Sandy Dempsey

When is the best time to start a business?

This is the second in a series about what might be holding you back from starting your own business.

When is the best time to start a business?

Do you keep thinking you want to start a business but the time isn’t right, the economy isn’t right or you don’t have enough free time right now?

The best answer I’ve ever heard to the question, “When is the best time to start a business?” came from Gordon Moore co-founder of Intel. He said “The best time to start a business is when you have a good idea.”

If the current economic situation is holding you back, remember that some extremely successful enterprises were started in a weak economy. There are actually advantages to starting when the economy is sluggish.  You have a greater pool of resources because there is less competition. Vendors are more willing to negotiate and work with you. If you need to hire employees or even virtual assistants, they are hungrier for work right now so you get good rates and choice of the best. Also you have time to start off slowly and learn as you go, get the kinks out and be running at full swing when the economy strengthens. You will be well positioned to take advantage of the recovery.

I often hear “I want to start a business but I’m waiting until my kids start school” or start college, or finish college.  What they don’t realize is that there is never a perfect time. When the kids are in school, there will be more time commitments with after school sports and activities. If you wait until your kids start college, you may be taking care of elderly parents. The best answer I know is to start now so that when your kids are in school or college or you have elderly parents to care for, you will have some years in business already and have the funds to help your  kids and parents and the success to hire help or outsource some of your business tasks.

Not enough free-time? That used to be my excuse for not getting things done too. Then I met Continue reading

Five Ways to Grow Your Business

Today’s guest post is by Sandy Dempsey of The Dreaming Cafe.

1. Tell people who you are with a Website…

◦ In today’s world every business, service or product based, needs an online presence.  Your website can be a single, information only page, or several pages providing basic information about who you are, what you do, and what service or product you offer.  A lot of people today use a web presence to validate that your product or service is legitimate.

◦ Today the cost of having your own website can be zero to less than $75 per year. All of the following free and low cost options do not require any programming or web design skills. They all offer free templates and themes to get you started.

◦ Options –

▪ Free options – check out WordPress.com and Blogger.com.

▪ Low cost options- GoDaddy’s Website Tonight –  and Intuit Small Business.

2. Publish a Newsletter…

◦ Offer a free online/email based newsletter.  A newsletter is perfect for both online and offline businesses whether you are a restaurant, independent pet supply store, an online retailer or a coach or consultant.

◦ Newsletters give you an opportunity to share what you know, what is happening in your business and your industry and establish an ongoing relationship with your customers and clients. Use your newsletter to share articles, tips, business specials, offer coupons or tell your customer/client about upcoming events.

◦ Build your contact list, but make sure you do it the right way. Ask people to join your list; ask them for permission to contact them. You never want to be considered ‘spam’, so ask first.

▪ Collect your customer and client email addresses both online and off. If you have a home demonstration or party, pass out information cards for your visitors to complete, including their email addresses. Have a sign up sheet in your store or restaurant for people to sign up. And, always have an opt-in box, or sign-up box on your website.

◦ Options for sending out your newsletter –

▪ Free option – You can begin by using your own contact database in your email program and use a simple email letter like you would for a friend. It doesn’t have to be fancy to begin with. This is how I started. Just remember, when you use your own email program make sure you ‘BCC’ your customers to protect their email addresses and identities.

▪ Low cost option – Depending on the number of people on your list the cost for using an email marketing program can vary. Constant Contact and Aweber are two of the leaders in this area.

▪ (Note – I use Constant Contact. If you decide to try them, let me know and I will send you an invite. This will give you and me a $30 credit.)

3. Engage your customers and clients using free Social Media tools…

◦ Free Social media tools like Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin help you expand your business beyond your physical geography, meet new people, discover new resources, and stay in touch daily with your customer and clients.

◦ If you have a restaurant, coffee shop, or retail store you can share specials of the day with your friends and followers, let customers know of holiday hours, or closings due to inclement weather.

◦ There are so many ways that social media can help grow your business that it is impossible to share them all today. I will be covering this topic in much more depth in the coming weeks and months. (If you have specific questions please email me.)

