Que Linda

50% OR MORE OF EVERY SALE GOES TO CHARITY, EVERY DAY.

Dollars and Sense, Y'all

Shawna Ohm

Pricing is a bitch.

When I first started this company, it was super easy to price things. I just put my supply costs. I didn’t build an inventory, I only took a token fee for labor, I had no overhead and so on.

But as the company has expanded, the one consistent piece of feedback I’ve gotten is: More new designs! More new products! We like what you’re doing, give us more!

This means trying to balance the risk of inventory and labor intensive projects with the business model: I refuse to take a any cut of sales for Que Linda, and I’m not going to do this to get rich.

Enter: Casting. Some of the custom, hand-hammered metal pieces we’ve done have been incredibly popular. These are cheaper to do when you make a model of the piece, and then have it cast professionally. This allows you to consistently replicate a product with less work. It also means you’re paying a one-time cost for a mold (shout-out to Carerra Casting in NYC for giving us a discount)… and the labor and metal costs of ever casting. Metal, like any commodity varies in cost. And depending on the type of metal the weight and cost can fluctuate a bit, too. Plus we do have to work some price in to pay for the mold.

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Which is to say pricing gets a little more complicated. I’ve tried to be as true as I can to the details but with some costs fluctuating (like metal prices / not knowing how many pieces we’ll sell to know how to accurately price in the molds), I’ve started adding in approximate labels on some of the costs. This is because these are, to the best of my ability the approximate costs.

I keep detailed records and receipts of these things, and am happy to nerd out on the details and open my books to any and all who are interested. But since I’ve always been very transparent with customers, I didn’t just want to start throwing an “approximate” in there without an explanation.

#TheMoreYouKnow … right?

Now… get back to shopping!

The Hurdles to Giving Back: Finding Good Charities

Shawna Ohm

Allow me to sound old for a moment. Back when I was a kid, donating to charity was simple. There were only a few charities out there that everyone donated to, and you trusted that they were doing good work with your money.

But in 2019, that’s not the case. There are thousands of charities out there and often times local chapters operate independently of the national organization. Certain philanthropies may support one issue we care about, while working against other issues important to us.

Photo by  Pau Casals  on  Unsplash

Photo by Pau Casals on Unsplash

Even worse, on occasion, we find out our trust is misplaced. Remember when we found out the CEO of Komen was making upwards of $600,000 per year. People should be compensated fairly, but that salary dwarfs the national average several times over, and many (myself included) wondered what else that money could be doing.

One way to select good charities is to use Charity Navigator. Now, keep in mind, Charity Navigator is a business (& charity) itself. But as a starting point, it can be really helpful in evaluating a charity. Charity navigator looks at the information provided on IRS Form-990 which is the form charities must fill out every year. From there, they evaluate the financial health, transparency and accountability. They look at how much of the money raised and donated goes to operations (like marketing and fundraising) versus research or programs.

So, for example, if you were disillusioned by Komen, a search on Charity Navigator would show you that Breast Cancer Research Foundation that nearly 90 percent of their revenue goes directly towards programs and research. That’s one reason that, despite the continuing high profile of Komen, we choose to donate to BCRF.

When charities aren’t available on Charity Navigator (you have to be a certain size, etc), we try to use these criteria as guiding metrics in evaluating organizations and their works. After all, Que Linda is still too new/small to be evaluated by Charity Navigator, so we know there’s value in the small guys, too!

If you’re looking for a charity go help a cause you’re passionate about, Charity Navigator is a great place to start.

Thank You For Being (Freya's) Friends

Shawna OhmComment

I am a crazy dog lady. This is surprising to literally no one.

But once upon a time, I was a crazy dog lady with no dog.

I lived in New York City in an apartment where they weren’t allowed. And trust me when I tell you there are few things creepier than a dog-obsessed woman with no dog. I’d stop strangers and ask for pets. I had canine crushes. I was thirsty.

Then my coworker Anna came to my rescue. She offered to “share” her dog and sent me regular photos of her amazing German Shepard pupper whenever I needed a doggo moment.

Freya was such a good girl. The goodest, in fact.

We were all shocked when Freya passed away suddenly, while still a puppy. I know it was crushing for Anna in a way I can’t and won’t attempt to describe.

This year, on the one year anniversary of Freya’s death, Anna had the idea to do a commemorative event to raise money for animal charities, both nationally and in Iowa. For six weeks, she commissioned pet portraits. These custom, stippled portraits took her hours to create, but she charged just $5 for the work involved.

For the first time, Que Linda let buyers choose how much they wanted to donate … and I have to say you guys were generous. You donated more than the minimum at every turn.

In that short period of time, Anna raised more than $750 for animal charities in Freya’s honor.

$200 went to the American Humane Association and $555 to the American Rescue League in Iowa (where Anna is based).

