works best for them. Because the layout is so open-ended, there is a page at the front of the planner with suggestions for use.
One comment that we continued to get was in regard to the times column - that when used, it was very difficult to follow the column across pages and into all days of the week. In the 2016 layout, the column is on the left side of the left hand page only. In order to address this, the layout for the 2017 planner now includes the same times column on the left side of the right page, along with tic marks between each day, matching the position of each time. To more easily find a particular hour, the tic mark for noon is slightly darker for clear designation. Some users ignore the times column completely, so the tic marks and columns are subtle and do not take up usable space. Once again, it's all about versatility!
In general, you'll notice a few changes that clean things up from the 2016 design. Font sizes and weights are more consistent, as well as areas of graph on goals and week layouts. The small calendars found throughout the planner have been simplified, and some spacing has changed to make sure each component has enough breathing room. We believe all of these changes will make daily use even better.
If you're not familiar with this type of layout, we encourage you to see how it works for you! There is a free download of the 2016 layout specifically for users to try before making a purchase if you're not quite comfortable. We will offer this again with the updated changes for 2017 in the near future. There's still plenty of time left in the year, and there are still a few 2016 planners available for purchase at a discounted price.
Now, who's ready for 2017 so we can start using these beauties?!
Planning a Planner v2017, Part III August 18, 2016 08:00 1 Comment
In Part I of this series we shared the big changes coming to the 2017 planner regarding the binding type and cover durability. (We are so stoked!)
In Part II we shared the soul crushing reality that our design approach to tabs had to change.
This week is more like a potpourri post, sharing a handful of small tweaks that we feel improve the overall versatility of the 2017 planner.
In the 2016 version, the double sided folder was bound in the planner at the very front. Due to the binding type change we had to move the folder to the front and back cover. We will still have two folders for those that already have a system worked out from last year, they will just be in slightly different locations. Each folder is configured differently (again for added versatility). The folder attached to the front cover looks like this:
The folder attached to the back cover is slightly different:
2. LOCATION OF GRAPH PAPER:
Falling between tabs in the 2016 planner was a one page goal sheet, a two page month layout, a two page week layout for each week, followed by 5 sheets of graph paper. We found that from month to month the number of graph pages we used varied. Sometimes we needed more and sometimes we didn't use a single sheet. In the months where we needed more we ended up writing on the graph paper included for the preceding or following month, making it hard to locate our notes. To remedy this in the 2017 planner, we moved all of the graph paper to the end of the book. There will be 54 total sheets included with page numbers for easy referencing. So on any given Wednesday at my project meeting, I can write on my calendar under my 2pm appointment that I took notes on page 22. With the two ribbon markers incorporated in the new binding it will be easy to mark where to find your next available graph page.
3. MONTHLY GOAL SHEET:
We heard rave reviews regarding the monthly goal sheet included in the 2016 planner layout. One pro to tabs not working out was that we were able to increase the goal sheet to now cover two pages. Result: more room for notes, tracking, and diagramming to help get your month started right!
4. MONTHLY LAYOUTS FOR DECEMBER 2016 AND JANUARY 2018:
We personally are so excited about the new look and feel of the 2017 planner and we can't wait to start using it. Selfishly and also to help you out, we included a full size two page month layout for December 2016 so that we can all start early. A full size two page month layout for January 2018 is also included at the end of the planner layout. Everyone has that random January appointment you make in June that you try to remember.
What do you think? Good? Bad? Any change in particular that excites or disappoints you?
Next week we will focus on the upcoming improvements to the weekly layout, which is what we feel sets the UPstudio planner apart from most others on the market.
AND THEN.... Pre-ordering!! Stay tuned for details.
Planning a Planner v2017, Part II August 11, 2016 05:00
At UPstudio, we try to be as transparent as possible, in an effort to offer the best possible products that we can. Every aspect of each product has been 100% thought out by two admittedly type-a and borderline OCD designers (that's us, hi!). That's why when we can't find a perfect solution to something, it hurts our hearts a little bit. We want to be open about a change in the 2017 planner that might be considered a drawback from the 2016 version (as was alluded to in last week's blog post): there are no tabs.
This change is a direct result of changing the binding and cover type, which we felt were more important and crucial upgrades. Because of the way the 2016 planner was bound, with the wire-o coil, punching holes in different types and more specifically, different sizes and shapes of paper was no big deal. The tab pages were simply collated into the overall book. With smyth binding, the pages are trimmed for a final time after they are bound, which makes having different size sheets extremely difficult. It is not impossible, but it just doesn't look good. In our proof, the tab pages are actually glued to an adjacent page, which makes two pages turn at the same time. We worked with our printer extensively to try to find a way to make this work, but in the end, we accepted that this was something we would have to sacrifice for now. Here is a sample version of what tabs inserted into smyth binding looks like (we didn't even mess this up for added drama, it's really just that bad).
It's obvious that these tabs wouldn't hold up, but we weren't satisfied with simply kissing them goodbye completely, so it was back to the drawing board. We researched customizable tabs that can be applied after the fact, but we didn't love that the buyer would have to purchase something in addition to the planner itself, or that the layout of interior pages would need to address this addition that might not be included on every planner (depending on if the buyer also purchased these tabs or not).
