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Monday, May 30, 2011

Spotlight on Mommy -- Eula M. Young-Guest of Griot's Roll Film Production & Service Inc. (Discount and Giveaway)

This week I wanted to introduce you to Eula Young-Guest of Griot's Roll Film Production. Griot's Roll provides, video production, video marketing, video editing, video consulting and web distribution services.  This is a must have for any mom entrepreneur looking to take their businesses to the next level or provide additional exposure.   

In addition to my interview below, be sure to scroll down to the bottom for a special coupon for 10% of select services through Griot's Roll Film Production, as well as a giveaway for a 1-hr. social media consultation from Eula, valued at over $150.00.


Name:  Eula M. Young-Guest
Company Name/Product/Service: Griot's Roll Film Production and Services Inc. 
Company Location: New York, New York
Company Website:  http://www.griotsrollproduction.com
Facebook URL:  http://www.facebook.com/#!/Griots
Twitter Handle: @ griotsroll
Age of Company:  7 years old
Favorite Inspirational Quotes:  "Every Day Above Ground is a Good Day"
Favorite Book: Down to Business: The First 10 Steps to Entrepreneurship for Women by Ms. Clara Villarosa

Tell us a little bit about yourself.  How many children do you have?  What are their ages? Your hobbies? Etc

I have three daughters, Monique (28), Sasha (24) and Shassee (10).  I have 7 grandchildren Jordan, Jaydan, Jayda, Ruben, Deavonne, Deaonna (twins), and Leo the youngest.  I am married to my business partner, Derrick M. Guest.  My hobbies are spending time with my grandchildren.  Volunteering in my 10 year old school on the Leadership Team and Parents Association.  I am truly busy and loving it.  

Briefly explain your business.  How did it come about?  

Griot's Roll was started in 2004.  We shoot business, lectures, conferences, networking events etc.  we take that video and either place it on our clients website, social media pages and or on a site such as You-tube to track the video.  This information is very valuable to our clients it helps them advertise their products, services and events and also helps the client learn if they are targeting the market that they want to reach.  My husband Derrick M. Guest, a play-wrote, director and producer wanted to start his own production company, so he left his city job for entrepreneurial-ship. We haven't turned back since.  I did the research for the business plan, wrote the business plan and we've updates three times since then.  

What is a typical work day like? 

I usually get up between 5:00 am - 7:00 am depending on the project and call time.  Check e-mails to see if anything has changed over night.  Make sure that the crew is ready and know where they are going to go.  Derrick checks the equipment to make sure that everything is ready.  He goes to the shoot, I usually stay at the office.  When he is out the door, get our daughter ready for school, take her to school.  At the school for a parents association fund raising meeting until 11:00 am.  Go to the gym work out for about an hour.  Go home, answer e-mails, make telephone call, this is the time I usually call people that I've met at networking and business events.  Go on my social media site add content.  Answer e-mails from those sites.  Add announcement, press release, events on all our pages over 30 pages right now.   When my daughter gets home, I'm usually in business mode, her father check her homework, while I'm working on content.  I'm out the door going to an panel discussion where I am one of the guest speakers.  Topic: Effective Media and Social Media Marketing.  Get home around 9:00 pm.  Put my daughter to bed.  Get to bed around 10:00 pm - 11:00 to start all over again.
What has been a struggle while starting up your company?  

The struggle was not anticipating how long it would take before our business was well know.  Not understanding how much marketing and advertising you have to do for your business.  

What did you do in your past work life?  

I was a Administrative Assistant, Secretary, Support Staff.

What have been some of your major successes?  

Winning the 2011 British Airways Face of Opportunities Video Contest.  Going to the British Airways one day conference in New York City and the British Airways two day conference in London, England.  British Airways flew us out to London on an networking plane, that was fantastic.  I enjoy meeting people from all over the United States and networking.  Speaking on panels and meeting other women business owners.  Last but not least when we won our first city contract.  

What have been some of your major challenges? 

Building our brand and having the time to balance, family, friends and the business.  It was very hard missing major events in our families to go do a project.  Production business is not a 9-5 business we are on call during a project until that project is done and given to the client.  

On those impossible days, what motivates you to keep going?  

Knowing that we are doing something that we love doing.  

What is your balancing secret in managing a business and family?  

Time management.  I cook many meals on the weekend and freeze them so I know my family is having a well balanced meal.  I try my best to make a date night with my husband.  Have a mother daughter day with my youngest and spend time with my older daughters and my grands.  I  put blocks of time on my blackberry for my family, this week I will only work this amount of hours.  It helps that the schools give you a calendar so you know what their schedule is like and I make it work around my daughters, husband and business. 

What is next for your business?  

Opening up an office in London, Canada and Georgia.  Moving into a commercial space or building a commercial space for the business. 

Do you have any advice for other mom entrepreneurs that are starting out and struggling, or are on the fence about starting a business?  

Being a super woman is a myth you can't do everything all the time.  You need help and know when and how to ask for help.  If you don't you will burn out and quickly.  You have to make time for yourself away from the business, children, husband.   Even with all the struggles if I had to do it all over again I would become an entrepreneur again.  Very satisfying and rewarding.   Before you leave your day job, save, save, save for that business and plan for marketing budget, plan for the unexpected, plan for insurance and plan for things that you didn't expert i.e. equipment breaking down, have a back up files for your computer, save important documents at another site other then your office just in case they get damaged you'll have a back up.   Work smart not harder.  

Special Offer for Inspired by Savannah Readers:  

Exposes your business to the world, and Increases your profits!

