Thursday, January 28, 2010

Incubating Your Idea

Starting a successful food business is extraordinarily difficult, time-consuming and costly.

But at a local small business kitchen incubator, food business entrepreneurs are getting a helping hand and use of a licensed, commercial kitchen to work on their recipes and prepare product for sale.

I got to visit a Pasadena kitchen incubator and interview several of the resident entrepreneurs there in my Smart Answers column this week. Check it out!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Wonderful Weekend

I am still basking in my whirlwind weekend. First was an Algonquin Round Table-style dinner, hosted on Friday by my friend Sam Horn, who was in town for the Pop! personal branding seminar and the Innovation & Humanity Summit at Chapman College.

Friday's sparkling evening of smart information and fun, funny people - most of them are members of the National Speakers Association, so you can imagine the level of discourse! - was followed on Saturday by a truly amazing day focused on the intersection of entrepreneurship, ethics and social change.

Just to be in a room with hundreds of attendees who put a priority on the "double bottom line" (where companies are concerned with both profits and making the world a better place) was invigorating. I met tons of terrific people and resolved anew to pursue a book idea I have been researching on this very topic.

Finally, last but definitely not least, was Sunday's seminar. A group of writers, entrepreneurs and job-seekers got to watch Sam in action and participate in a series of interactive exercises:



Joining Sam in leadership was Lilli Cloud, a SoCal branding and marketing expert who has been helping people find their "blue feet" (what makes them stand out) for the past several years:



One of the attendees mentioned how seamlessly Sam and Lilli integrated their material. You'd never know that these two women first met just a few minutes before the workshop started!

There was vital energy in the room yesterday and we've gotten loads of great feedback from those who were there. I think everyone was inspired - I know I was!



Thanks to everyone who attended and all who helped make the day a success. My friends Susan and Paula worked hard to get the word out and they were terrific. It sure is nice to know a Connector and a Maven! (h/t Gladwell)

Friday, January 22, 2010

Last Call

Ever since I met author and speaker Sam Horn at a conference last year, I've been singing her praises. This Sunday you have a chance to meet her too!

Tickets are still available for this Sunday's seminar in Pasadena.

I'm invited to a dinner round table that Sam is hosting in Orange County this evening. She brings together eclectic groups of friends and colleagues to share ideas and insights over a meal. I'm really excited to be attending and hope I can contribute something of interest to the group.

Monday, January 18, 2010

One Week to Pop!

This week is the last chance to get tickets to a terrific seminar coming up on Sunday. Here's the scoop:

Personal branding is all the rage these days. But, to tell the truth, lots of people aren't really sure what it means - or why they need to do it.

The reality is that in tough times and in a crowded marketplace, no one can afford to blend in.

You’ve got to break out to land that book deal, contract or new job that you want. You’ve got to figure out how you are one-of-a-kind (vs. one of many), so you get noticed by decision-makers – for all the right reasons.

Start the new year right with a half-day seminar on Sunday, Jan. 24 in Pasadena, co-sponsored by the Independent Writers of Southern California (IWOSC) and Financially inKleined.

Take advantage of this opportunity to develop purposeful, original, pithy positioning of your priority project – be it a new job, consulting contract, book or business.

Our presenters, Sam Horn and Lilli Cloud, have priced this half-day program so it’s affordable for freelancers, self-employed individuals and startup entrepreneurs. Just $49 to jump-start your career success.

Buy your ticket now This event is open to the public; I am organizing this event as a way to help my readers, colleagues and friends. I am not profiting from the seminar, except in the most important way: Paying good will forward to the entrepreneurial community.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Help the Right Way

I'm not superstitious or religious and I certainly don't believe in curses.

But the country of Haiti has surely had more than its share of terrible luck. Natural disasters, crushing poverty and corrupt leadership have taken their toll on this most-impoverished country in the Western hemisphere. Even the New York Times today calls the country "star-crossed."

My book group last year read a wonderful memoir from Haitian writer Edwidge Danticat that made me much more familiar with Haiti than I previously had been.

I'd like to help out with the current earthquake relief efforts, and I'm sure many others will feel the same way. But it's important for all of us to direct our aid in properly. Unfortunately, there's a history of criminals taking advantage of widely publicized disasters to rip off well-intentioned but naive donors.

The Wise Giving Alliance of the Better Business Bureau offers these tips:


Rely on expert opinion when it comes to evaluating a charity.

Be cautious when relying on third-party recommendations such as bloggers or other Web sites, as they might not have fully researched the listed relief organizations. The public can go to www.bbb.org/charity to research charities and relief organizations to verify that they are accredited by the BBB and meet the 20 Standards for Charity Accountability.

Be wary of claims that 100 percent of donations will assist relief victims.

Despite what an organization might claim, charities have fund raising and administrative costs. Even a credit card donation will involve, at a minimum, a processing fee. If a charity claims 100 percent of collected funds will be assisting earthquake victims, the truth is that the organization is still probably incurring fund raising and administrative expenses. They may use some of their other funds to pay this, but the expenses will still be incurred.

Be cautious when giving online.

