Sunday, October 2, 2011

Our First Team Picture

Whew!  What a year 2011 has been so far for Bit of Whimsy Dolls!  The first six months of this year Rob and I watched as demand continued to grow for new patterns, finished dolls and clothes and we found ourselves at yet another big decision point - Do we level off and just do what we can OR do we take the next big step to become more than a stay at home business. If you've been a Facebook fan over the last several months, you know what we decided - TO GO FOR IT!

After finding the perfect office to work from, our attention turned to figuring out what roles we needed to fill, how many team members we needed for the various roles and most importantly  trying to find people who were the perfect fit.  I'm so excited to finally introduce to you the first full Bit of Whimsy Dolls team.  While I have had a couple other friends assist with various things, this is where it really begins. Below is our first 'team picture.'

Starting from the left, I'd like to introduce you to each of the women who really make the BOWD wheels turn as fast as they are these days.

Terri was the first hire after Rob and I opened the office.  Terri joined us about a week after the office opened.  In fact, we were still setting up much of the equipment, work spaces and only had concepts for how we thought things needed to work.  She had responded to an ad I placed in the newspaper back in January when Rob and I thought we were taking the business in a different direction as a home-based model.  When we opened the office, Rob asked me to pull out all the response we'd received from the ad and Terri was one of the first people I wanted to meet and see if she was interested in working at the new office.  She was, and the rest is history!

Karen, like Terri, also responded to my original ad in January.  At the time, we talked on the phone and it was obvious to me that she loved to sew and was someone I would certainly want to know better once I had the BOWD act together.  Fortunately, when I reached out to Karen shortly after the office opened, she was still interested in hearing about the sewing opportunity. Karen officially joined the team just after Labor Day.

Ailene happens to be a former high school classmate of Rob's. In this crazy social media connected world, Rob had reached out to several friends of his on Facebook and quickly received a response from Heidi (she's the one on the right).  Heidi in turn shared the Facebook message with Ailene and they both were interested in the opportunity to help with photography, listing and shipping.  Ailene has a passion for photography and has done several projects in her spare time. Seeing what Bit of Whimsy Dolls was about, she fell in love with the dolls and immediately started sewing dolls for her girls, even though she doesn't have a lot of sewing experience! Today, Ailene shares the photography, listing and shipping responsibilities with Heidi and is instrumental to getting the finished dolls and clothes into customer's hands.

Sarah - That's me.

Kathy - Shortly after we opened the office in June, I had the good fortune of being featured on the front page of the Business section of our local newspaper.  It was a wonderful 3/4 page article that had several pictures of the dolls, office and me.  In that article, I mentioned that the new office would provide me the ability to hire up to five sewers for the dolls.  Having read the article, I had a knock on the office door the following week.  It was Kathy.  She said that she had read the article, loved what I was doing, and wanted to introduce herself to me for consideration of one of the sewing jobs before anyone else had a chance.  With gusto like that, how could I say no? She fit right in and joined our growing team a week or two later.

Heidi - Having received one of Rob's Facebook message around 11pm one evening asking if she or anyone she knew would be interested in assisting Sarah with photography and other activities, Heidi not only sent back an enthusiastic 'YES!' that she was interested, she also passed Rob's note to Ailene as I mentioned above and both joined the team just a few weeks ago.  Heidi and Ailene have both jumped head first into the wonderful world of handmade and sewing!  Infact, if you go back to September 18th on the BOWD Facebook Fan Page, you'll see one of the first BOWD dolls Heidi ever made, an awesome Peter Puppy from someone who had not sewn much previously!

Rob and our kids - Best husband in the world and the guy behind all Bit of Whimsy Dolls technology and business stuff.  What can I say?  I couldn't do it without him.  Robbie, Abby, and Billy are the loves of our life and truly provide the creative inspiration behind almost every design I've made.

Well, that's it.  That's Version 1.0 of the Bit of Whimsy Dolls team and I couldn't be happier with everyone who has made the decision to join me and make the Bit of Whimsy Dolls dream a reality!  As we move forward, we'll be doing little spotlight, get-to-know-the-team posts on different members of our team. There's so much more in store for BOWD over the next year.  I only wish I had more hours in a day to turn my imagination into the new patterns, dolls and clothes that are screaming to get out!  We're working hard every day (and most nights!) to give you the best products and customer service possible.

