How and Why We Blog

How and Why We Blog

The Heart of Santa Fe, New Mexico

The Santa Fe Plaza ~ Inspiration Mecca

Recently, I’ve had a couple of  friends tell me they want to start blogging. They want to know how to get started. I’ve referred them to WordPress, because this platform has worked for me more so than the others I’ve tried. I am not an overly techy girl, and WordPress is pretty darn intuitive.

If you are somewhat computer literate, you can start a blog quite easily…and it will cost you nothing but some time and energy. Start with the link above, and then if you decide you love it and want to monetize it and all sorts of other fun stuff, you can upgrade it later like I did.

Backyard Blogging in Nambe, New Mexico

Backyard Blogging in Nambe, New Mexico

That’s my easy answer to the question of how to blog. The more complicated question that needs to be asked of anyone who wants to start a blog, is why? What do you expect to come out of this blog you are contemplating creating? This is important, as blogging can be a real labor of love…it can take quite some time to build an audience, and no time at all to lose said audience if you don’t keep at it.

It doesn’t really matter why you want to start a blog, so long as you yourself know the reason. Do you want to share your travel stories? Build brand recognition? Meet other Harry Potter fans? Post your head shots in hopes of furthering your acting/modeling career? Gauge interest on a new business idea you have? Establish yourself as an expert in your field? Great! Just know your “why”.

I began blogging because I enjoy both writing and photography and the thought of communicating with people all over creation excited me. Initially, I blogged about Mountain Girl Organics, a company that I have since sold. For the past three years, I have blogged mainly about our adventures as Caretaking Couple, throwing in suggestions and support to those who are interested in a similar lifestyle along the way (to date, there are over 160 posts on this site).

Like I said, I am not all that techy. Still, I have managed to capture an audience of like-minded people. My target audience or demographic is mainly caretakers (or house and pet sitters) like us along with people who are looking for caretakers like us. This demographic includes travel enthusiasts, animal lovers, and friends and family who enjoy keeping in touch on a more personal level than our other social media outlets allow.

New Year's Eve in Nambe, New Mexico

New Year’s Eve in Nambe, New Mexico

My main expectation for this blog was that I would get the word out that we care for properties and pets across the US. This I have accomplished. We are now offered sits based solely on the contents of our blog. This has saved us tens of thousands of dollars, owing to the fact that when we caretake, or house and pet sit, we typically have no rent/mortgage/utilities to worry about. I have a looong list of other goals to accomplish as well, including publishing our e-Book and making SEO a priority.

Are you a blogger? If so, how and why do you blog? Has your blog met or maybe even exceeded your expectations? Please let us know via the “comments” link and share your blog address as well, if you wish. If you are considering starting a blog, please let me know if you have any specific questions, and share with us what you expect to receive in return for your blogging efforts.

Valynne’s Ten Favorite Quotes From The $100 Startup

Valynne’s Ten Favorite Quotes From The $100 Startup

The $100 Startup

A couple of weeks ago, I won a copy of Chris Guillebeau’s latest book, The $100 Startup via his facebook page.  I have read it twice since. If you would like to “Reinvent the way you make a living, do what you love, and create a new future”, then this book is for you.  I did a lot of highlighting and thought I would give all of you kindred spirits out there a teaser…

1.  “Two years ago in Minneapolis, Lisa Sellman attracted my attention by telling me about her dog care business.  At first, I didn’t think much of it.  How profitable could a dog business be?  But then Lisa told me how much money she made: $88,000 the previous year and on track to clear six figures the next.”

This one appeals to me for obvious reasons : ) Pick something you love and pursue it.  

2.  “To succeed in a business project, especially one you’re excited about, it helps to think carefully about all the skills you have that could be helpful to others and particularly about the combination of those skills.”

What are your skills?  Write them down and brainstorm.  Some of the entrepreneurs featured in this book are doing things I never would have guessed there would be a market for.  Good for them!  

3.  “The basics of starting a business are very simple; you don’t need an MBA (keep the $60,00 tuition), venture capital, or even a detailed plan.  You just need a product or service, a group of people willing to pay for it, and a way to get paid.”

