Lady on the Hill

Last summer we took the children to visit the Biltmore Estate in North Carolina.  We absolutely loved it.

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While shopping at their retail store, I picked up the book, Lady on the Hill* by Howard Covington.   It’s the story of how the Biltmore Estate  managed to stay in the family and become a profitable venture after decades of being a drain on the family’s finances.  I found it one of the most encouraging books I’ve read in a long time.

As a small business owner, it really “spoke” to me.  This is one of my favorite Cecil quotes (Cecil is the man who resurrected the Biltmore and turned it into the profitable venture it is today) from the book:

“There was always this negativism that it can’t be done,” he said. “If you ever want me to do something, just say, ‘It cant be done,'” Cecil said. “Everyone told me it couldn’t be done, so I just stuck my feet in it and I said, ‘We’ll see about that.’ And that is what motivated me.”

It’s that kind of “make it happen” attitude that has made America great. Do you have that kind of attitude?

I generally do.

When I was first making our goat milk soap, I was told point blank, “You can’t support your family making soap.”

When I tried to get a loan to build the soaprooom, I was told by my ex-banker, “You will have to wait years before you can build something like that.”

But I wasn’t willing to accept either of those opinions.  I pressed on and within a year of launching Goat Milk Stuff, Jim was working the business full-time. And within 3 years of talking with that banker, not only had I secured a loan for the soaproom. But I had built the soaproom and fully paid off the entire loan as well.

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Do you know how I was able to do it? Because I was not willing to accept defeat. I was going to make it happen and not let the naysayers discourage me.

What in your life are you being challenged by right now? Are people telling you that it can’t be done? Are you telling yourself that it can’t be done?

I’m here to tell you not to defeat yourself by listening to negative talk.  Don’t give in.  And most definitely don’t quit.

(Of course don’t be stupid. Don’t say,”I can jump off this roof and fly.” In that case it is important to listen to the people who tell you that you can’t fly.)

The road to Goat Milk Stuff success was NOT as easy as we’ve made it look or that you probably think it was. It was filled with excessive hard work, mistakes, wasted money, and tears. But we never let the dream die.

It doesn’t always happen as quickly or as easily as I would like it to happen.  But I have faith in God, prayer, myself, my family, and my business.  And when the going gets hard (which it often does), I just remind myself that, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Phil 4:13)

I’d love to hear what your biggest challenges are right now!

PJ

 

 

*Amazon Affiliate Link

The Treadmill Desk Conversion

My wife likes to stay active.  Of course, as the CEO of a family business, as well as the family bookkeeper, she has a LOT of desk work to do.  So I converted our treadmill into a treadmill desk using stuff we had laying around.

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In order to work, the treadmill desk needed to have a work surface, a place for the computer, and a display, all while not interfering with the normal operation of the treadmill.

The work surface was easy enough. It is simply a black-finished particle board shelf with a piece of vinyl stair nosing* screwed onto both sides.  The vinyl keeps stuff from falling off the shelf when the treadmill is being used.  The treadmill originally had dense foam handrests supported by metal brackets.  I removed the foam handrest part so I could bolt the shelf  to the metal brackets beneath.  The nut is countersunk into the shelf for a flush surface.  The low profile of the shelf allows for the treadmill display to be unaffected so the treadmill can still be used as usual.

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The computer, in this case PJ’s laptop, sits on the side table near the treadmill.  It is controlled by the wireless mouse and keyboard* that sit on the work surface.  Since the rubber edges can be rough on the wrists, I added a gel foam wrist support for both the mouse* and the keyboard*.  This keeps the wrist from hitting the vinyl edge and is comfortable for working.

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Also attached to the computer is the ethernet cable to access the internet, and the HDMI cable* that runs up to the first flat screen TV we ever bought.  The DVD part stopped working years ago, but the display is still good, and it works well sitting up on an old wall bracket that was made for a CRT television.  The base is actually bolted onto it so it cannot just tumble off if it gets bumped.

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I added the power strip* for convenience and just cable tied* it to the treadmill so PJ could turn everything off at once if she wanted.

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The only drawback to the whole thing is that the treadmill is very old.  We got it about 18 years ago and have used it more often than not.  Somehow it just keeps going.  As long as it keeps working we can save the expense of buying one of those really nice treadmill desks* you can find online!

Jim Signature

 

 

Local Flavor

I feel sorry for people who regularly eat at chain restaurants.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand why people (myself included at times) do; especially when traveling.

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If I have my history right, chains like Denny’s or Cracker Barrel, or Colter’s favorite, TGI Fridays became popular as our culture become more mobile.
As more families took vacations to places they had never been, or had no family nearby, they needed someplace to eat. The problem with new places is that sometimes, the food can be very different from what is available at home. Chain restaurants met the need of travelers by providing predictable menus no matter where they were located. What a relief!

