Calligrapher Jane Labanz doesn't have a storefront, but her business was still severely hurt by 9/11. Before the attacks, Labanz was doing primarily wedding invitations, selling exclusively at a high-end stationary store in Manhattan. After 9/11 her business all but dried up. "My business dropped to half of what it was instantly because a lot of my work was in New York City," Labanz says. "At the time I was doing mostly bridal, and people didn't get married in New York City for a long time. They went to other places because they weren't going to risk planning a wedding. People cut their budgets. The whole city was affected." Labanz realized she would have to expand her services if she wanted to stay in business. With counseling help from SCORE and a $2,000 grant and further help from Career Transition for Dancers, a nonprofit organization committed to current and former professional dancers, Labanz's business is thriving. She is also an actress. "He said people who survive in times like this use their noodle," Labanz says, referring to her SCORE counselor. "You have to use your noodle." To get business, Labanz started attending trade shows more frequently. She contacted retail stores more frequently with new samples. She spent a significant amount on her website, The Delicate Pen, and recently put together a YouTube video to catch the eye of manufacturers. In addition to her bridal invitations, which are sold through retail stores across the country, Labanz has been hired to do calligraphy by wedding venues, theaters (for props), even by Macy's ( M) for a Christmas-themed poster. "I learned a long time ago that I cannot be everything to everyone. I have a niche. I have a very romantic hand, and that is going to appeal to a certain part of the community. That's who I cater to and I don't stray too far from what I do," Labanz says. The efforts have paid off. "I targeted bridal for so long, it really made me think of all these other ways I can use my calligraphy. Bridal is part of what I do now, but it's about half of what I do," she says. "I have had the busiest summer I have ever had. I have had to hire extra help to get me through the summer," Labanz says. -- Written by Laurie Kulikowski in New York. To follow Laurie Kulikowski on Twitter, go to: http://twitter.com/#!/LKulikowski To submit a news tip, send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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