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Craftsy Bought By NBCUniversal

Online craft education and retail portal Craftsy notified its staff and customers on Wednesday that the company has been bought by NBCUniversal, a subsidiary of Comcast.

craftsy logo

Denver, Colorado-based Craftsy, which grew out of a start-up called Sympoz Inc., was founded by former executives of eBay and ServiceMagic.com and went live in 2011. By the end of 2014, the company had received four rounds of venture capital funding totaling nearly $100 million. No terms have been announced for the company’s acquisition.

Although it has never been profitable, Craftsy has boasted of having over eleven million users (and a million visitors per week) in recent press statements. The site’s online classes in creative arts include such topics as papercrafting, photography, quilting, sewing, knitting, cake decorating, drawing, painting, cooking, and crochet, among others. Craftsy also sells craft supplies and patterns via their online platform.

In a letter to the site’s users and staff, founder & CEO John Levisay indicated that he will be remaining with the company for the next four years. Levisay also indicated that the company’s offices in Denver and Indianapolis will both continue to operate. NBCUniversal also has an office in Denver. Levisay also revealed that Craftsy had been approached by multiple prospective buyers previously whose overtures were rebuffed, but that he felt that NBCUniversal was a good fit for the company.

For those looking to join the newly acquired company, Craftsy posted a job opening two days ago for their Denver office for a Community Manager position.

The streaming craft educational content market has has seen a few interesting alignments in recent months. In early March, Craftsy announced a new partnership with Michaels Stores that would provide exclusive offers to Michaels customers for the site’s classes and provide the site’s customers access to Michaels’ product offerings. This was followed in April by the announcement that Creativebug had been purchased by Jo-Ann Fabric & Craft Stores. It seems that the major players in the space – and the major players interested in the space – are picking sides and placing their bets.

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FTC Warns Influencers About Not Disclosing Endorsements

Instagram Money

The FTC has told Instagram influencers to “show me (and your followers) the money” in a series of enforcement actions announced on April 19th regarding violations of its endorsement rules.

After what it described as a review of “numerous Instagram posts by celebrities, athletes, and other influencers”, the FTC says it has sent over 90 letters to influencers on Instagram. The letters contained a  warning that the FTC found the influencers’ posts in violation of the FTC rules regarding endorsements, and offered assistance in learning about how to correct their postings.

The enforcement action was spurred in part by consumer advocacy done to the FTC by groups including non-profit watchdog Public Citizen. The groups have been pressuring the FTC for months about a lack of transparency in influencer marketing on Instagram.

In addition to being a warning that the agency is paying attention to enforcement of the endorsement guidelines, the announcement also offered a glimpse into the agency’s interpretation of the guidelines as they apply to influencers. Some of the warnings sent to the Instagram influencers applied to posts where the relationship was disclosed, but late in a long text so it occurred after the “more” split in the text. The FTC warned the influencers that to be in compliance with the endorsement guidelines, disclosures must occur above the “more” split to ensure they are seen. In addition, the FTC warned against inserting disclosures into a long string of hashtags where they may be overlooked.

To comply with FTC product endorsement guidelines, all social media and blog references to a product must also disclose an author’s material connection to the product if there is one. The disclosure must be conspicuous, unavoidable, and occur before the mention of the product to be in compliance. Links to disclosures on another page are insufficient. For more information, the FTC offers an FAQ with more information on the endorsement guidelines.

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Update | MISTI, Project Life, Etsy, Jobs, Events & More!

The post-winter show doldrums sure are over! Lots of companies have been busy with the result being lots of news to share!

[Disclosure: Some links in this article are affiliate links that pay this site a commission at no cost to you if a purchase is made after a click.]

Endings. The Project Life partnership with Stampin’ Up! is ending. Project Life branded products will continue to be sold (while supplies last) through Stampin’ Up! demonstrators until the end of the current catalog year on May 31st, 2017.

Patents. My Sweet Petunia, the manufacturer of the popular MISTI stamping tool, was granted their application for a U.S.MISTI patent on March 21st. The original MISTI tool took the stamping world by storm in 2015 and 2016, and the new Mini and Mega sized versions together won the CHA Hot Products Award for Papercrafting products at the 2016 Mega Show.

