Introducing Our Brand New Business Book Club

When we opened our doors fifteen months ago, we were flooded with notes of encouragement and beautiful floral arrangements (plus, our aunts even mailed a deep-dish pizza from Chicago!) - and a ton of questions about how we got started and what steps we took to open a brick-and-mortar. Since then, we've fielded questions almost weekly about our entrepreneurial path, often from aspiring entrepreneurs. While we don't have a one-size-fits-all handbook, we have read dozens of books that have inspired us to dream big, allowed us to adjust methods that weren't working, and encouraged us to keep pressing forward. Last fall, we mentioned to a few customers we were thinking of starting a business book club, and we were thrilled by their responses. Here's why we decided to finally go for it:

  Photo by Jade Stephens via  Unsplash .

Photo by Jade Stephens via Unsplash.

WE'LL DO THE DIRTY WORK: Starting a business, whether it's a mobile floral truck, childcare service, or skincare line, can be daunting. There are so many approaches to getting started, from reading business books and listening to podcasts to drafting a business plan and meeting with a financial adviser. It can feel overwhelming not knowing how or where to begin, so we're committing to finding the best books to help you get going - books that will motivate, inspire, and propel you. We know it can be challenging to fit another thing into your monthly commitments, so we'll take care of the book selection and will help facilitate productive, engaging conversation. No, reading one business book each month isn't going to launch your idea into orbit, though we can guarantee it will help. 

SUPPORTING SMALL SHOPS: Before opening the store, we spent most of our entertainment dollars shopping with locally-owned retailers and dining at locally-owned restaurants, but now that we're running a small business, it's crucial to us that we spend all our entertainment dollars shopping small. (We found lots of great Christmas gifts at Glacier, Landella, The STEMcell Science Shop, Jenkins & Co., and Modern Cottage.) Our business book club will allow us to support other small businesses monthly, like the newly-opened Magic City Books, and bakeries like Antoinette Baking Co. and Bakeshop with our book club snacks. Hip, hip, hooray!

WE GET BY WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM OUR FRIENDS: Imagine this: You arrive at the very first book club, eager to figure out how to finally open your cheese and olive shop (someone please do this!) and there's a former accountant hoping to open a mini-restaurant who is needing direction on what kind of restaurant to open. The two of you start chatting, and a few months later, you've got a business partner (with a background in finance!) and the best Trou du Cru selection in Tulsa. You never know who you might meet while you're here - or what lessons and advice you may take away. 

Behind the scenes, we are working on community partnerships and guest speakers for future meetings. If you have an idea for partnerships or speakers, please e-mail us at hello@shopmerriment.co (no "M").  

Without further ado, we're excited to share our first book selection: Great by Choice by Jim Collins. While it isn't currently available at Magic City Books, it is available at the Tulsa-County Library as a hardback or as an audiobook. Our first meeting will take place on Thursday, January 25th, at 6PM at Merriment (3230 E. 15th Street); admission is $5 and can be paid at the door or in advance.

Truly, the best is yet to come! We look forward to sharing lessons we've learned, solving challenges you've faced, discussing the book selection, and spending an evening in your company.

Seven Reasons to Support Small Businesses

“Most independent businesses are run by people, not stockholders or algorithms,” says Of a Kind co-founders, Erica Cerulo and Claire Mazur, “And so you get a different kind of care and quality in their product because their work is a reflection of themselves.”

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This Saturday, November 25th, is Small Business Saturday. We’ll be open from 9AM to 4PM and offering discounts, prizes, and treats all day long. Small Business Saturday is a perfect excuse to grab a few friends and get out of the house (and take care of the folks on your Christmas list!) after a day of traveling, eating your weight in pies, and leisurely sprawling out on the couch in a turkey-induced nap. But for small business retailers, this special day is crucial and can even make or break a business. Here’s why your support matters to us:

SUPPORT MAKERS & ARTISTS: Our shelves and displays are brimming with items made by artisans and craftsmen across the country. From a woman creating greeting cards on an antique press with hand-carved blocks in Indiana to a duo making bean-to-bar chocolate in Northwest Arkansas to a wife and husband pair designing hand-crafted painted and patterned greeting cards in Iowa, this hardly even scratches the surface of our offerings. When you purchase something from Merriment, you’re telling the designers and makers, “I see all the work you have put into creating this and I value your time and talents.” The goods in our store aren’t made in factories; there are real people using their hands - the hands they used to zip their son’s jacket before he went to school or to drop extra change in the tip jar at the coffee shop one early morning - to create something beautiful and useful just for you.

PRODUCT DIVERSITY: We receive new product almost weekly, and the folks who drop in a few times a month are quick to notice that there are typically a few new designs on our popular card wall since their last visit. Because we have the luxury of ordering from dozens and dozens of designers, we have the opportunity, too, to offer a large array of goods with unique looks and price points. Additionally, some of the items we carry are because a customer asked us, “Do you have XYZ?” One of the brands on our ink bar, for example, is offered because several customers requested it. We are proud to seek the best products for our customers and get the biggest thrill when we hear, “This is exactly what I am looking for!”