4. Create your own Information Products…

◦ Regardless of your product or service, you want to create some information products for your clients/customers to purchase.  These can be self-learning guides and/or how to guides, audio CD’s of taped seminars or lectures or interviews (you and/or other experts), workbooks, e-learning courses, etc.

◦ These provide an additional revenue stream that once up and going requires limited time and effort on your part.

◦ If you are a consultant or coach these products can provide valuable information for clients or customers to get to know you better before deciding to work with you. And, some people or companies are just ‘do-it-yourselfers’ and just want the expert information you are providing.

5. Investigate Memberships and Premium Services…

◦ Exclusivity sells and attracts.  People like to belong to a select group.

◦ Memberships – This option allows you to sell to and work more closely with your best and most adoring customers and fans. Some memberships are free, while others are for a fee. Either way it is very important to provide premium benefits to your customer and clients such as discounts, sample merchandise, invitations for special member only events, member only access to information and resources and other member only products and services related to your particular business.

◦ Premium Services – This option works best for consultants and coaches. Provide a prescreening ‘application’. The ‘application lets potential clients know that due to the demands on your time and your expertise you must verify that your services and their needs are match.  This technique allows you to charge a premium/top rate for your services, improves the lead conversion rate and provides you an opportunity to work with companies or individuals that more closely fit your ideal client profile.

Celebrating Independence Every Day

Every night from May to Labor Day,  crackles, booms and pops echo across the lake as fireworks light up the summer sky above my temporary home.

Because I’ve been self-employed for over three decades,  I probably take my freedom more for granted than many of my clients and friends who are  corporate refugees, so I’m grateful for this nightly reminder to celebrate  independence.

And speaking of celebrating Independence and “bosslessness”, I want to invite you to join me for a celebration of self-employment.  My friends Sandy Dempsey and Alice Barry have gathered together a POSSE to plan the Joyfully Jobless Jamborree.  Sandy initially came up with this idea to honor our friend and mentor Barbara Winter, author of best selling “Making a Living without a Job”.  The theme of the event is “more time, more fun, more money”.  Unlike the typical “pitch-fest” events, this is all about celebration, lifelong learning and the joy of being jobless. I hope to see you there. Read more about the Joyfully Jobless Jamborree here.


What does “happily-ever-after” look like to you?

A young couple I know are planning a June wedding. There’s talk about the dresses, flowers and reception but nothing about what their lives will look like after the honeymoon.
We all know people who enjoyed the perfect fairy tale wedding. Are they all still living happily ever after years later?  Some are, but many are struggling with disappointments because their lives together don’t match their expectations. They may have been so focused on the fairy tale wedding that they forgot to plan the happily-ever-after.
No long term relationship survives without the ability to adjust to unexpected challenges. People grow and change and their relationship changes too.
Business, like marriage, has to remain flexible. The business you start now is not likely to resemble the business you have in a few years. Still, like marriage, if you don’t have a clear vision of how you want that business success to look and feel, your odds not good.
Two entrepreneurs I admire published articles this weekend that talk about envisioning what it means to succeed.
Rasheed Hooda’s question, “What does happily ever after look like?” is an important one to ask yourself at the start of any new endeavor. Read his post at Present Day Nomad.

In her weekly newsletter yesterday, Sandy Dempsey posed the question: “What does success look like?”. If you aren’t already a subscriber to Sandy’s newsletter, I invite you to join me Sunday mornings at The Dreaming Cafe..

Workshops, Conferences, Expos, Oh My

Today’s post is by guest blogger Sandy Dempsey of .thedreamingcafe.com

When I used to travel to attend trade-shows, expos and conferences related to my career no one thought anything of it. Family, friends and coworkers accepted it as the norm, part of my job.

But, now when I tell people I am traveling for a conference or workshop they look at me oddly and ask,“Why? Don’t you work for yourself now?”

Yes. That’s the point. That’s why attending learning and networking events is even more important.

Attending workshops, conferences and/or trade-shows is one of the top investments any self-employed person can make.