Having a diploma doesn’t guarantee success and not having one certainly doesn’t equal failure.  More startup capital would have been nice when it came to my businesses, but it wasn’t a necessity and less important than my goal of becoming debt-free.   

4.  He kept waiting for it to be perfect…and then he kept waiting.  “I finally just had to give up on perfection and get the thing out the door,” he said later.

Odds are you do not have to wait until you finish taking those classes or writing that business plan to get going on that exciting project.  I struggle with this one and am really trying to just learn as I go versus reaching ‘perfection’ before even trying something new.  Obviously, this is relative.  I am not performing surgery on anyone, after all.  Odds are you aren’t either.

5.  “The point is to do what makes sense to you.  Get up in the morning and get to work.”

It is hard to work at something that doesn’t feel right.  So many of us complain about our jobs over and over, all of the time.  If this is you, please ask yourself what it is you would rather be doing and brainstorm ways of making that happen. You will be doing yourself and everyone around you a huge favor.  

6.  “Low paying buyers are the worst,” one business owner who sold a broad range of products at different prices told me.  “We have far more complaints from people who pay $10 and expect the world than from those who pay $1,000.”

Some people will appreciate you and your services and some won’t.  It does not behoove you to take it personally; those people are most likely treating everyone around them the way they have treated you.  Let them and their $10 go.  Seriously.

7.  “My rule of thumb is that a successful partnership (or any type of collaboration) should create a combined business which is at least 33 percent larger than the sum of what the two individuals can achieve on their own.”  Ralf Hildebrandt

I hadn’t looked at Caretaking Couple like that before, but it is absolutely true for us.  We can say yes to more opportunities as a team.  While we split a lot of CC down the middle, I enjoy promoting our biz via networking and social media, while Paul is really good at packing up the 4Runner and mapping our routes when it comes time for our next sit.  We save a lot of time & money this way.

8.  “All the bad days have two things in common: You know the right thing to do, but you let somebody talk you out of doing it.” Tom Bihn.

Tune out those that think they know what is best for you when it comes to your business and your personal life.  You know what is best for you.  Respect to the intuition.

9.  “Without a doubt, the smartest decision I made was to set a specific intention to not grow the business.  Growing up as the daughter of an entrepreneur, I watched my father’s creativity and inventor mind-set get sapped as the business grew from just him to over fifty employees.” Cherie Ve Ard 

Go with what feels right to you and your business model.  Again, don’t listen to what everyone else says (especially those that have never owned and operated a business).  By the way, if you are a fan of location independence, you owe it to yourself to check out technomadia.

10.  “There’s no rehab program for being addicted to freedom.  Once you’ve seen what it’s like on the other side, good luck trying to follow someone else’s rules ever again.”

Amen.

Chris Guillebeau will be at Powell’s Books in Portland, OR on Wednesday.  Click here if you would like to catch him on tour!

 

 

What News?

What News?

The numbers are down on our blog as of late.  That is what happens when a blogger gets all sporadic with her posts.  I love blogging, but there have been so many things going on and I have inadvertently lowered it on the priorities list.

So, what have we been doing with ourselves, then?  Here goes:

Tabor at Alberta Park

1. Paul and I have been figuring out a way to keep Caretaking Couple going now that we are stationary, and it has evolved into us offering a more exclusive kind of pet sitting service.  95% of our clients here in Portland prefer that their pet(s) not go to a kennel for a variety of reasons (elderly dogs that don’t want/need as much play time, dogs with high anxiety levels, etc.). They are looking for individualized care, and that is where our focus lies. Word of mouth is providing enough business for us at present, although I do plan on stepping it up a notch, which leads me to…

Thank you, Oregon SBDC (Small Business Development Center)!

2. I applied for and was offered a scholarship via the SBDC last month and am now taking business classes for the next ten months.  Yes, this is very exciting for me in so many ways…I am learning new things every day and am meeting more and more local small business owners, which is fantastic. This class would have cost me $1,600.00 had I not received the scholarship, and I am grateful.

