How to Kickstart a Product-Based Business

This week I’m pleased to interview the two creative minds behind the Ryo adaptor (launching today on Kickstarter), Lori Liu and Kevin Lieber. Crowdfunding is a great way to road-test an idea, gauge market demand, and obtain financing for your project.

I thought it would be interesting to get the insider scoop on what it’s like to take the leap from idea to Kickstarter campaign.

Ryo adaptor

1. What are the backgrounds of your founders?

We are a team of four made up of a creator/entrepreneur, a legal adviser, an auditor, and a Youtube channel producer and host. It’s a good mix of creative talents and business acumen.

2. How did you come together for this project (since some are in New Zealand and one is in the US?)

The three of us in New Zealand are associates and we came together because we believed in Julian’s idea and also because we just wanted to go all in and take a real shot at creating something outside of our day jobs. We needed a US partner to be able to launch a US based Kickstarter project, so we pitched our idea to Kevin as he is active in the science and tech space and seemed like somebody who would be interested. Our pitch was honest and personal, and Kevin jumped onboard quite quickly. We’ve found that if you are open and honest with people, you will get the same back.

3. Any tips or advice on working together remotely with a business partner?

It really isn’t hard if everyone shares a common goal and is invested in the project. The logistics are a bit more difficult than working with local people, but we’ve found that there’s almost nothing you can’t sort out over email and Skype (of course, Julian had to fly over to the New York to shoot our video with Kevin). The only difference in working with a remote partner is that there needs to be a clear division of labour so that he can be a lot more independent in what he is doing. Back home we just tag team a lot and pick up the slack for each other whenever it becomes necessary.

4. What made you decide to use Kickstarter to get the product launched?

We are a small startup working on a very tight budget. Kickstarter is fantastic because it is basically free market validation, and it’s a great platform for newbies like us to build a following for future projects.

5. Any tips for someone considering going to Kickstarter with their project?

It’s still a bit early for us to be giving advice as we’re still testing the waters ourselves. Rather than a tip we can share the approach that we’ve taken with Kickstarter. We have invested a LOT of time and energy to create a good Kickstarter page. Everything from the video to the visual assets and the text has been created with the utmost care and attention to detail. We believe that while the idea itself is important and is obviously central to the project, it takes a good looking campaign page to give people that extra push to really want to check out what you’re doing. At this point we just really really really hope we’re right.

6. How do you go from product to business? Do you have a strategy in place for how you will scale and grow?

We have a business plan for taking the product to retail after the campaign. Of course that will depend on the success of this campaign. If we are successfully funded we will be able to do our first run of production and get the ryo adapter and kushi out to our backers. If we get a decent amount of funding we will be taking this to local retailers here in our relatively small New Zealand market. If we raise a significant amount of funding we will be well placed to take this to the larger retailers overseas. We have also looked into exit strategies for our worst case scenarios. We are all at pretty critical points in our respective careers so if we don’t hit certain targets, then this project will not be worth quitting our day jobs for. In this case we will have to look for a buyer to take over. I think if that happens the best deal we could reach would be agreeing to a majority takeover with the original founders taking reduced shareholdings as silent partners.

7. Can you share any tips from your marketing plan? Any successes so far?

I don’t think our success can be measured until we launch. As a startup we aren’t too focused on a commercially driven marketing campaign that shoves the ryo adapter down people’s throats. We really just want people to know we exist and we’ve basically tried to use every avenue available within budget. One thing we’re definitely limiting our spend on is banner and sidebar ads. It might have been good a while back, but if you think about the sheer number of startups we have today vying for ad revenue versus the slower growing target audience, it just doesn’t make financial sense. We were pretty blown away by how much these ads cost, the prices have been driven up by the fast growing number of startups and other ad sellers all chasing a limited pool of money.

8. Anything I forgot to ask about that you’d like to share?

Yeah, my credentials! I’m so new at this myself and I don’t feel qualified at all to be giving any tips. I hope my answers are of some value to your audience. You should hit me up again after the campaign and hopefully then I’ll have some gems to share!

I think that’s a great idea. Look for a followup article here, once the campaign closes!

Author’s Bio: Rosemary O’Neill is an insightful spirit who works for Social Strata — makers of the community platform. Check out the Social Strata blog. You can find Rosemary on Google+ and on Twitter as @rhogroupee

How to toot your own horn with humility

By Diana Gomez

It’s okay to take pride in giving back to your community.

Research has suggested that volunteering and donating money to charitable causes not only increases emotional well-being, but physical health as well. And when hungry people get to eat or when a family in need gets a brand new home, why not spread the good word?

dropping a heart into donation can

In today’s online reality, it’s easy to share your rewarding volunteer experiences with your Facebook friends.

