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May 4-8 2015 is National Small Business Week.
I’m going to mark this occasion by posting some business tips (for small businesses) and articles each day geared toward small businesses.
The “Mom and Pop” meme. We’ve all seen it, that ubiquitous meme that surfaces every now and again that talks about how if you’re doing business with a small, locally-owned business, you’re helping someone get gymnastics lessons or helping a family pay a mortgage. While this is sort of sappy and sentimental, it’s also quite true. We need small businesses, and we need large businesses. (I really don’t want my neighbors to start designing and building and selling cars – we have neither the equipment or the know-how in my small neighborhood.)
But at this point in time I want to make one thing very clear. There may be some small business owners that are buying soccer gear or donating money to local charities – however, if you’re doing business with Mary Wu, Virtual Assistant for the next 4 years, you might as well just write out checks directly to The University of California at Berkeley. — GO BEARS
- The Mom and Pop Business meme must die. (laramyk.com)
Starting a Virtual Assistant business was, for me, a rather pleasant accident. I was taking courses at the local community college to update my skills while I was thinking about re-entering the job market. There was a course under Office Technologies titled Virtual Assistant, and since it was an online course I knew I could work the course work around my schedule. Fast forward 16 weeks and I had done a basic business and marketing plan for my course. Once I decided that would be my next course of action, it was easy to move forward.
As I did last year at this time, I’m celebrating National Small Business Week by doing a 5 part series of small business owners that I have had the pleasure of working with.
Today we’ll meet Michelle Smith at Z & B Consulting.
Michelle is known as an “idea person” who works to help companies create awareness, strengthen relationships and ensure success. She is the creator of the “Marketing Morsels”, “Magnify Your Marketing,” and “Maximize Your Marketing”, a 3-pronged strategic approach to business success. She also publishes a newsletter, which you can subscribe to on the landing page of her website.
That’s what she does for a living. But what she really does is create connections. Michelle is a walking business directory of local small business in the western and southern suburbs of Chicago. She’s great at getting to know people, and she absolutely walks her talk.
I will often tell potential clients that if they have a project that I can’t help them with, I am usually able to find someone who can. As a person that has many connections (and makes a point of getting to know all the local virtual assistants and some not so local VAs), I can make that statement with almost complete confidence. As a friend and colleague of Michelle Smith, I can absolutely make that statement with complete confidence. We make a pretty strong team, and typically we can find someone that can solve most any small business problem.
How do these three things relate?
- A 5-part blog series on small business owners
They really do relate and I’ll get to that in a minute.
Recently a graphic designer I know wrote a blog post about logo design and how you shouldn’t be afraid to make it personal. (You can read it here).
Before I started my business, I took a virtual assistant course at the local community college. One of the topics covered in the course was logo design, and as part of the assignment I came up with the butterfly idea.
Six months later, when I met with my graphic designer, I realized that I was really tied to my butterfly. They represent (to me) freedom and growth and “becoming” what you truly are. This is what I want not only for me and my business, but for my clients and their businesses.
Someone once pointed out that there may be people that think that the logo is less than “professional” looking (and sometimes it’s a good thing to point out pros and cons of any business decision when someone is consulting you), but I knew that this had become such an integral part of my vision for my business that if someone was bothered by it, they probably wouldn’t really want to work with me. And that’s okay (I’m always meeting new Virtual Assistants and if someone wants someone else to work with I can arrange introductions).
This brings us to the two introductions I want to do for my series on small business owners.
Beth Tomas is a graphic designer and the person that posted the blog post that got my mind going in this direction. Beth’s tagline (I love Beth’s tagline) is “I turn your dreams into pretty pictures.” She will sit and she will listen to you and try to get to know you and create a logo (or web images or brochure or flyer or …) that best represents you and your business.
Melissa Noto is another graphic designer. I’ve seen some of the cards and flyers she’s created for other business owners I know and she does a fabulous job at representing you and your business.
Yes, I’m promoting two different people in the same field, and yes neither of them is Suzanne Wills, who I wrote about last year. I have seen work from both of these women and they both do a fabulous job.
The important thing when working with any service provider is to find someone that you are comfortable working with and who can best relate to you and tell your story, because when it comes to telling your story through your brand. You want to person that can best understand your story.
(You may now ask “Okay Mary, what on EARTH does any of this have to do with Popeye?”)
One thing Popeye always says is, “I am what I am and it’s all that I am” (except he says “yam” sometimes.) Be who you authentically are and you will soar like one of my butterflies.
- 6 Tips for Expanding Your Personal Brand on LinkedIn. Susan Gilbert (entrepreneur.com)
- Make Your Brand Pop By Telling Your Story. Matthew Toren (entrepreneur.com)
- 3 Lessons From the ‘Breaking Bad’ School of Branding. Geoffrey James (inc.com)
Today, we meet Wanda Schlafly at MiFun.
Recently I was taking one of those ubiquitous quizzes that one finds on Facebook. I’m sure you’re familiar with them. They propose to answer questions like, “Which TV mom are you?” when in reality they exist to mine data. One thing I’ve noticed from questions in some quizzes and results of some polls that are taken is that most of the data mining is trying to reach millennials. On the one hand it could make one surmise that once you reach a certain age, nobody cares what you have to say.
This is not true. And not only does Wanda Schlafly care what people have to say, she also cares to document it for posterity.
Wanda Schlafly is the owner of MiFun. Part of what she does is to teach seniors (or anyone) how to get the most use out of their iPads: how to connect using Face Time or Skype, how to share photos, how to connect with your children and grandchildren, and how to play gtames.
But the other part of what Wanda does is to help people make audio or video recordings of their life story. This is something to think about especially around Mother’s Day (or Father’s Day) when we realize that even if the data miners might not be interested in what certain groups of people have to say, it’s never too soon to get the family stories on tape, so that your children (and your children’s children) can connect with your parents (and your parent’s parents). No matter how independent we think we are, there are deep connections that run through a family.
*Okay, originally I was going to talk about how Wanda can, and does, help business people do videos that can promote your business on LinkedIn or YouTube. But let’s face it, we all can get a bit sentimental around Mother’s Day.
**On the other hand, you could surmise that if nobody cares what you have to say, you could say whatever you dang well please. This is why we love Betty White so much.