The Big Reveal – We’re Starting a New Company

Author: Kissa  :  Category: business, Career

I’ve been bursting with excitement the past month. In July, Charlie and I made some big changes that we’re going to officially launch in November after the wedding. Because of this huge change in our lives, it has forced us to really think about our future TOGETHER (which makes me so happy!). Yes, we’re excited for the wedding but we’re even more excited about what lies ahead for us.

In 2005, I started my event planning business: Daydreamer Events. We specialized in the planning and execution of social events, mainly weddings. In 2007, Charlie and I formed Inked Print & Graphics with the goal of creating a graphic design agency for small businesses. While DE was my focus and Inked was his, we saw ourselves crossing paths and sharing business responsibilities for both businesses. After attending MTH in November of 2010 it dawned on me, we should combine the businesses!

While this might not be a clear connection for some, it was clearly the right move for us. Both being in the creative field, Charlie and I came from FIDM with Graphic Design degrees (hence our Inked company). During college I held 2 jobs in the wedding industry which introduced me to my love for the business (which led to my creation of DE). Throughout the 4-6 years we were in business something just felt “off.” I knew that we had jumped into our businesses very quickly with no clear plan when we started. We were a very typical start up, one with lack of planning. As time went on and I learned more, I quickly realized that this wasn’t the way to go about a business. I then tried to set up a business plan for both businesses while trying to tackle our clientele but it still wasn’t working. I was finding that there were things that were already in motion that I later discovered I didn’t want to pursue.

During this time, I realized that I wanted to start fresh. I realized that I wanted to pursue something creative, both in the wedding and graphic design industries. I loved creating concepts for events and executing them. Showcasing the personality of each client through art, functionality, and aesthetic. Weddings should be about the couple, and I knew the goal of my company was to showcase just that. Every wedding we did from then on had 1 theme and objective – to showcase the couple through design. That’s when it hit me, branding and graphic design has the exact same objective as events. Our goal is to showcase the personality of the owners and what the company stands for through design. It was like a lightbulb that went off in my head!

Charlie came up with the name: Charlie Ortega and Carissa Ortega: Creative Cartel (CO: Creative Cartel). We decided to have 2 branches of this company, one for branding and graphic design and the other for event styling. We’ll be offering logo design services, marketing collateral design and printing, business card design and printing, web and blog design, among other things. The event styling company will be specializing in custom pieces. We’ll be offering comprehensive design services on-site as well as create custom lines that people can order from online. Our online shop will consist of different products with a design concept that people can purchase and give to their designer. Vases, cake toppers, hanging decor, wall decor, etc.

So when, do you ask, will all this be available? We’re planning on our official launch on Nov. 8, 2011. We’ll have our website up and ready to view. Soon after, our blog and online store will be available as well. We have a lot of fun things in store for people to be able to access online. And slowly, we’ll be revealing little by little prior to the launch what we’ll be up to. Be sure to follow us on Twitter for the latest updates!

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My Opinion on Websites

Author: Kissa  :  Category: advice, Career, Web Design

A lot has changed since I started coding websites. From what started as a hobby doing Geocities and Angelfire sites turned into an area of study and now a career. I am by no means an expert in all things web (which makes me want to brush up on different branches of web design)but I know what I like and don’t like. Working with small business owners, a lot of people are looking for a good central website that is an online representation of their business. But not just that anymore. They want websites to do much more now. They want it to generate traffic, bring in new customers, sell items, be a resource…they want it to shoot through a hoop of flames! And the best part is websites CAN do it. It’s absolutely amazing!

A lot of clients ask me what my take is with all the options out there for web. And my advice is simple – we need to figure out what you want to accomplish with your website. Do you want to have a blog? Do you want it to be interactive? Do you want it to be informational? Do you want to be able to edit the site yourself? Do you have time to stay up to date? Do you want to sell items on your site?

As a web designer here are my takes on the most common types of websites:

Exhibit A: Flash. I needed to put this first and say that I. DON’T. LIKE. FLASH. Yes, I know, hate me now. But I just think that a site made only on flash is hindering to any business’s internet potential for 1 simple reason: it is HORRIBLE for SEO. I think flash is great to implement on a regular site but otherwise, it’s just not logical for business. Flash sites are image based, search engines can’t pick up key words from images. They can be beautiful for personal sites, but if you’re trying to promote something or you want to have unique visitors come to your site, I just don’t recommend it because it’ll be harder for them to find you.

