Hi members and newbies...
My name is Stephen, and I actually joined or registered with the "Nation" in January 2007, or at least some time ago! But I never participated or used this resource as I should have. Over the next couple of traumatic months I may not be on here that frequently, but once things settle down..I plan to be here alot.
I guess I just didn`t realize the vast source of knowledge that was setting there "free" before me. It was a newsletter that directed me back here a few days ago... This time I decided to look over some of the articles im more detail and was led to make my recent post and announcement for my "New Biz...Personalized...etc, etc."....
Well after making that initial post in the "newbie" forum, I followed it up with a post to the "Website Critque" forum. Based on past experience on other forums, I did not expect to hear from many people or receive any relevant advice or comments....
TO MY SURPRISE... I received many comments and great advice.... And after conversing with several members, have decided this is a place where I have to play a more active role and participate more...
The "Nation" is a community I hope to continue to be an active member in. There is a wealth of knowledge and help and advice to be exchanged that can benefit us all.. Thanks to all who have helped me thus far...your input has been invaluable both from a business perpective, and a personal perspective!!!
I now want to take the opportunity to tell you more about myself... the recent events of my life, that affect me and my business..where I have been, where I am at.... and MOST IMPORTANTLY...WHERE I AM GOING!!!!
This kinda of a mini-bibleography...so be patient...it is a lengthy post...but it tells you what I am about and where I am coming from... Maybe I can help some of you, I know you can be of help to me... any way here it goes...
First off...I intend to keep my business going and growing...but things may be slow, for the next month or so as I begin my temporary re-location process to live with my brother in Mishawaka, Indiana for 2 or 3 months. If I can find employment there, and then housing, I can grow my business there and remain in the Michiana area. If not, I am at least close enough to Kalamazoo, that I can make trips to see my attorney and finalize my bankruptcy (more on this later), before having to move on to Ohio, near Cleveland where my sister lives.
Whereever I end up or go...this business is now a part of me. Whatever job I find and where, it will only serve to "fund" this endeavor... I have just had too many customers give me too many great comments and testimonials to even begin to thnk that my work cannot be successful given time, and funding for promotion!
Michiana is basically my home base. I grew up in Eau Claire/Sodus, Michigan, Kinda between Berrien Springs and Benton Harbor areas in Berrien county, north of South Bend/Mishawaka, Indiana.
Because of lack of programmer/analyst (AS/400/RPG/COBAL) jobs and a divorce, I migrated to Kalamazoo, MI. in 2000. I worked here for a couple years before the company I worked for pink slipped me and others, and then closed going through bankruptcy. I never was able to find gainful employment since. I had a couple of contract jobs here and there, and a couple of website design "gigs" (simple sites, with graphics for a couple of area authors)...
My last programming contract was a 4 month stint in 2004, at a contract rate of $70.00/hr. That was sweet!!
But with each passing month things continued to go from bad to worse as the jobs and contract assignments grew fewer and fewer. It was at that time I started, what began as a hobby, Picture-My-Heart.
PMH came about when I wanted to get a personalized gift for a girlfriend, but couldn`t find anything really personal, other than the standard items with an engraved plate, etc. In fact, it was because of this girl that I did not leave the state for greener pastures in 2003. Instead, I remained here, courted her, eventually became engaged and then lost her a month thereafter.
Turns out she had some problems and I got her to see a therapist...(My helping her was our undoing, and I new that might be a risk going into it)..She called of the engagement a month later explaining her therapist told her she just wasn`t ready for a committed relationship.
That put me into another slump for a bit. I had no job, no girl, and for a time lost the desire to create and develop my graphics skills...
In addition to that traumatic relationship, in 2003 I had spent over $750.00 with a marketing firm to help develop and market one of my products...but it became a money trap, and a patent was way to expensive. Before we could get to that level however, they had to pitch the product to some potential manufacturers, and they wanted money to design specific packaging for each company for presentation purposes. Well...after $750.00 (which was used to research a patent and review the marketability of the product), I wised-up and put an end to it...a little poorer, but much wiser.
