Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Book Review: Spark and Hustle: Launch and Grow Your Small Business Now, by Tory Johnson

Spark and Hustle: Launch and Grow Your Small Business Now
by Tory Johnson 
Berkley Books
287 pages 

I have this thing about books I'm reading and the New Year.

I absolutely, positively cannot be in the middle of a book when the clock strikes midnight. A brand new year means a brand new reading year, too. Sometimes this means I'm bookless on December 31 and sometimes this means I'm reading right up until the minute the ball drops in Times Square.

And, as if that's not crazy enough (although I see most of you nodding your head in self-recognition), my first book of the year can't be just any book. Oh, no. It needs to be something inspirational and motivational. Something that will hold meaning for all the 365 days ahead.

A tall order, I know.

In the past, I've ushered in January with a volume or two of poetry, which was fine. This year, as I spent the waning days of the calendar glued to fiscal cliff news and worrying over how much further I was going to fall off my own fiscal cliff, I wanted something that would set the tone for the year.

So I picked up my signed copy of Tory Johnson's Spark and Hustle: Launch and Grow Your Small Business Now. 

I met Tory back in August when I attended her one-day conference here in Pittsburgh. I didn't do a highlight reel of 2012, but if I did, meeting Tory would be on it.

As I wrote back in August after the Spark and Hustle conference, I could relate to Tory's story of being laid off and her fear - even after getting another job - that she would find herself in the same situation again. I could understand the desire to start a new venture, which was something I admittedly had been wanting to do for quite some time.

What the Spark and Hustle conference does well (among many things) is to show real life examples of women's success as entrepreneurs in a fun but professional atmosphere where there is absolutely "no selling from the stage." Sure, I bought Tory's book - but that's because (hello! it's me!) you know I was going to buy the book regardless. If the chick sitting next to me had written a book, I would have bought hers.

My point is: there wasn't any pressure to do so. (In fact, I didn't even know they were for sale until more than 3/4 of the way through the event.)

When you leave the Spark and Hustle conference, you leave believing you have the capacity to start a business - but you're still a little wary and unsure about how, exactly, this is going to happen. Spark and Hustle: Launch and Grow Your Small Business Now highlights some of Tory's key messages from the conference (namely that your success is "all about the hustle" that you put in each day), but also gives the reader the practical tips, strategies, and ideas for putting that into a well-defined action plan that leads to success.

That's what I appreciated most about Spark and Hustle: Launch and Grow Your Small Business Now. There are more than a few people who do similar work as Tory who simply espouse platitudes like, "Your strengths will lead to your success!" and "Follow your passion every single day!" Those sentiments are all fine and well and good if that's what you want.

Sometimes you need more concrete advice.

Like, how exactly following that passion (and figuring out what the hell that is in the first place) can lead to a fuller bank account.

You need advice on how to best determine pricing strategy.

You need someone (Tory) to say that they love Suze Orman (I do too, just so we're clear on that, because Suze sometimes scares me), but that it is OK if you start a business without 12 months of savings in the bank because most people can't wait that long. Especially when we're teetering on a fiscal cliff.

You need to hear what is involved in designing and manufacturing and licensing a product, if that's what you have in mind for your business, or where you can find clients for your service-related business.

You need to know how to maximize the social media world, if you're unfamiliar with it and the potential it has for you and your business.

You need funding - but how much? And from where? And with what business plan?

You need pointers for getting over the fear of selling.

All that - and more - is what Spark and Hustle: Launch and Grow Your Small Business Now tells you, right from the very first lines.
"We both know why you're here.
You were downsized.  Your hours were cut. Your employer went bust. You need to make more money to get by. You've graduated from college without a job and your career path isn't clear. You want to use your own smarts and creativity to take charge of your working life." (pg. 1) 
Tory Johnson makes you believe that you can do exactly that.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

In Which a Post Gets Picked Up By the Main Line Times

photo taken by me at Longwood Gardens, Chadds Ford, PA
January 24, 2010

During my days as a development and public relations director in the Philadelphia area, one of my favorite reporters was Caroline O'Halloran of the Main Line Times. So, when I saw an email from Caroline the other day, I was delighted. She was working on a story and wanted to know if she could use part of my recent blog post about Andy Reid's hire as head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs("Why Andy Reid is the Right Coach, Right Now for the Kansas City Chiefs").

