The Great Recession     22 March, 2010, 12:15 am
A frequent question that Susan and I get asked in the booth is, “How are you doing in these economic times?” The short answer is fine, now. We have really changed our business in the past two years to stay viable. In 2008 we had six persons, full and part time, working at Literary Calligraphy. Today there are four of us.

We’re just like all of the other small U.S. businesses that you read about in the newspaper. We struggle to pay rising health care costs while we slash other business expenses. We didn’t print a color catalog last year. We skimped on road maintenance in the fall and paid for it during this winter of mud and potholes.

The key to surviving this “Great Recession” is to keep costs low and increase revenue. Three years ago we maxed out on the number of shows that Susan and I can do in a year. Now we keep the number of shows the same while seeking more profitable shows. We invested in having our jury slides manipulated by a professional. Getting in the top summer shows really can make a difference in the bottom line in December.

The internet has always been a plus for us, going back to the 1990s. We already had a small catalog, and it transferred easily to the on-line world. Internet sales are still driven by show sales – there’s not that many people out there looking for framed literary quotes on their own. But once they see Susan’s work, and understand what Literary Calligraphy is, then they may come back.

On cutting costs, one of the major changes we made is framing more in the booth. Instead of taking an order to ship later, we can now frame most orders during the show. I must say that I was a bit nervous about taking “face time” away in the booth at first. However, once I looked at the numbers, there wasn’t any other choice. On the plus side, our collectors like this because they can make more informed frame choices and take their item home from the show. And I’ve come to enjoy the hands-on tasks in the booth as well; woodworking has always been a source of pleasure in my life.

The other frequent question we get is, “How long are you going to do this?” I’m 62 now and don’t plan on doing anything differently until say, age 66. Then maybe we’ll do fewer shows, but we do have friends enjoying doing shows into their 70s and even 80s. At about 75, according to my friend Stan Rogge, it gets harder and harder to get ready for a show. I can see that this could be a big problem. So I guess my answer is to ask me again in 2022 on my 75th birthday.
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