PERSONALIZED SERVICE: Customer service is our first priority and what we strive to be known for. And for us, that goes beyond just remembering your name and thanking you for your purchase. We want to learn about your hobbies and skills so we can help you pick out a product that suits your needs. If you sketch, you’ll want the soft Blackwing pencil instead of the firm Blackwing pencil. If you want to get started in bullet journaling, you’ll need the dot page notebooks rather than the line or graph page notebooks. We deeply care about the products we carry and enjoy studying the features and characteristics of every item we offer. (Indulge us if we begin sharing how and where a product is made!) We love to learn about our customer-turned-friends, too, whether you’re going for a  big promotion, grappling with your niece’s illness, or planning a holiday trip to Hawaii. We’re here to cheer you on while you celebrate and rally around you during a struggle.

KEEP YOUR HARD-EARNED DOLLARS IN YOUR HOMETOWN: When you make a purchase at Merriment or any locally-owned retailer, a majority of those dollars go right back into your own community. If you spend $100, for example, $68 of your purchase stays in the local economy, where $100 spent at a big-box store only keeps $43 in the local economy. Sales tax are allocated for things like improvements and expansions on public schools and roads. You get to go home with a new notebook and candle, and our children receive better curriculum and educational resources. Plus, most small business owners turn around and spend their dollars at other locally-owned shops. A few of our favorites are Antoinette Baking Co., Ever Something, Glacier, Jenkins & Co., Magic City Books, and Retro Den. (In fact, we were visiting Magic City Books this morning and spotted two other small business owners perusing the shelves.)

COMMUNITY INVESTMENT: We opened Merriment in Tulsa because it’s home. We believed there was a need to be met, and there was nowhere else we’d rather put down roots than in this little south-Midwestern city. Small businesses owners are consistently striving to help make their districts and neighborhoods better with events, product offerings, donations, or volunteerism. Research shows small businesses contribute 250% more to non-profits and community causes than large corporations. This year, we made several product donations to area fundraisers and galas, and we’re excited to be partnering with a few non-profits next year to share a portion of our proceeds. Tulsa continues to receive accolades for its livability and community spirit, and we’re honored to do what we can to make Tulsa shine even brighter.

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT: According to the Small Business Association, there are almost 30 million small businesses (!) across the country, and these ventures employ more than 8 million people. While we don’t have any employees yet (we’ll be posting new positions next spring!), we’ve hired several contractors to open our store and continue to hire area designers to assist us with large custom orders. Since moving into our space, we’ve worked with an outdoor sign company, furniture shops, wallpaper hangers, florists, caterers, advertisers, graphic designers, and greeting card makers - all folks who call Tulsa home. Between 1993 and 2011, small businesses were responsible for creating 64% of new jobs in the United States. Now that’s an impact!

ACKNOWLEDGING THE RISK & AFFIRMING THE DREAM: “Choosing to support an independent business is an act of respect,” says Matt Kliegman, co-founder of The Smiles, “It’s acknowledging the tremendous risk and challenges inherent to starting your own thing.” To start a company, many small business owners have cashed in their savings or committed to a large loan and have sacrificed everything from annual vacations to time spent with family. Sure, we’re the ones who had to miss our nephew’s soccer game on a busy Saturday or who consented to using our homes as collateral for funding (!), but we did and we do it because we genuinely believe our concepts, whatever they are, will buoy our community, build lifelong relationships, and economically bolster the cities we live in. We take great pride in the companies we have built, and we hope all our hard work, sweat, and tears are evident in the four walls where we house our dreams.

In this season of joy and gratitude, we want to share our sincere thanks to each of you have shopped with us over the past thirteen months. We know you have a choice where you spend your hard-earned dollars, and we are over the moon you choose Merriment. We’re so excited for all that’s to come and we’re honored to be your neighborhood card shop!

Photo by Scott Webb for Unsplash. | Some research via Grasshopper.

