Author Archive

Digital Marketing: What You Need to Know

Saturday, March 16th, 2019

by Kristy LaPlante

Kristy is a senior digital marketing leader specializing in cross-channel digital media planning and strategy. Her work includes strategic + tactical digital marketing across retail, CPG, travel, media, entertainment, finance, healthcare, and non-profit sectors. She is the Founder of Insight DCS, a consulting firm for small businesses, and teaches Digital Marketing and Analytics courses across the U.S. She was recently named to the LuxuryDaily Magazine “Top 25 Marketing Women to Watch” list and lives in Denver, Colorado.

As business owners and entrepreneurs – even as family members and friends – we all use digital technologies. In fact, a 2018 Pew Research study found that 77% of all Americans go online every single day. Clearly, today’s businesses and consumers are spending a lot of time online.

At its core, Digital Marketing offers a broadly accessible way to effectively reach customers. However, with so many channels, tactics, and options available, it can also be challenging to navigate. This article offers a simple guide you can follow to make sense of the noise, and concentrate your efforts on the specific digital strategies + tactics that will work best for you.

Step 1: Remember Who You Are

Have you ever found yourself in a conversation where someone in the room said, “we really need a Facebook page.” If so, it’s likely that many folks nodded in agreement. When you apply this same platform-first thinking across the digital ecosystem, though, you will soon get overwhelmed. Do we also need a Twitter account, and Instagram? Don’t forget Pinterest, Snapchat, MailChimp, Salesforce…the list spirals out of control rather quickly.

I can promise you one thing: no single business has the money, time or resources to be present and effective on every digital channel at the same time. Those resources are all finite, a fact that is just as true for my own small business as it is for global teams with multimillion dollar marketing budgets. Rather than launching a page on a new platform for the Internet’s sake, take a step back and remind yourself of the business you are in and what you’re in it for. Different digital channels create different opportunities, and by taking the time to recenter and refocus, the prioritization of digital marketing channels will become a rather easy exercise.

First, think about where your business is within its lifecycle. Is it new, in a growth phase, or peaking at full maturity? This determination will help you narrow in on the platforms that will work best for you.

Then, take a moment to define your core customers. Every digitally-savvy professional knows that we don’t need to make a guess at who they are: there are tons of ways to gather real, insightful information to know who they are with less doubt. Dig into your customer database, survey the folks who walk through your store, and research the abundance of third-party information that the Internet has to offer. This information will help you determine where you need to be online to reach your customers.

Step 2: Research the Platforms

Just as you’ve acknowledged the realities of your own business and customers, it’s important to also acknowledge the realities of various digital marketing channels and platforms. Each of these can be effective if approached with intention, and we want to focus efforts on only those channels that will be the most effective for you.

Consider Facebook as an example. With 2.23 billion monthly active users worldwide, it’s clear that a lot of consumers login to that platform. It may be less obvious that Facebook recently fell to the #3 most visited website, behind Google and YouTube; or that Facebook users under the age of 30 have fallen off dramatically. If your product or service targets the Baby Boomer segment, this may be a great arena for you! However, if you are specifically targeting the up-and-coming generations, you may want to consider Facebook’s value for you alongside other platforms.

In the end, there is no silver bullet for selecting a digital marketing platform. However, with a little bit of due diligence, you can begin to make the technology and budgeting decisions that make the most sense for your business.

Step 3: Always Be Testing

Whenever I teach digital marketing courses to local business professionals, I always make it a point to remind them that digital marketers are never wrong: we only prove or disprove our hypotheses. Statisticians and scientists the world over will tell you that no learning is a bad learning, and digital marketing follows this same path.

One of the greatest advantages of digital marketing is its agility. Marketers can launch, pause, and adjust digital campaigns in real time, most often at a low or minimal cost. This makes digital marketing one of the most cost-effective, highest ROI investments a business can make.

