From Chris and Lindy Bartell:: The Smarty Parents story began over a bowl of deliciously sticky oatmeal that our son Josiah, who was two years old at the time, was spreading into every nook and cranny of our wood dining room table. After experimenting with available placemats and having little success, we two rather energetic parents saw an opportunity. Thus, the Kiddy Platter™ Placemat & Craftmat was born.

With the arrival of our very crafty second son, Michael, we quickly realized the practicality of the Kiddy Platter went beyond meal time.  Drawing, finger-painting and “doughing” on the Kiddy Platter became as much a part of our daily routine as eating on it.  As our eldest son entered a Mandarin immersion program and Kindergarten included actual homework, the Kiddy Platter became the go-to surface in the car during our commute. Our invention was further validated when a high-end competitor introduced a similar, more expensive alternative.

In the winter of 2011, we had the pleasure of meeting the inventors of Yummy Dough, Andrea and Stefan Kaczmarek, and our mutual stories as parent-inventors simply clicked. Their inspiration was their two daughters, Sarah and Luisa.  Ours was our two sons.  They invented Yummy Dough while experimenting in their kitchen in beautiful Idstein, Germany.  Ours was invented while experimenting in our Portland, Oregon dining room. And of course, our inventions perfectly compliment one another.

Our goal is to help parents make meal time matter and craft time count with great products that kids love.  We believe that once your children have tried Yummy Dough, or used a Kiddy Platter, you’ll enjoy using them as much as we love bringing them to you.

Check out their products:

Yummy Dough Creative Cookie Dough $30 – Yummy Dough is a just-add-water sugar cookie dough that acts like regular modeling dough! It is safe and fun to eat raw or baked.  Perfect for play-dates, parties or just for playing around!  Kids will stay busy and have a blast with this parent-invented, kid-inspired baking activity.

Kiddy Platter Children’s Placemat & Craftmat $34 – The Kiddy Platter children’s placemat & craftmat contains the mess, protects the table, and can be personalized/updated with art, flash cards and more underneath.  It is dishwasher-safe, BPA-free, phthalate-free, and PVC-free.

Two sisters, Talia Bahr Goldfarb, a mom and social worker, and Danielle Bahr Eason, a mom and retail industry veteran, joined forces to invent Myself BeltsTM, the belt kids can fasten themselves.

Myself Belts is a mom-invented, award-winning line of children’s belts and toddler belts. The easy belts for kids are fashionable and functional, with a design that not only keeps pants up, but teaches and encourages your child’s independence. The kids belts are perfect for potty training toddlers, preschoolers and teens alike. Myselfbelts.com has easy toddler belts for kids and fashionable styles to choose from, including toddler belts, boys beltsgirls belts, and belts for teens. Explore our website to choose from our many different colors and designs of our easy to use, stylish kids belts for all ages!

Myself Belts are the perfect potty training aid!

When a child begins to potty train, often pants don’t fit quite right without the bulk of the diaper.  A solution to “droopy drawers” is needed, but we all want to reinforce our children’s new-found independence.  Myself Belts are the perfect solution!  Young children can keep their kids pants up and fasten and unfasten their Myself Belt easily and with only one hand.

It’s simple, Myself Belts make the school day easier for your child.  With it’s easy to use belt closure, last minute “accidents” are avoided and children can independently use the bathroom. A favorite for teachers and parents, Myself Belts help you and your child have peace of mind during the school day! They also offer belts that are great for school uniforms and that can be monogrammed for your child!

For the holidays, Myself Belts is offering a buy two get free shipping promotion! You can learn more on their website, or visit them on Facebook!

 

SassaB Linkable Charms are packaged with two linkable charms, a SassaB hair tie with link and a bobby pin with link for the suggested retail price of $8.99.

SassaB Styles are endless! Wear them in your hair, as custom necklace, bracelet or anklet,on backpack, book or sports bag, lunchbox, shoelaces, doggy or kitty collar. It’s up to you! Create your Own Style!

Perfect for trading, collecting, birthday presents, gifts for the holidays, stocking stuffers, and fundraisers!

SassaB’s patent pending, custom molded link is what sets them apart from other charms on the market. Thier design makes them easily interchangeable and versatile enough to be used in many different ways. By the way, they’re not just for girls! …Or even, dare I say, kids… The possibilities are endless!