However, the lines of humility here are blurry. Does posting that you’ve donated $1,000 to the Make-A-Wish Foundation come off as sweet, or just bragging? Does anyone really want to see a photo of the three new rescued greyhounds you are fostering?

Here are four questions you should ask yourself in order to maintain your humility when sharing what you’ve been up to in the community.

1. Why am I sharing?

This is a pretty good way to initially approach any social media post. Simply ask yourself: “Why am I posting this, really?”

Here are some possible answers to this question:

  • “I want to share my experience.”
  • “I want to inspire people to do the same.”
  • “I want people to know I’m a good person.”
  • “I want people to think I’m accomplished.”

Now here’s a surprise: None of these are a bad reason to write up a post.

Whether you do it purposefully or not, social media paints a picture of you as a pared down “brand” of a person. So it’s important to realize your true motives when publicizing this simplified version of you.

If you realize that your true answer is, “I want people to think I’m a good person” and that makes you feel icky-don’t rush to post. Keep that “goodness” to yourself while you think about it a little longer. If you recognize that is your motive, and you feel okay about it-because chances are, if you donate $1,000 to cancer research, you probably are a good person-then it’s okay to share! Just keep reading.

2. What should I post?

Short text, photos, walls of text, and videos are all relevant methods for sharing your charity experiences.

Take the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, for example. Over $100 million was raised through this viral video campaign-with much debate over the ice bucket dumpers’ humility. Detractors thought it was over-the-top and self-serving; the supporters thought it was just clever and self-deprecating enough to work. I think you can tell here that I’m trying to get you to be introspective again. What did you think of it?

Feel free to be creative with your post. Something that’s engaging for your readers, like a photo, can seem less like bragging than a straight-to-the-point status update.

3. How will people feel?

The language that you use for a post or photo caption is key.

“Just finished my 100th hour volunteering at the soup kitchen. It feels so good to give back!”

“Met a Vietnam veteran who once sang backup vocals for Elvis tonight. #100hours #soupkitchen”

“Feeling so blessed and humbled to have met so many amazing people. Message me if you want to come with next week!” (Location tag: Baltimore Food Pantry)

Again, no wrong answers! Can you spot the differences between these posts?

As the first puts focus on your own feelings, it is honest and relatable. The second is removed from the charitable aspect of the experience while still publicizing that you participate. The third puts the focus on the people you are
helping while gently inviting others to do the same.

Think critically about how your Internet-using friends will feel upon reading your post. Are you attempting to guilt or inspire?

Finally, It is important to remember that the only true way to help disadvantaged people is to empower and dignify them. How would the recipients of your good deeds feel if they saw your post?

4. Where should I post?

After you give to a cause online, there is usually a button to “Share” a boiler-plate post on your Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, etc. This is an easy way to maintain humility, as it’s coming from a third party. You can’t help it if someone else says something nice about you!

Otherwise, you can craft your own post. Besides social media, you could blast out a mass e-mail, a private message to just a few people, or as a blog post on your website.

5. When should I share?

The most basic rule of humble charity work is to keep the publicity to a minimum. Although you may be incredibly proud of each fundraising goal you reach, it’s good to keep these tips in mind before posting about it every single day.

Just because you do something altruistic doesn’t mean you have to keep it to yourself. Posting with care can inspire others to give back as well-and that’s the “share” that keeps on sharing.

Author’s Bio: Diana Gomez is the Marketing Coordinator at Lyoness America, where she is instrumental in the implementation of content marketing strategies for USA and Canada. Lyoness is an international shopping community and loyalty rewards program, where businesses and consumers benefit with free membership and money back with every purchase.

What is the best gift you can’t wrap?

Everything is a gift. Everything. Even the heartache and loss we may have all experienced at one time or another in our lives. What significant for me is the evolving awareness and acceptance of the nature and qualities of a gift.

As a child, Christmas was about asking. Tallying the number of presents under the tree, comparing your loot pile with the amounts your brother or sister may have. Shaking and wondering what could be inside the packages… the resigned knowledge that the gooshy one was socks and underwear.

In my house, Christmas was also all about rituals. Christmas mass at midnight, vaulting out of bed Christmas morning as soon as you could smell coffee perking, wafting through the house… My uncles dragging the electric Lionel train set from the attic and setting it up on the living room floor in front of the fireplace. We kids were forbidden from playing with it, but we were allowed to hand our uncles the smoke pellets that went into the engine.