Maybe you’ve done your research and followed the first two steps in this guide, but still aren’t completely certain which channels or platforms are right for you. That’s okay! Launching a Facebook page and a Twitter account are both free to do, and in doing so, you can test your theories (that Twitter may be more effective, for instance). By building a presence on both channels, you can closely monitor activity on each to see what resonates best with your customers and your goals.

A similar testing approach can be taken with your campaign-level activities. Rather than going all-in on one message or brand image, try testing a few you think will be relevant to your business and customer, and then let the data decide! A relentless dedication to this test-and-learn strategy can help you make important marketing decisions while avoiding potentially expensive mistakes.

 

Digital marketing is a tool that can help you reach relevant customers to boost your business.  And while it may seem complex on the surface, you can rest assured that with a little bit of research and intention, you will soon become the master of your “domain.” (Get it? Digital Marketing humor!)

15 Best Business Plan Competitions for Startup Entrepreneurs

Wednesday, March 13th, 2019

by Marcia Layton Turner

Many members of the WomensNet community have asked us about more opportunities to get start-up money.  Well, here’s an idea that might help you.

Business plan creation is an exercise required of many MBA students, as a teaching tool, which is why many colleges and universities sponsor business plan competitions – to help students apply what they’ve learned in class. Winners of these contests often receive a combination of startup cash, mentoring, and other resources to help them get their venture off the ground.

A number of successful companies have come out of these competitions, which may be why more organizations and institutions of higher education have begun admitting non-students to these events. There are also business plan competitions open to anyone, student or not.

If you’re looking for ways to land early stage funding, or to network with fellow entrepreneurs and venture capitalists, it may be worth your time to enter a business plan competition. Winning means money and bragging rights, which can open doors to other opportunities.

Deadlines for entries vary throughout the year, so if you’ve missed this year’s window, next year’s window of opportunity will be here before you know it. Most have no entry fee, though you’ll want to read the fine print to see what you’re responsible for (such as travel expenses).

Here are 15 of the best business plan competitions worth your attention:

Arch Grants Global Startup Competition

For entrepreneurs currently residing in or willing to move to St. Louis, Missouri. Prizes include a $50,000 equity-free grant and free business support services, as well as becoming eligible to pursue up to $1 million in follow-on funding for winners. Idea-stage to pre-Series A companies are welcome to apply.

Codelaunch

“Where software startups are launched” is how Codelaunch bills itself, which is a combination competition and startup networking festival held in Frisco, Texas. You need to have an idea for a software product or app to participate, with the prize being training and mentoring. There is also an annual seed accelerator for entrepreneurs with ideas for apps in search of funding.

Get in the Ring

While not as much as competition as a networking event on steroids, Get in the Ring brings together 150 startups to participate in three days of workshops to “unlock business opportunities” with 350 mentors, investors, and advisors. In Berlin.

Jack Daniels’ Pitch Distilled

According to Jack Daniels, “Pitch Distilled is a multi-city pitch competition…pairing aspiring entrepreneurs with a diverse cast of judges tasked with helping them kick-start the next big idea.” The grand prize is $5,000.

MassChallenge Accelerator

Not quite a business plan competition, MassChallenge involves selecting the “highest-impact and highest-potential startups” to participate in an accelerator program. There are locations in Boston, Rhode Island, Texas, and Switzerland. The accelerator session involves receiving mentoring, business services, and, ultimately, the chance for funding if your company is selected as a finalist.

Milken-Penn GSE Education Business Plan Competition

The Milken-Penn Graduate School of Education (GSE) business plan competition may be the best-funded competition around, having awarded more than $1 million in prize money in the last ten years and sparked more than $135 million in follow-on funding. It is open to anyone in the world, but particularly “entrepreneurs with innovative ideas in education.” Its goal is to foster innovation in the field of education.

New York Start Up! 2019 Business Plan Competition

This competition is for residents of New York City, the Bronx, and Staten Island only. Businesses must not have generated more than $10,000 in revenue since startup. The top prize is $15,000, plus access to guidance and resources available through the New York Public Library.