Our final decision was to incorporate printed tabs along the edge of the interior layouts so that when flipping through the planner, the user can easily locate the desired month. We believe that this is the best solution as it will allow for quicker finds and doesn't obstruct the clean look of having one size and shape for all sheets within the planner.
In addition to the integral printed tabs, the inclusion of two ribbons incorporated into the binding will be a huge help for marking a page. We anticipate using these a ton, and might like the idea of them even more than tabs. Another quick way to find a particular place is by utilizing fun clips. Who doesn't need an arrow clip to point them directly to their destination?!
The new binding and cover type also do not allow for the planner to fold back on itself, or to easily clip a pencil or pen to it as is possible with the current coil binding (two things that we felt were advantages with the 2016 planner). Again, these are things that we felt were worth changing in order to make the more important change of durability and simplicity. We use our personal planners all year long and transport them with us to all kinds of destinations. In other words, we need these babies to stand up to abuse, weather, accidentally knocking our morning coffee over, toddler hands, etc.
So, change happens right? We're beyond excited about these planners overall and truly believe that these changes are for the better. We hope you agree, but would love to hear your thoughts. Comment if you have an opinion!
Planning a Planner v2017, Part I August 04, 2016 08:00 2 Comments
First off, we appreciate all of the honest feedback we received regarding the UPstudio 2016 Planner. Thank you to everyone who took the time to respond to our inquires and share your thoughts. We are genuine when we say that we are always looking for areas to improve and grow. So please, never hesitate to shoot us an e-mail or contact us via social media, we would love to hear from you.
UPstudio was founded on the idea of creating a planner that is affordable, attractive, versatile, and fit for people in all walks of life. We have tackled a lot of other fun projects along the way, but our planner is still our main focus. 2016 was the inaugural year for the UPstudio planner. We are proud of what we were able to create. The process was challenging and we learned a ton. Over the next month as we ramp up for the UPstudio 2017 Planner release we will be sharing some of the behind the scenes work in a four part blog series, "Planning a Planner v2017".
We featured a similar series last year, Planning a Planner, where you can read all about the hard work we put into getting the 2016 planner off the ground. We won't go into all of the details here, but feel free to refresh before we get started.
For the 2016 planner, the bulk of the decisions we made were based on personal preferences, our experiences with previous planners, and a focus group we had try out a sample. Our inaugural year was tough because we were creating something out of nothing, pulling all our ideas together and making what we thought were the best decisions.
When our creation finally arrived, we first gave ourselves a pat on the back and showed it off to everyone because we were so proud, and then we started critiquing it and seeing the imperfections, or should we say room for growth. Having a product in your hand to improve upon is significantly easier than starting from scratch. We aren't saying that this year has been a cake walk, but hopefully each year will continue to get easier as we have more experience under our belts and more lessons learned.
The two areas of improvement we are going to focus on today are the cover and the binding, because they kind of go hand in hand.
We heard you all loud and clear, and we completely agree with you, that the 2017 planner needed a cover that was more durable. So we started researching more sturdy materials that were acceptable cover types with the wire-o binding. The options were limited, which lead us to question our binding choice. The binding was a little bigger than we expected, the way it connects allowed the back cover to become detached, and it made it hard to write on Wednesday (or Thursday for those lefties out there). But what were our other options, and would those options give us a more durable cover? We also didn't want to compromise on the appearance of the binding, or sacrifice the ability of the planner to lay flat.
After a lot of research (and really I'm skipping over MONTHS here) we decided to go with a smyth sewn binding (sometimes called section sewn), which is a type of hardcover binding. For those of you familiar with Moleskine notebooks, the binding is very similar.
A simplified version of how this binding type works:
Your book is printed booklet style in 16 or 24 page sections called signatures. Those signatures are folded in half and sewn together along the folds. A spine is glued to set the thread and edges of the signatures. The collection of signatures is called a text block. Finally the cover material is adhered. (Timelapse of process.) We pulled apart an old notebook to help you visualize:
This is the complete text block. You can see all of the individual signatures adhered to the white spine. The ridges seen along the spine are where the thread passes between signatures.
Here we have pulled back the white spine exposing one of those "ridges". As we pull apart each signature you can see how they are threaded together. There are many different stitch types and threading styles used in smyth sewn binding.
Here we have opened to the center of one of the signatures. You can see how there are two pieces of thread that pass through the fold, one connecting the signature to the proceeding signature and one connecting it to the following signature.
Just last week we received our printed sample of the 2017 UPstudio Planner with the new binding!!!
So sleek, right? The cover will be debossed similar to the 2016 UPstudio Planner with a simple 2017 to add a little character and make it easier to distinguish. But the final product will be almost identical to the one pictured above.
(Such a big reveal, totally worth reading through all that wordy stuff at the top of this post, right?)
The benefits of this type of binding in regards to the UPstudio planner:
- The cover is a thicker chipboard compared to the 2016 planner and it is covered with a durable gray leather making it significantly more sturdy.
