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Branding Case Study: Doodle Dog Creative & Pretty Little Bash

From time to time we invite one of our Sage Branding Specialists to share some of their “before and after” design work with us.  By learning from these case studies you’ll be better able to see branding identity go through an evolution, gain strength, and come to life.

Nikki NuckolsThis is a super exciting brand redesign for me to share with you! Megan Papoi, owner of Pretty Little Bash, partnered with me for several months on her business strategy. One of the first challenges she came with was that of her business name at the time (A Perfect Plan by Megan). She didn’t feel that it represented where she wanted to be in her business. I agreed that it didn’t have the verve that she brings to her clients. It also wasn’t special enough. (And I’m always leery of anything being called “perfect”.) Megan came up with the brilliant brand name, Pretty Little Bash. Soon after, she partnered with one of our Branding Specialists Nikki Nuckols of Doodle Dog Creative to put her vision into visuals.

Here Nikki shares about the redesign…

Before the Redesign

The old look and site were functional. There were no major design flaws or functionality flaws but it was lacking personality and differentiation from the competition. After talking to Megan, I understood who she was and she was bold, energetic and eager to help plan some really great events, so that was constantly in the back of my mind when working on her new identity!

Old Website - A Perfect Plan by Megan


After the Redesign

I always try to make every brand that leaves our office embody the personality of the individual(s) who will be representing it in their market. To me, the Pretty Little Bash brand screams, modern, trendy, fun and memorable.

Megan shares her thoughts on the rebrand… 

“I hands down wanted to work with Nikki at Doodle Dog because she has the creative ability to really nail down what her client wants and her ability to create outside the box designs and not just give me something that is like everyone else.  I like the unpredictability that she helped me create in terms of what people might think a wedding planner’s page should look like and how we made it.  Nikki and her team are rockstars! My favorite part is definitely the colors!  Almost everyone I know uses pastels, which are pretty don’t get me wrong but that just wasn’t me.  I am absolutely loving my bright color combination!!  It gets me giddy just thinking about it.  It really shows my personality and helps people realize the type of experience they will get from me.”

Sage Wedding Pros Strategy Talk… Michelle shares…

“In working with Megan, one of the first things we did was talk about her vision for the company. “What is that you want to be known for?” We uncovered the following values that are important to Megan and Pretty Little Bash:

  • SERVICE… timely, not stressful, fun… anticipate a need before it arises (love this!)
  • FUN! …release and relax so that you can truly enjoy the event
  • CREATIVITY and ARTISTRY…. a love for details and design.

This foundation gave Megan a foundation for her branding. It’s more than just pretty colors and sparkle because it has a soul. This is such an important step in marketing for your business. We love how Nikki has interpreted our strategy work into beautiful visual identity for Megan and Pretty Little Bash!”

Want to see more? Look here for more images, including Megan’s brand reveal images:

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Your Internship Program is Probably Illegal

InternI’m going out on a limb to estimate that 95% of the interns in the wedding industry are likely NOT interns. And chances are, if you have an intern, you are breaking labor law. I’m purposefully trying to FREAK YOU OUT because I don’t want you to get audited and fined. (We’re talking unpaid interns here.)

Are you awake? Go ahead, grab another cup of coffee.

Here’s the layman’s definition (my definition) of an intern…

An intern is a short-term educational opportunity to learn from a company. This opportunity is 100% educational in nature.

Did you get that? 100% educational. The internship needs to be actual training... on-going training… not “I teach you some things for an hour on your first day and then you are off to file papers, post blog posts, assemble wedding invites, run errands, make DIY projects, and tweet.”

NOPE. That ain’t gonna fly with the US Department of Labor.

When you have interns, you want to think of creating a classroom within your business.

Here is some info that explains the labor board criteria. (There are 6 criteria you have to have in place.)

Got it? OK… here’s the thing…

Around the ‘classroom’ structure, the intern can do “work” that augments a lesson… In other words, they can practice what you are teaching them.

So, if you are teaching them sales techniques, they could accompany you to a client meeting and/or conduct a sales meeting. If they are learning about marketing strategies using social media, they would be able to practice by doing some tweeting for you.

But- chances are they are not learning anything by filing papers.

The best way to protect yourself with an internship is to create a classroom structure where:

  • YOU spend 1-2 hours teaching a new lesson
  • INTERN spends 3-5 hours putting the lesson into practice (this is “on the job training”)

Here and here you’ll find a guideline for creating an internship program. An intern manual and/or training manual can be helpful in a) guiding you in training them and b) justifying your internship program if audited.

And – if you aren’t quite sure whether your team-members should be employees, contractors or interns, you’ll want to check out The People Plan.

Talk to me… please tell me you have some of these things in place. And, if not… how are you going to fix it?