Next Founders

Canadian entrepreneurs should apply for the annual Next Founders program, which is designed to help build the skills of the company founder(s) and provide training, mentoring, and access to capital to help scale promising business concepts and companies.

North of Boston Business Plan Competition

Entrepreneurs currently operating a business on Boston’s North Shore, or are willing to commit to locating the company in the area, are eligible to compete in this annual competition. “The purpose of the Competition is to identify and support businesses who want to grow and expand on the North Shore and thereby build the region’s economy.” The top prize is $10,000, with runner-up awards of $6,000 and $4,000.

Pistoia Alliance President’s Startup Challenge

This competition is for startups focused specifically on informatics and technology. Two winners receive six months of mentorship from industry experts and $20,000. Five finalists also receive $5,000 each.

The Pitch

This U.K.-based event isn’t so much about winning free cash, but about participating in a free boot camp. The top 300 startups are invited to participate, rubbing elbows with mentors and investors, as well as peers.

Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation New Venture Challenge

The Edward L. Kaplan New Venture Challenge, now based at the University of Chicago’s Polsky Center, is one of the leading business accelerators. It is “a year-long business launch program” that involves idea generation, critical feedback from advisors, and pitches to the investing community.

Startup Festival

Dubbed “the music festival for startups,” the 2019 Startup Festival, held in Montreal, provides numerous opportunities for entrepreneurs to pitch their startup concept to potential investors. Those pitches could result in funding or enhanced visibility, with the chance to pitch to the crowd or a group of grandmother judges. More than $750,000 in funding is on the line here.

tecBRIDGE Business Plan Competition

Students are separated into their own division in this competition for companies in the Northeast Pennsylvania region, with non-students in another. Early stage entrepreneurs from the area are welcome and can compete for prizes valued at more than $100,000. Concept must be technology-based and have had sales of no more than $250,000 in the prior 12 months to qualify for inclusion.

Y Combinator

Perhaps the best known business accelerator, Silicon Valley-based Y Combinator sponsors an annual competition to identify startups worthy of funding. Successful applicants are flown out to Mountain View, California for meetings and those funded are expected to spend 90 days in the area receiving support services.

Whether you’re looking for feedback on your new product idea, are looking for an advisory board, need space in which to locate your company, or really just need funding, these competitions will connect you with some of the most supportive startup organizations out there.

February Amber Grant Awarded to LimeLoop

Monday, March 11th, 2019

Last Monday, we announced five February Amber Grant finalists. Today, we’re excited to share the recipient and the qualifier for our $25,000 year-end Amber Grant.

Congratulations to the all-women team at LimeLoop. Co-Founder Chantal Emmanuel discusses LimeLoop’s mission, quantifies the company’s environmental impact and shares much more in our interview.

WN: Share the genesis of LimeLoop and the world-wide issue you’re tackling.

CE: LimeLoop was founded a little over a year ago, but the idea came about many years before when our CEO, Ashley, was looking for a sustainable way to ship her own packages. At the time, she couldn’t find any. She asked her sister to sew a fabric pouch which unknowingly became the first prototype of a LimeLoop shipper.

Today, using recycled billboard vinyl, we’ve designed lightweight, durable, and returnable shippers to reduce our reliance on single-use cardboard and polybags, and get us one step closer to making e-commerce a zero-waste, circular economy.

WN: What advantages do you have over competitors in the space?

CE: Besides the huge environmental gains (for every 10,000 shipments, you’ll save about 70 trees, 90k gallons of waters, and 200 gallons of oil, compared to conventional packaging; not to mention the process of returning our shippers to fulfillment centers save 80% on emissions compared to overseas recycle processing) by pairing our shippers with the data platform, we’re offering great logistical benefits as well. Remember, shipping logistics were designed for a 50 year old retail economy.