Ok, enough with the rant. :) Let’s move on.

Exhibit B: HTML. Geez, it has grown so much since I started working with websites. From tables to CSS to DHTML to XHTML to Java to PHP to HTML5…. It’s actually growing much faster than many can keep up with, including me. But, needless to say, the possibilities are practically endless. The great thing, in my opinion, is that HTML is the most basic form of language on the web. Why is this great? Because whatever your preference from the options of coding from above, it all starts with this language and grows from there. It’s like a tree with branches. As technology soars and more and more innovation is created with web-based development there is so much to choose from. Ok, so the main question probably is, “So what does this have to do with my business?”

As I said at the top of the post, it all comes down to 1 thing: what do you want to accomplish with your online presence? Simple. As. That. Based on the wants and needs of your company, your web designer should know what best suits your budget, time constraint, and goals.

A huge trend that I am seeing now in small business is many people wanting to edit their own sites after someone makes the initial template for them and publish it. My suggestion for this: WordPress. WordPress sums it up into 3 letters for me, w-o-w. There is so much that can be done with this platform. But the best thing that clients find so appealing is that they can log in and edit content, pictures, etc. as they see fit. Many end users are now using WordPress for not only blogging but their main sites as well. They’re able to create pages, link to their social media, and share information in an easy way.

So, you might be asking, “What type of websites do you use?” I love the flexibility and ease that WordPress provides (PHP based). I use this for 2 of my sites, this blog and He Said She Wed. Though these are both blog based websites, I have used WordPress in integration of actual websites as well which worked out nicely. I also love to stick with what I know, CSS. These 2 platforms have proven well for me, while I throw in a little Java here and there. This can be seen implemented on both my Inked websites, www.inkedprint.com and invite.inkedprint.com. But I do know that being in this industry sticking with what I know is never good enough. So we’ll see where the industry takes me in the next few months and years. :)

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2010 – A Stepping Stone

Author: Kissa  :  Category: Career, Personal

To think that I’m here, at the beginning of 2011 seems surreal. It feels like just yesterday I wrote my 2009 recap. Read it here.

To say the least, 2010 was a steep roller coaster. There were the high times and there were the low times. Here are some of the main events of this year:

Charlie and I have been engaged for a while now. We celebrated our engagement party with 100 of our close family and friends. That was one of the best nights of my life, seeing all our family and friends together in one place. See my recap of the engagement party on our wedding blog: He Said She Wed.

Charlie and I have been house hunting for over a year. We’ve gone in and out of multiple escrows and it was draining both mentally and physically. Those who read my blog regularly know that it’s been up and down. But at the end of the year (after lots and lots of praying), Charlie and I found a house and opened escrow. 4 days before Christmas Eve. What a great present for us! We’re expected to close escrow at the end of the month and cannot be more excited. We can finally put the house hunt behind us and really start focusing on us and our wedding. More on that later.

Ninong’s has been steadily growing this year. Our sales have continued to grow from our 2nd year in business and we did more wedding cakes than we’ve ever done! We have lots to plan and look forward to this year. More wedding cakes, more products, new hours. The business is finally in a place where we can set goals, take a look at the financials, seeing what’s working and what’s not, and grow and improve. I’m so proud of what we accomplished in 2010 and look forward to the new year. Here are just a few of the cakes we did:

This year, couldn’t have come to a better end. I was granted the opportunity to attend Making Things Happen in Los Angeles with Lara Casey, Emily Ley, and Gina Zeidler. Read about my experience here. I cannot even begin how to explain the magnitude of greatness this event has had on my life. I have met amazing people, learned so much, reached into my inner fears and wants, and it could not have come at a better time. God really blessed me with the chance to meet the amazing people that attended. It was a dream come true, something I thought I would never be able to be a part of. In the span of 2 short months post-MTH, I feel like I have done more than I did the entire year of 2010! I look forward to the everlasting friendships, relationships, experiences, opportunities, motivation, and accountability the MTH community has brought me. Thanks to them, I have more drive for 2011 than ever!

2010 was…tough. But I know now that I had to experience this year. It has taught me so much about being patient, inspired, motivated, friendly, outgoing, and kind. But it also showed me that fear is nothing to be scared of. It’s normal, but it’s what you turn that fear into that really makes the difference. Will you let it encompass your being and take over? Or will you harness that fear, be strong, find courage, and do something about it? So thank you, 2010. Thank you for teaching me and showing me. I will be a stronger person in 2011 thanks to you. The stepping stone that you provided into the new life I will lead this upcoming was a blessing.