I readily agreed, especially since another (not-in-Philadelphia) paper initially agreed to publish it ...and then they promptly chose not to because I didn't go as negative as they would have preferred in regard to some of the Reids' personal family situations. I didn't want to go there for the sake of a byline, so we moved on.

Caroline, on the other hand, is someone who also saw the side of Tammy Reid that I was fortunate to see during my days of working with her. You'll see that, too, in her excellent piece that I'm quoted in and that I link to below.

(Caroline also captures a key point that I was trying to make in my blog post: "In light of the recent murder-suicide of Chiefs’ linebacker Javon Belcher and his girlfriend, Kansas City seems a fortuitous destination for the Reids. Indeed, Tammy has already spoken to the wife of Chiefs’ owner Clark Hunt about getting involved in the team’s new domestic violence initiatives. “That’s right up my alley, I plan on jumping into this community too,” Tammy said.)

Read more:  Exclusive: Tammy Reid to keep Philadelphia ties after Eagles but eager to 'jump into' life in Kansas City

Thanks, Caroline, for including me in this wonderful piece.

Remembering Her Name: Ka'Sandra Wade

Pittsburgh's first homicide of the year was a domestic violence incident that took the life of Ka'Sandra Wade. Today, I'm participating in an effort organized by my friend Sue, who writes the blog Pittsburgh Lesbian Correspondents and who is an active member of the local social media community, including The Pittsburgh Women's Blogging Society.

Among the goals of today's Pittsburgh Cyber Vigil is to remember Ka'Sandra Wade's name. All too often in such incidents, it is the name of the alleged perpetrator that stays with us and perhaps the circumstances of the crime itself. Today, we're bringing attention to who Ka'Sandra was - a woman trying to escape an abusive relationship, an ambitious worker with aspirations of a better life, and a mother of an 11 year old son named Zaire.

I didn't know Ka'Sandra. I admit that I also didn't know many of the details of this case until I first learned of Sue's efforts with the Pittsburgh Cyber Vigil. (Maria from 2 Political Junkies has a great synopsis on her post, "Remembering Ka'Sandra Wade.) But what I do know from my five years of working in the domestic violence field is that Ka'Sandra knew she was in a bad relationship and was trying to leave - always the most dangerous time for those in domestic violence situations. Ka'Sandra had also reached out to and had the support of coworkers at her job. Finally, she called 911 on New Year's Eve when she was in trouble.

Ka'Sandra did everything that people who work in the domestic violence field tell people to do.

And yet.

And yet, now there is an investigation into the police response to that 911 call. From the reports, this appears to be rather botched (to say the least) - with investigators showing up and taking the word of a male individual that everything was fine and never speaking to the person who made the call. As Sue writes, "[t]he situation is complicated and tragic and has generated an outcry from the community to push for better investigation of domestic violence allegations, stronger laws to protect women and more awareness on the part of the community."

We start today, by remembering Ka'Sandra Wade's name and by pledging to remember the names of all those lost.