The MISTI patent had first been applied for by My Sweet Petunia on January 13th, 2015, but was initially denied in the summer of 2016. The company was able to secure approval of the MISTI patent last month after making a revision of their original patent application.

Winners. Etsy was honored as a finalist in the first-ever “World Changing Ideas Awards” sponsored by Fast Company magazine. The online marketplace for crafters was recognized as one of the top 24 finalists out of over 1000 submissions for the idea “Economic Security for the Gig Economy“, a method of ensuring freelance and self-employed people (like their marketplace participants) have stable access to items like healthcare and retirement savings.

Extensions. Tim Holtz has announced a new line of jewelry products that will be exclusive to Jo-Ann Stores called Tim Holtz Assemblage. The line is in Tim’s signature vintage style, and many elements are recognizable as adapted from metal elements designed for his papercrafts line. The line is available now – at 50% off – on Joann.com.

 

Changes. Megan Hoeppner is leaving her role as Editor-in-Chief of Scrapbook & Cards Today magazine for personal reasons. She will, however, continue with the magazine as its Pic Tips columnist. The Editor-in-Chief position is being filled by Susan Opel, who is familiar to many in the industry from her time at the now-defunct Papercrafts & Scrapbooking magazine.

Megan Hoeppner

Megan Hoeppner (on left) and I together at SNAP Conference in 2016.

Changes, part 2. Etsy has named Rachel Glaser as its new Chief Financial Officer. She replaces Kristina Salen whose intended departure as of March 31st was announced last fall. Glaser will start work on or around June 1st, and Karen Mullane (Vice President, Corporate Controller) will serve as interim CFO. With 30 years of executive experience in finance, Glaser comes to Etsy from Leaf Group, a consumer media and marketplace company whose brands include Society 6, Livestrong.com, ehow.com, cuteness, and Techwalla.

Events. AFCI (formerly known as CHA) is partnering with SPC (Sierra Pacific Crafts) to put on a Mixed Media buying event in Salt Lake City this summer. Education will be on July 17th, and the show floor will be open July 18th though July 20th. Exhibit space is selling fast, and attendee registration opens on April 19th.

Events, part 2. It may feel like you’re barely over your jet lag from this year, but exhibit registration is already open for the 2018 Creativeworld show at Messe Frankfurt in Frankfurt, Germany. Book before April 13th for an early booking discount. More than 130 exhibitors were already signed up as of the end of March, according to Messe Frankfurt.

[Note: Messe Frankfurt and its Creativeworld show are a Scrapbook Update sponsor.]

Considering whether to go for the first time? In case you might have missed them, here’s my show reports from Creativeworld 2017:

Documenting. Ali Edwards has announced that the next “Week in the Life” project will run the week of April 17th. New digital and physical product kits are available for the 2017 project on the Ali Edwards webstore.

Teams. Graphic 45 is skipping their usual design team call for 2017, and instead have announced a group they call the 2017-2018 Graphic 45 Brand Ambassadors. The company promises that the design team call will return in 2018, but for this year, the new team includes lots of returning names from last year, with a few new ones mixed in.

Jobs:

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Creativeworld: The Language Barrier

One of the most frequent questions that I get asked about attending the Creativeworld show at Messe Frankfurt in Frankfurt, Germany, is how to get around in Germany and at Creativeworld while speaking only English.

[Disclaimer: Messe Frankfurt is a Scrapbook Update sponsor.]

The surprising first part of the answer to that question is that a lot of what show attendees will encounter, especially in places like major transportation hubs, is actually bilingual and perfectly understandable to English speakers. Even the automated rail ticket machines have a language option for English. (In Europe, remember that you’ll choose the British Union Jack flag on machines like that to access the English option.)

Believe it or not, even some of the trash cans are multilingual – like this one in the Frankfurt airport complex!

Within the Messe Frankfurt fairground itself, the signage is designed to accommodate their large populations of international visitors that come for their various shows throughout the year. Building numbers and names, arrows, and easy to understand graphics for things like the train stations and restrooms.

