What Some Creative Mom and Pop Shops Are Doing

mom and pop shop

mom and pop shop

The term “mom and pop shops” usually refers to small, independent brick and mortar stores. I know the term well. I grew up in one. My grandparents ran a small gas station/grocery store and I stayed there as a baby while my parents worked. All the free candy and ice cream I could eat!

Everyone in the small town stopped by on a regular basis to sit for a while and have some snacks and strike up a good conversation. Who needed a newspaper when you could hear all of the latest news at my grandmother’s store.

So, it was kind of sad when the mega chain stores started going up downtown. But it really never changed her level of business at all, because there are some things the big chain stores simply can’t compete with. She had learned from the time she opened her business at the tender age of 17 that business is about relationships. Sure, you could buy those snacks and groceries cheaper at Walmart, but you could never get the camaraderie and personalized service you got from Mama Parney.

When she died almost everyone in the whole town showed up for the funeral. It was a testament to how well she treated all of her customers. Even when people didn’t have the money to pay, she would run a tab. I heard pretty much everybody paid her back.

With more and more customers seeking a good customer experience, mom and pop shops have a great opportunity to compete with the big box chains, doing things they aren’t able to do. Here are some mom and pop shops who are rising to the occasion:

  • SitStayGo – SitStayGo™ invites you to come out for a special trunk show event at the D Pet Hotels in Chelsea showcasing the recently launched PET DINETTE & Leash. This unique all-in-one system allows pet owners to conveniently pack all of their walking essentials so that they can grab n’ go with ease. On Saturday, Pet parents will have the opportunity to learn more about this innovative product firsthand, meet the inventor, Michelle Glasser, enjoy some wine and cheese, have a treat tasting with Fido, and shop for SitStayGo™ products just in time for the holiday season! The Trunk Show is FREE and open to the public and little dogs. Guests will experience the luxurious D Pet Hotels, enjoy delicious wine and snacks, mix and mingle with other pet lovers, all while learning more about the innovative PET DINETTE & Leash from the inventor herself, Michelle Glasser. Best of all, this is the perfect opportunity to get your paws on some awesome pet gifts for the holiday season! 

Michelle and the SitStayGo™ team are devoted to giving back to the animal community. Through their launch and the holiday season, a portion of each sale will be shared with Houston SPCA to help the most vulnerable victims of Hurricane Harvey thanks to their Give 2 Get program. [Read more…]

Would You Buy Products Made in the USA?

made in USA

made in USA

When I posted the question “Would you buy products made in the USA?” on social media, I got a flood of responses. As a manufacturer, we have to deal with many different issues, and one of those is price. Americans have gotten used to paying low prices for products that are made in other countries, mostly China.

I got a quick lesson in importing when the company I was licensing my product to went bankrupt only weeks before we were to sign our contract. I didn’t have time to wait, and realized I was going to have to do it myself. I had never even run a business before, and here I was searching for international manufacturers, and learning about freight brokers, ports, and ocean shipping. I also have to deal with regulations and taxes in the other countries I ship to. Plus, you have to allow about 30 days for delivery and usually have to buy in large quantities.

I have hope that we will soon be bringing cheaper and better manufacturing back to the U.S. through innovative manufacturing systems like robotics and 3-D printing. Right now robotics in manufacturing is still new. They are limited to one task, and aren’t yet suitable for assembling small items. But new models currently being developed will be able to assemble any kind of product, and will be able to work alongside humans without danger of injuring them.

Since wages have soared in China, they have also begun to invest heavily in robotic manufacturing. The small, family owned factory I use there is constantly increasing my prices. Hopefully, robotic manufacturing used here to lower prices will mean the end of manufacturers always having to chase the lowest wages.

Buying products made in the USA is something many Americans feel strongly about. In fact, about 80% of the people I polled said they would rather buy American made. And it’s a completely bi-partisan issue. Everyone knows American-made products, for now, will be more expensive. The question is, how much more?

Here are some of the answers I got when I asked about buying “Made in USA” products:

“Yes I would and here’s why: I don’t actually know what’s in my cleaning agents, for example, if I import from China. They recently had a huge bust over there with a sophisticated operation selling industrial salts as food grade. Happens all the time in that country. In American I know what I’m getting. That I’m supporting people outside my own company is karma in the bank that will come back to my business if we all pitch in.”
Sean Desilva, owner of http://EveryLastSpot.com

[Read more…]

5 Reasons to Attend Face to Face Meetings

face to face meetings

face to face meetings

A Forbes Insight survey revealed that 8 out of 10 executives said they preferred face to face meetings as opposed to online or videoconferencing to build more meaningful business relationships. This proves what I’ve always believed to be true, that no matter how much technology we have, nothing beats a good ‘ole fashioned face to face meeting for putting together a strong business network.

A friend of mine who runs one of the most successful concert promotion businesses told me that he started his business with the idea that he would always make a point of meeting a potential customer or partner in person no matter where they were in the world. And he has stuck to that to this day. He’s racked up millions of frequent flyer miles and traveled to almost every country in the world.