Griot's Roll will give you 10% off your on-line video marketing services packages. Three Web Videos from your choices of events, products, or services that you want to promote for the rest of 2011. Now you can have continued video advertising that will increases your sales through the year of 2011. To Receive this offer, you must use coupon code "GRmommy3118312011".  Please note this coupon code is only valid until August 31, 2011, so act fact to take advantage of this great offer, thanks to Eula.

Griot's Roll limits one coupon per company, nontransferable.  May not be combined with any other coupon or specials.  Coupon must be surrendered on day of purchase.  No copies/facsimiles.  No cash/credit back.   Clients must sign agreement for Web videos for this on going services to be valid. This discount does not include duplication services.  


One lucky Inspired by Savannah reader will win an hour of free social media marketing consultation services an value of $150.00, with Eula.  To enter, please complete the MANDATORY ENTRY first, and then as many EXTRA ENTRIES as you like.  Make sure to include your email address with each comment, so that I can contact you if you win.


How have you used social media to help promote your business?  Has it worked?


(Please leave separate entries for each, along with your email address)

1) Subscribe to my blog via email (2 entries)

2) Follow me on Facebook (1 entry)

3) Enter any of my other giveaways, leaving a comment with the name of the giveaway (1entry per giveaway entered)

4) Blog about this giveaway. It must include a link to this specific post, as well as a link to my blog, http://ctmomreviews.blogspot.com/. (In your comment, please leave a link directly to your post – 5 Entries)

5) Follow me on Twitter (1entry)

6) Tweet about this giveaway (1 entry per tweet, per day; please include link to tweet in comment below)

Enter to 1 hour social media consult @
griotsroll @rmccoy1234 http://ctmomreviews.blogspot.com/ #giveaway (Ends 6/17)

7) Like my Inspired by Savannah Facebook Fan Page! Please include your Facebook name with your entry, so I can follow you back. (4 entries)

8) Follow my blog via Networked Blogs (3 entries)

9) Vote for me on picket fence blogs (See button on right side of blog -- One entry per vote, per day)

Open to US residents only. Giveaway ends on June 17, 2011 at 11:59PM EST. I will then use Random.org to choose a winner. Winner will have 48 hrs. to respond to my email to claim prize. If I don't hear back from selected winner, I will draw another winner
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Monday, May 23, 2011

Spotlight on Mommy -- Michelle Gast, Creator of the One Trip Tote

Last month I included the One Trip Tote in my Mother's Day Gift Giving Guide.  I had received so many rave reviews from strangers, when I was out in public with my tote.  If you missed my review of the One Trip Tote, check it out here.  Now, I want to take a few minutes and introduce you to the mom behind this great tote, Michelle Gast.  Please enjoy my Spotlight on Mommy interview with her.

Name: Michelle Gast
Company Name/Product/Service:     One Trip Tote, by Neeblink, Inc.
Company Location:  Cary, Illinois (suburb of Chicago)
Company Website:      www.onetriptote.com
Twitter Handle: twitter.com/OneTripTote
Age of Company:    1.5 years
Favorite Inspirational Quotes:  
"Look past the problem.  Focus on the solution!"

"How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives" - Annie Dillard

"Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of someone else" - Judy Garland

Favorite Book: The Glass Castle

Tell us a little bit about yourself.  How many children do you have?  What are their ages? Your hobbies? Etc.
I am a mompreneur with two boys, 7 and 3.  I love being a mom and try to savor every moment I have with them.  Hobbies include running, singing, baking, interior design and creating things that solve everyday problems.
Briefly explain your business.  How did it come about?
I knew I wanted to start my own business – to do something to give me the creative outlet I needed.  While spending time with my sons, I realized that we moms need an easy way to gather all of our stuff for the day, and easily (and stylishly if at all possible:)  get where we were going.  I was tired of making 2 to 3 trips from the house to the car with everything we needed for the day, and again when arriving home to unload from the car into the house.  I really wanted to create things that would help mothers and busy women everywhere.  That was the impetus for launching my company, Neeblink, Inc.. (please browse the "about us" tab at www.onetriptote.com for more on my inspiration for the company and name).  My first product is the One Trip Tote.  It is a unique spin on carryalls.  The One Trip Tote is a large (12x24), horizontal, open tote.  It is water-resistant and wipes clean with a damp cloth.  It has a strong baseboard on the bottom to retain it's shape and support loads up to 10 lbs.  It currently comes in 3 beautiful fabrics.  Designed to be VERY multifunctional, women can use it to gather all the things you need for the day and make One Trip out the door!  Great for daily jaunts, pool, beach, shopping, picnics, sports games, laundry and even organizing your trunk!  I keep on at the bottom of my stairs to gather items that need to go up.  It even collapses when not in use (which is rare), and fits into a carry-on luggage for the daily jaunts you take on vacation.  
What is a typical work day like?
My 3 year old is still at home with me most of the time, so I try to utilize his nap time and some evenings to make and market the totes.  
What has been a struggle while starting up your company? 
When I launched Neeblink, Inc. and began selling the One Trip Tote, my boys were quite young (almost 2 and almost 6).  Any mom can then understand what the natural struggles are with balancing time with them, which is most important, and pursuing a creative interest.  My husband had a bit of time off then, and he helped with the kids while I researched how to actually launch a company.  Writing the content and doing the photo shoot myself for the website was time consuming, but I have to say I really enjoyed it because I had a clear vision for what I wanted it to be, and again love the creative process.
What did you do in your past work life?
I have my CPA and worked in public accounting for a Big 6 Accounting firm in Chicago, Illinois. Then I worked in finance for a few years for a large healthcare company.  After realizing I wanted to be involved more in the direction of the business, rather than reporting on the back end, I planned a transition into marketing.  First by becoming a market research analyst, then product manager, and worked my up to a Senior Marketing Manager.  When faced with an offer to become a Director of Marketing, I know it would infringe on the time I had with my first son, then 6 months old.  I turned down the promotion and decided to become a stay at home mom and try to pursue some of my creative ideas for marketable new products.
What have been some of your major successes?
The most rewarding thing was the reality upon launch, that the totes were loved by women as much as I thought they would be; that the idea I had was in fact a good one.  The totes had market acceptance, market demand!  It's a risk to start a company, but when it's successful, it's really neat.  But two instances, in particular, come to mind.  First, when vacationing at a Okoboji, a lake resort in the Midwest, I was bringing a One Trip Tote in to a store to show the owner.  Before I could even get in the door, I had a group of women around me wanting to buy them!  Within a matter of 5 minutes, I had sold 16 One Trip Totes.  The second instance was when I was walking down the street in a Chicago suburb, shop owners were literally pulling me off the street wanting the totes.  The look of the totes are striking, especially when you see them in person. 

