Prairie Glass Studio Celebrates Fifth Anniversary

Original article posted to the Topeka Capital-Journal June 10, 2017.

Artistic ability shown at an early age has helped Kymm Ledbetter in her life and business, allowing her to create a world for herself and the community by producing beautiful fused glass art.

“I was born with it,” said Ledbetter, designer and owner of Prairie Glass Studio, when asked about her love of art.

0C5A0858-copy-e1429718650340She grew up in Orange County, Calif., and enjoyed scrapbooking before many people knew about the craft. She has created all of her life and finds art soothing and fulfilling. Even during a recent vacation, she was sketching ornament patterns to create in her store for Christmas.

Her goal is to make her store a destination for people to come and shop for handmade ornaments and gifts.

“I always loved to make things. My dad or my mom would always take me to the craft store, and I’d buy stuff to make things. I’ve made things all my life,” she said.

Ledbetter graduated from Washburn University in 2000 with a bachelor’s degree in fine arts. After her divorce, when her children were 3 and 5 years old, she decided to go back to college and learn more about art. She had attended college for six years and taken all of the required art classes some years earlier.

“I didn’t get a degree and still didn’t find my love, my passion. I was 34 or 35 when I was at Washburn and had a background in graphic design. I took a pottery class with Glenda Taylor, and she literally held up a piece (of fused glass) and I said, ‘That’s what I want to do the rest of my life,’ ” she said.

After graduating, she taught summer camps for children in the basement of her home and had a business for 12 years before she got her brick-and-mortar studio. Her dining room table and chairs sit in her store to give it a homey feel, like the days when she worked with clients at her residence.

“I taught about 10 years at Washburn and haven’t taught for two years. I just asked if I could teach, and Glenda told me I would need a master’s. Later she came to me and informed me she had gotten approval for me to teach the fused glass art class,” Ledbetter said.

When asked about the market for the art she creates in Topeka, she said her customers like conservative and familiar pieces, such as sunflowers. “Anything with a sunflower on it, and they also like things that function and serves a purpose, such as salt and pepper shakers, oil bottles, spoon rests, wine stoppers. All those things you can use every day. I found there’s a big need for that,” Ledbetter said.

She also creates awards and recognition pieces for the ARTSConnect Arty Awards, the Greater Topeka Chamber of Commerce and others.

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“They’re really creative. I can usually have fun with those, learn about the person and what they’re like and then kind of interpret that, so that’s cool,” she said.

Ledbetter has seven part-time employees, including her daughter, Rachel Ledbetter. “She’s very talented and creative, and she loves to paint,” she said.

Her son, Jake Ledbetter, enjoys learning anything about cars. He works on them and then sells them after he determines he can’t do any more to them as a project. “He’s probably had 25 cars at least, maybe 30, that he’s owned and sold and not made a dime on any of them,” she said.

Ledbetter recently celebrated her business’ anniversary. The store held its grand opening during the June First Friday Artwalk five years ago.

“I’m here, where I’m supposed to be, for a reason,” she said.

When asked about being in business for five years, she said, “It’s just what I do every day. You just don’t really think about it.”

People are invited to visit the store and create a small piece of fused glass that will be incorporated into a large, contemporary windmill to be displayed in the shop. The business is located in the garden level of the Historic Crane Building at 110 S.E. 8th Ave. Anyone 6 years old and up can go to the store and create art.

For information, visit prairieglassart.com.

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Export: A Growth Area for Small Businesses

 

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According to the U.S. Commercial Service, small businesses “have vast untapped export potential.” Despite the fact that many people associate international trade with large companies, big businesses make up only a small portion of U.S. exporters. Although fewer than 1% of U.S. businesses export, small to medium-sized businesses account for 98% of the number of U.S. businesses exporting. This should encourage small business owners who view the prospect of entering global markets as terribly daunting. Export is not just the purview of large firms. When managed properly, exporting can be advantageous to small businesses with respect to increasing their profitability, being able to expand their number of employees and pay more competitive wages, and also potentially minimizing risks due to with fluctuation in the U.S. economy. (More statistics about U.S. exporting can be found through the U.S. Census Bureau.)

Manufacturing and wholesale exporting are two arenas in which small and medium size businesses are engaged in exporting. It is not just products that can be exported, however. Due to advances in technology, services are a fast growing area for international trade. Travel and tourism, education, graphic design, environmental services, and professional services such as architecture and engineering are some examples of services that can be exported. (Read more about services exported.)  This is definitely something that service-based small businesses should consider.

