Archive for the ‘ Uncategorized’ Category

Wednesday, November 9th, 2011

We’re thrilled to announce the October Amber Grant Winner…. Is Fernanda Chacon from Chicago, IL.  Fernanda is the owner of Heavenly Skinny Kitchen.  We love Fernanda’s story as a young women entrepreneur who used her passion for healthy cooking to fill a niche in the Chicago downtown marketplace.  We’re sure you’ll be inspired by the short interview we did with Fernanda below.

BTW, we’re currently taking applications for the November Amber Grant.  We’d love to hear your story, and you just might be our next winner.  But there are only a few weeks to get your application to us.  So if you’re interested, please don’t wait.  We will announce our winner the first week in December.

WN:  What made you want to be self-employed?

FC: First, thank you Women’s Net so much. What a blessing!.. I think the main reason why I’d wanted to be self-employed is because I like my ideas to be heard.  I always like to go the extra mile and think about all the options, either good or bad, as well as the growth potential.  Most corporations just want you to follow the manual and don’t leave room for opinions or imagination.

WN:  Tell us about a little bit about your business, Heavenly Skinny Kitchens.

FC:  I started the business earlier this year and went full steam this summer. The idea started out of my own need for healthy and tasty food.  Working long hours in downtown Chicago with limited options for healthy foods made realize the need for a healthier option.  I can’t remember how many times I found myself eating the same salad for a whole week straight.  Heavenly Skinny Kitchen is dedicated to creating the best lunch experience for busy downtown workers who want to have a balanced diet – but struggle with the same old unhealthy choices. Right now, Heavenly Skinny Kitchen works as a catering service for individuals, but my goal is to open a location to the public.

WN: What will you use the $500 Amber Grant for?

FC: I will use the money towards marketing to get the word out on healthy eating and getting more customers for the business.  I might also use it toward a delivery truck.

WN: Have you always had a passion for cooking?  We ask because we’re true believers that women-owned businesses that are built on passion survive over those businesses that women just do for “a job.”  And because we drooled over the menu on your website! J

FC: LOL, yes, I do have a great passion, not just cooking but eating well and fitness. While in college, before starting my business, I always found a reason to have people over so I could cook and try new recipes. I think food is such an important element of life and it has a huge influence on your overall health. With those ideals, I decided to create a kitchen where people can eat delicious meals on the go – while staying fit.

WN:  What have been the smartest decisions you’ve made with Healthy Skinny Kitchens?

FC: Well, I always dreamt of opening up a restaurant but the initial investment can be a huge barrier. My best decision has been to adapt the idea to a set menu with catering options and membership packages. That’s how I’ve been able to progressively grow and increase my capital.  By sticking to this motto, not only did it take away pressures of investing a huge amount of money in a start-up restaurant, but it has given me the experience for when that time comes.

Interesting Article We Wanted to Share

Wednesday, October 26th, 2011

We wanted to give you a bit of news on the women’s business front.  Specifically, we came across an interesting article on the Women’s Economic Summit in Tennessee.  But before we share what we uncovered, a quick reminder that the Amber Grant deadline is in just 5 days.  So please take a few minutes to tell us your story if you’d like to be considered for the $500 women’s business grant for this month.

Ok, now to the news… Check out the following statistics and you’ll see why women need to stick together in the business world.  These stats are from the Women’s Economic Council Foundation and are specific to Tennessee.  But, of course, they are generally applicable to women all over the country (if not the world).

** Women make 79 cents for every dollar that their male colleagues make.

** There are twice as many male-owned businesses as women-owned businesses.

** Women businesses tend to bring in less revenue and employ fewer people than male businesses.

** The number of women-owned business increased by 20% from 2002-2007.

** Women are more likely to have a degree than men, and the number of women in college is greater than men.

** Female students also outscore male students on all reading and most math scores at grade school and middle school levels.

The good news is that women like you continue to start and develop their own businesses.  And the next generation of women entrepreneurs is doing well in school.  But, of course, there still seems to be a glass ceiling in the business world.  Those statistics should give up hope and encourage us as women business owners.

