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This week on Crystal Uncorked I’m feeling the Christmas spirit! 

I wanted to share with you about my recent experience interviewing Santa Claus on Rooted in Retail! It is by far the most effort my team and I have ever put into a podcast episode. The episode is full of amazing ideas for your business to use during the holiday season (retailer or not). 

But even if you aren’t you should check it out because it is one of the coolest uses of AI. Santa’s part in the episode was developed using synthesia, an AI software that focuses on creating training videos with AI avatars and voices. We then recorded following the AI and edited the whole thing together to look and sound like it happened in real time. Its truly something I’m proud to have created.

Then continuing with the holiday magic I share with you what I do with my staff at Crystal Media to show my appreciation for their hard work and give them a much needed break at the end of a busy year. While this might not work for every business at this time of the year, I would encourage you to find a way to bring this practice into your business at another time of the year.

Mentioned in this Episode:

Conference: EVOLVE

Podcast: Santa’s Interview on Rooted In Retail

Read the Transcript

Crystal Vilkaitis: I’m talking to my small businesses here. This is the beauty of small businesses is you get to call the shots. You get to make up the rules. You declare that you make that a rule. And now that’s what you do. And it always works out and it’s a great way to surprise and delight your team. It just helps everyone. So I really encourage looking through that lens, surprising and delighting and bringing some of that magic of the holidays. 

Are you ready to open up and talk about all things business? I’m Crystal Vilkaitis, a curious entrepreneur who loves talking about business, especially over a glass of wine. I started Crystal Uncorked to share open and honest conversations about my journey and talk to other entrepreneurs about their experiences.

We pull back the curtain and talk about the highs and the lows. Wine isn’t required, but is recommended. This is Crystal Uncorked.

Hello, and welcome back to Crystal Uncorked. I am your host, Crystal Vilkaitis. And when this is airing, which is December 6, 2023, just a couple of days ago on December 3rd, I released an episode on my other podcast, Rooted in Retail, where I interviewed Santa Claus. This is one of the coolest episodes that I have ever done.

It is by far the most effort and work I have ever put in to an episode. And if you have the chance, it would mean the world to me. And I think you would love it. And you are learn a lot from it. Go watch that episode, whether you are a retailer or not, because I think it’s important for us to really understand the capabilities of AI.

My Santa Claus was generated through AI technology, Dustin, who’s my fiance and also on the CM team, crystal media team. He built Santa Claus. I built a script for Santa. I had my questions for Santa. And that show rooted in retail helps independent retailers grow their business. And so I thought well, in the month of December, Santa is a great guest to help our retailers drive traffic and sell more product and surprise and delight they’re customers. 

And really it was actually, it wasn’t my idea. It was Dustin’s idea to, interview Santa. And I loved that because of what I just said, it’s a way to surprise and delight. It’s something that’s so different. It’s perfect for retailers. So he nailed it. He thought differently.

What kind of interesting guests can we use? And with the power of AI, there is so much you can do. If you are interested, I’m thinking about filming a behind the scenes of how we did all that, like a step by step, maybe even a training. So if you’re interested, you can DM me on Instagram on my personal Crystal Vilkaitis. 

 I’m filming this in November. It hasn’t been released yet. I have really high expectations for it because I think it turned out really good. I’ve got to tell you it was one of the hardest things I did because I am interviewing a robot. So some acting skills has to come in here and I’m doing it all on my own. It honestly would have been a little bit easier if I had somebody else with me because I had to like press play and then listen to Santa and then show, like, how I’m responding to what he’s saying and his answers and then I had to stop him and I wanted to like, stop him and then come right on and then reflect right away.

So I could remember what he was saying, so I could then reflect and recap. And then I also had to go into my next question, but I had to make sure my cursor was over the right. place to stop him, and I didn’t always know the right word that he was going to finish with. So this is where my podcast team, big props to Sarah who just like, did such a good job editing this.

This is probably by far the most editing she’s ever had to do at least on my shows, but maybe all of her shows, it was such a team effort between Dustin coming up with the idea of building Santa. I did the script and the interview, Sarah edited it. So I have high hopes. I’m hoping we go viral.

