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Author Archive for Rachel Blaufeld

5 Steps to Getting Back to The Heart of Your Business

The start of 2013 has brought a whole new crop of women who want to follow their passion and start their own businesses to my virtual door.  I love the excitement and energy behind each and every one of them.  Mostly because it is filled with heart.  There is nothing but pure, unadulterated passion behind their motives.  This is more than likely behind both men and women who are ready to jumpstart their lives with a new business venture.

For me this holds special significance because just a few short years ago, that was me.  Eager as a kid on Christmas morning to start my new adventure, I jumped right in….Perhaps, you remember me saying a while back that I made mistakes?  I did.  A made a few big ones and even more little ones. Continue reading “5 Steps to Getting Back to The Heart of Your Business” »

Want to Start a Business in 2013? Questions to Ask Yourself

With the beginning of each New Year, many people take stock in their lives and what changes they may or may not want to make.  We set out to lose weight, improve our careers, spend more time with family and friends, and probably take up a new hobby or two.  A few years back, the New Year goals included growing my own business for me.

I had my reasons: Independence, Flexibility, Diligence, Pride, & Passion being a few.  I sifted through the ups-and-downs of growing a brand, made mistakes, and continue to do a lot of both still.  I wish there was a cheat sheet when I started.  Don’t get me wrong, I would never change my mind or not start my own business, I just would have loved to have these questions and tips set before me when starting.

Before Starting Your Business, Ask Yourself These Questions:

  • Are you good at asking for help?  

Do not be TOO independent.  It is a great characteristic and extremely noble to be independent, but starting a business requires help, mentorship, and often a shoulder to lean on.  While being a self-starter is crucial to starting a business and staying on target,  one cannot shut out those around them who can be of help.  Building a new business often involves focus groups, skill-sets that are not part of your repertoire, and a solid sounding board.  Do not try to be so independent that you turn away a good thing like the advice or opinion of a confidante, spouse, friend, or business mentor. Continue reading “Want to Start a Business in 2013? Questions to Ask Yourself” »

Don’t Leave Home Without These Items in Your Bag of Tricks

As women we are notoriously [in]famous for carrying big, huge stuffed purses & totes.  Just think about it…you know you are guilty!

This got me thinking – what do we really need (and NOT need) in our small biz bag-of-tricks?

I took a long hard look into the deep dark depths of my blue tote bag that I drag everything around in, and realized it was a total mess.  Upon noticing this, I made a deal with myself — I could NOT go for my afternoon cup of coffee until I cleaned that sucker out.  The goal was to clean out items that I did not need to carry around and determine my must-haves vs. the non-essentials.  Of course, while I did this, I decided to make a list of my very own startup women in biz essentials.

With many of us splitting for the holidays, you never know what can happen or who you will meet.  Beyond travel, just heading out of the house or office on errands or appointments can be surprisingly fruitful. Continue reading “Don’t Leave Home Without These Items in Your Bag of Tricks” »

Keeping Your Small Business Safe During the Holidays

For small business owners who are parents, the last month and a half of the year are even busier than usual.  Not only is there work, the year to finish out and regular activities, but throw in holiday gatherings, holiday shopping, both work and neighborhood parties, present wrapping, cooking, baking, school plays, and often – traveling to see family.  Wait, I am forgetting something.  Oh right, let’s not forget winter break and/or day care closure or vacation time for nannies.

Stack the abundance of stuff to do and places to be during the holiday season with the least possible childcare options available thrown on top of end of the year responsibilities as small business owners, and I smell something burning in the kitchen…literally & figuratively.

During this time of year, it is even more important to have a plan in order to avoid an explosion (and I do not mean an explosion in sales or leads).

Here is a quick list of ways to keep both your business and apple pie from getting burned during the holiday season:

Make Sure Your Embers Burning Slowly.  Although your plate is extremely full with a million household items, keep your business spark alive.  Set aside very specific times to work and intersperse small chunks of time to check off holiday items.  Leave an hour at lunch to run holiday-related errands or wrap presents.  Scheduling the holiday stuff in allows you to put it in the back of your head on concentrate on work during work time with a peace of mind that everything will get done.