The joke from one of the Women’s Summit organizers says it all:  Would Wall Street be in the straits it is today if Lehman Brothers had been Lehman Sisters?!…

Key for Women Entrepreneurs: Let Your Passion be Your Guide

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2011
A week ago, I was talking to my friends at WomensNet.  When your friends give out grants to women business owners, you can always expect them to ask:  “Hey – Marcia, what business ventures are you up to?” 

This was my chance to tell them about my latest e-book.  I guess they must have noticed the spark in my eye, the lilt in my voice – yes, the general sense of excitement I get when talking about… ready for it?  Couponing!
You see, by day I’m a freelance writer of magazine articles and author and ghostwriter of bestselling books.  But during my free time, I’m an extreme couponer. No, not as obsessed as the folks on TLC’s “Extreme Couponing” TV show…but close.

While I do enjoy writing – researching the topic, thinking through how to organize the information and then sharing what I’ve gathered from interviews – there is nothing like the high of getting $110 worth of groceries for next to nothing. Believe me, I’ve done it.

Although writing is how I earn a very good living, coupons are my passion.
I’ve been writing professionally for more than 15 years, during which the publishing process has stayed much the same, until a year or two ago. In the past, I would come up with an idea for an article or book and then propose it to an editor, who then decides if they want to pay me to write about it. In other cases, because I’ve worked with an editor before and they liked my stuff, I’ll get a call or an email asking me if I’d like to tackle a particular topic for an upcoming issue or book. If I like the topic, I generally say yes.
As I said, I’ve been doing this for a while, but a couple of years ago, I started to hear more about e-books and how they were the future of publishing. Then last year there was news that sales of Amazon’s Kindle books had overtaken hard cover and paperback books. That’s the point at which I decided I needed to explore this. But what would I write about? I usually write about marketing and entrepreneurship, but nothing came to mind that would be new and noteworthy.
We’ve all heard that the best businesses are those based on the individual’s passion – the subject about which they know more than just about anyone else. So, for me, it followed that the best e-book I could write would be about my passion, couponing.
I tried selling traditional publishers on a couponing book as soon as I heard there would be a TV show on the topic. Perfect timing, I thought! They were skeptical that the market was big enough (are you kidding me?!). In fact, 78% of shoppers in the U.S. now use coupons – that’s millions and millions of Americans. At that point, I was fired up. More than any other book, I wanted to write about how to save money with coupons. Then I saw a few episodes of “Extreme Couponing,” in which the shoppers on the show were using the same techniques I’ve been using for years, and was sure that an e-book on couponing was what I needed to write next.
I told my agent I was working on the book and she mentioned she had a publisher friend who had started an e-book publishing venture. When she talked to him about my couponing book, he was sold.
We moved quickly to get the book formatted and edited and as of last Friday, Extreme Couponer: Insider secrets to getting groceries for free, was officially available for sale for $2.99. I don’t think I’ve ever been able to produce a book as quickly. Part of the speed was due to the new digital publishing process. But the other element was passion. I was so excited to share information about couponing that I wrote morning, noon and night. I was in the zone, completely enjoying what I was doing. And in a matter of days, the manuscript was done.
I think my situation isn’t unusual. When you’re passionate about what you’re doing, whether it’s writing computer code, selling on eBay, supervising children at a daycare or something else entirely, time passes more quickly. And because you are giving that work your complete attention, the quality is higher and your chances of success much greater.
So if you’re still considering what kind of business to start, begin with what you love most. That will give you your best chance at success.
Oh, so back to my friends at Womensnet.Net.  They also wanted me to remind you that the deadline is August 30 for the latest $1,500 Amber Grant for Women.  Please take a few minutes to tell them about your business passion.  It might just lead to a juicy $1,500 grant for your women-owned business.     

A Women Business Owner’s Guide to Cleaning House: And Dramatically Improve Your Effectiveness

Monday, June 20th, 2011

If you haven’t read my last blog, Secrets Every Woman Entrepreneur ShouldKnow To Increase Her Productivity, you should read it before reading this one.


The basic premise of my last blog was to show you how to clear your head of the “productivity preventing” clutter.


Now it’s time to rid yourself of your physical clutter – all of the other junk in your life that may be weighing you down. Lifting the weight will produce a marked increase in your effectiveness.


I promise.


