Archive for September, 2010

Posted by at 27 September, 2010, 1:33 pm

Buy or make a few colorful clipboards to help you stay organized throughout the day. Load the clipboards with paper you like: lined, plain, graph, colored, white, or perhaps a variety. I saw plenty of beautifully designed clipboards like Busy Mom Boutique. You could decorate your clipboard with wallpaper, scrapbook papers, ribbons, whatever suits your personality.

Next, hang your clipboard over a hook near your desk or other area where you’d like to be reminded of things to do throughout the day. If it’s easier and quicker to use a nail, go for it.

Now you have an easily transportable list you can take with you. It’s inexpensive and fun.

Let me know if you end up designing your own. I’d love to see a picture of your clipboards.

Category : Organization | Organizing Mom

Small Business Loan Advice for Work-from-Home Moms

Posted by at 12 September, 2010, 3:13 pm

This Fall, I will once again be teaching the 15-week entrepreneurship class for the Women’s Enterprise Development Center (WEDC) in Westchester County, New York. As an instructor, I attend many training meetings to get ready for the upcoming semester, and a recent one focused on financing. Lending officers from TD Bank revealed their strategies for securing a business loan. I thought I’d share what I learned, since the tips are helpful for anyone contemplating a loan—whether now or in the future. Keep in mind, however, that it is still very difficult for start-ups to get loans. Banks want to know that you’re established, with proven ability to earn revenue and pay back debts. But if you’ve been in business at least 2 years, and can document your growth potential, you will have a better chance at getting financing.

Here’s what banks will expect from you.

A Business Plan. Banks need to understand your business, industry, profitability and growth potential. Provide them with a detailed business plan that gives them a clear sense of what you do, who your customers are and how much money the company earns. It should include: A Mission Statement describing your products or services; business structure (sole proprietor, partnership, LLC, or corporation); management plan (who runs the company); short- and long-term goals; marketing plan; operational plan; pricing, costs, and financial projections. You can find business plan templates at the SBA.

Financials & Tax Returns. Provide 2 years of current tax returns, and a financial statement showing cash flow projections for at least 2 years. Include all revenues (gross and net sales and gross profit) and expenses (advertising, rent, equipment/supplies, utilities, etc.). Don’t forget to factor in your loan payments. TD Bank has a great calculator you can use for figuring out payments:
And for more general guidelines on figuring out financials, go to the latter part of this SBA template.

A two-year track record. Businesses should be at least 2 years old and profitable.

A vested interest. Banks won’t lend more than 80% of what you need. They want to know that you can provide 20% of the equity, so that you are financially committed to growing the business. Banks also want collateral—something of greater or equal value to the loan that can be taken in the event you are unable to make payments (like a car, business equipment, or commercial or residential real estate etc.). If you have no collateral other than your house, think carefully about that loan, and consider other ways of funding your business.

Good personal credit. Banks want to know that you have already demonstrated the ability to handle debt responsibly and pay it off on a timely basis. Check your credit rating; free reports are available at Even if you are not pursuing a loan right now, it pays to clean up your credit history if it’s less than stellar. That way you will be considered a good risk when you are ready to approach banks.

For more loan packaging tips, check out this SBA article.

Category : Growing Your Biz

BIG ISLAND, HAWAII: Adventurer’s Paradise

Posted by at 12 September, 2010, 12:36 pm

As a travel writer, I have been lucky enough to visit all the major Hawaiian Islands. My most recent trip was to Hawaii (known as the Big Island), in December of 2009. It was my first time there. Each Hawaiian island has its own special personality and appeal, and if you asked me to describe the Big Island in one word, that word would be “adventure.” During my stay, I went biking, hiking, and ziplining. I also took a pre-dawn boat ride to watch red-hot volcanic lava slide into the sea.

This island is huge—so big that you could fit all the other Hawaiian Islands onto it…not once, but twice. It has a diverse terrain, with 11 climate zones—from rainforests to deserts to snowcapped mountains to tropical beaches with sand that can be white or black or green. And, the Big Island is home to 5 volcanoes, including Kilauea, one of the world’s most active. According to legend, Hawaii’s fire goddess, Pele, lives in Kilauea’s crater, and the frequent eruptions are said to be expressions of her anger. She must be in a pretty surly mood lately, because lava has been flowing consistently in recent months. There’s a very good chance you’ll spot some when you visit. I guarantee it’s an absolutely awesome experience you will never forget.

The Big Island is best for outdoorsy, active families—especially those with tweens and teens, who are more likely to have the enthusiasm and energy for exploring. (In upcoming blog posts, I’ll share my top Big Island adventures and also introduce you to some of the cool entrepreneurs I met during my travels.) I recommend allowing at least 5 days for your visit, and staying on both sides of the island. You’ll find the best beaches on the Kona/Kohala coast, on the sunny western side. But you’ll also want to spend time in Hilo on the eastern end, because it offers easiest access to Volcanoes National Park Hilo is also close to the Hilo Coffee Mill, run by 2 amazing women entrepreneurs who are working with local farmers to revive coffee production on the island’s eastern side. (I’ll be introducing you to them in a later blog post.)

I stayed in 3 different hotels on my visit, and have described them briefly in the “Where I Stayed” section below. But you’ll find plenty of additional options at , along with updates on lava viewing opportunities.

