This Week In Business

It’s An Entrepreneurial Thing

Welcome to my week-long women's series. It's no secret that one issue that I'm passionate about is female empowerment. I used to answer a domestic violence hotline, coach cheerleading, lead a girls technology club in my local middle school, and met with a monthly girls book club. I'm currently on the board of our county's domestic violence program and doing some writing for the Maine Women's Fund. My point is it's certainly been a common thread in my life no matter where I am or what I'm doing.

So this week, it's about the ladies, and of course money (as usual). Enjoy!

Leslie Harlow is a local business owner in Ellsworth Maine. She not only owns the coffee shop The Maine Grind but also has a thriving website and blog called It's A Maine Thing. As a businesswoman and great person, I asked her a few questions.

Full disclosure: Leslie is one of my Internet PR clients.

 Mainegirlatthehelm Please summarize the idea of your online business in a few sentences.
I have lived in Maine my entire life where I have been captivated by it’s mystique, people and the landscape. Recognizing that many other people who either live here or live outside of the state have the same feelings I thought that an ecommerce web site, my services and keeping my audience in touch through my blog would be a good business idea. I did not model after anyone else’s site as this type of lifestyle marketing is fairly new.
 
What or who inspired you to start your own business?
I have always been self-employed and run my own businesses here in Maine since 1976. For 16 years (1990-2006) I was involved in the start-up and eventual success of Sullivan Harbor Farm Smokehouse in Sullivan where I ran the enterprise, along with a B&B, with my live-in male partner. After building a new building for the business in 2005 I ended my relationship with him. I attempted to work with him, but the situation fell apart over time. Do to the technical nature our financial relationship I was forced out of the business by him. Maine does not have Common Law in regards to protecting partners in longterm relationships so after I left I had to figure out what I was going to do. A crummy settlement was not going to provide me with the financial foundation that I expected to have by this point in my life (I am 54). Family and friends were very supportive and encouraged me to act on my creative side, but also recognized that my entrepreneurial spirit was still intact. Hence the hatching of my web site.
 
Sailorbag How did you bring the idea of It's A Maine Thing from business plan to thriving enterprise? Perseverance. Reached out to smart, experienced people. Understood from the get go that mistakes will be made. Parked my ego at the door.

In what way(s) has your business turned out differently then what you are expecting?
Building a web site and management of an e commerce site takes a lot of time which I was not expecting. Initially  I figured that it would take a few weeks, maybe a month, to build a site. Boy, was I mistaken! I am a hands-on person who was used to instant results so the tedium and detail work that e commerce requires has been a challenge for me. Frankly, I do not enjoy that aspect to my business.
 
What was one unexpected challenge you had, and how did you overcome it?
Fear. A year ago I developed an idea to begin a blog that would keep my audience up to date with happenings, musings and personal escapes that I encountered around the State of Maine.. I was certain that I could not write, but as time has marched on I have discovered that I can write well, I have fun doing it and am rewarded because people actually read my blogs.

What have been the most popular online items? Sea Bag Sail Bags, Klean Kanteen water bottles, art work
 
If someone was interested in starting their own business like yours, what advice would you give them?Breath deep. Eat well. Accept that you will be sitting on your seat for hours on end working through problems. Recognize that you will spend A LOT more money than you expect getting it started. Sign up with a reputable outfit to handle your credit cards. Hire a pro…not friends who “can create a web site”. Hire an experienced web site builder, preferably someone young who has had FORMAL training. Take good pictures or hire someone who can do it for you. Be friendly to your customers. Don’t be afraid of your own ideas, not matter how outlandish they may seem. Personalize your site. Wear lipstick when having one on one meetings. It’s all in the details. (I am finally at a juncture with my site where I have to begin listening to my own advice…). 
 
What question do you wish I would have asked? Feel free to write it down and answer it!
Do you have employees? I did have a part-time staff person for 5 months who helped manage my site, but she left for a full time job. I did not hire a replacement which forced me to learn new skills…a good thing. Currently I have a person who helps me on occasion with my blogs and I use the services of my web master from time to time. I could use a very part time person to help me handle the technical details of my site like changing pictures, adding products, etc.

Photos: Leslie, the "Maine Girl" at the helm, and the best selling sail bag

Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she’s not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.

