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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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CookieText’s Guide to Launching Your Business

Jeanne Fiocca, Peninsula Women's Network 2014 Networker of the Year

Though I concede that I’ve not yet built a Mrs. Fields-type cookie empire, I have learned a lot about small business in the four years since I launched CookieText. Since most of the wisdom out there comes from what seem to be unreachable big-wigs, I thought I’d give you the from ‘someone you might know’ perspective on what it takes to start something that will take off.  I am “the cookie lady,” but what I’ve learned translates for anyone who is considering launching their own business.

Here are the things I know for sure:

You Won’t Be a Millionaire Overnight

I think one of the biggest hurdles is that in the era of Shark Tank and instant pop music sensations it’s easy to think that if you aren’t successful overnight, then you aren’t achieving. Since those are the stories so often seen in the media, we think instant success is the norm, it’s not. Slow and steady can win the race. In reality the slower but steady growth of CookieText.com is what has given me and my team the ability to continue to offer excellence despite increased volume.

If we had our current volume of business two years ago, we couldn’t have handled it. We didn’t have all the systems in place. We’d go through a busy time, be exhausted, and have to sit and figure out where we were wasting time or working too hard.  Then we put something in place to fix that piece for the next busy season. It takes time and patience to build a brand, a reputation, an organization’s systems, and quite frankly, to build sales.

You Should Use Your Community Resources

Use the community resources out there to assist you as you write your business plan and formulate your concept. I had no idea how many resources there were that do just that–and they do it for free or practically free. Start with some books and basic internet searches, but you have to follow the trail of breadcrumbs and find the programs nearby that will help you get started or grow. The local colleges as well as city and county governments have numerous programs for small business owners to not only learn what they need to know, but to meet others who are trying to launch or grow their business as well. Cast a wide net. You might not find all you need in one location. In the tech-savvy age, it’s easy to think you can learn everything online–maybe you can, but that’s not been my experience. Start somewhere like Small Business Administration or the Hampton Roads Small Business Development Center to get information about workshops and programs you can attend to learn what you don’t already know.

You need Money to get Started

Where do you find it? We launched Cookie Text on a shoestring, but that’s not typical. Of course we would all like a grant to start our business, and while checking around for these is smart, they are hard to come by. The best current resource we have found that gives amazing information about business financing is over at a site called lendEDU.com. They have an amazing comprehensive article that covers everything from how to qualify for a small business loan to special options for women, veterans, and start ups.

You Have to Really Want It

As a small business owner, especially in the formative years, you have to work your butt off. There are days that if I was punching a time-clock it would have said I worked 20 hours. Though I argue that I do have a life, Cookie Text LLC is constantly front of mind. If business is slow, I’m working on how to get more. If business is hopping I’m working on making sure everything is in place to execute properly or doing some other mandatory task that has to get done (did you know we pay property tax on our dough mixer)?  Whatever you’re planning on starting or doing, you better like it. If you don’t, you won’t put the energy in it to make it a success. On the off chance you don’t love it and still make it successful, then you’re really in a bind…because you’re stuck doing a lot of what you don’t love.

If you think you’re going to launch your business and throngs of people are going to be knocking down your door to use your service or obtain your product then you’ve watched far too much reality television. Creating a business doesn’t stop on opening day, you have to create every day: connections, opportunities, plans, buzz, etc. My new friend, Zack Miller over at Hatch will tell you; if you want to succeed you have to hustle. My favorite definition of hustle is “to obtain by energetic activity,” but it’s often easier to spot than it is to define. If you have to ask yourself, “do I hustle?” then the answer is probably not.

Creating a business doesn’t stop on opening day, you have to create every day…

You Need a Support System

People that launch their own business don’t typically have lots of people working with them from the start. In the beginning it was critically important for me to connect with other women in business that were also balancing all that goes along with that. I found those people at Peninsula Women’s Network. I attend what is called the Leading Ladies Leads Group lunch twice a month and those women are my safety net. At many networking events I feel like I have to show up as CEO and have my game-face on. But the leading ladies women, those are the ones that can look at me across the table, figure out it’s been a tough week, and then offer compassion or advice. These women were my first work friends.

Since then my work-world has expanded.  Tim Ryan, director of the Launchpad of Greater Williamsburg, would call that getting out of my ‘fishbowl’, which is critical to success.  My environment had to expand. A smart thing to consider a co-working environment where you can work around other people in a space that inspires productivity. I promise it will result in some work-related relationships as well that will help you and your business thrive.

I know a lot of fellow entrepreneurs now, but among them I have a strategic handful that I call on when I face a big decision, dilemma, or want to share a success. Without them I’d flounder.

This doesn’t cover everything I’ve learned, but it surely hits the highlights. Here’s hoping some of it helps you on your path. Then again if you think you read all of this for nothing, reward yourself with a CookieText® !

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Podcasts for Small Business Success

Cookie Text loves Freakonomics Radio

Listen and Learn

I’ve wondered from time to time how our small business has been able to find success when so many other’s fail. A recent session in my headphones taught me about what I’ve decided to call the CookieText advantage.