Finally, after a few months of self-pity had gone by, I started looking for work again (2004). I got the contract "gig" for $70/hr, and when it ended, more work was hard to find. So I began to think seriously about turning my "hobby" into a means to earn some income. I had a ways to go, but had earned a good chunk of change so I could bankroll myself for several months as I worked on improving my graphic skills and product. Even though I created a personalized framed gift for my ex-girlfriend, and some things for some other customers, by today`s they were crued and un-refined.
I am self taught primarily using a software package called Paintshop Pro, and other software, 3D, and imaging packages. Over the next couple years, while unsuccessfully looking for work, I keep improving my graphic skills and my product line... from just composite prints, to Photos-to-Art (which I began several years ago), to within the last couple of years an idea of changing plain wall clocks into more than a personalized clock...but a work of art. I call it ClockArt..."More Than A Clock, It`s Art!" (early 2007).
Suffice it to say in 2006 my graphic skills hit a level, where all of a sudden it was like breaking through a "wall".
Suddenly the knoweldge of manipulating the software began to sink in and I was able to create on a new higher plateau, with my work now beginning to look truly professional. I`ve even gotten compliments from some area photographers, and a local magazine publisher....
Jumping back to 2004, after the contract "gig", I could still not find steady work. I managed to get by on a few custom print sales, what was left of my savings and 401K (closed in 2003), and the recent earnings from the contract job. I continue to look for work while developing my craft and working on my business website designs. I should have left the area then, but now wasn`t sure if I had the resources, and I was "afraid" to take a chance.
The next several months, as in the year before yeilded no results from the few programming interviews I managed to line up. It was late 2004 and money was running low enough to make me uncomfortable...I cut back on things, including promoting my "new" business. Things got worse, and in January 2005, I managed to get a job at the new Wal-Mart...a humbling experience, which brought me back down to earth you could say. Definitely a far cry from $70.00/hr.
Between the custom print sales, the development and sales of my proto-type shadow box clock design, and the work at Wal-mart, in 2005, I managed to just barely keep even in paying the "necessities - rent, utilities, etc.", however there wasn`t anything left to pay the creditors. In the months that followed my once "pristine" credit rating plummetted to a sub-basement (bomb-shelter) level. I got a debit card at that point, and struggled to make ends-meet.
I was coming up with some new design ideas and proto-types, including delving into the "multi-media" world and 3d Animation. The desire to create some "how-to", and maybe even some children e-Books, CD`s, and DVD`s grabbed my attention... "a design once, and sell many times" type product. So I began learning 3D and Visual Basic to create applications. I definitely had the skills or could learn what needed to. I even found "free" open source software to use. (Crued but functional programs in 2004, but some great developments in the open source and free software realms as of 2007, I have recently found and downloaded some exceptional "free" software.)
Things progressed on an even keel through July of 2005. I was even starting to get a little ahead! Can you believe it? Then suddenly, before any of the near-worthless Walmart Health Insurance benefits kicked in... I became very ill. I had a temperature, congestion, and could barely breath... I tried to hold off from the doctors with over the counter meds, as I couldn`t afford to go, but things got worse. I also didn`t want to miss any work so as to not lose the job.
Finally one day mid-July, I could barely breath or walk 20-30 ft without stopping to catch my breath. Recently over the past few days I had been experiencing some wrenching pains in my left side. I ended up going to an emergency clinic...where I was given some meds...after a couple of days I returned, and there was little improvement... I continued to go to work.
When I couldn`t catch my breath, I told my supervisor I was leaving..going home or the emergency room as I felt weak and couldn`t breath well. I was sweating profusely. He accused me of malingering and wanting to get out of some work. I told him to think what he wants and left. Upon arriving at the emergency room I had a temp of somewhere between 104-105 degrees.... They diagnosed pneumonia and admitted me to an area hospital.
