Instagram Then and Now

A Brief History

I’ve been using Instagram since April of 2011 when the site was about 6 months old. It seemed like a creative challenge and I didn’t know if I was up to the task. Back then I was most likely shooting photos with an iPhone 4 or 4s (can’t remember which) capturing images at less than 400 pixels per inch. By comparison, the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL I now use are capturing 12.3 megapixel images—so massively greater image clarity is possible.

Looking back at my early photos, they look kind of awful. Despite some images with halfway decent composition, the clarity is “not good.”  Below is a sample, and you can follow the link to blog post with more examples and “tips.”

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Minimal Activity = Stagnant Follower Count

I’m not good at “gaming” followers, and unlike many of the huge accounts out there, I have never bought any. So while I was doing “okay,” my account was never great. Then it got worse. In 2016 I accepted a full-time job. It was demanding and negatively impacted my ability to create and engage on most of my social channels, including Instagram. I was basically on “maintenance mode.” I tried to post an image most days, but weeks or months would go by, and I would “like” a bunch of photos, but I wouldn’t exchange comments with anyone! Needless to say, my account stagnated, I lost followers, and I’d be lucky to get 30 or 50 “likes on an image. I was stuck at about 2800 followers and nothing I did seemed to make a difference.

Some of you who know me pretty well are aware I left my job about a month and a half ago. The reason is long and boring, but suffice it to say I’m on the road to recovery and feeling better each day, and one thing that has been soul replenishing is reconnecting with people on social media. Engagement has been essential. I’m now up to about 4100 followers and have made lots of fabulous connections with fun and interesting new people.

Ramping Up

Assessing my Instagram situation, I realized there are now a lot of great photographers  there, some of whom have massive audiences, and I seriously needed to up my game. The first order of business was to be more thoughtful about what I was shooting; then looking at how I was prepping the work, and how I framed the image’s narrative. I’ve been a brand partner of Verizon for about 5 years and I wanted to do a better job representing their products and service, so it meant changing up the way I had been doing things. Instead of “maintenance mode,” it was more like, “Banzai!”

Before and After

I’m going to share a series of “before and after” photos, so you can see what a difference it makes to properly prepare your images. This means cropping, sharpening, adjusting contrast, boosting the color saturation, and applying filters.

Here goes:

Maker:0x4c,Date:2017-11-19,Ver:4,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar01,E-Y

Kind of a “blah” shot of Alki Beach, right?

After being cropped, adjusted and filtered, it looks so much more interesting, AND detail in the bird that I didn’t even know was there, shows up.

©Terri-Nakamura_Alki-Beach-IG-20180627_232201_127

One thing I’d like to say about Instagram — there is no shortage of brainy people there. Seems that each time I post something and don’t know what it is, a number of viewers will chime in and school me! An example is this shot below. I didn’t know what the flower was, and boy, did I get some great feedback!

Maker:0x4c,Date:2017-11-19,Ver:4,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar01,E-Y

The bee isn’t very apparent. Maybe because there are many distracting things in the shot, plus the color is subdued.

©Terri-Nakamura_Allium-bee-IG-20180721_205509_931

That’s better! And as Verizon says, “Better Matters!” And for the record, the flower is an Allium.

Reg Saddle @zaibatsu and I frequently discuss things like what the algorithms are rewarding or penalizing, and how it affects what we do. One of the things we go back to is what our audiences want. Think about what you post and which things get the most traction.

Here’s something “off the beaten path” for my feed — a glassblower in the Glassy Baby hot shop, not far from where I live. One of the most necessary steps was to crop this photo. You’ll see what I mean.

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Interesting but a lot going on, right? Below: where the action is.

©Terri-Nakamura_GlassyBaby-IG-20180723_215223_959

Maker:0x4c,Date:2017-11-19,Ver:4,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar01,E-Y

My “boyfriend,” Hunter. Dark. But cropped and adjusted:

©Terri-Nakamura_Hunter-IG-20180728_221254_803

I don’t know about you, but our cats are shedding like crazy!

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So my brother-in-law is the head of the California Leafy Greens Board. His wife (is she my sister-in-law?) said this is NOT a thistle. But man. I’ve never seen an artichoke this tall. The main thing is, too much is going on and did you see the bee? Take a look:

©Terri-Nakamura_Thistle-bee-IG-20180727_223213_153

I almost hate to show you this one. Check out this tree photo, taken on a dreary Seattle day in late spring. I have a thing about shooting UP a tree. This is a classic case.