- This type of binding in comparison to the standard hardcover binding gives the planner the ability to lay flat (so no sacrifice there).
- Aesthetically we find the binding just as pleasing as the wire-o binding. Honestly, I think we'd rank this higher.
- The planner seems more gender neutral.
- The back cover can no longer escape.
- Writing on Wednesdays (or Thursdays) will no longer be a struggle.
- The new binding type made it easier to add an elastic closure mechanism.
- We were also able to add two ribbon markers to assist in turning right to the page you desire.
Overall we feel switching to the smyth sewn binding type is a huge improvement. There is one semi-downside/challenge that presented itself, but we'll leave you in suspense and discuss that in next week's post.
This is a pretty major change, we would love to hear your thoughts. Good? Bad?
(Congrats, you made it all the way to the bottom! Dedication! As your reward, $5 off the 2016 UPstudio Planner with code HAPPYPLANNING. Valid through Sunday, 8/7 at midnight. Yes, that means a planner for $5!)
Sometimes Taking a Risk... Is Worth the Risk July 28, 2016 05:00
Here's the thing... taking a risk is scary. No matter what the risk is, you're putting yourself out there, maybe making a big decision, but you're not sure that the outcome will be what you want.
For Mary Beth and me, forming UPstudio was a big risk. We both had full time jobs and families - in other words, we had plenty of responsibility, but not a lot of free time. However, we also had numerous of conversations through our years of friendship about each wanting to do something on our own. Neither one of us felt quite satisfied with our careers, feeling an urge to do something more personal, more tangible, more on our own terms. So, one day when we were comparing our planners for the new year, talking about what we did and didn't like about each one, it made perfect sense that we could create our own. And then it was a brilliant idea that we create an entire business around this one shared interest. That was it - we were going to do it!
Taking a step back, we knew that this was a risky move, and we needed to think about it individually before committing. For one, neither of us had any experience with business minus the occasional lemonade stand of our respective childhoods. We had no experience with marketing, limited knowledge of product fabrication, limited knowledge of website design, no contacts in the field to help us, and knew we would have to spend our own money to invest in a start up. On the other hand, we are both designers, and knew that we worked well together. We knew each other's strengths and our own weaknesses, and knew that we would be able to fill in the gaps for each other. In our discussions we discovered that what we each wanted to do for our business perfectly balanced out. More than anything, we both had drive, and knew we could trust each other. So many things were working in our favor, but there were so many other things that made this way too scary. MB was newly pregnant and about to start on a whole new adventure by becoming a mom. This project would take up most of our free time. Was this something that we were really willing to take a risk on?
With the support of our husbands, we decided that it was. And now, a year and a day after initially launching our website, we know that all our hard work has been worth it. Let's not get carried away, it hasn't been a cakewalk, and we aren't exactly rolling in the dough, but we have learned a lot. We've taken countless risks along the way, some leading to better results than others. Through our Lessons Learned posts, we're sharing this information with you all. Goodness knows we've scoured resources as we embarked on each new step of this journey (and we're still going!), so we're now excited to be able to give back and be a resource for others.
In the coming weeks you'll see some of the results of the efforts we've made: the 2017 UPstudio Planner is in production (and we are SO excited about some changes we're making), we're a part of The Makers Mercantile, and we're featured in some really fantastic stores: Ramble Supply Co., Stitch by Holly Aiken, and West Elm (coming very very soon in the Local section at Southpoint in Durham!). None of these things would be happening without the risks that we've taken over the past few months.
The best part though? Knowing that we've done this on our own, survived, and feeling that the risk is worth the ongoing reward. So if you're on the fence about a risk, think about what it might be like on the other side, and don't be afraid to go for it.
Raleigh A-Z July 21, 2016 09:08
UPstudio is based out of Raleigh, North Carolina. To share more about our hometown we decided to challenge ourselves to think of a list that followed the alphabet, A-Z. (So limiting ourselves to only 26!) To meet the challenge we had to think outside of the box a bit. Fun facts, amazing people, and places all made the cut.
