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Time to Stop being so Nice.

Fine. Go. CookieText

Here we are! October 3rd marks 8 years of delivering CookieTexts. I tend to sit here at the keyboard around this time of year to reflect on the past 12 months.

I still love my job.

A highlight of the year was working at a Career Fair at John Tyler Elementary  in Hampton in the Spring. I met the cutest little boy.

He asked me: “What do you like most about your job?”

I said: “Everyday, I get to help people be nice to other people.”

That’s my job in its most basic form, and I love it, but everything isn’t always so simple and every year of CookieText comes with some personal growth, too.

This year I’m learning that I need to focus all that connecting at work and to stop helping people be nice to other people in my personal life. I know, it sounds harsh, but hear me out…

For example: I typically might text my son’s Uncle to say something like, “Andrew is going to be a 4-H counselor!” in hopes that the Uncle would congratulate Andrew and make a big deal of it. Uncle would be in the loop, Andrew would be happy to be congratulated. It sounds nice right?

My child is 15 years old. If he’s going to have a relationship with his Uncle, one or the other of them needs to take the lead on that.

I think I lost a bit of myself in fostering relationships and connecting others.  I tried to be the bridge between too many people and in doing so my role in all these people’s lives was murky. I’ve had to resort back to asking myself, “what is my intention?” when I’m intervening.

Most of the time when I asked myself that, my intention was to strengthen a connection or relationship between two people fully capable of sharing that information between themselves if they chose to. By doing that kind of stuff all the time I was trying to manufacture other’s relationships for them, and maybe worse, giving people a false idea of who the other person was.

I mean if my son wishes you a happy birthday every year, you’ll think “Wow! what a thoughtful guy”…but if he does it simply because he’s told to do so by me every time, is he really that thoughtful?

And where do I stand in all these relationships I was trying to bridge? I was connecting two others, but how strong is my personal connection to each person? Do I value them? Do they value me? And if they do value me, is it genuine or simply because I’m doing their legwork?

I know, it’s a lot to think about for a cookie blog. But that’s one of my big takeaways for the year:

It’s time to keep my aiding and abetting of niceness at CookieText Headquarters.

I get to help people be nice to other people every day, and I get to do it on a deliciously personalized cookie cake…I can bake it and personalize it, I can even sprinkle and box it, but it’s not my role to place the order or to know who should say what to whom: that’s entirely up to the parties involved.

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10 Rules for Asking a Small Business to Support Your Cause

CookieText Keller quote

Nobody wants to talk about this. I don’t want to talk about this, but as Glennon Doyle says, “We can do hard things.”

Before we discuss the do’s and don’ts of asking a small business to support your cause, let’s establish givens:

A. I love my community.

B. I am a giver by nature, so it’s tough to say no.

I think it’s pretty safe to say many small business owners are similar to me in those traits.

I run a small local business and we have seen some success. As with many businesses, there is bit of disconnect with regard to how great the public thinks we are doing versus how great my book keeper thinks we are doing;)

We participate in many events that support our community and important causes. Many of these we began supporting the year we started business. They are “grand-fathered in” so to speak.  If all we did was continue with these causes, I believe we’d be doing our fair share.

That said, events keep coming, people are always raising money for their team or their cause, and that is a beautiful thing. Because of this, we are asked multiple times each week to support various meaningful causes. It is difficult for me, who is inherently a giver, to say no. It’s also silly to say yes, as my book keeper and I see the bottom line and need to accept that this is a business, not a non-profit.

With that conundrum in mind, I think some rules for asking a small business to support a cause are in order, so if I were the rule-maker, here’s what I’d propose:

  • Don’t get offended by a no.

It’s not personal and it’s certainly not that we don’t think you have a worthy cause. We simply cannot support every cause or person.

  • If there is a form to fill out to request something, please use it.

Sometimes there are decisions to be made between selecting one thing over the other to support, it’s easier on the ones making the choices to have the same information from each organization, and a provided form makes that possible.

  • Ask nicely, without expectation.

A note attached to the form or a text message or email that says, “I’ve submitted a request online for some help for something, just want to give you the heads up. We love your business and thanks for considering.”

  • Be a client or customer.

If you have never bought our goods or used our services, please do not ask us to donate to your cause.

