Real dreams never die

leap-of-faith

So there’s this thing. I’ve had it for quite sometime.

It’s a dream that I – we – started as an experiment. A product to see if there was a market for it. A business started out of a felt need.

Question was, did anyone else feel the need like we did?

No market research existed for our target market. Heck, even today there is great debate over market findings.

But we did it. We dove into the “experiment,” knowing we could be throwing money in a black hole, likely with no return.

We were wrong.

We did break even. It took three or four years, but it happened. Our experiment had worked, better than we could have imagined.

So why didn’t we keep going? Right about then, one of us ran out of time, the other out of money. We kind of got stuck. For an experiment, though, it wasn’t bad.

Still, it was hard to shutter the business. Looking back, we were going against the grain – way against the grain. Market awareness wasn’t yet there. We couldn’t get shelf space where we needed it. Besides, there were no distribution channels – yet.

Now, nearly 20 years later, all that has changed. Funny thing is, the market is still there. In fact, it’s bigger – much bigger. Could the demand still follow?

I think it’s time to see if there’s still life in that dream. I’ve been exploring how to revive it, and I think it can be done.

We’ll have to wedge it back in via the margins – the way most small businesses start. And we may have to bootstrap it – again.

It was successful before in a less promising environment. It could be successful now, right?

There’s only one way to find out.

Ogilvy and great content

I need to do a better job of cleaning out my bookmarks. Found this under a pile of moth balls, so I had to dust it off and air it out.

david-ogilvy-don-draperCopyblogger’s original post was inspired by the father of all Mad Men.

No, not Don Draper (left). I’m talking about the real father of advertising, David Ogilvy — the copywriter’s copywriter and author of the creative classic, Ogilvy on Advertising.

Because before social media, there was advertising. And then social media changed everything.

Copyblogger clearly anticipated this transition, which changed one of the sexiest industries forever. (Although from experience, I can tell you: it wasn’t all that sexy. Pan Am would’ve been a lot sexier.)

Basically, good content is good content, regardless of its era or semantics. Call it advertising, blogging, whatever. It’s content no matter how you slice it.

Advertising = Information

While advertising has long been perceived as a trendsetter in pop culture, Ogilvy viewed it as content that informs.

Granted, the path to the consumer dollar today is kinder and gentler, and less linear. But the idea is the same: Make your content so useful that people want to take action.

Ogilvy summed it up like this:

I do not regard advertising as entertainment or art form, but as a medium of information. When I write an advertisement, I don’t want you to tell me that you find it ‘creative.’ I want you to find it so interesting that you buy the product. When Aeschines spoke, they said, ‘How well he speaks.’ But when Demosthenes spoke, they said, ‘Let us march against Philip.’

To board or not to board? That is the question

Woman dressed in suit talking in meeting

A few years ago, I joined my first board. As a strategist, I looked forward to contributing to the success of a nonprofit.

Like with anything new, I had questions about “how this works” and what I should expect. Most of those surfaced as I served and learned the ropes. Along the way, I asked people I knew whose board experience I could learn from.

Based on their experience and mine, I decided to share a few pointers – especially for people looking to give back to their community and beyond. It’s not an exhaustive list, but good food for thought. I’d love to hear yours, too, in the comments.

Dos and Don’ts of joining a board
If you’re considering joining a board, it’s good to go in with eyes wide open. Because engaging in this kind of work really should come with a clear understanding of commitments and the real needs of the organization from its trustees.

  • DO join a board if the organization’s mission is something close to your heart. It helps if you’re knowledgeable in the space it serves, too.
  • DO join a board if you have specific skills or a network that can be helpful to its advancement. Are you networked with like-minded people? They might be able to support the org or even be committee or board candidates themselves.
  • DO, in most cases, expect to do some fundraising. That means at some point, you’ll need to pound the proverbial pavement with your contacts and others, in hopes of helping your organization reach its revenue* goals. It means asking for money. Lots of folks are very uncomfortable with this, but let me tell you – if you have the right potential donor, they want to be asked. I’m a pastor’s kid, so I grew up hearing calls for offerings. And apparently the “ask” rubbed off on me, so I’m not at all shy about it – especially if I know someone has demonstrated interest in lending financial support before.
  • DON’T join a board without a clear idea of what your time commitment will be. If you only have 2 hours per month that you can devote to it, make sure it will fit into your schedule so you can maximize your time and make the best contribution possible. Nothing breeds resentment like demands that exceed your availability or don’t consider your time.
  • DON’T join a board that has not clearly outlined and agreed to domains and responsibilities of staff and board members.