At the hospital they did some scans and tests after immediately putting me on oxygen. I was only getting 70% of the oxygen I needed. I know I could barely breath as i arrived and was very pale...even having a blueish hue to my lips!!!
After some time a Thoracic Surgeon arrived...he informed me not only was my right lung barely functional because of the pneumonia, but that I did not have a functioning 2nd lung. The cat scan showed it as being collapsed and "stuck" in some type of "substance" probably formed from some type of infection.
Long story short. I had a 70,000.00 surgery I could not pay for. I was out of work for over a month, with no income. Just a few days out of the hospital Ihad to drive myself around in my old beater 1990 Ford Pickup and try to find agencies to help me pay the rent. After about 8 stops I was able to make it happen.
With that crisis passed...2005 moved onto 2006. I had another short-lived relationship with a woman who decided to go back to her ex-husband. I worked at Walmart, while working on my business and looking unsuccessfully in my chosen field of programming for more work. Things were running on an even keel.Then before my lease came up for renewal in April 2006, the apartment complex told me they were not renewing because during the time I was ill, I was late on my rent 3 times in a calendar year. Each time not more tha 3-7 days, and I paid the penalty!!! I moved to my present location on the other side of town. It was a small house and the rent was cheaper...all in all not a bad deal, but it took time, energy, and money to move.
In summer 2006, Walmart cut my hours to around 20-25 hrs/wk. I couldn`t live on that. I worked in the photo lab. So when people came in looking for custom, personalized work that "WALMART DID NOT DO", I began passing out my business card. This was a policy violation and I was terminated on 06-06-06, of all days.
Because of the termination, I did not qualify for unemployment, and new jobs were now even harder to find, and I didn`t have enough money to even leave the area now. I continued to look for work, developed new products and websites including my new Military Clock line. I has ome sales success, but it was sporatic and inconsistent...it was still all word of mouth.
Eventually I started falling behind. I went on more interviews in which I didn`t get hired because I was either overqualified or didn`t quite meet their needs - probably an excuse for me being 52 and a little obese. I continue to try and market and sell...I also started to get back into the CD`s and multimedia.
In December 2006 I was almost 3 months behind with the rent, and my landlord was wanting me out, and who could blame him. I tried to get help from Dept. of Human Services and other area agencies...but without a job/verifyable income and an eviction notice, there is no help for a single unemployed male in the state of Michigan.
If I had moved in from another state, there would have been aid. This was`t fair. I wrote a letter to the editor of the local paper. They followed up with a preorter and photographer being sent out, and we spent several hours over several days going over my story and visiting agencies. On December 24th, I received my Christmas "Miracle"...
On Sunday Morning, Dec. 24th, 2006, on the front page of the Christmas Eve Day edition was a front page headline, "FACING HOMELESSNESS". Below it was a large quarter page photo of myself! Followed by a length article that occupied most of the front page, and the entire page 4, along with additional photos. This had to be a miracle if you believe in God. Being a Christian I do, and I immediately send a thank you prayer.
In the weeks that followed, I did not get any job offers, but I did get some donations from some kind residents and a couple of churches. It was enough to pay off the back rent, and then some to carry on...I would not be homeless!!!
Indirectly this article also led to some web work for a couple of Kalamazoo area authors which carried me thorugh March and April 2007.
In February 2007 I created a Western Michigan University Football clock. With the help of the Assistant Athletic Director at WMU, I was able to get my WMU Broncos Football clock licensed. Sales have been light...but then I have not yet been in touch with the Alumni. it wasn`t football season, and the student body was absent during summer break.
This brings us to the present.
As luck would have it...I am being forced to move and leave the area, just as business was starting to pick up.
I have been able to struggle along, although again a little over a month behind in the rent, but pretty much holding my own. Sales were increasing but still sporadic. In July it all fell apart when my landlord said he is selling the house and he wanted me out by Aug. 1. Since it was already 7/23, I said fat chance, in a nicer way...that according to the lease I need 30 days notice. So I was basically safe til September 1.