  • In your hair

  • As custom necklace, bracelet or anklet

  • On backpack, book or sports bag

  • On lunch box

  • On shoelaces

  • On doggy or kitty collar

SassaB Linkable Charms have become the “must-have” accessories for fashionable tweens and teens who want to “Create Their Own Style!” 

At Playtime Vacations, we mean it when we say we want you to Get Out and Play! There are so many things going on between work, kids, family events, extra activities…you just never seem to have time to play. Here at Playtime Vacations, we want to help you do just that. A vacation isn’t something that you can just throw together. Our agents are ready to work with you to get the perfect getaway!

So you might be asking yourself:
 Why book your trip with Playtime Vacations? You are already planning on spending enough on your upcoming vacation, why would we want to add to that? It doesn’t matter if you have a 2 person booking or a 50 person group, there will never be a service fee coming from Playtime Vacations.

When you book a vacation with Playtime Vacations between October 15, 2013 and January 4, 2014, you will receive a gift card that you can use as spending money during your vacation!  The cards will be distributed based on the vacation total. 
1500-2000 = $25 Gift Card
2001-3000 = $50 Gift Card
3001-5000 = $75 Gift Card
5001+         =$100 Gift Card

This offer is good for any guest who puts the code: HGG2013 in their quote. request.

*Offer valid on new bookings only.  If booking is canceled, gift card offer is void. If guest cancels after final documents have been mailed out, gift card must be returned with full balance. Valid for guests traveling December 1-March 5, 2014.

Apriori Beauty is a company created for women, by women with a mission to help as many people as possible look and feel beautiful with the purest, most-natural and most- innovative products and opportunity.

When you look beautiful, you feel good. When you feel beautiful, you look good. And, when you can share this beauty with others, you can feel good inside and out.

Candace Dye is a Founder and Executive Director with the company from California. She’s dedicated to spreading the word about the fantastic products and growing her team.

Apriori Beauty offers a systemic approach to beauty with products targeting internal + external anti-aging at the cellular level. Two product lines, Lifeoxylin® and Celloxylin® work together to create and sustain a NutrientReservoir™ to prolong cell life and defy aging. Lifeoxylin® is the life-oxygen link for protection and prevention on an internal cellular level via the Cellular Defense Elixir. Celloxylin® is the cell-oxygen link for protection and prevention on an external skin surface level via a comprehensive line of skin, treatment and body products. The production of oxidants, together with the ability of cells to respond to oxidative stress is intricately connected to aging and lifespan and is a focus of the Cellular Age Advantage™ system of products.

Apriori Beauty also offers an in-home skin treatment that compliments and intensifies the benefits of this age-defying system. Aging never looked so beautiful!

And, they offer fabulous monthly specials! Through November, save 20% on Celloxylin® Crème Cleanse and Enzyme Activated Micro Scrub, together in this special set with savings all month! Or visit Facebook the first Friday of each month to see that month’s Friday Favorite special!

 

There’s only one opportunity to save your baby’s stem cells for the future…

As an expectant parent, your baby’s health means everything. Right now, he or she is protected in the womb and will soon enter the world. There is a lot to think about and prepare for, but a

n invaluable step you can take when your child is born is to preserve his/her stem-cell rich cord and placenta blood The ability of stem cells to save lives via cord blood banking has proven successful for replacing abnormal or diseased cells, and treating life-threatening blood disorders such as leukemia, lymphoma, and myeloma.In fact, since 1988 stem cell transplants have been used to treat some 80 diseases.

Through cord blood banking, you can collect and preserve potentially lifesaving stem cells, and doing so could one day save the life of your child or a blood relative. You can bank even more stem cells by collecting them from 2 usable sources of stem cell-rich blood: the umbilical cord and the placenta. This service is called Placental and Cord Blood Banking, and it’s available only from LifebankUSA. Whether you choose Placental and Cord Blood Banking or Cord Blood Banking alone, there are many important reasons to choose LifebankUSA.  

Right now, LifeBankUSA is hosting a contest on their Facebook page. They are giving away not one, but three Britax Marathon car seats! Visit their page and see how you can enter!