2011: I’m coming for you. I’m ready. Yesterday, I busted out the MTH notebook, sat down for hours and I’m ready. My 2011 purpose is to take step 2. No more stepping stones, it’s about beginning and growth.

As Joe Swanson would say, “LET’S DO THIS!”

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Inked has a New Look!

Author: Kissa  :  Category: business, Career

For the past month, I’ve made some difficult decisions in my life. Life is changing personally and professionally. To be honest, I don’t know how I’ve been able to hang on as long as I have. Since then, I have seen more clarity, bonded closer to God, acted on my ideas, and reevaluated my professional career.

The moment I decided that I needed to make a change, I set myself up with a plan. A realistic plan. I’ve been working really hard to give all my businesses a new look, new feel, or new aura for 2011. I’m so excited for the new year that I can hardly contain myself. Soooo, I’m going to give a little sneak peak of what’s in store for Inked. Though I’m still a week and a half away from being ready I’m so floored! I’m so thankful for these last few days of 2010 as it has given me time to think, pray, and figure out what I want out of next year.

Inked is going to be taking on a new leaf in 2011 with 2 divisions of the business: Inked Print and Graphics and Inked on Paper. Inked Print and Graphics, in its 4th year of business, will continue to offer business solutions while Inked on Paper will focus on wedding and event invitations and personal stationery. Though I have been doing invitations on and off for the past 2 years I think I have finally found my calling in the world of graphic design and have decided to focus more time and energy into this facet of our business. Did I already mention I.AM.SO.EXCITED?!

So here’s a sneak peak of what I’ve been working on for the past week. I’ve been coding up a storm and finally have the websites where I want it. All that waits for me now is our launch on Jan. 1 and finishing up my collections. :)

I have forgotten my love for web design. Thankfully being a business owner has given me a chance to continue to work on this art. Ah, web design, good ol’ web design…how I love it. Not flash based web design, but true SEO compatible, fully coded, CSS filled web design. Gotta love it. More on this later. :)

Happy holidays everyone! Whatever holiday you celebrate, celebrate it with love, laughter, appreciation, and gratitude.

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Granada Hills Christmas Parade

Author: Kissa  :  Category: Career, Eye Candy

Sometimes I feel like my family’s bakery, Ninong’s, is in the perfect location. Granada Hills is very involved in its city and does many activities. Ever since I was a little girl…and maybe even before that…the city hosts their annual Christmas parade. They block off a big chunk of Chatsworth St. (from Hayvenhurst to Zelzah) and they have schools drill teams, cheer teams, bands, dance teams, as well as girl scouts, boy scouts, car clubs, business associations and so many more people come out to be a part of this parade. The parade always concludes with Santa being escorted by the city police (talk about VIP right?).

This was our 3rd year being in our shop for the Christmas parade and it was the best ever. Since we’re right in the middle of the action, the day of the parade is very, very busy for us. And we love it! This year, we decided to give gifts to our customers for sitting out in the rain/cold.

What a long day this was. By the end of the parade all of us were encompassed with exhaustion, but it was so much fun at the same time. Seeing familiar faces, seeing new faces, the reaction of when you give them something as a gift…all in Christmas spirit. It’s that feeling that I always strive to feel around this time of year.

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Making Things Happen “Happened”

Author: Kissa  :  Category: Career, Personal

I woke up 10 minutes before my alarm on Thursday. When that normally happens, I tell myself I have a little more time to sleep. But nope, not Thursday. It was a great day…the sun was shining, the weather was in its mid 70s, and I felt like a million bucks. I had been looking forward to this day for months.

