The adventures and musings of an aspiring shoe designer

Portfolio additions

Some of these drawings go back two to three years.

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It feels like it has been forever since I posted so I wanted to take a moment and thank everyone for your personal emails and well wishes. One of the reasons I needed to take some time is that I have been dealing with a medical condition that forced me to stop and slow down. I needed to get back in touch with all of my priorities and reassess the direction of my path to suit all of my passions and goals.

I believe that after all the testing and visits to doctors, labs and hospitals that we have finally found the cause of the problems. After many scares of cancer I am happy to report that it is not cancer but will still require major surgery. I will be having that surgery next week and be released from the hospital by the end of the week. I am hoping for a speedy recovery as I look forward to getting back to my life or perhaps a more enlightened version of my life.

I Surrender

Through much contemplation I have decided that it is within my best interest to take a breather and stop trying so hard to make the shoe design business work.  I have come to realize that sometimes the harder you try the more you miss the reason you enjoy it in the first place.   I have learned through this process that there are more important things in my life and none of them have to do with getting anything more than I already have.

These are some of my visions and I know just how they should look.  I find the ideas come naturally, the drawing and specifying a little more difficult, but the execution well; this is the difficulty.  I am well aware that the execution is what makes or breaks them.  Through many lessons that I could share one day, I have learned that I alone do not possess all the necessary elements to make this work at the level to which I aspire. 

I am finding that although I know it is possible for me accomplish what I wish, it comes at a cost I am unwilling to pay.  I would love to see these shoes come to life but, in order for that to happen I would need the right team around me.

If someone wishes to steal the designs, so be it.  I know better than most what it takes to make this happen and not just anyone can do it, regardless of the money spent or the willingness to learn.  I am at peace knowing the designs are mine. 

The way I see it, they will either become a bad knockoff and will not look as intended or I will find the person(s) who can turn them into reality.  If the latter were to happen without credit to me, I will still be at peace.

Should my drawings find their way to the team of people who can make this work and should they think I have enough talent to invest the time into developing the designs and the designer that would be one dream come true.  If not, I accept what is and what will be.   

In any case, I am taking the time I need right now to gain balance in my life. I will gladly share more of my drawings when I have the time and inclination to do so.

Balance

It has been eight days since my last post and I am writing this one to say that although I will still continue to blog I need to create more balance in my life. If I intend on having any time to devote to starting this business again I need to apply more focused effort and reduce my task list drastically, which means the blog will be less frequent.

Like many wives and mothers I continually face the struggle of attempting to wear many hats and often times I find when the balance is off, not much is accomplished. I am making a conscious effort to take many things off of my to do list, decide what is important and what is not, so that I may begin on much more sold ground.

Monte Carlo

After all that negativity I thought it would be nice to share something positive. These pictures were taken on a trip to Monte Carlo a couple of years ago some of the pictures are in Nice but most are in Monaco.  This was my first trip out of the country and a wonderful experience all around. I found myself speechless and in absolute awe at the beauty we saw during our visit. Enjoy!

The lesson is complete

My first thought was to let her go; in fact this is probably the best thing that could happen.  Like Maya Angelou says, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.”

I weighed everything in my mind, and then I went to talk to my uncle.  He has run his own company successfully for as long as I can remember so I wanted to ask him how he thought I should handle the situation.  More than anything I think I needed permission of sorts by someone I respect to do what I knew I had to do. 

Sometimes I find that I tend to get stuck in a place like this simply because I don’t know what to do afterwards, the uncertainty of what’s next can be very powerful.  I always feel much better when I have a plan or at least the inkling of the next step or two.  

One of the things he said to me was exactly what I needed to hear, “Business is hard enough; you have to constantly watch your back.  Usually enemies come from outside but, when you realize you have an enemy in your camp; you have to get rid of them, the longer she stays the more damage she can cause.” 

I finally woke up and realized that surely she wasn’t the only person who has the knowledge that I needed; her price was too high in many ways.  I knew without a doubt that regardless of what she brought to the table, I never have and never will, need anyone that much.

As I mull this over I ask myself “what is the lesson here?  It is crystal clear, I needed her to be that outrageous, that ridiculous in order for me to stand up and say unequivocally, this will not be tolerated.  The fact that she had done so many other things and I had allowed it gave her permission to walk on me and this was far more a fault of mine than it was hers.

Once I made the decision to let her go, I felt such relief, until that moment I hadn’t realized just how heavy the burden had been.  All those little things, the moments where I felt uneasy, the times where I willingly allowed this to go on I had been carrying that around unconsciously and it was quite the load.  I have found, as I’m sure you have, that you know you’ve made the right decision when once it’s made you exhale and feel a sense of peace and lightness.  I felt light as a feather when I called her that day and then sent a follow-up email with a written version of what I had said on the phone.