Cafe and restaurant menus are also bilingual, and many Messe Frankfurt staff can speak at least a small amount of English. In addition, the Messe makes most of its printed show publications on-site and the Creativeworld show app all available and readily accessible in English.

The biggest thing, however, that concerns many show attendees – especially exhibitors – is how to handle doing business in a booth when they don’t speak the local language.

In fact, many people overestimate the language barrier they will encounter dealing with international clients. English has become in many respects the common language of the world. A surprising number of people encountered at Creativeworld speak at least a little bit of English – often while apologizing for their lack of skill, which is quite humbling to hear when you don’t speak a word of their language!

But there is inevitably some language barrier to be encountered. Hiring European bloggers or designers is one way to bridge that gap (and it’s also extra booth help without the expense of travel for a U.S. staffer). In the American pavilion this year, Lou Ann Tischler of GelliArts was drawing a crowd doing demonstrations, and had a European designer that works with Gelli Arts (in the brown shirt) translating for her.

Gelli Arts demo

Another approach is to just hire a European designer to do all of the demonstrating. My German designer friend Baerbel Börn demonstrated for several companies this year, including demonstrating the new Tim Holtz Stamp Platform for Tonic Studios (below).

Baerbel Born

Of course, hiring a local staffer is no guarantee that you won’t encounter a language barrier when someone walks into your booth, since Europe has a multitude of languages and the show attracts global buyers. But it certainly can raise the odds that you will find common language ground when someone approaches your booth.

And, if all else fails…thanks to the era of the smart phone, we can all have an instant translator in our pocket with the right apps. It may not be the fastest way to communicate, but it can get the job done.

Remember, in the end, everyone at Creativeworld speaks the same native language…a love of creativity! And that goes a long way in understanding each other.

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Cricut Explore Air 2 Machine: First Look

As many of you may remember, I spent a lot of 2015 traveling around the country to various Scrapbook Expo shows to demonstrate the Cricut Explore machine for Cricut. I loved both the chance to interact with consumers around the country, and the machines themselves! So I was thrilled when Cricut offered me the chance to try out the new Cricut Explore Air 2 machine, see how it compared to my current Cricut Explore machine, and tell my readers about it!

What is the Cricut Explore Air 2 machine?

Cricut Explore Air 2If, like me, you are a user of a previous Explore model of machine, you’re probably wondering what is different about this new one from your current model. For users of the original green model of Explore machine like mine, or of the Explore One, you’ll find that the bluetooth is now built inside the machine instead of requiring a plug-in accessory dongle to work. If you currently have an Explore One, you’ll also find that the Explore Air 2 has two carriages – one for the blade and one for accessories, meaning less switching out while cutting.

One other minor change is mostly cosmetic – the setting at the dial on the top of the machine now read “bonded fabric” instead of just “fabric”. This isn’t a change in the machine’s capability but rather a better explanation of them. The previous label, based on postings in Facebook groups I belong to, seemed to confuse people into thinking the machine could cut fabric when in fact it can only cut fabric that has been bonded to an interface backing to stiffen it.

For users of all previous Explore machines, Cricut is advertising that the Explore Air 2 will cut up to 2x faster than the previous machines.

If you are a user of a cartridge based machine (the Expression series and earlier) models, the Cricut Explore Air 2 machine is a whole new eco-system, with the Cricut Design Space software and Cricut Access library subscriptions, and features like the ability to import and cut your own SVG and JPG files. But you might also be asking if a computer based machine is too complicated, or too much hassle. You might be surprised to find that the answer is no.

Cricut Explore Air 2 machine

Although I’m very experienced in setting up Cricut machines from demonstrating them, for this article I decided to try an experiment and see how long it would take me to set up the machine and make the introductory project that is included in the set-up process (pictured above). I used a clean machine that had never had Cricut Design Space installed on it, so I was starting from scratch the same as any other new user – albeit one with a bit more experience under my belt.

I started a timer from the moment that I started to take things out of the box.

Inside the box, I found the machine, power cord, USB cord, a pen, a green mat, paper for the introductory project, and a few instruction booklets.

Cricut Explore Air 2 contents

If you follow the instructions in the box, the next step is to open a special URL on the Cricut website that serves as a tutorial for setting up new machines.

