This past weekend, as part of my research for an upcoming magazine article on direct sales, I was invited to attend Silpada’s National Conference in Kansas City, Missouri. For those of you unfamiliar with Silpada, it is a direct sales company that specializes in sterling silver jewelry sold at home parties. Every year they have a conference for their sales reps, with workshops, awards, inspirational speeches, and more. Along with fellow journalist and friend, Andrea Atkins, I got to experience it all.
On Friday morning at the opening general session, Silpada sales rep Jill Mapstead spoke about her experiences as a businesswoman and parent of a special needs child. I was so inspired and moved by her words, that I thought I’d repeat her “pearls” of wisdom here, since they apply to all mompreneurs.
•Treat your business like a business. Block out the hours that you will work, and set goals for yourself. “If you don’t, you’re cheating the boss,” said Jill, who referred to herself as a “complete carrot-chaser.” Goals are your “mile posts.” Setting short-term and long-term goals keeps you on course.
•Work on your business a little bit each day. Even if distractions or unexpected events (like a sick kid or a snow day) blow your to-do list to bits, do one business-related thing. E-mail a potential client. Research a store you’d like to be in. Check out your competition online.
•The business is all in your head. Keeping future-focused helps you survive the inevitable bumps, obstacles and setbacks along the way.
•Play up in this game. Surround yourself with people who have skills you admire; and learn from them.
•Be a balcony person, not a basement person. Cheer on the people you work with, rather than dragging them down. As Pat and I have always said, “Confidence is contagious. When you have it, others will want to be around you, so they can have it too.”
•If you don’t like something, change it. And if you can’t change it, change the way you think about it.
•Be consistent. No matter what business you’re in, be consistent in your efforts. For Jill, that meant having 4 to 7 jewelry parties a month. For me, it means continuing to pitch stories to editors, even while I’m working on finishing up big articles. Consistency is what keeps the work (and the dollars) coming in!
Thank you Jill Mapstead for those inspirational words!
When Ellen and I started working from home, we were so concerned with maintaining a professional image that we always made phone calls when our kids were either at school or with a babysitter to keep them quiet or out of the house. We felt it was important that there be no crying, requests for a snack or calls to go potty overheard by those on the other end of the call.
I realize that times have changed and working from home is much more acceptable as a “real career” these days. But the other day I was on a 4-way conference call with some business associates and one of the guys (who works out of his house) had babysitting duties because the kids were between school and camp. His 3-year old and 6-year old were in his home office obviously doing an arts and crafts project because we heard repeated demands for “more glitter” and “colored markers” in the background. Now I find it challenging to participate in conference calls to begin with…especially when someone is on a cell phone. But the kids voices were really distracting. I didn’t say a word, but finally, his superior said “I’m finding it really hard to hear what you’re saying with the kids’ voices in the background…can you do something?” She was half kidding, but I know she would have preferred them out of the room (she has no children.) He explained that the babysitter didn’t show and then found a quieter room to finish the call from.
My feeling is that work-at-home dads still get away with more than work-at-home moms. I know the “rules” are more relaxed now. But most of the mom entrepreneurs I know would still feel it necessary to project a more professional image and would schedule conference calls when they know they have child care coverage or can at least have a chunk of quiet time. Maybe I’m wrong. What are your “rules?” Does it depend on the business you’re conducting and the person you’re talking to? Please share!
It’s not often that I get the chance to trade in my boring yogurt-at-my-desk lunch for a 3-course meal at Abigail Kirsh’s Tappan Hill Restaurant in Tarrytown, New York. But last Friday, I shared amazing food with some amazing women at WEDC’s annual spring luncheon and microenterprise fair. For those of you unfamiliar with WEDC (which stands for Women’s Enterprise Development Center), its mission is to encourage entrepreneurship in and around Westchester County, New York, through training programs, support services and microenterprise funding opportunities. I am lucky enough to be a WEDC trainer, and I teach their 15-week Entrepreneurial Training Program in the spring and fall.