His extensive phone book isn’t just for show. Because of his years of using this business tactic, he can literally pick up the phone and get almost anyone on the phone. And if he doesn’t have their number, he knows someone who does. But he accomplished that by building his network one person at a time and meeting them face to face.

A recent survey by the Meetings Mean Business Coalition found that 96% of small business owners got a return on investment with face to face meetings. For this reason, over 90% of those same small business owners say they plan to continue going to live meetings and events. This is good news for anyone who works with small business owners. Make sure you find out what conferences and events they attend and arrange to meet them there in person. This is also true if you want to work for a small business. Many say they prefer to find potential employees at a live, face to face event.

Here are some reasons why small businesses should have face to face meetings: [Read more…]

Do You Mix Business With Pleasure?

As a business owner I spend about 95% of my time working. I’m sure I’m not the only one. It’s well known that business owners almost always put in more time than salaried workers. So, with all of that work, how does a business owner get a break? We’ve been told that you can’t mix business with pleasure. But is that true?

mix business with pleasure

mix business with pleasure

These days business owners are having to find more creative ways to sneek in some fun and relaxation, even if you don’t leave the office. Taking the family along on a business trip is becoming quite popular. There’s even a word for it. “Bleisure”.

Here are some examples of business owners who are combining business and pleasure:

“I own a small business designing, making, and selling chainmail jewelry. I have a booth and sell at a number of craft shows and conventions.  I’m established enough to do well at shows, but not profitable enough to employ staff to help.   I always invite a few friends or my mother-in-law to help or even just to visit.  It’s a great opportunity to chat between customers, they get to attend the show, and I have someone I can trust with the booth when I need to step away to powder my nose or check out the competition.”

Gwendolyn Kestrel

http://mythictreasure.com/

Promote a fun -but professional- environment. Example: At our office, we play ping pong religiously. Employees often partake in games two to three times per day. We have a professional style table, tournament brackets and a plethora of balls. The one thing that everybody owns is their own personal racquet. 
Find methods to detox: Work in stressful. What outlets are you providing for your employees to burn off some stress and relax? Sponsoring a group lunch? A nice 5à7? We’ve done both of these every month.
Productivity and exercise: Have business meetings while on a light jog with your employees. This kills two birds with one stone. Why? An elevated heart rate moves you away from laziness, and the things that you see outside spark thinking and curiosity. More than that, you can actually iron out some major points without overthinking things. On Mondays, I run with my Marketing Director. Wednesdays it’s two of the web developers. On Thursdays, the logistics people fill me in during the run about inventory and such. Guess what? We’re all much fitter, happier and healthier…and we’re being efficient while becoming those things!
Sebastien Dupéré
Owner, President and CEO of Dupray
We sell steam cleaners and steam irons in six countries.  

[Read more…]

Are You a Charismatic Leader?

Charisma. It’s hard to define, but you know it when you see it. Think of some of the most charismatic leaders you can remember throughout history. Many are probably politicians, successful business owners, religious leaders or activists. They have a combination of personality, power, charm, and many unique skills that make up the whole charismatic persona as a leader. And we’re drawn to them like moths to a flame.

charisma

charisma

It isn’t a class that’s taught in college, but it’s one of the most important traits you can have as a leader. Some people are born with it, but many are not.

Some charismatic leaders, like Ghandi and Churchill, were just average students in school. Some, like Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates, prove that even introverts can transform themselves into leaders that people want to follow.

So, what if you aren’t a natural charismatic leader? How can you sharpen your skills and up your game?

  • Exude confidence – Being confident means knowing your stuff. If you want people to follow you, you have to really know what you’re talking about. Become an expert in something. And know every single thing you can possibly know about it. If you’re a leader in a company you should know how the entire organization works, from top to bottom. Know as much as you can about every job in the company. Be ultra prepared and confidence will come naturally.
  • Be a great listener – Charismatic leaders become that way because they understand people and what makes them tick. They can quickly size people up and adapt to what they need in a compassionate way. Richard Branson said “To be a great leader, you must be a great listener”.
  • Be passionate about your vision – Again, think of all of the charismatic leaders you’ve known. What did they all have in common? They had a strong, unwavering vision and they were passionate about it. Being excited about a vision causes others to become excited about it too. Enthusiasm is contagious.
  • Be an articulate speaker – Speak clearly and use concise language. Lose the words “like” and “um”. Say what you mean, and mean it from your heart. Charismatic people don’t analyze what they say. It comes from a place of being sure of what they’re doing. Also, adding a little humor goes a long way.
  • Be curious – The day you lose your curiosity is the day you lose your zest for living. Being curious about the world around you opens you up to people and gives you something to talk about. The most creative and innovative people are also the most curious and are willing to take creative risks.
  • Be positive – This should be common sense, but people are drawn to leaders who are positive. They seem to have an energy that you just want to get next to. You want it to rub off on you. If you aren’t feeling positive, think about something you can feel grateful for. Sometimes that’s enough to turn your mood around. Even faking it will sometimes get you in a better mood.