“Love is what’s in the room with you at Christmas if you stop opening presents and listen.”~Author unknown, attributed to a 7-year-old named Bobby

I was 13 when my grandma died, and with her passing, my Christmases changed. I began to realize that the gifts weren’t the things like my Marx Big Wheel or the shiny baubles I received from Santa. They were the stories I got to hear passed down from generations, like the time my Uncle Bruce was sent to school in a tuxedo because it was laundry day, and grandma’s only other option was sending him to school in dungarees. It was the use of grandma’s best china and the silver that were brought out to herald the season. It was the gift of a musical (and quite frankly, offbeat) family that held a rousing Skit Night after the dishes were done.

“Christmas – that magic blanket that wraps itself about us, that something so intangible that it is like a fragrance. It may weave a spell of nostalgia. Christmas may be a day of feasting, or of prayer, but always it will be a day of remembrance – a day in which we think of everything we have ever loved.” ~ Augusta E. Rundel

As our lives expand, they begin to intersect with an ever-increasing network of people. Teachers, bosses, colleagues, spouses, children… Each person who comes into our lives brings gifts – lessons and love that enrich us and help us to become who we are. What’s wonderful is that if we are paying attention, we can begin to identify our own gifts and strengths.

Once identified, we can begin to hone and develop these gifts and offer them in service to others, which allows them to be magnified. We all have gifts; it’s our responsibility to discover and nurture them. In so doing, we actually multiply the gift, because through enriching ourselves in this way, others benefit.

“We hear the beating of wings over Bethlehem and a light that is not of the sun or of the stars shines in the midnight sky. Let the beauty of the story take away all narrowness, all thought of formal creeds. Let it be remembered as a story that has happened again and again, to men of many different races, that has been expressed through many religions, that has been called by many different names. Time and space and language lay no limitations upon human brotherhood.”~New York Times, 25 December 1937, quoted in Quotations for Special Occasions by Maud van Buren, 1938, published by The H.W. Wilson Company, New York

In the time since I have had the privilege of blogging for Liz Strauss, my network has expanded and I have been the beneficiary of many gifts: friendship, support, personal development and laughter. Sometimes, I get very frustrated with myself because I feel as though I have so much yet to accomplish. But when I have an opportunity such as this to look back over the previous twelve months and see the flux and ripples of my great good fortune, I am overcome with gratitude for the intangibles I have received.

The advent of social media has made possible an international, global community that gives a new dimension to the concept of brotherhood. Our earth is becoming increasingly smaller, and our common humanity is ever more evident. I wish to personally thank you for joining me on this journey and I hope I can convey how much I appreciate your presence in my life.

May every blessing be yours, today and always.




Molly Cantrell-Kraig is a woman with drive. Possessing an innate sense of purpose and a pragmatic, solution-based approach to empowering people, she fused these two traits in order to establish Women With Drive Foundation. Based upon its founder’s personal history, Women With Drive Foundation is a means through which Cantrell-Kraig may effect change on both a micro and macro level. By providing women with something as essential as personal transportation in order to transition them from poverty to prosperity, she, through Women With Drive Foundation, seeks to empower women to help them help themselves. Through this action, the individual applicant benefits, as does society as a whole. Follow Molly on twitter as@mckra1g or @WWDr1ve (Women With Drive Foundation) or “Like” them on facebook.


Why your online voice matters

The topic of authenticity, self-discovery and representation of our True Selves comes up frequently in any conversation about social media, whether it be among those who work within the space, or when talking with people who have an inherent distrust of the digital landscape.

For those who operate within the space, being able to determine the shill from the professional is a point of not only personal preference but also professional effectiveness. On the other hand, when talking with people who still think that everyone behind a keyboard is a hermaphrodite with ill intent (“You don’t know WHO is on the other side of that keyboard, Ethel!”) authenticity comes down to fear of the unfamiliar.

That said, while some use the perceived anonymity of the web to pose as flame-baiting trolls bent on stirring the pot while hiding behind their keyboard, others have found that the experience of being online has distilled their essence and magnified their true voice.

I can’t speak for anyone else in this regard, but for me, it’s the latter. I’ve been online in earnest since about 1999, when social media was then known as message boards. Comprised of opt-in enclaves of people who gathered around cyber-watering holes to chat about communal interests, be they entertainment, politics or hobbies, these boards opened up a world to me otherwise unknown. Distance was academic: an abstract concept.

Minds connected us. Theories and interests formed the foundation of Community.

I have since met many of these folks in real life, at conferences, vacationing or catching a Cubs game together on occasion. But the elemental infrastructure of our relationships was forged online. Through these online conversations, I was forced to truly distill, discern and share how I really felt about something. 

