#ShopFranklin Spotlight – Absolutely Fabulous Affairs

For this week’s #ShopFranklin Spotlight, I interviewed Sandra Verhaegen of Absolutely Fabulous Affairs!

abfabaffairs

Sandi’s event-planning expertise began with her first job out of college, where she worked with a company running multi-million dollar promotional events for major corporations.   “It was a lot of fun to see it all come together,” says Sandi, but at the time, she didn’t see herself making a career out of it. She left that job to study public policy in graduate school, moved to Chicago, and launched a career in educational reform policy for the mayor of Chicago. Life intervened, however, and when Sandi’s family relocated to Franklin, Sandi decided that a career change was in order so that she could stay at home with her kids. Throughout her time in Chicago, Sandi had continued to plan events on an informal scale for her own kids and friends, and she realized that although her public policy work had been fulfilling, “my creative side was really starving.”

The result was Absolutely Fabulous Affairs, which will turn three years old next month (and Sandi will undoubtedly be celebrating that anniversary in style!). Sandi handles everything from a small get-together to full-service wedding planning, but the bulk of her business is medium-sized parties like kids’ birthdays or bridal showers. Some of Sandi’s clients aren’t sure what they’re looking for when they first consult her, so in those cases, Sandi sits down with the client to learn more about their needs and wishes. From there, she’ll build some ideas, and present several proposals for the client to choose from; once the client has chosen, Sandi can start the planning from there. Others contact Sandi and know exactly what they want, so Sandi says her job for those clients is to get all the details perfect and help them in “making their vision come alive.”

Sandi doesn’t have a favorite type of event to plan; in fact, Sandi says that the constant variety is the best part of her business. “That’s what really keeps me going, is the change. It’s not always the same. I really seek that.” Every event is different, but according to Sandi, the most over-the-top event she’s ever planned was a carnival party. With details like a dunk tank, face painters, and carnival games, Sandi literally brought a carnival to the client’s back yard. Sandi also recently helped a couple plan a Snow White-themed afternoon tea party for their six-year-old daughter. “They didn’t want it to be something they had ever been to or their guests had ever been to,” says Sandi, and she succeeded in planning a “very fancy” afternoon tea that delighted everyone.

© Sandra Verhaegen

© Sandra Verhaegen

More than anything, Sandi wants the Franklin community to know that event planning services don’t have to be expensive. Whether you need assistance with a single detail of your event or full-service planning, Absolutely Fabulous Affairs can help. Sandi owns many of her own props and decorations, and has negotiated favorable rates with vendors in order to pass the savings on to her customers. “There are definitely ways that using me is going to save you money and time at the end,” Sandi says.

A California native, Sandi first came to the Boston area for graduate school, but later came back to follow other family members who had settled here. When Sandi and her family were looking for a place to live, they fell in love with Franklin because of the reasonable housing prices, great schools, and friendly small-town feel. “I just love that my kids are growing up here,” Sandi says. Sandi has also benefited from the strong local business community, and has already launched partnerships with other local businesses such as the Cake Bar. The first two Cake Bar/Absolutely Fabulous Affairs collaborations are scheduled for May, with others sure to follow.

Although Absolutely Fabulous Affairs keeps her busy, Sandi will soon be launching a second business, The Sugar Pea Co. “It’s another artistic avenue for me to explore,” Sandi says. She’ll be making hand and foot imprints in clay for babies, kids, pets, and even adults, similar to the impression made of Sandi’s own hands when she was four years old and which is still displayed in her parents’ home. According to Sandi, “I had always remembered that… as I was growing up, I’d always put my hand up to it.” Now, with her brand new kiln delivered this week, Sandi can help other families create and keep those memories. She plans to start with wall plaques, but in time, she’s sure she will expand into other designs as well. “I have a hundred and fifty ideas already and I’m forcing myself to just start small,” Sandi laughs.

Visit Absolutely Fabulous Affairs’ Facebook page for party ideas, upcoming events, and more!

