Monday, October 4, 2010

It is a small change...

...but it makes a big difference.

Mom Entrepreneur Blog can now be found here...

Mom Entrepreneur Blog

Bookmark it, re-post it, send it to your friends.

Thanks for following the adventures of a Mom Entrepreneur.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Taking A Leap-Guest Blogging

Do you ever do something without really knowing how it will turn out? You may even feel anxious about it? And you might even be pretty sure it will end with nothing happening at all? I know you do. You are a Mom, and/or an Entrepreneur. That is what you do.

Well, last week someone mentioned to me a blog that is getting a lot of attention. It is written by a woman and aimed toward women, and it was featured in The Calgary Herald (as well as other newspapers across the country). She has lots of followers and makes a living from her blog. As a fellow blogger, who would like lots of followers and to make a living from my blog, I couldn't wait to check out her site and steal ideas from her to implement here. ;-)

As it turns out, she accepts ideas from Guest Bloggers. I knew that bloggers generally only like guest bloggers who are well established, but I sent her an email anyway, with my idea. What did I have to lose? She could say no, and I would go back to what I was doing before. But she didn't say no. She loved my idea, and asked me to write it! Yay!

And just like that, here it is.

Mommy Guilt by Shawna Toth on Women On The Fence blog.

Thank you so much to Erica Diamond for being supportive and gracious to a fellow blogger, Mom and Entrepreneur. (Check out the rest of her blog, it is fantastic!)

Thursday, September 30, 2010

When Our Kids Surprise Us

Something happened today that touched me. And it involved the behaviour of my children. My 2 nine year old boys are, well, nine year old boys. If you are unfamiliar with the breed, they are loud, energetic and easily distracted. The can be quite cranky, and have been know to whine, complain, and actually stomp their feet when they don't get what they want.

Case in point. Today after school, and after 40 minutes playing at the playground and one argument with a friend, we walked home. All the way they kept asking me for things they knew I would say no to, and then getting mad when they got the expected answer.

"Can we go shopping?"

"Can we go out for dinner?"

"Can we have ice cream?"

You get the picture. By the time we got home, I was more than happy to hand over the Wii remotes just to get a few minutes of quiet. After hiding in my husband's basement office for a few minutes, ensuring they were appropriately distracted, I came up and began my afternoon ritual of looking at their school agendas. And what I found warmed my heart and made me smile.

Today their school held the Terry Fox Run. It was rescheduled from a couple of weeks ago, you remember, raining, 2 degrees. I had asked them about it earlier, and they said it was great, told me how far they ran, etc. When I looked in one of their agendas, there was a small sticky note that said "I am running for..." and my son had written "Aunty Kelly" underneath. This is their great-aunt who is a cancer survivor. Heart feeling a little warmer, and I am starting to forgive them for the walk home.

A few more questions, which could only be answered by them between battles on Lego Star Wars, revealed that they had both walked for Aunty Kelly, because they remembered she had cancer and got better. There are 2 dedications hanging in the school gym for her.

What I learned today about parenting is that just when you think you might as well give up, because they will be self-centered and greedy all their lives, your children surprise you with a small nugget of kindness, compassion and connection. They got it. They donated their allowance and ran around the field, not for an unknown stranger they couldn't identify with, but for Aunty Kelly, someone they care about. It is a bit of sweetness I just didn't know they had in them.

So, I gave them some ice cream. :-)

Monday, September 27, 2010

Online Shopping Rocks!

I cannot tell you how excited I am about shopping online lately. Okay, it's not just lately, I have always been excited about shopping, and shopping online had me at hello. Earlier today, I clicked a few times, typed a few numbers, and checked 4 things off my to-do list. Awesome! (I cannot tell you how much easier it was to have 3 kids choose Halloween costumes on the computer than in the store.)

Let's talk about the relative virtues of sitting at one's desk, searching for items one needs, and having them delivered to one's door. First, it saves time. For busy Mom Entrepreneurs, and everyone else on the planet, saving time is HUGE. If I have one or two items I need to pick up, and I head to the mall, I will be there for hours, just getting to the stores that carry those one or two things, not to mention wrangling children and stopping for french fries and ice cream. Advantage number 2: Shopping online is better for me, and the kids. No french fries and ice cream. Enough said. Third, it actually saves money. I know! You don't believe it, because of the shipping fees. But, when I shop online, there are very few impulse purchases. I search for and find what I need (or want), order it and I'm done. No opportunity to just pick up one more item.