I’m hoping maybe different industries will pick this up and talk about it. 

And show it as an example of some of the cool things you can do with AI and help expand people’s minds. And this is a perfect example of why you should go to EVOLVE because we’re going to talk more about AI. I have so many tools to share with my attendees and, it’s still, it’s in April. I have no idea what the industry is going to look like in April, but this is why it’s really important to go to things like that. So Super Early Bird is still happening in the month of December. Go to to get your ticket. You will not want to miss everything that we were talking about and go check out Rooted in Retail episode with Santa that released on December 3rd. We’ll link to it in this episode as well. 

Now, because I’m talking about Santa and can I just also say I think it’d be really cool for you to listen to Santa in your car, like if you’re taking your kids to school and have your kids listen to Santa on the podcast and or have them watch it so they can see.

it just brings the magic of Christmas to life, even if I feel like even for the adults. I felt like it was so magical. I got swept into the magic and I knew it was a robot. But I want to hear like from the children that are watching of the, store owners and of the entrepreneurs who listen.

So if you have your kids watch or listen and video them or take a picture or share with me what they say I hope that they found it really magical. Okay. And then also like at the very end, Santa just shares like the sweetest, most Santa thing ever on what he wants for Christmas and focusing on joy and happiness and love and kindness and just the, the magic of Christmas and Santa. So I hope you listen to it and definitely listen to the end so you can hear his very. Sweet parting advice. 

Now, because it is December, we’re talking about Santa somebody, or Sarah, who helps me with this show when we were brainstorming podcast topics had a really good idea around do you do anything with your team for the holidays?

Like, She was just spit firing all sorts of ideas and brainstorming all sorts of ideas for me to do for the show. Because I got to tell you behind the scenes we’re crystal uncorked and it can be really challenging coming up with content for the show. 

In 2024, I’ll be doing more interviews. Interviews are easier to come up with because it’s just Hey, do you got a cool story? Are you doing something cool? Are you willing to share how you built this business? I’ve got so many entrepreneur friends, I can just line up interviews and create great conversations.

But when it’s really solo, like it’s been it’s very challenging to come up with those topics. And I have been working through a lot of imposter syndrome and head trash of does anyone even care about this? And is this even helpful? And all of these things. So I just want to say. If you are enjoying the show, if you could leave a review or you could DM me and just tell me like loving CU. That’s it. I just want to make sure you’re enjoying this content. You’re listening. You like it and you like the direction.

And then if you have any questions that you want me to answer on this show, or if there’s certain topics that you want me to cover based on, you know, knowing me and my background and the industries I’m in and building this business, I am open ears, open book, open ears, would love to hear your suggestions.

Sarah, thank you for this suggestion, because we actually do something that is maybe a little unique. I’m sure other businesses do this too, but for me, growing up, Every year we would always get together, usually at my grandma’s house on Christmas Day. I grew up in Loveland, Colorado. I moved, I live here now.

I was in California for 12 years, but I’m back home and the tradition still stays alive where we either go to my grandma’s, my dad’s or my aunt’s house. And I just always loved this time of year because I wasn’t in school. And I just, I always felt like why does anybody work during this time of year?

Now, any of my retailers that are listening to this episode, you’re like laughing at me and rolling your eyes at me because you’re like. Of course, people have to work, Crystal, like retail, Christmas, presents, shopping, money. I got you. I hear you. I hear you. I hear you. What I do is not going to resonate for all types of businesses, but even if you are a brick and mortar, if you are a retailer and Christmas is a big month for you where you have to be working or restaurants you could take this idea and implement it in January.

Or February it’s totally something that I think you and your team would love. Because I just always felt like we, now’s the time for like, connecting with family for slowing down. I always loved it. If my dad took off work, and we’d play games. I would get some kind of game for Christmas and me, my dad and my mom would just play for hours and hours, multiple days.