Downtown Streetscape Update

Earlier this week, Town Administrator Jeff Nutting provided us with an update on the construction project that will have a significant impact on the downtown streetscape for at least the next year.

In Administrator Nutting’s words:

“Contractor started saw cutting the pavement from West Central at Emmons Street to East Central Street for installation of drainage structures. They expect to start with the drainage structures along West and East Central Streets, and then jump back up to Main Street at School Street, then work down Main to Emmons Street, then Emmons Street back to West Central.

In the next couple of weeks, they expect to have another crew on the project starting with the roadway reconstruction at the Church and work down Main Street to Emmons Street.

The light pole crew is also expected in the next couple of weeks.

MASSDOT indicated that they would have the contractor repair any tree protection fencing that was damaged over the winter.

If anyone has a question, please feel free to reach out to the DPW Director Brutus Cantoreggi or Town Engineer Michael Maglio at 508-553-5500 or my (Jeff Nutting) office at 508-520-4949.”

Ladybug Trek coming soon!

Looking for something fun to do and a way to support local businesses this June?  Join the Small Shop Co-Op’s Ladybug Trek!

LadybugTrek_2015

From June 12 to June 30, use the Ladybug Trek’s mobile app (coming soon!) to follow scavenger hunt clues which will lead you through local businesses all over Franklin.  If you complete the hunt, you’re eligible for a grand prize of over $1,000 in gift cards from local businesses, and even if you don’t complete the hunt, you’ll definitely discover a new gem or two!

Participating businesses will include Daddario Hardware and Supply, Franklin Yoga and Wellness, Elizabeth’s Bagels, Jane’s Frames, Mac Deli, The Cake Bar, NHS Print, and more!  This is sure to be a great event for the whole community, so stay tuned for further information…

Dean Dash 5K Race – Saturday, April 25

Feeling inspired by yesterday’s Boston Marathon?  Sign up to run the Dean Dash 5K this Saturday!

In honor of Dean College‘s 150th anniversary, community members are invited to run, jog, and walk along with Dean students, alumni, faculty, and staff.  Starting at Awpie Way outside Dean Hall at 12:00 PM, you’ll follow a 3.2 mile course through Franklin’s residential streets.  Successful finishers will get to meet Boomer the Bulldog at the finish line, and then enjoy a tasty pasta lunch!

Registration is $10 for Dean students, $15 for faculty, staff, and alumni, and $20 for community members.  Your registration fee includes your official race T-shirt, race bib, a souvenir drawstring bag, lunch, and hydration during the race. For more information and to register, visit Dean’s website for the race.  Happy racing!

#ShopFranklin Spotlight – My Little Midge

For this week’s #ShopFranklin Spotlight, I interviewed Megan Travers of My Little Midge!

© Megan Travers

© Megan Travers

If you’ve ever been to Twist Bakery in Millis, you’ve already seen My Little Midge’s custom chalkboard art; the 23-foot-long menu above their counter is all Megan’s handiwork. Although Megan’s business started out with several different crafts, her chalkboard art quickly became her signature. “I liked how it was kind of what I was known for,” says Megan. She started with birthday chalkboards, which are still one of her most popular items, and expanded from there. For the birthday chalkboards, parents provide Megan with ten to thirteen facts about their child, such as their favorite foods, measurements, likes and dislikes, and so on. Megan takes that information and turns it into a permanent piece of art that captures the child at that age. “They change so quickly,” explains Megan; the artwork is a way for the parents to remember the little details that might otherwise be forgotten. These chalkboards aren’t just for kids’ birthdays, though. Megan has created them for weddings, anniversaries, and other milestones. “I can put anything on chalkboard and have it made into something that’s personalized,” Megan says.

Unlike typical chalk art, Megan’s chalkboard artworks are permanent. She starts with wood or canvas painted with chalkboard paint, to give the artwork that “authentic feel,” and sketches out her design with chalk. She goes over any imperfections, smooths them out and adjusts the spacing, and then permanently fixes the design by going over it with oil paint markers. According to Megan, this method allows her to be “more precise with my execution.”