  • Tell us what’s in it for us.

I know that seems shallow, but we are a business, hopefully there is some way our support will translate into a bit of marketing for our company, and if there’s nothing in it for us, be real about it.

  • Don’t be offended by a lack of response to a request.

Our business is small, yet I could hire someone with the sole job of charitable giving coordinator and they could work 20 hours a week. Small business owners typically are juggling many roles in their companies, if they don’t respond please realize it’s a time thing, not a lack of care or concern for you or your cause.

  • Make it easy for us to give.

Offer to pick up, accept something via email, etc. Don’t make us have to do additional work to support your cause.

  • Share about your event socially, and tag us or take a photo with our product or donation.

Social media is everyone’s go-to. It keeps our business top of mind. We benefit from every positive post about our business.

  • Let us know how it went.

Keep us involved. Let us know afterwards how your event went, how much money you raised, the reaction of the person who got our prize, etc. Otherwise it feels like we’ve thrown something into an abyss.

  • Say Thank you.

Last, but maybe most important, please say thanks. Send an email, write out a card, mail a photo of the event with a note scribbled on the back. I have some plaques on my wall, and as nice as they are, they are NOT necessary, an email is perfect. A hand-written card is gold.  Nothing makes me less inspired to support a person’s event than zero recollection of our support being appreciated.

Okay, that’s my list, but I bet my fellow business owners have other things that are important to them when it comes to charitable giving. I invite them to chime in. Meanwhile, next time you ask a small business for help with a cause you are supporting, please consider the things I’ve mentioned, and assume the best: we want to help everyone, we simply can’t.

 

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Where do you Draw the line on Delivery?

CookieText Delivery Car

Having a delivery business is a bit of a challenge. Where do we draw the lines? Are they set in stone?

Our Southside delivery doesn’t always make sense to people. That’s because the website had to be set up by zip code. Either the zip code was in or out. For instance there’s a zip code in Chesapeake that stretches from near the Monitor Merrimac Bridge Tunnel all the way to the North Carolina border, so that’s one of them that got the boot.

That’s why I often tell people that before they accept no as an answer, email us the exact address, we will take a peek at the map, and then let them know if we can make it happen.

The Ask.

On Friday someone sent a message asking about delivering to Portsmouth.

I sent back the cookietext.com delivery zone link for them to check via their zip code if we cover that area.

They soon responded that according to the website we don’t deliver there, but they’d really like a CookieText for their spouse’s birthday.

Mind you these messages were happening during prime cookie decorating time, so forgive me, but as I actively considered my Saturday agenda and wrote at the same time, my email response was this:

Would you please provide the actual physical address so I can peek at it? Heck. Never mind. Just put it through. I’ll run it over personally.  ~Jeanne

I applied the work-around to get the site to accept the order, and they placed it right away. I was delighted to see it was a larger order, so that made going the distance a little sweeter.

The Task.

On Saturday morning, off I went to make the delivery. As I got further and further and saw it wasn’t a case of a huge zip code, this place was really far away. As I finally pulled off 664, I saw two of my favorite signs: 7-11 and Speedway. Both fantastic places to stop for a giant fountain soda on the ride home, it would be my karmic reward for going that far.

The location wasn’t far off the highway, I wound through a neighborhood of one-story homes and found theirs on a cul-de-sac. House numbers are funny, so I was thrilled that the initial on the garden flag matched the first initial of the last name on the order.

The Delivery.

I knocked on the storm door and could see a bed set up in the living room: someone was sick, maybe they are taking care of a grandparent?

The sender answered the door, smiled and said a thank you. What I heard his eyes say was, “I know you went out of your way, I appreciate it.”

As they turned to go in the house,  I noticed the pajama pants. I saw signs of past medical procedures. I knew in that moment that the sender was the sick one.

It occurred to me that this person likely could not have driven to pick up a birthday dessert for their spouse. It kind of looked like there was a chance they might not be around to celebrate many more family birthdays. Little do I know for sure, but that was certainly the impression that I got.

I walked back to my car and my eyes welled a bit. What if I had stuck to the webite’s determination that the delivery location was too far? What if I’d said no? I felt so relieved that I had said yes, that I would deliver it myself.

