National Mom & Pop Business Owner Day

By Susan Lennon
on March 22, 2015

My background prior to working at Premier was in software and web development. I did interface design so my fine arts degree in design and illustration translated to that. However, I was sick of technology and wanted a major change. Between my studies in illustration, my sewing skills that I learned from my mother when I was a child, and my time windsurfing, I managed to be a good candidate when I interviewed for a job with a kite manufacturer based in Maryland. 

At that time I knew little about manufacturing and retail sales. I never really thought about the containers I'd see on the tankers when driving over the Bay BridgeTankers on the Chesapeake Bay on my way to Maryland's Eastern Shore. I never thought about local businesses or the impact they have on our economy. In the years that I've lived in the Annapolis area, I've seen more and more local businesses replaced with large chains which might be fine, but there is something special about a small business. 

Some people think about small businesses on Small Business Saturday and might do some Christmas shopping at local businesses that one day of the year. I'm pleased to announce that there is another day that is meant to help us think about our local economy, and that is National Mom & Pop Business Owner Day. However, my blog is not to tell you about each holiday, there are other blogs to do that. My blog is simply what I have to say about some of these days. 

The bread and butter of Premier Kites & Designs happens to be Mom & Pop businesses. Some of these businesses have grown as we have grown, some have contentedly stayed the same size, and some of these businesses go away when Mom & Pop decide to retire. I'd like to share a story with you about my personal favorite Mom & Pop business, though. It is a story of a Mom & Pop who decided to retire by starting their own business. B & S Kites. 

B & S Kites was started by Bill and Susie Doan in in 1997. Bill and Susie, originally from Ohio, would vacation in South Padre Island, Texas. Kites were Bill's hobby. One day Bill said to Susie that he wanted to open a kite shop there. She thought he was joking. Bill was currently driving a semi and Susie had a job as a bookkeeper, why takeB & S Kites South Padre Island such a huge risk and start a kite shop? Unfortunately, their oldest son, Billy, died unexpectedly and they decided they would take the chance and go for it.

I've always liked Bill and Susie (and not just because Susie brings home baked cookies to us each year when they visit us in Hyattsville), but I didn't know about the history behind their store until I decided to write this blog. Here's a very condensed version of how they got started. Basically, they auctioned off almost all of their belongings. Susie had just gotten a new car, but she sold it. Bill restored old tractors, so he had some of those to sell. They simply sold everything They took the money they made and used it as seed money for the store. One March day when Susie was at work she got a fax that a sporting good store was going out of business. It was a 15' x 60' space and they bought it. They made a plan that they would give it 18 months. After they were there for 3 months Susie said to Bill, "We're staying." 

When I asked Bill what he liked most about being a Mom & Pop business he said it is getting to be with the love of his life 24/7. Susie was a little more detailed in her response, I can't decide if it is because she's female or because she's the bookkeeper. 

Susie said, "Everything is negotiable whatever the difference of opinion is. . .there is no one boss. We have to be on the same page or life is miserable." She then laughed as she added, "That is a pro."

She went on to explain that there is no one higher up who will simply lay down the law but instead they learn to compromise. At the word compromise she added that it is also a con. I asked her to explain and she said that they each need to be big enough to admit when the other has the better idea. As cons go, in my opinion, that's not so bad. Or maybe it just doesn't seem so bad when I think of the two of them. They visit us once a year and something that stands out to me as I write this is how courteous they are to one another. Genuinely thoughtful; that is Bill and Susie.

It isn't often that I see a marriage that makes me think, "If I were to get married, I'd like it to be like that." Bill and Susie have a business and a marriage that I admire. What has made B&S Kites successful in my opinion? Maybe it is Susie's bookkeeping skills or Bill's kite knowledge. Maybe it is that they know the first name, last name, and the hometown of about 500 of their customers. However, I think that they are successful in business, because they are successful in their marriage. They treat each other with courtesy, respect, and love which extends to their business and their community. 

Premier has recently updated our website to sell direct to the consumer. We have so many products available that not every store can carry every item. I asked Susie for her thoughts. She said she isn't concerned because they beat us on price and because they don't want to sell online. "We want to stay focused on customer service." 

When you go into a Mom & Pop business, at least one like Bill & Susie's, you are going to get better than customer service. You are going to get the attention of people who genuinely care. Supporting Mom & Pop businesses means supporting people who believe so much in their hobby that they want to share it. 

Bill and Susie Doan of B & S Kites


 If you are ever in South Padre Island, let Susie and Bill show you their favorite kites, two of them are the Clarks Crystal and the Peacock Wrasse Kite. You'll see that the store has grown to 15' x 120' and they are now sharing the work load with their son, John Henry. If you happen to be there next week, be sure to wish them a Happy Anniversary!

