Sunday, June 17, 2012

Help Scraporium Win a $250,000 Grant!

You heard right, we have submitted our application to be in the running for Chase and Living Social's $250,000 Small Business Grant!  The next part is up to you, we need 250 votes in order for our application to reach the panelist of judges and we would love to go above and beyond that number in record time.  Show how much you support your favorite small business and vote for us, tell your friends, post it on Facebook, and vote vote vote!  Can you even imagine the amazing things we could do with that money?!  Think luxury cropping room, expanding the store, adding more parking, and actually having our own water source for the toilets!  So stop reading and go vote!

Log in with Facebook, serach for Scraporium, and vote.  Then share it on your wall, twitter page, etc!

Here's what we had to say about our lovely store :)

1. Tell us about your business; how successful is it and why is it unique?

Scraporium was the first scrapbook specialty store in the Tampa, FL area and after 13 years of business, while witnessing dozens of other stores open and close, we are now the only scrapbook specialty store left in the Tampa Bay area and still going strong.  Our business started with an owner who loved scrapbooking, an 800 square foot retail space, and two walls of paper and stickers to sell.  Over a decade later, we now own the building of our current location and occupy three quarters of the property, allowing 3,000 square feet of retail and classroom space.  Over the years, we have seen the scrapbooking industry rise and fall with the economy and have taken the time to learn our customer’s needs and adapt to the growing industry and fluctuating economy.

If you come in the store you will understand why people love to shop here, because of our outstanding customer service.  It is difficult for me to even use the word “customer” because  the people who shop at our store are friends, some of them even like family.  It has even been said of us that we are the modern day “Cheers”, “Where everybody knows your name”.  We are more than just a retail store, we are a social club, a classroom, a place for creative inspiration, a school project resource, a Pinterester’s dream, a therapist, a lunch break distraction from a busy day, and a place where you can always find a friend. 
Through the years, we have come to find out that scrapbook events are popular, fun, and our customers just love them!  So we work hard planning everything from all day crops to all night crops (yes, we scrapbook until 6:00am!), Alice in Wonderland weekends, and so much more.  We even took our customers on a scrapbook cruise complete with “celebrity” teachers .  However, our most anticipated and exciting event of the year is our Scrapbook Treasure Hunt in which we network with other scrapbook stores to create a 10 day pirate themed shop hop for over 900 women.  We spend months preparing for this, redecorate our store, and even have the owner’s husband dress up as Captain Jack (he does the best impression I have ever seen!) to take photos with all the women.  We just have so much fun at our shop, we absolutely love what we do and it shows.  

We are the most fun and unique retail store you will ever encounter.  Nowhere else can you have so much fun shopping, looking through hundreds of designer papers, and finding inspiration around every corner.  We are not just a scrapbook store, we appeal to everyone from scrapbookers to artists, to cardmakers, and all crafters in general.  Scrapbooking is about documenting your photos and memories creatively and that is open to so many interpretations.  It is just so exciting to think of how generations and generations will be able to enjoy these creations in the future.

 2. How is your business involved with the community you serve?

We love our community and strive to help out in any way we can.  We provide gift certificates, prize baskets, and our teaching services to dozens of charities including Joshua House Orphanage, local schools, local baseball teams, churches, inner city after school programs, Salvation Army, Kid’s Charity of Tampa Bay, and so many more.  We recently agreed to help out with the craft portion of a Self Esteem Girl’s Camp taking place this summer and we are very excited to teach girls the craft of scrapbooking and allowing them to discover how creative they are.  Every mom who has a fundraiser that requires donations asks us to give because we are a fun and unique prize and we are always willing to help out.

One of the biggest fundraisers we ever participated in was when the owner, Denise, ran for Lutz Guv’na.  This was a fun way to raise money for our community by putting on a mock election.  The winner was decided by the person who raised the most funds.  We put so much time and effort into this, organizing scrapbook events, auctioning off prizes, and even hosting an ice cream social.  We raised thousands of dollars for our community and had a ton of fun doing it.

Attending charity events is one of our favorite ways to spend the weekend.   One of our favorites is Krop for Kids which raises over $10,000 every year in a single day of scrapbooking.  We volunteer our time to host free mini classes, make ‘n takes, and demo products throughout the day as well as sitting on the committee to help in the nine month process of planning the event.  Raising all that money in a single day is impressive but we also really enjoy the Salvation Army weekend retreat each year.  Here we teach classes, give away prizes, and always give a donation to support their incredible ministry.  There are dozens more charity events we attend, donate to, or even advertise to our customers every year because scrapbooking is such a fun way to raise money.

As much as we love to give, our customers like to give even more.  We host a Christmas gift Angel Tree and School Supply drive every year and our customers give and give until all the names off of the tree are gone and the school supply box is overflowing.  The foster children we do this for are always generously taken care of with loads of gifts at Christmas and tons of school supplies.  We also hosted a day where people were encouraged to work on cards at the shop to send to Operation Write Home, a ministry that sends handmade cards to troops.  Ladies were bringing in boxes of handmade cards and we sent hundreds off to troops and had an amazing time doing it.  It’s so fun to see how giving these scrapbookers are with their time, money, and resources.

3. What would the Grant mean to your business plan and how would you utilize the funds to ensure long-term growth and stability?