©Terri-Nakamura_Tree-20180417_190945.jpg

I didn’t like the way the trunk was drawing the eye away in the bottom right corner. Cropping was calling. But how about those colors? Drab!

©Terri-Nakamura_Tree-IG-20180714_234817_201

Through the miracle of filters, the tree came to life!

Maker:0x4c,Date:2017-11-19,Ver:4,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar01,E-Y

So this is a weird one. I noticed this magnolia blossom was so heavy, the bough brought the blossom to my eye level. When I peered inside, I was like, “WHAT?!?” Very cool, but I knew there was potential in making this better. As shown below, I cleaned up the shot, and there is now more detail and clarity.

©Terri-Nakamura_Magnolia-bees-IG-20180731_223407_789

Yes, folks. The bees were having a cabana party! Interestingly the following day, ZIP.

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This shot is just plain beautiful any way you look at it. But even something this perfect can look better through cropping and a number of adjustments.

©Terri-Nakamura_Wild-roses-IG-20180713_221643_086

Things to Try

So, you can see that even a somewhat hopeless-looking photo has potential. It’s about post-production. Some things to think about:

  • Composition
  • Cropping
  • Color Adjustment (including saturation)
  • Ambience
  • Sharpening
  • Clean up
  • Filters

I’ve witnessed incredible transformations of the images posted by beginners who then found their mojo. Their photos went from “not good” to amazing!

If you’re on Instagram and follow me, simply post a comment on one of my images to let me know that you’re following, I’ll reciprocate! Here’s a link to my feed: https://www.instagram.com/terrinakamura/

If you’re NOT on Instagram, what are you waiting for? 🙂

If you have any questions or comments, I would love to hear from you. Just let me know!

More about Terri:

Her store on Alki Beach: Alki Surf Shop
Terri Nakamura Design
Terri Nakamura on Twitter
Alki Surf Shop on Twitter
The Horsfall House on AirBNB
More by Terri Nakamura

Alki Surf Shop Turns 4!

Alki Beach-June 2015-© Terri Nakamura (2).jpg

Next month will mark the four-year anniversary of a small journey my husband, David Horsfall, and I started in 2014. Alki Surf Shop began as an online store that became a brick and mortar reality once we were able to locate retail space on Alki (pronounced ALK-eye) Beach. Retail spaces are rare, and it was through a chance conversation that we learned of an imminent storefront space opening up. Tucked around the corner from Homefront, the most popular ice cream store on the beach, it’s not the easiest place to find, but people find us, and somehow we’ve become a destination of sorts. We’ve cultivated a loyal base of customers—many of whom have become our friends. Our fans and supporters want us to succeed, and they bring in friends and family whenever they have visitors, from everywhere.

It’s been an amazing learning experience, and I can say with certainty we are doing most everything more intelligently than when we started (there is always room for improvement, though). Along the way we have met thousands of people from all around the world and have 4 volumes of guest books to prove it. Packed on every page are drawings, messages of goodwill, and touching expressions of friendship spanning every continent and country, often written in the language of the visitor.

In the store’s nascency, I brought in a Nokia* tablet to use, but eventually we needed full-powered computer and replaced the tablet with a 21’ iMac. Our music continues to be piped out onto the sidewalk with a UE Boom* that it has been in use nearly every day for the past 3 and a half years and is still going strong! We have a WeMo* camera for security, and our Verizon service has even rescued us when our credit card terminal service was down by enabling us to use Square to process transactions. This is all to say, for a very low tech-looking, laid-back beach store, we depend on technology to keep the wheels turning each day.

It’s gratifying that beside that fact that we offer a valuable service, our business provides so much joy to our visitors. Most people enjoy the friendly vibe where we take time to learn where people are from and what brings them to Alki. Each day we have customers hug us as they’re leaving. How many businesses can say that? And many exchange a conspiratorial wink with us when they introduce new people to our store. They whisper, “Are you going to do the ‘horn,’” which is actually the blowing of a conch shell and shouting of “mahalo” as customers depart.

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We’re in the midst of our busy summer season and look forward to some fun upcoming 2018 events:

Beside the special events above, on an everyday basis there are things happening — Saturday salsa dancing, volleyball tournaments, beach parties at the fire pits, paddle boarding, bicycle rentals, and happy people everywhere.

Looking out at the view from our store and seeing the Olympic mountains and Puget Sound, we are reminded that life is better on a beach.