Other posts from bloggers participating in today's Cyber Vigil:

Losing Sight of the Shore –  BECAUSE Ka’Sandra Wade can not.
2 Political Junkies (Maria) – Remembering Ka’Sandra Wade
2 Political Junkies (Maria) – One More Thing
the betty and boo chronicles (full disclosure: this is my other blog) – Remember Her Name: Ka’Sandra Wade
Truality Radio – Host Ezra is an old friend of Ka’Sandra and saw her one week before her death. He describes that last encounter.
My name is Leslie Smith.  I’m known by most as Ezra.  I’m a spoken word artist and actor from Pittsburgh, Pa.  I’m so saddened by the lost of Ka’Sandra.  I called her “Pink”.  I met her in 2000 while attending the Pittsburgh Job Corps Center with her.  We both were in the college program.  We dated briefly, but remained friends.  I ran into her every once in a while and we would just say hello to one another and keep it going.  I saw her about a week and a half before her murder in East Liberty standing in front of a building.  We said our usual hellos and I kept walking.  But, then, something told me to stop, turn around, and chat with her for a little bit.  So, I turned around and asked her how she’s been.  I knew that Pink had gone through some rough times in her life from past discussions and I was hoping she was in a good place now.  She said she was about to start working full time at ACTION United and was about to start attending Devry University to receive her bachelor’s degree. Ka’Sandra sounded so proud of her accomplishments. There was a gentleman standing outside with her and I wasn’t sure if he was her boyfriend.  I asked if he was and he said no and they both laughed.  I told them I was just making sure I wasn’t disrespecting anybody.  I said, “Well, good for you.  Keep it up.”  She said thanks and I went on my way.  I left thinking to myself, “Well, there’s a job corps success story”, smiling to myself.  I was so happy for her.  She had overcame and accomplished a lot.  I still can’t believe she’s gone.
Please follow #RememberHerName
Other Mentions
Melissa McEwen at Shakesville included the vigil in her weekly lists of must-read posts.

Additional resources:

Friday, January 4, 2013

Why Andy Reid is the Right Coach, Right Now for the Kansas City Chiefs

Then-Philadelphia Eagles head coach Andy Reid
at a fundraising event I helped to organize
photo taken by me, April 2009

An Open Letter to the Fans of the Kansas City Chiefs:

Getting a new boss, as you just did with the hiring of Andy Reid as your head coach, is tough. 

There's a lot to get used to when the new person arrives in town. They have a different playbook, a unique style - sometimes their own people in mind for what was your job. 

I've been in your shoes. Believe me, I know that the very last thing you probably want to hear are accolades about the new guy. 

Granted, from a football perspective, Andy has a few faults. We've seen a few of them in Philadelphia. That tends to happen when a guy sticks around for 14 years. He's not perfect. 

But there's something about him that makes Andy the perfect leader for the Chiefs right now.

You see, you've had some tragedy recently. 

I speak, of course, about the domestic violence incident in December during which linebacker Jovan Belcher shot and killed his girlfriend Kasandra Perkins, then subsequently killed himself. This murder-suicide brought the NFL to a standstill ...but only for the requisite moment of silence. 

The NFL already outfits itself in every conceivable shade of pink each October for breast cancer, which is certainly commendable. However, I submit that most of us are already well aware of breast cancer and the NFL’s recognition of this month is sometimes akin to elaborate end zone gyrations.

Although nothing will ever change the loss of life, the hiring of Andy Reid as your head coach gives every one of you connected with the Kansas City Chiefs - the owners, the players, the grounds crew – an opportunity to be leaders the NFL truly needs on the issue of domestic violence. 

Why Andy Reid? 

I was fortunate to get to know Andy and his wife Tammy when I worked as a fundraising director for a domestic violence agency in suburban Philadelphia. They became tireless, dedicated, loyal supporters of our organization; the more the Reids learned what we did and about the impact and prevalence of domestic abuse, the more they became involved. 

During their 14 years in Philadelphia, Andy and his family worked so closely with our staff that I initially thought Tammy was on the payroll when I was first hired.

I know one of the criticisms of Andy during his Philly years was that he was disconnected from the fans. That always perplexed me because from where I stood, on the sidelines, I saw things differently.

I saw a Coach who readily hugged a woman whose husband once chained her to the bathroom sink for days, only to escape to safety in the morning rush of getting her kids to school. 

I saw a Coach who signed an autograph for a scared, star-struck child who had moved into a shelter a week before.