Wellness Section at Alberta Cooperative Grocery

3. A couple of months ago, I decided to become a “working owner” at Alberta Co-op. I work one shift a week in the Wellness Section in exchange for a discount on all purchases along with other perks.  I love that I get to be around essential oils, bath and body products, beeswax candles, etc. again (reminds me of my Mountain Girl Organics days).  They have so many healthy & yummy foods, too!  And speaking of healthy…

Beachbody Coach Summit 2012

4. I continue to grow my Beachbody business and am doing my best to help “end the trend” of obesity here in the States. Most of you know how much I love my food and drink, and how easy it can be for me to park my butt on the couch versus get it moving (especially in the rainy Pacific Northwest) so this is such a great company for me to be involved with. Beachbody is growing by leaps and bounds and I am proud to be a part of it. My goal is to get to the Coach Summit in Las Vegas this June so I can meet more like-minded people and continue to be inspired.

5. Exhale (my favorite local yoga studio) posted a request on their facebook page a couple months back. They needed a couple of people to clean the studio in exchange for unlimited classes and workshops (!). Soo happy I decided to do this. I am learning a lot more about Yoga and a little more about Ayurveda as well, which is something I have been interested in for some time. Yoga keeps me sane.

Collage in NE Portland

6. Just down the street from us is Collage, a mixed media arts supplies shop that offers all kinds of cool classes. So far, I have taken embroidery, bookmaking, and collage. Tomorrow, I am taking an image transfer techniques class ~ can’t wait! A seamstress friend has just rented a space and is looking for artisans to fill it with their creations and I am having fun deciding what it is I want to contribute. I may do a post on my creative endeavors here soon.

7. I meet with a group of blogger friends on Thursdays at Tabor Space (Portland has the coolest coffee shops, by the way) and know I will be getting back into blogging regularly as I plan on attending Seattle WordCamp (if I can hustle a ticket since I forgot to buy one and they sold out quick!). I loved the WordCamp here in Portland…fingers crossed I pull it off.

Spring in Portland ~ Can't Wait to Plant!

8. We are working on creating a backyard oasis here.  Not much to show yet, as it has been constant rain. This weekend is supposed to be gorgeous, so hopefully I will have a “Before and After” post for you next week.

9. My Mom shared her Ancestry account with me in hopes that we could do some genealogy detective work together.  I haven’t gotten very far with it, but I do have some leads. I want to make this more of a priority. Mom lives in California and we don’t catch up in person much, so this is a great way for us to keep in touch and share exciting discoveries.

10. I met Helen while volunteering at a Community Cycling Center event a few months ago. We have accountability meetings at local coffee shops every Tuesday morning for 90 minutes, in which we go over our accomplishments of the past week and post goals for the next week. If you don’t have an accountability friend (or group of friends), I recommend you go out and get yourself one…it has been invaluable for me.

Paul at the New Bollywood Theatre on Alberta Street

What is Paul up to?  Working, spoiling our four legged clients sweetly, hanging out at his favorite local(s), waiting patiently to get started on the backyard raised garden beds, cooking delicious meals (they get healthier all of the time), and keeping me entertained on a daily basis.  We typically go somewhere fun for our birthdays (next month) but we are having so much fun here, we may just hang out.  Not sure yet…

What are you up to?  I would love an update from all of you, near and far, wherever you are…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Interview with Alexis Peterka of Stayhound

Interview with Alexis Peterka of Stayhound

Use Your Social Connections to Find Trusted Pet Sitters at Stayhound

A few months ago, I clicked a link to this PBS video on Portland entrepreneurs via the facebook page of Barbara Winter, author of one of my favorite books, Making a Living Without a Job. That is when I found out about Alexis. I contacted her soon after and we have had two great brainstorming sessions over coffee since then. I am excited about what she is doing for the pet sitting community and can’t wait to share this start-up with you…

1. Alexis, in a sentence or two, what is Stayhound?

Stayhound makes it easier to leave your pets with friends and other carers.
Right now we’re helping people connect to trusted pet sitters using their
existing social connections, and we’re working on ways to help you track
and share details about your travels, your pet’s extended family (vets,
walkers, and other carers), medications, feeding schedule, and other important information.