Cricut Explore Air 2 set-up

Then the instructions call for plugging in the machine to the wall and connecting it via cable to the computer.

Cricut Explore Air 2 instructions

Once that is done, there are onscreen instructions in Cricut Design Space to follow to complete setting up your machine. They literally walk you through each step.

When you are done with the set up, the final step is to have some fun with your new machine for the first time! At the 14 minute mark of my set-up process (and that included time taken to take a few pictures for this article like the ones above), I loaded a mat with paper into my new machine for the first time!

Cricut Explore Air 2 with mat

By barely over the 20 minute mark, I had not only set up my new machine, but I had created (along with a few pictures for this article) a fun little card with it!

Tips for setting up a new Cricut Explore Air 2 Machine:

  • Choose Chrome: I’ve used Google Chrome for a long time with my Cricut Explore, and it is highly recommended as the most trouble-free way to work in Cricut Design Space with the Cricut Explore family of machines.
  • Forget Old Machines: For the smoothest install and bluetooth set-up, go into your computer or mobile device’s bluetooth settings and tell it to “forget” your old Cricut Explore machine. You can always re-pair them later to continue using it alongside the new machine.

And that is it…my new machine was up and running – and I’d made something – in less than 20 minutes!

Does the Cricut Explore Air 2 really cut faster?

I ran another test to see – and if so, by how much!

First, I selected a “make it now” Easter card project from the Cricut Access library and set it up to cut on my iPad Mini. This way, all of my cuts would be made from the same file on the same computer device.

Cricut Easter card

Then, I cut the green part of the card three times. The first time, it was on my new Cricut Explore Air 2 machine on the “fast” setting. That setting is available for use on vinyl, iron-on, and cardstock, and can be used just by clicking a box in the cut window. That cut took 1:58 from start to finish.

Then I tried it again on my Cricut Explore Air 2 machine, but this time I unclicked the “fast” box to cut “regular” speed. On this setting, the cut was clocked at 2:45.

Finally I tried the cut on my old green Cricut Explore machine, and it took 2:54.

This was a relatively small, but complicated design file. Other files will show varying differences in speed, of course. But even with this file I saved nearly a third of the cut time moving from my old Cricut Explore machine to the fast speed on the new Cricut Explore Air 2. Extend this time savings to large intricate backgrounds for 12×12 pages, or for large amounts of production cutting, and the time savings could add up, well, fast (pun intended). Especially or machine owners who are running a business with their Cricut, faster cutting means more time for themselves – or more time to make more profit!

Now that I can cut so much faster with my new Cricut Explore Air 2, I’m really excited to take on some larger cutting projects that I didn’t have the time or patience for before, like 12×12 decorative backgrounds for scrapbook layouts, or intricate iron-on shirt designs. Or maybe I’ll even take on some wall-sized vinyl projects…

What would you like to make faster with the new Cricut Explore Air 2?

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Cricut. The opinions and text are all mine.

 

Creativeworld: To Pavillion or Not to Pavillion?

There’s much to consider when planning a trade show booth. For American companies going to Frankfurt for the Creativeworld show, the first question is usually whether or not to use the U.S. pavillion, or book a booth on the general show floor.

[Disclosure: Messe Frankfurt is a Scrapbook Update sponsor.]

Whether or not exhibiting in the U.S. pavilion is the right choice is a different decision for each company that considers it, based on a variety of factors. After visiting four Creativeworld shows and talking extensively with American exhibitors both in the pavilion and on the show floor, I’ve identified what some of the key factors are that lead companies to choose one or the other as the best choice for them.

But first, what exactly is the American pavilion at the Creativeworld show?

Creativeworld American Pavilion

The U.S. pavilion at Creativeworld takes up an entire “block” on the show floor. The outside of the block, along the aisles, is filled with booths of various sizes. In the center is a private lounge area (accessible from the rear of each booth) for the pavilion exhibitors that offers some food service, a Messe Frankfurt staff member to assist the exhibitors, and other services.

The pavilion booths come with a prepackaged set of booth furnishings, and exhibitors can order additional items if needed at extra cost.