|A||Ashley Christensen: An award winning chef who now has 6 restaurants downtown that are all amazing!|
|B||Breweries: Raleigh is home to more than 12 breweries.|
|C||Capital Area Greenway Trail System: A network of public open spaces and recreational trails connecting the city.|
|D||Development Beat: Learn about all of the development going on in Raleigh via this blog (yea, we know we are nerds, and we own it!).|
|E||Education: Raleigh is home to 11 traditional universities and colleges and numerous satellite campuses for higher education.|
|F||Farmers Market: 30,000 square feet for North Carolina farmers to sell fresh produce, plants, and other specialty items produced on local farms. Open 7 days a week.|
|G||Goodnight Raleigh: A blog/online magazine that shares awesome fun facts and pictures about the history of Raleigh.|
|H||Hall, Michael C: Most commonly known as Dexter Morgan was born and grew up right here in Raleigh, attending Ravenscroft High School.|
|I||Ira David Wood III: A local actor that has raised the bar for theatrical excellence in Raleigh. Many know him as Scrooge. He is also the founder and executive director of the Theater in the Park.|
|J||J.S. Dorton Arena: This 1952 iconic structure associated with the state fair is actually a National Historic Monument and boasts the world's first cable supported roof system.|
|K||Kingston Upon Hull, England: Is one of our sister cities, the mission: “To promote peace through mutual respect, understanding, and cooperation - one individual, one community at a time.”|
|L||Libraries: Wake County Public Libraries have come a long way since we were kids. Example: I now check out new releases via my kindle. Our system has over 21 locations, 10 of which are in Raleigh.|
|M||Mordecai Historic Park: One of the historic outbuildings includes the birthplace of the 17th president, Andrew Johnson.|
|N||North Carolina Museum of Art: It was the first art museum in the country to be established using state funds.|
|O||Oak View: Where the typical 4th grader goes to pick cotton and learn about about North Carolina's agricultural development from colonial times to the present. (Also just learned that Gregory Poole owned and lived at the estate for 3 years.)|
|P||Parks: Our city park system boasts over 200 parks total over 9,000 acres of parkland.|
|Q||Quality of Life: Raleigh consistently ranks in the top 20 best US cities in regards to overall quality of life.|
|R||Red Hat Amphitheater: "Bringin' the get down to downtown"|
|S||Sir Walter Raleigh: Our namesake.|
|T||Triangle Glides Segway Tours: The best part is that the tours are narrated, so you learn tons of cool facts about the city as you ride around.|
|U||Umstead State Park: In 1934 the state purchased the roughly 5,000 acres that we now call William B. Umstead State Park for $1.|
|V||Vance Sykes: Class of 1907 alumni of North Carolina State University credited with the idea of constructing the iconic Belltower, a 115 ft granite monument to honor NC State alumni killed in WWI.|
|W||Walter Magazine: "Raleigh's Life and Soul" (We highly recommend the in-depth profiles.)|
|X||X-Files: The thirteenth episode of the first season, "Beyond the Sea" was set in Raleigh, NC.|
|Y||YMCA: The first permanent building was erected in 1913 on the corner of Wilmington and Edenton Streets. The downtown location moved to it's current home on Hillsborough Street in 1959. The YMCA used to have living quarters where Barney Fife from The Andy Griffith Show once stayed.|
|Z||Zip Codes: Per USPS, Raleigh touches 44 zip codes. #cray|
(Photo Credits: A: ac-restaurants, B: Big Boss Brewing, C: City of Raleigh, D: Development Beat, E: NCpedia, F: State Farmers Market G: Ian F. G. Dunn, H: IMDb, I: Nick Pironio, J: NCDA&CS, K: Wikitravel, L: The News & Observer, M: STRAYTHERE, N: NCSU Libraries, O: Historic Oak View County Park, P: City of Raleigh, Q: A Breath of Fresh Air, R: Jason Moore Photography, S: 919Raleigh, T: ME!, U: stateparks.com, V: NCSU Libraries, W: Walter Magazine, X: Den of Geek, Y: State Archives of North Carolina, Z: Popular Raleigh Neighborhoods)
Inspiration: Everyday Cards - It's Been Too Long July 14, 2016 08:00
We've talked before about how we've come up with a few of our different products and designs (like the Sticky Pads, and the NC Toast Everyday Cards, as well as lots of posts about the 2016 Planner). Today's post talks about another product inspiration, specifically the It's Been Too Long Everyday Cards.
MB and I are both dog lovers and have dogs of our own, as you may have read on the FAQ page of our website. I never had dogs growing up, but whenever we would visit with my grandmother, her little dog Lucy was in tow. Lucy was a dachshund and my sister and I loved to play with (read: torture) her by dressing her up, toting her around the house and yard, and teaching her to sing and howl. When my husband and I were a year into our marriage, we decided it was time to get a dog. We looked at local shelters and almost took home a medium sized mutt, but with our small condo, lack of yard, and non-commitment to the daily walks she would need, it wasn't the right fit. In the end we agreed that a smaller dog would be better for our circumstances, and looked into adopting a dachshund. We finally ended up finding our sweet puppy Penny from a doberman rescue (her full name is Penny Pinscher... I know I know, it's such a good name). A year later we adopted her sister Gretta from a dachshund rescue. They have been the best of friends since day one, and provided us a ridiculous amount of entertainment and love.
Before our first round of Everyday Cards came out last summer, we came up with countless designs, but in the end chose just 4 of them to feature. In those designs were a few fun dachshund patterns, but they didn't quite make the cut.
Fastforward to this past winter and the release of the 4 new Everyday Card designs. We knew we wanted to open up options for a card with a dog on it. A dachshund paired with the phrase It's Been Too Long was developed (because dachshunds are long, get it!) and voila, a new fun card inspired by our furry friends.
These knuckleheads are pretty cute too though :)
Lessons Learned: UPS Mailbox vs. PO Box July 07, 2016 08:00
Soon after starting UPstudio we realized that a permanent address would really help us for a few reasons:
- Privacy (not having to use our personal addresses)
- Having a place that customers could return items (thankfully this hasn't come up yet).
- With all the paperwork involved in starting a company, we wanted to keep track of which address we submitted things under. Having only one is definitely easier.