The luncheon is always the highlight of the season, offering an opportunity to network with other business women, hear inspirational advice from the featured speakers, and catch up with former students (like Tsahai Martin-Wright of Shima & Sahai and Kim Jones of Urban Tranquility, who both exhibited their products at the microenterprise fair beforehand.
But this year’s WEDC event was extra-special because it included the inaugural presentation of the LEAP Awards, micro grants made possible by local philanthropist Patricia Lanza. They were awarded to qualifying women entrepreneurs who have completed WEDC training; and I was thrilled to learn that two of the LEAP award winners were from my current class! I was a proud mama as I gathered with other students to cheer on these inspirational ladies.
Margie Nugent, of Making Faces Parties, had to rebuild her life after arriving in a domestic violence shelter with 2 little boys and just $20 in her pocket. She always dreamed of owning a business that tapped into her artistic abilities and degrees from FIT. In 2009, she launched Making Faces Parties, an entertainment company offering a variety of body art services. The business—run on nights and weekends—supplements her fulltime job working in a school, and was profitable in its first year. Margie will use her grant money to purchase more equipment, get additional training, and exhibit at body painting competitions to broaden her exposure.
Jenifer Ross, of W@tercooler, spotted the emerging trend of co-working, and is capitalizing on it. W@tercooler is a collaborative office space in historic Tarrytown, New York, available for part-time or fulltime rental to entrepreneurs, freelancers, and other mobile workers. But this is no ordinary office suite rental place. Jenifer’s space is unique because members work side by side in a shared loft-like setting, gaining a sense of community and a place to exchange ideas. The open floor plan has a variety of options—private desks, shared desks or tables, and a lounge area—with access to a shared kitchen, a private phone booth, and a state of the art conference room. All members enjoy complimentary WiFi, faxing, printing, and coffee. And (in a move that I think is sheer genius), clerical help is available through the intern program Jenifer has established with her local high school. If you’re in the Westchester area and need an alternative to working in your lonely home office, come check it out. You may just see me there! (Look for me with my laptop on that cool settee)! Jenifer is using her grant money to build a deck overlooking the Hudson River, providing members with yet another scenic and collaborative place to work.
Other LEAP award winners included:
•Cary and Meryl Gabeler, a mom-daughter team who run Anjolie Ayurveda, organic soaps imported from India.
•Beatriz Messina, of BM Consulting of New York, a proposal writing and project management firm
•Juana Pinyol, who launched Details Custom Cleaning Services, a residential cleaning service which uses green products.
•Beverly Turner, of Casaco, Inc., which provides financial literacy and home ownership counseling.
•Maria Valente, of Chocolations, a chocolate shop and café (and the only chocolate factory in Westchester County, NY!)
If you’re in the Westchester, NY area, check WEDC out. If you’re not, research the women’s business development groups or other SBA-funded organizations in your community. Organizations like these are a great resource for support, networking, and training. And sometimes they even provide a nice alternative to eating lunch at your desk!
Ten years ago, Jeanette Baysa and Katherine Patton ditched careers in corporate America (they had both worked in project management in Honolulu) for a slower paced, rural lifestyle and more rewarding work on Hawaii’s Big Island. Since then, they’ve been running Hilo Coffee Mill on the island’s eastern side, where they now cultivate their own crops and process, package and market coffee grown by local farmers. No batch is too small. “Our primary goal is to support the small family farm and find a market for these artisanal coffees both locally and abroad,” says Jeanette.
While everyone associates Hawaii with Kona coffee (grown on the western end), the Big Island’s wetter, cooler eastern side produces some of the richest beans in the world. In fact, in the 1800s over 6,000 acres of coffee trees flourished there, until sugar took over as the state’s more profitable crop. Now that sugar production has declined, East Hawaii coffee is making a comeback. And Katherine and Jeanette are on a mission to help small, family-run plantations prosper once again.