The California Women's Conference: It's On Video

Welcome to my week-long women's series. It's no secret that one issue that I'm passionate about is female empowerment. I used to answer a domestic violence hotline, coach cheerleading, lead a girls technology club in my local middle school, and met with a monthly girls book club. I'm currently on the board of our county's domestic violence program and doing some writing for the Maine Women's Fund. My point is it's certainly been a common thread in my life no matter where I am or what I'm doing.

So this week, it's about the ladies, and of course money (as usual). Enjoy!

Last week, 14,000 women gathered for California's Women's Conference which was organized by Maria Shriver, first woman of California.

There were some great speakers on hand discussing their views on women's issues (which are really everyone issues but you understand what I'm saying) as well as the role of women in the future of America and the world. It was a pretty inspiring lineup which included Bono (keynote), Warrent Buffet (talking the economy as well as putting a sexistly pandering Chris Matthews politely in his place), Jennifer Lopez (talking with young girls about body image), Oprah (duh) and lots of other gifted speakers and accomplished women.

While it certainly would have been cool to be there, the great news is they have a great online presence.

Click here to get streaming video of the different speaker sessions (and not just two minute clips from Youtube here, actual hours of video).

You can also get more involved by keeping up with their blog and discussion board at the California Women's Conference's official website.

I'm thinking of this time listening as a combination motivational pep talk and professional development session. Hope you do too!

Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she’s not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.

The California Women’s Conference: It’s On Video

Welcome to my week-long women's series. It's no secret that one issue that I'm passionate about is female empowerment. I used to answer a domestic violence hotline, coach cheerleading, lead a girls technology club in my local middle school, and met with a monthly girls book club. I'm currently on the board of our county's domestic violence program and doing some writing for the Maine Women's Fund. My point is it's certainly been a common thread in my life no matter where I am or what I'm doing.

So this week, it's about the ladies, and of course money (as usual). Enjoy!

Last week, 14,000 women gathered for California's Women's Conference which was organized by Maria Shriver, first woman of California.

There were some great speakers on hand discussing their views on women's issues (which are really everyone issues but you understand what I'm saying) as well as the role of women in the future of America and the world. It was a pretty inspiring lineup which included Bono (keynote), Warrent Buffet (talking the economy as well as putting a sexistly pandering Chris Matthews politely in his place), Jennifer Lopez (talking with young girls about body image), Oprah (duh) and lots of other gifted speakers and accomplished women.

While it certainly would have been cool to be there, the great news is they have a great online presence.

Click here to get streaming video of the different speaker sessions (and not just two minute clips from Youtube here, actual hours of video).

You can also get more involved by keeping up with their blog and discussion board at the California Women's Conference's official website.

I'm thinking of this time listening as a combination motivational pep talk and professional development session. Hope you do too!

Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she’s not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.

In Celebration of Labor…Other People's Labor That Is

This weekend, I'm back in my hometown this time for a little longer then usual. There's a football game on television and beer at our local dive bar in the near future. Ah, vacation.

I've been meaning to give props to some people who have been well laboring:

Being Frugal is a Walmart mom, which means she'll be blogging about money saving from her own perspective (this is a competitive but unpaid honor) and no doubt she'll get even more exposure to her blog. Good for you Lynnae!

Kelly at Almost Frugal has launched a new food blog Almost Frugal Food. Good blogger with French recipes? J'aime ca!

I entered an economics haiku contest at the Freakonomics. I didn't win but in case you were curious, my entry:

Reading self help books
to better manage money.
Must stop buying books.

Remodeling This Life is now contributing to Blissfully Domestic, where I read a great article about how local honey can help with allergies.

Wisebread made a complete list of female personal finance bloggers, which I'm on. My photo is even in the list! I do appreciate a mention.

Northern Cheapskate gave me a blog award which was my first ever. In passing it onto five of my favorite blogs, I'd give an award to Budgets Are Sexy, Cheap Healthy Good, Can I Get Rich On A Salary, Money Saving Mom, and Almost Frugal.

Anyway, keep up the good work everyone but do take some time to relax. I sure am!

Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she’s not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.

In Celebration of Labor…Other People’s Labor That Is

This weekend, I'm back in my hometown this time for a little longer then usual. There's a football game on television and beer at our local dive bar in the near future. Ah, vacation.

