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Monday, March 29, 2010

Going up? Defining your Elevator Pitch

In the traditional suit-and-tie world, there is alot of emphasis on defining an "Elevator Pitch" for the business that you are in. An elevator pitch is simply a short, concise statement on who you are, what your business is (or what you want it to be if you are an entrepeneur) and why someone should "buy" into what you are selling (figuratively or literally.) The term is based on the idea that you walk onto an elevator and your perfect business financier/customer/etc. is taking the ride to the top floor with you. You have 1 minute to introduce and pitch your idea to Mr. or Mrs. I-Got-The-Money and what you say needs to be perfect. You have to show confidence and drive. You have to show that you have knowledge in your field. However, even the most confident and knowledgable person can get tongue-tied in such a high stress situation so preparing your pitch can make all the difference in the world. And I think you should start preparing your pitch!

But...I don't work in a traditional business setting...

But...I just sell stuff online as a little business...

But...I am "just" a stay-at-home mom...

Don't think that an elevator pitch is something you need? Think again. One of the biggest complaints I see when frequenting blogs/websites/forums that support things I believe in (for me, these are typically natural parenting, vegetarian, and green living sites but probably ring true for other places) is people having a really hard time at the negative response they get from the close friends and family around them. They end up responding defensively to the reaction to their change and either alienate themself or give up on their new changes. And having a good support system is one of the best predictors to success in all venues from weight loss to business. Your beloved grandmother can't understand your desire to use cloth diapers? Your family is totally retaliating against your choice to give up meat? Co-workers are completely sabatoging your weight-loss efforts? The other moms in the playgroup think you're loony for breast-feeding past a certain age? Just starting a home business and not quite sure how to respond when people ask what you do? Developing you "elevator pitch" to respond to the questions that come up in your life will prepare you with a good starting point to deal with your issues and changes.

So, how can you prepare the elevator pitch for what you believe in? These simple steps are a good start:

1) Start at the very beginning: what are you pitching? Is it your business? Is it a change you are making in your life (dietary changes, child-rearing choices, or new political/social/religious convictions, etc.)? Is it a life-choice you have already been living with but having struggled with explaining when asked about?

2) Define why it is you do what you do but understand why other people may choose to make the same choice. Your elevator pitch may literally be an introductory sales pitch for a product or service you offer. It may also be just a positive response to a question about your choices and behavior. It may be a little bit of both. For example, someone may ask why I use the no-shampoo method instead of using commerical hair products...knowing how to respond in a positive, non-judgemental way may prompt other questions about some other hippy-green things I do and lead to questions about sustainable living and my business products. While that person may not give up their Pantene, they may become interested in some other aspect of sustainable living and that, in the end, is a great starting point.

3) K.I.S.S.-Keep it Simple Stupid...remember this is a theoretical 1 minute elevator ride-not a 10 page thesis on your topic. In step 2, you thought about ALL the reasons someone may want to homeschool, go vegan, babywear, support your Etsy business (and knowing these reasons will help in the next step). But you most certainly don't want to share ALL your reasons at one time. You will come across as pushy, superior or crazy-none of which are good!

4) Know your audience. A good sales pitch is geared and molded to its audience. Don't use "industry" jargon or acronyms. Use facts if you are asked-assumptions, scare tactics or unfounded claims don't help you or your cause. Trying to get your mom to understand why you prefer to wrap your baby on your back in a huge piece of fabric instead of the expensive stroller system she got you? Talk about how fabulous cuddling on your baby is. Talk about how fantastic your baby's head control has become since she started getting carried around. It would NOT be a good idea to talk about how stroller babies are destined to be unattached unabombers living in a cabin in the woods with a flat head. Understand where your mom is coming from on the issue- maybe she couldn't afford a fancy stroller when she was a young mom and now she feels rejection after she went out of her way to give you something she felt that she missed out on. Open a discussion that is receptive and non-judgemental. However, you may not always have the luxury of knowing your audiences background when they ask why or where you stand on an issue. Which brings us to the next step...

5) Be positive and watch your words. Understand that sharing your most controversial or potentially offensive reason for doing something is not a good "sales" move. I whole-heartedly support handmade products and forums like Etsy that sells and promote the handmade movement. But using my one-minute pitch time to be negative about big-box stores and the evils of sweat shops is not the best use of my time. Sweat shops are most definitly evil but most people shop at big box stores (myself included at times) and to lump not shopping on Etsy and supporting slave labor conditions into the same catagory is apt to turn off even the most probable business supporter. I am not saying you should soften your position on certain subjects but it is always good to remember to not make your convictions into someone else's sin.