Let's use the Halloween costume example. If I went to a store, I would have to take all 3 kids, decide on which store to start with, (probably Walmart) and they could start looking. If they found something they liked, we would have to find the right size, which is unlikely, and then, we would have to find another store that would hopefully carry the same or similar costume, because now they would have their hearts set on it. They, and I would get tired and hungry, so stop somewhere to eat (probably McDonald's) and then keep searching. One child would inevitably change his mind about the costume 3 times, necessitating further trips back and forth to stores, while all of us got grumpier and grumpier. By the time the purchase was made, we would have a cart full of other stuff we didn't need, and would probably have paid too much for the costumes just so we could put an end to it.

Online: "What would you like to be for Halloween? Here you go, look through these." The Little One says "Lightening Da Queen." then later "No, Percy. No James." I say "James. Are you sure? I am ordering it now." "Yes, James." Done. He was the toughest. The Older Boys look through the costume site, with a budget in mind given to them by me, and choose. And I order. And we are done. And without the french fries, over spending or shopping-with-kids headache, I feel fantastic! Costumes will be here next week.

There are down sides to online shopping. It is so, so fun to anticipate and receive packages in the mail, it can become addicting. And if you get too accustomed to it, you may never leave the house. Also, there is no instant gratification which "real" shopping brings. The biggest reason I use online shopping is to order things that are hard to find close to home, and that I can wait for, like birthday party supplies, Christmas presents, and kids clothes. I also love shipping gifts from online shops to friends and family so they can get a happy surprise in the mail!

Here are a few of my favourite online shopping sites.

Chapters (I buy lots of books, DVDs and toys for Christmas gifts.)

Birthday Express (Love the favour boxes!)

Toys R Us (Canada) Toys R Us (US) (Santa shops here!)

Amazon (Soooo wish they would send more stuff to Canada, or the dot ca had more stuff.)

And my new favourite, because they now ship to Canada...

The Gap/Old Navy/Banana Republic (Canada)

The Gap/Old Navy/Banana Republic (US)

And the old school, been around forever, serving the widespread Canadian public, catalog
shopping staple...


Those are my current favourites, but I am always looking to add to my online shopping bookmarks. So, please share.

Where do you online shop?

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Why Small Businesses Fail

At first glance, this post does not seem very positive. After all, who likes to think about or discuss failure? I do! I do! Pick me!!!

I think the word "failure" has a bad sound. No matter how good it may be for us (and it is!) we can't get past the idea that failing at something means we are not good enough. We have not accomplished our goal, and therefore, there is something wrong with us. Sometimes, the fear of failure can keep us from even trying at all.

When it comes to small business failure, the stats are kind of hard to interpret. Suffice to say, about a third of small business fail within the first few years. This encompasses the end of the business because of lack of profit, investment loss, and a host of other circumstances. Whether the reason for the business ending is lack of planning, poor management or undesirable location, inevitably, the owner will end up asking themselves if it was a bad idea to have started the business in the first place.

The reality is that the failure could just as likely be attributed to bad timing, changes in the economy or world events, things that are much more difficult to control. And, each and every experience we have in business, and in life, leads us to the next one, with more knowledge and understanding. Even the failures. Maybe especially the failures.

What do we teach our children about failure? Try. Try. Try again. It is okay if you didn't get it the first or second time. Let's give it another shot. If you want to learn something new, you have to take a chance. Once you get it, you will be so happy you kept trying. As entrepreneurs, we need to take our own motherly advice. Actually, all adults need to take that advice. Always wanted to learn to snow board? Sign up for some lessons. Always wanted to run your own business? Take the leap. If it doesn't work out, leap again.

A few years ago, I started a small business. I was going to edit home videos of people's families for them to watch on DVD. I did some research, made a plan, created a website, did my best to market to the right demographic. Everyone liked the idea, loved the videos and I had a few clients, but I underestimated how difficult it would be to convince people to pay for this service. It is very time consuming, and most people feel they could do it themselves, even though they never do. (I am still trying to let it go.) Recently, I have concluded that the home video business idea was a failure. Time to move on.

I cannot tell you how much I have learned in the last four years, while failing at small business. I have made lots of entrepreneurial contacts/friends, absorbed everything I could about online marketing, and become a better business person. All of which will help me in my future endeavors, whatever they may be. I would not go back and change my choice, because where would I be without the wonderful failures that got me here.

So go ahead. Do your research, make a plan, choose a great location. And take a chance. If you succeed, fantastic. If you don't, even better!

Was there a time when you failed at something and it was ultimately a good thing?

Friday, September 24, 2010

Google Has Parents

Someone sent me a link to a very nice video the other day, where mothers are holding up signs that give a statement they would tell themselves before they actually had children. There were things like "Sleep Now" and "You are the expert" and a couple of my favourites were "This too shall pass" and "Nobody really knows what they are doing." And then there was this one..."Google doesn't have children." It made me think.