What have been some of your major challenges?
Determining how to market them effectively.  
On those impossible days, what motivates you to keep going?
I believe in the product. The One Trip Tote is truly an item I think every woman would want…any busy woman could really use! 
What is your balancing secret in managing a business and family?
I wish I knew the "secret".  I do the best I can.  I left the corporate world to savor the precious time of my children's youth.  Thus, they come first!  I know when I am at the end of my life, if I enjoyed the time with them, I will be satisfied.  The One Trip Tote gives me a creative outlet for now, and hopefully in the future when the kids are both in full time school, I will be able to grow the business further, and create more of the products I have already dreamed of.  
What is next for your business?
Looking to introduce some new patterns/designs and perhaps accessory items.  Also, trying to identify a manufacturer who can help me grow the business and keep up with the demand.  
Do you have any advice for other mom entrepreneurs that are starting out and struggling, or are on the fence about starting a business?  
I believe we live in the greatest country in the world.  We are given so much opportunity.  We are free to pursue anything we can imagine.  I also believe that my fellow women are so strong, incredibly intelligent and creative!  Don't tell yourself, "I can't do it".  Instead say, "Why not me?  People do it everyday!"  Break large tasks into smaller steps.  Like the old Zen saying goes, "Move, and the way will open."
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Spotlight on Mommy -- Elysse Fleece of Kozzy Bottoms LLC

I am excited to share my interview with Elysse Fleece of Kozzy Bottoms LLC with you today.  Not only is she a fellow 2011 Babble Mom Entrepreneur winner, but she also struggles with time management issues like myself, and so many other mom entrepreneurs.  In addition, Elysee is part of a military-family owned business.  Please enjoy my interview with Elysse below.

Name: Elysse Fleece
Company Name/Product/Service:  Kozzy Bottoms LLC- A military family owned childrens boutique. We carry cloth diapers, diapering accessories and handmade accessories.
Company Location:  Colorado Springs, CO
Company Website: www.kozzybottoms.com
Facebook URL: www.facebook.com/kozzybottoms
Twitter Handle: @kozzybottoms
Age of Company: 1 year

Tell us a little bit about yourself.  How many children do you have?  What are their ages? Your hobbies? Etc.

I am a military wife and mother to a 3 year little boy.  I come from a small town in Michigan and since marrying my husband 6 years ago I have seen more states then ever before. It has opened my eyes to how much I love to travel and see new places.  I love to sew and craft, talk on the phone and indulge in my gossip mags. I have a horrible addiction to coffee and my dvr!

Briefly explain your business.  How did it come about?

Kozzy Bottoms was created by our love of cloth diapering. We started late in the game with cloth diapering, it was before our sons first birthday, and just loved cloth diapering! It continues to amaze me how much diapers have evolved. We started with just a couple different brands of diapers and have evolved to carry diapers, baby care accessories and even handmade hair items and baby care.

It has become a family affair. My little monster makes all our tie dye items using an all natural dye, my husband is our dryer ball maker and my baby brother is in charge of our blog.  Our whole family works on the business and its a great way to spend time together.  We brainstorm together to work on new items and my son loves to model for us!

What is a typical work day like?

I wish there was a typical day! There is never a real set schedule here at the house. Because we run Kozzy bottoms from the house and Little Monster is not in school I have to juggle everything. My favorite part of the day is when my son wakes me in the morning. Then it's cartoon and breakfast time. This is usually when e-mails get answered and calls are made. We don't live near either of our families so we usually get to Skype with them in the mornings. Then the rest of the day is spent juggling playing cars, house work, running errands and filling orders and updating the website.  Bedtime is when I get the most work done but it comes with very early mornings. You can usually find me still up and working until 3 am.  This is when sewing and ironing gets done and if I'm lucky I even get to talk with my husband. Since I work from the house it's hard not to work. I can't leave things at the office to get finished another day.

What has been a struggle while starting up your company? 

Time management!! I have always been a bit on the ocd side when it came to organizing and I make a list for everything but once we opened Kozzy Bottoms it's like that part just disappeared! I use to work from our kitchen table when we started so it was a kitchen/office and recently I got an office which has been a huge help. I have calendars in just about every room so that I can keep track of doc appts, meetings, stocks, and even what is supposed to be pulled out for dinner! My life is ran from those calendars some days. It is not only time management for the business but also the family. It has been a huge lesson for me to ask for help and to take time off to relax and spend time with my family. It took a long time for me to see that when I'm relaxed it shows in the business and more gets done. That and Pandora! If I have Frank Sinatra going then you know I'm knee deep in something and determined to get it done.  My son loves to help and being able to get help from others has helped me get things done. 