I just loved having that time off together. So then as I had my business, I was like, my first year was over Christmas and I was alone. Second year it was me and Pauline. And I’m like I don’t want to work and I don’t want to make you work. So we’re going to close the office. Like it was just an obvious thing.

Like I’m, no, this is sacred time. This is family time. This is connection time. So we’re closing down and this is just our policy. We will never be open between Christmas and New Year’s. I am a person of like, never say never. Could that change one day because we have to be on because we have to support if we’re in high tech or something and we have to support sure, then I can modify some of the time off that people have.

But right now, I’m not seeing that changing. We’re closing from Christmas Eve to the day after New Year’s and we’re closed and everybody gets it off. But here’s the extra special thing is everybody gets it paid off.

You are not using your PTO or sick leave, I am paying you because it would be terrible if I’m like, no, don’t work. But you also don’t get a paycheck. Like you have bills to pay. And then I don’t want you using your vacation towards the end of the year because you’re almost like forced to do it. So this has just always been our policy.

And I remember one year I had an employee email me and was like, I just really want to thank you for that time, because it’s really nice to come back after the break and not have a million emails because the team’s all done. No, the team is not emailing our clients know, we’re closed.

You might still get some client or partnership or whatever, but for the most part, you’re not coming back to a ton of. Like you’re dreading coming back to have so much work after your nice break, right? So that’s where this works really well. When the whole company is just closed, take the time off. Now I am a little guilty.

I still might work a little as an entrepreneur. I feel like I’m always working, right? I’m brainstorming, I’m journaling, I’m reflecting, I’m doing all those things, but I have more space to do it. Because I’m not feeling like I have to be tied to my email and I have to be responding to my team.

It’s just this time off. And man, it goes by so fast. But it’s something that I think is a perk to working at Crystal Media. I also give you your birthday off paid. And if you don’t want to take your actual birthday, let’s say your birthday is on a Wednesday, you could choose to have a Monday or Friday paid off so you could have a long weekend. Because I think that’s your special day and you should celebrate you and you should take the time to do that. And you shouldn’t have to take time off to do that. Like you’re special. You’re special to our team. You should be with yourself, your family, your friends, and the same way I feel with the holidays.

So that’s something we do special. So for those of you, like I said, who have to be open during this time of year. Can you, I don’t think that you’re going to go out of business or lose a shit ton of money. I’m talking to my small businesses here. This is the beauty of small businesses is you get to call the shots.

You get to make up the rules. I don’t think that you’re going to go out of business if you give your team a solid week paid off after the holidays, Hey, you guys showed up, you delivered. Oh my gosh. And we’re going to just close the store or close our restaurant or close our business for a week. And you get it paid off.

And the thing is, it’s just, you declare that you make that a rule. And now that’s what you do. And it always works out it might create some questions cause then, you know, times change every year changes when a weekend falls and how much time are you giving off or whatever. But I think that’s a really great way.

You’ll figure it all out and it’s a great way to surprise and delight your team and to give yourself a break because if you take the time off, but the team is still working well, you know, so much is still happening and then you’re dreading, like coming back to so much that’s coming back that you’re coming back to in your inbox.

It just helps everyone. So I really encourage you to look at that. You could always start with baby steps. Maybe it’s, a 4 day weekend instead of an entire week, week and a half, sometimes with the holiday and the, weekends, my team gets like a week and a half off, which is really fabulous for all of us.

So I really encourage looking through that lens, surprising and delighting and bringing some of that magic of the holidays from Santa, and looking at those ways that you can really connect with your team. 

So I hope that this inspired you to maybe think a little differently or what you could do for your team or hopefully just takes a freaking time off. And I hope you go watch my Santa episode. It’s a really special episode to me. And just a reminder that if you want to know behind the scenes of how I did that, let me know and If you have any questions for the show or topics, or if you’re liking the show. Can you let me know? I would love to hear from you on next week’s episode. I’m talking about how I organize projects to really help me and the team be more efficient. And I have a free resource for you as well. Our project briefs that we use at Crystal Media.

So be on the lookout for that next week and I will see you on the next CU. Bye.