 

We’re grateful to our real-life and social media friends from Twitter and IG who have visited Alki Surf Shop. If you’ve visited the store please let me know so I can add your moniker here!

@queenhorsfall @jackandpele @muz4now @lorimcneeartist @jenniferannegood @nixkuroi @felicelam @blueweed_songs @becauseuarehere @savvyangie @kurt.nac @Joe996s @sheelala @lemness @wasian206 @dougplummer @michipeterson @lindacriddle @kennapete @lindafreeman_ @jshuey @thidekow @ryankanemagic @vickiehorsfall @freshprinceofmi @crimsonlotustea @x2tap @jrome2032 @hollymariephotos @slydehandboards @feliciakayne @artistpoint @mikedadams206 @horsfallscott @georgesta3000 @PutBarber @lupdesign @lindabrill


More about Terri:

Visit her store Alki Surf Shop
Terri Nakamura Design
Terri Nakamura on Twitter
Alki Surf Shop on Twitter
The Horsfall House on AirBNB
More by Terri Nakamura

*Verizon generously provided us with technology used at our store.

 

One-ring Circus

Verison One-Talk ad in Bloomberg by © terri nakamuraClose friends and colleagues know I’m a fan of Bloomberg Business Week. It’s the only publication I receive as a physical magazine. After dropping a signed first edition of Zadie Smith’s “White Teeth” in the bathtub, I vowed to never read anything more than a magazine while soaking. AND I SURE don’t trust myself to read an electronic device there.

Last night I was browsing through the most issue of Bloomberg and something caught my eye. It was a full-page ad for Verizon’s “One Talk” service, which lets calls to a users’ office phones, ring simultaneously on their mobiles.

Our family has had Verizon service since the early 2000s, and I’ve been partnering with Verizon for nearly four years as one of their national team of brand influencers. So I naturally pay attention to commercials and ads related to Verizon products and services. I hadn’t heard about “One Talk.”

Randomly and coincidentally, I have been experiencing my own, unrelated, “one ring” circus this year.

In my Google settings, I’ve listed all of my phone numbers, so when I am called on one of the numbers, ALL OF MY PHONES RING. It’s pretty crazy, but let me just say it’s rare for me to miss a call.

So in a way, I have simulated One Talk via Google Voice and I’ve found it to be convenient, hilarious and annoying.

It’s convenient to be able to get calls on all devices. Remember, “Call Forwarding” isn’t the same, because it only rings on the number you’re forwarding to (i.e., your mobile number).

It’s hilarious because seriously—sometimes four of my phones ring at once. Today a friend, Marianne Picha, called my original landline number (which is now on Google Project fi), and it rang all of my cell phones, including the Verizon line which was 100 miles away at our home in Randle. My husband had the phone with him at the house, and answered! (Verizon is an essential lifeline for us out there in Lewis County.)

It’s annoying because…ALL OF THE PHONES CAN RING AT THE SAME TIME. But this can be easily fixed. Just turn off the ringers on the phone(s) you don’t want to ring.

My family has one of the most complicated telephone communications setups imaginable. Currently it includes a landline with CenturyLink (an account established in 1974); a digital landline with Comcast; an AT&T family plan for me and our youngest son; and a Verizon family plan for me, my husband, oldest son and his wife @QueenHorsfall.

CenturyLink is an archaic system that charges separately for voice mail, call forwarding and other features. (Most phone companies include myriad features as part of the service.) We had three landlines — one for my husband, one for me and one for our dedicated fax line. It was very costly.

A few years ago I moved the fax line over to Comcast to quality for a “triple play” pricing plan. And as our landline costs continued to skyrocket, I realized we needed to prune another CenturyLink line.

Last year I decided to move my 38-year-long phone service away from Centurylink to Google’s Projectfi. The Projectfi service required me to buy a Nexus phone (in my case, a 6P). Last November, this phone came with a $499 price tag.

The Nexus 6P is a fabulous phone. The camera is INCREDIBLE, especially in low light. And the battery seems to last forever. The best part is, since I use very little data (mostly use wifi), my phone service has averaged $28.50 per month—less than half the cost of my land line service. The Nexus 6P is now about half the price, so a great deal for people who need a phone and don’t use a lot of data. The networks providing service include T-Mobile, Sprint and U.S. Cellular, so it has expansive coverage. The downside is, the Nexus is a gigantic phone. Not heavy—just huge. No way can it fit into a pocket. ALSO, the Nexus requires a USB-Type C charging cable.