The Why.

At CookieText.com, we can’t always say yes to going out of the structure of the business. We do try to remember that we are servicing people and needs vary, so we bend the rules if we are able. We also follow our instincts. In the midst of Friday morning mayhem, I oddly agreed to spend part of my Saturday delivering to an unknown destination. I had the time, and it just felt right.

It seems that we always reap some sort of reward for our yes’s. This one was absolutely the case. Though my eyes had welled up, I felt good as I climbed in my car. I felt good about my business, good about my product, and good that I’d gone out of my way for a customer who clearly could benefit from a yes, from something being easy and stress free. It was incredibly rewarding.

But don’t get carried away, I still stopped and got that giant fountain soda for the ride home;)

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Coloring and Character

Colored Pencils and Character

Can I please be excused? I have a lot of homework,” Eddie, my 15-year old, said at the dinner table.

Sure. Do you need any help with anything?” I replied.

Maybe some coloring…cutting.”

Okay,” I said, “I like coloring.”

I don’t do my children’s homework. I’ve never filled in a blank, done a math problem, or written an essay for one of them. Long ago I would help with Science projects in elementary school, but I still drew a line and would only help so much.

Feeling overwhelmed is awful though, so I try to prevent that sensation for my boys. If they have a lot of homework or a big project I might simply sit at the same table, doing my own thing, just so they don’t feel like they are in it alone. I will also freely do clerical tasks. I’ll type for them, or color, or staple…the types of things that take time but don’t have to do with the knowledge or aptitude of a subject.

Eddie got up from the table and I heard him tell his brothers he’d probably get around to playing the computer game they all play together in about an hour or so. He got right to doing his homework while I cleaned up the kitchen and did some other evening chores. As soon as I exhaled and sat down in my comfy chair, Eddie came over to me with two pieces of cardstock paper. He showed me on each page what had to be colored, and frankly, it was quite a bit.

Do I have to use coloring pencils, or can I use crayons,” I asked, thinking it would be faster with crayons.

It has to be colored pencils.”

Okay, I thought. Eddie was up and moving, and I suddenly thought, ‘dang, did I offer to do his work for him and he’s going to go off and play computer games with his brothers’? So I sat in my comfy seat a minute, thinking of what I might have inadvertantly signed myself up for and taking a breather. Then I looked over my shoulder and saw that Eddie had repositioned himself at the table and was doing work. He had not gone off to play games.

I got up and sat across from him with the colored pencils in the middle of the table. He had headphones in, and was coloring away, so I got busy. When he finished all of his coloring he began to cut the items out. When my coloring was complete, I followed his lead, asking a question for clarification. He answered with a clear instruction.

By the time I finished cutting my papers, Eddie was well into gluing the others where they needed to be. I set my stack in the queue to be glued and started cleaning up. By the time all the paper scraps were thrown away and the colored pencils were back in their box, Eddie’s assignment was complete. He packed up his backpack, thanked me, and went off to play with his brothers.

I was blown away. Completely.

Eddie never planned on my doing his work. He recognized that he could use some help and he divided the work fairly: he took two papers to color and gave me two.

He didn’t want me to do his work for him, but he would accept my doing his work with him. He also clearly wasn’t going to ask anything of me that he was unwilling to do for himself. At no point was he going to leave me to do his work for him, as I had briefly feared. When I needed clarity on a task, Eddie gave good and clear instructions so he was able to get the outcome he desired from the person assisting in the task.

I felt like the entire event told me great things about Eddie’s character.

  • He hasn’t got an ego so big that he is afraid to need or ask for help.
  • He isn’t going to pawn his work off on someone else.
  • He works diligently to complete a task.
  • He is able to guide others without being critical or condescending.
  • He’s goal oriented.
  • He’s fair.
  • He’s grateful.

And here is the part of the blog post where I so cleverly tie this in to CookieText, but this time I’m not going to. This time I am just going to be incredibly thankful for the fine young man Eddie has become. At a later date I will be very glad that I wrote this experience down, because I would hate to forget it. I will look back and be grateful that I had a business that alloted me enough time to enjoy my most favorite job of all: mothering.