And, it doesn’t matter if you have one employee (yourself), five employees, fifty employees or more. It doesn’t matter if you own a brick and mortar business or work from your home.

Lifelong learning, staying on top of industry trends, learning new things, meeting people and making connections are even more important now that you work for yourself. You are 100% responsible for your welfare and the welfare and survival of your company. You really can’t afford not to invest in attending learning and networking events.

In addition, when you combine travel with attending conferences, workshops, expos, etc, you receive the added benefits of getting away from your daily routine, time spent alone, time spent with new people and new scenery.

When you work for yourself you get to choose what type of learning and networking event you want to attend and need to attend.

You can choose industry trade shows, web design conferences, creativity workshops, artist retreats, marketing seminars, EBay expos, etc. You can attend an event in your area of specialty or branch out, learn something new and meet new people.

All of these can be like a breath of fresh air. They clear the cobwebs. You begin to look at problems and obstacles in a new way. You meet new people and form new friendships. Your creativity moves into full throttle and you have tons of new ideas. And, even if you are busy from day one and tired from traveling you will often feel energized and have renewed interest and passion in your business when you return home.

I attribute my own evolution from corporate employee to self-employment to the time, money and effort I have invested over the last three years. I’ve attended events related to entrepreneurship, writing, marketing and painting. Some of these events were directly related to my business, others were to help me learn more about myself. Each one has contributed to my success, both personally and professionally.

Invest in yourself. Invest in your business. Invest in your future. Learn something new. Meet new people. Have fun.

Workshops, Conferences, Expos, Oh My. That’s what it’s all about.

If you are interested here are some upcoming events that you may find beneficial.

    Inspired Livelihood – Make a Difference, While Making a Living
    Sedona, AZ, April 16-17, 2010

    Entrepreneur Exposé – A series of motivational events that will present entrepreneurship as one solution to stimulate the economy and provide real options and information for business women
    Basking Ridge, NJ, May 1, 2010

    Un-Job Fair – A Day-long Exploration of Options and Opportunities for Successful Self-Employment
    Denver, CO, May 1, 2010

    Sandy Dempsey, writer, artist and entrepreneur publishes one of my favorite weekly newsletters and can enjoyed at http://thedreamingcafe.com

(Please note, I am NOT being paid to promote or advertise any of these events. They are events I have come across that sound interesting, fun and informative.)

How Well Do you Really Know Yourself?

I apologize for being so quiet recently and will explain in a future email. Much has been happening in my personal and business life and one tool that’s been an enormous help to me through this transition is journaling. I’ve been journaling for years but a few months ago, I took an online “Journaling for Self Discovery” workshop with my good friend Sandy Dempsey, founder of the Dreaming Café. The 4-week workshop. gave me fresh new insight into who I am and what really matters now. So, I’ve invited Sandy to write a guest post today and I want to encourage you to take advantage of the great deal she’s offering on the last workshop of 2009. Even if you’ve been journaling for years, you’ll gain valuable insight into your life purpose through this guided journaling process.
Thank you for the generous opportunity to tell your readers about The Dreaming Café’s 4-week online Journaling for Self-Discovery workshop.

I’ve been journaling for more almost thirty years. Journaling has been my constant companion. All of life’s ups downs and everything in between lives in my journals. I have stacks of them. They are wonderful documentaries of my life.

When people think of journaling a lot of times they think about recording the traumatic or painful events in their life. They turn to journaling as an outlet for their overwhelming emotions.

I’ve used journaling for this same purpose, but I’ve also discovered that journaling can be so much more than just a diary of pain; it can be a diary of joy. I discovered the power of positive journaling and journaling for self-discovery.

Journaling has been one of the main keys that have helped to me discover, and accept, who I am, what I am, what I want to be and where I want to go.

The things I have learned and the exercises I have used have been so life changing that I wanted to share them with others.

The Dreaming Cafe’s online Journaling for Self-Discovery workshop is designed to help you achieve greater personal awareness and establish a regular, positive journaling practice through accountability and feedback.

If you were doing these exercises on your own, you may or may not finish them. Knowing that you will post them each week provides accountability. Once posted, I will provide feedback and answer questions to help you dig a little deeper, or just provide a positive mirroring of your responses.