Our First Birthday Celebration

Celebrating one year of being open is a darling milestone, and one that is only possible because of the folks who come in week after week to pick up a new box of freshly-sharpened pencils or a lined notebook to record their ideas. Our one year party was an opportunity to honor the people who make Merriment possible: our customers. So, naturally, we decked the shelves with new arrivals and pulled out chilled Champagne, plus the gals from Anthousai adorned our walls with a floral installation and Queenie's gifted us one of their classic cakes. Below, a few pictures from the shindig:

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Boxed stationery sets, journals, confetti tape, art prints, and made-in-California candles are just a few of the gifts available at Merriment. Photo by Wallflower Photography

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No celebration is complete without chilled Champagne and fudge-frosted chocolate cake. Our guests sipped bubbles and devoured the Black Magic cake gifted to us by Queenie's, the quaint cafe in Utica Square. Photo by Wallflower Photography

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We almost always have fresh flowers in the shop, so it was a no-brainer that we'd need some pretty florals for our birthday party. The super-talented gals of Anthousai created several floral installations around the store in shades of one of our favorite colors, marigold. Photo by Wallflower Photography

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Our ink bar, which boasts over a dozen pen colors and our boxed sets of Blackwing pencils, flanked by a celebratory pink balloon garland. Need a balloon garland for your party? We'd love to make one for you! We have a giant variety of colors available. Photo by Wallflower Photography

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Tulsa, we can't thank you enough for such a wonderful first year. We are so proud to be your neighborhood card shop. Photo by Wallflower Photography

Thank you so much for a splendid first year, friends! There's so much to come in year two - even just in the next month! - including our first-ever Peppermint Bash, our second holiday open house on December 9th, kid's art camps (more details coming soon), plus Valentine's Day workshops and events that support our community. 

Want to see something new or different at Merriment in our second year? A bigger variety of pens? A business book club? (Okay, fine, we're already working on that.) Share your ideas or opinions with us in the comments!

UPDATED: The Pony Express Supper Club

UPDATE (12/11/2017): We had such an incredible response to the first session of the Pony Express Supper Club, we're doing it all over again! We'll soon be sharing stories we heard throughout the first round of the program as well as a recap of our dreamy dinner last night at Foolish Things. If you'd like to participate in our second session, check out the details below and e-mail us at hello@shopmerriment.co to sign up! Registration is open through December 27th with early bird pricing available through December 22nd.

In six short weeks, you could meet the newest member of your book club, a business partner to help you finally open the gourmet cheese and olive shop you’ve been dreaming about, your future maid-of-honor, or a friend to binge watch the latest Netflix series with.

No, it’s not a new app. It’s the Pony Express Supper Club.

Before e-mail pings and text message dings, there was the telephone. And before hours-long conversations spent twirling the phone cord around your wrist and gossiping about whether or not so-and-so were going steady, there was letter writing.

Named for the famed high-speed* horseback mail delivery service in the 1860’s, the Pony Express Supper Club is a one-of-a-kind experience knitted from a love of sending pretty stationery to friends, throwing ornate dinner parties, and a desire to take a break from staring at a screen from sunrise to sunset.

Here’s how it works:

1. From September 25th until October 9th, sign-ups will be available online or at our store in midtown Tulsa. When you sign up, you’ll be given a questionnaire with questions like, “If you didn’t have to sleep, how would you spend the extra time?”

2. Once we’ve collected all the questionnaires, we’ll match everyone into pairs. During the week of October 16th, we’ll send introductions to each set of pen pals and share how to get started.

3. Throughout the program, we’ll post lots of snail mail inspiration, writing prompts, and more.

4. In early December, we’ll gather for a magazine-worthy dinner at a surprise location. There, you’ll meet your pen pal (unless you couldn’t wait and have already met up for coffee or spin class!) and enjoy an evening of dinner, drinks, and delightful fanfare.

Participation is $55 and includes a handful of greeting cards to get you started, one of our best-selling pens, access to our stamp collection, special discounts on subsequent cards or pens, a lively evening of dinner and conversation, and a friend who you otherwise may not have met. Early bird pricing is $48 and will be available through October 5th.

Imagine coming home after a long day of attending meetings and presenting reports and finding a piece of mail just for you. It’s not a bill or appointment notice, but a note with your name in loopy, calligraphed letters or embellished with confetti-sealed washi tape. Inside, your pen pal wants to know what you enjoy most about autumn or how you plan to spend the weekend. You take a long, relaxed breath and wonder: Shouldn’t everything be this fun and easy?

*Oh, and in case you’re wondering what high speed meant in 1860, we’re talkin’ 10 days. (The 19th century version of Amazon Prime!) It took twice as long without the Pony Express, and though the company only existed for 18 months, the riders managed to deliver 35,000 pieces of mail across the American frontier.

Sign up by e-mailing us at hello@shopmerriment.co or get your ticket here. Follow The Pony Express Supper Club on Instagram and Facebook!

NOTES:

1. While we do have an Eventbrite page for our event, we're not fans of the hefty fees they charge. If you want to avoid the Eventbrite fee, send us an e-mail at hello@shopmerriment.co and we'll send you an invoice and your questionnaire - and zero fees. Please let us know in the e-mail if you want a pen pal and a ticket to the dinner party or if you only prefer a pen pal.

2. If you don’t want to share your address, you and your pen pal can send all correspondence to Merriment and we’ll alert you when a letter has arrived for you. From there, you can swing by to pick it up or we can forward it to your address.