I have no idea how to write this post. I have no idea how to begin to explain what I am feeling right now. I have spent my entire day reading your thoughts and feelings and it’s been a tough one. I mean, what do you say to people who for years, have trusted you and supported you, on the day that you disappointment them so severely. I am at a loss for words and that is not something I admit to very often. But, I am going to push forward and I am going to do what I have suggested in so many of my classes, I am going to write. I am going to write publicly and transparently. I am going to do my best to express what is in my heart. I am going to hope and pray that what comes out can in some way influence some of what you may be thinking and assuming as you have read the news about Big Picture Classes and the demise of Forever Access. I will also hope that you now know why I have not followed up on my previous post. That follow-up has been postponed indefinitely.
Before I write another word, I want to acknowledge that you have every right to feel
or any other word used to describe extreme negative emotion.
I want to publicly recognize this.
I have always, always tried to be honest with everyone, all the time. I probably value personal integrity above all other virtues as it seems to be the virtue that most encompasses all others. Next to integrity I most value generosity and I always try to act and react from a place of generosity. I know that my commitment to make choices and decisions with integrity and generosity has blessed my life and the lives of those around me. I am now going to see if I can explain how I have made recent decisions based on these values.
Let’s start here: I am a content provider. I am not a business women. I know that I have owned a business for the last 8+ years, but it was never my intention to become a business owner. I just happened to be someone who has a LOT of ideas and these ideas tend to start things, like teaching methods and presentations and books and a magazine and more books and a really cool website called Big Picture Scrapbooking that became Big Picture Classes. But in the end, I am not wired to run a business. I’m really not. Originally, Kayce and I had a third partner. She was the business partner in this BPC thing, but she had to leave, and since that time we have done our level best. We have gathered together a wonderful team of vibrant and talented and passionate people, whom we love and respect. We have managed to grow a remarkable community of the very same kind of women—creative, caring and compassionate. I could have NEVER in a million years estimated what our little website would grow to become and how it would influence in positive ways the lives of women and families all over the world. I still thrill at the chance to log into a classroom on the first day of class and be greeted by friends on the other side of the globe!
I’ve said this before, but when BPC launched, there was no such thing as online education. There were blogs. There were lots of static websites and there were a smattering of message boards. We built, with custom code a website, page after page and classroom after classroom and functionality and functionality. In the meantime, the web began to change—a lot! About three (or so?) years ago, Kayce and I knew we needed to bring on a CEO, someone with much more experience, business savvy and expertise than we collectively had. We hired my very good friend, Mark Seastrand, who was the CEO of Creating Keepsakes magazine. Mark is 100% awesome. He came on board and he helped alleviate some of the day-to-day stress that Kayce and I were dealing with. Shortly after bringing Mark on, we were able to purchase Ella Publishing, which meant adding eBooks to our line-up of great content at BPC and perhaps more importantly for me, it meant adding Angie Lucas and Wendy Smedley (full time) to our team. We felt poised to take on the world, but as you know and as I explained in this post , the evolution in our industry which includes digital technology and social media and has been influenced by major changes and advances in web interface in general has quite literally changed everything. Add to this a struggling economy and you have some pretty big challenges for small companies like ours. In all honestly, we were doing good. We had continued to grow, we were trying new things (think events and pajama parties) but the weight of owning and running a business was taking it’s tole. And as you probably know, I have struggled with health issues on and off for five years and stress and exhaustion are definitely a part of the problem there. It seemed like we would take a step forward, but not actually move forward (if that makes sense at all?!) The fact is we were no longer on a growth trajectory and that worried me. In fact, it worried me a lot. I am an optimistic person, but I knew we where behind on the tech side of things. We were desperately trying to do something about this, but our team alone (and even with help) was unable, for more than a year, to make the kind of progress we needed to make. In addition to this, some of our best and most popular teachers were evolving their brands away from BPC—something I championed for them personally—but something that was tough for our business. Each of these changes presented a new challenge, so in the midst of our Play! event in Anaheim last January, when April Foster (Studio Calico) approached me and wanted to talk, I was definitely open to learning more.