So why the sympathy for people who are simply avoiding a horrible roadside lunch spot or the greasy spoon that serves up food poisoning to unsuspecting vacationers?

The answer came to me after a winter of our family travels that took us from Detroit, MI to New Orleans, LA and back up to Wisconsin. It was a lot of ground to cover, much of which was virgin territory for me. I noticed that while the trees and fields varied somewhat by latitude, suburban sprawl had made much of the scenery along the highways look remarkably… the same. Chain restaurants, along with big box stores, are a major part of that similarity. To me it seemed somehow wrong that if I got off the highway in Louisiana it was indistinguishable from an exit community in Wisconsin. Where was the local flavor, the places that were unique to the culture of the community? What makes each place special if it is marked by all the usual eateries found all across the nation? Why was I even bothering to travel if everywhere was the same anyhow? There isn’t much point in it is there?

That’s why I feel sorry for people who regularly eat at chain restaurants. There’s no new experience; nothing to write home about. All you get is a full belly.
But isn’t a predictably happy belly better than any level of culinary excitement that comes with gastrointestinal risk?

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Perhaps, but NOW there are ways to mitigate that risk that we didn’t have just a few years ago.

With the advent of mobile devices and social proof travelers can find the best of anywhere just by searching!
Apps like Yelp, Foursquare, TripAdvisor, Facebook and Google Maps allow people to rate, and leave comments about places along the way so you don’t have to wonder where the best Mediterranean food in Merrillville, Indiana is. You don’t have to look for the most familiar lit-up logo-on-a-pole while you’re filling your tank to figure out where to feed your face. You can have that a figured out a few exits in advance based on what you feel like eating, and “what’s good around here.”

Of course, if you know where you’re headed and when you’re leaving you can mark a few spots the you might like to try along your route. For instance, when we went to New Orleans, I ‘saved’ a few restaurants on Google Maps that I had found on Yelp, in the areas where I had a feeling we’d be getting hungry. Sure enough, as we were approaching Bowling Green, Kentucky, the kids were ready for breakfast. I pulled into Wild Eggs and we chowed down like royalty on crepes, omelets and cinnamon rolls. It should be noted that this example is actually a small, regional chain. (See, I’m not anti-franchise, just anti-same-old-same-old!)

I’m encouraged that local businesses, the small family restaurants that used to be the focal points of so many neighborhoods, can get new customers this way. My hope, especially since I live right near one, is that the exit communities across America will be seeded with such businesses, and not be choked out by the national chains that have so dominated that landscape. If this can happen, then the charm of these communities may be experienced by anyone passing through, and you’ll decide to get off at exit 29 not because there’s a Denny’s and a Cracker Barrel, but because you discovered that the locally made goat milk delicacies are out-of-this-world!

Jim Signature

 

 

Setting goals (individual, family, and business goals) allows the Jonas family to accomplish quite a lot. We all have something(s) we’re working toward and we can encourage each other to get there.

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Seven Mistakes Review Bloggers Regularly Make

I love it when I hear about stay-at-home moms that are trying to supplement their family’s income.  I’ve always believed (obviously by what I’ve done) that you can be a stay-at-home mom and still exercise your talents and skills and create a growing business.

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Many moms are turning to Review Blogs as one possible method.  There is a low barrier to entry, few mandatory costs, and you can get some free stuff for your family.   Based on the number of requests I receive (20-40 each week), the number of these blogs are growing dramatically.  

If you have a very successful blog, companies will often come to you asking you to review their products.  But if you’re just starting out, you often need to seek out products to review.

Every time I receive a request, I check out the blog to see if it is one I want to work with.  Years ago, I said “Yes” to almost every request.  Now, I rarely say “Yes.”  

Why?  Because the quality of new Review Blogs are in decline.  

I see the same 7 mistakes over and over as demonstrated in this actual request that I recently received. (Name and website removed by me)

Sir or Ma’am,

Hello i’m [name] and I am a blogger for [website], a resources for parents to get honest opinions on all things from recipes, DIY, styles, and products. 

I emailing in hopes of partnering with you to do a product review for an upcoming blog.  Our site is a varied interest and we like to review products to bring to our audience with a first hand experience, and I’d love to write a review on your product and include it on our website.

The main audience for our website is moms and as well all know, mothers really do the vast majority of gift shopping.  We only want the best for everyone we gift to and know that our readers do too, making your company the perfect fit! We’d love to introduce our ever growing community of readers, as well as our large twitter following, (over 10k combined followers), to your new products. 

I’m looking forward to hearing from you and thank you so much for your time!

