Thursday, July 17, 2014

How The Stars Aligned

I grew up in a small Ohio town the size of a cornfield. It’s a place where the Amish, farmers and football are held in the highest esteem. A place where the night sky reveals every star the universe has to offer. My childhood was spent wishing on those stars. And I took those wishes very seriously.

Eventually, I lost sight of that nighttime sky and ended up in a dark place. At a time when I was working so hard on my dream of becoming an artist, I unexpectedly found myself in a relationship brimming in abuse. I was drowning.

I worked like hell to get out of that relationship. And when I did, my badge of courage became a blue star tattoo – a permanent reward and reminder to treat myself like a star from that day forward.

On a magical day, not long afterward, a freelance opportunity came my way via fortune, luck and kindness. The client called to ask if I could submit an invoice for payment immediately! They needed to cut the check to a business name, and what was the name of my business? I had not yet picked a business name.

And then, at that moment, a name picked me.

Blue Star Design.

(P.S. - Thank you, David W.)

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Blue Star Shines Bright – Storefront Renovation Recognition

In 2013, we had the great opportunity to spruce up our office curb appeal, adding some color and Blue Star creativity. Through the City of Cleveland’s Storefront Renovation Program we worked with our neighborhood development corporation, Ohio City Incorporated, to bring back the charm of our historic Cleveland storefront.

Our Blue Star team has always been proud of our office, but we are over the moon with the recent enhancements. You can easily recognize us with our Blue Star bike racks, thanks to Rustbelt Welding. Our entire fa├žade received a clean paint job by Renaissance Painting & Decorating. And to top it all off, we now shine bright with our own custom Blue Star Design neon building sign, built and installed by Dynamic Sign Company.

Our renovation project hasn’t gone unnoticed, from clients easily finding our office when coming in for a meeting, to being honored at the 2013 Storefront Renovation Program Awards Ceremony on May 14, 2014.

The ceremony brought together 39 renovation projects from 13 different Cleveland neighborhoods, acknowledged for our work to improve neighborhoods and businesses by Frank G. Jackson, Mayor, City of Cleveland, and Daryl P. Rush, Director, Department of Community Development.

It was great to see other small businesses in attendance, like our fellow Lorain Avenue award recipient, William Beachy of Go Media. In fact, the theme for this year’s ceremony was “Seeing Cleveland’s Small Business Potential... ,” which was surely accomplished. Great to see Cleveland come together and support local business owners. Here is a sampling of other businesses honored at the event: The Larchmere Gallery, Retropolitan, CLE Clothing, Cibreo, Room Service, Soupermarket, and Boys and Girls Clubs of Cleveland.

So take a drive down Lorain Avenue in Ohio City and honk to say hello when you see our Blue Star shining bright in the SOLO District.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Mad Science of Marketing

One day in January my kids came home after school, bounding through the house, waving papers excitedly, announcing they had signed up for Science Olympiad. (Yay! Awesome!) Then they informed me their science teacher would not be available for weekly practices. (OK. Not so awesome.) That meant weekly practices would fall to me. It would be my job to get them from Point A – dreaming of winning a blue ribbon – to Point B – being prepared to compete for a chance at winning a blue ribbon. (Yowza.)

Then I thought, hey, wait a minute. Point A to Point B is my job. It’s exactly what clients ask Blue Star to do every day, all day long. We get lots of people from Point A to Point B.

And soon our little science experiments began to have a much bigger impact on my thinking than just helping my kids compete.

Continuously, over the years, we have been asked by small business owners, and even on occasion by corporate and organizational leaders, “What is marketing, why do I need it and why should I pay you to do it for me?” The question drives me crazy, as I am passionate about marketing and can talk for hours on end about the subject. But I found my words aren’t always resonating – I began to question my reasoning and started searching Google for a better answer, a simple answer to this maddening question that would ring true.

I found great blog posts outlining the benefits of marketing, such as The Importance of Marketing: 10 Reasons You Can’t Afford Not to Market Your Business by Kasia Mikoluk. Still, I was struggling with how to respond to the doubters, to give them the succinct answer they needed to hear – the answer to “Why?”

And through science, I found the answer.

Marketing is roll-up-your-sleeves work – it’s practice and experimentation, strategy and process, and most of all, it’s the doing that gets you results. Marketing involves all the work that has to happen to get from Point A – dreaming of achieving your goal – to Point B – being prepared for a chance to win.
As a business person you can love what you do, be really good at your trade, dream about winning – just like my kids – but it's the work, the strategy, the process and especially the doing that make all the difference. You can’t just show up and expect to win. That’s not science – that’s called luck.

In sports, you hear terms like conditioning and training – and strategies like “moneyball” – when talking about success of teams and athletes. Like I said, it takes more than showing up on game day – that’s why Tiger Woods has a coach, why LeBron James comes to practice every day, and why Terry Francona makes a decision to move his catcher, Carlos Santana, to third base full time to get the most out of his bat. It’s process and strategy for better results. Terry Francona did not know if his strategy would work (and the jury is still out), but he was willing to experiment – to go through the process to give his team a better chance to compete. A better chance to win.

And there isn’t always a straight path to get you to where you are going. Experimentation, change and adaptation may all be necessary along the way. You don’t always know what you are going to get with every move, as I told my kids while they were practicing building catapults and boats. You may get a spoon when you planned on a Popsicle stick. (Note to future Science Olympiads: If you are building a catapult, put the spoon to the side, it’s a diversion. Our experiments showed, if your goal is accuracy, plastic spoons don’t shoot straight!)

My kids gave me the answer for which I was searching. They taught me science. I taught them process and strategy. And this, together, brought home two blue ribbons.

Marketing is all the work it takes to support getting from Point A – dreaming about winning – to Point B – having the effective strategy and process required to compete for new clients, gain recognition, increase market share for a product or service, or whatever your blue ribbon goals might be.