A couple of weeks ago I typed this sentence into the Google search bar. "Why is my 9 year old son so angry?" What came up was not of list of so-called experts with lists of possible disorders that require my immediate attention and hospitalization. (I was half expecting that, actually.) Instead, I found sites and forums and blogs with parents asking the same question, and other parents offering encouragement and support, with story after story of children in this age group having similar "growing pains." I breathed a sigh of relief.

Now, the statement "Google doesn't have children." is absolutely correct. But what Google (and the internet in general) does have is parents. Parents who have experience. Parents who have ideas. Parents who have been there. And, although I am not suggesting we throw away all common sense and believe every bit of child rearing information we find online, I do think that sometimes all a worried parent needs is to know their child is okay. That what they are going through is in the normal range, and that there are things the parent can do to help. To know they are not the only one.

What the internet gives you is not just the parents you know, who can be a great source, but limited to their own experiences, which may be very different from yours. Google gives you access to the whole world of parents, as well as doctors and nurses and "experts." One giant community of parenting support.

Of course, the flip side of that is that you can find online a disorder for just about any set of descriptors. Runny nose, itchy hands, slight limp. Polio! (I totally made that up so please don't take your child to the doctor based on it.) Just like any source of information, you need to use your own judgment when deciding what to act on, and always look for multiple sources. Even doctors sometimes need a second, and third opinion.

I use the internet as my immediate source of information. (You don't type the above sentence into a search bar unless you are at the end of your rope.) Usually, what I see and read calms me down, assures me that things are as they should be and I just need to deal. I will, in this case, still watch for signs of bigger issues, use all my faculties to teach coping mechanisms, and wait for the day when I will type into Google "Why is my 10 year old son so quiet?" I know the Google Parents will have some suggestions.

(Note: I re-posted this from my previous blog, Small Wonder.)

Saying "No"

Here is a question for all you Mom Entrepreneurs out there. Why is it so hard for us to say No? Especially when it involves offers of work for pay. It does not seem to matter how successful we are, or how much we need the money, if someone says "I would like to hire you to do this." we immediately say yes and worry about the lack of sleep later.

October is a crazy month for our family, with Thanksgiving, our Little One's Birthday and Halloween. Added to that this year is Indoor Soccer for the Older Boys, a fundraising video production project, an exercise class and a online course for me, and the usual amount of work at hockey and football games for my husband. Did I mention my husband and I are going to New York for 5 days? A few days ago, I got an email about some possible contract work, an event to be planned for October 29th. Sure, absolutely, why not!?!

In my heart, and in my logical mind, I knew I had to say no. But it was painstaking to do. I agonized over it, because I didn't want to turn down the income, even though I can, and because I really wanted to do the job. I made a list of everything I have to do in October, and the dates by which those things need to be done, and the amount of time I must dedicate to each, and it was obvious that none of those things would be done very well if I added one more project.

I hate saying no. It makes me feel like I have failed, or at the very least, not lived up to the expectation that I can do it all. Not sure whose expectation that is, mine or other people's. It really doesn't matter because it is false. No one can do it all. And the way I remind myself of that is by looking at my children. The reason I am working at home is to benefit them, and our family. If I am so busy and stressed that they spend every spare minute playing video games and grazing from the pantry, then I might as well go back to getting a regular paycheck.

I sent an email saying I was sorry I would be unable to accept this project. And you know what? It wasn't nearly as hard as I thought it would be.

I Want To Work From Home

Welcome to Mom Entrepreneur Blog!

I am a mom who made the choice 4 years ago to leave my full time job, to take a year off while my twin boys went to Kindergarten. I have not looked back, not even once. I started a business, had another baby boy, and now I am a Mom Entrepreneur.

What I love about working from home is the time I get to spend with my kids. I like the flexibility of being able to schedule my work around their lives, school events, soccer practices and play dates. I did not even realize how much I was missing them while I was at work until I quit my job. I am a strong advocate for Moms, and Dads, making the choices that are best for their own families. Every one is not the same, and every family is different, too. We need to support each other's choices without judgment. I feel very happy and lucky to have been able to make the choice I did four year ago. This is definitely best for our family.

BUT...There are a few challenges to working at home. My desk is a parking lot for Hot Wheels. I am frequently interrupted by a potty emergency or a Wii disagreement. And I have no coworkers with whom to share ideas, connect or just chat. That is where this blog comes in.

Here, I would like to share my adventures in parenting and business, as well as provide a online gathering place for other stay at home moms, work at home parents, home based business people and anyone else who can relate. Think of it as the water cooler, or break room, or creative meeting for those of us whose office resembles a toy room.

Stop by anytime. I will try to keep the pictures of my kids to a minimum, but they are pretty cute, so I can't make any promises. ;-)