What did you do in your past work life?

Until I delivered my son I worked for the best family company in N.C. as a receptionist. I love clerical work, probably related to my ocd!, and I loved helping the customers. There was always something going on in the office and it was like one huge family.  They are amazing and were a great inspiration in starting our own company. You hear of horror stories of couples working together but we do pretty well together. We have our moments but then something great comes out of it! I also go to school on the side as well.

What have been some of your major successes?

We were listed as a top 50 Mompreneur of 2011 thanks to Babble.com. That was great and we are in a great little diaper store here in town. Through the store I have met some amazing women and it's a great way to get out and be able to meet other moms who have the same values as me. I love seeing pictures of our customers with their little girls in our tutus and items. Bringing such joy to little girls is so much fun. I don't have a girl so I get to make things for other girls.

What have been some of your major challenges?

Have I mentioned time management!! Just the overwhelming process of keeping up with everything. There are products to make, pictures to take and edit, paperwork to file and meetings to make. It's hard to do it all when you still need to clean the bathroom and finish the laundry and mow the lawn!

Keeping up with everything and knowing when to stop and take a break. There is always something new around the corner and I dont want to feel like Kozzy Bottom sis missing out. Were just now getting into Twitter! It's hard to keep up with the new social network or newest trend or thing to do.

Doing it as a military wife has also been a struggle. I created the business on my husbands first deployment but I forget how hard it is to balance everything when he is gone and how much he does when he is here. I forget how much I hate garbage duty and I would rather be at my sewing machine instead :)  It's something that takes alot of adjusting; being able to be mom and dad when he is gone and still manage the house and the business.  Couple that with my time management issue and sometimes its just a disaster! But on those disaster days are some of my favorite memories too.

On those impossible days, what motivates you to keep going?

My family. I want my son to know that even though things can get hard and overwhelming to keep going. That you can follow your dreams and things do work out when you put your mind to it. I never in my wildest dreams would think that I would own my own store but here we are! I want my children to be proud and learn to follow through and keep going.  I love that my son gets to come to work with me and gets to work with me.  It's great to be able to do something together as a family. The business helps make each day go by faster to when my husband comes home too. It helps to think about how when it's done were one day closer!

What is your balancing secret in managing a business and family?

Ask for help. There is no shame in asking for help. It has taken me along time to see that asking for help is necessary at times and it's ok to put things on the back burner. Sometimes you just need to take those couple minutes to daydream or have that extra cup of coffee to relax. I have made a real effort in creating a work area and a family area and I have gotten so much done with that simple step. It's all about learning the balance and asking for help. It's ok to ask for it and to relax.

What is next for your business?

We are getting ready to launch our sister company Snap and Bow. Snap and Bow is an accessory line that works on a snap system. Its great for young children because they learn how to use snaps and they do it by doing their hair! Learning without knowing it is always a favorite of moms. And it's great for all ages because you simply change out you accessory in seconds. It's a snap! We are also introducing our military line that has all military items. Its a great way to show support to our troops and families.

Do you have any advice for other mom entrepreneurs that are starting out and struggling, or are on the fence about starting a business?

Time management. Setting a schedule and sticking to it. There has to be equal time for your family and your business.
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Book Review: Letters to Zerky: A Father's Legacy to a Lost Son and a Road Trip Around the World by Bill Raney and JoAnne Walker Raney

446 pages
ISBN: 978-0-9821384-0-3
List Price:$27.00
Pub Date: November 1st, 2009
Published by: Nickelodeon Press


So many of us have dreamt about taking off for parts unknown, to see and experience the world. From April of 1967 until May of 1968, a young couple lived that dream. A few months after Bill Raney and his wife JoAnne adopted an infant son they called Zerky (Eric Xerxes Raney), the three of them embarked -- with their miniature dachshund, Tarzan -- on a trip in a new Volkswagen camper-van. It took them nearly around the world.

They traveled across Europe and through Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Nepal, Sikkim, Assam, then flew on to Thailand and Hong Kong, before returning to San Francisco -- a trip that couldn't be replicated today. Their experiences were sometimes fabulous, sometimes frightening, but always enlightening, as they discovered different cultures and wonderful people. Because Zerky was too young to remember his great adventure, his father wrote him a series of letters along the way, while his mother kept a diary. Both were for Zerky to read someday when he was older and would be curious about all the things he had seen and done. 

My Review:

5 stars out of 5

What a touching story told by Bill Raney.  In this travel memoir, we follow Bill, his wife JoAnne and adopted infant son, Zerky, as they travel the world in their RV to experience a trip and adventure of a lifetime.  Because Zerky would be too young to remember the trip, Bill documented the trip through letters to his young son, while JoAnne used a journal to document the trip.  Life being unpredictable, turned this once in a lifetime adventure into a remembrance of sorts for the author, as he lost his wife while she was 8 months pregnant upon their return to CA, and a year later, his son Zerky passed away at age 4.  So, instead of documenting the trip, Bill ended up turning his memories, letters and photos into this wonderful book.  Letters to Zerky reads like a diary, and really does pull at your heartstrings.  The book and the way Bill tells of his adventures with his late wife and son are honest and pure.  You can't help but feel happy that they were able to experience this type of journey while together.  So many people dream of spending time with their families in such a way, but due to hectic schedules, money restraints and more,  trips like these can't be taken.

