All About Creative Memories

Yesterday was the last day for orders. Ahni, Zoe, and Creative Memories are now dead, although there is some hope that the Flowerdale Group will resurrect them later this year. Consultant Donna Lyn recently wrote about the Creative Memories Bankruptcy Roller Coaster. My roller coaster was like hers, only running about two years ahead of hers. I started with Creative Memories in 1998,. The late 1990’s and early 2000’s reflected the growth of Creative Memories to a 300 million dollar business. The incentive trips were spectacular. At the time, it appeared that Creative Memories could do no wrong.


1999 Incentive Trip to Acapulco

The peak was around 2002, when Creative Memories memories booked the Millennium twice for incentive trips to accommodate the number of qualifiers. 2002 was also the year I gave up film and started using a digital camera. Monica Lee has described this time as The best job I’ve ever had, and I agree with her.

The 2002 Fantastic Voyage incentive trip.

The 2002 Fantastic Voyage incentive trip.

The financial problems came with the opening of the new manufacturing and distribution facility in 2004. Around this time, Creative Memories remodeled the headquarters and replaced all the perfectly good office furniture with new, more trendy furniture. The company was spending a lot of money on projects that did nothing to drive sales. As sales started to decline, the new state-of-the-art manufacturing and distribution facility proved to be a white elephant, and the company’s financial restructuring compounded the problems.

The Creative Memories 8th Avenue Manufacturing and Distribution Facility

The Creative Memories 8th Avenue Manufacturing and Distribution Facility

The decline continued. Creative Memories started direct sales business unrelated to its core scrapbooking market, including ZeBlooms for flowers and Our Own Image for African Americans. At the same time, Creative Memories continued to deny that digital would affect the future of their business, investing in custom framing and other projects that complicated their direct sales business model.

Creative Memories filed for bankruptcy in 2008 but did little to change its overall business practices. It continued to focus on  direct sales and refused to seriously consider alternative business models. Sales continued to decline at about 20% per year, and by 2011 it was abundantly clear that unless sales increased, another bankruptcy was inevitable. I left in 2012 when I received an offer from another company. By that time, I had given up hope, and it was time to get off the roller coaster. Six months later, Creative Memories filed for bankruptcy for a second time.


About Mark Mizen

I have over twenty years professional experience in all aspects of photography and digital imaging. I am Chair of the ISO WG5 TG2 committee responsible for physical properties and durability of imaging material and am currently with HID Global working on systems for security printing for IDs, licenses, and credit cards. Previously, I was Director of Digital Development at Creative Memories from 2009 to 2012 and was responsible for the Creative Memories digital products and services. I also established and directed the Creative Memories Technology Center, which evaluated new products prior to product introduction, assisted with production difficulties, and provided technical information to support product sales.
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13 Responses to All About Creative Memories

  1. Hearing it from your point of view, Mark, makes me sadder. I knew that they screwed up, but I never realized how many stupid things they did to screw it all up.

  2. Interesting. I became interested in scrap booking in 2003 and became a consultant in 2008 because i loved the product; and still do. Looking back it would have been smart to research the company, but never did. I could never understand why they dragged their feet about going to true 12×12, but i really liked their albums. It motivated me to scrap my photos, learn techniques and share my passion of preserving photos with others. I didn’t know any of the details of the first bankruptcy. Things were good & then all hell broke loose. Then I learned a lot. Nothing like taking the downward plunge!

  3. momfawn says:

    I discovered CM in 2003 with Kimberly Davis as part of Lyn Johnson’s organization. I loved the products and the people, and us “peons” were completely in the dark about the first bankruptcy. I was at Leadership in 2013 where CV had us make our own confetti and declared the bankruptcy over and done…and gave us no hints that the axe would be falling within weeks. A sad story of poor management and an oblivious workforce (and I count myself in that number, unfortunately). – Fawn

  4. I have no problem mentioning that in all of this, millions upon milllions of dollars in heretofore unpaid Financial Security Plan monies was also somehow taken from those on whose backs the company was built. The monies still owed to me, that I have paid taxes on at the end of 2013, will likely never be recovered at even half of its value, which was entirely my own pay that went into that account, not “matched” by CM as in a traditional 401K or anything like a solid investment. Years ago I asked, even demanded, to get my money out of the strange Financial Security Plan, but was told I cannot touch the money until I was 52 years old or some such age. I’d love to know where my money went….20% of every commission check I earned, not only on my downline’s activity but also on my sales from framing, digital, and all published storybooks. I trusted CM with investing on my behalf….what seemed like a great idea at the time, is now poof gone.

    • Nicole says:

      Not only did consultants (leaders) lose their retirement savings, so did all the hard working employees at the home office. Not the executives – just the workers. It’s tragic.

  5. Jett says:

    Is this this first time you’ve shared this story? b/c I would have liked to have read it before I signed up for A&Z in June. It would have saved me a ton of money and freed me from this pile of albums I now need to sell on ebay.

  6. Margie Wight says:

    I agree with both Donna Lynn and with Monica Lee. I signed on w/ CM late in 1995 and resigned from A&Z January 1st. My 18 yrs. were one heck of a roller coaster ride!!! (Donna) I earned 4 incentive trips, one of them being the Fantastic Voyage and traveled to conventions and leadership conferences around the country. I met hundreds and hundreds of people I would never have met without CM. My entire family history is safely documented in CM albums. As high as the highs were, the lows were real bummers. Even before CM declared bankruptcy the first time, I knew that something wasn’t quite right. Custom framing? Good grief. When CM was getting into framing my neighbors who had a framing business were getting out of it because they couldn’t compete with AC Moore, Michaels and the like with their low-cost, custom framing. And the one-design-fits-all A&Z albums? OMG! I also have to agree with Monica that my time as a CM consultant was the BEST job I ever had. I LOVED teaching kindergarten for 30 years but I couldn’t set my own hours, I NEVER got an incentive trip or prizes and I was never my own boss. I believe I am still in the grieving process but I will never regret my time with CM. Footnote: How could something so incredibly GOOD go so doggone BAD?

  7. Andrea Lauer says:

    As Monica and Mark have stated, working for CM was the best job ever. It was difficult to watch the sales tank month after month and the mission of the company be just a granite slab in the front of the building. In 2003/4 the company asked for a new appraisal of the stock to better reflect the changes in the industry. Sales of scrapbooking supplies in retail stores showed the same trend as CM sales and yet when the stock price was announced to employees, it was at an all time high. It seems that a perfect storm was set in place.

  8. Tammy Rowland says:

    With CM gone, is there any scrapbook product company that is consistently producing traditional products that meet the ISO 18902 standard?

  9. Pingback: What is Creative Memories? | All About Images Blog

  10. Peter Murray says:

    We are working on it and are looking for national distribution

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