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Entrepreneur Mom

with Aliza Sherman

If you own a business - home-based or otherwise - this is the blog where you'll find practical tips and smart ideas about entrepreneurship. I've started and run 4 different businesses so "been there, done that." I'll also invite successful entrepreneurs to share their best advice with you.

To learn more about Aliza, check out her profile on Work It, Mom! and her website, www.mediaegg.com.

Mom 2.0 Summit: The new entrepreneur, part 2

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I’ve been thinking a lot about personal branding lately and am reminded about a quirky, fun moment in a panel I sat in on at the Mom 2.0 Summit in April. The panel title was The Other New Normal: Entrepreneurial Strategy in a Post-Recession, Post-Web 2.0 World. The panelists were Stephanie Smirnov (moderator), Erica Diamond, Shelly Kramer and Gabrielle Blair).

Unexpectedly, Gabrielle (@designmom) used Justin Bieber in a lively presentation about tips for entrepreneurs. Yes, that Justin Bieber.

I’m not going to repeat the Justin portion - just use your imagination there.

But here is the gist of the tips she shared that can easily be applied to both social media and business:

Lesson #1 - Engage Your Audience - Interact with your audience. Reach out, respond.

Lesson #2 - There is No One Set Path - You may not know what you’re creating, but build something. There is no one way to do this.

Lesson #3 - It Never Hurts To Look Good - Brand yourself. Know what your “look” is. This is true for any business. Invest in design but also be smart about what you spend on your “look.”

Gabrielle also pointed to successful women-owned companies that were examples of people who are living and working these tips including 5MinutesforMom and CoolMomPicks. Take a look at what their doing and how they are doing it. Note what they “look” like and how they are putting who they are out there through their content and branding.

What path are you on with your business, and how are you communicating and showing it?

Mom 2.0 Summit: The new entrepreneur, part 1

Categories: Biz Nuts & Bolts

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I attended the Mom 2.0 Summit in New Orleans last weekend and really relished the opportunities to meet other mom entrepreneurs and innovators and to attend some sessions.

At the panel The Other New Normal: Entrepreneurial Strategy in a Post-Recession, Post-Web 2.0 World moderated by Stephanie Smirnov (@ssmirnov) and with panelists Erica Diamond (@womenonthefence) Shelly Kramer (@shellykramer), Gabrielle Blair (@designmom), Stephanie and Erica shared their personal stories about being entrepreneurial moms which I always find so valuable. I learn more from women’s stories of personal experiences than from text books or by more formal learning methods.

Shelly Kramer, founder of V3 Integrated Marketing, had some great tips after she spoke about the birth of her twin girls (now 5 years old) and her work/home life juggle.

1. Don’t assume everyone knows your story. Tell your story, what you do. If you don’t talk about it, people won’t know about it.

2. Collaborate, learn, solve problems. Shelly really emphasized the importance of working with others, emphasis on the collaboration part.

3. Raise your hand. Identify something someone needs done and offer to do it. Again, Shelly advises to take a pro-active stance. You make your own opportunities.

4. Be very careful when taking on a partner. While she encourages collaboration (see #2), Shelly also stresses that you need to have an agreement in place. Don’t give away a company. Don’t give away your ideas. Put things in writing.

What are some of your favorite tips for women entrepreneurs?

Mom 2.0 Summit: How to get a sponsor

Categories: Biz Nuts & Bolts

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At the Mom 2.0 Summit, I sat in on the panel How’d You Get That Sponsor? The Nuts and Bolts of Pitching with Maggie Mason, Erin Loechner, Liz Gumbinner. The topic was about getting big sponsors for your blog and crafting the pitch and overall story about who you are and what you do so sponsors find you more attractive. This advice can apply to anyone who is looking for advertisers, sponsors and even clients.

Here are some of the takeaways from these three powerful speakers and successful businesswomen:

Erin Loechner:

1. Establish street cred. Show up. Meet people. Form relationships. Be nice. Let potential sponsors see that. With Twitter or any social media, you’re always an influencer of somebody and the people you influence are influencers so share that with potential sponsors. That is valuable.