This grant would undoubtedly be a humungous help in carrying out our creative vision for the store.  We are in a creative business and, expectedly, we are constantly dreaming up innovative ideas to get more people scrapbooking and ways to expand our store.  The most important effort to keep people coming in our shop is to order new product. This is where the majority of our money goes.  If you know anything about the growing scrapbook industry, you know that designers come out with new lines every few months and there is currently so much product out there that we could fill an entire Super Wal-Mart! We cannot fit all of that in our store so we have to choose wisely and get to know the needs of our customers.  With our constant product ordering, our shelves are always filled with designer papers, fancy embellishments, and beautiful albums but amidst all this, we have a leaky roof, an air conditioner that randomly quits working mid-July in Florida, and a well that recently dried up leaving us without toilets for weeks.  So we patch things up and pray that we can continue to “borrow” water from our neighbor, ignoring the $15,000 it will take just to have our own toilets working because we just don’t have the money.  This grant would help us out with so many of the issues that could eventually become detrimental to our business.

Apart from the boring improvements that need to be made, we also need to work on the visual aspect of our building.  We are currently in a small beige building that is very unnoticeable. Weekly I hear someone walk in our store and say that they have driven past it every day for months and never noticed what we were here and they are always surprised at how large and exciting the inside of the store is compared to the outside.  We help create and inspire beautiful and amazing works of art and we have dreams of our building reflecting that.  Grabbing the attention of the heavy amounts of traffic that pass by our store each day and getting people excited to come visit us will only help ensure that we continue to grow and get even more people scrapbooking and preserving their precious memories.

Making improvements to our store and carrying out our creative vision of a luxurious cropping room, expanding the store to the 1,000 square foot space next door to it, bringing in scrapbook “celebrity” teachers, and even just paying some of our volunteers who work for free will really give us that extra push we need.  We have been in business for over 13 years and I feel we have a really good sense of what our customers are looking for along with the ability to work with any economy we are faced with.  We are here to stay and cannot wait to see how far this grant will take us.

 4. What types of challenges can you identify with your business plan and how will you overcome them?

 The biggest challenge I can foresee with our business plan is growing too fast too quickly, this is the reason so many other stores closed down in our area.  Growing pains can be difficult sometimes and we certainly know about that.  We purchased a building, moved, and expanded our store when the economy was great then, unexpectedly, a few years later, things went downhill.  Then we were stuck with debt and the customers stopped coming as often since everyone knows that in a down economy, mom’s hobby will be cut first.  Although we always feel that preserving and documenting memories and photos are important no matter what the budget, their son’s baseball league and daughter’s dance team took precedence.  We managed through the tough time and even learned some smart ways to get people to keep shopping and now we know how to manage things when we see a big change coming.

One issue that will be and currently is a problem as our business grows is parking.  When the road was widened many years ago, half our parking lot went with it and now we are strapped for parking spaces any time we have a class or weekend event.  There are places around our building that can be turned into parking spaces but, again, that item of business is far down on our list.

For a business that everyone said was just a fad and we would close our doors in a year to what we have become now, I think we have faced and conquered many challenges and we have a good sense of what to do and what not to do.  We have learned to work with whatever economy we are faced with and continue to keep up with the trends of the industry and needs of our customers.   It’s taken over 13 years to get to that place and I am sure there will be other challenges we face along the way but we continue to survive despite what’s thrown at us and with the help of a generous grant, we can be even more successful in carrying out our dreams.

  5. Describe the talent on your team and how they make your business successful?

Our team of talent plays such a huge role in the success of our business.  We have so many talented people from those who teach classes, those who design store samples, those who demonstrate our new products, those who orchestrate big events, our blogger, and even those who just like spending their time at our shop giving us ideas.  We have several designers who sit at home and think up amazing projects like oversized three-dimensional tags, 12x12 page layouts, Artist Trading Cards, and so many other things that are probably a foreign language to someone who does not scrapbook.  They leave the projects they make at the store to inspire others to create their own designs.  Then we have teachers who make such fun and unique projects for classes such as a three dimensional strawberry pie made from paper, vintage mini scrapbooks complete with metal trimmings, flower displays made entirely of paper, and so many other fun and interesting techniques.  The teachers always keep up with the latest trends, scouring blogs, taking classes from professional designers, online classes from scrapbook “celebrities”, and anything else they can do to keep things new and exciting.  This draws customers and sells product like nothing else, people just love learning new tips and techniques.

We also keep things current by updating our blog almost daily and sending e-mails to an e-mail list of over 2,000.  We started doing this a few years ago when we decided to put all our efforts into keeping the store open and everyone seemed to have a blog so we jumped on the blog bandwagon and have been enjoying the ride ever since.  Women are so excited when we send e-mails and create new blog posts, they can’t wait to see what’s new in the store or what classes are coming up.  This takes a team of talented people to come up with the creative classes and another team to get them on the internet utilizing a blog, on online calendar, a mass e-mail, and even Facebook.

We also have a team of talented volunteers who help out with not just the creative aspect but also the tedious time consuming projects that take place.  When we have our annual Treasure Hunt, we spend so much time creating over 600 tags, page layouts, and more for all the treasure hunters who walk through our door.  We have a team of about 12 hardcore volunteers who put all of these things together for us at home on their own time.  Like I said, some of customers are like family and willing to help out in any way they can (more than some of my own family would be willing to help) because they love what we do and they couldn’t imagine life if we weren’t there.

1 comment:

Lynn D. said...

Fantastic! And...all of it true! We are very fortunate to have a local store that offers such a variety of product but we are even more fortunate to have a local store with so many wonderful employees and volunteers! I hope you win the grant! No one deserves it more than you and your team!