These are the seven mistakes that this blogger (and most other bloggers who contact me) make:

1. You do not address me by my name when you ask me to send you my products for free.  By addressing your email to Sir or Ma’am or anything other than my name, you are showing that you have not spent any time on my website learning about Goat Milk Stuff.  I understand that if you are reaching out to Starbucks or other large corporations you may not have a name to address.  But if you are reaching out to a small business owner, find out the name of the person you are addressing.  I no longer send out any free soap to somebody who does not say, “Dear PJ or Jim,” in their email.

2. You did not proofread your email or use proper grammar, spelling, and punctuation.  You are reaching out to me in a professional manner asking me to trust you to do a quality product review.  Why would I believe that you will take care to proofread the post you write about my soap when you don’t even proofread the email that you send to me?  If you do not have good grammar or spelling, you need to find someone who does and have them edit for you.  Your initial email to me represents yourself and the quality of your work.  This email shows me you don’t care about the quality of what you do.  You just want free stuff.

3. Your blog is brand new and/or receives little traffic. I understand that everyone has to start somewhere.  But when you are starting out, don’t ask me to be the first one to send you free stuff.  Review stuff you already use or go out and buy your own stuff to review.  In fact, I’d be more than happy for you to buy my soap to review.  When you’ve been regularly blogging for more than 6 months and are getting real traffic, feel free to ask me again.  While I enjoying supporting other moms, I receive too many requests and I work too hard to send you free soap if there is no return in it for me.  This is just good business.

4. Your blog gets few comments and social shares.  I want to know that your readers care about what you have to say.  I want to see engagement and comments so that I know that the post about my soap will be seen and read by other people. What are you doing to engage your readers?  

5. Your blog caters to readers who only want things for free.  I have been doing this for years and know what kind of blog has a readership where people are only there to enter the latest free giveaway.  That is fine for your blog, but it does not meet my needs as a business owner looking to sell my product.  The burden is on you to show me that your readers are willing to actually spend money.  

6. You overestimate the impact of your traffic or neglect to discuss your traffic at all. It’s all a numbers game and you need to show me that your numbers will impact me.  In the above email, the fact that she has 10,000 twitter followers is a meaningless number to me.  She neglects to mention the engagement on twitter or how many tweets my review will get. 

I recently received an email that said, “I’d be honored to work with you on a review of a product from your website, at no cost to me. It will bring a HUGE amount of traffic to your website and probably a lot of good sales for you as well.”  When I checked out the pr page on her website, it says that she has 2409 unique monthly views.  That does not meet my definition of huge.  In fact, only a small percentage of the readers on your blog are going to click through to my website.  Do not assume that the traffic you get will be the traffic that I get or that we have the same definitions as to what constitutes a large amount of traffic. 

7. Do you even know what my product is?  Nowhere in your email to me do you mention anything about my soap.  It appears that this is a form letter that you are sending out to any small business you can find.  It appears that you are trolling the internet looking for free stuff. Do you know how many emails I get that say, “My readers would really love your stuff?”  That is meaningless to me.  Show me that you even know what my stuff is.  I know that it takes more time to learn about the companies you are reaching out to.  When I receive your email, I do you the courtesy of checking out your site.  Do me the courtesy of checking out my site before you ask me to invest in you.

In the last several months, I have only offered a review to one person. Here is how she began her email, “My name is ___. I am very interested in doing a review on your products because I was raised on goats milk and have allergies from several soap products.”  Showing that she knew what my product was made a huge difference.

 

Those are seven of the most common mistakes that I regularly see from people asking me to send them free soap to review.  I hope that if you are a Review Blogger, they help you to better reach out to businesses as you seek products to write about.

Please remember the fact that as a review blogger you are acting as a business person.  When you reach out to people and are requesting free product, you are reaching out to business people.  If you reach out to me and do not make the above mistakes, you have a much better chance to receive our goat milk soap to review.

What about you – do you have a review blog?  Or do you regularly read them?  If so, which ones?

Domain Hosting for Beginners

I previously mentioned that my children all need to have a successful website or blog before I allow them to graduate our homeschool.   The first step was to purchase their domain names.  Then we needed to choose a company to use for the domain hosting.

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When you build a website, you need to have all of that website information – all the words, video, photos, and code – stored somewhere.  You don’t want to keep it on your own computer, because your computer doesn’t run 24/7.  So we store all of that information on another company’s servers.  These servers are maintained and optimized and have backup systems.  But more importantly, they run 24/7 so your website is always available.  We call this service of storing your website information, “hosting”.  You may also see it referred to as “domain hosting” or “website hosting”, but they both refer to the same service.

It’s important to find a reliable company for your domain hosting because if they go down, your website goes down.

I use two companies for our hosting.  For the Goat Milk Stuff website, I use Hands-on-Hosting.  I use them because Goat Milk Stuff is an x-cart based site and Hands-On is an x-cart  partner and the hosting that my programmer recommended.  I have been very happy with them.  They have a live chat that is wonderful.  They answer all my questions and walk me through everything.  