What would you add to this list if someone asked you whether they should join a board?

*Don’t be fooled by the word “nonprofit.” Like any for-profit, a nonprofit needs income (revenue) to meet expenses like payroll, program administration, marketing and donor development. Many parallels are clear, too: Donors = customers; program development = product development. At a high level, the needs are basically the same.

Photo credit: UN Ebola Task Force meeting on 19 September 2014 via photopin (license). No derivatives.

How I met Braulio … at Trader Joe’s

Vintage Trader Joe's signI was making a quick grocery trip today to our fairly new Trader Joe’s (finally, we’re a legit mid-size city). About to part ways with my checkout guy, I spotted his name tag: BRAULIO.

Naturally, I asked him about it. I mean, the same name as my great-grandfather – what are the chances?

We chatted about where he’s from, where my great-grandfather Braulio was from, and the origins of their shared name.

I wasn’t smart enough to take a selfie with the college-y looking Braulio (although I might try in the future).

But, I can say I met a Braulio. At Trader Joe’s.

While I’d love to claim I’d found my Braulio, it’s far too early for “mission accomplished.” Maybe it was a sign of some kind. Maybe my breakthrough is coming.

It’s not perfect, but it is the first of many

My first quilt ever - and definitely not my last.

My first quilt ever – definitely not my last. Although, I might photograph it differently next time – like with hubby help.

Thanks to those of you who encouraged me to continue growing my new quilting skills.

Feels a little naked to share it here, but on the other hand I’m really proud and happy to have finished it. I’ve heard stories about these things nearly getting sidelined for years because no one likes binding them – or maybe even quilting them (sewing all the layers together).

So here’s the first one in all its glory. I gifted it to my friend’s 2-year-old son, who she said was really happy when he opened it himself (slight exaggeration?).

Let nothing be lost

Wool quilt "Nothing Lost" quilt by Paul Loebach

“Nothing Lost” quilt by Paul Loebach. Image Design*Sponge.

In the last couple of years, I acquired a newfound love for modern quilting. While this beauty here is made of wool, its construction embodies the biblical quote (John 6:12) it comes from.

In the passage, Jesus had just fed a crowd of 5,000 with two loaves of barley bread and five fishes, before asking his disciples to pick up the leftovers, so nothing would go to waste. The barley bread leftovers filled 12 more baskets.

I am so mesmerized by the beauty of this quilt and its existence as a metaphor for that miracle. (I don’t think I want to know how much it costs, however.)

Aaaand we’re back – back to Braulio

Marriage record for Mariano Cavello and Ambrosia Lesa

Ay, ay, ay.

I think I could be doing this for a long time – this one family member.

It’s OK though. In a month of Aha! moments, I’ll take any clarity on my ancestors I can get.

And whoa is me, I’ve been running down the wrong trail for quite sometime. U-turn!

So why didn’t I think of this before? My paternal great-grandfather Braulio Cabello remains a mystery, but there are two big (I think) hints that have stared me in the face for sometime:

  1. His marriage record cites a Mariano Cavello (Cabello) as his father and Ambrosia Lesa his mother.
  2. His death record, however, cites an Anastacio Cabello as his father and, again, Ambrosia Lesa as his mother. Anastacio (Anastasio), more often than not, goes down in the record books as his dad.

Braulio’s birth/christening record is still AWOL, but now I’m motivated to give it another go by (re)starting with what I already “know.” Even if there’s a discrepancy around his father, it’s one I know about.

This critical link, after all, means we might – juuuuust might – tie back to the founders of San Antonio. There’s lots of cool stuff in that. Maybe we also founded Mi Tierra restaurant. A girl can dream.

Right under my nose

For too long I assumed Braulio’s different father names was just a discrepancy. (What?! Silly me.) Aside from seeing the other side of my family (my mom’s side) and the drama that can happen in the name of love, I also know marriage customs then weren’t what they are now.

For example, when a woman was widowed, often she would marry her brother-in-law. Not sure that’s what happened here (other way around), but now I know exactly where to go and what to do next. I am determined to find out.