6) Practice makes perfect. Write down what you believe in. Put it up somewhere. Use it when asked. Or, in the case of approaching close friends/family about giving their support in your change endeavors or making proactive business contacts, practice with someone you holds similar ideas or you know supports you wholeheartedly. It will get easier to explain and providing yourself with the outlet to shareyour reasons for doing your thing will give you roots and make your change or behavior more likely to flourish.

Want to learn more? Design*Sponge's Biz Lady series has a great post on "the 30-second elevator pitch" which is (as she says and I agree!) a MUST READ for the small business folks! Simple Mom has a great series on how to Create a Family Mission Statement. Problogger shares some great ideas on writing an elevator pitch for your blog.

How do you deal with choices that you have made that may not be the mainstream way to go? How do you deal with the reactions of those around you? Have you defined your personal or business mission statement or elevator pitch? I would love to hear from you!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A Moment...

Lately, I have been both enjoying sweet moments of contentment with really good friends and moments of frustration waiting to finalize our process to be able to bring a new little kiddo into our home.
I have empty drawers, beds and chairs in my house...
just waiting...
waiting for that moment when we can fill the emptiness.


Saturday, March 20, 2010

Saturday Sneak Peak

I have been working on new things for the store and was inspired by two things: my complete impatience for the local farmer's markets to re-open and the lovely laundry hanging pictures of Heather Bailey's Nicey Jane fabric. The home owner's association where I currently live does not allow a clothes line but we have pretty roomy screened-in porches, so my clothes line went up in there. In order to jazz it up and to hold my never-organized collection of clothes pins, I came up with this clothes pin bag in spring-y Nicey Jane I can pretend that I am hanging my linens up in a lovely meadow instead on my concrete back porch!

And, yes, these will be in the store very soon!

They will be sold right along with these fun produce bags! I will combine designer fabrics (this print is from Kate Spain's fabric line Verna-which celebrates the Vernal/Spring Equinox!) and both mesh and guaze fabrics for a sturdy bottom but breathability for your fresh fruits and veggies...

I am so excited about putting some fresh, local produce in these and checking out all the goodies at my farmer's market-just a couple of weeks now to wait!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Friday Favorites-Cloth Diapers!

1. Rowdy Robot Set from Tweedlebee Tweedlebum
2. Organic Bamboo Velour prefolds from Wooldins
3. Monster Wool Longies (diaper cover pants) from Mmmarmalade
4. Wool Newborn Lacey Skirted Bloomers from Pickle Boutique
5. Ice Giraffe One-Size All-in-One Diaper from Junktique
6. Hot Diggity Dog One-Size Fitted Diaper from Wooly Bums
7. Construction Bamboo Fleece Fitted Diaper from Zinnia Flower
8. Custom Print Cover Bundle from The Eli Monster
9. Slim Ooga Booga Bamboo Velour Fitted Diaper from Banana Bottoms
10. Dewdrop Bamboo w/ Zorb Pocket Diaper Inserts from Dew Drop Handmade
11. Nighty Nights Bamboo Nighttime Diaper from Green Sprout Baby
12. Sailor Stripes Wool Longies from Knit Wit Knits

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Green that Baby-Cloth Diapering thoughts

When people find out about many of the "green" things our family has implemented in our lives, none drew the "I could NEVER do that..." comment as much as cloth diapering. And since I am a bit sassy, I usually countered with the question: Why not? The reasons are many and many are legitimate. However, many are based on misinformation (or a lack of information.) I am sharing what worked for us and share some secrets that may help you if you desire to start the cloth diapering journey. (For information on WHY you should consider using cloth diapers, check out 3 Great Reasons to consider Cloth Diapers from Simple Organic.)

At the time my son was born, I worked a job with swing shifts, 24/7 on-call requirements and a husband that was about to deploy to a war zone. My son attended a state licensed day care center and cloth diapering wasn't allowed without medical approval. I also knew not one other person in real life that used cloth diapers (with the exception of my dad and he could only tell me horror stories about actually pinning the cloth diaper to my baby sister.) I would say that due to my schedule, legal requirements and a lack of resources, I was NOT the poster child to start cloth diapering. However, since it was all I had seen growing up and was seeing the growing online resource base, I felt that this was a move I wanted to make. Here are my secrets (or not so secret) that helped our cloth diapering journey work for us:

My son rockin' a space-themed prefold during the one and only month he ever had any chub on him...