So, it’s time to clean house. As a women business owner, the best thing you can do is to kick butt and lighten your load while keeping a couple of vital things in mind.


I present to you — Thing 1 and Thing 2.


The first thing that you should do is establish an “In Basket” or if you’re like me – an “In Crate.” This is where you will put anything that you find that is potentially actionable – meaning you will need to decide what you are going to do with “it” at a later time.


The second thing you need to do is to search your home, office, and car for anything that is not where it belongs. And depending on how organized a lifestyle you lead, this could be easy or it could be painful.


You are looking for physical stuff like your supplies, tools, gear, office equipment, reference materials, pictures, recognition awards, etc. These are things which may require no action except to put them in their proper place. If you can put an item in its proper place in two minutes or less – just do it. If not, it goes into your In Crate and becomes actionable later.


Practically, work your way around your home and office examining —


  • The Top of Your Desk
  • Countertops
  • Desk Drawers
  • Cabinets
  • Shelves
  • Floors and Walls
  • Office Equipment
  • Furniture and Fixtures


Once you begin to go through this process, your memory will be jogged with actionable items (tasks) – but this is not the time to stop and do anything except put the actionable items in your “In Crate.” If the item is too big to put in the crate, then make a representation of the item on a sheet of paper and put “it” in the crate. If you think of actionable items, write them on a piece of paper and put them in your In Crate too.


In the process, you will probably begin to amass a serious heap of trash, recycling, and things that you decide to give away.


CAUTION — Do not slip into project mode and start doing major organizing. You will have more than enough actions to keep you busy when you are done with this cleaning process.

Just watch your In Crate grow. This is a good thing.

This could be one of the healthiest house cleanings you’ve done. If you have really been honest and collected all of the stuff that had captured your attention, you are ready to get to the bottom of your In Crate.

According to productivity guru, David Allen, you are ready to “Process In.” You are ready to do something with the stuff.

Here we go…

At this point you need to determine the exact next action for each item in your In Crate. For example, if one of your items is to get your quarterly taxes done, your action is not “get my quarterly taxes done.” The next action might be, “review tax file to ensure I have all necessary documents” or “call accountant.” To be clear – decide on the next tangible, physical behavior that you are actually going to do.

Once you have decided the next action, you really have only three choices according to Allen.

  1. Do it (if it takes less than 2 minutes)
  2. Delegate (if you’re not the best person to do it)
  3. Defer it (put it into you organizational system as a “to do later”)

Remember, if you delegate an action, you really need to make a point to delegate systematically and clearly – checking for understanding of the action. And you need to follow-up to make sure it got done.

If you defer an action, the action needs to be clearly written down in your organizational system. For ease of processing, you might want to simply put a sticky-note on the piece of paper in your In Crate and log each deferred action in your system as soon as you get to the bottom of the Crate. Don’t feel compelled to schedule these deferred actions all next week. Schedule some really soon, others for someday, and you know the drill – specifically schedule those that you need to do on an exact day at an exact time.

Make sure that you remind yourself of those items that you are waiting for some one else to do. If you delegated properly, you gave some one else a specific due date for getting back to you.

Lastly, let’s talk about projects. You may have found and defined a ton of projects – maybe 50 or 100. The narrow definition of a project is any item or outcome that you are committed to achieving that takes more than one action to complete. Write these down in a project plan with dates, times, those that you need to delegate items to – and remind yourself of the individual items on a regular basis.

You should be seriously on your way to having your environment cleared from clutter and your head free from thinking about it. Your result is that you will see your path ahead clearly, feel energized and empowered, and achieve results in a way that makes you very successful.

Here’s to cleaning house!


Secrets Every Woman Entrepreneur Should Know To Increase Her Productivity

Thursday, June 16th, 2011

A women business owner like you can use all the help she can get.

Whether it’s a great marketing idea, getting funding for a women-owned business, or – today’s lesson – simply discovering ways to be more productive with your time.

Lack of focus leads to low productivity. Low productivity negatively affects your bottom line. (And drives you nuts.)

Productivity guru, David Allen suggests some very basic ideas for getting the most out of your time in his book, Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress Free Productivity.

Allen suggests that you need to get ALL of your stuff into one place – your “In Box”. All of your stuff includes all of those things that are incomplete, anything that needs a decision about a potential action, and all the things that are out of place.