Any post I made had to travel from synaptic haze into my frontal cortex, sift around there for a bit before traveling through my fingers. And then I had to choose to push the return key, thus, in my mind, crystallizing (and owning) my opinion.

For what it’s worth, my online voice is probably a titch more formal than my RL voice. That’s due to decades of a grammarian grandmother who had me diagramming sentences from an early age. However, that said, I’d wager that I operate as a WYSIWYG computing platform: what you see is what you get.

We have opportunities every day to aspire to our higher selves when we communicate, online and otherwise.

Through mindful application of identification and articulation, we can communicate instantaneously via the internet with almost anyone in the world about any subject. Social media, in particular, is The Great Leveler in my opinion. A tweet I sent out the other day asserted that, at some point, it is my hope that through tools like social media, we’ll all realize our common humanity and understand that what affects one, affects all.

What does this have to do with “independent ideas?”

William Shakespeare wrote, “…to thine own self be true.” In order to be apart from others, one must identify that which makes one unique. Building upon our individuality means identifying our authenticity. Self-awareness is empowering. Do people get a sense of who you are through what you post or tweet? If I met you at a conference, would I meet the person or the persona? Are you that Someone Behind the Curtain, or is there a genuine quality that aligns with who you are online?

Being fake is not only annoying; it renders you invisible and irrelevant. When our online presence mirrors our offline reality, our effectiveness is magnified. People trust those who are authentic. What say you?


Molly Cantrell-Kraig is a woman with drive. Possessing an innate sense of purpose and a pragmatic, solution-based approach to empowering people, she fused these two traits in order to establish Women With Drive Foundation. Based upon its founder’s personal history, Women With Drive Foundation is a means through which Cantrell-Kraig may effect change on both a micro and macro level. By providing women with something as essential as personal transportation in order to transition them from poverty to prosperity, she, through Women With Drive Foundation, seeks to empower women to help them help themselves. Through this action, the individual applicant benefits, as does society as a whole. Follow Molly on twitter as @mckra1g or @WWDr1ve (Women With Drive Foundation) or “Like” them on facebook.

Best practices for building an integrated business community

What is an online community?

Online community is an organized group of people connecting and sharing online on a regular basis. It’s generally accepted that members of an online community have the ability to communicate with each other as well as with the operator of the community. Most communities also have their own set of guidelines or rules, visual signals, and peer support.

A true online community builds equity over time, and can be classified as “owned media.”

welcome mat

What is not an online community?

Broadcast-only or broadcast-centric platforms, such as an emailed newsletter list, Twitter accounts, or company Facebook pages do not constitute communities. Those tools, while worthwhile, do not make good standalone community platforms because they do not allow full expression of interpersonal relationships, and their content tends to be transitory. Participants in those platforms are more audience than community member, even when they are given the opportunity to comment…it’s generally in response to a trigger from the operator, not a topic of their choosing.

When a business decides to invest in managing an online community, ideally it will take advantage of the tools that suit the business purpose best. But there must always be a home-base, or core, to which the other social accounts contribute. This home-base should be part of the business’ own website, where it can control the branding, messaging, features, customer data, and analytics.

Social tools like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube are great for reaching the audience, but then there must be a place for members to return again and again for deep-dive content and lasting relationships.

A very high percentage of users abandon Facebook fan pages after a campaign is over; however members stick around brand-owned communities for years, building equity and value that endures. In addition, and most importantly, you have no ownership of the community data or content on these third-party networks.

“Facebook is more effective at driving brand sales via a brand’s website than on Facebook itself.” The Evolution of Facebook Brand Fans, AdAge White paper, Sept. 2011

Best Practices for Building a Thriving Business Community

Destroy the internal silos

Prepare all departments to participate: marketing, PR, customer service, sales, product development, and management (for example, if PR is planning a big social stunt, be sure to bring the YouTube viewers back into the home base for discussion and long-term mileage from the event).

Find a champion

Dedicate one overall administrator with authority to take corrective action. Even with the silos gone, someone needs to manage the community, from a strategic, technological, and staffing perspective. If the lights are on and no-one’s home, the community will not succeed. Ideally, the department whose budget is paying for the community platform is the same department responsible for administering it.

Remember the prime objective

Tie business objectives to the community, and for each objective, come up with metric for success. For example, if the primary objective of the community is to offer tech support to customers, it would be logical to evaluate the number of call center tickets/phone calls to determine whether the community is lowering that number. If the primary objective of the community is something more nebulous like “brand awareness,” then you could choose some indicator metrics like number of brand mentions, site traffic numbers, or reputation indicators.