During this time I have been trying to locate housing, but who is going to rent to a man without verifyable income. Alternatively I `ve contacted my brother and sister and began working on a plan. All through this I have had a number of orders finally come in...just when I had to concentrate on moving. Needless to say I have been working on the orders!
These orders have helped to build my war chest...now I can get a storage unit. The plan is to finish all remaining orders, and then move out to my brothers in Indiana. This keeps me close so I may be able to attend home Football games and sell some clocks to the tailgater`s out in the parking lots. It also keeps me close to my attorney...yes because of the situation and my creditors...I owe booku bucks. It is not that I do not want to repay them some day...but rather I cannot at this time.
Mid August I consulted an attorney on bankruptcy...it was a free consultation, prompted by a summons from one of my creditors and a subsequent 9/5/06 court date.The attorney informed me that no matter what I will get a judgement against me. But with no income there will be no garnishments until a job comes along. However, if anyone ever qualified for bankruptcy...it was me. He informed me that doing it will start to clear up my record, get everything off the books and I can start rebuilding,instead of carrying the debt and bad credit. My credit is already irreparable as is. He also said that having potential garnishments to deal with is a big turn off to many HR departments, and it could have an influence on whether or not I get a job at some places.... it looks like the thing to do. Being a WMU grad and fan, the attorney also agreed to take my case for one of those WMU Bronco football clocks instead of his regular fee. Another miracle for which I said a small thank you prayer. Him remembering reading my article in Dec `06 also helped a little.
Today, 08-28-07 I can finally check on a storage unit. There were no vacancies in my immediate area until this Monday, and I didn`t want to drive a lot of miles to another location, when this place was only 1/2 mile away...so I held out knowing a vacancy was opening up....they also have a deal where if I pay for 2 months I get a third free... and the first month is only a $1.00 right now...so essentially... for the price of one month and $1.00, I am good to go until Nov.1 2007.
Now because of the timing...this weekend, Saturday the day I am suppose to be out, all falls on Labor Day weekend.The help that I had lined up is not available for moving. Originally it was going to start on the 25th, but the unit wasn`t available, and at the time we didn`t realize the weekend of the first was Labor Day weekend...
So another postponement the landlord is not going to be happy with! I am sorry for that, but I don`t see that I have much choice but to stay an additional week through 9/8 or 9/9. Besides, my brother also informed me he will be out of town and won`t return to Mishawalka until Sept 6 or 7th.
I cringe at having to explain this to the landlord...but hey, I have no choice due to the circumstances. I am also disappointed because when the lease was renewed in April, they said they had no intention of selling. If I knew then I could have worked on finding another place, when I was financially a little better off than I was at the start of August!!!
Regardless... there is a plan out there for me, be it God`s, or destiny... but I now have a clear idea of what I want to do, my direction I want to go in, the right circumstances to clear up and rebuild my credit. Then Building a Business using the skills and abilities given to me by the Creator.
Maybe way to long... but this is my story. Anyone interested in personalized clocks, original art design for clocks, graphics works, or business relationships, I am interested in hearing from you. As I said.. I may be out of touch for times over the next couple months, but intend to remain a member of this community on-line... Once things settle down...it is full-speed ahead with "Picture-My-Heart", www.picturemyheart.com
Any leads, any help, any "free" promotion, any critques/recommendation of my site(s) to help build a better site will all be gratefully accepted.
Thank you all in advance for your support, understanding, time and patience!
Stephen M. Basly, Pres.
(PS... I am working on consolidating all these sites into one in the near future..to make it all more manageable and to create one web-presence...I think this is a better way to go...to focus...then when one succeeds...replicate it at that point...what do you think?...)
Check out and critque the possible future look of my home page at site at:
Stephen M. Basly, Pres., Picture~My~Heart
More Than A Clock... It`s ART! ClockART by Picture-My-Heart (www.picturemyheart.com).
I create Original Art,and Custom Personalized Clocks & Framed Prints (from your photo`s or digital images, forming a composite design with text and background).
THE GIFT FOR GIVING! Very UNIQUE!!