I just discovered Podcasts. For those that don’t know, they are essentially radio shows that you can listen to whenever you want. I suspect most of you know what they are and I’m the one that is late to the game. A good indicator of this is the vast amount of Podcasts that are available. Whatever your interest, there’s one for you, I’m sure.

Though I thoroughly enjoyed the delve into true crime that was the first season of Serial, I’m trying to utilize Podcasts more for business and personal growth. I’ll plug in my headphones while I’m working alone or on a solo run and listen to the wisdom of those who have far more experience than I do. I’ve learned some fascinating things in a very short time. They often serve to make me re-examine my approach to a problem or to dream a little bigger. My favorite Podcast offered me an explanation.

Freakonomics Radio

As you may know, most new businesses don’t succeed. Freakonomics Radio, a hugely popular podcast, explained why mine has so far. It was an episode called Think Like a Child. In it Steven Levitt (one of the founders of Freakonomics and an esteemed economist) spelled out exactly why Cookie Text has an exponential advantage over other small businesses and why I am in exactly the right business for me.

Freakonomics Radio Steve Levitt Says

“Enjoying what you do, loving what you do is such a completely unfair advantage to anyone you are competing with who does it for a job. People who love it they go to bed at night thinking about the solutions. They wake up in the middle of the night, and they jot down ideas, they work weekends. It turns out that effort is a huge component of success in almost everything. We know that from practice and whatnot. And people who love things work and work and work at it. Because it’s not work — its fun. And so my strongest advice to young people trying to figure out what they want to do, is I always tell them: try to figure out what you love…”

I love what I do. I think about it constantly. It doesn’t get old. I’ve built my own sandbox that I get to play in everyday.

When I have “me time” I usually spend it working on building Cookie Text: reading a book about business, playing with new recipes, experimenting with new products… There are so many moments I am in the cookie kitchen and think to myself, “this is just so fun.” When we introduce a new product, get new shipment of logo pens, someone new discovers our business and becomes a fan, all that stuff excites me.

Still.
Every time.

Cookie Text’s Advantage

I love my job! Cookie Text has an advantage over any business that isn’t founded and run by someone who absolutely LOVES THEIR WORK. Because I do. I get to watch a tiny bit of a dream come true every day. And that’s so cool. Here’s hoping your work is fun, too.

You can check out Freakonomics Radio at www.freakonomics.com/radio/ or you can listen to the whole Think Like a Child podcast here.

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Facebook or Forcebook?

Cookie Text Facebook Header

A small business perspective.

About 8 years ago I caught my UVA niece checking her Facebook page. “What’s Facebook?” I asked.

“It’s kind of like MySpace, but geared toward College. It helps you connect with people,” she said (in my loose memory of the conversation).

Shortly thereafter, I started an account. I remember it was laborious for me to figure out how to add a profile picture. And later when I figured out I should have my maiden name on my profile so people who knew me then could find me. I remember countless times it connected me to people I thought were lost forever to me.

Years later I can name only a very small handful of people I know that do not have a Facebook account. My husband, one of my best friends, and a friend who had a page then and realized it wasn’t for her.

A new way to “catch up.”

Ahhh, Facebook. In this very busy life, it fills in the gaps. When I see my friend that served on the PTA committee with me 3 years ago at the grocery, we don’t have to ‘catch up.’ We hit the ground running. I know her oldest won an ROTC award. She knows I just got back from a week at the beach and that my son is homesick at camp. It keeps us informed in an era that is so busy it’s tough to pick up the phone or meet to catch up.

Technology. The blessing and the curse.

Things got so uncomfortable between a relative and me a few months ago that I looked into closing my Facebook account…and that was even after she’d ‘unfriended’ me. Well, I can’t have a business page without a personal page–if I suspend one, the other has to go as well.

In my experience, and I think the vast majority will agree, Facebook is a critical resource to the small business owner. Shutting down the “Cookie Text…an edible tweet” page would kink the lifeline to my customers.

I care about my customers. I like them.

Quite a bit, honestly. The go-to way for them to be engaged with Cookie Text (and me) is via Facebook. When someone posts a picture of their loved-one with their CookieText® or I post the picture I took before a cookie cake went out and they comment that it was a hit…well that’s priceless to me. I love people. I love back stories. Then when someone posts that their son demanded a CookieText® for his party it fuels me to keep on keeping on.

I thrive on feedback, and that comes from people, not the bank account…we can all google the same statistics that tell us it sure isn’t money that will keep the small business owner going the first few years. Feedback from the customer is priceless, and Facebook is the hotline to that.

Facebook…

  • the cord to my customers, yet it chains me to difficult relationships.
  • the most valuable time I spend growing my business, yet the biggest time waster as I get distracted and watch countless inane links to videos of cute kids and puppies, or ‘just glance at the home page for a second.”
  • the social media that my generation is fully engaged in, yet my children have already abandoned.
  • the very reliable bond to many friends that I truly love and care about, yet…sometimes overwhelming.

Facebook. You are the best of times, you are the worst of times. In the ways when you are good, you are very good. In the ways when you are bad…you are quicksand.