I remember sitting in my bakery about 6 months ago and reading Lara’s blog about the first Making Things Happen Tour. I told my intern, Sarah, that one day I would be a part of this event. It was one of the events on my list that I knew I wanted to be a part of. In my head my participation in this event wouldn’t be for a while. I just wasn’t in a place financially to be able to afford it. Then, it happened. I saw Lara’s tweet about a scholarship and thought to myself, “Why the hell not?” Worst case scenario is I put out my life’s drama on to her ever-popular blog and I don’t get it. I knew I’d get to go eventually. So I got the courage from somewhere and spilled my heart out all over her blog:

Carissa: I’m a dreamer. I love to dream BIG. When I decided I wanted to be an entrepreneur 5 years ago, I had no doubt in my mind I was doing the right thing for me. I was fortunate enough to have found the wedding industry and all the great people that work in it at an early age. Since then, the people I have met, the things I have learned, and the clients I have worked with confirmed that this is where I’m supposed to be. But 3 years ago, things started to change. My mom and my dad lost their jobs within months of each other. My fiance (boyfriend at the time) and I didn’t think that it would be much of a problem for my parents, they’re very strong and have taught me everything I know (not just how to be a successful entrepreneur, but how to value family, friends, and all the blessings God gives). But as time went on, things just weren’t getting better. I talked to my boyfriend and told them I needed to help them – in any way I can. We agreed it was the least we could do after all they had done for us, and just because of the mere fact that they mean everything to me. We talked about our plan for the future and my parents decided to take a leap of faith and invest into opening a bakery since my family has been baking for over 30 years in the country where they were from. Long story short, we made it happen. Our family opened the bakery in October of 2008 and all of us put our heart and soul into our business every day. We’ve slowly been growing and are continuing to grow, which makes all of us happy. But all of our savings (including my parents’ savings and retirement) has been exhausted into the business. There were many bumps in the road in opening the bakery and it required money, a lot of money. And though we are growing at a steady pace, the bakery still requires us to invest a good amount of money to pay for the expenses. We all knew it was an investment and we all agreed that it would be worth it. We believe in what we have to offer that much, but my fear would be that what we have isn’t enough and we would have to close down. If we did, my parents would have no savings to fall back on and I feel like we’re backed into a corner. Because of the bakery, I’ve had to put my business on a temporary hold to help them until they are on their feet and my fiance works many many hours to help us stay afloat. I know that the MTH tour can change my life. Not just mine, but my whole family. I have been following the tour since the first one and know that there is so much opportunity that presents itself through this intensive. What’s funny is I know what I need to do, I know the dreams I have can come true, but sometimes the opportunity is bigger than you. Twitter: devents July 26, 2010 4:34 pm

Wow, what a drama queen. :P Anyway, I was dying to know the results. A little while later, Lara announced the winner…and it wasn’t me. So I just felt enormous jealousy for the person (haha!) that won and reminded myself that I will be able to attend some day, it just wasn’t my time. Well, low and behold I get a call from an unfamiliar number a few days later and it was Lara on the other end! I couldn’t believe it! She explained the situation and gave the opportunity enabled me to go. I was floored!

So here we are, back at November 11, 2010. Thursday. That was the day. The day I felt…no, the day I knew…would change my life. I didn’t know what to expect, I didn’t know anyone that had already attended, but I knew I was excited. I made a video of my experience from the day, and though I was terrified I felt the fear and did it anyway as we would say.

MTH2010 Los Angeles – Carissa from Carissa Solomon on Vimeo.

After it was all over I felt…overwhelmed, loved, pumped, excited, grateful…and so many more feelings. I just remember at the end of the intensive telling Lara that I felt like I needed to take a deep breathe and exhale. And when I exhaled, it just felt like so much. So much so that I couldn’t get it all out. It took me 3 days to really take it all in.

For me, Making Things Happen “happened” at the perfect time. A time where I need to remind myself what I’m all about. A time where I need to be the person I was before all those negative things happened in my life. These realizations became evident as I let it marinade in my mind and my heart. Even Charlie said I was changed. He said I’m starting to become the person I used to be, the person I want to be.

This journey is far from over. It’s step 1 of my journey. But hey, that 1 step was probably the biggest step I’ve had to make. I can’t wait for everything that is on its way. I’m ready to get the momentum going!

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ME – Kissa – Entrepreneur

Author: Kissa  :  Category: business, Career, Personal

I’m taken away..taken away to a place I have not had the opportunity to visit for a long time. And I miss it here.

I anticipated it before I even walked through the Westin LAX that yesterday would be a life changer. But I was wrong. It wasn’t just that. In a way, it was more of a “taking me back to a life that I was happy with” sort of day. A much needed reminder…no…eye-opener. But enough of that. Yesterday’s events deserve its own post dedicated just to that. Stay tuned for that later today. :)

I am itching, though, to show off ME. And yesterday is helping me to investigate who that is. I’m not really sure who “me” is just yet. And I don’t know, maybe it’s just going to be a continuous soul search. What I’ve come to realize is that’s okay. I need to appreciate and love who I am now, who I was, and who I will be. Thank you to everyone that touched my life yesterday. I have all of you to thank for that.

