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Business Besties – Three reasons why you need entrepreneur friends

By Chelsea Duggan

Let’s face it you have a lot of friends. There’s the Mom you watch soccer games with to the Mom from your first playgroup. Great Moms that help get you through each day surround you.  So who is your business Mom? Don’t have one? Here are three reasons why you need entrepreneur friends now.

A great part of having entrepreneur friends is you have someone to commiserate with. Owning a business is a roller coaster and you could use someone to share the great moments but also the tough ones. Soccer game caused you to be late to a client meeting? Your business bestie can remind you that your client will likely understand and that there are other clients who will. Baby spit up on your suit? Laugh it off together and invent a solution to that problem for your next great business.

Another bonus to having entrepreneur pals is the insight you gain when you see firsthand how someone else did it. Patent application looking a little dicey? Your business pal will share their application and walk you through the process. You’ll gain knowledge from their triumphs and mistakes. You can ask questions that might seem intimidating in a large group networking set up. Surround yourself with those you emulate and you’ll find your business woes are fewer and farther between. You’ll also gain the courage to branch out and trial new product lines. Do it together with your business bestie.

You may also find an entrepreneur friend who can serve as a mentor. It’s great to learn from a pro and be part of a community. Look at groups like the Founding Moms to find that special someone. The great part about working with a mentor is that you’ll gain leadership skills and attributes that you will use when you become the mentor for someone else. Pass along the love and you’ll find it comes back to you in wonderful ways.

Entrepreneur pals in the form of a mentor, seeing the big picture through another pro’s eyes, and simply having business besties to commiserate with will change the day-to-day for you. Your business will grow, as will your friendships. What’s not to love about sharing a knowing smile with another great Mom?

Chelsea Duggan:: An entrepreneur, parent and advocate for early childhood development through creative education, Chelsea Duggan is the Founder and Director of Milestar Babies. This innovative online resource enables busy parents to have an influential impact on newborn children, up to three years in age. Chelsea's background in education - a passion she shares with her two children, so they themselves can enjoy a lifelong interest in learning - is at the center of Milestar Babies. That commitment to excellence starts with shared moments and teacher-designed lessons, which parents can further customize, so children can discover, synthesize and pursue their own discoveries. Chelsea believes that every child is an amazing individual, who deserves to learn at his or her own pace. This kid-tested, parent-approved philosophy is Chelsea's distinctive concept, complemented by the convenience of the Internet and her dynamic site. A graduate of Northwestern and a member of the Chicago Women Entrepreneurs Network, Chelsea welcomes the opportunity to interact with parents and children throughout the nation and the world.


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Four Ways to Expand Your Brand Presence

By Monika Labbé

When first starting out in your business your focus was probably on getting the word out about what it is that you sell or what service you provide. But once you become more established, it becomes harder and harder to stay one step ahead of your competition. That’s where it’s best to expand your product offerings. Launching a new product or service can be time consuming and might have hidden costs that you did not anticipate. It’s important to create awareness and promote a products benefits without breaking the bank.

1.Reduce your financial risk by using the existing brand name to enhance your client’s perception. It’s important to already have an established presence with your brand or service, otherwise you could potentially risk your brand image with something new.

2.Extending your brand is a great tool for increasing not only your income, but awareness about your company as a whole. You could tie in additional products or services to causes that are meaningful to you and or community events that are happening around your neighborhood. Keep it simple and make sure you tie it back to your core mission. Make sure whatever you are adding is a nice benefit to clients, but not too far removed from your actual core business.

3. Make sure your website is collecting key information about your clients when they are visiting your site. It’s important that the things you collect are not just demographics but things that are relevant to specific business goals. You need to improve your market based on the information you collect and be able to speak specifically to the interests of potential clients. By finding out specific needs of your clients you can conduct deeper and more targeted research that would be more timely and relevant.

4. Partner with someone who offers a service or product that compliments yours. In my industry of photography I often partner with wedding vendors for that segment of my business. If you are offering a product think outside the box of who might be interested in wanting to partner with you, where does your product naturally fit? For example if my product is a toothbrush, naturally toothpaste goes with it, but so does mouthwash, floss, maybe even teeth whitener. Who could use the toothbrush? The dentist’s office obviously, but how about using it to clean hard to reach places, or for polishing small surfaces. It’s taking the thought process one step further than the obvious and asking, what can this tool actually do if I have never used it before?

By recognizing where the market is heading, anticipating the needs of your clients, and stretching yourself in your thinking you will be able to develop complementary services that will effectively extend your reach.

Having been a professional photographer for over 13 years, I feel very blessed to have been published in numerous books, magazines, and websites. For me, seeing how my photos touch others, whether they bring a smile, a chuckle, or a tear, is what I consider truly priceless. I welcome the opportunity to bring that to you and your family. For more information regarding photography services, please contact me through my website,or email me directly. ~ Monika Labbé, Visual Storyteller



Work-at-Home Mom’s Summer Survival Guide

By Theresa Ceniccola

 I admit it. It’s not easy going to work at home when school’s out and the beach is calling my name. It’s tempting to put off the work and take a three month vacation with my family. But hey – I’ve got clients to serve and bills to pay, just like everyone else. So each day is a new opportunity to find that perfect balance between work and play.