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April 2, 2014 - 8:44 am

Joelle - This is GREAT Michelle. I have an intern, and the way that I’ve always thought of it to be was that it should be for the benefit of the intern, NOT the company. I get people all. the. time asking me what it’s like having an intern and for tips, but they usually just want free labor and it’s terrible! Also, I’m a firm believer that if they can’t be compensated with a paycheck, they should be compensated with school credit. My current intern comes to weddings with me, and sometimes I need her to help with set up and breakdown and whatnot, but I try to compensate her for those hours. Everything else is shadowing us, going on Pinterest to see wedding trends, sitting in on phone calls with me, and just hanging out at our studio, seeing how we run things. It KILLS me when I see other people taking advantage of their interns, and their interns not doing anything about it!

April 2, 2014 - 9:12 am

Michelle Loretta - You got it, Joelle! And internship needs to be for the benefit of the intern… not the company. I love how you’ve structured your relationship with your intern! Compensating an intern for ‘non-educational work’ is a great solution – and a great balance – for those times when you do need to have *work* out of the relationship. I haven’t seen that before.. but, I really like that. Thanks for sharing this!

April 2, 2014 - 9:34 am

Talia Rogers - Awesome post! Thanks for the insight!!!

April 2, 2014 - 11:06 am

Andria Lewis - If a company needs clerical assistance, they can hire an intern from a local community college who is majoring in Administrative Management (which is what I looked into before finding my new person).

April 2, 2014 - 11:12 am

Michelle Loretta - Such a great tip, Andria! Colleges often have structured internship programs that make it easy for the employer to set up the internship program. I love this idea of specifically targeting the subject/study area to fit your business needs.

April 2, 2014 - 1:19 pm

Charlene @ Sweetchic - This is why I’ve never taken on an intern, and only hire paid assistants… too many grey areas.

April 3, 2014 - 9:11 am

Rachel @ Sincerely, Ginger Weddings - This is such a great post! I am currently on boarding my first interns and this is so helpful. Luckily I have a great book keeper who keeps me on track. I love teaching, so interns are great for my business. Thanks for sharing!

April 3, 2014 - 9:30 am

Michelle Loretta - You’re welcome, Ginger! I love teaching too… and I’ve always loved bringing on people because of this aspect of training. Good luck with your new hires!

April 3, 2014 - 7:12 pm

Antonia - Such a great post! We have always had interns that are receiving college credit through their accredited university and work closely with the students professor or mentor at said school to make sure we are on the right track! I think another key point is, an intern should NEVER fill the place of a paid/trained employee! Thanks for this post!

April 4, 2014 - 5:32 am

Michelle Loretta - That’s a great point to bring up, Antonia. I think most people think that the point of having an intern *is* to fill that void… but that isn’t correct. There really can’t be much benefit to the company… which doesn’t make it worth it to many employers. Thanks for adding insight!

Employee Handbook Template – Now Available

When you bring on a new employee, what is your ‘onboarding’ procedure? How do you get them up to speed on everything that matters in your business? And, how do you communicate your policies and procedures to them?

Do you have an employee handbook?

HandbookWhat is an Employee Handbook?

An employee handbook is a guide of company rules, protocols, and standards. It defines the following for employees:

  • Vacation and time off policy
  • Workplace expectations (attire, attendance, schedules, etc.)
  • Employee classifications
  • Safety guidelines
  • Review policies and compensation guidelines
  • Discipline and termination policies

… and soooo much more.

This is different from a process binder, systems procedures, or checklists for the actual doing of responsibilities. THE HANDBOOK gives the rules for what it means to be an employee of your company.

Why is an Employee Handbook so important?

As an employer you should consider incorporating an Employee Handbook into your company’s hiring procedures for the following reasons:

  • Ensures that new employees are given guidance on the expectations you have for them.
  • Consistent policies applied to all employees ensure that everyone is treated equally and fairly.
  • The handbook serves as protocol for confusion, conflict, and problem-resolution with employees.
  • Sets boundaries for both employers and employees.

We’ve created an easy-peasy Employee Handbook template!

Kelly has taken her previous experience as an HR Director for Starbucks and put it into an easy-handbook here for you. VOILA! The template will allow you to hit the ground running with your company’s employee procedures. No need to recreate the wheel… we’ve done it for you.;)

How to use the Employee Handbook template:

This is a guide for you to make your own. We have given you all the verbiage and mumbo-jumbo… it’s up to you to add and subtract the pieces that are relevant for your business.

Purchase The Employee Handbook Template Here for $49:

Add to Cart

And, through May, we are offering The Handbook bundled with
The People Plan, our easy-peasy HR toolbox…

You can choose to receive The People Plan bundled with The Employee Handbook template in one of two ways:

1. Both emailed immediately to you (electronically and bundled***) for $149 (a savings of over $71)

Add to Cart

2. Hard copy of The People Plan snail-mail in it’s beautiful packaging (you would still receive The Handbook in electronic format) for $189, including shipping (a savings of $30)

Add to Cart
(***We’ve traditionally only offered The People Plan in a snail-mail hard-copy… but we are going to give you the option of receiving it in snail-mail or electronic format.)