Hi Mary,

 I have attached my formal acceptance of your resignation letter for your records.  As I said in our conversation, I will not worry about the 2 hours of services that are still owing, please consider it a gesture of goodwill.  I wish you the best in all of your future endeavors.

Below is the resignation letter excluding greetings and legal formalities.

This letter is to acknowledge receipt of your letter of resignation dated June 6, 2009.  I accept your resignation and wish you the very best in the future. 

As a reminder it is implied in our consultant agreement that non-disclosure of Ventrano, LLC. Company information remains in force indefinitely.

Some may be wondering why I let the two hours go in light of everything but, this was not me being naive.  I have learned lessons before this and what I know for sure is that I would not get my money from her without engaging her in battle and frankly, it isn’t worth it.  I also thought she might attempt to bill me for some unknown reason and it could turn into a he said, she said.  I wanted to preempt that with an acknowledgement of her owing me time, because she had in fact shown me who she was and this time I believed her.

I was given one thousand percent assurance I had made the right decision as this was the email I received within minutes of the acceptance of resignation.  All emails with the exception of name changes are copied exactly, misspellings and all.

Kathy Jo,

Thank you for the letter. I have sent a letter to Dillard’s and to my Nordstrom contacts as well as my other contacts stating my resignation form all aspects of Ventrano shoes

Please make sure X bank is notified that I will no longer be acting on your behalf of Ventrano shoes and all projected sales with Dillards will no longer be honored

Best of luck with your company,

Mary

When I don’t respond I get this email

Kathy Jo,

I have just read your letter and at no time have I agreed nor signed any consultant agreement with you or your company. If you have such document please forward it to me immediately.

 My consulting was just that consulting and anything I disclose from our meetings is information owned by her company name.  

Nothing can be implied as an agreement of non-discloser since I had no formal contract with Ventrano,LLC. indefinitely or other wise.

If you wish to discuss further we can set up a meeting at my office,

Sincerely,

Mary

In response, I forward a copy of our consultant agreement but, say absolutely nothing.

Kathy Jo,

This is my contract with you, not a contract for the safety of Ventrano, LLC or from Ventrano, LLC. This contract only applies to her company name, my consulting fees and liabilities and the protection of her company name. It does not state anywhere that I cannot use any of the information developed during our meetings. Nothing can be applied or considered non-discloser by Ventrano, LLC with this contract since it was not issued by Ventrano, LLC and does not state this coverage.

Again, Nothing can be implied as an agreement of non-discloser since I had no formal contract with Ventrano,LLC. indefinitely or other wise.

Sincerely,

Mary

I decide to stay silent as I know that engaging at this level is bound to cause me more aggravation and to be honest, I have better things to do.  I figure eventually she’ll tire herself out and I can make better use of my time by not letting anger get the better of me.  In my younger days I might have jumped into battle but, sometimes the battle isn’t worth the effort.  I was able to let the anger go almost immediately.

More than anything I was grateful and felt like I should thank her.  Thank her for teaching me that I need to be wary of people like her and how her nice, sweet façade quickly faded to such nastiness.  I should thank her for being so obvious, had she went about this in a more intelligent fashion I may have given her everything, who knows.  I was grateful that this happened when it did, as opposed to launch week or some other time where I might have felt more insecure.

 I was grateful for the lesson early on the path to watch my back and to pay attention to the signals that indicate people are motivated for reasons other than presented.  I’ve always known this but she had sold herself well and I am forever grateful to her for this lesson.  I believe that she was absolutely the best teacher I could have had at that moment; it was obviously a much-needed lesson. 

I know the truth of the Buddhist proverb “When the student is ready the teacher appears.”  I think we usually look at this from a different perspective but when I look back on my life, the best teachers I have had and the strongest lessons I’ve learned have come in the form of someone who is not so nice.

 

What she does say really takes me by surprise. She begins by saying how she has no doubt that my company will be successful and I will be rich and famous.  But ………I don’t see you and your husband staying together. Well that’s straight out of left field, I can’t even imagine why she is saying this and I am starting to wonder if she is crazy.  I just stared at her in utter disbelief, I dropped her off and she was still clueless as to what I might be thinking.

After I dropped her off I can’t quit thinking about her proposal, should I give her 10% plus $50 an hour this doesn’t feel right at all.  What if I say no and she quits then what will I do?  I start thinking about all the times where she overcharged me or steam rolled over me and I let her get away with it.  I should have put a stop to it sooner, I am disappointed in myself. Every time I turn around she’s finding a new way to take more, more money, charge more time and now this.  My first instinct was to say “hell no” and after thinking about it all day I was still struggling with it the next day. 