2. Who or what inspired this great start-up?

My own hassles with finding and communicating with pet sitters to care for
my dog, Jake, and cat, Toby. I found myself spending more time interviewing
people I found through online directories than actually traveling! And when
I asked my friends to pet sit for me, I was driving all over the place to
drop off Jake before going to the airport. I knew there were people –
friends, professional pet sitters, and others – who lived closer to me and
I would trust, but I didn’t know how to find that sweet spot of social
proximity and location proximity.

3. What do you think makes Stayhound stand out from other online sitting services?

Trust. I interviewed dozens of pet parents and all of them wanted a better
way to find people they would trust with their animal companions. One told
me that she wouldn’t use Yelp to find a pet sitter because she didn’t
personally know the reviewers – she wanted a word of mouth referral. By
using your existing social connections, we make it easier to find pet
sitters who come with recommendations from trusted friends.

Jake and Alexis

4. What do you believe pet parents really want from sitters/walkers like Paul and I?

No one wants to have another thing to worry about, and when I trust the
person caring for Jake when I have to travel, it’s one less thing to worry
about. That comes from knowing – and liking – my pet sitter, but also
getting email, text messages, and photos of how Jake and Toby are doing. It
makes me feel like I’m with them.

5. What’s in it for the pets?

While all pets are different and many thrive in different environments, I’m
not a huge fan of kennels for Jake. Most kennel and dog daycare owners I’ve
talked to also realize that not all dogs do well in that environment. For
dogs who are more human-identified like Jake, staying with someone else in
their home or having someone stay in my home with him is so much better.
Kennels can also be dangerous for dogs – distemper, dog flu, and other
diseases are always a risk.

On a less tangible level, I believe our pets pick up on our anxieties. When
I feel confident dropping Jake off with someone I trust, he knows that and
feels more comfortable.

6. How have you gone about getting the word out on Stayhound?

Largely through friends and other people I’ve worked with who are
interested in what we’re doing. Partnering with the Oregon Humane Society
to donate a dollar for every pet profile created has been a great way to
get press from news outlets like the Oregonian.

7. What do you love most about being an entrepreneur?

Strangely, introducing people to others who can help them! I’ve never
considered myself an extrovert, but running my own business forces me to
get out and talk to people more than I would otherwise. I love being able
to connect someone I meet to a potential customer or mentor. I recently
spent the weekend at Reed College helping college students work on their
startup ideas and pitch to a panel of investors. I loved being able to help
students the way others have helped me.

8. What can we do here in the sitting community to support Stayhound?

If you’re friends with your clients on Facebook, tell them about us! Anyone
can sign up for a Stayhound account and find out how many of their facebook
friends (and “friends in law”) are already there. There are so many people
who are involved in our pets’ lives, and we’re working on ways to keep all
of them in the loop. We’d love to hear feedback about how we can make that
communication easier for carers and their clients.

Alexis, thank you for taking the time to talk with me and share Stayhound with everyone…you are definitely onto something, here. As always, we welcome feedback and questions from all of you pet parents, sitters, and otherwise curious readers!

From Alberta Street to WordCamp Portland 2011

From Alberta Street to WordCamp Portland 2011

Official WordPress Portland 2011 Shirt

WordPress is Coming to Bridgetown this Weekend!

I love the randomness of life. For example, I have been struggling with this, my beloved blog for a few months now. Experimentation has led to confusion and at some point I became hesitant to even TOUCH things here.

Then, one day as I roamed Alberta Street looking for a job, a cuppa, some inspiration…I came across a sign in a storefront window advertising WordPress Services.

Next thing you know, I am meeting with a man who is to be my future boss.  That is right, I went in looking for help with my blog and ended up with a j-o-b.  And not just any old job, but one that I am really excited about.

Part of my new job is to learn all things WordPress (I know, I am still pinching myself to see if it’s real). Tonight, I went to a WordPress class taught by said boss and this weekend I am attending WordCamp 2011!

So, faithful friends…I am here to tell you that I am back and plan to make this blog bigger and better than ever.  If you have been to WordCamp or are going to be at the one in Portland this weekend, do tell. I.am.so.excited!