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Washburn University KSBDC is pleased to be bringing The Riddle of The Exporter training to Manhattan on July 28th. John Addessi, Certified Global Business Professional and Business Advisor with the JCCC KSBDC, will present important information that small businesses need for participating successfully in the export market. Topics covered include how to determine which markets to enter, how to handle financial arrangements and work with banks, how to figure out the best freight arrangements, how to manage cultural differences, and more. This seminar is a great introduction for businesses looking to enter the export market with their products or services. It is also an excellent resource for businesses already involved in exporting that are wanting a refresher course or are wanting to expand the knowledge base within their company.

Cost for the seminar (including materials and lunch) is $199. Register here.

STEP (State Trade and Export Promotion) Grants are available for qualifying businesses to help defray costs of attendance. For more information about applying for STEP Grants, contact our office at ksbdc@washburn.edu.

We would like to thank Commerce Bank in Manhattan and the Manhattan Area Chamber of Commerce for helping us to sponsor The Riddle of The Exporter training.

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At the Washburn KSBDC, we provide training and advising on topics of importance to small business owners, including entering and managing export issues.

 

Laurie Pieper, Ph.D.

Business Advisor

Washburn University

Kansas SBDC

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Social Media and Employer Brand

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In the age of social media ubiquity, the world of hiring has undergone (and continues to undergo) drastic changes. Instead of searching newspaper classifieds, many job seekers now do Google searches, check out sites such as Indeed.com and Glassdoor.com, check out reviews of companies as employers, or go directly to their desired employers’ website – though, at this time, newspaper ads may still the best places for trying to fill certain types of positions. Companies can search for talent on Linked-In or boost jobs ads to a targeted demographic group on Facebook.    Being positioned to successfully hire the right employees, however, can require more than just getting a catchy ad in front of the intended audience. Employer brand can influence potential hires and is something to be managed even when there are not current job openings. Moreover, despite the tremendous potential of social media for those involved in hiring, there is also plenty of room for missteps that can explode in a hurry. Safe and effective use of social media requires forethought and smart decisions.

Your employer brand is part of your company image and as such is something that you want to manage. Given this, you want to actively produce content that shows your company in a positive light.

Tips for Polishing Your Employer Brand on Social Media.

• Post about what makes yours a great company.   Is it an industry leader? An industry leader in the region? What is special about the products you make and/or the services you offer? Do you do something unique or innovative? What is your company’s mission? What are its values?What role does it play in the community? Is it beloved in the area? What are things to your employees really appreciate about your company culture?

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• Demonstrate that you support your employees.  Show off their professional accomplishments. Highlight professional development opportunities and career paths within the company. What are special perks that your employees appreciate? What distinguishes you from other employers? What events do your employees really enjoy? How is it that what you have to offer employees not just another job? What is it that you have that employees are looking for?

• Choose the right social media platforms, relative to the type of content that you are sharing, the image that you want to promote, and the audience that you want to reach. For example, blogs on company websites are great places to feature professional achievements and professional development opportunities and allow you to share the content on Linked-In and Facebook. Pinterest and Instagram, on the other hand, might be a great places to show off gorgeous pictures of your products.

Further Tips to Keep in Mind

• Recognize that you do not have complete control over your employer brand and know how to respond effectively and appropriately when it seems out of control.

• Educate your employees, at all levels, about your rules, guidelines and best practices for their work-related and their personal social media use. Anytime any employee gets on social media, that employee is potentially representing your company. Developing and implementing a sensible social media policy that fits your company’s mission and values, and is appropriate for its industry, can save pain all around.

• Don’t be overzealous in trying to restrict your employees’ social media use. The National Labor Relations Act protects “concerted activities,” i.e. activities in which 2+ employees are organized to improve their work conditions. So, though as an employer you may have a legitimate interest in controlling what information your employees share on social media, there are limits to what you can prohibit.

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• When crafting and boosting your ads, and looking at candidates’ profiles on social media keep in mind the provisions of the Equal Employment Opportunities Act. Avoid potentially discriminatory practices that open your business up to lawsuits.

• Remember that social media are still rapidly evolving and that your social media strategies and policies need to be updated as platforms, user behaviors, and legislation change.