Getting back to the ad in Bloomberg, I can see the value in the OneTalk service.—especially for Verizon business customers who have would benefit from seamlessly moving between landline and mobile. And it makes it possible for a business to be nimble—offering an essential and competitive edge.

One Talk is a relatively inexpensive service (looks to be around $25/month) but it requires a compatible phone set for the landline. And according to Kagan, the landline is actually VOiP—something to think about if you’re prone to power outages.

I’m proud to participate as a member of Verizon’s social media team. My posts are about my own personal experiences.  No compensation is provided, nor are favorable comments promised. All opinions are my own.

More about Terri:

#140conf #LA

Eight years ago I entered a bright and shiny world called Twitter. 

In 2010, I compared Twitter to a cocktail party, and I think the comparison still stands. Lots of people weave in and out of short conversations and content, with comments sometimes ricocheting like Pokéballs. About 47 of the 313 million active users “tweet” via smart phones, so Twitter’s 140 character limit makes it doable. Chatting in 140 character tweets isn’t the easiest way to carry on an extended conversation. Still, meaningful relationships can form, and when you discover a kindred spirit, it’s great!

Today I think the average person joins Twitter and feels lost. It’s not obvious what to do once you get there. I found the game changer is engaging in conversations. Once you start chatting with people, the clouds part and the Twitterverse opens up. You can pose a question and get immediate answers, and almost always find interesting people for banter or discussions. And there is an endless bounty of content to consume 24 hours a day, every day of the year.

Jeff Pulver, founder of the #140 Conference, created and produced the first #140 Brands Conference in New York City on Dec. 2, 2010. As a graphic designer who works with businesses and branding, and being a social media aficionado, I was excited to learn how brands were navigating the social media sphere. It featured dozens of speakers and panels on myriad topics

The opportunity to meet virtual friends face-to-face was fabulous! I’ll never forget the snow along the sidewalks as I walked from the subway to the venue, and the thrill of meeting for the first time, Debra Cincioni, Lori Moreno and Jessica Northey , fellow Bitrebels — Twitter #BA75 sisters.

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L-R: Jessica Northey, Debra Cincioni, me, Tommy Geraci and Sueanne Shirzay, Dec. 2010, NYC

Past #140 Conference events have featured a series of 10-15 minute presentations and 10-20 minute panels that have provided attendees with knowledge, perspective and insights into the theme of the conference. The format has been fast-paced, so if there is something you’re not too interested in, it quickly moves on to the next topic.

The SOCIAL part of social media is super special. And for first-timers, the opportunity to meet many Twitter friends in one place, in real life, is undeniably exciting.

But the educational part is equally special. The #140 Conference provides access to some of the most knowledgable people in a variety of sectors, representing a huge depth of expertise.

Fast forward to July 25 in Los Angeles 

I had the opportunity to reconnect with old friends and for the first time, meet Marsha Collier, Michele Meiche, Henie Riesinger and many others. I can only describe the moments of our meetings as pure joy!

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L-R: Michele Meiche, me, Marsha Collier, Julie Spira

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L-R: Calvin Lee and me

Over the past two months, Michele and I have been chatting on Twitter about our fond feelings for the #140 conferences. We weren’t just waxing nostalgia, although being in that place at that particular time in history was very special. Twitter has evolved and now there are many more people, and the way people and brands use Twitter (and social media in general) has changed. There is always more to learn, even for long-time users, so we concluded there is definitely a need — and isn’t it time — for another #140 conference?

At the LA event, I was hoping to talk with Jeff to see if I could convince him to organize another #140 conference. I had no idea he was aware of the conversations between me and Michele. So it was a surprise when, midway through the event, Jeff made the announcement that indeed, another #140 Conference is underway and slated to occur in Los Angeles this November. I was thrilled!

Anyone interested in Twitter, and social media in general, would benefit from attending. And some of us could find ourselves falling in love with Twitter all over again. I’m looking forward to learning what’s new, and I’m especially looking forward to meeting many new as well as long-time friends.

Earlier I mentioned how great it feels when you discover a kindred spirit on Twitter. Getting to physically meet your kindred spirit and hug them in real life is THE BEST!

Jeff invites interested sponsors to participate, and extends an invitation to all to attend.

Details to come! See you there!

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A crowd gathered around Jeff Pulver as he announced the coming #140 Conference.

The quality of the photos of the #14oconfLA gathering, shot in very low light with my Verizon Samsung Galaxy S7, impressed everyone.

