Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Dreams Coming True

Your blog post today is written by Xenia, as I'm hoping more and more of them will be in the future.

It's not New Year's, it's not anyone's birthday, but somehow this summer's end has been feeling like a time for retrospection. Just this past weekend, Bobby and I went to our friend Maria's birthday party - the same party at which, three years ago, we first set eyes on each other. And proceeded to not talk whatsoever, but still, it was the beginning of our acquaintance. It's amazing and a little scary to think that in only three short years we've fallen in love, gotten married, and had a son who's speedily approaching one year of age.

Xenia & Bobby in the beginning.
And, we've started this little baby of a business.

That fall of 2009 was a time of big and positive changes in Bobby's life. A new job he enjoyed, a new apartment of his own, and a spiritual rebirth as he found his soulmate. The idea of Dark Side Customs was also conceived amongst these changes - and lo and behold, exactly nine months later, on May 31, 2010, we opened the doors of the Etsy shop with our first tentative offerings.

A year ago, again, the fall brought the end of an era for us, and the beginning of a new life. Constantine was born on October 11, 2011. We turned that page, inexorably, joyously, deliriously. It's been a mad year since then, but you won't hear us regret it for an instant.

Today again, as we stand poised to enter the golden days of autumn, we find ourselves at a turning point. We're about to take the plunge and make Dark Side Customs Bobby's full-time job. That's been his dream. And it seems to me, we're not the kind of people to dream remotely, dazedly, of some-day-in-the-future.

Just like with our fast-and-furious dating, marriage and procreation history, we're going to dream this one hands-on. Damn the torpedoes, as they say, and full speed ahead.

So what's happening on the eve of this big plunge? Of course, a lot of brainstorming, packets and packets of printouts, sketches, notes, idea maps, you name it. But most of them can't be followed up on until one of us has those extra nine hours a day. For now, we've singled out one aspect of the business that we can focus on with infusions of just a few minutes, and that's our visibility.

You see, we are confident that we have first-class product. We have a website and an Etsy shop to get this product out to the customers. There's two to three pages of stuff on the shop at any one time. So why are we not getting the multiple sales a day that other sellers are? We've concluded that there's simply not enough folks that know to look at it.

Third Prize for our Contest on Facebook
What to do about that is a much more complicated question. There are a bilion answers to it: more social networking, more blog posts (oh hey, I'm working on one right now!), more Tweets, more regular shop updates (coming when there's more time to create pieces and turn them into listings), more cards to hand out, more, more...

The one that I'm most excited about, especually seeing as it's my own brainchild, is a contest. Call me crazy, but I want other people to do my promoting for me. The best way to get them to do it, it appears, isn't to wheedle or implore. It's to give them free things. And when those things are pretty valuable - such as, say, sterling silver jewelry, or even custom sterling silver jewelry - well, one may hope that they'll want to get them. For free. Since all they have to do is wheedle their frinds into "liking" our Facebook page.

The contest is slated to run through the month of September. I'm really excited, since there are three prizes. I'm hoping for some stiff competition, with publicity spikes through the roof when our competitors revv up their referral engines. Each one will be another step toward our dream.

Pedro with Katie Letts @ Waltz Astoria
There have been a few pushes towards the precipice off which we're about to step: Bobby's day job, DSC's event schedule, some inspirational reading. But I want to introduce you to someone who is living the dream, hands-on, every day of his life. And after two recent visits to his dream, it's hard to disregard the taunting, tantalizing feeling. "You're in exactly the same place in life as this man," it says. "So what are you waiting for?"

Meet Pedro Gonzales, the proprietor of Waltz-Astoria.

23-14 Ditmars Boulevard, Astoria, NY.
(718) 956-8742

You can, in fact, meet him in person every day, if you stop by this eclectic cafe, wine bar, and performance space off the northern end of the (N) line. No, he is not a craftsman, or an artist, or a songwriter. But he loves music, he loves those talented folk who just need a stool and a microphone to spread joy around them - so he had a vision. A small, intimate performace space in one of New York's most talent-rich new up-and-coming neighborhoods. Live music every night and children's laghter and community get-togethers during the day. All this with his family around him, every step of the way.

And all this is what he has. When Bobby played his most recent show there, last Friday, Pedro's wife Song couldn't get enough of our little boy. She told me that when their daugher Annabelle was born, she returned to working the cafe counter at Waltz in only two weeks. She'd bring the baby with her, and customers played with her on the counter as Song made coffee and served cake. Annabelle, who is three now, grew up at the cafe.

In the meantime, business has grown, and so has the fame of this friendly, relaxing, yet energized spot. Astorians brought buddies from other areas, who in turn brought more and more friends, until musicians (as well as poets, comedians, magicians, and all sorts) from all over the world come to perform a set at the Waltz, or join in their bustling Open Mic nights.

And every day, Pedro is in the thick of this, his own booking agent, sound technician, MC, Maitre-D,' waiter and host. This is what I call "Living the Dream." This is what I want for Dark Side Customs - not a hand-out, not free money, but being able to look on something you've built - are still building, every day, with your own hands - and say with pride, "This is mine."