Where I Stayed:

Hilo Hawaiian Hotel. This is a convenient, fairly inexpensive option for days you plan to explore Volcanoes National Park and the nearby waterfalls on the island’s east side. Though it’s not fancy, it overlooks scenic Hilo Harbor and a charming park, and has a fresh-water pool, a buffet restaurant, and balconies in many of the rooms—all within a short drive from Hilo’s main sights. Rates start at around $99 per night.

The Fairmont Orchid. Set on a beautiful beach on the sunny Kohala coast, this upscale resort has a cool pool and snorkeling lagoon, along with surfing and outrigger canoe lessons. There’s also an archeological preserve right next door, where kids can glimpse rock drawings created by ancient Hawaiians. The “Everyone’s an Original Summer Offer” is good through October 2010 and starts at around $269 per night.

Hawaiian Island Retreat. Located on the North Kohala Coast, this eco-friendly, serene sanctuary is a good choice for girlfriend getaways, or for couples vacationing without the kids. The focus is on relaxation and wellness. You can take daily yoga or meditation classes, learn organic gardening and cooking, and indulge in massages, facials and other soothing spa treatments. Stay in the luxurious 9-room lodge, or in rustic yurts. Nightly rates start at around $175 for yurts; $275 for lodge rooms.
(Look for my profile of the cool woman entrepreneur who runs the place in an upcoming blog post.)

Category : Travel Writer Mom

Work-at-Home Moms Need Vacations Too!

Posted by at 8 September, 2010, 1:25 pm

What’s a blog about travel doing on a site about working from home? Well, many of you already know that besides co-hosting this site, I have another full-time business: Freelance writing. I get to report about inspirational entrepreneurs and do-gooders, and family and parenting topics for national magazines. And one of the coolest perks of that job is that I do a lot of travel writing. That means I get to visit fun places (often on complimentary press trips—full disclosure here), and tell about where I’ve been.

My first travel stories were inspired by family vacations to Disney World and Hawaii. I’d already been writing on general parenting topics, but wanted to share what I’d learned from vacationing with my kids. So I pitched some ideas to editors I’d already been working with, landed the assignments…and my travel-writing career grew from there.

On this site, we talk a lot about pursuing your passions and creating business opportunities that bring you profit and happiness. Don’t be afraid to speak up and let people know you are an expert in your field. If I hadn’t told my editor how many times I’d been to Disney with my kids, she never would have considered letting me write my “Disney World for Every Age” article, all those years ago. Now I get to combine my two great loves—writing and traveling with my family—into one dream job. I’m no Samantha Brown, mind you, but it’s a pretty big deal for me, considering that I rarely ventured out of the Bronx as a kid.

When I was growing up in New York City, my family didn’t start vacationing regularly till I was in my teens. So the extent of my traveling was a trip or two to Montauk Point in Long Island (still one of my very favorite places). Any additional sightseeing came from reading my dad’s National Geographic magazines, and spinning his black Starlight globe and imagining what it would be like to visit Africa…Australia…Tahiti. Not that I’ve been to any of those places yet. But I have explored many family vacation spots throughout the U.S., including every major Hawaiian island. And I’ve seen a fair amount of Mexico and the Caribbean too.

So, I thought it would be fun to share some of my journeys with you. I’ll give you the inside scoop on great places to vacation with your family, and share deals that will make it easier and more affordable to take a break from your home office. I’ll also introduce you to some of the cool entrepreneurs I’ve met along the way. The mom who runs a surf school in Huntington Beach, California. The family who leads hikes through the rain forests of Hawaii’s Big Island. For any of you who have ever wondered what it would be like to work in paradise, these inspirational business owners reveal exactly what goes into livin’ the dream.

So stay tuned for Ellen’s excellent adventures. First up: Hawaii: The Big Island.


Category : Travel Writer Mom

Free Call 9/15: “What Recession? How to Use Social Media and Online Marketing to Make MORE Money, Struggle LESS and THRIVE in the New Economy”

Posted by at 5 September, 2010, 6:25 pm

cordlessphoneI wanted to invite you to my next complimentary teleseminar on Wed. 9/15 at 8pm EDT.

It’s called “What Recession? How to Use Social Media and Online Marketing to Make MORE Money, Struggle LESS and THRIVE in the New Economy”

The business game has changed! What used to work to get your business and name out there in the world isn’t working so well anymore.

That’s why I’m so excited to have you join me for this FREE teleseminar where
I’m going to personally share with you exactly how I built a successful business
online (from having NO clients, customers, contacts or list…in the midst of a
recession, no less) and how you can too. (Yes, really!)

All you need is a phone to join me, so don’t miss this call. Whether you are a
seasoned business owner looking to find out how to leverage the Internet or just
starting out, you won’t want to miss this 60 minute call all about what it
REALLY takes to succeed online.

Register here:

Hope to have you on the line with me!

Category : Social Media

Posted by at 1 September, 2010, 9:38 am

yellow pencils I like writing with sharpened #2 Ticonderoga pencils.  I throw them out when they get shorter than 3 inches.  I prefer the Uniball Signo 207 pen because it doesn’t smear or skip.

Why write with pens that are frustrating? Toss out all writing instruments (or donate) that don’t work for you.  It isn’t wasteful.  What is wasteful is time spent being frustrated writing with an awful pen that was a give-away that you have to scribble on another piece of paper to get the ink flowing.

How many coffee mugs full of pens do you have around the house.  I’m guessing it’s around three.  Go through those and clean them out.  It’s one small step toward a more organized home.

Category : Organizing Mom