And trust me when I say it’s not easy to impress a group of social media mavens!

I’m proud to participate as a member of Verizon’s social media team. My posts are about my own personal experiences.  No compensation is provided, nor are favorable comments promised. All opinions are my own.

More about Terri:

Daze of Our Lives

Am I Living in a Seinfeld Episode?

There Will Be Light

Two days last week, I worked at Alki Surf Shop while my husband, David, zipped over to Randle, WA, to do some work on our AirBNB house.

Shortly after I opened the store, a woman I didn’t know walked in and said, “I’m not stalking you, but you left your BMW lights on.” It turned out I’d parked in front of her house. She is also an aficionado of vintage BMWs, and didn’t want me to return to find my car with a dead battery. The woman’s name was Megan, and I discovered we both own businesses on Alki Beach.

I locked up the store and walked with Megan back to my car, opened the door and started the engine without a problem. She waved goodbye, I locked up my car and headed back to the shop.

Fast forward to the end of the day…

I walk back to my car and see the lights were still ON! OMG. Earlier, when I checked and saw my battery was in good shape, I forgot to turn off the lights!

But, to my delight, the engine started right up!

Sheesh. Old people. 

© terri-nakamura-BMW-2002

My classic 1976 BMW 2002 is now 40 years old!

Chewing the Digital Fat at Alki Surf Shop

Our visitors are both local and from around the world. Later that day, Jim and Suzanne Skerjanc from Bellingham dropped in, and somehow, we started talking about cell phone service.

Jim and Suzanne told me about their spotty AT&T service, and how they recently switched to Verizon. And yes, this was a spontaneous conversation!

Suzanne said, “We were with AT&T, and just didn’t get a signal anywhere. I mean, at my work there was like zero signal. I had to go outside and it was still sketchy. Jim’s a realtor, so he’s all over the place—and, I mean, he HAS to have a signal.”

© terri-nakamura-Jim-Suzanne-Skerjanc-bellingham

Jim and Suzanne Skerjanc, happy Verizon customers

Jim told me he would be driving down a main road, and bam—his calls would drop. He noticed the bars would go to zero, then a half mile down the road, they would come back. And it happened all over the county.

When they switched to Verizon, it was completely different. They now have cell phone service everywhere they go.

“We have full service now. It’s like being in the middle of Seattle,” Jim told me. “Since we switched to Verizon, we have great, reliable coverage all the time.”

Hearing about their experiences made me proud of my connection to Verizon as a brand influencer. Maybe #BetterMatters, but in their case, #BetterWins! 

AirBNB AirHEADS

By a huge percentage, the guests at our home on AirBNB are nice and responsible people. It’s interesting to see how different age groups behave almost stereotypically. “Grownups” treat our house as their own, and leave things in great shape. Millennials, on the other hand, generally seem to have a different idea of what it means to leave a place neat and tidy, or to treat our home with care.

When we first listed our house, my friend, Reg Saddler said, “Well, you know what people do with AirBNB houses, don’t you?” (And being a newbie, I said, “No!?”) He went on, “Terri, people make pornos in them!”—which kind of freaked me out!

Last year we hosted a boudoir photographer, whom we found to be a respected commercial photographer, and totally legit. Nothing too crazy has happened so far.

Generally, when we hand over the keys, we meet our guests face-to-face, and I believe the personal connection helps ensure a positive experience on both sides. That is, most of the time.

Recently we had a group of guys make a reservation for a bachelor’s weekend. The person who booked the house specifically said to me, “We will be clean and respectful.”

© terri-nakamura-airbnb-bachelor-party

Beside filling huge garbage bags with empty booze and beer bottles, and then ruining and tossing five of our plush, hotel-grade towels into the trash without a word, this group burned through all of our firewood. And they also burned a batch of stripped maple saplings that David was seasoning to make into furniture.

Long pieces of beautiful wood leaning against the wall opposite the wall of split firewood would appear different to sensible people, but they were clueless. I could only think: “Morons.”

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Not the actual doll. The real one wasn’t this nice.

And to top it off, they also deposited a blow-up sex doll in with the rest of their trash. I mean, WHO DOES THAT? EWWWWW!

If we’d known the fiancee, I would’ve been tempted to tell her, “RUN, BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE!” 

MISSION: Litter-ally Accomplished

Some of you might remember my last new year’s eve and day were crazy. A small part of it had to do with a postcard offering a trial box of OKO cat litter from the Mud Bay Pet Store.