Know your options: First and foremost, the plain rectangular cloth diaper and pins are not how cloth diapering is rolling these days. Now, as I learned and became more confident, I eventually used the rectangle kind (called a prefold and pictured embellished with designer fabric above) but I never used a pin (the Snappi is the modern tool of choice!) There are a million and one companies making modern cloth diapers that look and function like a normal disposable but I would recommend bumGenius or FuzziBunz. Yes, they are the more commercialized of the options, but that makes them easier to find, in my opinion. I never thought I would see the day where I walked into a Target and see cloth diapers on the shelf but bumGenius made that happen in some stores. (While I am typically anti-mainstream, I am prone to completely support when beloved things like cloth diapers and babywearing are going mainstream because I feel like it helps put resources in the hands on those that may not normal seek it out on their own.) My skinny hips and thighs little man still fits into the medium FuzziBunz we bought when he was 3 months old and has fit into the bumGenius (which are one-size-fits all due to adjustable snaps) his ENTIRE life so far. I recommend this article from Simple Mom on 4 Cloth Diapering Options Defined to understand what options are out there.

Matching outfit to go with the above space-themed prefold (um...if super cute handmade outfits weren't one of my top 5 reasons to cloth diaper, they sure were a good bonus!)

Know thyself: Knowing my time restraints, I utilized a no-nonsence approach to using the diapers. In my son's bedroom, the diapers were kept in baskets under the changing table. Next to the changing table was a large plastic garbage pail with a large water proof bag called a wetbag inside. All diapers came off the kiddo and straight into the pail, which did NOT have a lid. I never sprayed, dumped or dipped anything off the diapers. People often tell me that they could never cloth diaper because the thought of dealing with the poop grosses them out. So, I say, don't play with the poop! What about the smell, you ask? The open pail allowed smells to dissapate and, in my experience, weren't really an issue. I took a cloth wipe and put some tea tree esssential oil on it and dropped it in the pail and sprinkled baking soda in if I smelled any urine and I wasn't ready to do laundry. I did laundry, on average, twice a week. I simply dumped the dirty diapers out of the wet bag into the washer, put in the wet bag and washed. I used a squirt of blue Dawn, about a cup of baking soda and white vinegar in the fabric softener dish, washed on as hot a wash I could and did an extra rinse every other time I washed. I had a HE washer and never had any problems. If you do get a stain, putting the still partially wet diaper outside in the sun to dry will clear up the issue in one afternoon. That is it- no magical time consuming potion, no expensive cleaning formula and no extra steps. (There are some great looking washing products out there and I might try them out if I ever have a baby in diapers again but it is hard to beat the ease and inexpensive of this method!)

(Small time out to say: If you do any reading around cloth diapering websites (like Diaperswappers), many people will toot the horn of how wonderful breast-fed poo is, how it is water soluable and doesn't stain. Let me go on the record: poop is poop and I can say with certainty, formula poop is water soluable and doesn't stain if you use the proper cleaning procedure. (And for the sake of over-explaining: I had a double mastectomy prior to having my son, so he was fed formula from the very beginning...) That said, no matter what you feed your kiddo, not playing with poop is an option, if you want to.)

Know those around you: Worried about how daycare will react? What about the husband? Or your family? I did have to get my pediatrician to write a note to our daycare for it to be "legal" for us to cloth diaper my son there. And for their sake and my husbands, they got the easiest diapers to use. (It is hard for them to argue with them being more difficult if they are shaped exactly like a disposable, utilize velcro and don't require any dumping of poop!) I utilized smaller wetbags while out in public and often brought along my cutest diapers to show off when I had the chance. (And if you don't know what cute cloth diapering options are out there, stay tune to tomorrow's Etsy Friday Finds!) People have less opportunity to criticized or be bothered by something when you show them how easy something is and how not-so-out-of-the-ordinary it is. (And to be honest, I personally ENJOYED being the crazy person doing something different, but that is my personality, I know that flying your freak flag wigs some people out.)

Are you considering cloth diapering? Already a lover of all things fluff? What are your tips and tools that help YOU? Share your information (or ask questions!)

Monday, March 15, 2010

Motivation Monday-Resource Round-up

As I prepare to add a new little person to our household, I have been reading books and online resources about dealing with any "issues" or concerns that come with this addition to our family. From the regular jealously issues that come with new siblings to dealing with attachment and loss concerns, one constant suggestion kept popping up: develop a routine but allow for flexibility. I have been working on creating a more consistent routine for my son since I became a stay-at-home mom. Previously, I worked a crazy shift-changing schedule in law enforcement, was on-call 24 hours a day and had a deployed husband. The only thing routine in our lives was a lack of consistency. I will forever be indebted to fantastic care providers that helped add the needed consistency to my son's life. And we recognize that other loving adults will play a role in my new child(rens?) life-whether that be their biological family, past foster families, case workers, or care professionals.