- With our crazy lives, things sent to our houses might get overlooked.
- Having an address listed on your website makes it seem more legit.
- Most importantly, a place that people could send us notes of encouragement! (sadly, this hasn't come up either - but you could change that!!)
Our day jobs are on Fayetteville street in downtown Raleigh so we wanted a "permanent" address we could walk to, so that checking it wasn't inconvenient.
That left us with two options, PO Box or UPS Mailbox?
So we did the research (read a lot of online sources and the fine print of the rental agreements) and decided that we wanted to go with a PO Box at the Post Office. Being a start up, the biggest factor was price. Here is a comparison (these are for the downtown Raleigh locations, so prices might be different where you live):
USPS PO Box Pricing (search for local prices here)
UPS Mailbox Pricing (find a location near you for pricing)
The small, medium, and large boxes are comparable in size to the 1, 2, and 3 sizes respectively. The UPS Mailbox is significantly more, more than 3 times.
There were a lot of other pros and cons discovered in our research, but we thought based on the price we could live with the other limitations of the PO Box. So, we signed the papers, and took a pretty picture...
We canceled it within 3 months.... and secured a UPS Mailbox. Why you ask?
Let us share the lessons we learned and the benefits of the UPS Mailbox:
- After deciding on the PO Box we went through all of the UPstudio paperwork we had already filled out to change our address. We quickly noticed fine print that didn't register before "we do not accept PO Box for address", with one of those locations being our bank which was a big one, because we wanted a billing address that was consistent as well. With a UPS Box you have a physical street address rendering it acceptable to be used. Your mailbox is just identified by a suite number.
- One of the biggest differences is how packages are handled. At the post office, if you have a package that won't fit into your box they will not hold it for you behind the counter unless it was shipped by USPS. They will not hold packages shipped by Fedex, UPS, or other carriers. They also won't hold anything that must be signed for - a big predicament. The UPS store can accept any package size and will hold it for you either in a larger holding box or behind the counter. The owner of our local UPS store said she will accept packages as large as pallet size deliveries. They will sign for your packages as well, uber convenient. They also send you an e-mail or text whenever a package has been delivered. UPS is the clear winner in the package department.
- To continue on the package note: Being a paper/stationary type store, we were concerned that returns would get crammed into our small box therefore rending the products unusable for repurchase or that products shipped to us for resale would suffer the same fate. Our small UPS store is locally owned and operated and we were assured that they would pay close attention in hopes of avoiding this issue. So far we haven't been disappointed on this front.
- UPS provides mail forwarding for a small additional fee. So, if our day jobs move away from downtown and our "permanent" address is no longer convenient, we can choose to have all our mail and packages forwarded to another address while still keeping our current address as a front. This way we wouldn't have to update all of our accounts or re-brand. This service is not provided by USPS for PO Boxes.
- This one is personal preference: A street address provides your company with a bit more of a professional image when compared to a PO Box. Wilmington Street is a prominent downtown Raleigh street, so it only helps our legitimacy.
- At the Post Office the PO Box lobby hours are limited to 6am-5:30pm M-F, and 6am-12pm on Saturdays. The UPS store hours are 8:30am-6:30pm M-F, and 10am-2pm on Saturdays. The later hours of the UPS store are more convenient with our routines. But here is the kicker, you have the option at the UPS store to pay a one time $25 fee to get a 24 hour access fob.
- If you are a AAA member most UPS stores provide a discount on certain mailbox packages, so make sure to ask.
- Think about what your company name is, or who you will be getting mail sent to - for us at UPstudio, there has been confusion at times with the first three letters of our name being 'UPs', where our mail was accidentally opened by UPS employees. This was resolved after some clarification and more careful reading before opening anything.
- One last thing, if you make the same mistake we did and snag a PO Box prior to understanding all of the limitations, USPS has a refund policy:
When we were doing our research there were many mixed reviews and a lot of grey area and unanswered questions. We decided to take the risk due to the price and see how it actually turned out. In the end, it wasn't he best decision we made, but since we tried the cheaper option first we weren't out a lot of money. Hopefully the lessons we learned will be helpful to you and your company.
If you want to send us some snail mail, you can reach us at:
324 S. Wilmington Street
Raleigh, NC 27601
(so professional and legit sounding, right?)
Not as pretty, but definitely more equipped to handle our needs...
So, this was basically all a ploy to get our first letter of encouragement, can you tell? Were we too subtle?
Summertime Essentials June 30, 2016 08:00
Summertime and the livin's easy... But maybe just a little bit easier with these summertime essentials. Whether you're headed on vacation, in town for a staycation, or simply enjoying your nights and weekends away from work, the following list of items can help make your summer a little sweeter.
A Good Book (or magazine)
A few weeks back we gave recommendations on our favorite books, but we love a good magazine too. Shorter articles and the ability to recycle when you're done is great when you're in vacation mode.
A New Swimsuit
Let's face it ladies, as we get older, our bodies change. MB and I have both embraced the one-piece since joining the motherhood club, and good news - there are some totally cute one pieces out there! I love this macrame one-piece from Victoria's Secret.
