It’s the Little Things…

It’s the little special touches, in this case, the little extras we add to our packaging that creates the magic! It was my job for well over a decade to embellish high end goods in retail stores. Nothing made ‘shiny and new’ products more appealing than natural materials.

I still favor brown paper packaging ‘tied up with string’. Adding yellowed newsprint instead of tissue to ‘found objects’ creates charm and intrigue. Jars of handcrafted jams look even better topped with rustic fabric- I personally couldn’t live without burlap or drop cloth- yes, you read that right!

Seed pods and natural spices are amazing embellishments- add a bit of twinkle- just like adding a bit of whipped cream on a hot drink! And, if you style those goods and please include the unexpected element of the unrefined.

One of my favorite and practical ways to other a single ornament is to nest the most delicate ornament is in dry moss, excelsior in offer a single ornament is to nest the delicate ornament in dry moss, excelsior in a small paper box. The humble elevates the delicate and fine. The same goes for plain notecards… I stock up on inexpensive cards- then add varied bits of ribbon for 3 dimensional designs which take just minutes to do.

And really? Forcing bulbs is such pleasant indoor gardening- a reclaimed jar with garden twine around the rim only adds to the sweet pleasure of giving.

I once bundled snips of fresh herbs, greenery tied to dried kindling shortly after Thanksgiving with instructions to set aside the bundle until the herbs and greenery had dried and toss the bundle into the Yuletide fire. The fragrance was a gentle holiday scent.When my daughter married, her hostess thank you gifts were white paper boxes filled with natural excelsior, a small pottery bird and a feather snipped from a white boa. A simple card read- ‘Thank you for Feathering Our Nest.’ I continue to do some version of that from time to time.

Natural or found materials are less expensive, twine and scraps of ribbon add an unexpected charm. High end or delicate products simply look amazing with a rustic touch.  The reverse is also true, if the packaging is sleek and shiny and holds a rustic gift, the look is amazing.

Remember this rule the experts use- ‘Add a touch of the unexpected every chance you get.’  *Visual images that mix the ‘humble with the fine.’ look amazing too. Here’s to easy and beautiful packaging this year!

Love y’all, Brenda

My 3 Favorite Ways to Market Your Business in 2020…

And so it begins… Holidays and Sales. Online shopping, small boutiques, open air markets or garden centers- and let’s not forget pop up shops! From what my research shows- this is where most 2020 holiday sales will occur. My top 3 tips for product based businesses-

  1. Collaborate. Whatever goods you sell- team up with an opposite type of product or business. For instance, fresh pumpkins and amazing cutlery team up for a fabulous holiday table. Rustic pottery and naturals alongside fine wine and delicate goblets on a buffet outdoors. Imagine the possibilities for whatever you sell. 
  2. Open Air Markets. These will prevalent and considered safer than indoor settings- perhaps even a limited Sidewalk Sale. So! Pay close attention to packaging- I love cello, closed canisters and baskets. Folks want to know what they are purchasing is clean, safe and beautiful- not to mention it’s already wrapped! Regardless of what you are selling, your visual content needs to be really good and appealing. For instance, if you sell spice rubs or blends- even baked goods- the single ingredients often will be a more appealing image than just the package. Simple tableware looks wonderful if embellished, even tagged. Think of teaming up with a florist- then, go ahead and set the table for an amazing image. Offer unexpected color combinations and while you’re at it- offer an inexpensive natural gift. (The possibilities are endless- think visual and virtual of whatever you offer!) Speaking of Offers- Free gift with purchase, exclusive access to new or loyal folks- even a mystery offer if 3 or more items are purchased. Offers are one of the best places to let your creativity shine! 
  3. Popup Shops  I have hosted these with my own baked or handcrafted goods and as an added bonus 1-2 local artists were invited to participate. For the location- often the host receives a very small percentage of their sales. Note: if space is limited, ask the artists to have an inventory of their wares- to save space, limit crowding and most important for ease of checkout.  *Please give buyers a quick and easy shopping experience, especially online- checkout without signup, remove anything that slows down the process. 

Please note: You must have an online presence! It’s the most cost effective way to share where you are and what you’re selling. And here’s a few more hints- Use simple styling, simple wraps- for instance, I love wax, brown or parchment paper. Tie with twine, baker’s cord or even satin ribbon. Wrap with a natural linen, burlap, baskets- for everything from baked goods to flowers and plants- these wraps look good and save money too. For your photography: use flatlay photography (coming up in another post!) Layer or carousel to virtually showcase your wares. Begin right now writing holiday copy for your site, brand or blog- this year make sure you’re upbeat with kind understanding, it’s a difficult time. 

So! there you have my 3 favorites- Collaborate. Popup Shops and Open Air Markets with a strong online presence. *Decide on a fun and fair way to double or triple your efforts as you collaborate with others. All the best! 

Love y’all, Brenda 

7 Easy Marketing Tips…

I took some time recently to jot down some easy marketing ideas. As we’ve reset the clock- the holiday season begins. I’ve had several small businesses have asked- ‘What will success look like in 2020?’