We regularly receive OKO postcards and I usually recycle them. But recently, one arrived, and I decided to give it another shot. So I tossed it into my briefcase in the event I was near Mud Bay in the Capitol Hill neighborhood

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A typical cross walk on Capitol Hill, Seattle

Last Sunday I was near Mud Bay AND I had the postcard with me! So in a deja vu moment, I pulled into the gas station next door to the pet store, walked in, and bought something, then asked if I could leave my car in their lot while I shopped at Mud Bay.

And once again, Mud Bay didn’t have the trial size of OKO cat litter available.

I asked, “Do you guys EVER have the trial size of this product?”

They said, “No.”

Apparently the manufacturer makes no effort to ensure their retail outlets carry the items they’re promoting.

To put an end to my quest, I bought a large size of litter because we were running low. And to my surprise, Mud Bay offered to subtract the value of the trial size. So the box ended up costing only a few dollars

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Ice, the teddy-bear hamster, captured on a Canary home security camera.

I felt guilty spending only three dollars on a large box of litter, so I also bought an interactive cat toy and some hamster treats for our son’s and daughter-in-law’s pet teddy bear hamster.

OKO cat litter is odd. It’s made from paper and sort of tubular in shape. I liked the concept, but it’s difficult to sift. Our Maine Coon, Hunter, is going along with it, but our silver tabby, Grey, is avoiding it. It was good to be able to try it. Now I know. 

Grownup Kids are FUN!

Last week, our oldest son Andrew, and daughter-in-law Diana drove to Seattle from Monterey, CA. Since they were supposed to arrive Sunday night, our family decided to delay celebrating Father’s Day until Monday, so everyone could be here.

But on Sunday afternoon I received a phone call from Andrew saying he and Diana would arrive in Seattle in time for Father’s Day dinner!

I love our oldest son, Andrew. He’s such an amazing kid! He also has a knack for creating minor chaos 🙂

© terri-nakamura-Andrew-and-Diana-June-2016

Andrew and Diana — weary travelers

Hearing his updated ETA, I needed to make sure our youngest son, Charley and his girlfriend, Sheela, were going to be available in a few hours, then cleared it all with David. When it looked like we were all on the same page, I switched into high gear, trying to figure out how we could get a dinner reservation on such short notice. So I called Marée Bistro, a neighboring business on Alki Beach.

Remember Megan, the woman who told me I left my lights on? Well, Marée belongs to Megan and her husband, Andy. They said they’d be happy to save us a table, which was great!

After we closed Alki Surf Shop, our group walked a few blocks to Marée and enjoyed some amazing dinners.

© frisee-salad-maree-bistro-alki-seattle

Frisée salad with house-cured lardon, garlic croutons and soft-cooked egg

We ordered lots of different entrees, including a Galantine de poulet (like a free range chicken roulade), wild boar (tender and delicious!), hangar steak, a savory tart, steak frites; plus some yummy sides including a frisée salad and a tasty assortment of charcuterie.

It was a fun and festive meal and wonderful on every level. After dinner, we walked out, and were greeted by an incredible crimson sunset. It was the perfect end to a great weekend.

All of which started with Megan telling me I’d left my lights on. 

© terri-nakamura-alki-sunset-fathers-day-2016

The sunset as we exited Marée Bistro, Father’s Day 2016

The hamster photo was captured by Diana Horsfall, using the Canary home security system, courtesy of Verizon. The doll photo was sourced on Pixabay. Other photos in this post were shot by me, using the fabulous camera on the Samsung Galaxy 7, courtesy of Verizon Wireless.

More about Terri:

Why “Better” Matters

Especially When it Comes to Creating Memories

Abandoned after the eruption of Mt. St. Helens in 1981, our Randle home sat empty for a decade before we rescued it in 1991. It was a falling-down wreck when we bought it—so decrepit it wasn’t even included in the valuation of the property.

The house as we found it

The porches had fallen down, the foundation had slipped, and only the moss kept the roof intact.

Despite that, our family and friends enjoyed long weekends in this idyllic getaway two hours from Seattle. Some of our best times were when it was still just a “stationary tent,” with no doors, windows, electricity, running water or indoor plumbing.

Porch columns and door on the floor

Looking toward the fireplace; new window; porch supports & door on the floor.

Drilling the well

We hauled water until we hired a water witcher and ended up drilling a 165-foot-deep well.