Choose your platform(s) with the goal in mind

If you are using a flexible online community platform, you will be able to select which specific tools, singly or in combination, will support the goal. It could be a commented blog, it could be forums with the occasional chat event, or it could be some combination of tools. Consider how your audience prefers to interact and choose accordingly. If you are starting a community from scratch, sometimes it’s best to start with commented blogs and add forums once there is a core of active participants.

Along with the home base, determine which external social tools will be integrated. If your audience hangs out on Facebook, choose a platform with Facebook Connect and content sharing. If they are Twitter maniacs, incorporate a Twitter feed widget into the home base. Plan a two-way communication–encourage sharing content outwards, and promote the home base on the external social networks as well.

Don’t have a split personality

Think about convenience for your members, and they will love you for it. Use a single sign-on if possible, across your community tools. The same cohesive feel applies to the branding across platforms; use the same colors and theming on your home community and in external profiles.

Integrate social monitoring and measuring

Be sure to include your home base within your social monitoring dashboard. Whether you’re using an enterprise listening system, Google Alerts, or another tool, make sure that you are monitoring all of your key indicators across your social networks, including the community on your own website.

To summarize, your social presence should be an elegantly integrated, comprehensive ecosystem that encourages brand evangelists to re-visit again and again, and share messaging outward as well.

By bringing the conversation home, you solidify the relationship and provide lasting value to both the customer and the brand.

Author’s Bio: Rosemary O’Neill is an insightful spirit who works for social strata — a top ten company to work for on the Internet . Check out the Social Strata blog. You can find Rosemary on Google+ and on Twitter as @rhogroupee

Photo Credit: chrisinplymouth via Compfight cc

Small actions, taken consistently, can move mountains

When Rosa Parks decided she wasn’t going to give up her bus seat, she may not have had in mind kicking off a movement that would change life in America.

Herman Melville, writing the sentence “Call me Ishmael,” probably didn’t sit down to write “the novel of the century.”

Mother Teresa simply decided to care for one person at a time. She had no thought of becoming beatified by the Catholic Church.

We all have to find our own first small action.

One organization that is truly living this credo is Milaap. It’s a crowdlending platform that has raised more than $1.5 million, with a 98.48% repayment rate. They are celebrating their fourth anniversary with a 24-hour online conversation about sustainable giving.

Members of the site choose a project/borrower to support, and how much they wish to lend, and Milaap gives 100% of your loan funds to the borrower.

You then receive updates on the project via email, and get repaid. The funds can be reinvested in another micro-loan if you wish.

The concept is so simple. With each small loan, lives are changed. With each changed life comes promise and possibility for everyone touched by that life.

Reading through the available campaigns to support, you see families who can use a $100 loan to buy chickens to expand their chicken coops, to help abused women start their own businesses, or bring potable water to underserved areas. Each of these project groups are taking a single small action to improve their lives. The ripple effects over time will be enormous.

Maybe today you’re reading this post with a mountain sitting in front of you.

Is it a physical disability?
A financial hardship?
Do you have an enormous challenge at work?
A burning idea for a new business?

Whatever the mountain is, you can find a first step. Even if you’re moving it with teaspoons, you can make progress right now in this moment.

Maybe you can be inspired by Milaap and gather supporters to help you carry teaspoons.

Molly’s lovely post from this past Monday reminded us that we can’t do it alone. That’s even more true when the mountain looms large.

If you’d like to learn more about Milaap and the work they’re doing, visit their site at

If you’d like to get help and support from your fellow teaspoon carriers, let us know in the comments. Let’s take the first action together.

Milaap infographic
Author’s Bio: Rosemary O’Neill is an insightful spirit who works for social strata — a top ten company to work for on the Internet . Check out the Social Strata blog. You can find Rosemary on Google+ and on Twitter as @rhogroupee

Why you can’t do it alone

Over the past few years that I have been writing for Liz on this platform, I seldom make direct reference to the nonprofit I established. It seems a bit self-indulgent, even though many of the topics I write about in “Independent Ideas” come directly from struggles I face as an entrepreneur in the nonprofit space. The nonprofit world itself is evolving into a hybrid model, with social entrepreneurism (#socent), social capitalism (#socap) and triple bottom line models (#tbl or #3bl) all attempting to reinvent the way people invest in each other.

Because, really, that’s where real wealth is found: in each other. Each of us are resources: vast, untapped mines of creativity, talent, love and expression just waiting to be recognized and channeled.

But I would have NEVER, ever have reached this platform without the influence of a wonderful community at SOBCon, founded in part by Liz Strauss. I actually chose Chicago as my current city in part because of meeting the amazing community through that conference. SOBCon begat a vibrant community of impassioned, focused and brilliant people, all of whom care about the world around them.