Have an Escape Plan.  With days off school around Thanksgiving and winter closures, have a place you can go to get some work accomplished when kids are home.  More than likely there are neighborhood kids home from college that want to make a little extra money babysitting or family visiting who want to spend some time with the kiddos.  Take advantage of a few hours of help and head to a local coffee shop or your office and knock a few work-related items out of the way. Continue reading “Keeping Your Small Business Safe During the Holidays” »

Million Dollar Question: Do YOU Backup?

Last week my laptop started making the most awful noise. A noise that even I could not argue indicated that I needed to turn my computer off and give it a break.  The noise reappeared the instant I turned my computer back on, so off to the Genius Bar at Apple Computer, my laptop and I went.  After a number of consults along with the fact that the computer ceased making the noise as soon as I wanted it to led the geniuses to agree to keep MY LAPTOP over night.   Taking a laptop away from a blogger/writer is like taking a toy from a toddler.  Although I did not scream, I may have shed a few tears. Did I mention, I have now been without my laptop for a week! Anyway, I digress.

The first question the Apple Genius asked me was: ’do you back up?’ Duh – of course, I do….but, I didn’t always. We all hear the horror stories of colleagues and friends.  Their computers just freeze up and poof everything is gone.  They can’t get it back no matter what they do.  We THINK that can’t happen to us.  Often, I fondly recall the Sex and the City episode where Carrie Bradshaw’s trusty hard drive fries and no, she doesn’t back up either.  Yet, I did not back up for years. Well, thankfully, a little over a year ago I started backing-up.

Continue reading “Million Dollar Question: Do YOU Backup?” »

FIVE Tips to Avoid a Small Business Natural Disaster

…You may have noticed that I have been slightly absent lately.  Let me tell you why.  My absence is mainly due to the fact that I got twisted up in a Small Business Tornado.  In a thunderstorm of deadlines, work projects, writing assignments, and family obligations, I just simply tried to run my way out any way that I could.  Essentially, ‘I made a dash for it‘ without a plan.  Not a good choice.

I was not thinking clearly, and then I realized suddenly that I went through a similar natural disaster about a year ago and made the same mistake.  Not sure why?  

Was it the Indian Summer that led to the inferno?  All the ice-cream that I ate during the summer months?  The excitement of back-to-school and throwing too much on my plate?  I just don’t know.  I just faced the storm head on without a plan and it knocked me over.

Sometimes being in startup business can be as unpredictable as the weather, but just like carrying an umbrella or a hat, we can do a few steps to prevent catastrophe in business. Continue reading “FIVE Tips to Avoid a Small Business Natural Disaster” »

Tips for Getting Back to Work At Home When Kids GO Back to School

Many of us small business owners work from home (at least part of the time), especially if we are parents trying to juggle work and childcare. I spent most of the summer providing tips for moms and dads to adjust to the summer break and still reach for goals.  With the brand-new school year on the horizon, I was jumping with excitement.

I have to admit the end of summer was rough for me.  I completely abandoned my routine, took some time off with my kids, went to the beach, and literally lost a big chunk of my work-at-home discipline.  While enjoying the last few gulps of summer and lemonade, I was the least bit concerned with getting back in the work groove.  It was only a little over a week ago, when I plopped down at my desk, did I realize I was in trouble.

This experience was the complete opposite of last year for me.  At the beginning of the 2011 school year, I was prepped, primed, and prepared to hit the ground running with a newly expanded and regimented routine.  As I shopped with my kids for their pencils, I mapped out my fall office hours and 4th quarter to-do list, only to be sorely disappointed when nothing fell into place as I hoped.

I was both discouraged and disappointed in myself and even a tiny bit in my kids for things not working out.

The 2012 school year ushered in a chaotic craziness that I never experienced before.  Of course, I had my kids once again organized and outfitted for success with binders and notebooks and highlighters, but I was not armed for ‘back-to-the-grind’ myself.  I had the supplies, but forgot the plan.  To make matters worse, as I semi-mapped out my call of duties, my boys had a change of heart on one after-school sport and then added a different one making the school pickups totally off-base of what I originally had.

Once again, I started a new school year feeling discouraged and disappointed in myself and a wee little bit in my sons.  It may have been a different year approached in a whole new way, but the outcome was the same.  In the end, I became victim to a sluggish and despondent attitude.

I decided to take a little lesson from my kids.  Kids are so resilient.  When something does not go exactly as planned, often the slough it off.  I watch in awe as my sons wakes up every day to a shining new day with yesterday being a faint memory.  If one plan does not work out, my kids try another.  I know this is not as easy for them all the time or for each and every kid, but I think it is fair to say that kids do not become as easily jaded as we do as adults.