Ken Oliver Creativeworld

The corner booths, like the ones in the top picture occupied by Doodlebug Design and in the picture above by Product Performers, are typically larger spaces (and priced accordingly). They also have two open sides as opposed to being enclosed on three sides like the booths in sides of the pavilion.
Stampendous Creativeworld 2017

A more standard booth option in the pavilion is the one occupied above by Stampendous. With one open side facing the aisle, and a back entrance into the pavilion’s lounge, this space allows plenty of room for display of product and doing small demonstrations.

American Pavilion advertising

Being in the pavilion also comes with some extra publicity, as the U.S. pavilion is advertised as a special feature of the show in places like show guides and the show grounds. This ad pillar is at the bottom of the escalator in the main lobby of Hall 4.2, directing show attendees to the pavilion and advertising who was there.

BoBunny Creativeworld

Of course, there’s a myriad of options on the show floor to choose from as well. BoBunny has occupied a booth in the same location in one of the Creativeworld halls for several years. Exhibiting in a non-pavilion booth is similar in a few ways to being in the pavilion – there’s still no need to bring an entire furnished booth, as all displays and furnishings can be rented from the Messe.

Creativeworld Co-op Booth

Renting a regular show booth allows room for some innovation in your exhibit planning. Three smaller companies that are well-known to papercrafters, Waffle Flower, Alexandra Renke, and Pinkfresh Studio, decided to share a large space on the show floor in an attempt to make a splash this year.

Waffle Flower Creativeworld 2017

So which choice is right for your company?

There’s no single right answer. I know companies that have tried the pavilion and then left it for a regular booth. I know companies that have stayed happily in the pavilion for multiple years. I know companies that have exhibited in a regular booth and then opted for the more structured option of the pavilion. I know companies that have exhibited for years in regular booths. The trick is deciding on the factors that are your priority.

Cost: On a per square foot basis, the pavilion is a more expensive way to rent a booth. But it comes with extra services that are included in that cost (which would have to be purchased separately) and it also includes extra support structure to help familiarize new exhibitors with exhibiting at the show. And while it is higher, the fixed price is a help when setting budgets for exhibiting.

Size: Booth options in the pavilion are limited to relatively small sizes, so if your booth preference is for a booth larger than around 10×20, you’ll need to choose a regular booth. On the other hand, for small to medium sized companies that would like to be able to exhibit with minimal manpower or shipping expense for booth decor, the pavilion is a win. The booths, especially the smaller ones, are the perfect size to be decorated and run by 1-2 people.

Decor: The pavilion booths come with a decor package, and for most exhibitors can be decorated probably by carrying a large extra suitcase or two with them on the plane. But if you’d like more freedom (and a less cookie cutter appearance), a regular booth will let you design your look from the ground up using the Messe’s furnishings rental service. Or you can even go to the extreme of shipping a crate if you’d like for a truly custom look.

Location: Since the U.S. pavilion is a fixed location on the Creativeworld show floor, if there is a particular area that you’d like your booth to be in, then you’ll need to do a regular booth rental. On the other hand, the U.S. pavilion is a “destination” at the Creativeworld show for many buyers, so a pavilion booth can have location advantages as well.

Stress: An exhibitor’s stress level may seem an odd factor to consider when selecting a trade show booth, but when embarking on something as ambitious as an international trade show – especially for the first time – it’s a factor that can make or break your success. The U.S. pavilion serves as something of a “safety net” at the show for its resident exhibitors, providing services and assistance. Especially for first time visitors not familiar with the show, this can be a great stress reliever. Pavilion staff can help facilitate securing needed extra services on site, provide information about Frankfurt and the surrounding area (such as where to eat), provide orientation to how the show operates, and just generally help answer questions that come up. And having neighbors that are quite possibly familiar to them from U.S. events is especially nice for those who might be working alone in a pavilion booth. In contrast, you’re quite on your own in a regular booth. Services are available but you must know how to seek them out, and there is no guarantee given the international nature of the show that your neighbors will even speak the same language as you do, let alone be familiar to you! All of this makes the pavilion an excellent option for first time exhibitors, or for exhibitors doing the show with a small staff.

To pavilion or not to pavilion….which option will you choose?

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