2. Be present. Ask for what you want. It’s up to you do figure out what you want and go get it. Knowing in your mind your goal - for your site, your brand, for others - and having that mindset. Always look for potential opportunities.

3. Don’t oversaturate. Don’t water down your brand. Focus. Less can be better - and more manageable - than more.

Liz Gumbinner:

4. Be the blogger that everyone wants. Beyond having a professional blog, be a professional. It is important to know brands see what you’re doing - the good and the bad. Be yourself, be authentic, but be aware of how you operate in the blogging space. Brands may be afraid with engaging with a “complainer.”

5. Own your niche. Bigger isn’t necessarily better to be relevant to a marketer. Know what you stand for in the space. Stand for something which in advertising is called “positioning.” Stand for something singular and specific. Marketers don’t want generalists. Don’t be self-deprecating - be proud of what you do.

6. Build your case. Sponsors are looking for reach and influence. Having more influence than reach can be very interesting to sponsors. Build your media kit and define who you are, who you reach (your demographics), and what you’re offering - the ways you position yourself to the sponsor. You can also include testimonials in your kit. Prominently display the press you’ve gotten.

Maggie Mason:

7. Do the heavy lifting. Network. Identify sponsors to approach. Ask what their campaigns are for the year. Work hard to deliver opportunities and ideas to sponsors. It isn’t “What can you do for me?” but instead “What can I do for your brand?” Make it easy for the sponsor to execute. You do the heavy lifting - they write the check.

8. Define the relationship. First, you want a professional relationship. Outline mutual expectations to reduce the possibility of conflict. This also helps you manage “scope creep.” Ask “what are your success metrics for this campaign?”

9. Make it fun. Be nice. Respect the person you’re pitching. Be pleasant and gracious.

10. Know your worth. And know what you’re selling. Sponsorship is not banner advertising. Aim high. You’re worth it.

How do approach and work with sponsors?

The 45-Minute meeting? hurrah!

Categories: Biz Nuts & Bolts, Uncategorized

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I received a pitch from a publicist who works with a company called TimeBridge which is a one-stop online meetings solution where that you can use to plan for, schedule, receive reminders for and follow up on meetings using their online tools. The pitch was about the 45 Minute Meeting Movement, a “new” idea being perpetuated by the TimeBridge folks to reduce the amount of time we waste in meetings.

“Why are we starting this movement?” asks John Stormer on the 45 Minute Meeting site. He goes on to explain:

“Well if you ask me what drives our work at TimeBridge, it’s a commitment to make meetings better for the both organizers and attendees.  That means everyone’s time is better spent, for sure, but it also means that teams are more effective.   More stuff gets done in the meeting.  And (this is not insignificant) that teams feel better about their work, more empowered, more effective.”
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The Partner Dance

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Communication major dimensions schemeImage via Wikipedia

I love my new business partner. She works out of Denver, I work in Alaska. She loves to do the things that I don’t - such as crunching numbers and making spreadsheets and analyzing statistics. We are so different in so many ways. If we were a married couple, I’m not sure which of us would be the wife and which one of us would be the husband, but we are clearly different enough that like in any marriage, we have to be cognizant of our relationship.

Some of the things I think we do well include

1. Praising each other. We both make sincere efforts to give kudos to one another. “That budget was great!” I say. “You really came up with some awesome ideas!” she’ll say.

2. Appreciating each other. Besides the genuine praise, I also state how much I appreciate her. I just get this incredible urge sometimes to blurt out “I really appreciate you!” and she replies “I appreciate you, too. Group hug!” And I chuckle as I imagine we do a quick virtual hug across the miles.
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Moving your home office…again?

Categories: Biz Nuts & Bolts

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When moving your home also means moving your workplace, finding a good mover and getting packed can be the least of your worries. Detroit-area blogger and work-at-home mom Melissa Summers of SuburbanBliss.net and MightyJunior.com, who has moved twice in just over a year, shared her top five moving tips for home-based entrepreneurs. (Interview conducted by Maia Nolan).

1. Plan ahead.

After two moves with two kids and two home businesses, Summers can think of some things she wishes she’d done differently.