This was the most successful product campaign Que Linda has ever had, and we’ve taken notes! Anna is plotting possible future events, so if you missed your chance this time, you may still be able to get a portrait of your bestie… stay tuned.

In the meantime, I want to say THANK YOU to Anna for having the idea. Thank you to everyone who shopped. I would be lying if I didn’t tell you that getting to see photos of your sweet pets brightened all my days.

Shop more of Anna’s work here.

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...

Shawna Ohm

Happy almost Thanksgiving!

Recently we sent a survey to our customers asking what they would like to see on the site … and the answer was resoundingly: More products!

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Well, we heard you. It’s only fitting that on the biggest shopping week of the year we offer you a ton of new choices to get your holiday shopping started off on a charitable foot!

Shop all of our new products here.

And…

We have a bunch of Christmas specific products set to roll out on Friday! (Think holiday coasters, ornaments, and more!)

All in the family

Shawna Ohm

My Great Grandpa left Germany in the 1930s when the Nazis took control. We’re not Jewish, he just didn’t like Nazis and didn’t want his son in their youth groups. That same son, my grandpa, grew up to become a metal worker. There were always a ton of machines in his basement, which was wear I spent my summers as a kid. My dad took over the metal business (his brothers were uninterested) and built a woodworking business along side it. Which is all to say I have grown up around saws, lathes, punch presses and men missing bits of their fingers. Some in our basement, some in the garage, some in a shop nearby.

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But, I never knew how to do any of this my self. Sure, I helped push wood around on table saws and sanded projects to help out in the summer. But handle a blow torch? Hammer out wire? No thanks.

Until now. Walking around my dad’s shop this past weekend, I was struck by what a treasure trove of DIY + Antiquing supplies he has among his everyday things.

In an old work bench that would have made Joanna Gaines swoon, we found a bunch of my grandpa’s scrap metal… it may even have been my great grandpa’s. It was certainly older than me.

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Sentimentally, I had my dad help me heat it and hammer it out. It was a joint project and my lack of skill led to a few “happy little accidents” as Bob Ross would say. But the resulting jewelry is by far my favorite collection to date.

It took more time than some other projects … but we’ve got the hang of it now. And every piece has a little bit of my family’s heart and soul hammered in. That’s not just scrappy. It’s pure gold.

Shop the “Stay Scrappy” collection.

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October: I love/hate you

Shawna Ohm

Since 2012, I have hated October.

My mom died early in the morning on October 18th.

Now, when the air changes in the fall, I immediately remember everything about that period of slow decline and mourning. And because it’s Breast Cancer Awareness month, pink ribbons remind me at every turn, just in case I happen to forget.

This year was particularly bad. The political discourse around the Supreme Court was some of the most vitriolic I’ve ever seen. We were gearing up for a knife-fight of a midterm election. For the first time since 2009, I deactivated my Twitter account. For the first time in my life, I stopped reading the news. (I am a former journalist. I really love the news.) This year, my day job and personal life were added sources of stress.

But then, there’s Que Linda. My forever silver lining. Que Linda had amazing October. We:

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  • Kicked off talks with a few potential partners: New artists who may sell with us, new stores that might be feature our products, and more. Stay tuned!

  • Donated to Breast Cancer Research Foundation on double-donation days, giving our gifts a major boost.

  • Launched an in-store location, placing a pop-up display at Dollop Coffee Shop in Chicago.

  • Had highest monthly sales to date … which means our biggest charitable donations! We’re still tallying a few things but it’s looking like ~$500 for the month. To put that in perspective, our average price point is below $20.

I’m reminded of one of my favorite quotes, from the artist Renoir. In old age, plagued by arthritis, he could barely pick up a brush. Someone asked him why he still endured the pain of painting. He said:

“The pain passes, but the beauty remains.”

I’m sure I will forget soon about the 60 hour work weeks, the heart break, and the politics. But I will not forget these milestones in the life of this company, my passion project. And the future is even brighter.

We kicked November off with a trip to Paris and are back in the U.S. refreshed, rejuvinated, and ready to help you give charitable, thoughtful gifts this holiday season. GET READY!!!

Thank you for your support!

Let’s keep saving the world.

Shawna

It's as pretty as I thought

Shawna Ohm
ThankYouQueLinda

It's taken me awhile to write this post. I want to tell you what it felt like to finally press Live. To see orders appear in my inbox. To receive photos of people i love and admire wearing Que Linda. I want to share what it felt like to hit Submit on more than $300 in donations to various charities.

But also, I want to share just how terrifying it feels. Anyone who runs distances knows that the truly scary part of a marathon is feeling amazing on miles 10-18. Because that's when you burn out, go too fast, ignore the limitations you spent so long learning, and ruin your race.

So now it's time for pacing. Savoring the joy of each sale. (And let me assure you, there is a vocal SQUEEEEEE every. single. time.) But also looking forward. It's time to go back to business plans, and expansion targets, and deliverables I can hold myself accountable for. It's daunting and exciting all at once.