Limeloop is able to alleviate the pressures of figuring out the logistics of the brands’ sustainability packaging process, so that the retailers can focus on all the other things needed to keep their business running. While e-commerce seems so ubiquitous with the way that we live our lives these days, it’s important to remember that it’s still pretty much in its infancy. It’s only 15% of the way that we shop these days. So these problems that we’re seeing as far as keeping up with the demand and the environmental impact are just the tip of the iceberg.

WN: How does the cost of shipping via LimeLoop compare with traditional methods?

CE: Our shippers are rented by the brands at a per shipper per month basis, so the specific saving will be based on the brand’s partnership with their current packaging company.

That being said, considering brands are generally able to get two round trips out of a shipper each month while also gaining access to our digital platform, we’re seeing that the cost is generally comparable, if not less.

WN: Have you had conversations with major players USPS, UPS and FedEx?

CE: We’re actively seeking partnerships with the major couriers. We would be happy to support them in their efforts to be more sustainable and we know that in working together we can continue to improve the overall experience for both our brands and their end consumers.

WN: What advice would you give to an aspiring female entrepreneur?

CE: The quicker you can shed any fear or nervousness you have around seeking guidance, gathering advice, and asking for help from those both in and out of your network, the better you and your company will be. Just remember to pay it forward when the time comes.

Build a Values-Driven Company in 4 Simple Steps

Friday, March 8th, 2019

by Penny Bauder

Penny Bauder is an environmental scientist with a passion for STEAM education. She’s the founder of Green Kid Crafts, a nationally-acclaimed, green company that provides kids around the world with convenient and sustainable STEAM activities through the company’s subscription program. The company has shipped over 1 million themed activity boxes designed to help inspire the next generations of creative leaders, scientists, artists, and engineers.

Great companies aren’t only about making money. They also have a strong brand identity shaped by values.

Core values – principles your company follows in all aspects of operations – are vital. Strong core values act as a cornerstone and influence decision-making by providing a roadmap for future decisions. They help you to recruit the right employees, attract customers, remain accountable, create strong business partnerships, and serve your customers better. Having well-defined values help you lead efficiently and gives the rest of your team structure.

Building a values-driven company doesn’t have to be difficult. Just follow these 4 steps…

Define your own personal values

Before launching your company, define your own set of personal values. What do you believe in? What do you stand for? It’s difficult to create core values for your company if your personal values are unclear. If these sets of values match, your company is that much stronger. 

So, what are some examples of core values? Things like integrity, self-discipline, and creativity are all great examples of core values. Much like company core values, your personal values are there to guide behavior and choice. As a company leader, your values soak into everything you do. Get them right and you’ll be efficient, disciplined and focused in your decision-making.

Leave them undefined or vague, and you’ll constantly find yourself floundering. Your personal core values help you select relationships and friendships and wisely manage your personal resources such as time and finances. They are what keep you true to yourself.

Many people think they understand their own values, but you may not really know them until they are articulated clearly in writing. So, take some time to define your personal core values —then put them down on paper.

Define your company’s core values

What does your company value over revenue? Innovation, product quality, fun, and social responsibility are examples of things your company may value beyond making a profit. Ask your team to participate in the brainstorming as founders aren’t the only ones who should mold the business belief system. Your employees are caretakers of the company’s culture, and therefore should be part of the value formation process.

Consider that your company values arise from your mission. Create your mission statement and your values evolve naturally from that. Know what each of your core values means to your business before you begin, so that as your business starts to take shape, you can return to those core values when tricky decisions arise.

Any company will face adversity. But when your business has enduring core values, customers see that, appreciate it, refer it, and ultimately spend their money on something that speaks to their own values.

Stay true to your core values when making any business decision

Discipline yourself to keep to your core values, no matter what. It will almost always be less expensive to run your business a different way, but decisions that comprise core values will hurt your company.