For now, let’s focus on the things in your head and heart. They are just as important as physical stuff — most likely more important.

To get started — get a large stack of paper and clear one hour. Begin a mental inventory of all the “to do” items in your head. This is the beginning of your brain dump.

Don’t be scared. Jump in. Go for sheer volume.

It’s okay if you want to start thinking about huge items like “end world hunger.” It’s equally acceptable to consider, “make kids’ eye appointments.”

You’re going to write only one item at a time on each piece of paper as you think of it. This is important for how you will be processing these tasks later.

You want to think through projects, commitments, meetings to be scheduled, banking, upcoming events, computers, equipment, etc. Thinking about your children, spouse, family, friends, your professional life, colleagues and community activities may seem daunting.

Trust me. This really works.

It’s helpful to use a tool called a Trigger List to help jog your memory. You can view a good one put together by OrganizeIt at .

After an hour or so of putting one item on each piece of paper you probably have a pretty full “In Box.” Now do one more thing and add any voicemails, emails, or tasks from your organizer for which you have not determined a next action. (You can print these one per page.)

Everything is now on paper. You’ll have a big stack. And you may feel worse at this point. But here’s the good part.

Now it’s time to start getting free from the stack . This doesn’t mean doing everything. It means that you will methodically decide what each item is — and what you are GOING to do with it. Here’s your decision chart for every item from David Allen’s site

There are a few must-follow rules as you work through your decision process:

  • Start with first item in the stack and work down. (No cheating and no scanning for emergencies!)
  • Deal with ONE item at a time (This is harder than you think, but you can do it.)
  • If you touch an item, deal with it. (No returning an item to the stack.)

Okay, this is it…

Get your first item off the stack. What is it? Is it actionable? If it’s not, trash it – put it in a tickler file – or create a reference file. Keep reviewing the flow chart until it’s in your head.

If your item is actionable, determine if it’s a project or individual action. Follow the process. It’s easy. And it’s necessary to any woman business owner who wants to organize her life.

If you have an individual action, do it – delegate it – or defer it as outlined in the diagram. Major Bonus: Immediately deal with any action that will take you two minutes or less.

Be patient. The best way to learn this process is by doing it. You will get better at making these decisions with each sheet of paper you deal with.

You should begin to feel better and better — sheet by sheet — as you work through the process. Be prepared, this process can take a few day. But it is well worth it.

When you have finished “processing” you will have:

  • Round filed anything you don’t need
  • Completed a ton of short two-minute tasks
  • Delegated a ton of important stuff
  • Sorted any actions that will take more than two minutes into your own personal organizing system and/or placed on your calendar.
  • Clearly identified your major projects

Once you’ve been through the process, you’ll feel your mind freed to move on to more productive things. It’s a strategy every women entrepreneur should focus on. Getting more out of your time leads to more creativity, more peace of mind – and more to the bottom line.

WNN: Take Control of Your Cash

Thursday, June 2nd, 2011

How Women Entrepreneurs Can Have Power Over Money, Emotions, and Beliefs
by Christina Lambert

I came across a book I thought women business owners (and aspiring business owners) like you would be interested in. It’s not a book on finding business grants for women, or getting business funding. But I think it’s worth 7 minutes of your time to review the highlights.

In 2009, Karen Pine and Simonne Gnessen published Sheconomics.


Pine, a developmental psychologist, and Gnessen, a seasoned financial coach, have approached the barriers that often prevent women from being financially successful – and help find a way around and through them.

What’s the most common barrier? Our own thoughts.

Well, Pine and Gnessen offer you a new model.
A new way of thinking.
A clear plan for taking financial control.

Here are the highlights.

The Laws of Sheconomics

Law 1 –Take Emotional Control
Become aware of how your emotions affect the way you behave with money. Your attitudes about money are shaped by emotion. Instead of acting on an emotion – think about it.

Try to identify what’s causing your feeling. For example, is it a reaction to a current issue or challenge?  Is it a result of a past experience, memory, or stored emotion?
Decide if the emotion is relevant. If it’s a real danger warning, heed it.  If it’s reinforcing bad habits, ditch it.  Then create a healthy response in line with what you’re aiming to accomplish (not your feelings) and take action in a way that will lead you closer to your goal.