In an effort to end the week right, I put everything away and took a warm bath on a Wednesday night, and woke up Thursday with a fresh (and clean) attitude.  I looked for a new approach to my schedule while inputting drop-off and pick-up times in my calendar.  I also re-injected my creativity.

Here are my FIVE tips for reinvigorating your work at home routine when in a slump:

  1. Do plan, just not too far in advance.  I find that restructuring once a month helps.  Of course, always add in any travel plans or long range meetings as you plan them, but re-evaluate your overall starting/ending times, best slots for meetings and conference calls, and quiet times to get paperwork in order – at least once a month.
  2. Break up your day with movement.  As startup business people, we often trade 9-5 hours for what we assume will be greater flexibility, and then find ourselves living, breathing, and sleeping our businesses.  Do not hole up in your office!  Find an excuse to move every few hours whether it be chunking your errands (personal or business) and having an errand running time slot, walking to the bank or post office, or simply taking a walk.
  3. Discover a creative space.  In addition to moving around, we cannot be creative exclusively in one place all the time.  I often find the same 4 walls of my office limiting…especially, during the last few weeks.  I found that hitting up one or two of my favorite nooks (the coffee shop on the tree lined street and my backyard) gave me the creative infusion I needed.
  4. Write down what is not working, draw a line down the paper, and brainstorm what you may do differently.  Hang it up.  (I keep mine inside the closet so it is private).
  5. My work-at-home mom’s greatest secret – the slow cooker.  As you are making breakfast for yourself and/or your kids, prepare your favorite recipe in the slow cooker.  This allows you to have the most time possible on the end of your work-at-home day without worrying about what’s for dinner, and leaving you some QT with the family.

With these little tips in place, the last item you need to have in place is ACCOUNTABILITY! Stay tuned for more on that in my next post (and if you can, send me a quick tweet to @backngroovemom reminding me to take my new LLC paperwork to the bank….)

Ready to get back to work at home when YOUR kids go to school? CorpNet.com helps entrepreneurs with all sizes of dreams – big, small and in-between. If you want to start a business, CorpNet can help you incorporate as an S-Corp or form an LLC to get your business up and running. They help entrepreneurs start a business by managing the business filings to incorporate a company. Whether you want to form an LLC or S-Corporation or other corporate entity, CorpNet can help you choose a business structure with a free business consultation. Check them out!

Home Office Rules for Smarties!

Recently, I was chatting with a friend who was lamenting, wishing, and hoping that she worked from home rather than an office.  I assured her that she should be VERY careful for what she wished for….Home offices are not always what they are cracked up to be!

Home offices are sort of like out-of-town visitors who never seem to leave, an over-bearing mother-in-law with never-ending opinions, or that nagging zit that just will not seem to go away.

While it is very convenient when my kids are home sick or off school for conference day, when it is pouring rain, or I am having a bad hair day, a home office has its very own downfalls.  It can be like a black hole.

A place where you get sucked into and cannot seem to find your way out EVER.

First and foremost, it is extremely hard to set boundaries with a home office similar to an overbearing mother-in-law.  When you decide to venture into another part of the house, you may feel your home office pulling at you to come in its confines.

Second, you have to make and get your own coffee.  Now, I know most of you do that anyway in your ‘offices,’ but who doesn’t want someone to bring them coffee?  Forget the corner office with the view, I just want a hot, steaming cup of joe brought to my desk on request.  One can dream. Continue reading “Home Office Rules for Smarties!” »

Don’t forget to Trademark the ‘us’

As women in business specifically (but not limited to), we continuously struggle with balance.  Just the faint mention of the word, balance, gives me the creeps because I know that it is rarely achieved.  Rather each day and week brings with it a new set of priorities and tasks which seem to dictate whether I am going to be a better mom or business woman or vice-versa on any given day.

In the balancing act, I always hear a lot of chatter about time for work, quantity vs quality arguments on raising children, and where to sneak in ‘me’ time, but the one detail that usually is skipped over is ‘us’ time.  By ‘us’ time, I mean time with your partner, husband, or significant other.  It is so easy to slide into a routine that focuses on  being successful as a mom and a woman in business while letting your relationship with the most special person in your life wait in the wings.