A vision percolates: Though they lived in the midst of “coffee heaven,” Katherine and Jeanette couldn’t find any good local coffee being served. They opened a small espresso cafe in a Hilo shopping center, but were sourcing the beans from the mainland. “Local farmers often asked us to buy their coffee,” says Katherine. “We really wanted to, cause it was delicious, but with coffee being our main business, we couldn’t rely on the farmer for our only supply.” Then they hit upon a solution, deciding to start Hilo Coffee Mill in February 2001, a business that could buy direct from farmers and also import coffee from many different countries, ensuring a consistent supply. They’d process and package local farmers’ custom coffees and market them to island restaurants, and globally as well.
Start-up steps: They leased a small storefront/warehouse space in an industrial park in Kea’au, and initially took the green coffee to a company in Kona—3 hours away—where it was roasted. But the trip was tiring and time-consuming, and when a friend’s sister in Washington State had a roaster for sale, they jumped at the chance to buy it. They started with one farmer, who is still with them today, and rounded up restaurant partners simply by approaching local places that served coffee. “Our first client was a restaurant we dined at often,” says Jeanette. “That restaurant, Don’s Grill, is still with us after all these years!” Jeanette and Katherine became known as the “coffee ladies.” They ran the business out of Kea’au for 4 years, during which time they acquired more equipment and warehouse space, funded by loans from relatives, friends and shareholders who believed in their dream. “We knew that we eventually wanted to move to a site on the highway, visible to tourists and locals, where we could have a small visitor center and grow a little coffee of our own,” says Jeanette.
How business grew: Katherine began investigating some vacant old sugarcane land and found that a 400-acre parcel in Mountain View, right along Volcano Highway on the way to the national park, was being subdivided into smaller lots. They were able to purchase 24 acres. It took 3 bulldozers and 6 months to prepare the land that Hilo Coffee Mill now occupies. The enterprise has morphed into a full-service coffee mill and plantation, with a retail shop, Latte Da coffee and tea bar, catering and marketing services, and a Saturday farmer’s market featuring eggs from their own chickens and other locally grown items. There are also educational tours showcasing the coffee production process—from plant to cup. They started with 500 seedlings, and now have 6,000 trees, this year yielding about 4,000 pounds of roasted coffee. And today the “coffee ladies” buy from over 15 farmers on Hawaii Island, plus many from Kauai, Oahu, Maui and Molokai. “The business has definitely taken on a life of its own,” says Katherine. “But our core mission is the same: Offering fresh roasted Hawaiian grown coffee, supporting our local farmers, and providing a great place for our local community to work, gather and have fun.”
From farm to table: One of the most challenging parts of the business is getting people to know what it stands for, admits Jeanette. “We support local agriculture, and those who have made the hard choice to grow our food responsibly. We live on an island, so it’s important to be in business not only for ourselves, but for our community. We depend on the small farmer, and they depend on us.” She adds that many people forget that Hawaiian coffee is a domestic product, the consumption of which affects a US farmer. “Our goal is to enlighten consumers to get as close to the producers of their food as possible. If they can see the environment where the food comes from, the more likely they are to support those enterprises. We hope to teach that sustainability is achievable, even in small ways.”
Finding your own piece of paradise: Katherine and Jeanette urge aspiring entrepreneurs to “dream big.” Do what you love and do it with passion, they say. But also plan it out first and make every step count. “Don’t start something that you aren’t ready to completely handle,” Katherine cautions. And have fun. “When you love what you do, it almost doesn’t feel like ‘work.’ Paradise is what you make of where you are.”
So now that turkey day is gone, and the last of the leftover stuffing has been consumed, I really need to get serious about figuring out what to give my clients. Decisions, decisions. In my last blog post, I mentioned things that have worked for me in the past. Here’s what I’m considering this year.
**A ready-to-plant amaryllis bulb in a festive pot
**Funky business card holders (either for the purse or desk)
**Super cute desk/office supplies (I love the ones from seejanework.com)
**Dancing Deer cookies (dancingdeer.com). I love the ones in the shape of the house… they benefit the homeless too!
**Gourmet hot chocolate. I’ve given this before, but this year I’m thinking of including homemade gourmet marshmallows and some artisanal chocolates from the woman-owned shop in my neighborhood.