As a recent example, I had a concern about how my website was being backed up.  It turns out that image backups were being done every 48 hours.  I was able to change it (for a small fee) to a cpanel backup 24 hours.  This backup is stored offsite.  So if a tornado wipes out the building where my server is kept, there is another building that has my backup.   Hands-on handled the change quickly and efficiently and they walked me through all the steps on my end.

For the children’s websites, we use Bluehost.  We’re fairly new to them, but I’ve been very pleased.  For one low fee, you can host as many domains as you want.  In other words, I don’t need a Bluehost account for booksquirt.com, another for thebirddude.com, and yet another for gardenspud.com.  And I don’t need to pay 3  separate fees.  I have one account under booksquirt.com and then the other two have been added to that account.  They are their own websites, even though they are technically set up under booksquirt.com.

If you’re thinking about starting a blog, I recommend that you start with Bluehost.   Just sign up for the basic hosting account.  You don’t need to upgrade to anything to start out.  I hope this has been helpful.  Next week I’ll discuss name servers and how to set them.

I’d love to hear if you’ve decided to start your own website or if you have another hosting service that you recommend!

 

 

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links”.  If you click on the link and purchase an item, I will receive an affiliate commission. I only recommend products or services that I use personally and believe are valuable.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Domain Names

As part of our homeschooling curriculum, my children each need to start and maintain their own website before they graduate.  In order to have a website, the first thing you need is a domain name.  Do you own any domain names?  I’m a little bit of a domain name junkie.  Actually, I don’t own that many domains, I think it was around 30 at last count.

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Why so many?

Simple – domain names are relatively cheap (~$10 per year) and they’re a huge part of your branding.

So, what is a domain name?  In simple terms, it is the most basic words that you type into your browser to get to a website. 

So for us, we started with the domain name:

  • goatmilkstuff.com

Then we purchased a common mispelling:

  • goatsmilkstuff.com

Then the different endings such as:

  • goatmilkstuff.net
  • goatmilkstuff.info
  • goatmilkstuff.org

If you’re planning to start a small business, it is important to have a long-term view and purchase these other domains.  You don’t have to set up websites on all of these domains.  You can set it up so that when people click on the “support” domains, it redirects them to the main domain.  

Owning all of these extra domains may seem like a waste of money to you, but think of it as insurance.  It’s sad but true that there a lot of people out there who find successful businesses, copy them, and use a really similar domain name.  Protect yourself and your branding.

My lawyer also suggested that we purchase domains that are “anti” your business such as – ihateyourbusiness.com.

We haven’t purchased domains like that for Goat Milk Stuff.  Mostly because the thought that somebody would set up a website like that depresses me.

Some of the other domains that we own are all of our individual names:

Domain names are not case sensitive, so JadeJonas.com is the same as jadejonas.com.  I use capital letters to make things easier to read.

Personally, I think that a great birthday present for your children is to purchase their domain name for them.  You never know what they’re going to do some day, and if somebody else takes it and creates a website with that domain, it’s unavailable until they decide to give it up.

I use godaddy to purchase my domain names.  There are a lot of smaller companies out there, but I know several people who have purchased their domains through small companies and lived to regret it.  The most common thing that happens is the domain business fails and then the paperwork and headache of getting control of your domain can be a nightmare.  For that main reason, I choose to deal with a big company (yes, I know they can fail too, but it’s less likely).

I’ve been very pleased with godaddy and their customer service and happily recommend them.  And for that reason, I am one of their affiliates, which means that if you choose to purchase a domain through godaddy and click on the link here, then I will get credit for introducing you to them.

Once you’ve purchased a domain name.  Then you need to host your website.  Think of it like this – buying your domain name gives you the exclusive right to use that name.  But then you need to find someone to host (or store) all of the stuff that is on your website  – such as all the text and photos.  

You can host through godaddy as well (and I’ve heard good things about them), but I use a different company for hosting.

Interview with Karyn Ranzau of Little Pink Ladybug

Busy Mom’s Survival Guide Podcast Episode 012.
If you’ve ever had an idea that you think you may be able to turn into a family business, you’ll want to listen to today’s podcast.  I discuss the benefits of attending craft fairs or festivals to do market research for your new or potential business.

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Then I play an interview that I recorded with Karyn Ranzau, the owner of Little Pink Ladybug.   In addition to pre-made hairbows, Little Pink Ladybug offers a patented template that teaches others how to create their own bows.  She also has several information products that show you how to sculpt particular hairbows.  As another entrepreneur who turned a hobby into a business and obtained patents, Karyn has some great insight to share.

Please leave me a comment and let me know what you thought.

Thanks for listening!  Please join me next week as I talk about how to strengthen your immune system.

 

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