They each have a different platform of business that reflects their perspective, but each has played a part in the success of Women With Drive Foundation.

Their input, support, expertise and leverage has helped us as an organization award cars to people like D, a woman who was homeless in May 2011. When we, as a nonprofit, invested in her, she transformed. One of the testimonials we received from one of her caseworkers read:

D. was in my office last week, and spoke about what a difference the car has made in her life. She was a different person than the shy, defeatist, underachiever I met a year ago. I knew getting a car would have a big impact on her ability to thrive financially, but I didn’t expect the difference I saw in her spirit. Way to go! “

Sometimes, we need to believe in other people before they believe in themselves.

This certainly was the case with me. I have become the person I am today, yes, because the raw material exists within me ~ sure. However, we oftentimes don’t recognize our own capacity or abilities without the loving mirrors provided by others. The heavy lifting remains the responsibility of the individual, but no one, not a single one of us, ever succeeds on his or her own power on his or her own.

Terry St. Marie and Liz Strauss created a means for people to gather in a safe space to become their best selves ~ to define for themselves what it is they wish to become and provide the environment to facilitate that happening through SOBCon.

SOBCon has evolved into a new phase, which will take place later this month at “A Gathering With Liz Strauss.” The number of attendees will be purposefully limited, but all will reinvent the next iteration of what collaboration in motion resembles.

It’s difficult to describe what will happen at this gathering of big brains and hearts, and not because the attendees are given a secret decoder ring and handshake upon registration. It is an inclusive gathering of people and professionals. That said, it’s difficult to quantify, because alchemy is always difficult to identify. I have no idea what magic will happen when I meet up with these folks, but I can promise you that my life (and the lives of the women we serve) will be forever changed as a result.

That’s some powerful stuff. I am a blessed person and I look forward to doing my part to continue building a movement that includes many more people. It would be great if you could join us.


Molly Cantrell-Kraig is a woman with drive. Possessing an innate sense of purpose and a pragmatic, solution-based approach to empowering people, she fused these two traits in order to establish Women With Drive Foundation. Based upon its founder’s personal history, Women With Drive Foundation is a means through which Cantrell-Kraig may effect change on both a micro and macro level. By providing women with something as essential as personal transportation in order to transition them from poverty to prosperity, she, through Women With Drive Foundation, seeks to empower women to help them help themselves. Through this action, the individual applicant benefits, as does society as a whole. Follow Molly on twitter as @mckra1g or @WWDr1ve (Women With Drive Foundation).

June 2014 Gathering in Chicago with Liz Strauss

Dear Friends & Community,

Thank you for your interest in being part of the gathering in Chicago that is being held June 27 -29, 2014 with Liz Strauss.  Paul O’Mahony, Eric T. Strauss and I have been working behind the scenes to develop a weekend that will be full of amazing connections, wonderful learnings and inspiring personal & business opportunities!

We have been collaborating closely with Liz Strauss to plan what’s next.  We have also received feedback from many folks about what they want to happen when we all meet in Chicago in June. People have told us how much they truly value working together; both as a large group and through smaller group interactions as well.  They appreciate being able to share the challenges and opportunities that are before their businesses. They love being part of a community that has common values & strong bonds.

We are very excited about what’s coming together!

What You Need To Know

1. Dates, Times & Venues

The gathering will be held on June 27 & 28, 2014  from 8:30 AM – 4:30 PM at the Inspire Business Center (in the West Loop)  which is located at 1016 W Jackson Blvd Chicago. On June 29, 2014 – 9:00 AM – 11:30 AM we will meet at Next Door (Lincoln Park neighborhood) which is located at 659 W Diversey Pkwy, Chicago.

2. Working Agenda for the Event

We have been working closely with Liz Strauss to develop an agenda for the event.  Here is an overview of how things are shaping up. Note – this is still a “working agenda”; so things will continue to be updated as we get closer to the event.

On June 27 & 28, 2014 the days will consist of facilitated discussions, small group interactions and moments of insight with the room on a range of topics.  Each topic will be explored in three ways:

  • Facilitated discussion of the topic

  • Interactive quest (a 2-person, 3-person or small group interaction) in which we work together to identify best path and best practices for each of us.

  • Moments of insight shared with the room.

We will also be incorporating some Hot Seat opportunities into each of the days.

Day One – June 27, 2014

8:30 AM – 4:30 PM

Location: Inspire Business Center

Finding Your Genius

Opens with a whole room conversation about goals for the gathering.