This online workshop is designed to prove a safe, non-judgmental atmosphere where you can explore who you are and what you want.

This is the last workshop for 2009 and will provide a wonderful foundation to meet your dreams head-on in 2010.

Journaling for Self-Discovery is designed to help you:

· Achieve greater personal awareness

· Establish a regular, positive journaling practice

· Identify & define your personal values and life themes

· Acknowledge the things you love and want

· Prepare to choose a dream or goal that aligns with your personal values and life themes

· Begin writing a Life Mission Statement

The next workshop begins November 22, 2009.

Since this is the last workshop of 2009 and to celebrate my Get Inspired Project interview (http://www.getinspiredproject.com/2009/11/06/day-37-sandy-dempsey/) I am taking 50% off the regular price of this workshop.. Use discount code GIP1109 when you register. Go to: http://dreamingcafe.eventbrite.com for more information and to register.

Thank you again and happy journaling!!

Warmest Regards,

Sandy Dempsey

Sandy is the founder of The Dreaming Café – A Destination Oasis on Your Creative Journey to Self Discovery.  If you aren’t already subscribing to her delicious Free newsletter, go here

Mudpies, Fingerpaint and Creative Block

A theme seems to have emerged among my entrepreneurial “peeps” recently about creativity, creative blocks and self expression.  Some of my favorite bloggers, Sandy Dempsey (thedreamingcafe.com) and Ken Robert (Mildlycreative.com)  have posted on the topic recently. This got me thinking about the art classes I’ve taught and attended over the years, the “creative” writing instruction our children are exposed to and how so much of it stifles our expressive flow. 

As a fine arts and art education major, I was immersed in theory and technique. While developing those skills was necessary in order to implement the images dancing around in my head, a focus on “getting it right” got in the way of getting the feeling down. As my work moved towards precision, it moved away from expression, became stiff and too cerebral. In other words, I spent too much studio time in my head instead of my heart. For me, the process of painting became joyless when I began judging my work on outcome. 

I realize that classic elements and theory in visual art, music, dance or writing are vital aspects of a solid education in the arts. I cringe when I read grammatical errors in literature. But how do we balance the mastery of the details with letting the creative light flow from our inner source? 

I recall a conflict with the director of the preschool where I first “taught art” in my early twenties. I used my alloted art instruction time to expose the children to elements of design, showing them how a squiggly line gives a different feel than a straight line and how muddy colors put them in a different mood than bright or pastel colors. I helped them observe how objects further away were less vibrant and smaller than those in the foreground.  Pretty complex concepts for a preschooler, yet they appeared to grasp the basics because we made it fun.  I showed them the color wheel and then let them “play” with mixing colors. Some of the exercises were eatable. Ketchup and mustard make orange. Add mayonnaise and you get peach or what we in those days so socially inappropriately referred to as “skin tone.” 

When introducing the kids to the works of different masters, I tried to make it fun and relevant for them. We had a Jackson Pollack morning when the kids squirted different colored icing all over white sheet cakes and then got to eat their “paintings.”

None of this went over well with the director who said she understood the purpose but wanted to please the parents who didn’t understand why their kids weren’t coming home with identical turkey crafts at Thanksgiving or gingerbread men at Christmas. We butted heads, I stuck to my guns and knew I needed to be self employed soon. 

Fast forward three decades and  I missed the creative process. I’d let it go, I believed, in the interest of earning a living selling other artists work. The truth was, I had stopped creating because when I tried to “do it right” it lost it’s joy for me. I enrolled in creative workshops with descriptions like “Intuitive Water Color” and “Painting from the Soul”.  The first day or so in these classes, I was able to get out of my head and connect more with my heart. the expression flowed and it was joyful. Imagines were forming on the paper, bypassing my head. I swear some of them emerged from deep in my bones, almost as if my DNA knew things I couldn’t possibly know. 