Never underestimate the fact that customers deeply respect that you practice what you preach. Consider that not every decision should be based on how it affects the bottom line. For example, choosing to source materials from local, high quality and recycled resources and using sustainable packaging is more expensive versus conventional sources. Yet if the environment is part of your company values, then this decision is the right one.

At Green Kid Crafts, we believe that as a green company with the core values of environmental sustainability and integrity, it’s natural that we are committed to ensuring that all our activities have little environmental impact. Our products and packaging are made from recyclable and recycled materials and we offset 100% of the carbon dioxide generated by our business to help fund the development of renewable energy projects across the globe.

Further, our core values of promoting STEAM education, fun, and creativity guide our work to foster the next generation of creative leaders, scientists, and artists with our STEAM science and art kit subscription program. Regular customer surveys indicate that these core values put into action are very important to our customers and a driving factor in their purchasing behavior.

Embody your company’s values

Remind your customers why they should buy from you over competitors by dependably messaging your core values through storytelling, marketing, advertising, and through affiliate channels and partnerships.

Customers will understand that you strive to provide them with a values-driven product or service and be left feeling good about their decision to spend their money with you. Promote and communicate openly about how each of your values guide key company decisions. This helps strengthen the meaning and significance behind each value you hold.

For example, at Green Kid Crafts, we weave stories about our company values throughout our social media channels, email marketing activities, product packaging, blog posts, and affiliate marketing creative. In this way, our core values have become associated with our brand.

Ultimately, core values are the heart and soul of your company. However, they need to be put into action to mean anything. You must live and breathe them; and you must make them yours. At Green Kid Crafts, our commitment to being an environmentally sustainable, green business is at the heart of our company and a part of every aspect of our work. When everyone on your team makes that conscious effort to communicate and embody your core values, there’s no limit to what you will achieve.

Identifying The Best Mentor For you

Thursday, March 7th, 2019

by Dr. Sydney Richardson

Dr. Sydney Richardson currently serves as Dean of College and Career Readiness at Forsyth Technical Community College. After years of facilitating workshops on mentorship, teamwork, and professional development, she launched Rae of Knowledge (RoK), a company that assists businesses and organizations in achieving their goals using relational strategies. Dr. Richardson resides in Winston-Salem, North Carolina with her spouse and children

For mentoring in the 21st century to work, mentors and mentees must embrace their roles. Mentees, especially, must know what to look for in a guide. Below are some characteristics and types of mentoring to consider when delving into a mentorship.

Five + years of experience in the field

Generally, a mentor should have no less than 5 years of experience in their field. Usually, it takes about 3 years to understand the field, and 5 years to become comfortable with one’s profession. The first year is to learn, second year is to make changes, and the third year is to perfect new ideas; therefore, by the time someone reaches the fifth year, that person already knows the rhythm of their profession, who the key players are, and how to implement change and make progress in one’s career. Also this person, more than likely, has experienced job advancement at least once. So while it’s great to have a mentor who has been in the field for 10 + years (which is becoming rare), 5 years minimum is enough to really help a mentee.

Now, notice that I stated in the field instead of with a company. That’s because the difference between the two is a personal preference. I believe that experience within the field matters more than experience within a particular company (unless there is a drastic difference between your company and others). A mentor with at least 5 years of a marketing background will have much to offer — even if that person has not been with a company for very long — because guess what?  Your interest is not in a company, but in navigating and advancing in your area, regardless of one company’s culture.

Proven time to dedicate to a mentee

The mentor that you choose will need to be someone who manages time well, as it can be shocking to people how much time mentoring actually takes. This person will not only need some preparation in the ways of mentoring, but will need to know (up front) how much time they should be prepared to devote to this relationship. This means that you [mentee] should have an idea of the time that you require. Do you require an insignificant amount of time (ex. 3 hours per month)? Or, do you require a larger amount of time? It’s not uncommon for mentees and mentors to communicate up to fifteen hours per month. Understanding what you want and the amount of time you hope to have with your mentor is critical to the success of this relationship.

