Last night was time to confront Cash Flow in the 15-week entrepreneurial training course I teach for the Women’s Enterprise Development Center (WEDC) in White Plains, NY. It’s always the class that gives everyone headaches and anxiety attacks…and even the big jar of chocolate coins I bring along to “sweeten the pot” doesn’t help.
Having a business idea is the fun part. Figuring out what it will earn….not so much. But it’s so important to track your start up expenses, overhead and other costs, and figure out exactly what you need this business to do for you financially. Is it going to simply cover the “extras” in your household, or is this going to be a serious income that keeps your household afloat. I always say, cash flow is no different than budgeting for your household expenses…no different than balancing a checkbook. You know what bills are coming up…you know what money is coming in… and whether you’ll have enough to pay them, with ideally, some cash left over. Same principle with cash flow. If you take time to periodically plan your business spending and earning goals, you’ll have money in your pocket. And I don’t mean chocolate coins!
I know I’m not the only mompreneur wondering how to master the confusing art of search engine optimization (SEO). I mean, just when I think I’ve got it down, there’s something new to know about. So last night I went to a workshop on the topic, given by Lisa Kaslyn of Prosper Communications and held at W@tercooler in Tarrytown, a stylin’ co-working space founded by one of my former WEDC students, Jenifer Ross.
According to Lisa, you should prioritize your SEO strategy into 3 basic steps:
1. Absolutely know where you are appearing on searches. Where are your keywords surfacing and who’s beating you out?
2. Entice search engine robots with frequent new content. “Content is still king,” says Lisa. It’s what attracts visitors and search engines to your site. She suggests you blog at least once a week. “Plan posts in advance, like magazines plan editorial calendars. It helps make the process less stressful.”
3. Then use content to drive your social media. Tweet about what’s new on your site. Post on your Facebook business page about recent videos or blog posts. If you’re in a visual biz (photography, fashion, home or garden design and the like) consider pinning pictures on Pinterest to drive traffic back to your site.
Here are some more SEO strategies Lisa says you need to know right now:
• The longer you’ve had your site and the more content you have on it, the better you’ll be found by search engines. “Good history is the holy grail of SEO,” says Lisa.
•Join Google + . Those posts now appear on Google searches too and can help you rank higher.
•Claim your Google places page–especially important for local businesses that want customers to find them.
•Scale your site content for smart phones and tablets (talk to your web person about how to go about doing this). “Flash is not SEO friendly,” points out Lisa.
•Use videos to drive traffic back to your site. For example, a home organizer can do a quick lesson on taming the junk drawer. But keep videos under 2 minutes.
•Talk with your web master to make sure every single page of your site is optimized for your keyword terms.
In March I was lucky enough to be on the first media sailing of the Disney Fantasy, where I got to bring my husband and kids and spend time with my Family Circle editor and her adorable children. I’ve been covering Disney inaugural events (both on land and sea) for over 25 years now, and was on board the Magic when it first set sail back in 1998, when my kids were 8 and 11. Now they’re 22 and 24, and proof that the Disney ships are not just for little kids.
In the media briefing, Karl Holz, President of Disney Cruise Line and New Vacation Operations, explained that whenever the company designs something new, it strives to live up to the phrase, “Only Disney would do that.” They certainly outdid themselves with the Disney Fantasy, which has a slew of innovative features–many of them different from what’s offered on sister ship, the Dream.
Here were my favorite magical moments:
Riding the Aqua Duck 6 times! This water coaster (which is also on the Dream) blasts you through a translucent tube that actually shoots out over the side of the ship at one point. Totally cool! No other cruise line comes close to having anything like this onboard. It was fun to see tweens and teens bringing their parents on! Of course, it’s a hit with younger kids too, but they have to be at least 42” tall to ride, and the policy is strictly enforced, so make sure your child meets the size requirement before you get to the top.
Hanging with the Princesses in Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique. This salon specializes in princess makeovers and is already wildly popular in Disney theme parks. But this is its first time at sea. I got to watch 4-year-old Princess Ce Ce (daughter of my Family Circle editor) and another sweet preschooler in the adjacent seat get the royal treatment, with glittery manicures, makeup and hair styles done by Fairy Godmothers in Training. Basic hair-and-makeup packages start at $54.95; costume packages start at $185, but most of the moms I met brought princess dresses from home. After their salon makeovers, the little girls hurried off to meet Cinderella, Belle and other Disney royalty at the Princess Gathering in the ship’s main atrium. “I have to get to the ball,” said one of the pint-sized princesses. Ce Ce wondered if her pixie dust would allow her to fly there like Peter Pan. (On Pirates night, the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique gives buccanneer-themed makeovers for all ages, even adults, starting at $34.95.)
Partying with Pirates. One whole evening is devoted to swashbuckling fun. The night starts on the pool deck with pirate-themed games and dancing. Later there’s a stage show featuring Captain Jack Sparrow, who rappels down from the ship’s smokestack. The festivities are capped off with Buccaneer Blast fireworks. (Best viewing spot: Starboard side, Deck 12.) Disney is the only cruise line with fireworks at sea. We had the added treat of having the Dream sailing right alongside us, so we got to see 2 sets of fireworks! The ships serenaded each other with their horns, which play snippets of Disney songs, like “Be Our Guest” and “A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes.”
Watching my drawing come to life at Animator’s Palate. All of the Disney ships have the signature Animator’s Palate restaurant. But the one on the Fantasy has a special new surprise. When you arrive, your server gives you a placemat for drawing your own character and then collects it. Here’s what I drew:
Later on, before dessert, your character comes to life on screens around the restaurant! Click here to see the video!
Where else but on a Disney ship can an art-challenged writer see her badly-drawn stick figure come alive to dance with Tigger?
The Disney Fantasy offers 7-night Caribbean itineraries (alternating Eastern and Western) and departs from Cape Canaveral, Florida. For more information on the ship, click here.