I often hear the ‘us’ part of a family referred to like retirement with comments similar to ‘When the kids go to college….’ and ‘One day we will take up this or that together.’  With only 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, we often place the people who mean the most to us on standby.  Well, as if you did not already have enough to balance like what is for dinner tonight and your 7:00 a.m. meeting tomorrow that conflicts with camp drop-off, I am making an argument to put the ‘us’ back in ‘us.’

I started this week with a to-do list that realistically could be accomplished in a month.  At the top of the list was finalizing the details on filing for TM on my brand, BacknGrooveMom.  Following a in-depth search, I have the green light to claim my brand name.  Nellie and her team graciously helped with identifying the steps in this process, and I am all set.  EXCEPT now I also want to Trademark (TM) my new and improved typemark.  What’s the problem?

The typemark is not quite ready.  How can that be if everything else is set?  Well, that is life and work – a game in patience, waiting, and team effort.  I have to trust my team on creative that there is a reason why the mark is not ready although I do not speak graphic design.  I may be a writer, but when it comes to drawing, you will be lucky to get a stick figure out of me.

Of course, I feel in good hands with my creative team and give them more time to get things just-so because I extend them the ultimate graciousness.  Why?  Simply because we are an ‘us’ in a part of this business.  My creative people and me is a type of ‘us.’

There is an ‘us’ with my sons and ‘us’ with so many people who I work with in various aspects of my business, but the ‘us’ at the epicenter of it all is being left out at times.  Left out for carpool, basketball practice, grocery shopping, conferences, and sleep, and I realize that I do not want to wait until retirement only to realize that there isn’t enough ‘us’ to go around.

We need to save up on memories and time together for ‘us’ just like saving money for retirement.

I will not tout perfect balance, but I will leave you with some tips to not forget the US:

  1. Make a regular date night, lunch date, or time to be together in the evenings to talk, chat, hold hands, catch up.
  2. Try to not only talk about yourself, but listen to the other half in your ‘us’, ask questions, and make sure to laugh!
  3. Unplug.  Believe me, I can barely do this.  But just trying is a good way to start.  Put your devices down.
  4. If you have a date night, hold firm on the plan.  Make it high priority.  Don’t Cancel!

Just as important as filing for a Trademark on our businesses, it is crucial to remind ourselves what is trademark-able about the ‘us.’

Do you need to register a Trademark for your business? Corpnet.com can help! By registering for U.S. Federal Trademark protection, trademark owners are eligible for numerous benefits such as treble damages in some cases of infringement, the right to use the ® in your trademark, and a streamlined process for securing your domains and usernames at social sites like facebook, twitter, and youtube.  Don’t delay anymore. Protect your business name and brand today: Apply for a federal trademark registration through CorpNet.

 

Do you hear the crunch of your friendships as a woman entrepreneur?

As women in business, many of us mothers and wives or partners, and community leaders – friendship often suffers…

A few weeks ago, my friends took the day off to stand-up paddle board somewhere nearby Pittsburgh on a river.  The whole experience looked pretty cool despite the fact that it was in a river (of course, I would say that).  Anyway, my friends, both working and stay-at-home grabbed a Living Social deal and off they went.

I must say that I am NOT complaining to my friends in the least, but rather dealing with my own inner-demons in this post.

I was absolutely invited to grab the deal and go, but I knew that I did not have as much flexibility in my schedule during the few weeks that they were planning to go, so I did not buy the deal.

Part of me desperately wishes that I could have gone.  It looked fun, athletic, and was outside in the sun which is basically everything I like, but I could not go.  Again, I do not wish to complain to my friends or make them feel bad as this was all ME.  I made a choice to change gears with my life, so why was I being such a baby?  I was tormenting myself over the damn paddle river thing.  Tormenting myself.

There is all this talk about moms and work/life balance and personal fulfillment, and let’s not forget, paying the bills.  The mommy wars just continues to grow larger and larger.  Working moms vs. Stay-at-Home Moms seems to have given way to ‘Working Moms with perceived flexibility’ to Moms who pursue Power Careers.  The discussion always seems to include reflection on multiple reasons behind why moms work (money, gratification, both) along with time spent away from vs. hours with children, and was recently ignited big time in The Atlantic (which has been plastered all over the media).  Which was so obviously extreme and should not be bothered with … Thank you Samantha Ettus for that reminder! Continue reading “Do you hear the crunch of your friendships as a woman entrepreneur?” »