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Savvy Networking Through Social Media

Categories: Biz Nuts & Bolts

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Diane K. DanielsonI’ve been thinking lately about how the ways of networking have changed drastically with social media, but have the rules changed, too?

To talk about this issue, I turned to Diane K. Danielson, CEO of www.DowntownWomensClub.com and the co-author of The Savvy Gal’s Guide to Online Networking (or What Would Jane Austen Do?).

Here’s what she had to say about networking through social media:

We’ve all been hearing that we need to be on social networks to promote our businesses.  But, how do we do this effectively?

First, you need to remember that even though you are doing this to promote your business,  when it comes to social networking, YOU are part of your company’s brand. This is because social networks thrive on authenticity and transparency.

How do you do this?


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Women-owned Home Based 100 Contest

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Startup Nation, along with Microsoft, is conducting its 2nd annual-Home-Based 100 Award (HB 100) to highlight unique stories of home-based entrepreneurs. This year, there will be a showcase of women business owners with successful, innovative home-based businesses. Here are short interviews with several women entrepreneurs from last year’s contest.

Company name: preppymommy.com
Location: Berkeley Heights, NJ
URL: www.preppymommy.com
Your name: Nicole Quiroga
Your title: Owner and Lead Designer

Q: How many kids do you have and what are their ages?

A: I have 2 girls, 7 and 5.

Q: What is your business about and why did you start it?

A: My business is all about making things easier and chic-er (is that a word?!) for moms and really all women! I noticed a dearth of fashionable accessories for mom and baby, so I decided to fill a void with preppymommy.

Q: How did you become part of the Home-Based 100 Ranking (HB 100)?

A: I read about the contest on startupnation.com and saw it as a great opportunity to let people know about my company, as well as to reconnect with past clients.

Q: What are the greatest challenges for you in terms of running a Home-Based business? What are the greatest benefits?

A: There are several challenges. The greatest challenge is balancing work time with family time. This is probably a common answer from work-at-home moms. I haven’t met anyone who isn’t constantly trying to improve that balance. Hands-down the greatest benefit is the freedom to put my kids on the bus in the morning and pick them up in the afternoon! I never miss a ballet class or soccer game!

Q. What is your single most important piece of advice for another mom thinking about starting a business from their home?

A: Make sure you have a dedicated workspace and a supportive family! The rest is gravy.
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5 Ways to Delegate More Effectively

Categories: Biz Nuts & Bolts

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Mapping out the site
Image by Choconancy1 via Flickr

I used to fear delegating tasks to others, even trusted staff. As a Type-A, over-achieving, perfectionist type, I just couldn’t imagine anyone else would care as much about a task, much less a job or client, as I did.

I made the terrible mistake of micromanaging - and even (GASP! HORRORS!) re-doing work that I had assigned to staff. I know I was a nightmare to work for back then.

These days, I’m absolutely desperate to delegate, however, now I just find it really difficult to take the knowledge and information that is packed tightly in my overfilled brain and actually impart it to someone else in a way that makes sense.

Here are some things I’ve learned - and am still learning - about the Fine Art of Delegating.


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Your Friendly Small Business Development Center (SBDC)

Categories: Biz Nuts & Bolts, Uncategorized

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Over the years, I seem to always be in the position of giving business advice, whether in my columns or to colleagues running their own companies. With a handful of companies under my belt, I have a lot of “life” experience with businesses. Also, I’m a proponent of being an open book so others can learn from both my successes and failures. In the same way I’m very self-revealing about my personal life in articles and blogs, I do the same on the entrepreneurship front.

So it was a major “aha” moment for me last week when I found myself turning to someone else for advice. Someone suggested that I might want to call my local Small Business Development Center (SBDC) office to get some financial advice for my corporation. SBDC’s are a program of the SBA to provide management assistant to aspiring and current entrepreneurs.

My dealings to date with the SBDC have been as a consultant or as a speaker or instructor, never as a business owner looking for help. But with some major corporate changes in the works for my company, I suddenly found myself in a deep ocean without a life vest. And of course my local SBDC was well-stocked with life preservers, life vests and even life rafts.


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