Time in a Bottle

With over 35 years in the embroidery industry with particular emphasis on writing, education, and digitizing, Helen Hart Momsen is widely published in the trade press. Momsen founded and moderates the Embroidery Line (, the longest continuously running internet forum for apparel decorators. A sought-after speaker for many years for THE NBM SHOW, Momsen has authored two ground-breaking books on professional embroidery, available at

Spirit magazine rides in the seat-back pocket of every seat on every Southwest Airlines flight. I usually take it to read later, but the flight to Indianapolis was only 90 minutes. I figured, by the time I broke out the computer for more serious work, it would be time to disengage for landing, so I dove right into the issue.

It seems that I am hooked on this industry because even in this, a quiet hour and a half, I found myself reading with an eye to sharing ideas with others, both through this column and by enhancing my seminars with new information. It was almost as good as saving time in a bottle, as many of the ideas I found save time or make better use of it.

Publish a newsletter

There is a whole page dedicated to the Southwest “Star of the Month,” an employee-appreciation gesture that could well be incorporated into any decorated-apparel business that has people to tout. If you don’t have a company newsletter, think about starting one. There are so many wonderful software programs that can help; and you can illustrate it, thus becoming more proficient at your drawing program as an added bonus. (How many times have I heard the lament, “I need to learn my CorelDRAW better”?)

Consider a publication that can be given out to customers as well, with pictures of new designs, embroidery-placement suggestions, and announcements of new garments or non-wearables available for embellishment. Place the newsletter on the table in your decision-making area or showroom. You can have an extra page or two that you staple to the newsletter “for employee eyes only.” Brag about the employees that make a difference in your world—for your shop and the entire world to see. Any customer could be a potential employee and they will be impressed with your open appreciation as well as the news that makes their shopping easier.

Business plans

Cathie Black, head of Hearst Magazines, has some wise words about the notion of business plans in this September 2008 edition. It is easy enough to encourage people at a trade show to write one, but the importance of doing so is perhaps more potent coming from this source.

“You need to have a plan,” she writes, “to be able to measure the results, refine or change as needed and watch for any danger signals. The only thing you’ll regret about a hard decision is that you didn’t make it sooner.”

Short and sweet, but a powerful reminder for always knowing where we are. Her words about meetings are just as insightful. “Print an agenda to hand out at the start of every meeting. Everyone should know the top three things that you intend to accomplish before they leave.”

When your goals are simplified, either for the meeting or for the longer term—encapsulated in three main points—it is much easier for the employees to understand and remember.

More on more efficient meetings

On a page dedicated to “Heroes of Productivity,” Scott Snair, author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Motivational Leadership, shares five tips for meeting efficiency: 1) limit the meeting to only the key players and let them share the information with others; 2) limit the agenda to the most important items; 3) prepare for the meeting and stick to your plan—changing direction can cause loss of control; 4) have a “bad cop” in the meeting; his job is to keep things moving; 5) avoid the “meeting after the meeting”; save time by having somewhere else to be right away, no second guessing. This tactic also encourages people to speak their piece during the meeting so everyone can benefit from the ideas and discussion.

Email marketing

The next nugget on my mining expedition came from an ad for an email-marketing system. Whether I ever use their services or not, they left a positive impression on me, making it safe to say if I ever encounter someone looking for what they offer, I will remember and recommend:

“Email will earn $45.65 for every dollar spent in 2008.” —StrongMail Systems, Inc.

“Relevant campaigns increase net profits by an average of 18 times more than broadcast mailings.” —Jupiter Research

What this taught me is that SPAM hasn’t yet ruined the prospects of email ad campaigns; they can still be profitable, but they should be focused for best results. It got me thinking about what products and services would be well received in my community and how I could direct my marketing efforts to take advantage of those things.

Two stops on the Information Highway

A website,, is highlighted in the Entertainment section. Its picks of the month were Wix, a drag-and-drop utility for making web pages, and Klok, a productivity tracker that lets you determine how much time you spend (a.k.a. waste) on tasks each day. I spent some time at this website and found a program called “PC Decrapifier” that safely removes or uninstalls unwanted software, particularly the software that comes with a new PC. I also found a free “Photoshop alternative” called ArtWeaver which is billed as a “slimmed down alternative that offers the functions that beginning and intermediate users want.”

A book, The Party of the First Part by Adam Freedman, gets a mention. It is a guide to understanding the legalese found on websites, and in just about everything we read and sign these days. Sounds like important reading in an industry where we need to not only read but also write “legal” documents, from copyright information to customer contracts.

Inspiration for designs

Native American culture in the Grand Canyon is highlighted in the “Native Lands” segment of the magazine. The pictures of the petroglyphs (cave paintings incised in rocks) as well as the native costumes are grand inspiration for Southwest and Indian designs.

A story on tribal golf—how the first Indian golf course was inspired and built—made me wonder who does the embroidered shirts worn by the players in the photographs, and what opportunity might be there for those of you who live near the 60 tribal-owned courses in 17 states to ply your stitching—especially if you bear some Native American heritage to sweeten the sales pitch.


I found one ad for a plain white shirt—no monogramming offered—one for award rings and another for injection molding. (Well, some of our tools are made from plastic, aren’t they?) It seemed like an opportunity for some advertising for embroidered apparel.

In the companion catalogue/magazine called Sky Mall, I found ads for embossed denim jackets and embroidered shirts and, for those of you who have trouble pricing for profit, I would urge you to look at catalogues such as these for inspiration and daring when it comes to pricing the unique and custom work we create.

And another thing. . . .

I also found instructions for how to make a swan from balloons, a recipe for a Pear Cooler, and the inevitable horoscope section. I turned to the Capricorn offering, although I am one of those people who says “Yeah!” when it is right-on-target and “I don’t believe in that fluff” when it isn’t. I read:  “ ‘Do what you love and the money will follow’ is one of those work mantras that make Capricorns roll their eyes.”

I didn’t roll my eyes at it; I can relate to it. I tell folks at my seminars that if you do what you love you will never have to work a day in your life—and hopefully the money will follow, although what is needed and what is wanted are often two different figures. The blurb also suggests that an opportunity is coming that will bring both emotional satisfaction and money and I felt inspired as I have lots of hopes and plans. 

The final line of my horoscope read, “What’s more important, work that matters or work that pays a lot? If you can’t answer easily, try doing what you love.”

I think they are a little late with this advice for me, as I write for Printwear and teach at its trade shows, and it just doesn’t get any better than that. (Although there is a quote in an ad for motivational seminars by Dr. Chester L. Karras in the magazine that says, “In business, you don’t get what you deserve, you get what you negotiate.” Hmm.)

I send a hug out to all of you as the holiday season approaches and wish you good profit doing what you love.