ABOUT LIFEBANKUSA

As the only company that offers cord blood, placenta blood and tissue banking — and the first to release placenta-derived stem cells for a successful transplant — New Jersey-based LifebankUSA is a technological leader that is pioneering key medical innovations in the field.  Owned by the Celgene Corporation, a world-class biopharmaceutical company, LifebankUSA also operates a robust donation program and collects cells from anywhere in the US for use primarily in advancing medical research.

 

 

Amber Davis is a busy farm wife, mom of four beautiful children ages 2-15, who also happens to be a director with Thirty-One gifts. If you’re not familiar with the company, take a look and get acquainted with all of the wonderful products they have to offer.

Davis has 18 years of experience in direct sales and is committed to building her team and helping them reach their goals and dreams! “With Thirty One anything is possible!” she said. The company is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, which means they are still a baby in the industry and that there is plenty of room for growth! For just $99, you can own your own business too!

In addition to taking orders for the holidays, she is also looking for referrals, fundraisers, events and NEW hostesses! “Our hostesses earn $100 in FREE products on average! Contact me today to hear more!” she said. “Our products are priced well, very functional and offer trendy colors that will help you bring calm to your life!”

You can find Amber online at her Thirty-One gifts website or e-mail her here.

Over the years I’ve been able to form a great relationship with Wonder Forge games. Each holiday season they come out with new, fun games for kids. For the past three years I’ve had the opportunity to review some of them for my audience. {You can see past posts here, here and here.}

This year, I was sent Doc McStuffins All Better Game and Justice League Axis of Villains. Both were a hit at our house!

First, my younger two kids loved the Doc McStuffins game and could not wait to open it when it arrived. Even my toddler enjoyed using the tools to fix his big sister’s boo boos. The game features slap bracelets that are bandages for a different ouchie. These are really cute. Then, players take turns trying to figure out which doctor tool will make them better.

You can learn more about Doc McStuffins All Better Game here, and find out where you can purchase it.

My older son gave Axis of Villains a try. The game has some strategic elements and gave him a chance to use his intellect. You can play as Superman, Batman, Green Lantern or The Flash which is appealing. It also focuses on teamwork and cooperation which I think is great for kids his age. It is recommended for ages 8+.

Axis of Villains is available exclusively at Target and qualifies for free shipping!

 

 

By Jennifer Covello

If you’re a small business owner, you’ve likely been to a networking event or two with the hopes of engaging a new client or perhaps meeting a mentor to coach you through your latest business challenge.

Whether you do it face-to-face or online, expanding your circle of peeps is in my opinion, the single best way to grow your business.  It goes back to the old Faberge® Organics shampoo commercial that many of you reading this are probably too young to remember.  The premise of the commercial is that the consumer loved the product so much, that she told two friends and they told friends and so on and so on until wads of people were using this fabulous shampoo.

This is similar to how networking works. You meet one new person who loves what you do. They tell a friend who tells another friend and so on and so on. It’s magic! Well, sort of.

Why? Because if you don’t get someone to love what you make or do in the first few minutes of meeting them, no one is telling anyone anything. There will be no “so on’s” in your business but rather “so long!”

How do you get someone to take interest in the single most important thing in your life – your business? Here are some rules of thumb that have worked for me. 

1. Please, please, please don’t give someone a dried up, boring, over-rehearsed elevator pitch. We all know that having an elevator pitch is important and it is. Unless it’s a bad one.  A bad elevator pitch will kill you faster than a can of Raid® in a roach hotel!

While you do want to be able to describe your business so your listener understands what you do, no one wants to hear about every single product or service you have nor how many awards you have won (unless they are Oscar’s or Grammy’s). People want to know how you can help them solve their problems. That’s it. What’s In It For Me? WIIFM. Remember this acronym in everything you do for your business and you will never fail.

Every one of your potential clients is asking this – What’s In It For Me if I buy your coaching services or hire you to decorate my office or manage my finances? If you are not able to articulate e how you can solve a future client’s problem in the first few minutes, then head to the buffet table and take advantage of the free food because you’re wasting your time.

Take some time to think about your business and how it helps people. Put yourself in their shoes. Would you buy from you? Write down 3-5 short sentences about what you can do for them that makes their lives easier or less stressful. Try it out at your next event and see what the reaction is.