After researching what is one of the best ways to move your new child into feeling part of the family is to include them in any family business-chores, family meetings, decisions (what to eat, where to go, etc.) We are currently working with my two and a half year old in fulfilling his family role and are finding success with the wood magnet responsibility chart from Melissa and Doug (shown in the pictures). It has lots of options to include for age appropriate responsibilities (pick up toys, make bed, etc.) and expectations (kept hands to self, etc.) However, there are alot of great free resources on line for making a chart completely personalized for your child and their developmental level. I have included the best resources I have found on making a responsibility chart for your child as well as great articles on establishing a routine for your family!

Responsibility Chart Resources:
Personalizable Chore Chart from Mod Eco Kids
Preschool Chore Chart (and great information on allowances!) from Simple Mom
DIY Photo Chore Cards (perfect for the younger kiddos) from The Creative Mama

Establishing Routine Articles:
Positive Guidance for Preschoolers from Not Just Cute (I found the "What's Going On? Considering the source of Behavior" article particularly applicable for our foster kids-to-be!)
Bathtime Meditations from Simple Kids

What resources help you establish routine and rythym in your home? If you are a foster or adoptive family, are there any specific things that have helped you deal with the loss/grief/attachment issues that may come with our kiddos? Share your knowledge and links!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Party Time!

Patchwork Birthday Banner from Merinque Designs

With my birthday around the corner and a spring-fever itch to throw a party, I have been sucked into the world wide web lately looking at the most creative of ideas in party hosting. And since most of my custom orders for napkins are for special occasions and many customers have told me that they have used their napkin sets for parties, I felt like it was a good mesh between the business lady and party animal in me! I will be featuring different party themes and ideas for adults and kiddos alike and aim to make the focus on throwing as "green" a party as possible.

And since it is MY birthday coming up, I will start off with some of my favorites! (cough, cough...and if my husband reads this, he can get some ideas for throwing me a little get-together!)

To continue the colorful, DIY theme of the birthday cute is this idea to use up the extra buttons and felt in my craft room?

Full tutorial from the American Crafts Studio here

And since I love Etsy AND about these super cute Etsy-orange cupcake toppers? (Print on the back of used paper for less waste!)

Free printable from Little Paper Dog from here

Happy Spring and Birthday-coming-up to me!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Finding a bright spot at home!

Recently, I have been hating our master bedroom color scheme and have been itching to do something new to it. In our old house, our neutral bedspread worked perfectly with our colorful walls but here, khacki walls + khacki bedspread = me wanting to gouch my eyeball out with a spoon every time I went in my bedroom! So, for the sake of my eyeball, I made a crazy, cheap impulse buy of a very bright aqua coverlet. I have been dreaming up quilting and sewing projects to put together to liven up my new bed scape!

Which do you like...
Amy Butler Daisy Chain?

Or Heather Bailey?

And, just for the sake of color schemes, I whipped up this little necklace so I would coordinate!
What do you think?

Monday, March 1, 2010

Motivation Monday-Spring Goal Setting

As you could tell from my last Friday Finds post, I am a bit ready for spring to be here! We have two days last week of beautiful weather and the bug has officially bitten me. Spring has always been a bit of a new start for me-much more so than the "New Year" since I can't imagine short, cold days motivating me to do much more than burrow under a heavy quilt! This year, I hope to challenge myself to do some of the things I have always wanted to do but felt I didn't have the time to commit to. (And, to be honest, I am not sure that I have the time to commit but I am hoping to learn some better time management skills along the way!)

So-here I post my spring goals for all the world to see (Challenge me! Join me!):

-train for a late spring/early summer race (maybe a sprint tri? TriDivas has some super cute tri-gear and great training programs. And this training program from Shape magazine is very easy to follow!)

-start a small herb and vegetable garden (I am following the advice in starting a garden with repurposed materials from Simple Organic and will be going the square foot gardening route. I tasked my husband with building me this super simple and inexpensive container gardening box.)

-beginning a master's program (Accepted and registered for classes and my husband and I are doing the same program. At the same time. The same classes. Please pray for us! Seriously- we are counting the positives...we only have to buy one set of books, we have a built-in study partner and we balance each other well in our viewpoints! Can't wait!)

What are your goals going into the spring? Are you re-evaluating ones you made at the New Year? I have a ton more things that I want to do, but look forward to accomplishing the three above goals with my family and for myself.