Law 2 — Go Beyond Beliefs
Your financial beliefs become your reality and influence the way you behave.  Your beliefs determine what you achieve (or not).
For example, if you believe that you’re simply not good at earning money – guess what? You probably will continue to be bad at earning money. But if you believe that you can be financially successful, there’s a real good possibility that you will be!
Pine and Gnessen give this bit of advice, “First, you need to identify the things that are stopping you from being rich. Maybe you don’t ask for a pay raise because you’re secretly scared you’re not worth it. Once you’ve worked out what’s standing in your way, you can start to change your behavior and attitude towards money.”

Law 3 — Spend with Power
Be practical.  Make sure all your spending decisions are made for the right reasons. To spend with power, you need to understand why you may need to make a purchase.  The key word is “need.”  Resist any compulsion to make an impulse buy.
Keep track of your spending.  Create a spreadsheet or track your spending in a notebook or on your Iphone or Blackberry.   Do this continually and track yourself month by month.
Now you have real data to better analyze where you be able to cut spending and what areas may be real needs – especially if you are trying to grow a profitable business.

Law 4 — Have Goals
In order to have goals, you need to write them down.  Goals are specific.  Goals are realistic.  If you have a business plan these goals should come right out of your plan.   Make your money fit your plan.  And by the way — your business goals need to fit your life goals.  Having clear goals takes the pain out of resisting impulsive decisions.

Law 5 — Look Debt in the Face
If you have debt, this can be a tough one.  Certainly there is good debt and bad debt.  Bad debt is debt that you know you can’t afford to pay back. So you need to make a plan.  Make sure you figure out what you owe and how you’re going to pay it off.  List and prioritize your debts.
Pay off whatever you can right away and then work out how much you can afford to repay each month.  Choose a target date for becoming debt-free.

Law 6 — Share Financial Intimacies
It’s important to talk openly and honestly about your finances with those that you love and trust — including your business partners.   Actually, talking about money can be one of the things that build trust in a relationship.  If this is an area in which you feel challenged – you’re not alone.  Keeping financial secrets is a plague in any close relationship whether with a spouse, business partner or close friend.
Sharing financial intimacies is about building trusting, honest relationships.  It’s about being brutally honest with yourself.  The first step is realizing that you need to communicate with those important people in your life – listening for their perspectives and advice.  Begin with those relationships that you know are safe.  Practice financial intimacy.  It’s freeing.

Law 7 — Know Tomorrow Comes
Why put off for tomorrow what you can be doing today?  Tomorrow will come and you need to be prepared for its coming.  This is about having a plan for the future.  Do some research about pension plans, mutual funds, college savings plans.  Take a look your goals and determine priorities and timing of predictable expenses.

Embracing your goals will help you avoid making “here-and-now” decisions in a vacuum. Understanding your larger plan will help keep you on track to achieve it in the proper time.

With these laws, Pine and Gnesson take you into the depths of common thought patterns often held by women and explore their views about the female psyche.  These “laws” actually uncover truths that will help you make purposeful and powerful financial decisions.

One of the most profound points in Sheconomics is that many times we hold beliefs that limit our potential – especially in business.  You can be the best wife, mom, family organizer, counselor, and doctor… but be completely turned around financially.

Beliefs lead to behaviors.
Behaviors lead to habits.
Habits form lifestyles.

Remember — self limiting thoughts can be the root cause of financial paralysis.

Certainly, Pine and Gnessen don’t advise that simply changing your thinking about earning gobs of money will enable you to magically do it.

Sheconomics does encourage you to carefully analyze your current thinking.

Take specific actions to alter any current negative thinking.

Create a positive goal focused approach for your business and your life.

Disclaimer:  Pine and Gnessen seem to have the opinion that women shop to cope and make feel-good impulse decisions that are gender specific. I think that these thoughts are socialized and these types of behaviors are learned.  I am not one to believe that ALL women think the same and love to shop and ALL men are just better at making money.  I also don’t believe that we just “need to control ourselves” to avoid spending money impulsively.   At times, I thought the book was stereotypical.  However, it does provide a good framework for taking control of your financial decisions.

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