The Right Sunscreen
If you're going to be showing more skin this summer, whether with a swimsuit, shorts, or a sundress, sunscreen is essential. Follow these guidelines from the Environmental Working Group about the best sunscreens out there. I like Alba Very Emollient Sunscreen.
The easiest way to complete any summer day is to grill out your dinner. I don't know anyone who doesn't love grilled meat, veggies, or even fruit. Grilling works for a quick meal for one, or a summertime party (and if you throw one, we recommend inviting guests with this free BBQ Card download!)
Rainy Day Activities
With summer comes the occasional thunderstorm, so be prepared with some fun indoor activities. Watch your favorite movie, have an indoor picnic, visit a local museum, or pull out a board game (for those who like board games, I recommend trying Settlers of Catan or Ticket to Ride!)
A Good Pair of Sunglasses
If you're anything like me, then sunglasses are necessary when you're outside. They also tend to grow legs and walk away, so I tend to purchase inexpensive pairs. Bonus - when you forget to take them off before diving into a wave at the beach, no biggie!
A Go-To Cocktail Recipe
Alcoholic or virgin, a fun drink makes for a fun day. My husband and I practice Frozen Drink Friday as a way to welcome in the weekend. This one's not a frozen drink, but I recommend trying out a Hotel Nacional sometime this summer: equal parts dark rum and pineapple juice, half part apricot brandy, a squeeze of lime juice and a dash of simple syrup.
A Fun Way to Record Memories
We live in the age of the iPhone, so if you're carrying your phone, you also have a camera and a video camera, so you're probably set. If you're looking for something a little different, try the Fujifilm Instax Camera for a modern twist on polaroids. Stick this business-card sized photo in your wallet or on your refrigerator for a fun way to reminisce all your summer memories.
Inspiration: Sticky Pad - Dots June 23, 2016 08:00
In our "Where do you find inspiration?" post a few weeks back we shared briefly about how we develop products, from inspiration to final design.
The very first step is making a list (in our lives, it is the first step to everything, not just product development). Our love of lists easily turned into wanting to develop a notepad. You don't always have your planner or phone handy to scribble things down on/in. Sometimes you just want an old fashion pencil and pad.
But there are so many notepads in the world, how could we possibly make something that is different and original?
So we brainstormed. Our initial thoughts:
- We want it small enough for a sheet to fit inside the UPstudio planner but large enough to really have space to write decent size lists (those standard size post-its kill us, our line items on a list are longer than 2 words).
- We at UPstudio are in LOVE with graph paper! It is the most versatile thing out there. If you make the lines fine/light enough they just serve as a guide and don't obstruct your list or sketch.
- We wanted it to not just be completely blank or completely graph paper, wanted a little flavor (FLAVA FLAV!)
- We wanted them to be affordable, so researching the most economical version of what we wanted was key.
We took our initial thoughts and started searching our everyday lives for inspiration. We finally found it in bullet journals and an Instagram post from Mr. Bobby Bones.
The layout of a bullet journal is very similar to graph paper. You essentially place a dot at each intersection of your graph and then remove the lines. What you are left with looks eerily like a game of Dots and Boxes, that game you played forever in 4th grade (if you're feeling a little nostalgic click here or here to play online). That way we'd still get the graph paper affect with a little switch up.
So then came the flavor...
Bobby Bones is a radio personality. In Raleigh you can hear him and his friends on 93.9 (a country station). They are based out of Nashville. If you want to give the show a listen they are on iHeartRADIO. We came across this tweet via Bobby's Instagram and the last part stuck with us. Cutting yourself slack when it comes to not completing your long to do lists is key, "there is always tomorrow."
Voilà.... Sticky Pad - Dots
We were really on the fence regarding if we wanted sticky or not sticky pads. There are pros to both. We printed our sample pads for ourselves to try, they were obviously not sticky. But if while trying them we thought, "I wish this was sticky" then we'd know. After trying them we were still on the fence, so we polled you all via Instagram and our Newsletter and the sticky option won by a landslide. Sticky it is!
Through conversations with our printer we determined in order to get sticky notes at the quantity we felt comfortable ordering to be in our price range (because they cost more than double non-sticky) we had to meet certain criteria. Everything revolved around size, bleeds, and printing color. 4x6 was a standard size that fit our criteria, we didn't have full bleeds, and since our design was only black, everything worked out perfectly!
We have loved them so far. No regrets on going sticky. We both use them everyday and would highly recommend snagging a few for yourself!
Maternity vs. 'Meternity' June 16, 2016 08:00
Recently an article was published proposing the idea that people who do not have children should have the equivalent of maternity leave, a twelve week 'vacation' of introspective opportunities. The author cleverly called this 'meternity'. I'm all about this idea, with a catch: this should be offered to everyone regardless of if they have children and take maternity leave or not, because the idea that this could in any way relate to what maternity leave is, or that a woman taking maternity leave really has a 3 month vacation, is laughable.