As I was preparing this blog post, Rob found this picture of me working in our living room.  It was taken in spring of 2008 when BOWD was only 6 months old and I had around 5 - 8 designs.  Looking at this picture, it's hard to believe just how much things have grown over the past four years or so. So much has been done and there's so much more to do! We really are JUST. GETTING. STARTED!

Rob and I both sincerely thank everyone on our team and our entire team thank you for continuing to support our business.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

August Charity - Muscular Dystrophy Association

Rob and I have selected the Muscular Dystrophy Association ( as the charity for August.  Like many of you, we were incredibly touched by our first monthly charitable activity earlier this year when we partnered with to raise money and awareness for Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA).  Over the months, we’ve stayed in touch and continue to follow little Getty’s blog and keep them all in our thoughts and prayers.  SMA, is one of the many forms of muscular issues for which the Muscular Dystrophy Association is in search of a cure. A wealth of information on the various forms of diseases can be found at

In the United States it’s become somewhat of a Labor Day tradition to watch the Jerry Lewis MDA telethon.  While Rob and I cannot say that we’ve ever sat and watched the entire 24 hours, we always enjoy checking in to see how much money has been raised and to watch the corporate sponsors and other groups give incredibly large donations. For the month of August, Bit of Whimsy Dolls will donate 10% of all sales on to our local chapter of MDA in Youngstown, OH.

Thank you in advance for your continued support of Bit of Whimsy Dolls through your purchases on our website and spreading the word about us to friends and family.  Together we’ve been able to give thousands of dollars to worthy charities like MDA.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Supporting Ronald McDonald House

[from Rob] This month, Bit of Whimsy Dolls will be supporting Ronald McDonald House Charities (  Here’s why…

For the past 12 years, I have been a technology and strategy consultant to the healthcare industry and as you might imagine I have had the opportunity to visit literally hundreds of hospitals across the United States. I love knowing that the work I do plays some part in the care provided to people every day. That said, when I know I’ll be working in a Children’s hospital, things take on a completely different feeling.  There’s something about seeing a 4 year old in a hospital that feels different than someone my age or older.  Children are suppose to run, laugh, and play. Sadly, this isn’t the case for so many.  

As a Father, I hope to never experience the emotional rollercoaster of having a child in the hospital with a life threatening illness. No parent ever hopes for this, obviously.  Unfortunately, many families find themselves in just this situation… and when this happens to a family, everything else stops.  Nothing else matters except retuning their child to health and going home.

In some cases, children must be treated at specialized hospitals in another city making it impossible for the patent or family to return home during treatment. Ronald McDonald House is one of many different organizations that provide housing to patients and families who cannot return home during treatment.  For the month of July, Bit of Whimsy Dolls will donate 10% of all sales on our website to Ronald McDonald House Charities with the hope that families can remain together when it matters most.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

June- American Red Cross

Thank you everyone for helping raise money in May for Great Strides to help find a cure for cystic fibrosis!

I was born in Florida, lived in Utah and now live in Ohio but I consider Georgia my home. I am a Southern Girl through and through! In April, my hometown was hit by a tornado and even though all of my family and friends were safe, there are many who were not so fortunate. This picture was taken by my brother's girlfriend of her neighborhood and it is only a glimpse of the devastation. Over the last 6 weeks, it has been a rare occasion to turn on the news and not hear a story of a tornado ripping through a small southern town or to hear about the Mississippi River floods. This spring has not been kind to many people.Rebuilding will take a lot of time and a lot of money. Since the needs are great from Joplin, Missouri to Sunnyside, Georgia; we have decided to give 10% of June's sales to the American Red Cross for their tornado and flood relief efforts.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Here We Grow Again!

These two gals are the same… but different. The Mae on the left has arms and legs sewn by me on my little sewing machine and her face is hand embroidered. The Mae on the right has arms and legs sewn automatically by a professional machine and her face is machine embroidered. Yep! This little sweetie is high tech! lol

Rob and I have mentioned in past blog and Facebook posts that 2011 would be a big year with announcements planned for almost every month.  Well, this is another one - and maybe the most exciting announcement of the year (but the year's not over yet - <insert tease here>) Thanks to all of you, Bit of Whimsy Dolls has been growing by leaps and bounds over the last year. Growth is great! Keeping up with growth can sometimes be a struggle as we've watched dolls fly off the virtual shelves on our New Doll Thursdays. We simply can't keep the same old pace and meet the demand for Original Bit of Whimsy Dolls.  This is a great problem to have, but still a problem. 