At this point I decide to ask Amy for advice but, she can’t meet with me until lunch on Friday.  I should be thinking about the loan but all I can think about is Mary, I am very unsettled all week.  I just keep thinking that if I do this she will keep upping the ante but if I don’t then she will quit.  I have a feeling she is threatening me, she isn’t saying it but that’s the energy around not only this incident but looking back at other things that’s the general feeling I have. 

June 5, 2009

 I meet with Amy for lunch and I bring my contract with Mary so Amy can look it over.  Amy was very concerned that although we have a consultant agreement, it doesn’t say specifically that she cannot use her knowledge of my company.  She checks on the laws regarding this in my state and it is implied that consultants are bound by non-disclosure.   I need to have all my ducks in a row before I make a move.  Amy and I discuss at great length what I should do. 

Amy had some strong opinions after the meeting with the bank.  Her take was that Mary was way overstepping her bounds as a consultant. Amy thought that Mary wanted this to be her company and that if you didn’t know better you would think that Mary was the owner and that I worked for her.  She made some comments about it being the Mary show and that Mary came off as not credible and very arrogant.  Which was also my opinion but it’s nice when someone else feels the same way.

 We discussed getting a non-disclosure in place with Mary; my idea was to say the bank wanted to see a contract and non-disclosure to add to my loan documents.  After talking to Amy the consensus was that I would just tell Mary very nicely that I cannot afford to pay $150 an hour even though I think you are fantastic and are worth it (not really, but she is ego driven I think this approach best).  I was also going to nicely say that I didn’t want to give up any ownership in my company and remind her that was why I was trying to get a loan first.  But that worse case I might have to bring in investors and I would need that for potential investors now or in the future.  I was going to tell her that we could revisit the $150 an hour when the company became profitable.  I still was feeling uneasy and kept contemplating ways to handle this situation so that I would feel better. 

June 6, 2009

I get woken up by the sound of my phone at 7:55 am on a Saturday (obviously this person doesn’t know me very well.)  Then I see its Mary and all I can think is “I can’t deal with you right now.”  I let voicemail pick it up.”  As I’m making coffee I decide to see what is so important and when I hear her message my heart starts pounding. 

She has just got off the phone with her friend who is a PR person who had recently recommended someone to me and after 2 meetings the lady totally flaked.  Anyway, in the message it states that her friend suggested to Mary.  “You could do the PR, you are a writer you are a marketing person.”  So Mary barrels on about how she can take over marketing and PR and advertising she just needs to set aside time on her schedule. 

I panic “thinking oh my God this is how she’s going to take all my money.”  She wants 10% she wants $50 an hour and now she will start taking marketing, advertising and PR to the tune of who knows how much.  In my panicked state I think I have to stop her and stop her now.  Although we have a meeting on Tuesday knowing Mary she will say on Tuesday that she has worked all weekend and here is the new bill. 

As it stands I paid her $250 on Tuesday June 2nd and since she spent an hour with me at the bank and an hour telling me how she wants my business and an hour for lunch (I paid of course) she still owes me 2 hours and I think that’s beyond generous on my part. 

So I call her back and tell her that I have a friend that is a writer and I would like to have her to do these tasks.  To which she replies “well if she doesn’t work out let me know.”  Then she goes on to say that she is a writer her husband was just saying that to her.  Remember the paper she wrote on her cancer the doctor wants her to write another one for his patients. 

Then she says that since she is asking to be a bigger part of the company she wants to start doing more.  This would be a good offer if she wasn’t also adding billable hours to me at $50 per hour. 

I very nicely say I don’t know how to say this, I’ve been thinking about her proposal and I would love to have the money to pay her $150 an hour because she is worth it. But as she already knows I don’t have that kind of money.  I explain that I don’t want to give up any control of my company, I remind her about the loan and then point out that I might have to use shares of the company to get started.  The loan isn’t in the bag yet and even though I don’t want to, I might have to sell shares of the company to raise capital. 

That’s when she very clearly tells me that she has other designers wanting her time and that she is getting to a point in her life where she needs security.  She needs to know that she’s making more than an hourly wage and that she will give me until Tuesday to decide but if I don’t give her the 10% she will have to resign on Tuesday.  I say I will think about it and see you on Tuesday.  Within the hour I get this email copied exactly as written misspellings and all.

Hi

I don’t want to leave the conversation the way we did over the phone,

As per my request for shares of the company, this is what I need to continue. My roll in helping you get to where you are has been enormous, for which I have been compensated at a fraction of my normal fee. I did this to help you get started, but now in order for me to continue with you I will need to know that my time and knowledge is worth more the an hourly wage. If you do not feel you need my consulting to continue and grow your company to its fullest potential then we can part ways. I have no ill feelings about this and I hope you do not either. It is just business.

Please let me know your decision by Tuesday, if you do decide to not continue with my services you will need to revise your plan and remove my name from your business plan.

Well there you have it my friend, the ultimatum.  I was so angry when I saw this I thought I would blow.

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