We began talking and exploring possibilities and after LOTS and lots of deliberation and with LOTS of careful consideration (and to be honest, fasting and prayer) Kayce and Mark and I made the decision to sell BPC to Studio Calico. And this is where you need to pay attention: THIS WAS THE RIGHT DECISION. I was not fully aware of the sentiment around Studio Calico and customer service, so I was surprised to learn of the distrust that was voiced back in August when we made our agreement public. But I trusted and continue to trust my decision-making process and the peace that accompanied this decision. I do not regret making this decision and it might also help you to know that Studio Calico was not the first company that has offered to purchase BPC. This was not a decision that was made lightly and this was not a sell-out in any way, shape or form. You may choose to see this differently and I certainly understand that.
Now, as hard as you try to anticipate all of the challenges that come with merging companies, there are bound to be surprises. You can trust me when I say that we attempted to dot every i and cross every t, but as soon as the sell was official and announced publicly it became impossible for our programmer to continue working for us. This was not something we anticipated and was not something that we could have adequately prepared for. Studio Calico quickly realized that they could not support, maintain or sustain BPC in it’s current condition, especially without a programmer to help them. And, it’s interesting, because one of the things I’ve been most excited about with this merger is the opportunity to work with the amazing IT department at Studio Calico—for evidence of their skills, please see the new aliedwards.com—they are truly awesome, and they are going to bring BPC into the present and enable us to move forward into the future positioned to continue to do what we love to do, what we are passionate about. In the meantime, things have had to change and had to change fast. Decisions have had to be made that no one thought we would have to make. And my wonderful team has had to process a HUGE amount of change in the midst of a crazy amount of uncertainty, while keeping everything moving forward according to our editorial/class calendar and already demanding production schedule. This has been without a doubt the most difficult three months of my entire career, and I’m celebrating 20 years in this industry this year.
So, here we are. If you’re reading this, there is a good chance you are one of the many who is MAD. Mad at me, mad at the situation and mad at the reality that you now face. You’re feelings are raw and you feel that you’ve been taken advantage of. I am SO VERY SORRY. It was never my intent for any of this to happen and we have made every effort to mitigate the pain and stress of the message we shared today. We are very much listening to everything you’re sharing with us. We are committed to hearing your frustrations and understanding what we can do to alleviate some of the disappointment you feel. Studio Calico has gathered data, analyzed it and used it to determine that we can carry almost 50 of our best attended and most content-rich classrooms over to the new BPC. And, speaking of the new BPC, when we launch I really WANT to extend the first month of classes to everyone at no cost. I really want you to SEE first hand what we’ve built and EXPERIENCE first-hand where we are headed. There is cost (in time and resources) associated with this wish and when I was asked whether to spend additional dollars to extend the life of old content or spend those dollars to extend the experience of new content. I voted for new content. I am very interested in delighting consumers in this industry. I always have been! We have been through a LOT together and I truly believe that the best is yet to come. I will continue to work hard to gain and regain trust. I have now given the business of BPC to Studio Calico to run, but I am retaining the passion I (still) feel as a content provider. I was taught as a brand-new magazine editor that if I created great content, people would buy and subscribe to my magazine, and that as I continued to delight them, they would become loyal readers.
I sincerely wish that magazines didn’t have to die. That scrapbooking stores didn’t have to close their doors. That manufacturers, who love this industry and this hobby as much as I do, still had companies and product to share with us, but our current reality is that things change and will continue to change. The good news is we can now shop for scrapbooking products in national chains like Hobby Lobby, Michaels and Target (something we used to dream about in Simple Scrapbooks magazine planning meetings.) We can now create digital and even mobile scrapbook pages—hello Project Life App! We can share stories and bits and pieces of our lives in so many amazing ways and we can connect and converse like never before. Change is crazy hard sometimes, but change is also good and needs to be embraced as it is very much a part of life.
I think I’m probably about done here. I’m certain you’re tired of reading—if you’ve even made it this far. I guess what I want you to know is that my heart is (still) in the right place. I want you to know that I am authentically excited for the future of BPC and I want you to know that moving forward with Studio Calico and all of the challenges involved in that decision is still far better than the alternative. As you process what you’re feeling and as you spend precious time downloading content that you were told would be archived for you, forever. Please try and remember that this passionate content provider never set out to be a business woman, but she has now partnered with a business woman, so that she can devote what time and energy she has left to creating and providing content that will inspire and instruct and (hopefully) delight.
I hope you can trust me in this.
But, I understand if you can’t.
Thank you for reading,