I saw a Coach who was routinely maligned by the ruthless Philly media, but who had no trouble grabbing a microphone when bidding was low during a silent auction and reminding the well-heeled crowd why we were at the Gala in the first place. 

I wish more Philadelphians had a chance to see this caring side of Andy.

Kansas City, I’m grateful that you now do. 

In Philadelphia, Andy always concluded his opening statement to the press on Mondays by inviting questions from the assembled media with a two-word phrase:

Time's yours. 

So, Chiefs, now the time’s yours to pick up the ball on the domestic violence issue. 

Run with it.

And be the real leaders on domestic violence that the NFL needs. 

Thursday, January 3, 2013

In the Face of Inaction, Kristin's Call for Change

I have to wonder how many members of the House of Representatives ever downloaded a text message like this from their 21 year old daughter's phone, after she had been murdered (stabbed more than 50 times in her own kitchen) by her boyfriend.

I'm guessing not many.

If they had - in an odd, bizarre, twist of fate way - then Tuesday night might not have happened. Or, maybe it may have happened a bit differently.

That's when the House of Representatives, in the midst of the fiscal cliff craziness and blocking
federal aid to devastated Hurricane Sandy victims, made yet another unbelievable head-shaking move. (One that leads us a bit closer to living in A Handmaid's Tale land, but that's another post.)

By allowing the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) to die without a vote on Tuesday night, the House of Representatives basically told victims of domestic violence and their families that they don't matter.

I've written about Kristin Mitchell's story before - here, and here, and here. And I will continue to write about Kristin, because this story is so deeply personal to me for reasons only a handful of people know.

The reality is that domestic violence still carries a stigma and real people are still living in fear. Despite the statistics, we don't want to believe that people we know are being abused.

Your coworker in the next cubicle with a never-ending supply of Hershey Kisses.

Your best friend since kindergarten.

Your younger sister, who cheerfully wore the hideous maid of honor dress in your wedding.

Your neighbor up the street with the gorgeous lawn.

Your kids' bus driver who always waves as she drives away.

Your college roommate.

And when it comes to domestic violence on college campuses? In teen dating relationships?

We want to believe that everything is as picture perfect as it appears on prom night, that we're all slow-dancing happily ever after, and that domestic violence - and teen dating violence, in particular, doesn't exist.

It's not. Young women ages 16 to 24 experience the highest rate of violence at the hands of someone they know.

Think about that for a second.

Now, think about your representatives who decided on New Year's Day that this wasn't important enough to do anything about.

That THE VERY LIFE of your coworker, your best friend, your sibling, your cousin, your neighbor, your babysitter, your child was not important enough to vote on.

So where do we go from here?

Since their daughter Kristin's death in 2005, the Mitchells have been a family that have transformed their profound tragedy into incredible change

The Mitchells are doing something about dating violence. They're helping to lead the way when those in charge fail to do so.

Through the Kristin Mitchell Foundationgrant funding is available for projects that help to raise awareness among young adults and teens about Dating Violence Prevention.  Preference is given to projects designed to raise awareness among college-aged young adults.  However, proposals will also be considered for projects designed to reach high school students.

Funding requests for each project can be up to $3,000. Projects with a total budget of more than this range must show, in the application, where additional funding will be drawn from.

The projects should focus on one or more groups of young adults within the Greater Philadelphia area (Philadelphia and/or Montgomery, Delaware, Chester, Bucks counties), and/or the following areas in Maryland: Baltimore City, Baltimore County, Howard County, and Charles County. Consideration will also be given for projects in other counties in PA and MD, provided that funding from the Kristin Mitchell Foundation is available.

Proposals submitted for consideration in March must be received by February 15th. Proposals submitted for consideration in September must be received by August 15th.

Click here for more information, including the official KMF Grant Funding Application and additional details. 

As shown by the House of Representatives actions this week, our elected officials don't seem to want to be the leaders for the change we need. Now more than ever, it's up to us to be that change at the grassroots level, by initiating the projects that can help make a difference.