 

 

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An inside look at Valentine’s day…

Cookie Text Tweet Hearts Balloon

Things went remarkably smoothly on Valentine’s Day. There were a few minor hiccups, and one driver racing to get some CookieTexts to a school before the final bell (my fault, not hers, I should have sent that order on another route), but considering the volume of orders we put out, it went smooth like…butter.

Tuesday night around 7:30 pm we reached the number of orders we thought we could deliver with pride. At that point I went in the back end of the website and turned off February 14th as an option for delivery date. That was a first.

Liz was here with me that night as we got a head start on the next day’s orders. She’s awesome. She can sprinkle, box, and ribbon a CookieText faster than you can say Oklahoma Sooners (she proudly is one). Typically when she walks in the door I turn on the 60’s Pandora station and we get into a groove, and that’s exactly what we did. We share a couple of laughs and I bounce some ideas off of her, but we actually work pretty quietly together.  Liz is the perfect example of when the student surpasses the master. She can work circles around me.

At one point in the evening my friend Carlyn popped in with a survival kit. The paleo-beef stick I looked sideways at in the moment was a Godsend at 2am when I needed some sort of nutrition to keep going. It was either nutrition I needed or something to soak up all the liquid caffeine I’d ingested, either way, it hit the spot at the exact right moment.

Liz and Monica were both at work about 7am, and we got our hustle on. We had 6 routes going out, one of those with two people in the vehicle because it was the biggest one and deliveries go more quickly with two people. Our biggest delivery was to CNU, that driver put a rolling cart in her van so she could wheel everything to the mailroom in one trip (pretty brilliant). You know how we ended up with so many at CNU? ….I asked.

I wrote a Facebook post and asked that if there were any CNU parents that followed our page, I’d love it if they would let the other parents know we’d be happy to help them send a Valentine to their student. It only takes one person to say yes. It didn’t happen right away. The post had been up a few days when a mom commented that she had shared my post with the CNU parent’s pages she had access to. Not only that, she also fielded questions from them that they asked on the post. How awesome is that? I’m not sure if the lesson is sometimes ask for what you want or that it only takes one person to make a difference. I think it’s both.

Wednesday afternoon I went immediately to my friend John over at Healthy Touch Massages  He blissfully worked out the multiple kinks in my back and right arm from piping so many CookieTexts. The thing about John and Healthy Touch is that it’s convenient (I can book online), the prices are fair, the place is welcoming, clean, and classy, and he always does a great job. Once I found them, I never looked elsewhere. That’s how I want CookieText to be for our customers: reliable, efficient, and effective, so I can see why Healthy Touch’s business model speaks to me. Once I left there I hit my couch and didn’t get up until Thursday morning.

This was the first Valentine’s I can remember that we didn’t forget something: either some sprinkles, a balloon, an extra frosting, or something like that. That makes me so happy. I can’t stand messing up. We didn’t get a single complaint. In fact, quite the opposite:

“I ordered 3 cookie texts yesterday and one was going to a high school that told me they would turn it away. I contacted you all and you were so awesome! You called me almost instantly and I was able to change the delivery address. Also, the products are SO delicious!! Thank you so much!!! I’m a previous customer and will keep ordering!!!”

“Super easy to order! Love that there’s no shipping cost! Hubby loved getting his on Valentine’s Day! I will definitely order again!”

“This is our second year sending CookieText to our daughter for Valentine’s Day. This year’s was more beautiful than last, and she absolutely loves receiving them. Thank you so much for making her day while she’s away at school.”

How awesome is that!?

I’ve said it a million times, I love my job. I am grateful. We have a fantastic team on board and we had some phenomenal extra helpers as well, they all amazed me. Thanks to all of you for your support, for ordering from us, for cheering us on, and for telling your friends. Valentine’s Day is our Black Friday times 10 (but lucky for you there’s no standing in line at 4 am). It’s a lot of work, a lot of fun, and we get a ton of joy out of knowing people are getting showered with some cookie love. It’s a blessing to be able to do what you love for a living, and it’s something I do not take for granted.

All that said, as a true entreprenuer, I’m compelled to remind you: we’re here all year…you can order 24 hours a day at www.cookietext.com. 😉

I hope you had a LOVEly week,

Jeanne

Happy to help, Cupid!

 

 

 

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