[Read more…]

The #1 Reason For Being an Entrepreneur

After watching the documentary “Burt’s Buzz” I was reminded about why I have to be an entrepreneur. Everyone talks about passion, but the real reason for being an entrepreneur is freedom.

being an entrepreneur

being an entrepreneur

This was the running theme in the film about the unconventional life of entrepreneur Burt Shavitz, the icon and co-founder of Burt’s Bees. Before there was ever a billion dollar, all natural brand of personal care products, there was just Burt and his bees.

On the surface, Shavitz seems like an unlikely businessman. But if you trace his history, being an entrepreneur was really the only thing he was ever suited for. He had no interest in a 9 to 5 job, and ended up using his skills with a camera to pick up freelance photography work for publications like The New York Times and Life magazine. He was in the right place at the right time and capitalized on the turbulent times of the ’60’s in New York City. But as TV became more popular as a way of highlighting the emotion of the times, he saw that as his chance to move out of the city and reinvent himself in a small town in upstate New York. [Read more…]

Why People Play the Odds

It seems that everything is getting harder these days, including the lottery. The recent Powerball odds went from 1 in 175 to 1 in 292 million. More numbers have been added, which means the odds have gotten tougher. It’s also gotten twice as hard to win that second prize if you are lucky enough to get all of the correct numbers except the Powerball number.

play the odds

play the odds

Even though we have a better chance of being killed by an asteroid strike, millions of Americans still play the lottery every week. Millions still play the odds. And it’s not just the lottery.

Every year eager young actors, writers, and directors flock to New York City and Hollywood for a chance to make it big. Even though the odds of actually getting on the A list are slim, there is never a shortage of talent that wants to prove everyone wrong.

According to Harvard Business School only 18% of entrepreneurs succeed in their first business venture. Yet every day new entrepreneurs enter the market. [Read more…]

Can Industry Awards Help Your Small Business?

industry awards

industry awards

Several years ago I entered my running product in an industry awards contest that was sponsored by NASDAQ and launched at a large, well-established fitness trade show. After a few rounds it finally ended up being one of the semi finalists.

Before the trade show we were an unknown company with a brand new product, and we were struggling to get some traction and recognition with retail buyers.

Because of the contest we had buyers visiting our booth, which was hidden in the basement floor of the trade show. And at the end of the show NASDAQ had a party for the semi finalists, along with a lot of publicity.

This happened again when we won the Toyman award for innovation and quality, as voted on by consumers, and then became a product of the year in Creative Child Magazine. We got an extra boost in traffic and sales after both of them.

So, is it a good idea for small businesses to apply for awards? Do they help? Here are a few responses from small business owners: [Read more…]

Book Smarts or Street Smarts?

A recent debate at the Eastern Correctional Facility in New York between prison inmates and the Harvard debate team had me questioning whether it’s better to have street smarts or book smarts. In the end the “book smart” Harvard debate team was defeated by the “street smart” prisoners.

book smarts or street smarts

book smarts or street smarts

But the street smart prisoners didn’t win simply by their street smarts alone. They had a lot of help…from books. Through the Bard Prison Initiative, which gives incarcerated men and women the opportunity to pursue a college degree while serving their time, the prison debate team put themselves through a grueling educational boot camp to prepare. They had no access to the Internet and had to wait for weeks sometimes for a book to be cleared by security.

And this wasn’t a one time fluke. They’ve beaten multiple college debate teams in the past.

Simply having a formal college degree isn’t the answer to everything. Yes, you need it if you want to practice law or medicine, but to succeed in life you need something else that the prison debate team had a lot of… intellectual curiosity AND street smarts.

I put out a request to hear from others about which skill was better. Here’s what I heard:

“I have a sixth grade education and I’ve owned/co-owned three successful businesses over the last 20+ years. I have college graduates wanting to come work for me at $10.00 an hour and they are struggling to pay of $60,000.00+ in student loans. I got my education at the local library for free. I’ve never had to worry about paying back a student loan. [Read more…]

The Future of Work – Freelance

A recent study commissioned by the Freelancers Union and elance-oDesk found that at least one third of the workforce in the United States are freelancers. This number is anticipated to increase in the coming years, and will change the future of work as we know it. In fact, by 2020 it’s estimated that one in three workers will be freelance.

The job market of the past was pretty straight forward. You go to college (or not), pick a career path, and stick with it for life. When someone asked you what you did for a living, you would pick one title. But these days it’s not unusual to have several titles. Publicist/marketer/writer/photographer, etc.

The idea of freelancing is nothing new. It’s been going on since the 1800’s. What is new is the number of jobs and industries that are now included in the freelancing realm. With the advent of the Internet the number of jobs and industries has increased dramatically. You can now easily hire a freelancer from anywhere in the world, and the opportunities for freelancers is only going to get bigger. [Read more…]