Businesses must be willing and able to adapt to the changing cultures in which they exist, but in the hurry to get ahead of the competition (or at least to keep up with it), such as by getting out front in social media marketing of job opportunities, they need to remember to play it smart.

 

 

 

 

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5 Rules of Design

The line between good design and bad design can be crossed by simply using the wrong font. Design, just like any other profession out there, has rules to it, and breaking those rules can be the difference in getting a sale or losing a sale.

There is a long list of design rules that one should follow, but to keep things simple, I have outlined my top 5 rules of design that should never be broken.

  1. Design for your audience
    If you’re holding a kid-friendly event, for example, and you want to create a poster to advertise said event, always keep in mind who your target audience is: Parents with children. In this situation, you want to avoid any cursive font or sleek, modern designs. This is for kids! Design a poster for a children’s event. Below is an example:

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Image provided by Canva

Take a look at the poster on the left. A quick glance and it wouldn’t immediately register to you that this is a poster for a children’s event, whereas the poster on the right has a more kid-friendly vibe. It’s important to think about your target audience and create designs that will resonate with that audience.

  1. Don’t use too many fonts in one design
    If you have 4 or 5 different fonts for a poster or flyer, it can come across as messy and unorganized, which is less likely to draw in any interested consumers. Most design experts recommend sticking to no more that 2-3 fonts in a single design. That said, be sure those fonts compliment each other.

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Image provided by Canva

  1. White space is not always negative space
    When creating a poster or flyer, seeing too much white space can seem like a bad thing. It’s easy to think, “there should be more on this page, it looks too empty.” Don’t think of it this way! You can properly utilize white space in a design to your advantage. It can help create a sleek, less cluttered look if done right. A proper use of white space is pictured below.

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  1. Don’t use too many effects
    When it comes to design, sometimes keeping it simple is best. As a follow up from tip #3, keeping things simple can be more beneficial than overcrowding. Having too many graphic effects can muddle your content and distract readers from the message you’re trying to convey.

    20_TooManyEffects1-tb-662x0Image provided by Canva

  2. Avoid color clashing
    When you clash colors that don’t compliment each other, it can create a “vibrating” effect that makes it difficult for the reader to find the line between colors. To avoid color clashing, choose colors that have a high degree of contrast – it will create a clean, simple, and easily identified color line in your designs.

14_ColourDiscord1-tb-662x0Image provided by Canva


Mindy Lee
Advisor/Marketing Coordinator
Washburn University
America’s SBDC

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From Boots to Arts

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Congratulations to Tana and Tommy Davis on the opening of Prairie Horizons Studio for the Creative Arts!

I first met 1SG(R) Tommy Davis in September of 2016, when he was attending Boots To Business at Fort Riley. At the time, Tommy was getting ready to retire after 21 years in the army.

Tommy and his wife Tana had recently purchased an historic building in Chapman, KS with the dream of opening a business that would make a positive contribution to the small community while also connecting with Tana’s zeal for creative arts. The exact details of what the business was going to be, however, needed to worked out. After Boots To Business, Tommy, Tana and I met to discuss their goals for the business and to review their business plan.

Tana is a professional illustrator and painter, but is passionate about teaching and has a master’s degree in education. Prairie Horizons offers creative arts classes and workshops and has a gallery where Tana and other artists can exhibit and sell their works. The gallery doubles as an event space where people can host private parties.

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At this studio-gallery, the term creative arts is practically all-encompassing. Drawing, painting, photography, sculpture, quilting, crochet, jewelry-making, music, drama, poetry, creative writing and more are to be featured.

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Tana’s vision for Prairie Horizons is that “it will become both a place where students of all ages can nurture their creativity and a place where regional artists can showcase their skills and connect with local communities.” Tana hopes that someday, she and her teachers will be able to reach out and bring their classes into small communities that do not have the resources for arts education in their schools’ curricula.

Tana

Tommy is currently finishing a degree in literature and administration and will help Tana with the business side of Prairie Horizons as well as being a presence at the studio. Opening the studio allows Tommy and Tana to work together and combine interests, talents, and efforts – though, Tommy likes to joke and say that he is just happy being his wife’s employee.

According to Tommy, attending Boots to Business gave him an opportunity to “focus on all of the things that were going to be involved in starting and running the business, such as understanding cash flow,” and also an opportunity to” learn from each of the different facilitators.”