Be cautious about online giving, especially in response to spam messages and emails that claim to link to a relief organization. In response to the tsunami disaster in 2004, there were concerns raised about many Web sites and new organizations that were created overnight allegedly to help victims.

Find out if the charity has an on-the-ground presence in the impacted areas.

Unless the charity already has staff in the effected areas, it may be difficult to get new aid workers to quickly provide assistance. See if the charity’s website clearly describes what they can do to address immediate needs.

Find out if the charity is providing direct aid or raising money for other groups.

Some charities may be raising money to pass along to relief organizations. If so, you may want to consider “avoiding the middleman” and giving directly to charities that have a presence in the region. Or, at a minimum, check out the ultimate recipients of these donations to ensure the organizations are equipped to effectively provide aid.

Gifts of clothing, food or other in-kind donations.

In-kind drives for food and clothing—while well intentioned— may not necessarily be the quickest way to help those in need - unless the organization has the staff and infrastructure to be able to properly distribute such aid. Ask the charity about their transportation and distribution plans. Be wary of those who are not experienced in disaster relief assistance.

Friday, January 8, 2010

We're All Entrepreneurs

I'm fond of reminding my fellow freelance writers that they are entrepreneurs and must think about their craft as not only a joy but also a job.

Well, guess what? It's not just freelancers who need to adopt the business mindset but all of us, according to this week's BusinessWeek cover story.

Is this a temporary turn of events, or the way of things to come for quite a while? No telling. But it is certainly a transformative trend.

On to some better news, perhaps. In this week's Smart Answers columns, I interview three company owners who went through the wringer in 2009 and came out intact and ready to rumble in 2010. All are hopeful that they've seen the worst. Let us hope so.

I also laid out three business entry strategies for those individuals who plan to start their own businesses this year. Along with losing weight and getting into shape, finally pursuing that entrepreneurial dream seems to be a top New Year's resolution.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

What's a Writer Worth?

Jim Rainey's "On the Media" column in today's L.A. Times features a gloomy outlook for freelance writers.

He accurately nails the twin dilemmas of shrinking newspapers/magazines and websites that recruit professionals - Chamber of Commerce types, think tank pundits and professors - as free columnists, spurning the tradition of paying journalists for their talents.

Back in November, the BusinessWeek SmallBiz page featured a column decrying the freelance economy in general. Not sure I agree with his conclusions, but it's an interesting debate.

Having been happily self-employed for two decades, I hope I never have to return to employer-based work. But the outlook for writers who expect a living wage seems to be dimming.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Don't Forget to Pop!

Personal branding is all the rage these days. But, to tell the truth, lots of people aren't really sure what it means - or why they need to do it.

The reality is that in tough times and in a crowded marketplace, no one can afford to blend in.

You’ve got to break out to land that book deal, contract or new job that you want. You’ve got to figure out how you are one-of-a-kind (vs. one of many), so you get noticed by decision-makers – for all the right reasons.

Start the new year right with a half-day seminar on Sunday, Jan. 24 in Pasadena, co-sponsored by the Independent Writers of Southern California (IWOSC) and Financially inKleined.

Take advantage of this opportunity to develop purposeful, original, pithy positioning of your priority project – be it a new job, consulting contract, book or business.

Our presenters, Sam Horn and Lilli Cloud, have priced this half-day program so it’s affordable for freelancers, self-employed individuals and startup entrepreneurs. Just $49 to jump-start your career success.

Buy your ticket now This event is open to the public; I am organizing this event as a way to help my readers, colleagues and friends. I am not profiting from the seminar, except in the most important way: Paying good will forward to the entrepreneurial community.

Pop! Seminar

A couple of months ago, I had the pleasure of meeting author and consultant Sam Horn at a conference.

I raved about how wonderful she is, had her as a guest on my podcast, and fantasized about getting her in a room so all my writer and entrepreneur friends could benefit from her magic.

Well, it's a new year and dreams do come true. Sam and my good friend Lilli Cloud have teamed up on a personal branding/marketing/motivating seminar that will be held in Southern California on Sunday, Jan. 24!

Do you have a business idea, a book proposal, or a career that needs some attention? Sam and Lilli will show you how to stand out and have the confidence to put your creative work front and center in our crowded marketplace of ideas.

Sam and Lilli have priced this half-day program far below what they would normally charge, so it’s affordable for writers, startups and people in career transition. We'll spend all afternoon being informed, juiced up and enlightened at the beautiful Pasadena Conference Center - all for just $49!

I'm not making a dime off this event, which is being co-sponsored by a nonprofit group I belong to, IWOSC (the Independent Writers of Southern California). But I am hoping we can fill the room!

Buy your ticket online now and get signed up. Then tell your friends and colleagues to do the same. You will be very glad you did, I promise.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Nine Lives

My long-time source and friend Paul Edwards has a new blog.

It's called "9LivesForYourBook" and it's all about book marketing and particularly ebooks.

Paul and his wife, Sarah, are truly the experts. Between them, they've written 18 books, most of them about entrepreneurship and work-at-home careers.

Now, they're changing with the times and investigating the details of ebooks and what they mean, particularly for writers. I'll be following Paul's blog - I hope you will, too!