Having worked from home for 20 years, I’ve learned a little bit about how to stay productive and avoid distractions without becoming a work-monger. And because my children have never known anything except a work-at-home mother, they’ve grown up sharing their home with a business. Together, we’ve come up with a fairly decent system for spending the summer in work and play. Here are our favorite tips, and they should work for toddlers to teens and will even be helpful if you’ve got a babysitter or nanny on board:

Seven Home-Based Business Summer Survival Tips

1. Create a Schedule. Yeah, I know…boring! But having a loose schedule will give everyone the structure they need to accomplish what has to be done, and enjoy the long days of nothingness. At the very least, establish regular working hours – even if they fluctuate from week to week.  And do your best to treat those office hours as sacred time without distraction or interruption. This will help you prevent trying to work at the waterpark (not very productive as I have learned from experience).

Bonus tip: I started asking my kids to create their own summer routines a few years ago. I give them parameters like “one hour of reading time,” or “30 minutes of exercise,” and “no more than one hour of screen time.” They have fun and learn a valuable skill by outlining their own daily schedules – and they are far more likely to stick to the routine when they create it themselves.

2. Plan. Discuss. Repeat. Because summer schedules seem to change each week, it’s even more important to hold that weekly planning meeting with your family. Review the schedule for the week and set realistic expectations for office hours, meals, transportation, play dates, etc. If you have a childcare provider, outline the week for her as well. It only takes 20 minutes and gives everyone an opportunity to participate and be heard. Plus, it gives you an idea of what your top priorities will be each week so you can tackle them first!

3. Protect Your Boundaries. One of the greatest gifts you can give yourself and your family is the gift of clearly defined boundaries. Do your kids know when you are “at work” and “at home?” Do they know the rules of when they can or cannot enter your office? Do they know how to behave when you are on the phone? (No matter how old they are!) Do they know WHO to go to when there is a babysitter in the house and mom is in the office? Do YOU know the rules about answering a work related call while playing CandyLand or teaching your teenager to drive? Do YOU respect your children by focusing on them 100% during the time you are not working? Give this area some serious thought and work with your children to create and honor boundaries that work for everyone.  

4. Write a Business Bucket List. You may already have a bucket list of fun things your children want to do this summer. But do you have a bucket list of your business goals for the summer? What are the things that you put off until summer to explore, learn or implement in your business? Are there any road trips or excursions that might be good for your business and fun for your family? Do you have a weeklong beach or mountain retreat planned that would be perfect for writing your book or several blog posts? Are there some things your children can actually help you accomplish this summer? What about your babysitter – can she sort papers or stuff envelopes or do research while the kids are napping? Make a list of business related projects and goals that are perfect for summer.

5. Get More Rest Than You Think You Need. Let’s be real – your summer isn’t filled with lazy days lounging poolside with freshly painted toenails and a frozen margarita. Last time my life looked like that was on my honeymoon! In fact, there are no lazy days of summer. Only fun filled crazy days of summer! We are a family on the go – even when we’re in slow motion. Which means I need to make sure I get a full eight hours of sleep every night – so I can keep up with my kids, my business and my health.

6. Take Advantage of Quiet Mornings. Hear me out on this one – even if you’re not a morning person, you may want to consider setting the alarm an hour earlier and brewing a pot of stronger coffee so you can tackle your biggest work projects in the peace and quiet of early morning. Sleepy teens and tweens will not even come near you at that hour. And, if you’re lucky, the younger ones will be happy to eat breakfast in their pajamas and watch Veggie Tales or go outside and play before it gets too hot. So mom will have a few hours of uninterrupted work time before the day really begins. 

7. Say No to “Opportunities” That Can Wait. It’s a myth that business is slow in the summer. Even in the corporate world where clients are on vacation and it’s difficult to schedule meetings, there is still a LOT of work to be done in the summer. People are taking advantage of lighter schedules to do some planning and creative brainstorming. That’s all great news if you are looking for work. But if you’re trying spend more time with family, then be careful not to take on anything new that will infringe on your personal time. Be especially careful not to accept a project simply because you are afraid the client will never ask you again if you refuse. Trust in your own talent and know that the work will be there when you need it – but your children are only home for a few short weeks this summer.

Whether or not you have childcare this summer, I hope these tips will help you stay productive in your home office and enjoy your family time too. When September rolls around, you will skip the neighborhood back-to-school celebration where moms send off the school bus with mimosas in hand. Instead, you’ll be one of those moms at the bus stop in tears because you’re sad to see them go. You’ll be ready to devote more time to business, but you’ll be grateful for the summer fun memories you created. (And if you’re a homeschooling mom, you’ll be all set with new schedules and boundaries that will serve you well all year long!)

What did I forget? Do you have any summer survival tips for working from home? Please share them with us here!