Boots To Business is an intensive entrepreneurial training program offered through the SBA in partnership with its resource partners.

At Fort Riley, Wichita SCORE mentors and business advisors from the Kansas SBDC at Washburn University work with the SBA to help soldiers transitioning from the military learn about starting and running their own business and to connect them with the resources that they need to succeed should they choose that path.

Since the studio just opened a few days ago, the Davises are getting used to their new routine … that and getting to work on marketing their new business! Through Washburn University, Tommy and Tana have access to the business advisors and resources of the Kansas SBDC to help them as they get their business off the ground.

Good luck with your new venture, Tana and Tommy!

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Business Advisor Mary Ann Reiderer and I will be participating in the upcoming Boots to Business training, June 7-8, 2017 at Fort Riley. For registration information, email glennwood.mclaurin.civ@mail.mil.

 

 

Laurie Pieper, Ph.D.

Business Advisor

Washburn University

Kansas SBDC

 

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Sales Tax: What Kansas Photographers and Artists Need to Know

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Since I am not a tax specialist, I asked Carl York, Tax Specialist with the Kansas Department of Revenue to review this article for me before publication and would like to thank him for sharing his expertise.

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How exciting to start selling one’s original artworks … that is, until one starts thinking about taxes!

Amongst our SBDC clients, we count painters, graphic artists, photographers, drone operators, videographers, and art gallery owners. So we are used to thinking about art from the business side, as well, I would like to think, as having an appreciation for the intrinsic value of artworks.

A topic that frequently concerns photographers and artists once they start selling their work, especially once they decide to treat their art as a business, is that of how to handle sales tax: How do I know what products or services I need to charge sales tax on? How do I get set up to collect and remit sales tax? Do I need a sales tax exempt certificate and if so what do I do with it? These questions are a great place to start for understanding sales tax for art-related professionals. The answers, however, are not always perfectly straight forward. Sometimes one needs to go through twists and turns to arrive at the correct answer.

First, let us look at sales tax on sales by artists and photographers.

The following statement is from the Kansas Department of Revenue’s Division of Taxation webpage on sales tax for retailers.

 “Kansas imposes a 6.5 percent (effective July 1, 2015) percent state retailers’ sales tax, plus applicable local taxes[i] on the: 

  • Retail sale, rental or lease of tangible personal property;
  • Labor services to install, apply, repair, service, alter, or maintain tangible personal property, and
  • Admissions to entertainment, amusement, or recreation places in Kansas.

Cities and counties in Kansas may also levy a local sales tax. Each retailer reports and remits the total of the state and local retailers’ sales tax collected to the Department of Revenue.”

Works of art, photographs, films and the like are generally considered tangible personal property and so all sales (or leasing) of artworks and fees associated with their creation and maintenance are taxable. Therefore, the rule is that artists must charge sales tax on them and remit the sales tax to the Kansas Department of Revenue unless the product or service is specifically exempt (see exemptions below), the purchaser is sales tax exempt[ii], or the purchaser does not take possession of the artwork in the state of Kansas because it is delivered to the purchaser out of state.[iii] (If the purchaser is in-state, but has the item shipped as a gift to someone out of state, the purchaser is the end user and so sales tax is still due.)

To offer examples, the following are taxable sales.[iv]

  • 3-D or 2-D artworks (e.g. a piece of pottery, a painting, a printed photograph)
  • Images of photography or artwork on CD’s
  • DVD’s, videotapes, or films
  • Fees to paint a mural on a wall or building
  • Sitting fees
  • Photo-editing fees
  • Videography or film-editing fees.

However, the following types of sales are exempt from sales tax.

  • Web-based delivery of digital images (e.g., artwork or greeting cards), photographs, videos, or music
  • Fees for accessing a remote database of images or music
  • Developing or printing services for another photographer of images that are for resale

That is, even if there are charges for these things, at this time, they are not taxable sales. The artist, photofinisher, gallery or vendor should not collect sales tax on these from customers. (Taxes codes regarding digital or web-based services may change in the future, though. So, this is an area on which to keep an eye.)

The other side of the story is sales tax on purchases for the business.