Now, I really don't blame her for having this thought. She hasn't experienced maternity leave, and she must not know anyone who has taken it, or else she would never be able to compare the two. From an outsiders perspective, it does seem like a vacation - 12 weeks away from work is a good break. In the article she notes that some of her friends made life changes such as ending or switching their careers after taking maternity leave, but this could be for any number of reasons, money being a huge factor. In all honesty - kids are expensive! Newborns go through approximately 47 diapers a day, and don't even get me started on the cost of daycare. I thought college tuition prices were supposed to wait until college! No wonder some of these women made changes... maybe they had to! Back on track, let's talk about what the differences between a vacation and maternity leave actually are. We're all familiar with a vacation, but what is maternity leave?
First, let's clear up a discrepancy. We all call the time taken after giving birth maternity leave, when the fact is that most companies don't offer a true maternity leave... In reality what most new mothers take is FMLA or short term disability, and the terms of these vary. Pay varies as well, but there is only a certain amount of time that pay is accrued, and only at a percentage of full pay. Some people do not have the opportunity to take 12 weeks, and have to go back to work much earlier, while they are still recovering, and while their baby is still very young. And, there is often no leave offered for fathers, who are usually just as sleep deprived as the mother.
But, let's not get caught up in the weeds of how things could be better, let's shift gears to the highlights of a day in the life of a mom home with her new baby (as experienced by me, on any given day these past 4 weeks):
- Wake up at 6:00am after an interrupted night of sleep between hour-long feedings every 3 hours, which means 2 hours of sleep at a time.
- Think about what is going on that day and determine which level of black leggings I should put on (level 1: fresh and clean, level 2: worn for a couple of days, or level 3: worn for several days and nights with several milk stains). Locate a maternity size shirt to wear with black leggings (don't even think about trying to wear your pre-pregnancy clothes again yet, trust me)
- Relocate everything that lives on my nightstand at night (pump and pump supplies, bottle, giant water bottle, phone, diapers, wipes, etc) to set up in the living room for the day. Who would've thought this much stuff would be required to get through one night?
- (unedited photo of my disaster of a nightstand)
- Clean up 2 dog accidents within 15 minutes of each other (Ok not everyday, but this is just to say that regular life still happens with things to be dealt with!)
- Clean up and redress an explosive diaper (Again not everyday, but more often than anyone should have to deal with)
- Help my toddler get ready for school while nursing the newborn (Epitomizing the generation of multitasking! I've learned to hold a nursing baby with one hand while dressing my daughter with the other.)
- Kiss my husband and toddler goodbye for the day.
- (7:00am) Settle in on the couch after another diaper change for an endless nursing session... eat breakfast, and binge watch tv shows that my husband would hate (but that I love!!! Recommendations: Grey's Anatomy, Hart of Dixie, UnREAL, Jane the Virgin) After the baby nurses, I pump breastmilk to make sure she has a good supplement of hind milk if she falls asleep too fast. Sometimes these milk cannons are more than she can handle (Sidebar: breastfeeding is not easy! The first few weeks are especially hard as you and your baby are both learning how to work with each other. Again, I won't go into detail with this, but just think about the sacrifices that moms make next time you see someone nursing their child. My first was a hybrid with breastmilk and formula which worked great for us, and so far we're exclusively nursing with this one, but may have to use formula in the future. There are drawbacks and benefits to each, but bottom line, here's the thing - sometimes one just works better than the other, and that is perfectly fine. In other words, don't judge a fellow mama, she's making her choice for a reason!)
- Do an insane amount of laundry every day. How does one baby go through so many outfits in one day?! (answer: see note above about diapers)
- (the never-ending circle of laundry)
- Lather, rinse, repeat with the possibility of a nap thrown in there. Eat lunch (time varies, but lunch is typically dry Honey Nut Cheerios that I have to fend my dogs off of) then repeat diaper, nurse and if I'm lucky, a nap.
Some days we do get out of the house - the older that she gets (and the more I recover), the more we can handle. We go to Costco (my favorite place ever, but that's another blog post!), Trader Joes, out for long walks, but not all in the same day and not without frequent breaks and sometimes, a lot of tears (from both of us).
And, let's not get too into this, but recovery is hard. I can't be too far from the house for too long until my body can get itself together and stop leaking from every single orifice. Milk, sweat, tears, etc. The female body after giving birth is a hot mess for quite a while. A new mom's center of gravity has changed so quickly that she is often left with extreme back pain from essentially re-learning how to walk. And, sleep. Precious, fleeting sleep. It's amazing how a person can function on so little sleep. I can do the basics - take care of the baby, shower, get groceries, etc. But ask me to have an adult conversation and I'm a fumbling idiot. I can't think of words, can't get sentences out, hear things incorrectly, and sometimes just don't even know what to say. My daily conversations are with a baby, my TV, and in the evenings my husband and my 2 year old. My husband struggles with the same problem and we often laugh about attempted conversations with others. So, that leaves my 2 year old leaving the most impression on my daily speech, so please excuse me if in a conversation I manage to slip in a change of topic to 'talk about snowmans'.
You know though, the author of that article isn't entirely wrong... In the past 4 weeks I have had time to think more, and grow. Even with all of the above wreaking havoc on my ability to be a 'normal' person, I'm evolving to love another human being more than I ever thought I could, with my love increasing for my toddler and husband as well as we spend time together as a family of 4. And that is better than any true vacation.