If you like reading memoirs, or are looking for a great book to read this summer, you definitely have to pick up Letters to Zerky.  I promise you will not be able to put it down, and will be sharing it with friends. 

About the Authors:

Bill Raney was born in Grand Forks, ND, and spent his teen years in Port Angeles, WA. It was there he got a ham radio license and started cruising the world on the airwaves. After two and a half years at Reed College, in Portland, OR, he dropped out to become a beatnik in San Francisco's action-packed North Beach district in the late 1950s and 60s. It was there he met and then married JoAnne, who owned and ran The Movie, a small art theatre in North Beach.

In April of 1967, soon after Bill and JoAnne adopted their son Zerky (Eric Xerxes Raney), they left for the journey detailed in Letters to Zerky: A Father's Legacy to a Lost Son and a Road Trip Around the World. Upon their return to California thirteen months later, the Raneys moved down the coast to Santa Cruz, where Bill got a bank loan and started the Nickelodeon Theatre, now a Santa Cruz institution. It is still going strong today.

One month after the Nickelodeon opened, JoAnne died in her sleep of an Undiagnosed cerebral aneurism, and about year after that, Zerky died.

Two years after JoAnne's death, Bill married Nancy. Together they ran the Nickelodeon Theatre, with periodic getaway trips to exotic places. After Selling the Nickelodeon in 1997, they moved to Spain for six months. Upon Their return to the U.S., they bought an old 42-foot trawler on which they lived for the next eight years, cruising the Pacific Coast from Santa Cruz North to Alaska and back. It was towards the end of their wandering lifestyle on the boat that Bill came across the letters he had written to Zerky on that Trip so many years before. He also rediscovered some old pictures and JoAnne's diary. Bill realized they could be a book that might serve as a Memorial to Zerky and JoAnne.

Today the Raneys live in a redwood forest outside Santa Cruz. Bill's wanderlust still grips him, although his seventy-four years have slowed him down.

Zachary, Zerky's adopted brother, grew up to become a baseball pitcher, and is now a teacher living in San Diego.

In addition to Letters to Zerky, Bill Wrote and recorded a song about the trip, Zerky's Waltz, which can be heard at www.LettersToZerky.com. Bill has also Refurbished an old VW bus, which is now The "Zerky Mobile". He intends to drive it as far as he dares (spare parts are hard to find). Bill is also in the process of establishing a small "park" at the Santa Cruz High playing field, in memory of Zerky.

JoAnne Walker Raney was born in Consumers, Utah, then a mining camp up in the mountains, now a ghost town. After graduating from Stanford University in 1955, having majored in International Relations and studied Russian, she moved to Paris, and then hitchhiked through Yugoslavia (during the 1956 Hungarian Uprising). A few of her adventures there are recounted in Letters to Zerky.

She returned to San Francisco in the late 1950s, to buy and remodel The Movie, a small art theatre that had come up for sale in North Beach. She and Bill were married in 1966.

In May of 1967, on the eve of The Summer of Love, as runaways began trickling into San Francisco, with flowers in their hair, JoAnne sold her little theatre and she and Bill and Zerky and their little dog Tarzan left on their around the world adventure.

Upon returning to California thirteen months later, the Raneys moved down the coast to Santa Cruz. While Bill worked on making the Nickelodeon Theatre a reality, JoAnne chose to focus on being a full-time mother to Zerky and to Zachary, their second adopted child, as well as to a third child when she became pregnant. Eight months later -- and one month after the Nickelodeon opened -- JoAnne died unexpectedly of an undiagnosed brain aneurysm.

In Letters to Zerky: A Father's Legacy to a Lost Son and a Road Trip Around the World, Bill has lovingly incorporated JoAnne's diary entries from their journey, along with the letters he wrote. Both were for Zerky to read someday when he was older and would be curious about his great adventure. Now you can read and revel in this once-upon-a-time trip of a lifetime, as you contemplate a time now gone.

While tragically Zerky didn't grow up to be able to re-experience their trip-of-a-lifetime, the rest of us can read and revel in this glimpse of another place and time as witnessed with eyes and hearts wide open to each wonderful day.

Disclosure:  I was sent a copy of this book in order to write up an honest review.  The views above are mine and mine alone.
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Spotlight on Mommy -- Faith Dionne of Bees and Beans

Last month I introduced Bees and Beans with you as part of my Gift Guide for Mother's Day.  Today, I want to share my Spotlight on Mommy interview with the owner of Bees and Beans, Faith Dionne.  If you missed my previous post about Faith's products, click here to read my post now.

Name: Faith Dionne
Company Name/Product/Service: Bees and Beans
Company Location: Portland, Oregon
Company Website: [email protected]
Facebook URL: http://www.facebook.com/home.php#!/pages/Bees-Beans/108075529229695
Twitter Handle: @beesandbeanspdx
Age of Company: 1 year
Favorite Book: Animal, vegetable, miracle by Barbara Kingsolver

Tell us a little bit about yourself.  How many children do you have?  What are their ages? Your hobbies? Etc.

I am the mom of two little ones, a boy (4) and a girl (2).  I was a SAHM for 4 years and now run my business out of my licensed domestic kitchen part time.  My hobbies revolve around food and the outdoors for the most part and include gardening and foraging.

Briefly explain your business.  How did it come about?