Rob and I have spent a lot of time talking about how to scale to meet your demand for my dolls.  To help ease this pressure, I hired an assistant full time who helps me with cutting dolls, stuffing the arms and legs, shipping and listing items on my website. She is fantastic and helps me out tremendously. She doesn't sew. Much. Yet. lol I put an ad in the newspaper and interviewed several sewists… I was amazed at how many people did not take me seriously with one even going so far as to tell me "…I feel that your dolls and patterns are too simplified for my skill level… I am sure many other mediocre sewers responded to your ad.  I wish you luck with your adventure."  No Joke… she actually put this in an email. lol. We live in a very old community and most of the ladies that I talked to didn't think that you could run an international business from your dining room. I did hire someone but after a few weeks I came to the realization that we weren't a good fit. I am very passionate and I need someone just as interested and passionate as I am!  I put hiring on the back burner since we had a lot of traveling this spring and it would be hard to train anyone until we got home.

While on vacation in Georgia, we happened to visit A Scarlet Thread, an amazing fabric shop owned by an amazing woman named Karen. We got to talking…as Southern women do… and she gave us some great ideas to help us boost production. She introduced us to a great machine and talked to us about software capabilities that will duplicate my designs on the machine. We didn't buy a machine at that time, but Rob and I talked about it. A lot. Should we make such an investment?  Would it work? Would the quality that I demand be there?  We often seek advice from S.C.O.R.E. when faced with business turning points and after we talked to them about this machine, they asked us why we hadn't bought it yet. We bought it that day! It now sits in our dining room / Bit of Whimsy Dolls world headquarters lol.

In the past, I have looked into machine embroidery and have never liked it. There has always been something about it that I didn't like. Maybe it was how "perfect" it is or maybe it is the type of stitches that are used but I never liked it. I was really, really, REALLY nervous about the idea of switching to machine embroidered faces. I was not nervous about having the machine sew arms and legs for me, however! lol But the faces…. the faces need to be "just right". We contacted a few people to do the programming since we knew nothing about the software and designing, etc. We were excited to just get the machine going! We didn't like the designs that were coming back to us so Rob decided to give the software a go being the computer tech geek he is. I couldn't believe it when he showed me a sample of my hand drawn face sewn by a machine! Wow! The first one wasn't perfect, but showed a lot of promise.  After countless tweaks - add a stitch here, move this stitch over a little, yada yada - he nailed it!  I have to give Rob props for digging into this software and figuring things out! So even though the new dolls will be "high tech", they keep their handmade charm by still being directly based on my drawings. I honestly never thought it was possible until I saw a group of Mae's sitting together! For the next several months, there will be a mix of dolls with hand embroidered faces and machine embroidered faces and the descriptions will say what type of doll it is until we have moved completely over to machine embroidery.

So what does this mean for you? It means that I can provide more dolls for you! Wooohooooo! It means that I can keep my costs down while still providing an awesome product! Oh yeah baby! It means that I will have more time for custom orders! Yes! All custom orders will still have hand embroidered faces and the next three spots will open on Friday May 20th at 3pm Eastern!

Thank you to everyone who has supported us over the years! This has been an amazing journey so far and Rob and I are thrilled about this next path!

Monday, May 2, 2011

How to Purchase a Doll!

The only place to buy an Original Bit of Whimsy Doll directly from me is All of my dolls are one of a kind, named and numbered. They are just as unique as the children who love them! All of the dolls listed on my website are in stock and ready to ship.

I do not sell anything through my Facebook fan page but I do post a preview album on my wall so that my fans know what will be available in every website update. I update my website with new dolls every Thursday at 9pm Eastern with only a few exceptions. Sometimes I do have to push an update back a week but usually just for sick kids and holidays! Since I sell dolls to customers all over the world, I post a countdown clock about 3 hours before 9pm Eastern on my Facebook wall on Thursdays to help everyone with the time differences. This is an easy way to make sure that you don't calculate the time difference wrong!

