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Archive for small business

Crooked Letter + Tough Questions

I’m thinking (and being wordy) about art and business and what’s mine and what’s yours today…

Being creative means juggling all kinds of influences and inspirations. Coming up with “original” ideas is actually kind of rare. The concept has been much discussed recently in light of political flaps surrounding the lifting other people’s words or ideas. I see posts from illustrators and artists I admire all the time bemoaning the lifting of their work to be produced without their permission or compensation. In the age of the internet and wifi and Google, the concept of “ownership” has certainly been watered down, or at least misunderstood.

As an artist, I think it’s important to balance the influence of others with a staunch respect for another person’s ownership of their own efforts. I’m thinking about it today because I came across at the Mississippi “Crooked Letter” design below in an Etsy shop called Hypsy Gypsy Boutique based in Purvis, MS — listed on July 8, 2016. The design bears some resemblance to my own block print design. It’s not the same, of course. It’s not an exact copy of mine. It’s just similar. I think what caught my eye is the apostrophe. The infamous apostrophe up there between the eM and the eye! I notice it because I’ve gotten a fair measure of lively discussion (some might say flack) about that apostrophe in my work and my choice in this piece to leave out one set of crooked letters to spell M’issippi rather than the “correct” way.



Is it just a happy coincidence of two southern artists with the same cultural references? Is the design influenced by mine? Is it a knock-off? Is it a copyright violation? Does my design (and hers) somehow belong to the digital ether once I send it off for viewing on some platform via wifi? Tough questions.

The design of concern is a digital download sold for $2 with a few restrictions prohibiting use on mass produced products. Ok. It will never become the hand crafted pieces I make from the sheet of linoleum I carved and now print by hand on the work table in my office. So, maybe the answers don’t necessarily matter in the big picture.

Maybe. Or, maybe in a world of 128 characters, share buttons, and a meme a minute, the questions deserve a little more attention.

summer of water . A Happy Birthday


Today is the 4th birthday of Small Pond Graphics, and I decided to celebrate with a little watercolor and a cranberry-orange biscuit from Starkville favorite, The Biscuit Shop!  I can’t express how blessed I am to have the opportunity to spend my days working, designing, painting, drawing and creating under the name of this little freelance business. It has been a literal God-send for my children and me, and I count it a privilege to be entrusted with putting a face on so many of my clients’ dreams. THANK YOU to all my clients, colleagues and friends for joining me on this creative journey!

Thank It Forward


In July, Small Pond Graphics celebrated its 3-year birthday! Diving into my own freelance design business was an unexpected opportunity in 2010, but God has used it to provide so many new creative outlets, business connections and much daily joy for me and my family. I’m honored to include so many of YOU among the blessings I’ve received through this Small Pond adventure.

In the last three years, Small Pond Graphics has served a collection of clients seeking boutique creative services. I’ve been drawing and posting and writing and designing and thinking and tweeting — and even getting back to my “maker” roots with The Frog Kisser etsy shop. And I’ve had fun doing it all!

I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to collaborate with so many to bring great ideas to fruition. Since gratitude is a feast best shared, I spent much of the summer creating a special collection of hand-crafted “thank you” gifts for as many of you as I could afford 🙂 The gifts were a set of hand-printed journals and thank you notes to help you THANK IT FORWARD — over 500 print runs block-printed by hand for 36 packages! A labor of love.


As an extension of my THANK IT FORWARD idea, this summer I also began planning for a new monthly ezine called AQUA that I envisioned as a creative journal used as a way to stay in touch with friends and colleagues. And, I wanted to have an outlet to periodically share my gratitude by giving little pieces of creativity back to those who have supported Small Pond Graphics. So, every issue of AQUA will include a couple of free designs in downloadable form for subscribers to enjoy for their marketing efforts or personal celebrations.


I launched the first issue of AQUA yesterday, and I’m very excited about it! It includes an update on some of my creative inspiration as well as a fun little gift tag printable I’ll share later here. It also includes a printable thank you notecard exclusively for AQUA subscribers. I’d love to have you join the mailing list!

I learn more each day that gratitude is an essential life model, and these last three years of Small Pond Graphics have taught me it’s a pretty good business model as well. I’m eager to test that theory by taking the opportunity to give more celebration tools to those who have given such support to me. I hope that as you find YOURSELF grateful, these gifts will help you take note of it and pass along your thankful heart to other.


On This Date in SPG History

I’m closing in on the one-year anniversary of Small Pond Graphics in the next month or so. I’ve been thinking back to a year ago, and I find myself so amazed at this crazy process of starting something new. The idea of starting my own design company had never really occurred to me. I was very happy in a job that allowed me a tremendous amount of creative freedom and the opportunity to work with a varied mix of clients, learn new things and work closely with the confidence of a good friend and mentor. It just didn’t occur to me. Then, in this crazy whirlwind of a month’s time, I found out my company was closing in thirty days and the concept of my own new venture plopped into the brainsphere (so to speak).