Then came the “sharing” and suddenly I was judging my art. In one workshop, the facilitator, a psychologist, had us “act out” our paintings. When I returned to the act of painting after that, the flow was blocked. I knew I’d have to dramatize what I painted and again became attached to outcome. Once I knew what came out of my hand would be analyzed, I froze. 

When my son, Todd, was young, he loved to write. His work had a fresh, open tone. Then an adult in his life began correcting his grammar and punctuation mid stream and he gradually stopped writing for pleasure. He also loved to go to the piano and just “play” as opposed to reading music. Then, lessons meant practice and correction and while he played well once he understood theory, he no longer “composed.” 

 

We’ve all known kids who after their first ballet lessons were discouraged from continuing because they lacked grace and poise.  I think about how different the experience would have been if the same child had been put in a room without mirrors and encouraged to just “feel” the music and move freely without attachment to appearance. 

 

I recognize that if someone is planning a career in the arts, it’s vital to master technique but what about all of us who were either discouraged because we weren’t “naturals” or eliminated ourselves from the creative game because we judged our outward appearance? 

Looking back over my teaching and learning experiences, I am convinced we should all spend more time finger painting, drumming on pots and pans and dancing blindfolded. 

What are your creative blocks? What puts you in the flow? When was the last time you made mud pies or painted with your toes?

Rediscover Forgotten Dreams, Rekindle your Passion, Renew an Old Relationship

Bookstores and the internet are chock full of resources to help you find your passion and  rediscover yourself. Most of us over a certain age have shelves lined with “rediscovering yourself in the second half of life” and bookmarked sites for “finding your true direction”. They’re all valuable tools and combined with live workshops and one-on -one coaching, people do often discover what makes them tick and develop a mission. But if you really want to get back in touch with forgotten dreams, the best source is an old friend, someone who knew you before you unlearned  what you already knew, before you traded in that innate wisdom for the knowledge of conformity.

I’m not talking about a sibling or life long friend you’ve kept in touch with over the years. Their image of you is who you’ve become. The most valuable source for getting back in touch with your core values is someone you shared secrets and dreams with before you you became the responsible, practical adult who put your own dreams on the back burner. If you’re fortunate enough to renew that relationship, you’ll likely uncover some precious pieces of the YOU that have been eluding you.

In the past year, thanks to the internet, several friends from my youth have contacted me. Since  I use social networking sites mainly for business relationships,  I don’t expect to see faces from long ago and definitely don’t go searching them out, so it’s a delightful surprise to hear from these long lost friends.

Because I had supportive parents and wasn’t pressured into being something I’m not, I believed I’d stayed pretty true to my core values and hadn’t really lost touch with my dreams. But decades of marriage and motherhood do change our focus and I also put everyone’s happiness and well being ahead of my own. I think it’s genetic programing. Even self actualized, liberated women can lose a piece of themselves while holding together a family. And connecting with people who knew you before career, mortgage and taxes skewed your life view, can trigger memories of buried dreams.

In recent months, I’ve had the fortune of hearing from a childhood friend, a high school buddy and a college room mate, all people I was close to but lost touch with in adulthood. These are people who knew me when listening to my heart and holding fast to my convictions was still a given. 

Two weeks ago I returned from “Follow Through Camp” with Barbara Winter, Alice Barry, Sandy Dempsey and my tribe of inspired change agents, fired up to recharge the part of my business I’m most passionate about.  As if to confirm that it’s time to focus on that dream, I found in my mailbox a Facebook  message from someone I hadn’t spoken with in over 30 years, a friend who knew me when I still thought of myself as an artist, a teacher and saw life as an enormous canvas on which I would color a better world .  The most valuable insights have been though late night emails about what mattered then. 

I’m not referring to romance here but to two people who are reminding each other of who they each were when making a living, making a life and making a difference was a given not an option. 

If you’re fortunate to have had a friend who knew you then, when your goals were to live from the inside out,  find that friend. If they don’t offer it up, ask questions. What do they remember you talking about?  Do they remember something you got so excited about that you could think of nothing else? Ask then to describe the essence of the YOU they remember. 

Short of finding your childhood diaries, this is the sharpest lens on who you were and the most direct road back to finding your true north.