Why This Is The Best Job In The World
Hello again Button Lovers!
We are nearing the tail end of Mental Health Awareness Month, and here I’ve captured a selfie of a rare Becka in the wild, taking a day to enjoy a walk in the woods with my husband and our dogs. The three of them are very good at avoiding pictures.
You can really only stay cooped up in your house for so long, and when Mt. Rainier is pretty much your back yard, it’s pretty easy to keep a good distance away from others while giving yourself a good, healthy dose of self-care.
I have to say, when Covid first started sweeping the planet, I thought for sure my business had flat-lined indefinitely. I had a solid month without any orders which has never happened in the last nine years. There was no buzz, no questions…just dead silence, and I was contemplating how important were buttons really in the grand scheme of life? But then something really amazing and completely unexpected happened. Three notifications had popped up on my phone while I was feeling pretty fed up with the four walls of my home, all saying that my business had been tagged in a post on one of the local community threads I’m on.
A woman was asking for suggestions of a local button maker in the Pierce County area, and some people were pretty quick to respond with this little button shop that I run out of my home in Carbonado(thank you by the way, I couldn’t find the thread, but seriously, you people are amazing). I responded to the thread, she asked for an email, I gave it and thought nothing more of it. My button shop gets tagged in a lot of posts that sometimes go no where, and I really believe in a no pressure sales model. I like my work to speak for itself and I prefer clients that come from authentic connections. So I treat all of these the same. I respond quickly and hope it leads to a follow through email.
That woman is Ashley and she is the project manager for Kids Mental Health Pierce County, part of the network of Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital. And yes, she emailed me.
She was working on a special campaign project to help the kids coming into the facilities to feel more at ease. It can already be a pretty scary place for a sick kid to find themselves in the children’s hospital or any part of their network, when you add to it that everyone they come in contact with is wearing a mask, removing all the features and facial expression that can normally put a child at ease, it makes for an even more stressful encounter. Ashley wanted to know what it would take to put the face of every staff member on a button they could wear, showing the “helper behind the mask”.
This project presented a lot of new challenges for me and proved to be a lot more labor intensive than I really anticipated…but honestly when you love what you do and you are handed a passion project that rings so close to your heart, it honestly doesn’t even feel like work. Overcoming those challenges have also finally led to implementing some much needed additions to the website that I’ve been needing to do for years.
I get to help kids feel more at ease in a chaotic and confusing world. That is my heart. I love making buttons. Period. But the reason I do things like vending the DIY Button Station or put the effort I do into the customer service side is because I truly live for the connection that happens when two people find a common ground to stand on. Sharing creativity is a huge part of that, which I was doing with my DIY Button Station, but now I get to help kids feel safe and have been connecting with an amazing little team to help make that happen.
I will spare you the details of how many emails it takes to get something like this off the ground, but it did take about two weeks before the project first launched.
I designed a template with the slogan and logo that Ashley wanted. The image here is just a stock image found online to show an example of what the end result would look like. I made a lot of these with different colors and placements before this template became the final for the finished product.
My amazing web designer is Annika from Artkore Multimedia. She has put a lot of work, love, and time into building this website for me over the last five years or so. When we first started working together, she had planned on integrating a full on button designing app where folks could upload their own images or design there own button right here on the website, but I was always too busy or distracted to follow through on taking the steps needed so she could finish it. I’m not perfect by any means. I am great at making buttons, but when it comes to this web stuff, I’d really rather let someone else do it all…but that’s not the way it works and sometime input is needed and I do have to wear the hat of business owner doing the not so fun business-y stuff that is important to keep things running.
With the project launch starting with an order of 500 buttons and each with it’s own separate picture, I really had no choice but to quit dragging my feet. Annika was amazing in getting the design app integrated into the site, and now I’m processing lots of pictures of doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals with an image they’ve uploaded into my template that is complete and ready for layout.
I’ve made buttons for some bigger bands here and there who placed orders of a couple thousand buttons of the same image, and I once did an order for an H&R Block Office, but I have never been a part of such a big undertaking like this that involves a lot of great communication skills, weekly meetings, care in regards to privacy, or so many different images for one order. Because I have to wait for groups to submit the orders in teams, I have also waived shipping fees and have been doing a weekly button drop with the project manager that also helps to get me out of the house.
I organize the buttons by their various departments within the medical system that also coincides with an Excel Sheet I created to ensure that all the buttons go to where they need to go.
It has also done wonders for my own mental health as I go through pressing a new smiling face into a button. It’s infectious. After going over two months without seeing much of anyone aside from my husband, it feels good to see all these strangers smiling back at me from the button press, especially knowing that the smile they are wearing exists to help kids feel more comfortable and at ease in their surroundings.
Due to respecting the privacy of the workers, I am not allowed to show any of the amazing buttons that have been made for this project except for one, which is of Ashley, the Project Manager who had the amazing idea to do this in the first place, and to also be willing to reach out to her local community and see if there was anyone who could make it happen.
I always say that I will do multiple designs at no extra charge. I never thought that would lead to 500 different images in one single order, but I tell you I am so incredibly happy to do it. From what she’s told me, we’re just getting started as this campaign gains momentum. There’s still more details I can’t share yet, but I am excited. Even if I only make the first 500 and that’s it, it has still helped to remind me why buttons matter. I’m not just making buttons, I’m helping to build memories and connection in a very small, but very effective and important way. When I did the first button drop, she apologized that all she had to offer me was a water bottle as an appreciation of gratitude, but honestly, I love it. Not only is it my favorite color, but it also sits in my office as a reminder that staying true to who you are can lead to amazing opportunities.
I have always believed in great customer service and making a great quality product that I believe in and can stand behind. I believe in being good to people and in doing the very best job you can. I am a human being and I don’t always succeed in walking the path that I believe, but when it comes to buttons, I don’t waiver. If a pixel or a speck of dust ruins the button, I toss it out, even if that means printing out an extra sheet or two. It may not matter to everyone, but it matters to me, and over the near decade now that I’ve been making buttons, it’s these principles I stick to that keep amazing people like you coming back or droping my name when someone asks if they know a button maker.
Thank you for sharing. Thank you for telling people that you stand with me on my quality and my work ethic. Thank you to Ashley and the board of directors at Mary Bridge for taking a chance on a small business, and thank you for the opportunity to wow you and myself. I can’t even fully put into words what being a part of this project has truly meant for me.
We’re still working on getting the design app ready for the public. We ran into some snags that we couldn’t fix when meeting the deadline for the launch, but it was working well enough for staff to load their pictures for this project. But rest assure, Annika is working on integrating a new design app that is close to launching for full public consumption and I can’t wait to share it with you.
With love and buttons,