Macs, Goals, and Winners

Macs, Goals, and Winners

Flashback - Paul and I in Italy, Summer 2007. Thought I would share as most of my pics are in between laptops at present and I get complaints when there are no blog pics : ) AND this is what I want to look like again, which is why I am using Beachbody Products!

Honestly, the old hp has done me well, considering I have used it every day for over four years now…but it hasn’t been the lowest maintenance of computers (understatement).  Not being one to throw away a (barely working) machine, I have been waiting and wondering when it would finally go.  And it went. 

So, guess what is charging up right next to me?  My early Christmas present: a brand new MacBook Pro.  I am VERY excited!  AND Santa is bringing us an iPod nano (actually, it was a promo with E.Webscapes when I had my blog redesigned but I am sure Santa would have brought it otherwise).  YIPEE!  Can you believe neither of us has even used i-Tunes???  Instead, we have been lugging thousands of CD’s around with us.  Uncool but true. 

Of course there will be a bit of a learning curve with the new lappy but I have seriously wanted an Apple for years and years and have looked over many a Mac user’s shoulder so I don’t think it will be too painful.  If you are a Mac lover and have any pointers or want to share what you love most about it, that would be super appreciated!  Just click on the comments link above and tell us all about it.

***Speaking of appreciation:  I have an announcement to make regarding yesterday’s prize drawing.  The lucky winner is…David!  Thank you for your comments (even the feisty ones)…I will be sending your Tennessee prize package in the next few days : )***

A couple of blog posts back I decided I would share my monthly goals with you.  I’ve always done this for a new month – sort of.  As in I wrote down my goals somewhere but didn’t always remember where and didn’t always remember to see how I did at the end of the month, etc. etc.  So I am turning over a new leaf.

The man who inspired me to take monthly goals seriously can be found at http://www.virtualbusinesslifestyle.com/.  I found him (or he found me – can’t remember now) on facebook and have been following his blog ever since.  I am seriously impressed with the progress Chris Ducker has made with regards to his quest for a truly Virtual Business Lifestyle this past year.  Seriously. Impressed!  Not to mention inspired. So, here goes…

My December Goals:

Blogsville:  My goal for November was to get this blog redesigned and transferred over to it’s new platform.  I hope you like our new look and find the social media links above to be useful (as in, I hope you are using them).  My first goal for December is to work on a few quirks with the blog that have been brought to my attention.  If you notice any, please let me know.  My second goal is to figure out how to use my Mac..I cannot waitto give you podcasts and other cool features I see popping up on my favorite blogs.

My Writing: I am currently taking a memoir writing class through Gotham Writers Workshop  and am pretty disappointed in myself for not dedicating more of my time to it these past few weeks.  These classes are great and deserve my full attention.  I just submitted two more chapters of my book for critique, so I did accomplish last months goal…but just barely.  The class ends soon.  My goal is to refocus and to polish up two more (very rough) chapters.  I am working on an FAQ’s page as well, so if you have any questions for Caretaking Couple, please fire away.

Health and Fitness:  Last month I told you I was considering becoming a Beachbody Coach.  I decided to go for it and am so happy I did.  This company is great – the online office tools are phenomenal, which makes my new job that much easier.  They immediately hooked me up with websites, an e-mail address, and a great “Getting Started” kit.  So, I get to sell products that help others which in turn keeps me focused and accountable for my own health and wellness goals.  BONUS – I am actually losing weight and getting in shape over the Holidays! 

Speaking of the Holidays:  My goal for this year is to continue to simplify and to celebrate the Season by sharing the love in ways that allow me to live within my means and beneath my seams (I think that is how that old saying goes).  That doesn’t mean I won’t leave a little extra come time to tip or anything miserly – it just means that I won’t overdo it like I have in the past. 

Thank you for stopping by.  As always, we would love to hear from you…my goal for this blog is to make it as interactive and user friendly as possible.  If you have friends that you think would like to join in the conversation, please tell them about us.  The easiest way to keep in touch is to subscribe via the “News and Updates” box to the upper right of this post.  Happy Holidays, everyone!

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