Bees and Beans is a small batch candy company that specializes in handmade artisan candy bars.  The business formed almost on its own with a little help from me.  It began as a feeling of readiness to begin something new.  I had been making hand dipped salted caramels with local honey and cream for friends and family and noticed that folks rarely ate just one.  They typically ate three or four!  I decided to save myself some time and started making bars of caramel.  Then the idea to further feature my region's ingredients came into my mind.  I started creating bars by considering the best confectionery "venue" for the ingredients.  I began talking about my product to other food minded people and sampling them on bars.  Before my official launch I had 5 wholesale accounts ready to sell my candy bars!  I employed the talent of friends, the advice of peers and the support of my family.  I now have 12 wholesale accounts and have begun selling on the internet.

What is a typical work day like? 

In the winter I work in the afternoon so that I can spend the morning with my kids and taking care of home life.  I have childcare come to play with my kids while I work until 5:00 on production and deliveries.  Then it is time to cook dinner!  Summers I work in the morning to take advantage of cooler weather.

What has been a struggle while starting up your company?  

Maintaining my social life has been difficult.  Mornings that used to be used for playdates and coffee visits are now used to do laundry and grocery shopping.

What did you do in your past work life?

 I was a professional pastry chef for 10 years in resort hotels and high end restaurants around the United States.

What have been some of your major successes?

As I started my business I set a clear set of goals for my business so that I can look back at them and see how I am doing.  Among them are reconnecting with the food community (after a long absence), bringing a product to market that pleases a wide range of customers, and to build a business that is an exercise in small economies and locality.  I feel like I have been successful in those things and I find it really fulfilling.

What have been some of your major challenges?

 Finding balance with the business and home life and being content with that balance.  I find myself often yearning, one way or the other, so I am still working on finding that magic place.  I think it keeps changing and that is why it is tricky!

On those impossible days, what motivates you to keep going?

Pardon the theme song, but Modest Mouse's "float on" helps me.  "Alright don't worry we'll all float on
Even if things get heavy we'll all float on"...and it is true!

What is your balancing secret in managing a business and family?

Be flexible!  Be watchful of needs of your kids, husband, friends, and business and try to help.  However if you need to come up short for someone it should be the business.

What is next for your business?

Probably a part time employee.  I brought in help to package for a huge order I processed and it was amazing!  A small step like that frees up a lot of time for me to take on more orders.

Do you have any advice for other mom entrepreneurs that are starting out and struggling, or are on the fence about starting a business? 

My best advice is to not force it.  Pray about it if that is something you do and be watchful of signs.  If it is supposed to happen it should happen in a peaceful way and feel like a gift.

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Spotlight on Mommy -- Helen Anderson, RN, CLE of Milkies Milk-Saver

If you are breastfeeding or know someone who is, you need to check Milkies Milk-Saver, created by Helen Anderson, RN, CLE.  She is one of this week's Spotlight on Mommies.  What a great invention.  I wish I had this when  I was breastfeeding my daughter. This would have made pumping on the go easier and more discreet.  To learn more about the Milkies Milk-Saver, click here.  

I had the opportunity to interview Helen about the Milkies Milk-Saver and how she balances work and family.  Enjoy my interview with her below.

Name: Helen Anderson, RN, CLE
Company Name/Product/Service: Milkies Milk-Saver
Company Location: McMinnville, Oregon
Company Website: www.mymilkies.com
Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Milkies-Milk-Saver/66877587324
Twitter Handle: @mymilkies
Age of Company: 3 years
Favorite Inspirational Quotes: Go confidently in the directions of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined -- Henry David Thoreau
Favorite Book:Of Mice and Men

Tell us a little bit about yourself.  How many children do you have?  What are their ages? Your hobbies? Etc.

I have 2 wonderful boys, ages 3 and 5.  I love spending time with my kids, going for walks, traveling and hanging out at the library.  Milkies and being a mommy keeps me busy, but I sneak in a walk alone twice a week. Ahh quiet!

Briefly explain your business.  How did it come about?

Oh, I love the story of the "beginning"!  When my second son was brand new I would sit on the couch next to a big pile of towels every time he ate. Over the course of the day I would soak every one of them with my milk that leaked from the non-nursing side while I nursed my sweet little boy.  I remembered challenge of storing enough milk to leave for my husband to feel while I was at work (I worked 12 hour shifts as a nurse at my local hospital). I knew the value of all those ounces of breast milk wasted into those dish towels.  I looked for something that would help me save my milk instead of wasting it but there was nothing out there to help me.  So I talked to my mom about making a product that would help me and all the other breastfeeding mommies out there stay dry and save so much more milk.  She is a nurse too and wanted to help moms and babies breastfeed more successfully.

What is a typical work day like? 

I get started early!  I get up before the kids, answer emails and send out new ones.  I might spend the time writing some educational content for a guest post or article.  When my little guys get up I make them breakfast and take them to pre-school.  I go to the office for a few hours, this is when I have my meetings and make calls since it's the only quiet time I have in the day! I pick them up and we have lunch together.  I try to wrap things up by mid-afternoon so we can head outside and play before I start dinner. 

What has been a struggle while starting up your company?  

So many struggles! So little time!  As nurses, not business women, we had a bit of a learning curve.  Everyday we learned something new and made plenty of mistakes along the way.  Through it all, I always believed Milkies would succeed.  Another struggle? Convincing my husband I was not going back to work, instead I would stay home and start a company centered on supporting breastfeeding. 

What did you do in your past work life?

I worked as a nurse in all kinds of settings at my local hospital, ER, ICU and Medical/Surgical.

What have been some of your major successes?

