Martha Stewart contest propels Palm Harbor woman's card making business

PALM HARBOR

Rosa Clifford, a former Colombian television actor, now lives in suburbia. However, once inside her house, away from the minivans dotting the driveways and kids kicking soccer balls down the street, you realize the star of the hit television comedy Te Quiero Pecas (I Love You Freckles) puts her own spin on family life.

It is in her home that Clifford, 49, runs ROC, paper scissors, a business she created about seven years ago. The business offers handcrafted cards.

In recent months, because of national recognition from Martha Stewart's American Made Awards, an online competition designed to highlight creative entrepreneurs, Clifford has seen her orders increase "by the boatload,'' she said.

In September, she received word that she was nominated for the contest. Although she was not named the American Made Audience Choice Award winner, her little company received more than 4,500 online votes.

"I'd say that since last year at this time, business has increased three times over,'' she said.

The impetus for ROC, paper scissors is found through Clifford's youngest son, Christopher, 11. He was born in August 2001 with Down syndrome.

"Christopher is a unique brush stroke in this canvas of life,'' Clifford said.

As a preschooler, before he began attending Paul B. Stephens Exceptional Student Education Center, Christopher went through an early intervention program. There were four therapists who worked one-on-one with Christopher.

"When he was done with that program, I had so much appreciation for these four women who spent so much time and gave so much to my son. I wanted to say thank you somehow. Money was tight, and at the same time, I wasn't finding anything in the stores that was right,'' she said.

Clifford decided to create the thank you gifts herself. She used paper and ribbons, as well as a technique known as quilling, where she spins tiny pieces of paper into different shapes. The completed cards included swirling pastel flowers on the front. Inside, she wrote a personal thank you.

"That's how my card business was born,'' she said.

Clifford first came into contact with Martha Stewart when she was at Countryside Mall in 2010. "I waited in line and gave her a handmade card for her, and on that Monday, her people in New York contacted me about being on her show,'' Clifford said. "I was on the show several times. She must have liked my card.''

The business offers both small, all-occasion cards, ranging in price from $5 to $7, as well as larger, custom cards that start at $100. The custom cards replicate portraits of people or memorable moments for the customer.

"They are keeping me busy now. Each one is my interpretation of what the customer requests,'' she said. "And I've realized that it's all in the little details.''

The Made In America Awards wasn't the first time Clifford's art got national honors. Forty years ago, as a student at Christ the King Catholic School in Tampa, Clifford took second place in an American Automobile Association contest.

"I made a poster on traffic safety out of construction paper, crayons and scissors,'' she said. "I had an awesome art teacher who inspired me.''

However, after her father, who worked as an anesthesiologist at St. Joseph's Hospital, moved the family back to his home in Colombia, Clifford decided to follow his footsteps. After high school, she pursued a medical degree in Bogota, Colombia.

"But I was unhappy. I needed to stretch my creativity. I enrolled in art school and made money singing commercial jingles that led to TV work,'' she said.

After 10 years in the spotlight, Clifford decided she wanted a change.

"I wanted to take a hiatus, and I came on vacation to visit my sister in Florida,'' she said. "When I got on the plane to come over, I knew I was taking a flight to my future. I stayed in Florida.''

Fast forward to 2012. She and her husband, Scott Clifford, have three children: A.J., Scott's adult child from a previous marriage; Jonathan, 13, who is homeschooled; and Christopher, now in his fifth year at Paul B. Stephens.

Customer Kim Linder describes Clifford's work as meticulous.

Linder learned about ROC, paper scissors after receiving a handmade card as a gift from a friend. She was so impressed that she ordered 90 cards from Clifford to use as invitations for a gathering of her sponsors for her event, the New Age of Care Giving Symposium, which was held in St. Petersburg in November.

"(Clifford) took my logo and created a very artistic card with intricate work. She works from her heart and soul,'' said Linder.

These days, Clifford is spending most of her time preparing holiday orders while balancing her children's schoolwork and downtime.

Every school day at 4 p.m., she sends Jonathan out to watch for Christopher's school bus. Once she hears Jonathan holler, "School bus is here,'' she sets her cards and scissors down and goes to the end of her driveway to greet the bus.

She admits on most days, her life is "a noisy one.''

"From the day I got married, it's been noisy, so I don't know how to work, I don't know life without noise,'' she said. "But our life is filled with blessings.''

.fast facts

Card creations

ROC, paper scissors is an online card company based in Palm Harbor. All occasion cards start at $5 each. Custom cards, Clifford's cards that re-create either portraits of people or memorable moments for the customer, start at $100. To check out Rosa Clifford's artwork, visit rocpaperscissors.com

Martha Stewart contest propels Palm Harbor woman's card making business 12/06/12 [Last modified: Thursday, December 6, 2012 8:01pm]

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