We cooked on the campfire, used Coleman lanterns, hauled in 5-gallon containers of water, and slept on the floor in sleeping bags. It felt like going to summer camp.

Kids at the rope swing

Our kids with a group of their buddies, gathered at the rope swing.

Horsfalls around the campfire

A family gathering to celebrate my mother-in-law’s birthday. Cooking on an open fire was delicious. Or maybe it was because we were so hungry?

Jaguar at Randle

Crazy, but our only cars were David’s Jaguar and my BMW. Not the greatest cars for camping adventures, but the Jag was a great cruise-mobile. Newly graded land in the background.

The property had a two-hole outhouse built in 1940, which we resurrected and used. Because few things are more “fun” than going outside in the middle of the night, carrying a flashlight, to use a spooky old outhouse! 

The outhouse

Erin and Wendy near the fire pit, with our two-hole outhouse in the distance

We had many adventures, like a death-defying trip to Burley Mountain lookout where, in one sweeping vista, we could see three magnificent mountains—Mt. Adams, Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Rainier. One time we rescued our kids and a friend as they crossed a field unaware of a bull grazing nearby. We spent long days hanging out at Yellow Jacket Ponds, fishing for trout, playing in the water, then coming back to the house to fry fresh fish for dinner.

Burley Mountain lookout

The lookout at Burley Mountain allowed unobstructed views of the surrounding mountains and forests—important for spotting fires. Christina and Charley rest in the shade.

View from Burley Mountain

Andrew and Erin goofing around, with the crater of Mt. St. Helens in the distance.

Boys Fish Randle

Andrew, Max, Stuart and Charley with the day’s catch; Rusty in the corner.

We captured rubber boas*, and watched bats descend at dusk to feast on insects. We caught frogs, lizards, garter snakes and crickets that occupied our “guest aquarium” until they were released before heading back to Seattle. And we foraged for wild berries, fruit and nuts growing on our land. It was the complete antithesis of life in the city.

Rubber boa

This is the second rubber boa we caught— much smaller than the first. They’re beautiful snakes. 

We spent two decades restoring the house, and eventually furnished it with hand-me-downs from our Seattle home, plus artifacts lovingly collected over the years. It felt very familiar and homey to us. However by 2013, with both boys grown and gone, we weren’t spending as much time at our country home. So I decided to try listing it on AirBNB — and quickly learned we weren’t really prepared.

Randle outside

After righting the foundation, rebuilding the porches and chimney, roofing and painting.

We loved Randle “as is.” We viewed it through the lens of our own memories and experiences—and not through the eyes of strangers.

Our first guest gave us a forgiving review. The next was brutal, and though I was upset by it, she was right: the house wasn’t ready for prime time. Thus began my quest to revamp it to create the “best guest experience” we could offer.

Randle living room

This is the same view as the second image from the top—looking toward the fireplace. We gathered the rocks and had a local stone mason set them. “The Orr House” oar is an homage to “Mrs. Orr,” former occupant and whom we believe to be a benevolent spirit at the house.

I began by replacing the bedding and linens, and expanded from there, doing what we could to make people feel welcomed and help ensure a pleasant stay. I worked hard, along with David and our property manager, Cathy Kane, to achieve “super host” status! It’s an accomplishment that requires continued hard work to retain.

Super host 2

Super-host status is fleeting. You have to work hard to hang on to it!

People naturally shop around for the best deals, and we think they recognize the value in staying in our home. There are nearby rentals that are more or less expensive, but none offer quite the same spaces and experiences. Pet owners love that their dogs can safely romp on 22 acres of land, pretending they are their wild ancestors on the hunt. And looking out across the Big Bottom Valley in the morning to see a herd of elk is an amazing treat.

In terms of recognizing value—we’re grateful to Verizon for being the only proven carrier in Randle. I routinely remind our guests to bring lots of quarters for the pay phone in town if they have AT&T, Sprint or T-Mobile.  We put a positive spin on the lack of cell service by positioning it as a “digital detox” experience, but the truth is, we love that Verizon sees value in serving areas like Randle, where none of the other major carriers are to be found. We regard it as our lifeline to the civilized world.

It’s been a 25-year journey so far. For us, we’ve found #BetterMatters—especially when it comes to memories. And chorus frogs singing you to sleep.

Christina on the rope swing

Christina insisted on wearing her velvet dress and patent-leather shoes on the rope swing—even at night!


*Rubber boas are the only North American boa snakes. They have prehensile tails and are very, very cool!