Topic 1 – How to tap into the genius that is your key contribution.

Topic 2 – How to identify the genius you need on your team.

Topic 3 – How to claim, convince, and deeply connect with your ideal community.

Ends with small group discussion to list the connections and information we each need to achieve our goals.

Evening Plans – TBA

Day Two – June 28, 2014

8:30 AM – 4:30 PM

Location: Inspire Business Center

Putting Day 1 to Work

Opens with whole room discussion to aggregate the lists of connections and information we need.

​Topic 4 – Multiple how-to sessions pulled from the group list of needs.

Topic 5 – How to share content to attract ideal customers.

Topic 6 – How to get the right people sharing what you do.

Evening Plans  – TBA

Day Three – June 29, 2013

9:00 AM – 11:30 AM

Location: Next Door

Several Possibilities

We are currently exploring a number of options for the morning of Day Three.  We have several possibilities available to us and are in the process of developing them out.  Whatever we finalize, we know it will be truly worthwhile – so we hope you will plan to join us. If you have thoughts about Day Three please feel free to reach out to me via email or direct message.

Lunch Plans – TBA

Important Note:  We are still sorting out the logistics related to food/meals for this event.  Unless we otherwise advise you will be responsible for all costs related to coffee/meals etc.  We are exploring options related to this and are hoping to secure some local sponsors.

3. How To Register

There are a limited number of spaces available for this event due to the size of the venues we have secured.  As such, we request that you complete the registration process as quickly as possible.

  • Step One: Follow this Paypal link to make a payment of $275.00 to confirm your registration for this event. (Please note: Any funds that you paid for participation in the previous June event have been fully refunded several weeks ago.)
  • Step Two: Complete the Registration Form so that we have your personal information on file for our registration records.

4. Hotel Accommodations

 We have not secured a block of hotel rooms for this event so you are responsible to make and pay for your own hotel accommodation if this is necessary.  One of the closest hotels to the event venue is the Crowne Plaza Metro. Out of town attendees may wish to register at this hotel.  It’s about a 15 minute walk from the Inspire Business Center.

 5. How You Can Help

We expect that we will need some help with a few specific tasks prior to June as well as during the event.  If you are interested in assisting with any of this please Jane Boyd. We will reach out to the community as tasks are identified.

Thank you for your ongoing interest and support related to this gathering with Liz Strauss.  We can’t wait to see you in June!


Social Media Has the Power to Change Lives

By Robert Derington

There are many people who need help, and many who set about helping them. In this day and age, social media goes a long way to getting the word out. As a resource it can reach huge numbers of people all across the world, and greatly increase the success of any fund raising that needs to be done. With sites such as Facebook and Twitter, where millions of people can be reached, the potential for achieving goals is raised dramatically.

Social Media has a powerful ability to inform people of worthy causes, based simply on the fact so many people use it. But getting the word out can still be difficult. It takes commitment to see a cause through from first posting to its goal. Constant updates to remind people, sharing and reposting the information all helps keep it in the public awareness. It’s not enough to just state your target, you must keep the impetus going to achieve what you want.

But the power of social media to change lives is not just theoretical. We are currently involved in helping restore a real person’s life. On December 12th, Cireena endured a tragic event. Her apartment caught fire and was burnt out. She lost everything in the fire. It wasn’t just her possessions that were destroyed, but also those things precious to her that she had inherited from her parents. Photos and other items that are literally irreplaceable are gone, as has anything she had hoped to one day pass down to her children.

Cireena escaped the fire with only the clothes she was wearing. In the immediate aftermath, friends and relatives have rallied around her, collecting what they can for her most immediate needs. However, Cireena has been made homeless by the fire, and finds herself living in a homeless shelter for the immediate future.

At this time of great emotional upheaval, the best Cireena can do is think positive. She is grateful she wasn’t harmed in the fire, and still has her health. However, this is not going to help her get her life back on track. Even the strongest people need a little help sometimes, and it was this desire to assist her that resulted in us deciding to use Social Media to highlight her cause.

Social media is the surest way we could think of to not only raise funds but also raise awareness. Even though there are support agencies that can help, these can take time, and will not provide everything that is needed. Getting the word out via Facebook and Twitter, as well as through any other form of mass communication, increases the chance of success in the fundraising arena, as it draws attention to these issues, and people to the website.

It can be hard knowing which issue is worthy of your donation. That must be a personal choice. But if you have a few spare dollars, I urge you to look through your favourite social media sites. You are sure to find a cause that inspires you to click the “donate” button.

As you do your search, please keep an eye out for “Cireena’s House Fire Fund”, and consider a donation. Anything you give will go a long way to helping someone keep smiling.