Susan has been the art director at Premier since 2002. She used to exercise race horses in addition to working at Premier but has since adopted one of the race horses. Now she is happily working one job and enjoying having spare time. In this spare time she is either outdoors with her horse or home at her easel. Occasionally she is doing random cat rescue. She enjoys her job and all the people she gets to meet along the way. Her favorite kites this year are Batty and Unicorns deltas!

Learn About Butterflies - Have a Little Old Fashion Curiosity

By Susan Lennon
on February 28, 2015

When I first started my post about Learn About Butterflies Day, I did a bunch of research about butterflies so I could share some of the interesting information that I’d learned. However, as I thought about the information I was typing, I also thought about how I got this information. And I got it the same way you could. I typed ‘butterflies’ into google and hit enter.

It got me thinking about my childhood, which I still don’t think is that long ago even if my younger coworkers seem to think otherwise (yes, Buna, Becca, I’m referring to you). When  I was in elementary school, we’d go marching down the library in single file and go to the card catalog and find what Dewey Decimal Classification was associated with ‘Butterflies’. The very act of walking to a section of the building dedicated to books seemed build a sense of curiosity. 

Thinking about elementary school reminded me of the day, in 4th grade, when we were going to learn about butterflies by making our own from a butterfly shape on ditto paper. The teacher put a couple of books out for us to use for reference Emerald Swallowtail by Death Pengwinand a smattering of art supplies. Crayons, markers (that were the worst, and I bet she used her own money to buy them, teachers need better pay), and pastels! I had access to professional grade pastels at home and was very comfortable with them. I saw an image of what I now believe was an Emerald Swallowtail Butterfly and new exactly what I was going to do. I colored and colored with green and black on the page, I went outside the lines (we were going to cut them out anyway), and blended and smudged. Generally I made what looked like a big mess to everyone else. It didn't take long for my fellow the students to tell the teacher who stood over my desk and made tut-tutting sounds. I kept going because I knew what I wanted. I put white markings on it and then cut it out and it looked quite snazzy if you ask me. When seeing the final result, the class felt the same way. What I’m trying to say here is that with information so readily available, it takes genuine curiosity to learn. Granted, in my case, I was learning that blending cheap black and green pastels yielded pleasing results. 

Which was great because I ended up attending art school (where we also went to the library to get books) and eventually came to work here at Premier making butterfly kites and spinners and more. And having a great time doing it!

The illustration portion of our work in the design department at Premier requires research. We research what is the most popular bird when making bird spinners, we research the most popular butterfly, when making butterfly spinners. Invariably, we learn about our subject matter, like learning that loons do not have spots in the winter, which would be very important to a loon enthusiast. Brightly spotted loons swimming in a lake surrounded by snow would not make for a very accurate flag design. Therefore, I know how easy it is to do a little bit of internet research. It just takes a will to do it. 

There are so many ways to learn about butterflies these day; you have access to most of the information right in front of you right now. If you live near me you can celebrate Learn About Butterflies Day by going to the Museum of Natural History. If you don't and you realize you need to get out of the house, visit your local library. Whatever you do, be curious. Maybe I can get congress to change it to National Curiosity About Butterflies Day! 

As a teaser, though, here is some of the information I found prior deciding to go on a tear about curiosity and school days in the 70's:
  • The iridescent colors in the wings are from a reflective microstructure. . .which just sounds amazing. I wish I had some reflective microstructures. 
  • When butterflies need to sleep or when it is raining they will hang on the underside of a leaf. I tried to find a photo in the Creative Commons, but couldn't. So go find your own. It's neat. 
  • There are about 28,000 butterflies worldwide with 80% of them in tropical regions.
  • In North America, most of species live in Mexico, about 2,000.
  • Between the United States and Canada there are only 725 species. . .220 of them live in Arizona!
  • There are 22 species of butterflies in America that are on the endangered species list.
While you are waiting for winter to thaw, inspire yourself with thoughts of summer by being curious about butterflies. And, as in my previous post, you can also give someone you care about a butterfly flag or spinner. Another thing that we at Premier think is a great idea is that you can put any of our butterfly spinners in your yard. You can show the world, or a least your neighbors, that like butterflies by proudly displaying Lady Rainbow (or in a smaller size, almost as stunning).
However, you could give a child a butterfly kite, we have a variety of kites with butterflies that will make a great gift. It can be a great starting point to get them curious about butterflies.  
If I've sparked your curiosity, see what else can you learn about butterflies on Learn About Butterfly Day, and then come back and share it with me!

Susan has been the art director at Premier since 2002. She used to exercise race horses in addition to working at Premier but has since adopted one of the race horses. Now she is happily working one job and enjoying having spare time. In this spare time she is either outdoors with her horse or home at her easel. Occasionally she is doing random cat rescue. She enjoys her job and all the people she gets to meet along the way. Her favorite kites this year are Batty and Unicorns deltas!

National Pig Day - Because You Need to Appreciate the Pig!

By Susan Lennon
on February 15, 2015
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