I would love to say we had a big thing happened and the next day everything changed.  It's not like that, we have little successes everyday.  I love hearing from mommies that use our Milk-Saver and save gallons of milk.  It's always thrilling getting our product into a new store and our product is sold in several hundred stores all over the world, from local retail outlets to large chain stores like Buy Buy Baby and Baby Depot. 

What have been some of your major challenges?

The Milk-Saver was a brand new concept for collecting and saving milk. Consumers had to see the product, read reviews and hear about it from friends before it gained acceptance.  When the Milk-Saver first came to the market some people thought "What is this weird new breastfeeding thingy?" Now it's been on the market for a while and it's become more normal to collect and save milk.

On those impossible days, what motivates you to keep going?

Milkies is my mission.  We want moms to realize how valuable their breast milk is, and give them the confidence to over come any breastfeeding challenges.  Of course my boys are never far from my mind, I want them to see first hand how to problem solve, work hard and succeed.

What is your balancing secret in managing a business and family?

No secret. It's tough!  Don't expect your spouse to be on board from the start, sometimes a little success can be the best way to get people behind your project.  When Milkies was getting off the ground, my husband was not supportive.  Now he is my biggest cheerleader and my entire family is involved.  My kids help me move boxes and load the printer, we work together.  Milkies has an office and warehouse but I primarily use my home office so we can take a break, make lunch, build legos or whatever the day brings!

What is next for your business?

Milkies is adding a few more really amazing products to our line by the end of 2011.  Milkies has always just been the Milk-Saver, it's time to add to the line.  It is so easy to say, it belies the enormous amount of work to get a new product from concept to market. Whew! I get tired just thinking about it.

Do you have any advice for other mom entrepreneurs that are starting out and struggling, or are on the fence about starting a business?

Do it!  You will be so surprised by your own creativity and resourcefulness.  The baby/toddler parenting industry is full of moms just like you and me.  We all started somewhere and the support and willingness to share and advise is heartwarming.  I have friends all over the world now, I have traveled and had experiences I never would have had if not for Milkies. 

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Spotlight on Mommy -- Kim Estes of Savvy Parents Safe Kids (Giveaway and Free Consulation)

Safety is one of top priority of all parents for their children, and with the help of Kim Estes, she is making it a little bit easier.  She offers parenting workshops and professional trainings around the United States, as well as tele-seminars. Her workshops are geared to help adults learn the best tips, tools and techniques to help you talk to your child about safety, without using scare tactics.
I had the opportunity to interview Kim for my Spotlight on Mommy feature and am pleased to share it with you today.  And, just for Inspired by Savannah readers, Kim has kindly offered to provide FREE 30-min phone consultations with her, where she can answer any of child safety questions.  To take advantage of this special offer, please email her today and let her know you found out about her and her services through her Spotlight on Mommy post.  
In addition, one lucky reader will also win a Child Safety Book, thanks to Kim.  To enter, first visit Kim's website, and then please leave a comment below letting me know what you learned about Kim and Savvy Parents Safe Kids.  It is that easy!!!  Good luck, and enjoy my interview with Kim.

Name:  Kim Estes
Company Name/Product/Service: Savvy Parents Safe Kids
Company Location: Redmond, WA
Company Website:  www.savvyparentssafekids.com
Twitter Handle: @savvyandsafe
Age of Company:  I have been a safety educator for 5 years and just recently launched Savvy Parents Safe Kids
Favorite Inspirational Quotes: "Too much of anything is bad for you"... my grandmother
Favorite Book: Anything by David Sedaris
Tell us a little bit about yourself.  How many children do you have?  What are their ages? Your hobbies? Etc. 

I have been a parent educator for over 12 years and love what I do. I am a mom to two fantastic girls (8 and 13) and have been married to the same awesome guy for over 20 years. I love to snowshoe, take long walks and when I have spare time, I love to work on my family genealogy.
Briefly explain your business.  How did it come about? 

I am a child safety expert and I work with both parent and professionals in helping them learn how to keep kids safe from sexual abuse, abduction and other crimes. I have mobile workshops and often speak to parent groups and do professional trainings. I began my journey into child safety when a predatory incident happened at my daughters school. When I realized there were other parents like myself, who could use some safety coaching, my safety career was born.
What is a typical work day like? 

After I get the kids off to school, I usually spend my time divided between the computer, the phone, moms group workshops and meeting with other community members. By 2PM my dog is nudging me for her walk... which is a great reminder to Step Away From The Computer! Then, I get time with the kids in the afternoon before I usually head out the door to teach parent workshops in the evening.
What has been a struggle while starting up your company?  

Keeping time that is carved out for just my family and free of interruptions for work. Starting a business requires a lot of intensive networking and that can really take a lot of time.  
What did you do in your past work life? 

I was in accounting! That background has made the financial end of my business easier!
What have been some of your major successes? 

I have loved being able to partner with national companies and organizations such as the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children as well as Habitat for Humanity, National PTA, Starbucks and our local police departments.
What have been some of your major challenges? 

Due to the nature of my business, people are often afraid of the topic of sexual abuse prevention (even though that is only a part of what I teach) so it often requires a lot of time getting to know people so they can see my approach to safety is both effective AND friendly.
On those impossible days, what motivates you to keep going?  

All I have to do is read the newspaper... to understand that the work I am doing is important to keeping kids safe.
What is your balancing secret in managing a business and family? 

I only check e-mail once after 5:30PM and I have dedicated time that is just for my family.
What is next for your business?  

More national speaking engagements and I will be launching a blog talk radio show in April 2011 that will tackle tough parenting topics.
Do you have any advice for other mom entrepreneurs that are starting out and struggling, or are on the fence about starting a business? 