Positive with the promise of moving forward

This one is a special characteristic to look for in a possible mentor. You may know someone who performs well in her career, but if this person is a constant complainer, or does not work well with others, do you really want that type of influence in your life?  Nope. A chosen mentor should be reliable. They should arrive at work on time, have good communication skills, and get along well with various people.  Disclaimer: Getting along well with others does not mean this person never says anything negative. It doesn’t mean that this person doesn’t challenge the status quo. It means that they are respectful in their actions.  This type of person knows how to use her agency and navigate through situations that brings about respect from her peers and superiors. Being able to do this means that your mentor shows promise of career progression, so you should be able to visualize this person in a higher position, representing the field to others, whether they will actually do it or not.

Respectful and respected

I mentioned that the possible mentor should be respectful, so let me delve into that a bit deeper. This person should know how to handle conflict, have challenging conversations, address issues with a superior, and even collaborate with colleagues in ways that bring about positive results. A person who can do this respectfully is someone who has spent time crafting her ability to work with others (and I don’t use the term work lightly). This is someone who does not shy away from tense situations, but knows how to confront them and achieve a level of resolution. This does not mean that a person never experiences a difficult day. But they should have some helpful ideas on how to handle challenging times.

Also, this type of person should be respected among others. This is a person who has proven to be trustworthy, so that when they speak, colleagues know that they are genuine, fair, and knowledgeable. Finding a mentor with these abilities can truly benefit you professionally.

*Notice that so far, I have not mentioned seniority. A person can have seniority, but not possess any of the characteristics mentioned above.

What type of mentoring do you want?

Now that you have a concept of what to look for in a mentor, decide the type of mentoring relationship that works best for you. Too many times, mentees take whatever format they are handed, but you actually have a choice in making this relationship successful and effective.

Traditional Mentoring

Traditional peer-to-peer mentoring follows the model one would envision. It pairs a mentor with years of experience with a mentee, and the mentor guides the mentee through a specific area (career, life, health, personal relationship, etc.). This guidance involves answering questions, meeting face-to-face, assisting with career planning, and being the mentee’s go to person. The mentor serves as a great resource of knowledge and wisdom for the mentee, and the mentee gains professional/personal development along the way. This model can often be one-sided.

Co-mentoring/Cross-Generational Mentoring

Co-mentoring is another option that pairs younger and older women together with the purpose of mentoring one another. It is not uncommon for a company to employ up to five generations at one time, and knowing how to work with various age groups is beneficial. Digital natives can provide guidance on the latest technology, social media, and ways to integrate work into other areas of life. This helps them develop their own leadership, teaching, and mentoring skills. In “The Values of Cross-Generational Mentoring”, Ken Blanchard states: “Cross-generational mentoring relationships can provide career-enhancing wisdom for young people, and protect older people from obsolescence.” As the workplace continues to develop generationally, learning from one another will become more critical to professional success.

Group Mentoring

Imagine being in a room with your mentor, surrounded by twenty other mentor/mentee pairs, all sharing stories of success, setbacks, and lessons learned. Group mentoring takes the traditional pairing of a mentoring relationship and adds opportunities for small group mentoring sessions with multiple mentors and mentees. While each mentor/mentee pairing has their own dynamic and lessons to learn, having once a month or once a week group sessions with a variety of mentors and mentees allows multiple pieces of advice to be shared and various lessons to be learned. You will likely learn that a fear you have is similar to a fear another mentee is facing. This option is especially great for networking groups, women’s organizations and businesses.

So, as you figure out what you want in a mentoring relationship, don’t forget to consider what you have to offer. Then, start asking other people for suggestions on possible mentors. A mentoring relationship is significant for professional success, so don’t wait until you’ve reached a certain stage in your career to get a mentor. Start now.

Catching up with Amber Grant Winner Hey Paddle

Tuesday, March 5th, 2019

In July of 2017, we received an application from a unique business that provided fitness classes on stand up paddle boards. (Neat, right?)