Need help with any of this? Reach out to us at kelly-at-sageweddingpros.com or michelle-at-sageweddingpros.com

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Are You Crying Over Your Taxes?

Ohhhhh friends and colleagues… this is a sad time of the year for most of us. Between February and April each year, we learn the fate of our relationship with the IRS. Most of us will owe money. And, if you had a particularly successful year, you may be surprised by how much money you owe.

This is me every single year:

Creative Commons: flickr.com (memekode)

Creative Commons: flickr.com (memekode)

It doesn’t matter how well I think I’ve planned, we always owe money.

OK… onward and upward… one thing you can do to NOT find yourself in this position in 2014:

Pay your taxes quarterly. Have your CPA help you figure this out, but a quick-n-sloppy way to estimate this is:

Look at the “net income” (the very bottom amount) on your “Profit & Loss Report” each quarter – send the IRS 30% of this amount. You will send in this amount using a little slip of paper called the 1040-ES.  (Note: this calcuation is a rough one at 30% because it doesn’t take into account your specific tax situation: do you own a home, are you an S-Corp? a corporation? But, this is a good place to start.)

Now, what if you have tax due that you really can’t afford for the 2013 year?  The IRS has installment agreements. It’s a pretty simple process that  most people are approved for. The pros are:

  • Tax debt in an IRS installment plan doesn’t count towards your ‘total debt’ on your credit report.
  • Interest and penalty rates are sometimes more favorable than some more expensive credit cards if you are facing having to charge your tax bill (you’ll have to go thru the math).
  • Generally the application allows you to input what you can afford to pay each month. (Don’t overpay 2013 if you aren’t able to pay quarterly for 2014. Better to pay off 2013 slowly and actively pay off 2014 incrementally, quarterly. You’ll owe more in interest, but you don’t want to face not being able to afford your 2014 bill next year.)

And, if you need a good giggle about doing your taxes (and/or another method of procrastination if you haven’t done them yet)… check this out.


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March 29, 2014 - 6:29 am

Angela Bauter - It’s probably easier with a sole-proprietorship, but what I did a few years ago was open another account where at the end of each month, I roughly figure how much I’d owe in taxes for that month, and put it in there. Almost seems like my version of “withholding”.

March 31, 2014 - 9:29 am

Michelle Loretta - That is a GREAT way to do it, Angela! I do recommend that people set that money aside – either in a business savings account (usually comes with a checking account)… or a completely separate account. Many banks allow you to have multiple savings accounts set up! I LOVE this feature!!!

Business Plan Case Study: Flora Nova

We feel pretty strongly that a business plan can help you to define your business goals and give you a road-map for the future of your company. But, what makes a company that has used a business plan different from others? How has a business plan made the difference for that business?

Studies have shown that having a business plan doubles your chances of success. It’s not the paper that is magical. It’s the process of writing, thinking, strategizing that puts you one step ahead of your competitors.

4.5 years ago we launched The Simple Plan workshop in Seattle. We follow up with attendees periodically to ensure they are still getting value from the investment they made. Here’s a pretty cool stat: of the 15 business owners who attended the Seattle 2009 workshop, 14 are still operating (and THRIVING at leaps and bounds!)

ChristianeZweiflerWe sat down with one of our attendees from our Seattle 2009 workshop, Christiane Zweifler of Flora Nova Floral and Event Design. Christiane is celebrating 10 years in business this year! We continue to work together quarterly on financial strategy.

Christiane shares what has worked for her in business planning…

Why a business plan is important…

When I first started my business 10 years ago I started writing a business plan but I never actually finished it. I had a somewhat good idea about the services, the business structure, the marketing strategies, even operations, but the financial part kept being a little fuzzy to me. My business never had any losses, but I never truly understood how to make a profit.

About 4 years ago I started to plan for a business expansion: I wanted to add design services beyond just flowers and wanted to purchase more expensive props to my rental inventory. But most importantly this expansion meant I needed to move my business to a much bigger space in order to run the larger operation. I was determined to rewrite my Business Plan  – this time with a solid financial plan.

What are some of the challenges you faced before having a business plan? How did the business plan help?

I hated numbers and compiling financial reports! I knew I would never just sit down on my own to tackle a solid business plan – I needed help. That’s when I heard about the Simple Plan seminars. I signed up to attend their workshop that same year. What I learned in class made writing my first complete business plan fun and yes, actually really “simple”! Besides many other things I learned the importance of calculating my business expenses and CoGs, to do sales forecasts, and setting clear goals – it helped me reach a point where I can be profitable and even keep expanding.

How often do you revisit your plan? How do you use it to guide you?

Now I look at my numbers on a regular basis – I would almost say that I even “like” doing my reviews because it forces me to stay focused and to look at my business from various angles. And this is by far the biggest improvement the Simple Plan has offered me: to better understand my business finances, to do quarterly reviews, to make sales forecasts, to adjust practices where necessary, to keep my expenses in check, and to think about how to reach my sales goals.

Thanks Christiane!

You can read more case studies here. Find our workshop schedule here.

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