I do accept custom orders on a limited basis. Custom dolls take a lot longer to make than regular dolls so I only open up a few slots at a time. These slots are also purchased on my website through a special Deposit listing. I always announce on Facebook first when these slots open and I try to give at least 24 hours notice to my fans before the Deposit listings are available!

I accept PayPal through my website but you can pay with a credit card via PayPal without actually having a PayPal account. It is easy to use and secure!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

May's BOWD Cause - Cystic Fibrosis & Great Strides

Bit of Whimsy Dolls Friends, it is our honor to announce that we have partnered with another wonderful organizer for a great cause.  For the month of May, we will be raising awareness and donating 10% of all sales on our website to Great Strides, the largest national fundraising event for Cystic Fibrosis (CF).  

Now admittedly, Rob and I knew next to nothing about CF prior to having this disease suggested to us for support, but after looking into CF to understand more about this disease and the Great Strides organization, it is our honor to forge another wonderful partnership and we think you too will feel the same sense of curiosity we had.  On behalf of everyone at Great Strides, Rob and I would like to thank you for your support this Month for Cystic Fibrosis and Great Strides.  Below is a brief story written by our partner, Amy Rovai, Chairperson for Great Strides, Sacramento, CA.  

Meet Taryn and Taya! Taryn  is three and Taya just turned one! They are your average sisters- they love to play together, enjoy swinging at the park, and love to dress in anything that is pink and frilly! Looking at them, you would never guess that they are suffering from a life-threatening disease that has no cure… but they are. Taryn and Taya both have Cystic Fibrosis. 

Cystic fibrosis (CF) is a genetic chronic disease that affects the lungs and digestive system of about 30,000 children and adults in the United States (70,000 worldwide). People who have CF spend much of their day taking medicines to help deal with infections, enzyme pills before snacks and meals, multiple breathing treatments to help open airways, and chest therapy to help loosen mucus trapped in their lungs.  They have to be very careful about germs and bacteria, since they are more susceptible to illnesses, and have to fight harder to get rid of them. 

In the 1950s, few children with cystic fibrosis lived long enough to see their 5th birthday. Today, advances in research and medical treatments have further enhanced and extended life for children and adults with CF. The current median age for survival is 37, and new research and treatments aimed at targeting the underlying defects of CF, are hoping to extend patients’ lives so they can live longer, healthier, happier lives.

For more information about Taryn and Taya, or the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, please visit: 

Thank you so much for your support!

Friday, April 1, 2011

April-Autism Awareness

April is Autism Awareness month so Rob and I decided that this month, we will donate 10% of all sales for the month of April to Autism Speaks. I know that autism awareness is near and dear to many of your hearts. For Rob and I, it strikes home since we are starting the process of having Robbie diagnosed for Asperger's Syndrome.  For many years, we and his pediatrician and teachers have suspected that this is the case but we have never made the decision to do the testing. Developmental issues he has faced in some areas are quickly put in perspective with his amazing fascination for all things science and math related. Times where focus seem to be an insurmountable mountain for him are countered by his ability and desire to build a 1,500 piece lego set for ages 14+ at the age of 7… by himself in an afternoon!

As much of a struggle it is sometimes in our house, I know that we have things a million times easier than others! I know that in some cases we have it a million times easier than some of you.  Believe me, I try not to take anything for granted! Autism Speaks is a great organization that works tirelessly to make people aware of autism, to search for treatments and to provide tools for families and individuals who are faced with the challenges of autism every day. So for the entire month of April, every single purchase will be used to help out others! Every doll and every pattern will help make a difference!

Monday, February 28, 2011

March-Australian Red Cross

February has flown by! Thank you so much to each and every one of you who either purchased an Olivia Owl pattern or purchased a finished owl doll! It means so much to us and to Team Getty! If you want to donate directly to Getty Owl you can click the link and donate via a PayPal Donate button on the right side of the page!

It's a new month and we have a new cause! I have always had a large fan base in Australia, even going back (oh so long ago!) to my eBay years so I knew that at some point during this year, I would want to do some kind of charity drive for an Australian cause. With the flooding in December and January and Cyclone Yasi and bush fires in February, I think now is the time!