I've been meaning to give props to some people who have been well laboring:

Being Frugal is a Walmart mom, which means she'll be blogging about money saving from her own perspective (this is a competitive but unpaid honor) and no doubt she'll get even more exposure to her blog. Good for you Lynnae!

Kelly at Almost Frugal has launched a new food blog Almost Frugal Food. Good blogger with French recipes? J'aime ca!

I entered an economics haiku contest at the Freakonomics. I didn't win but in case you were curious, my entry:

Reading self help books
to better manage money.
Must stop buying books.

Remodeling This Life is now contributing to Blissfully Domestic, where I read a great article about how local honey can help with allergies.

Wisebread made a complete list of female personal finance bloggers, which I'm on. My photo is even in the list! I do appreciate a mention.

Northern Cheapskate gave me a blog award which was my first ever. In passing it onto five of my favorite blogs, I'd give an award to Budgets Are Sexy, Cheap Healthy Good, Can I Get Rich On A Salary, Money Saving Mom, and Almost Frugal.

Anyway, keep up the good work everyone but do take some time to relax. I sure am!

Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she’s not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.

Networking 2.0… Because It’s Not Just About Meeting People

So I had lunch today with a great woman named Jennifer who wanted to talk with me about the Maine Women's Fund, a non-profit group she works with. Her sister in Florida had forwarded her my blog on the off chance we would know each other. We emailed back and forth and agreed to meet when she was in town.

Card1711 I think most people but especially those new in their career or geographic area often hear about the importance of networking. Most people think they can just hand their business cards out and call it a day but I think there is some prep work we all should do a little more often pre-networking and targeted networking. Allow me to explain.

Pre-networking: A Period of Reflection

Kelly at Almost Frugal had a post today about how she would describe herself (five adjectives)and how these traits help her and deter her from reaching goals. When we network, I don't think most of us are thinking of our traits. I responded to Kelly's post and a few hours later, I was having lunch with Jennifer and thinking about how my traits would affect the work I could do with the organization. I found myself checking in with my goals and traits silently throughout the meal. Not wanting to take time off from work turned into an opportunity to call into a Maine Women's Fund meeting rather then going there for a lunch. Knowing that I love being social  opened the door to some possible internet PR work. If I hadn't kept my goals and traits (not wanting to miss work and being social) in mind, I may have prematurely volunteered to do anything for this organization rather then digging just below the surface to make sure my offers matched with my interests.

Jennifer and I also talked about the personal goals/networking pairing at lunch. The New Girls Network through her organization helps women not only network but trains them in leadership and goal setting skills. She used an example of philanthropy goals. If the environment was an issue important to you, would you just write a $20 check to any environmental organization that sent you a mailing? Or would you think further of your goals and values and then make a calculated decision?

In the pre-networking stage, it's valuable to think of your traits, skills, and goals. No, you don't have to deeply examine them before any interaction but being mindful helps you make better decisions. It kept me from overcommitting and allows me to work with myself rather then against my goals and skills.

Targeted Networking

So it's one thing to go to a business event and collect business cards but thinking internally about what is the best network for you takes a little more effort. Nancy Marshall (the Maine PR Maven) recently helped create a network for Maine non-profits to share resources. Meanwhile I've been thinking of my pet project, a network of Maine bloggers. It's all about people coming together over a common goal and sometimes, the network opportunities exist (great) and sometimes you have to create them.

Don't get my wrong, I love knowing lots of people on Twitter and Myspace (and now Facebook) but being mindful of your audience and where they'll be is your job when you're promoting yourself!

I did an exercise at a conference I went to where we had to picture our typical business client. Are they male or female? How old are they? What kind of car do they drive? You get the idea. Think of the person you want to know about you or your work and think of as many of their traits as possible. Then think about where they hang out. And you should go hang out there! (This applies to both physical and online locations.)

Save yourself (and the people you talk to) the time and effort by thinking about what you want to be/do and focus your efforts on things that'll help you get there. That said, any relationship could end up being pretty valuable so  just update that Facebook profile every once in awhile.

As a step towards my goal of getting better at Facebook, my friend Randy is going to show me how to add flair to my page so I'll look cooler. Now that's networking!

Image from http://indexed.blogspot.com/.

Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she’s not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31