Only do something you absolutely LOVE and expect that it will take about 24 months to really get your business rolling! Network, network, network!!
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Spotlight on Mommy -- Jennifer Thompson of The Write Stuff, Inc.

Even though there is only a month or so left with school, why not start planning for September.  I remember as a child, I knew the summer was over when my mother began shopping for school supplies.  But, as we grew older, things changed and she began picking things up during the summer.  This way, it didn't make the end of summer seem so bad.  We were able to enjoy the final days of vacation not worrying about what we needed to pack in our school bags, or if we needed her to buy additional supplies.  Also, our mother didn't enjoy the crazy crowds around the school supply aisles on those hot summer days.  And, with that being said, I want to introduce you all to Jennifer Thompson of The Write Stuff, Inc., a school supply packaging company.  A mom of four herself, she has done her fair share of school supply shopping for sure.  I hope you enjoy my interview with her.  And, don't forget to scroll to the bottom of the interview for a special coupon code that you can use to help you save NOW on school supplies for this fall.  Happy shopping!

Name:  Jennifer Thompson

Company Name/Product/Service:  The Write Stuff, Inc.  A school supply packaging company

Company Location:
St. Charles, IL

Company Website:  www.write-stuff.com

Facebook URL: www.facebook.com/writestuffschoolkits

Twitter Handle: @ supplykitmoms

Age of Company:  12 years

Favorite Inspirational Quotes:
"The only thing more overrated than natural childbirth is owning
your own business"  A tongue in cheek expression, of course. 

Favorite Book:  To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee

Tell us a little bit about yourself.  How many children do you have?  What are their ages? Your
hobbies? Etc.  

I have 4 children, 2 girls, 2 boys.  They are 14, 11, 9, and 5.  At this point in my  life, my family is my hobby...no, they are my passion.  For myself?  I run.  I meet 1-3 other women several times a week in the morning to run on a forest preserve trail in our area.  It is my favorite way to start my day!

Briefly explain your business.  How did it come about?  

A gentleman my husband worked with had actually started preparing school supply kits for his own children's school as a fundraiser for their parent organization.  The word spread, and he began adding other schools in his area.  As this was not his full time career, and did not want it to be, we were able to walk in at the right time and take over. 

We work with school parent organizations to provide children with all the necessary supplies to go back to school each fall.  The contents of each grade level kit is based on each teacher in each building we serve.  Parent organizations then offer these to their parents to buy before school lets out for summer.  Many schools offer it as a service, others increase the sell price and use it is as a fundraiser.

As the internet has become such a strong presence in our  world, we have made adaptations to our program.  Any parent can visit our web site as well and create their own kit.  They simply add the necessary items to their cart, and we will package and ship them to their home for the  start of school. 

What is a typical work day like? 

I work very closely with my sales manager, Michele.  We create  quotes for schools, speak with our customers, and prospective new ones.  We buy direct from  manufacturers such as Crayola, Mead, Elmer's, etc and so there are relations there to foster.   Our philosophy is that it is our job to make the parent volunteer's job easy.  So we stay one step  ahead of them in their sale process to have things ready as they need them.  I believe it has paid off, as we have had many schools as clients since we started in 1999.

What has been a struggle while starting up your company?  

The work and family balance.  In 2002 my 2nd child was diagnosed with Leukemia at age 2 1/2.  Without the help of my  wonderful employees and friends, we may not still be in business today.  I'm glad to say he is  healthy, and so is my business!

What did you do in your past work life? 

I was a middle school teacher and then assistant principal.

What have been some of your major successes? 

I was a finalist in Count Me In's Make Mine  a Million Business competition in 2010.  I competed against several hundred women to finish  in the top 20.  We presented our business elevator pitches to a panel and audience of 600.   It was an amazing experience.  Count Me In is a great resource and platform for women  entrepreneurs.

What have been some of your major challenges?  

Schools are struggling to keep volunteers.  It is a difficult time in our economy, and many parents (those same volunteers) have had to  return to the work force.  This is our primary contact with the school parent organizations, who  are the ones who organize these sales.  We have had to adjust some of our processes to help  those who are only able to speak on the phone in the evening ,etc.  We know that volunteering  is hard, especially for busy parents.  We do everything to make that easier for them.

On those impossible days, what motivates you to keep going?  

Truthfully I know that if I  were to still be working in the schools, I would ne have had the joy of attending my own children's preschool programs, or be able to help with class parties.  I am so grateful for those opportunities, that I have to remember those moments when things start to get me down.

What is your balancing secret in managing a business and family?  

Do something for yourself.   Not all the time, not even every day.  I run.  I know it is good for my health, and that is great,  but that is not why I do it.  I do it because it is for me ,and I enjoy the company of my running
partners.  They are relationships that have gone hundreds of miles (literally) and I can depend  on.  After my runs, I can handle the 4 children and a husband routine with a clearer head. 

What is next for your business?  

Our client base is growing.  We are looking to possibly increase our facility size, and increase our web site's capabilities to help our customers.

Do you have any advice for other mom entrepreneurs that are starting out and struggling, or
are on the fence about starting a business?  

Find a mentor, friend, or someone to talk to.  I  meet weekly via an online video conference with 4 other women who were also in the Make  Mine a Million competition.  We share business ideas, ask advice, and help each other.  It is an  invaluable resource for me.  I consider them my private "board of directors".

Special Savings for Inspired by Savannah Readers!!!!
Make sure to use coupon code "SPOTLIGHT" at checkout to receive $10 off your total purchase of $40 or more.  Act now, as this is only valid until June 15th.

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