I have had a lot of emails from my customers and friends in Australia who have been busy at work making dolls for children who have lost everything in the floods and fires. What an amazing gift of love! It is so important for children to have something to love and to call their very own, especially in times of stress and uncertainty.

I have created a new pattern, Koby Koala, to help raise money for these areas and for the entire month of March, 50% of all pattern and doll proceeds will go to the Australian Red Cross. I am really excited about this pattern and I think he is perfect for helping out our Aussie friends! I will also have finished koala dolls available periodically throughout the month as part of my New Doll Thursdays, so if you are not a sewer, you can still help!

Thank you again for your big hearts and willingness to help others! You have truly amazed me in the last month!

Monday, January 31, 2011

Second Announcement of 2011: Helping Others

Dear Bit of Whimsy Dolls family, please spend a few minutes to read this post of our second big announcement for 2011 – Helping Others – and our first related charitable partnership with Team Getty Owl for the month of February.

Sarah and I would like to call attention to a sweet little girl named Getty who is not yet one year old and battling a degenerative muscle condition called Spinal Muscular Atrphy (SMA)  We were made aware of Getty (nicknamed Getty Owl by her parents) about a month ago by a fellow BOWD fan and our hearts have been truly touched. I’ll cut to the chase and then come back around with a big picture perspective…

The Chase:  Sarah and I have partnered with Team Getty Owl and will donate half of all sales of our Olivia Owl pattern for the entire month of February to raise money for Getty Owl as the search for a cure to SMA continues. Throughout the month, we’ll be mentioning Getty Owl in our social media circles with the hope of increasing awareness for SMA and Getty specifically.  If your circumstances permit, please consider picking up an Olivia Owl pattern or (better yet) donate directly to Getty Owl on her website at The Getty Owl facebook page is and Team Getty Owl has done an amazing job of rallying people to help in so many creative ways as evidenced by the continuous stream of announcements. This is one active page! We thank you in advance for anything you are able to do to help the beautiful Getty Owl.

The Bigger Picture: Sarah and I have made reference that this will be an exciting year of positive changes as Bit of Whimsy Dolls continues to grow.  The first big change was the across-the-board price reductions on our Original finished dolls as we’ve found ways to reduce our costs and pass the savings to you.  There are many more big and small changes we have sketched out (and are working on in the background in some cases) for this year as the appeal of Original Bit of Whimsy Dolls continues to grow with your support and ‘word of mouth’ marketing!

Now it’s time to make our second big announcement – We want to demonstrate the amazing charitable influence of you, the Bit of Whimsy Dolls community, by partnering with select charities or other noteworthy causes.  We’ve seen over the past couple years how giving you are as evidenced by our Boo Bear ‘Pay it Forward’ pattern program and how we’ve been contacted by so many of you wanting to buy a pattern to make dolls for orphanages or other under privileged children. While not necessarily limited to children, we envision the majority of our partnerships going toward matters involving children. Moreover, it is our hope that we find various causes that are brought to our attention by you – the extended BOWD family.  Our goal is to have one charity or cause to support each month for 2011 with February dedicated to Getty Owl.  As a community, we’re in this together and together we will do our best to take care of our ‘BOWD family’ first.

Sarah and I will review all suggestions and make our selections and announcements at the beginning of each month.  We’d like to thank you in advance for your support each month and hope you understand should we select one cause over another at any time.

Sarah and Rob
Bit of Whimsy Dolls, LLC

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Big changes in 2011!

Over the years, Rob and I have often referred to Bit of Whimsy Dolls as a “pattern company that happens to sell dolls” and up until now, I think that accurately described my focus.  I LOVE DESIGNING DOLLS! Moreover, I've always been the type of person to let my business grow organically and let things grow as they will. Bit of Whimsy Dolls had been doing great on Etsy with over 8,000 sales and on my old website that Rob created more as a pet project than anything else.  After a ton of thought last summer about the direction of my business (and frankly in response to feedback by many of you) Rob and I came to the realization that what we are doing is much more than a hobby gone wild and to realize new opportunities would require some change – for the record… I don’t like change. *sigh* My first big decision came down to this: Should I stay on Etsy and just do my thing mainly there or blaze a new trail with my own ‘real’ website and take Bit of Whimsy Dolls to the next level. Believe it or not, this decision is not as easy as it sounds! Nonetheless, I decided to move forward and, with Rob's help, I can tell you that we mapped out specific things we felt we needed to do if we really wanted to grow the business.

