Friday, June 20, 2014

DIY Friendship Plaque

I've been on a crafting frenzy since I returned from Spokane. This is my latest project and I am pleased with the results. The layout was the most time consuming.

The canvas board was left-over from my granddaughter's birthday. It was painted in rainbow covers, but it didn't matter since I was going to cover the canvas with various papers.

The paper shown to the left was printed on the computer, but other papers used were scrapbook papers or handmade.

Paper punches were used to create decorative edges and satin ribbon was added for embellishment.

Mod Podge was used as the glue and sealer for this project. A thin coat was applied to the canvas and also to the back of each paper. A sponge brush works best for the application process.

I took a picture of the layout before applying the Mod Podge and used it as a reference when positioning the pieces. The lettering was printed on handmade paper and trimmed to fit.

The colors, arrangement of papers, embellishments and design elements are endless. Consider adding vintage buttons, jewels or pearls for a 3-D effect.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Rustic Recycled Wall Plaque

My recent trip to our local Goodwill yielded some great finds. I picked up this wooden 4 x 24" plaque for $1.99. It previously read Bordeaux but that was about to change, as shown above.

I recently returned from a trip to Spokane to meet with my business partner, Jefre. We have had many laughs about his over-abundant use of saying, It's All Good and I  couldn't help myself, I had to make him this wall plaque.

I peeled off the original Bordeaux paper layer and cleaned the plaque the best I could; any rough areas were sanded. Both the front and back sides were then given a coat of matte black paint (be sure to do this outdoors). Allow to dry.

While the board was drying, I designed the lettering using MS Publisher setting my print page as 4 x 24". The extended length required three sheets of paper which were cut and trimmed to fit the front of the board.

Position the three sheets as close together  as you can without overlapping the edges. Tape the underside of the papers to keep the lined edges in place.

Align the paper onto the board, flip the board to the back side and use a pencil to trace the outline of the cut.

Cut along the penciled area and trim if necessary to fit the board.

Apply a thin coat of Mod Podge to the face of the board. Set aside and apply a thick coat of Mod Podge to the back of the paper. Make sure you apply the Mod Podge in one direction.

I used a foam brush to apply the Mod Podge mixture which are readily available from Home Depot or any hardware store.

Position the paper onto the board and remove any air bubbles with a roller.Allow to dry for two hours before applying a top coat of Mod Podge.

The Mod Podge should be applied to the front of the paper in thin coats and all in the same direction. Make sure to apply the mixture along the edges of the plaque.

I used two thin coats of Mod Podge for this plaque and let it dry overnight. Allow the first layer to dry for at least 15 minutes before applying the next layer.

To add interest, I mixed a small amount of Burnt Umber Acrylic paint with water and brushed on in random places before applying the Mod Podge. This technique will really depend on the type of paper you have used. I used a heavier gauge handmade paper for this plaque and it readily accepted the brushed paint. Thinner paper may not be so kind.

Allow the plaque (or project) to set up overnight. If you need to speed up the process, you can use a blow dryer on a low setting.

Monday, June 09, 2014


I just returned from Florida and one of my Vero Beach pit stops is Mrs. Mac’s Fillin’ Station Restaurant. Their clever marketing strategy leaves customers standing in line to get a table. Yes, the food is plentiful and certainly lures in returning customers; but, it is the unique way they have chosen to market their business that sets them apart from the rest.

As you enter the restaurant an old Gulf gasoline pump lends itself to the eatery’s fifties nostalgia. Menus are made from recycled license plates and red mechanic shop towels are used as napkins. Oil cans or wrench hang from the pant loops of the farmer jean uniforms; and worker assumes an automotive name while they wait tables.

If you want to generate new sales and business in today’s market, you need to have a solid marketing plan in place. The old school thought of ‘build it/make it’ and they will come’ mindset is no longer a viable option for online sellers. A recent visit to a famous downtown street market in Charleston reminded me of this truth.

I watched customers walk the corridors lined with seller booths; most held little product appeal. However, there were a few booths that seemed to lure the masses into their marketing net with little effort.

 I made mental notes on what made these vendors different from others.
  • Their product was unique and not found on the shelves of major discount stores.  
  • Discount incentives were offered based on number of items purchased.
  • Product samples were included with every purchase.
  • The seller gave special attention to how the product was packaged and displayed.
  •  Business cards and pertinent contact information was on display.
  •  Product labels looked professional.
  • The seller engaged with each customer and made them feel special.
  • Someone was available to assist every customer before they lost interest and walked away.

We live in a world driven by technology and taking product to market requires more than a web site, storefront or vendor booth. Knowledge of social media venues has become critical to the success of every business.  Competition, in the past, was limited to regional or local businesses. But the birth of the internet changed all that; our competition is now global and this isn’t about to change

The rapid pace of technological development will continue to be a challenge to all of us; even more so for small businesses and entrepreneurs who tend to be understaffed and lack the funds for a marketing budget.

Here are six ways to market your product online with a shoestring budget:
  1. Build customer relationships through social media programs. Take a look at what your competitors are doing socially. Understand, however, social media is not a one-stop marketing strategy and it does not generate overnight sales. Dedicate one hour a day to maintain your social media presence.
  2.  Establish a blog and post often. It helps to establish you as an expert in your field. Include a “share this” button at the bottom of each post for easy distribution. I use WordPress to blog and find it easy to use; it’s free to download and offer fully-customizable themed templates for under $100.
  3. Post relevant and helpful content on your web site or seller pages that will keep customers returning to your site. Not every post should be related to making a sale.  Instead, post information that can be linked to other sites which will boost your SEO rankings.
  4. Give customers a reason to trust your company. Post customer comments about your products and service. Provide contact information including both an email address and phone number. Check voice and emails several times a day. Use your social media accounts to keep an eye out for problems with your product or service and step in with help.
  5. Target your online audience with the use SEO key words, relevant web page titles and major search engine registrations.
  6. Identify and target your ideal selling audience. Consider a narrower marketing niche so you can better present yourself as an expert and stand apart from the crowd. As you gather your database of customers, treat it like gold because it is the primary vehicle to communicate your marketing message.

Concentrate your marketing time and energy based on the Pareto’s Principle, also known as the 80/20 rule. Consider that 80% of your business comes from 20% of your customers. So, for maximum results you should utilize 80% of your marketing budget and time on retaining and expanding the sales of the top 20% of your customer base. Implement loyalty programs to show appreciation. This might include free samples; buy one get one free, discount coupons or referral rewards.

Make integrity the core ingredient of your business and you will succeed in marketing on a shoestring budget. Integrity doesn’t cost a thing, but without it, it will cost you everything.

Denise Marks is a published freelance writer, children’s author, entrepreneur and CEO of Mold Market. Her stories have appeared in Chicken Soup for the Soul books and entrepreneurial magazines. As the owner of and, Denise has over 16 years’ experience in the soap making business.