(Disclaimer - I wrote this post several weeks ago, so now with my youngest at 8 weeks old, things are getting much easier. For all those mama's out there struggling in your first few weeks of having a newborn - and especially if it's your first - just hold on. I promise it gets better! It's a tough journey, but the reward is worth it.)
Lessons Learned: Free Shopify Apps to Install June 09, 2016 08:00 2 Comments
First off CONGRATULATIONS to Lynn B., you won the BEST GIVEAWAY EVER! We are super excited for you to check out all of UPstudio's new products and will be in touch shortly!
For those of you out there that also use Shopify as your website platform hang around to read up on some FREE apps we have discovered that might help you out. For everyone else, have a great rest of your week and weekend! (And sorry if you didn't win the giveaway, but don't worry, there will be more giveaways soon!)
Lessons Learned: Free Shopify Apps to Install
Let us first set the scene: we are a fairly young start-up company that is fully funded by our two families, so we are very price conscious. We do a lot of shopping around to make sure we are getting the best deal. We chose Shopify as our website platform after a lot of extensive research (we'll share more about this in a future post). We chose to use one of their templates when setting up our store which means that we can't control some things we would like to in regards to its appearance, but we knew there would be limitations. We try to overcome these with installing apps. We spend a lot of time researching said apps because we need them to be FREE and flexible enough to match our website template. Now that you know where we are coming from, we'll share the free apps that we have come across that are currently installed on our site. We've provided a brief overview of each app. If you have any specific questions either leave a comment below or shoot us an e-mail.
We are big fans of MailChimp. We can write a whole separate post about all the ways we utilize MailChimp and how well it syncs with all of our other platforms (let's be honest, you'll probably see this in the future). By connecting your Shopify store with your MailChimp account....
During the checkout process, Shopify asks your customers if they are interested in receiving marketing information from your store. When a customers completes an order at your store and has agreed to marketing, MailChimp for Shopify will automatically subscribe them to your MailChimp list. In addition, your customers are added to a static segment called "Shopify Customers", so that you can easily target email campaigns to only your customers.
Not sure about you, but we both read reviews of products prior to purchasing items pretty religiously. We decide not to splurge often after reading reviews. Honestly, a seller is always going to share all the good aspects of their product in the product descriptions, but the customer reviews are going to be a bit more straightforward, and will include the good and the bad. So we wanted a way to add reviews to our website. It is hard to trust new companies, you aren't sure what kind of quality to expect, so we wanted customers to be able to share their experience, and hopefully help new customers feel more confident in their purchase and in us. Yotpo was the answer. The free version does the basics. It sends e-mails to customers asking them to post a review. You have minimal customization, but you can customize the e-mail verbiage, and the review colors on your website to match your aesthetics. We highly recommend it, here is a sample from the UPstudio planner page. (And if you need more customization the upgraded version (not free) appears to have a lot of cool features.)
Have you checked out our free downloads section yet? (You should!) The Shopify Digital Downloads App has been great so far. After creating a product it is really easy to associate it with a download file you have uploaded to the app. If you list it as free, your customer will still have to go through checkout, just won't have to input any payment information. After completing their order a download option will appear similar to the screen below. They will also receive an e-mail after purchase with a link to download the file as well. One downside is that follow-up e-mail can't be customized with html to match your other e-mail templates, it can only be pretty basic with a few variables and the same e-mail is sent regardless of the download purchased, so it has to also be very generic.
Just counted, there are 17 different e-mail templates you can set up. That is a ton! There are 10 that we have customized. Klaviyo makes it super simple. They already have a great starter template custom for Shopify that you just have to tweak with your logo and colors, etc. Once you've tweaked the template to perfection you simply copy the html code Klaviyo creates for you and paste it right into Shopify - super easy and user friendly. I recently purchased something from a pretty well known store that also uses Shopify, and they hadn't customized any of their e-mails, but still the default Shopify e-mails, I was not impressed. Such a simple thing to do that goes a long way when it comes to professionalism.
For all orders purchased through our website we like to print a packing slip/invoice for a couple of reasons: 1. easy for us to reference shipping address, 2. easy way to include a short note and our contact information in the package, and 3. it makes us look legit! The Shopify Order Printer makes this easy. There is a default template already set up and with some basic html code knowledge you can easily customize it with your logo and notes. You can have multiple templates set up for different types of orders as well.
We read an article about how pop-ups, although very annoying, are very effective. So even though we are both slightly annoyed by pop-ups we decided to add one to our website. As payback when you fill it out, you get a discount code! Win-Win. Privy is very easy to use and manipulate. We have it set up to accept Newsletter subscriptions, and it syncs seamlessly with our MailChimp Newsletter list. And even though it sometimes even annoys us, we've seen real results. Check out last December when we launched the pop-up; the "Import" category is strictly from our Privy pop-up.
Hopefully one of these can be useful to your shop! What apps do you use? Any we should check out? We are always looking for new additions to help improve our website.
Check out Shopify's blog post regarding the top 20 most popular free Shopify apps here.
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