Photographers and artists do not need to pay sales tax on the following types of purchases that they may make[v]:

  • Items that are purchased for resale (e.g., a frame that will go on a painting that an artist is selling). Use a Resale Exemption Certificate.
  • Items that are purchased for creating the artwork that become a part of the artwork (e.g., pieces of glass out of which a stained glass panel is made, the paints used in producing a painting, or the paper on which a photograph is printed). Use an Ingredient or Component Part Exemption Certificate.
  • Items that are consumed during the process of developing film (e.g., chemicals for developing film). Use an Ingredient or Component Part Exemption Certificate
  • Items that become a physical part of a sale (e.g. a CD on which photographic images are stored, a box in which a set of printed note cards is held, or the packing materials used in shipping a painting). Use an Ingredient or Component Part Exemption Certificate.

In order not to pay sales tax on these items, one should present the appropriate sales tax exemption certificate to the seller and pay for the purchase out of a business account, not a personal account.[vi]

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There is no requirement that a photographer or artist use sales tax exemption certificates when making purchases– unlike the requirement to collect and remit taxes on sales. However, it makes business sense to reduce unnecessary expenses, especially if one is trying to make a living off one’s art.

Not all business-related purchases are exempt from sales tax, however.[vii] Just like a tradesperson, a photographer or artist does pay sales tax on tools of the trade (e.g., a camera, an easel or a potter’s wheel) and on items that are a just a cost of being in business (e.g., paper for printing invoices and computer equipment). The exception to this is software developed and customized for a single end-user, because for tax purposes, this is not considered to be tangible personal property.

Tax codes can be confusing and are subject to change. Fortunately, there resources for getting information and assistance are available.

References and Useful Links for Further Information

Endnotes

[i] Sales tax rates are sourced (i.e. determined) on a destination-basis not an origination-basis. That means, for example, that if an artist sells a painting out of her studio in Manhattan to someone who picks it up and takes it home to Lawrence, the artist charges the applicable sales taxes for where her studio is based in Manhattan. However, if the artist sells the painting to the same buyer and delivers the painting to the buyer’s home in Lawrence, she charges the applicable sales for the buyer’s Lawrence address.

[ii] If the purchaser is sales tax exempt, the artist should obtain and keep on file a copy of the purchaser’s sales tax exempt certificate and the purchaser should pay directly using an account of the sales tax exempt entity. For example, if someone is purchasing a painting for the office of a non-profit organization and presents a tax exempt certificate at the time of purchase, that person must pay for the purchase with a credit card or check from the organization and not with a personal credit card or check.

[iii] However, the qualification to this exception is that the other state might require that sales tax be collected if a sales tax nexus has been created. A nexus can be created, for example, by the artist using his or her own vehicle to deliver the artwork across state lines.

[iv] Some artists do not charge for these.  If you do not charge for these, there is no sale on which for you to collect and remit tax.

[v] Just to make things more complicated, there may be purchases on which the photographer or artist has not paid sales tax that the state of Kansas nevertheless wants to collect sales tax. This is called a compensating use tax and is due, for example on purchases made over the internet without sales tax.

[vi] This is easy to do if one has set up a studio as an LLC or a separate legal entity. Many artists, however, are DBA’s (i.e., doing- business- as themselves, i.e. there is no separation between them and the business). In this latter case, the artist is the business and may not have separate business accounts. It will, nevertheless, be important to have bookkeeping methods that track business income and expenses.

[vii] They should be tracked, however, for income tax purposes and for understanding one’s costs of being in business.

At the WU Kansas SBDC, we provide advising to help small business owners from a wide array of businesses understand issues of importance for their businesses.

Laurie Pieper, Ph.D.

Business Advisor

Washburn University

Kansas SBDC

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5 Strategic Digital Marketing Priorities of 2017

When it comes to the world of marketing, it seems to constantly change at a rapid pace that feels impossible to keep up with. Between changing consumer preferences and the frequent updates to social media platforms, it can feel pretty overwhelming at times.

The good news is that whether you’re a content marketer or a small business owner who wants to up your marketing game, you don’t have to have an endless list of skills to keep up. Fortunately, the people at TEKsystems have outlined the top 5 strategic digital marketing priorities and the skills that are crucial to digital marketing in 2017.

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As the Washburn SBDC, we work with experts who are highly experienced in social media, SEO, SEM, PPC and email marketing to give you the tools you need to successfully market your business. We also provide assistance, resources and training to help you execute a strategic marketing campaign.

Mindy Lee
Advisor/Marketing Coordinator
Washburn University
America’s SBDC

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