© Megan Travers

© Megan Travers

After the birth of Megan’s second child, she became a stay-at-home mom, but felt the need to do something beyond caring for her family. Megan has always loved art, so turning her artworks into a business via My Little Midge was a natural progression. “I love what I do,” says Megan. “It allows me to be home with my kids and do something that’s fulfilling to me.” In fact, My Little Midge is named for Megan’s five-year-old daughter, Bridget, who has been “Midge” to her family since birth. Bridget wants to follow in her mother’s footsteps, and has her own table in Megan’s office where she creates her own art while Megan works. “She’ll ask, ‘Mommy, are we working tonight?’” Megan relates. Bridget even critiques Megan’s designs, often telling her “It needs more swirls!”

Megan’s husband was born and raised in Franklin, so the town was a natural place for them to settle after college. Megan loves Franklin’s sense of community, and loves that “they’re really pushing the whole small business thing… people want to see small businesses grow.” Franklin’s support for small businesses has led Megan to make connections with other business owners; she recently partnered with Kooky Critters for a giveaway, and works with Absolutely Fabulous Affairs to throw amazing kids’ parties. Megan is also in talks with other town businesses to do more menu artwork.

In the future, Megan plans to continue working from her home so she can be there for her kids, but would love to partner with someone for a storefront in future. Since all of her artwork is custom-created, Megan says her clients don’t always understand that it takes time. The “orders snowball… I’m like, OK, I can’t take any more for six weeks!” For Megan, “my kids always come first and I don’t ever want them to think that they don’t,” so as her business continues to grow, she’s looking for ways to merchandise her artwork on easily reproducible items such as mugs, prints, and greeting cards. “I don’t want to just plateau – I want to keep going, I want to see where this takes me,” Megan says.

Find My Little Midge online at Etsy and Facebook for info on specials, giveaways, and more!

What’s a preapproval?

On Wednesday we talked about the importance of being prepared before shopping for a new home.  A mortgage preapproval was repeatedly mentioned as an essential part of this preparation, and here’s why.

Most people have heard of both prequalifications and preapprovals, but there’s a big difference between the two. When you get prequalified for a mortgage, you talk to the bank and tell them about your income, assets, and debts.  Based on what you tell the bank, the bank determines whether or not you would qualify for a mortgage loan.  A prequalification doesn’t mean that you will, in fact, get a mortgage, because the bank hasn’t verified anything you told it.  You could walk into your bank tomorrow, tell them you make a million dollars a year and have no debts, but that doesn’t mean it’s true.

On the other hand, a bank doesn’t issue a preapproval for a mortgage until it’s actually looked at your pay stubs, run a credit check on you, and otherwise does everything it needs to do to verify that what you’ve told it about your income, assets, and debts is genuine.  With a preapproval, the bank not only confirms that it is willing to lend you money for a mortgage, but also how much it will lend you.  This tells you exactly how much home you can afford, and better yet, it tells the sellers how much home you can afford.  When you submit an offer on a home with your preapproval attached, the sellers know that the bank has examined your financial situation and confirmed that it will lend you enough money to purchase that home.  Without that preapproval, the sellers have no way of knowing if you will be able to get the financing for the purchase, and no confidence that the sale can actually close.

It’s easy to get a preapproval from a mortgage broker or bank, so don’t skip this important step and make sure you have your preapproval in hand before you shop!

Enchanted Memories Travel – Open House May 2

Need a vacation but not sure where to start?  The folks at Enchanted Memories Travel can help you out!

As a thank you to their customers and to the Franklin community, Enchanted Memories will be hosting an Open House on Saturday, May 2 at their new downtown office.  Stop by the Depot Plaza from 10 AM-4 PM and enjoy free family-friendly activities such as face painting, treats, and balloons.  Enchanted Memories will also be holding raffles at this event, so don’t miss out on your chance to win!

Enchanted Memories Travel is located at 13 Main Street, Suite 2B in Franklin.