Literally over a weekend, trying to allow my heart to catch up while meeting a PR deadline for an announcement of our closure that could also include contact information for my new venture, I decided to go for it. Then, I decided on a company name — largely based on the whisperings of that little voice in my heart telling me where I really enjoyed focusing my attention. I suppose it worked to my advantage that I didn’t have the time over-think it, as I am SO apt to do! Is that how most small businesses start? With a swig of circumstance, a shot of serendipity and a splash of passion — all on a deadline?

On this date in 2010, I decided to name my company Small Pond Graphics.

I was looking back through some of my thoughts surrounding that decision and thought I might share a portion of my journaling through the process. As I read it again, it really reminded me of my own head a year ago. It’s made me think through the impact a year has had on that passion, those core ideas, and the areas where I wanted to focus. I’ve seen opportunities I never would have predicted… opportunities for collaboration, opportunities for creativity, opportunities for building something and helping others do the same. I can’t think of a better way to spend a year! Thanks for letting me share an unfiltered glimpse into the Haley mindset…

May 22, 2010
I’m thinking of Small Pond Design or Small Pond Graphics. I have a logo pictured in my mind with a frog. I love frogs. It’s something that’s been publicized that I like. So, I wanted one in the logo. I like the idea of embracing the small pond — the boutique concept, a place where individuality can be addressed, individual solutions. I was also thinking of the idea of small world. It has a focus on networking, the power of relationships, a relationship-based approach to service. And the small world kind of talks about the realities of digital technology — mainly how I’ll be doing business, I can work with near and far, etc. Locally, the small pond idea can speak to choosing local services. But, it can also work in the concept of addressing your needs in your specific pond — a niche with small businesses and business start-ups. Those are the types of clients I love. Entrepreneurs, innovators, helping people give their dream a successful face and way to communicate.

5 Things Small Businesses Can Talk About Online

The internet holds a wealth of marketing opportunities, to be sure. For small businesses in particular, marketing through online channels is very attractive because it often requires a lower budget investment compared to the potential return in exposure (and in real leads that produce sales). I hear buzz phrases like “be the media” and “education-based marketing” tossed about a lot, but the thought of producing original content to put online is pretty daunting to most small business owners. However, the process may not be as difficult as you think when you use what you’re already doing.

Small businesses often have a great advantage in the ability to connect with customers just by their very nature. And connecting with clients is what online media is all about — meeting your customers right in their laptops, inboxes or smart phones. Small businesses are usually already trained to give one-on-one personalized attention to customers as well as cater their services to specific customer needs. This more personal approach is simply the way of life in building a small business. And, that approach can provide a head start in developing content for online marketing just by using what you do every day in your relationships with customers. Whether it’s a company blog or an email newsletter or a Facebook profile, here are 5 things small businesses can talk about online.

1. Your Staff — In a small business, customers tend to know your staff by name already. And more importantly, your staff tends to know their customers by name as well. Regardless of where (or who) your market is, I bet a large chunk of your customers would choose to work with someone they know by name rather than some anonymous sales representative. Online media gives the opportunity to expand the base of that personal attention beyond just those who can walk into your storefront. Use your online media channels to help people get to know your staff better. Share well-chosen personal tidbits about those personnel who are often the face of your company to help customers make a stronger connection. Give customers more insight into the personal expert service they can expect by sharing information about your staff’s experience and training.

2. Your Expertise — Sometimes small businesses battle the fallacy that bigger knows more. We all know that’s not necessarily true, and online media offers the opportunity to share the expertise your small business offers. When customers come into your store or business seeking your services, they trust your advice because you can cater it to their specific needs. You can share that same expertise online through tips or suggestions that relate to your services or products. Yes, you may be giving away some free advice, but you will also build trust in your knowledge to serve customer needs.

3. Your Customers — One of the time-honored marketing boosts of small (particularly local) business is the proper use of text message software. Folks talk about your business to their neighbors and friends. Your online media offers that same opportunity, only your network is greatly expanded. With the permission of your customers, share testimonials of their experiences with your company. When you’re working with other businesses, extend public “thank yous” in your online media for their business. This not only gives your online audience a glimpse of the people who already trust your services, but it offers free publicity to your customers as well.

4. Your Calendar — In your small business marketing plan, you probably already target certain times of the year that are significant for marketing your services or products most effectively. You likely plan for special sales, product showcases or events throughout the year to connect with customers or move your inventory. And, you probably develop traditional advertising like printed flyers or newspaper ads to let your customers know about it. Add online media to the mix! Online you don’t have to pay to add color or worry about advertising deadlines. Use your online media channels to get specific about your promotions and share information that may not necessarily fit into your normal column inches. Plus, in the online format, you can offer updates about availability and special discounts that may occur on the spur of the moment, giving your online audience the opportunity to get “inside” information.

5. Your Vendors — Similar to what I mentioned about expertise, sometimes retail customers default to the big “box” stores because they believe they are the best source for the brands they want at the lowest price. Another myth! Small businesses can use online media to dispel that idea by sharing specific information about the brands they carry.  Often times, you’ve developed personal relationships with the representatives for the brands and retail lines in your store. Offering customers some of the detailed information they provide not only highlights the benefits of the products, but it establishes your small business as an authority and resource for that particular brand.

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