2. Please, please, please don’t keep trying to convince someone to meet with you when they’ve already said they are not interested. Yes it’s true that sometimes an initial reaction can be one of disinterest until you probe a little further but if someone says they hate to cook and eat out every night, don’t try to persuade them to buy your new cookbook. It ain’t gonna happen.

Can you turn some of these nay-sayers around SOMEtimes? Yes. I’ve seen this happen.  Let’s stick with our cookbook example. You wrote a cookbook because YOU love to cook and wanted to share your recipes with the world. Not everyone loves to cook. In fact, some people (like me) hate it.  What I want is someone to cook FOR me. Is it possible that instead of buying your cookbook, they can buy your meals that you’ve prepared, delivered right to their door? Sure! Fabulous idea.

My point is – don’t get stuck on selling only one thing. The people you are meeting are a hot bed of market research. If they’re not interested in what you’re selling, find out what they are interested in and then go home and figure out a way to deliver it.

3. Please, please, please don’t take everyone’s business cards home and enter them into your newsletter distribution list. This is a BIG no-no! Just because someone gave you their card does not equate to them agreeing to receive daily tips on how to cook vegan. You’re overstepping and worse? You’ve likely pushed them over the line and they will never do business with you.

Then how am I supposed to grow my list and work on the “so on’s and so on’s”? You ask permission, that’s how. You can either do it during the event or by sending them a nice ‘Thank You’ email the following day inviting them to join your list.

BUT…don’t simply ask them to join your list to get your monthly newsletter. YAWN. (What was the acronym I told you to remember earlier in this post? Hey – no scrolling up – I see you peeking!)

WIIFM . Tell them WHY they should sign up for your list. Tell them how your newsletter or tips or e-book is going to solve their problem.  Make it worth their while. People are busy. No one has time to read anything anymore, let alone a newsletter on a product or service for which they are not interested.

I know these few tips seem simple but what I have learned is that the best way to grow your business is through the KISS principle. Keep It Simple Silly. Put any one of these tips into practice and watch your business grow and so on and so on and so on.

Jennifer Covello  is The Purposeful Parent, an award-winning author, blogger, creator of Frittabello baby gifts and mother of two children. With her unique perspective on parenting coupled with her sense of humor and vast experience, Jennifer is able to relate to a variety of women and the daily challenges they face as a mom and business owner. Jennifer has been featured on both radio and TV programs for her insights about her journey from corporate “cubicle dweller” to “mompreneur” providing helpful tips and inspiration to moms and dads alike. Most recently she was on Better Connecticut Weekend Edition where she provided tips on overcoming SuperMom Syndrome. 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.

By Monika Labbé

If you are running a small business chances are you have thought about how to accept payment from your clients on more than one occasion. There are plenty of credit card processing places that are dying for your business. Not long ago though, this was a very complicated process involving buying expensive processing equipment and going through credit checks etc. Thank goodness that is no longer the case.

Credit card processing is now mobile and can be done anywhere at any time. If you are processing most of your customer transactions at home, like me, and are taking client information over the phone then you are making significantly less the folks who actually have a customer with a physical card that gets run through instead of entered manually.

Let’s take a look at some of the fun fees we have to pay when using the following:

Square: Jack Dorsey created a free mini card reader you can plug into your smart mobile device that accepts credit and debit card payments. It’s simple, you swipe the card into the card reader and you pay a flat rate of 2.75% percent per swipe or $275 a month and nothing per swipe. But what if you don’t swipe? What if you manually enter the card information? Then your fees become 3.5% + 15¢ for all manually-entered transactions. It adds up fast. Square also claims there are no hidden fees for the following: activation, early termination, interchange, chargebacks, refunds and would you believe they don’t even charge you for inactivity. That one just made me laugh. The little card reader is not fun or easy to use as it has a tendency to swivel and does not stay put. Warning: If you are trying to swipe it in front of a customer, you might have some embarrassing moments. Also, Square offers no phone support. If you are looking for help with your transaction you can tweet about it, but there’s no one you can call.