Yup, this is me. HELLO WORLD! Nice to meet you. :)

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What the Hell is Going on?!

Author: Kissa  :  Category: business, Career, Personal

2011 is fast approaching, I know you feel me on this one. Before I know it November will be over. Thanksgiving, Black Friday festivities, a move to a new house, a long string of shows and performances, and a possible vacay in Vegas will be behind me. And yes, you guessed it, that’s JUST November’s agenda. Then here comes December, with the Christmas shopping, the holiday card printing, the orders of pastries by the dozen, the time with family and friends, the parties, and the hustle and bustle that everyone goes through to end the year “on a good note” as a good omen for 2011 comes in a near second in the race.

Well, I’m no different. I want to set that good omen for next year. Today, a few minutes before I decided to write this post, I am making plans. The days of my living day by day are now over. The plans for the future are what’s most important, and first on the agenda: PRIORITIZE. I’ve got to funnel some things out. I have to evaluate what is most important to me and make the magic happen. I’ve realized 2010′s theme was running around like a chicken with its head cut off. So for the record, it ends here. I’ve got to do my damage control, clean up a few messes, capitalize on opportunities, and start running. I’ve got to make the decisions, hard decisions, that will shape my future and be good for the long run instead of search for instant gratification now.

My life is changing and though I know this it’s hard to admit. Sometimes the things I hang on to is that part of my adolescence, my start in my career, the things people tell me I shouldn’t let go, but have to. As time goes on, it becomes more and more difficult for me to figure out where I belong. And I think these 2 months left in 2010 will be a push in the right direction. Okay maybe not a push, because I feel I’ve already got that. But more of a momentum to keep me going. Thankfully I’ll have the Make Things Happen Tour coming up in a week. I think it’s coming at just the right moment in my life.

SO, here is me. Just me. Being proactive. I’ve made this declaration..to myself and the internet. And I know what I’ve got to do. So beware, step 1, I’m coming for you.

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What Do I Do?

Author: Kissa  :  Category: Career

Good question! I get asked this all the time, especially from people that I recently meet and start to know better. I like to call myself an entrepreneur. Just because I love many different things and because of that have started many businesses. I know this will always change but, as of now, this is what I do. Professionally and personally, I guess I wear many hats. But that’s because I love to learn new things, experience new things, and enjoy life. Can you blame me?!

Let’s just talk professionally here.

I’m a wedding and event planner. I own my company, Daydreamer Events, and it is in its 5th year of existence. I’ve planned weddings and events all over LA/OC and Hawaii but hope to do events in different areas as well.

I co-own a company with my fiance called Inked Print and Graphics. We started the company in 2007 and do all kinds of graphic design, print, and business solutions. We started this business to continue to express our love for graphic design post-college. Since its inception, we’ve gained a a list of regular customers while still meeting new ones. The thing I love about graphic design so much is there’s more to it than people think. People think that anyone can do it but it takes skill and a keen eye to have good design, in anything.

I help run and manage my family’s bakery called Ninong’s Pastries and Cafe. This is definitely one of my biggest achievements to date. When the economy took a turn for the worse, my family took a chance on what we love to do: bake and cook. We are beginning to grow (and are still growing) into a running force in our area. I’m so proud of my family for believing in what we have to offer and taking a big risk despite everything going on around us.

I am also a student, a student of God and a student of education. When I graduated from college in ‘05 I never thought I’d go back. I learn something new every day and before my return to education, I felt like I was beginning to hit a stand still. It took me almost 2 years to decide to return just to get some classes under my belt, but I’m so glad I did it. Why is this such a big deal to me? Because it was such a big change, and I’m afraid of change. But this experience is helping me to learn that change is nothing to be afraid of. Actually, it’s something that can make you stronger. As long as you take as much as you can out of the experience. I’m starting to see that God has a way of helping me to see what I need to do to achieve the goals I set for myself. He is truly good.

I’m experiencing life in a whole new way. Thanks to every one I meet, the people that have come and gone, and the people that stay in my life, I’m changing for the better. I’m learning to break free from my boundaries and ready to run head first into the future! :)

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