**I’m also contemplating donating on my editors’ behalf to my new favorite charity, kiva.org. Your donation actually becomes a micro-loan to assist a disadvantaged entrepreneur in the U.S. or around the world.
I’ll keep you posted on my decision. In the meantime, I’m going out this week to pick out the perfect card. My PictureIt Postage stamps have arrived. Check out how cute they are.
If you order using the coupon code MOTHERHOOD, you’ll get $4 off an order of custom stamps and be entered to win a $500 prize http://pictureitpostage.com/
Rules are detailed here http://www.themotherhood.com/post/show/id/483184
I’ll let you know when I make my decision, and send you a pic when I’ve got everything “wrapped up.”
Every year around this time, I try to find new and creative ways to show my appreciation to the editors who keep me so busy writing all year long. Though I don’t give gifts to everyone I’ve ever worked with, I do send something to the special people who hire me consistently throughout the year. These are usually editors with whom I’ve built solid relationships with over time. The rest of my business contacts get holiday cards, and I admit spending WAY too much time picking out just the right design that will make people remember me!
I’ve been doing the holiday card and gift thing for over 20 years as a homebased writer/mompreneur. Here are some of the festive tricks I’ve learned along the way.
Don’t Go Overboard on Gifts. I recently heard one of my favorite editors say that she thinks it’s weird if writers give her something extravagant. And if someone she’s only worked with occasionally sends something, she thinks they’re sucking up. The moral? It’s not necessary to shower everyone you’ve ever worked with (or want to work with) with presents. But do be sure to show your appreciation to clients that hire you most often.
Keep Gifts Small and Sweet. Boxes of artisanal chocolates, brownies, cookies, or small fruit baskets will always be greatly appreciated. It’s even better if the treat benefits some kind of good cause (check out cookiesforkidscancer.org). I also try to pay attention to what clients like when we’re out for lunch or coffee. For example, I once bought my tea-loving editor a gourmet sampler tied to a handmade tea caddy. She loved it! I gave handmade floral notecards to another editor who had mentioned she missed letter writing. They were a big hit.
Slip Something in the Card. If you’ve got a lot of gifts to send, you might try slipping a Starbucks or Sephora gift card into the envelope (I still have the very cool eye liner bought with the gift certificate my iVillage editor sent me years ago!) Sure you could email these, but there’s still something wonderful about actually getting a mailed card to open—especially in this high-tech, impersonal age. I’ve also received many cards where the sender has made a contribution to a charity in my name—a great way to have your gift do some good!
Personalize Your Postage. Did you know that you can actually make postage stamps with your company logo? The PictureItPostage peeps just gave me the chance to try it out for free, and I have to tell you…it’s very very cool! It works like this: Go to http://pictureitpostage.com/business/ and design a stamp using a jpeg logo from your photo file. I used a picture of our red-headed Mompreneur character from the homepage, and then adjusted the postage part of the stamp to match the teal background. Pretty cute! I’m going to go make one with her in her Santa hat too! The .44 stamps are 18.95 for a package of 20; and PictureItPostage is offering our community a coupon to get $4 off your order. Go to http://pictureitpostage.com/business/ and use Coupon Code: MOTHERHOOD .
Thought you might get some tips out of my latest article on Social Media Tools. Thanks! Diana
Social Media Tools For You – Business Just Got a Whole Lot Better
Social media is definitely hot now as a means to get clients and more exposure for your business. But understanding it all can be a challenge. Not anymore. This week we are going to break it down and show you the different social media tools and just what they can be used for in your business.
First the granddaddy of them all, Facebook. No need to tell you what Facebook is, but let’s concentrate on how it can drive sales to your business. It’s important to use your Facebook page itself as marketing tool by providing information on your business and a means to connect to you on there. It allows you to brand your business, drive more traffic to your site, post events, etc. I’ve also discovered that the advertising feature of Facebook ads works well too.