Intuit GoPayment: The nifty silicone case actually hugs your phone so that it stays put instead of twisting around like the Square card reader. Intuit released two versions of the software, phone and tablet edition, and confused users who don’t know which version to download. It offers two main pricing structures charges 2.75% on all swipes, or if you opt-in for a monthly plan it’s just $13 a month. This drops the swipe rate down to 1.75%. So basically it’s the “pay as you go, or the monthly flat rate option.” For the monthly rate to pay off, you’d need to be selling more than $1,500 a month or so in products or services. $1,500 isn’t much to someone with a serious small business, but it’s not meant for the once-in-a-while user. Still, the company also appears to charge extra fees of up to .15 cents per transaction if you pay with a rewards card, or cards considered “Non-Qualified” transactions. The pay-as-you-go plan is ideal for merchants who process a low or varied number of transactions per month. The discount rates are higher, at 2.75% (swiped) and 3.75% (key entered), but there is no monthly fee.

Paypal Here: PayPal is already known internationally for being the foundation of online payment processing. It offers a very straightforward pricing plan: 2.7% on everything, no matter your volume or item prices. PayPal technically argues the fee is only 1.7%, but that’s only if you use the money with its free debit card that offers the 1% cash back. PayPal realized that while there is a necessity to get your cash into your bank account, there is also a desire to be able to use the money right away. All three payment processing apps offer access to your bank account within three business days or so, but only PayPal lets you use the cash in a matter of seconds. All money collected with your PayPal Here reader will go straight to your PayPal account, where you can instantly use it for purchases online or with a free debit card that it will send you. All the other readers simply offer your money accessible straight from your bank account in anywhere from 1 to 3 business days. PayPal charges a 3.5% + $0.15 fee per transaction for all manually entered transactions.

PayAnywhere: Claims their 2.69% per swipe fee is the lowest in the industry because they don’t charge you a monthly fee or minimum. At just 2.69% per swipe and no setup or cancellation fees, no monthly minimums, and no hidden fees it’s actually just .06% less than the Square though. Hmmm. Their rates go up to 3.49% + $0.19 for manually entered transactions so that’s almost the same as the Square.

Chase Quickpay: This online service allows you to send money to and receive funds from virtually anyone who’s enrolled in this service with just an e-mail address. It’s fast, convenient, and secure, all you need is a valid email address and a U.S. bank account and you can add them as a recipient. This method allows you to send payment to virtually anyone, anywhere. Or, have someone send your company payment without cash or check. This works great if your customer also banks at Chase. If the client does not bank with Chase though this is not a painless process. They will have to create a Chase profile and enroll in Chase QuickPay and will need to add and validate the external bank account they want to use with this service. It’s a drag for most business users, but it’s wonderfully simple if both of you bank with Chase. This method also has a cap on daily transactions as well as a cap on how much you can get paid from non-Chase users.

Punchey: New on the horizon and a Boston-based start-up that sounds good, almost too good. They claim their fees are lower than the Square and that save so much money that it would be a shame if you didn’t use them, but wait not so fast. I had my own personal experiences with this company and they were not so great. Punchey charges you 0.75% + interchange. It uses what they call a “pass-through” model which charges merchants the actual interchange fees set by Visa and Mastercard plus 0.75% and $0.10 per swipe. So if your customer is paying you $100 and you are using Punchey it would cost you $1.24 vs $2.75 with Square. They are able to undercut Square because of the Durbin Amendment to the Dodd Frank Act that went into effect in late 2011 and capped how much banks could charge. So it’s almost half the cost. But….wait for it….in order to use Punchey you have to provide them with your last month’s processing statement as well as your social security number. Then if you do, they may not accept you as a customer. How do you like them apples?

So far my preference is Chase Quickpay. Who doesn’t like cash? If my customer is not already a Chase client though I utilize the Square for all my manually entered transactions. When you compare the services, they are all pretty similar. Although now you can legally pass along the credit card processing fees to your customer. Hold on, what?? Yes, you heard right. As a result of a recent class action lawsuit against Visa & Mastercard merchants are now allowed to charge customers a surcharge for paying with a credit card. Ten states are still prohibiting surcharging, and surcharges are not allowed on signature and pin debit transactions. However, this is not as simple as it sounds because of course there are rules that must be followed in order to charge checkout fees. Anyhow, before you decide if charging checkout fees is the right move for your business take a look at the pros and cons and how doing it will impact your future client interactions. You always want to leave your clients happy, remember?

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