Author’s Bio: Robert Derington is the Manager of Mosaic Magazine, the Writer’s Magazine online.

Blogging Conference Guide for 2014

By Jessy Troy

Bloggers unite! The year 2014 is going to be a huge one for conferences where we can all get together, learn about current trends, improve marketing results, boost content and make plenty of valuable friends along the way.

Some of the events going on are truly exciting, as they are some of the biggest series around. If you are planning on attending any conferences within the next twelve months, here are some you should really consider.

1. SOBCon Chicago 2014

SOBCon Chicago 2014

SOBCon comes back stronger in 2014! Please read the official updates here. Even though the event in Portland was canceled, we will all be looking forward to Chicago SOBCon this year!

To be updated on the details, speakers and official venue, please subscribe to the newsletter!

2. Content Marketing World

Content Marketing World

Content Marketing Institute is one of the most popular marketing sites on the web. Their annual conference is huge, and a huge boost for any career to be seen speaking there. The speaker proposal deadline has passed, but it’s still a great place to network!

Where and When: Cleveland, Ohio. The Conference is September 8-11th, 2014.

3. BlogHer


For the women bloggers out there, you can attend a conference aimed directly at you and the special considerations to females in the blogosphere. Founded in 2005 by Elisa Camahort Page, Jory Des Jardins and Lisa Stone, BlogHer is a great site for educating, spreading awareness and assisting women online in their content and marketing.

Their annual event is always very informative and a lot of fun. Sign up early, because these tickets sell very fast. Also check out Pathfinder, the pre-conference set of workshops only open to a few hundred attendees on a first come, first serve basis. Tickets are on sale now.

Where and When: Thursday, July 24, 2014 at 8:00 AM – Saturday, July 26, 2014 at 11:00 PM (PDT) in
San Jose, CA

4. Now What?

Now What?

Still rather new on the conference circuit, Now What is still managing to attract a lot of attention from industry leaders and members of the public alike. Focused on web content, management and marketing, it is a great opportunity to keep up with the latest trends in the market. All while having plenty of chances to network with others and meet with representatives from dozens of well known brands in the expo hall. They are currently accepting submissions for speakers and workshops.

Where and When: Sioux Falls, South Dakota – Washington Pavilion in
April 23-24, 2014. The official venue hasn’t been announced yet.

5. Lifestyle Bloggers Conference

Lifestyle Bloggers Conference

For the fourth year in a row, Lifestyle Bloggers Conference is coming to Los Angeles. Aimed at female and Latina bloggers in particular, it is a great chance to learn about how social media is changing the face of blogs through greater community interaction.

There will be three keynotes, two sponsored lunches, a tour behind the scenes of LA Mart, and various panels and workshops. Unlike many other conferences, this one tries to cover all topics relevant to bloggers, from copyright law to SEO. If you want a well rounded conference targeted at women, you will love this event.

Where and When: March 27-29. 2014 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM (PDT), Los Angeles, CA. Be sure to book a hotel closer to the venue which is Cooper Design Place this time. One of the sites that has a convenient search and a huge database is LosAngelesHotels.

6. Design Bloggers Conference

Design Bloggers Conference

A great place to meet other designers, Design Bloggers Conference has the distinction of being just as much about inspiring creativity as it does learning about an industry. This time they will have two keynotes at the two day event: Jeffrey Alan Marks and Candice Olson. There will also be a fantastic expo there you won’t want to miss, held by the dozens of sponsors who will be showing off the latest in interior design products and ideas.

Where and When: This year the conference will be held at the Grand Hyatt Hotel, 3300 Peachtree Road NE, Atlanta, Georgia, March 2-4.

Why Should I Attend A Blogger Conference?

This is a common question, and an understandable one. When your work is primarily done online, and social media becomes the backbone of that work, it is easy to forget how important one on one interaction can be. Sure, you can learn a lot of what is offered online during webinars or posted presentations. But you lose the human element.

Meeting up face to face with other bloggers is a great way to forge lasting working relationships. Not to mention it is a fun and exciting way to spark innovation, collaborate on project ideas, and just get away from the computer for a couple of days.

It also lets you interact more directly with experts and industry leaders in a way that leaves a lasting impression. You know you are more likely to remember someone you speak with over drinks than someone you tweet back and forth to.


When you work online it can be easy to forget to leave the web behind and really speak to others. These conferences are a great reminder that will have some serious benefits along the way.

Jessy Troy is the self-made marketer blogging at Viral Mom, the established blog for WAHMs. You can follow Jessy on Twitter as @jessytroy.