Twitter next – I for one am definitely a Twitter addict. I love it. Not only because I can connect with my friends and associates, but because it drives people to my site and the events that I host. For example, I’m doing a PR class now, and being able to tweet about it gives me more signs-ups. You just can’t beat that added exposure.
YouTube – There is no denying the power of videos. People love to feel more connected with you personally online and this is a means to do it. We recommend not only doing a single video about your business, but developing a whole series on tips that show your expertise. Just make sure these add value and aren’t just an advertisement.
TubeMogul – For video uploads and syndication, this allows you to upload a single video to dozens of video sites including YouTube. Oh yes, it’s that easy!
Flickr – This allows you to download photos and easily add them to your blogs and presentations. This is especially beneficial for real estate agents, wedding planners, event companies, etc. When you can show what you can do for clients and have done previously, it entices people to want to know more.
There are so many more, but this should get you started. Isn’t it amazing what’s out there today. Until next time, happy marketing!
Diana Ennen is the President of Virtual Word Publishing, http://www.virtualwordpublishing.com where she specializes in PR and marketing and business startups. Contact her at Diana@virtualwordpublishing.com or @dianaennen
We were thrilled to be quoted in Forbes this week. You have to scroll through the video. It’s an article on when to logg off and on over the holidays.
Here’s my quote!
It’s best to keep your BlackBerry far from reach on the holiday itself, shares Diana Ennen, author of So You Want to Be a Work-At-Home Mom. One bad piece of news on Christmas morning can derail even the happiest of holidays. “Once I got an e-mail from a client stating that they would no longer need my services because of financial problems. It was a long-term client and a hard blow for my business. I couldn’t shake it all day.” Her holiday was spoiled by that e-mail, even though the client returned.
Thank goodness for Profnet and HARO. It’s so great that you can connect directly with reporters who are looking for quotes. Since I do PR, one thing too is that it’s not just getting quoted, but also letting others know that you were quoted. With Social Bookmarketing that’s easier. For example, you can share that link with places like ping.fm, Digg, StumbleUpon, Your Twitter, Facebook, etc. I’m just fully finding out about these sites, but it’s really amazing.
Diana Ennen / Virtual Word Publishing / www.virtualwordpublishing.com
Technology is so awesome. We finally figured out how to add a video of a TV interview to our website. Please do take a look.
Jill Hart and I were interviewed on HomeKeepers for our latest book. So You Want to Be a Work at Home Mom. So many mompreneurs were included in this book. Ellen and Pat, Lesley, Cher, Julie, etc. We are so thrilled with their help!
We are also going to appear on November 4th on Cornerstone TV. Another opportunity to meet Jill. I can’t wait.
Diana Ennen / VirtualWordPublishing.com / Virtual Assistant Mom
Hi All –
How about if we start a post of sharing some of our best business tips?
Why don’t we tell a little bit about ourselves and our businesses?
Good way to start and get to know each other!!
I’ll start –
My name is Stephanie Hay and I live in Massachusetts. I have been in direct sales for over 20 years. I started with Tupperware in the mid 80s, BeautiControl in the early 90s, PartyLite, Creative Memories and NuSkin. I am currently with Tastefully Simple and have been with them for over 6 years.
One of my tips is to talk to everyone and to always keep catalogs with you. I have a catalog bag with a clear pocket on the outside that I carry with me at most times — great way to advertise your business. I also have commercial plates and have advertising on my windows. I get a decent amount of calls from my window decals.
I also leave business cards under my rear window wiper and find that people take my business cards from there also. I have had a magnet holding business cards in the past and that worked also.
I also make my own business card magnets by laminating them and them trimming and putting on a business card magnet. I give everyone a business card magnet. I find that the laminating gives it a more professional look and wasn’t very expensive when I bought the laminator. I paid about $30 or so for it a few years ago and has been a very good investment.
Looking forward to sharing info and getting to know each other.
Have a great weekend!!