‘Success, right now, is all about people. Take care of them, and they will take care of the business.’ Jon Juliano

That’s what this and every other holiday season is all about. Remember to take care of people. Your customers are overwhelmed and anxious, just like you are. If we can adjust our mindset from seller to a valuable advisor, one who can be trusted, then business will be easier all around. Let me rephrase that a bit- Move from being solely service or product based to a ‘resource based brand’. They’ll rely on you as a trusted resource. Here are a few of ideas I jotted down:

  • 1. Put together a Gift Guide.  In your gift guide, add things of various price points and add in a few things you don’t actually sell, yet would be good add-ons. Collaborate? It’s possible or just make a simple easy recommendation. A seller of Handmade Soap, might recommend adding Mineral Salts for a relaxing Bath. 
  • 2. Offer Ideas –  Be the ‘idea’ resource for your products. For example- how to extend the life of perishables- pink pumpkins?  *Refrigerate. Use through Thanksgiving for decor. Save the seeds, dry, put into little packets to add some ‘magic’ to a gardener’s gift!
  • 3. Offer Gift Certificates. Product based of course! Service based- exercise or dance? Whatever you do, off a good old fashioned gift certificate. *For instruction, perhaps add the perfect dancing shoes or a foot soak too! Gift Cards are always welcome.
  •  4. Folks will be hosting smaller events. Bakers? Suggest an easy breakfast, dinner rolls and dessert. One stop shop! *Pastry Gift Card? Smaller budget conscious events inspire DIY projects…If you’re the one who makes Gingerbread House parts- add a recipe for icing and decorations. Are you beginning to get the picture?
  • 5. For existing customers- keep in touch. In stress filled times, saying- ‘We’ll get through this. Thinking of you.’ May be all a person needs to hear. 
  • 6. Provide Value. Value and extra value which is really adding convenience. A length of twine, a ribbon, a small gift tage or an inexpensive surprise adds joy- it’s added value for them- and your business. 
  • 7.  The all important, Four B’s Be memorable. Be Consistent. Be Kind. Be Grateful- a thank you note tucked in goes a long way… 

So, there you have it- my 7 Easy Marketing Tips… now don’t go far because as a special edition for a special time… I’ll be sending out an extra post this week for 3 Tips for Product Based Businesses (I personally think there’s probably a way service based businesses can get involved too!’ So! Stay tuned…

Love y’all, Brenda 

Texture…

Texture. The roughness of peeling paint. The wrinkles, ridges and bumps of pumpkins, contrast with rough dry stems. The soft fur of a sleeping kitten on a nappy blanket- all are varied examples of how Texture, even on flat images bring life and interest to design. This is especially important when blogging or social media which is dependent on non-textured images.


Soft feathers in vibrant colors play against an ornate gilded mask. Even textured monochromatic barn board and straw nest with the smoothness of galvanized metal show the importance of how light and texture brings life and interest to an empty nest I found and captured in a photo years ago. That image is still one of my favorites, a happy accident for sure.
By contrast- the soft sand, sleek and slick colorful fishes are improved with rippled water and mossy planks, which without those contrasting textures, just wouldn’t be the same.


Add the texture of rough chopped pecans to almost anything and your recipes will have the unmistakable flavor and texture we crave in food. *Tip: Inexpensive paper sacks or burlap bags are wonderful as props*

Dark, spicy ‘Where the Sugarcane Grows’ Gingerbread…topped with roughly spread cream cheese frosting, served on smooth vintage plates is an example of how opposites attract… and really, those crumbs do add a bit of realistic textural charm…
Tell the story of how the sweet and spicy Classic Southern Jezebel Sauce… sprang from our twisted roots, bayous and swamps. The textures help you tell that crazy tale…trust me on that!

And yes, in Autumn we must have the color and texture of fallen leaves to signal the changing seasons.
Texture is all around us- it adds to the tactile experience of life. It’s the thing that makes an image come alive- the sensations we know and love in the world around us. Evoke the sense of touch- real or imagined, folks will love it.
After Light and Color- Texture is Number 3 of my 9 Principles of Design. Look for it, find it, add it to your images and then- watch Texture bring your image to life!
Love y’all, Brenda

Here’s an image of that ‘Where the Sugarcane Grows’ Gingerbread…

Seasonal Wreaths…

Seasonal Wreaths…circles, imperfect, yes! Shapes and form are basic and elemental. And often set the stage in good design. Wreaths add personality, even create  or convey meaning and mood. I enjoy making wreaths, especially with natural materials I’ve collected or grown myself.  Since we grow a type of grapes called muscadines- my wreaths usually start with a grapevine base. I’ve been known to wind up muscadine vines, leaves and all- left plain? I enjoy it just like that!

I’ve used pale green hydrangeas grown here- I’ll admit those were my pride and joy the first year they bloomed. I love the cotton wreath because the cotton came from a special garden established to honor Alabama native George Washington Carver. A former slave who taught farmers how to enrich soil depleted by cotton growth by alternating growing peanuts! And, yes he’s probably the Father of Peanut Butter and more! For sure, he was a pioneer in adding nitrogen back to poor soil. And his work was done at the famous Tuskegee Institute in part funded by Henry Ford himself.

I had a bumper crop of Oregano- the scent when wound up into a wreath is amazing- fresh or dried. Herbs make wonderful additions to wreaths. As wreaths dry, you never know the form or color they’ll take on. Pale papery blooms take on a beautiful hue. Magnolia leaves are stunning any time of year, especially during holidays from Thanksgiving to Christmas and beyond.

I made a wreath recently with ‘past their prime’ cuttings of hydrangeas, somehow it pleases me through the beauty of imperfections which will soften and become even more beautiful, I hope.

Shapes often have symbolic meanings. Take circles- there’s no beginning or end. Wreaths are timeless, seasonal- the shape and form feels complete, unified. Circular curves suggest softness and movement, especially when combined with the sharp edges of other forms. Like a door maybe?

Shape and form are basic, necessary elements of design- perfect or not, preferably not. Don’t wait until a wreath or anything else, for that matter, is perfect– just get started. Use Shapes and Forms in your designs. You’ll be glad you did!

Love y’all, Brenda

Here’s that Magnolia Wreath- one of my all time favorites!