And I. Can’t. Wait!

Three years to unwind

fashion-hand-person-4956

I’ve had two big “aha” moments in the last couple of weeks — three years in the making, apparently. (Slow learner, I guess.)

Turns out, up until three years ago, I was pretty tightly wound.

Like a lot of people, I worked my butt off for a lot of years before hitting the proverbial wall. And like many people, I burned out. And then I got laid off, taking it hard and going through the requisite grieving process, making sure to excel at the anger part.

It wasn’t long before I was again in the same position … without a full-time job.

Tough times? Well, yes. Freelance work was coming in, so that was good. But it wasn’t the point. The point was, I was angry and hurt all over again. I thought I’d “done my time” first time around, only to be subjected to it a second time, in rapid succession no less.

That was then, this is now

Fast forward to two days ago.

Well. The first round wasn’t “all there was,” apparently. It wasn’t the only lesson I needed to learn – that work or career wasn’t everything there is to life. The second “break” was for deflating, for finding ways to “come down” and appreciate the life I’d been blessed with.

I wasn’t thrilled about the solitude again, even though it’s exactly what I needed. I’d been accustomed not only to being around people, but being there for people. This time, the only people around were me, myself and I.

Now, I have had time to discover new things I enjoy spending time on. In fact, I can’t imagine my life without them. And I can’t imagine not spending the quality time I’ve found with old friends, my family and especially my husband.

Three was the magic number

I couldn’t be more thankful now for a season I thought was a lost one, a wasted one. In retrospect, one year less would have made the process incomplete. And if there’s another year to go, I guess that’s what it will take.

But by God’s grace, I feel like I’m nearly back in one piece. My head is clear, my heart is pure[r] and I’m ready for service again.

I could’ve sworn there was no haystack there this morning

Field under a cloudy sky

Photo by OeilDeNuit

When it rains, it pours.

Such is the life of the freelancer. When not thinking about revenue streams several months out, they’re slamming project on top of project, usually to make up for possible gaps and often at the expense of personal margin and quality of life.

It comes with the territory.

After spending the last two-to-three years in that mode, I sense something’s about to happen that will force a significant choice – one that favors quality of life and doesn’t look anything like what I would have expected at this point.

Today, a whole lot of work-like “needles” piled up, almost in real time. Tonight, I’m sorting through the resulting haystack, in search of one or two “keepers” and some peace of mind.

I love how scary things often end up being good things. But for the moment, I’m still on the scary part.

And we thought blogging was risky business

meerkat on yellow backgroundAs if life with social media weren’t real-time enough. I never thought I’d be curious enough to jump into video, let alone real-time video.

For the moment, I’m not. Not personally, anyway. Heck, I hardly take selfies, much less video of any kind. But I am fascinated by emerging technologies and their potential uses.

I’m sure the response to live video tweeting tools is something like it was back when blogs and social media were winding up, especially in corporate environments:

  • Too risky: Who’s gonna control outgoing content?
  • Too raw: Great. Now we need another editor.
  • Too transparent: The execs will never let us do it.

And yet, just like social media, opportunities abound. If your marketing or communication needs call for the immediacy of video, it’s official: the tools are here.

The space is definitely evolving, but between Vine (edited), Meerkat and Periscope (both real-time), a few practical ideas that come to mind are:

  • Conferences, concerts, sporting events: Real-time action & “reporting” (I cringe to use the term, but hey, these tools make citizen reporters of us all, with or without contextual info)
  • Farmers (or any) markets: Stream what’s at market – today only
  • Flash sales: Discounts on new or limited inventory; viewer-only discounts
  • Restaurants/Food Trucks/Food Service/Cooking Classes: Watch it being made; drive instant traffic
  • Disaster response & fundraising: Show what it’s like “on the ground” (depends on availability of communications services, which can be a tall order in a crisis)
  • Oh and of course – law enforcement. Can’t forget that.

The possibilities are really endless and don’t necessarily have to be invasive or high-risk, although for those of us unaccustomed to putting our entire lives out there, this can feel pretty voyeuristic.

Some folks will “go there” and it will be interesting to see how responsible users will be. But I’m more excited to see how this space matures and the good things it has the potential to do. My mind’s wheels are definitely turning.