When I thought about how to put this in words, I kept coming back to my favorite quotation of all time: "Isn't it pretty to think so?"

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The quote is about the contrast between reality and what might have been. And Hemingway's final line seems to end the debate. That it’s lovely to think of what might have been but it’s just that, a thought. It’s not real and never will be.

Personally, I've read enough Hemingway to think he always wanted someone to prove him wrong.

And we did. Que Linda proved him wrong. When I dreamed this up, it was pretty to think it would succeed. That you'd like it. That I could help people. And now that it's here... it's just as pretty as I thought.

So I want to take a moment to acknowledge we did it. We put in the work and we took the first steps. And pardon my language, but it felt fucking great.

So THANK YOU to everyone who's been a part of that. From my board, who spent hours reviewing power points, inventories, designs and legalese to friends who bought things in week one. From former coworkers who took a chance listing their art (love you, Anna) to my Harlem homegirl who broke her very good rule of not working for free because she believes in what we're doing. I literally do a skip or a dance every time I think about you, and this.

Lastly, I promised to always be transparent. So, here's what we made happen in the three weeks we were open in July:

To celebrate, and to test out some new styles, everyone who buys something before August 26th will get a bonus gift with purchase. So go on. Keep shopping, and spread the QL love.

Forever grateful,
Shawna

There's (No) Politics in Charity

Shawna OhmComment

Recently I shared a preview of this site with a social media friend—someone I've never met but follow on twitter. In all honesty, I followed her because she's a fan of Trump and I am not. But she seemed like an independent thinker with a unique perspective (follow her! @ihate_everyone2).  That's also why I sent her the site prelaunch. I knew she'd be brutally honest, and had no reason to flatter me.

She was a big help on many fronts but the best thing she asked me was whether I would feature an artist on the site if their recommended charity was a pro-life organization. (I'm pro-choice.)

This made me think more broadly about where to draw the line on donations. How do we know we're giving to good charities? How do we stay out of politics in a world where everything feels political?

The whole point of this site is to make the world better. And I certainly have a vision for what that looks like. But that might not be someone else's idea of a better world.

When I really sit with it, I have to ask: Who am I to decide what will make the world better and how?

It's natural that people want to support different charities working toward different goals. And so here is Que Linda's official policy on donating to charities:

Que Linda will donate to any charity that has a 4-star rating on charity navigator. 

Charity navigator looks at a number of criteria, including financial metrics and transparency/accountability. What it does *not* do is rate or judge the charity's mission.

If the charity does not have a 4-star rating, we'll still do a review.

Through all of this, my goal is to be as transparent as possible, and I'll be updating our Partner page to include Charity Navigator metrics.

As always, your feedback is welcome. Comments are on, let's hear 'em!

~Shawna

Holy Sh!t Batman

Shawna Ohm
Getting my hair done at First Love Kenya, the day my lightbulb finally went off for Que Linda.

Getting my hair done at First Love Kenya, the day my lightbulb finally went off for Que Linda.

Is it bad luck to start the first blog post about your passion project—a charity no less—with a curse word? I guess we'll find out!

I think once I share my timeline, though, you'll see that it's not gratuitous.

  • Pre-2017: I have a vague notion to do something with my crafts, other than wear them or give them as gifts, but can't be bothered to figure it out.
  • Fall 2017: I have the idea to give things to people if they donate to my favorite charities, but dismiss it as too much work.
  • March 13, 2018: While visiting an orphanage in Kenya on vacation, a lightbulb goes off and the full idea finally forms.
  • March 31, 2018: I say my idea out loud for the first time to family. (Thank you, Lisa and Aunt Rose, for fanning a flame that could easily have been put out.)
  • May 1, 2018: Que Linda NFP is incorporated with the state of Illinois.

... Something I couldn't put my finger on a year ago now has a name, a website, a tax ID number and a bank account.

It has the potential to fulfill my wildest dreams: Help people in need via charities I believe in; Build a legacy for my mom; Give a creative platform to those who crave one; And link art and charity in a meaningful and accessible way.

It also has the potential to fail miserably: bylaws, board meetings, inventory, terms & conditions, contributing artists, site design, payment processing, accounting, IRS forms... each one of these things is complex with substantial room for error.

So far, we've broken down every challenge in a way that would make Christopher Nolan proud. What seems like an overwhelming action sequence on first glance has turned into logistical shot sheets... there's a plan, a props person, a costume director, and somehow, so far, everything has worked out.

I picked a kickass board, and I have supportive friends and partners who oooh and aaah at all the right times, and who remind me of the potential to succeed when all I can think about is the alternative. To all of you: THANK YOU!

In just a few weeks we'll have a soft launch, where family and friends can test what we've built. I can't wait for you to see it. And in the meantime ... Holy Sh!t, Batman! It's really happening!

Stay tuned,
Shawna