All Photos © Terri Nakamura 1991 through 2016

We’ve been Verizon customers since 2002 when Andrew began as a cadet at West Point. As part of an awesome group of Verizon influencers, I’m grateful to Verizon for giving me the opportunity to use and test some of their awesome devices and tech. No additional compensation is provided, nor are favorable comments promised. All opinions are my own.

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Shopping for a Living

Skybridge cropped

How do products end up in stores?

For nearly 20 years I created product labels and packaging. One of my clients, John Matthys, was a great mentor and friend. One of the things he championed was real-life market testing.

What is market testing?

The traditional way to test customer response was with focus groups.

Focus group testing enlists qualified participants who meet certain demographic criteria (age, gender, income levels, etc.). They’re assembled to view and respond to visual, conceptual, or theoretical goods or situations. Clients and research analysts often will watch through a two-way mirror, while participants offer feedback that helps companies anticipate how their products or services will perform.

It’s very expensive.

John realized the huge amount of money his company was paying to conduct focus groups exceeded the cost of actually producing products and placing them onto store shelves. What better feedback is there than getting real-life responses from his actual customers? So that’s what he did.

Market research and intuition

At our store, Alki Surf Shop, my husband, David Horsfall, and I have employed John’s strategy with many of our products. In addition, we also pay attention to trends, and stock inventory compatible with our store’s retro-modern brand and encompassing “Seattle, surf culture, beach and fun.”

Recently I spent four days at the Seattle Gift Show (pictured above). Shows like the Seattle Gift Show are for retail stores and businesses that sell merchandise to consumers. They are not open to the general public. There is an eclectic group in attendance. It’s akin to belonging to a special club where the members have something special in common: they’re all kind of crazy. I say that because retail is not for weenies. There are many easier ways to make money, but they’re maybe not as much fun.

Seen at the Seattle Gift Show

Tiny sample of things we saw at the Seattle Gift Show while shopping for Alki Surf Shop

I personally don’t enjoy shopping for sport. So if I find something I like, I’ll buy 2, 3, or even 9 of the same exact thing.

But the gift show isn’t like shopping for yourself. It’s more like you’re shopping to buy something for a friend, but you don’t know who the friend is, and you don’t know what the friend likes.

So you end up choosing things that you like, or imagine THEY would like. It’s a bit like mind reading. David often says I’m prescient. However, when it comes to buying for retail, it’s a semi-informed roll of the dice.

Shopping to buy for a store is hard work. We have ideas of what we might want, then search through myriad vendors and options. We compare sources, prices, quality and terms. Then if we decide to sell an item, we order it, price it, add it to our inventory, merchandise it, and track its sales.

Our real-life business education

As retail storeowners, we meet many nice, friendly people from all over the world. The flip side is, we devote so much time to nurturing this thing we’ve birthed, it leaves us with just a fraction of the free time we once had. That means we are spending much of our time with strangers, rather than family or friends.

That being said, we’re fortunate to have friends who are also fellow store and restaurant owners. They understand the relentless work it takes to make a business like ours succeed. They’ve shared their experiences to help us avoid mistakes, and generously given us great advice and support.

There’s a widely quoted statistic attributed to Bloomberg, that says eight out of 10 entrepreneurs who launch businesses fail within the first 18 months. Having recently passed that milestone, and seeing our sales increasing year-over-year, David and I feel slightly more confident about what we’re doing.

It’s a continual learning experience that’s both challenging and fun.

See how it all comes together

We’re gearing up for spring and summer and hope you’ll stop by if you’re in the area. We’ll have new items from the Seattle Gift Show on our shelves, and you’ll have the opportunity to be part of our real-life market testing.

There won’t be any two-way mirrors or research analysts. But you will be greeted with a friendly “Aloha!”


Postscript

This blog post went through seven revisions and was written entirely on a Motorola Droid Turbo 2 provided to me by Verizon Wireless.

It was fun writing in a café with only the Droid, a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse, while curious onlookers stole glances!

Droid cropped

Working at Teavana in Seattle’s University Village, home to a Verizon Smart Store Plus

You can learn more about the Droid Turbo 2, the smartphone with the unbreakable screen, by visiting Verizon Wireless.


Disclosure: As a member of a great group of Verizon influencers, I’m invited to share my honest thoughts on cool products to use and test. No additional compensation is provided, nor are favorable comments promised. All opinions are my own.

All Photos @ Terri Nakamura 2016

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