The first and most significant change (until today) was our new branding and new website that launched in October 2010. We were very lucky to find a team of designers who understood our branding ideas right off the bat and we are still working with them on another huge project. I am crossing all of my fingers and toes that I will be able to share what this next project is in the next few months! With the new website, we decided to move all finished products off of Etsy. Whew… that was a difficult decision! You have no idea how hard it was for me to move everything over to one site! I was a nervous wreck! Etsy has been a crutch for me for a long time! lol I am sooooo glad that I made the move! As I said earlier, I had my own website for a few years and while it always did well for me it was not branded and did not really fit my look and Etsy was my main source of income. This changed almost overnight when the new website went live and we were absolutely blown away by the overwhelmingly positive response we received! 

The new website also brought us the ability to offer more discounts than we would ever have been able to offer on Etsy since it costs significantly less to operate our own website than it does to have a shop on Etsy. I was amazed when I looked at the numbers from my accountant! Yikes! Since we are able to save money, we decided to pass on those savings to you in the form of the DIY discounts… even on dolls!

Okay… so let's get back to the first big announcement of this year! Remember what I said about us being a 'pattern company that happens to sell dolls'? That will be changing today. In 2010, we came to realize that we were kinda wrong with this description. We are both: we are still a pattern company with many great ideas for the future AND a doll company! There is room for growth in both areas! The stories shared during our 12-days of Christmas give away, the pictures shared on our Facebook fan page, the emails and messages requesting a certain type of doll, and the number of finished dolls sold during the run up to Christmas on the new website all reminded us that we are not just a pattern company. What we heard last year is that you LOVE seeing finished dolls.  What we heard was that many of you are non-sewers who want to buy an Original Bit of Whimsy Dolls doll for your child, loved one, or friend. What we realized is that you want more choice of finished dolls on my site. In 2011 we will be taking major steps to meet your expectations AND to make all of our finished dolls more affordable. Let's face it… this economy hasn't been kind to a lot of people! I am so passionate about what I do and I want everyone to be able to afford to buy handmade. Many things have lined up for us in the last 6 months that now allow me to sell my high quality Bit of Whimsy Dolls at a lower price.

<<deep breath>> Effective January 20th at 9pm Eastern, every finished doll listed on will have its 2010 pricing reduced. Obviously this is not because I think the dolls are not worth the higher price, but because we see an opportunity in the way the business is structured to lower our price and make an Original Bit of Whimsy Dolls doll fit in more people’s budget.

So, how much are we talking about for price reductions?  A dollar, maybe two?  For some of the less expensive finished dolls, the answer is yes. On the higher end dolls such as Jane, Mae, or Beth the reductions are much more significant.  Using the Mae design as an example, in 2010 finished Mae dolls listed for $42.00 US and occasionally went on sale.  In 2011, finished Mae’s will list for $35.00 US. This is just one example and it gets better!

Don’t forget about the Do It Yourself – DIY10, DIY15, and DIY20 discount codes!  That $35.00 US finished Mae qualifies for the DIY10 discount of 10% further reducing the price to only $31.50 +shipping!  How great is that! 

Keeping with the Mae example, if you should purchase multiple items in a single transaction to qualify for the DIY20 discount code, it’s possible to buy that finished Mae doll for only $28.00 +shipping!  Yes!!!  Only twenty-eight bucks US plus shipping!

*Everyone who purchased a doll in 2011 at the old prices will receive a refund for the difference (check your email) as we had hoped to have this first big announcement in place during the first days of the year…which obviously didn’t happen.

As for shipping, it’s been almost three years since I’ve made any pricing changes and as many of you know, postage rates have increased significantly over this time, but I don’t want high shipping prices to be a deal killer for anyone thinking about buying a finished doll or clothing and accessories.  Effective Thursday, I will be moving to a flat rate of $5.00 US for shipping regardless of the number of items or shipping destination!  Domestic U.S. and International shipping is five bucks for all purchases from!  One price for all, anywhere in the world you live!

How great is this?!?!  Needless to say, I’m very exciting about the opportunity to make Original Bit of Whimsy Dolls more affordable and hope that you agree that this is a great first announcement!