That business — Hey Paddle — was selected for an Amber Grant. Co-founder Becca Tongsinoon impressed us with her business smarts, go-getter attitude and vision for the future.

Well, about a year-and-a-half later, we’re checking up with Becca to see what’s transpired since securing a grant. We’ll keep this open-ended, diary-style format going with other past grant winners. The goal is to inspire, learn and grow from the journeys of fellow women entrepreneurs.

So, let’s jump in the water with this Austin, TX based business.

Hey Paddle Backstory

One hot summer day in Austin, I struggled between going paddle boarding on the lake with my buddy, Chris, or going to the gym. Luckily, Chris is a personal trainer, and suggested we do both! She led us through a series of stretches, plyometrics, cardio, and strength training on paddle boards. This worked our core and balance as we occasionally “fell in” to cool off.

Afterwards, we realized that this full body workout could not be compared to anything on land. We also experienced a spiritual journey, listening to the water gently hitting the boards while we cooled down and stretched as the sun set into the lake.

We knew we had to share our workout with the outdoorsy and fit people of Austin. After a couple months of experimenting with anchors, weights, ropes, and resistance bands, Hey Paddle launched its first official class in late summer, 2016.

Hey Paddle hits the water

Our classes began with just family and friends, then friends of friends. One of our biggest milestones was achieved when a complete stranger signed up for a class, who neither of us knew! We were gaining momentum and filling our classes just as the cold weather arrived, and thought we might be able to transition into boot camp style classes on land with the boards. We put the boards on modified foam rollers to try and emulate the water, but it was never quite the same. Plus, people in Austin are not really welcoming of weather below 50 degrees!

We were excited when March arrived and we could head back to our favorite place, the lake. Again our classes began filling up and we realized we needed to expand, hire additional instructors and staff as well as come up with a plan for the winter season.

Amber Grant impact

In July 2017, we were fortunate to learn about the Amber Grant and apply. We were excited and thrilled to have the additional funding, PR, and most of all, proud that our idea and growing business had been validated by others not in our industry.

We immediately went to work recruiting instructors and staff, training our new team of talented and inspirational fitness enthusiasts, and creating additional class types. We now have five unique classes: Paddle Conditioning, RIP (Interval Training choreographed to music), FIT (timed intervals with kettle bells and resistance bands), Yoga, and Pilates Plus. Our team of four instructors are skilled, encouraging, and approachable, and our staff can set up and tear down a mobile floating studio in about 30 minutes.

Offseason brings challenges, tough decisions

Our next frontier was Winter 2017, and since our outdoor land classes did not go well in 2016, we decided to try Live Online Fitness classes. We put the boards and water equipment in storage (my garage), and converted the apartment above my garage into a fitness studio. Our flexible team of instructors set up boot camp, yoga, pilates, and barre classes available online. The instructor could see and hear the students, and the students could see and hear other students and the instructor. While there were technical challenges at times with slow bandwidth, or volume/camera issues, when things worked, the classes were effective, students did not need to leave their homes, and anyone in the world with an internet connection could take our classes!

We realized we had accidentally started up another business — one completely different from Hey Paddle — that would require 100% of our attention and effort.

After many hours of weighing the pros and cons, ultimately we knew our heart belonged with paddle boards in the lake. We wanted to make sure we maintained focus on our initial vision and dream, even if it meant we were a seasonal business. As difficult as it was, we know we made the right call and have focused all of our efforts on making Hey Paddle the amazing fitness community it is today.

Big Plans in 2019 and Beyond

We would love to see Hey Paddle grow beyond Austin —eventually anywhere with a lake or body of water. We continue to put our focus into growing our community and we have been so grateful to have the support of WomensNet. Seeing women supporting women has been inspirational and one of the core values at Hey Paddle. It continues to be an honor for Hey Paddle to be a part of this powerful women’s community!