Theresa Ceniccola is The Christian Mompreneur—a Mentor to Moms Who are Running a Business that Supports Faith and Family. As the president and founder of the International Christian Mompreneur Network, she empowers entrepreneurial moms to build profitable businesses with wisdom and grace. Theresa has successfully run a home-based business as a freelance writer and marketing consultant for the past 18 years. She considers herself blessed to make a living doing what she loves and empowering other moms to create businesses that support their values of faith and family. Join the International Christian Mompreneur Network (it's free!) today and you'll receive Theresa's Mompreneur Toolkit featuring the Ten Commandments of a Mompreneur.




Ditch Your Elevator Speech Now!

By Jennifer Covello

I’m sure if a seasoned PR person is reading this, they are likely screaming “NO!” at my very bold title. Everyone knows you must have an elevator speech if you are a small business owner. You need to have a quick way to tell people what you do at networking events, conferences, or press interviews.

This is a true statement but…

How many of us have been to endless networking events where we hear something like this:

“My business is about helping people discover their passions and live a healthy, happy life so they can be empowered to make positive changes for themselves and others.”

Huh? So what is it that this person actually does? Are they a weight-loss coach? Are they a life-coach? Are they a web designer? (Ok, not likely a web designer, but you get my point.)

Why is it that when we describe our business we have to come up with this fancy schmancy description of what we do? Why can’t we just tell it like it is? I think I know why.

It may be because you think people won’t accept what you do as important, so you need to make it sound like it is important. The other reason is, you really don’t know what you do, so you describe everything you do in the hopes that the potential customer will figure it out (and simultaneously, help you figure it out too).

Think about the last event you attended. Think about how other women business owners described their business. Did you have to ask them a dozen follow up questions to figure it out or did you get it the first time around?

I can remember oodles of events that I attended where I wasn’t sure if someone was trying to help me lose weight or buy their jewelry line. The result? I walked away confused and more importantly, they didn’t get my business. I figured if they don’t know what line of business they were in, how can they help me?

You may have dozens of business cards in your possession that will back up my statement. How many of these little guys say things like “Life Coach. Jewelry Consultant. Divorce Mediator”? Well, which one are you? And why are you making me work so hard to figure it out?

There’s nothing wrong with having multiple passions, but not all of them are your business. If you are a life coach, but you also sell jewelry, great. There’s no need to put both on a business card and there’s no need to tell people about all of your passions in three minutes or less. Know your customer and describe the one thing you do that will help them in that moment.

You may think you are telling people about all the cool things you do, but in reality, you are confusing them and they will have no faith in anything you are doing. Do I really want to work with someone who isn’t sure if she’s a life coach or a jewelry designer? If they can’t figure out who they are and what their business is, how will they help me figure it out?

So what’s a multi-talented mompreneur to do? Simple.

1. Know your product or service and talk about it like you do.

If you sell hand-made jewelry, say so. If you are a social media expert, declare it. Don’t surround your business description with a bunch of words that mean nothing. People don’t have time to figure stuff out anymore. We live in a Twitter world and people are busy (or lazy and need things spelled out for them, but that’s a post for another time).  Don’t make people work too hard to learn how you can help them. Just tell them.

2. Stop making what you do sound like you’re curing cancer.

Now before you get your feelings hurt and think I’ve insulted you, I know what you do is important to you, but let’s face it. Unless you truly do have a cure for cancer or can solve the education problems in the U.S, you need to tone it down a bit. Tell people what you do and how you’ve helped others, but don’t exaggerate. You’ll come across as fake and you will lose credibility before the words “awaken people’s passions” come out of your mouth.

3. If you don’t believe in you, no one else will either.

We can all spot an insecure person a mile away. They stumble over their words. They make little eye contact. If you want my business, you’re going to have to make me believe in you and trust you. I’m not going to invest my hard-earned money in someone who can’t articulate what they do with confidence.

Let’s face it. People are busy and they need your help. Did you hear me? People need your help, your gifts, and your talents. Otherwise, you wouldn’t have been blessed with them. Think about it. If you have a passion for making jewelry and this is your business, then speak up! “I make hand-crafted jewelry with precious stones for any occasion.” “I help people overcome their fear of flying.” “I help women understand baseball so they enjoy the game with their family.” (Ok – I know this last one is a bit silly but I just know this is a great business idea for someone, so consider this a freebie!)

In the end, it’s really about knowing who you are and valuing what you do. It’s not about trying to impress other people with all of your talents and skills. It’s not about defending who you are and why you do it. It’s about sharing your gifts with the world to help make people’s lives better.

And isn’t that why you started your business in the first place?

Jennifer Covello is The Purposeful Parent, an award-winning author, blogger, motivational speaker, and creator of Frittabello baby gifts. With her unique perspective on parenting coupled with her sense of humor and vast experience, Jennifer is able to relate to a variety of working women and the daily challenges they face like “SuperMom Syndrome”.

Jennifer has been featured on both radio and TV programs for her insights about her journey from corporate “cubicle dweller” to “mompreneur” and back again. She provides inspiration for all parents to help them succeed at the most important job they will ever have.

Jennifer is a native of Long Island, New York and had a corporate career in IT and Marketing.  She holds a B.S. degree in Management Information Systems from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and an MBA in Marketing Management from Pace University, New York.

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