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  • 30 Oct 2009 10:11 PM | Working Women (Administrator)

    cartoon_ghost_copy_zcth.jpgThis year, Halloween festivities are tainted by the ghastly pallor of something truly frightening lurking in the shadows: a deadly pandemic flu.  But don’t let this very scary threat spoil your fun.  With a little bit of extra precaution, you can safely celebrate the day of the dead without you yourself becoming a casualty.

    It is not necessary to trade in your monster mask for a surgical mask, although I suspect doctor costumes will be a very popular choice this year.  The Centers for Disease Control  gives some good practical advice:  if you are very ill, running a fever, or have a bad cough, you should stay home!  You might miss out on the party this year, but you will be preventing others from sharing in your misery. 

    The CDC even has a special page dedicated to Halloween germ safety.  There they have information about how to protect yourself from both the H1N1 virus as well as the standard seasonal flu.  You can even send animated “Don’t Be Afraid of Halloween” e-cards to your friends and relatives that include germ safety tips.  One way you can help prevent the spread of germs this holiday is to place candy directly into the bags of eager trick-or-treaters, instead of letting them grab from your candy bowl.

    The most potent protection against any type of flu is to get vaccinated.  Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth, and if you must scratch or rub your face, using your knuckle rather than your fingertip is a more sanitary option.  Wash your hands with soap and hot water as often as possible throughout your day.  Avoid sharing utensils and cups.  In addition, the CDC suggests that you avoid kissing, if at all possible. 

                Remember that hand sanitizer is not necessarily for the purpose of protecting yourself from germs.  Using it will protect others from picking up any germs you may be spreading.  If you cough or sneeze into your hands, do sanitize them before you touch anything.  Consider it a part of your daily commitment to social responsibility.

    All sanitizers are not created equal: make sure you read the label.  Select one that uses alcohol rather than triclosan as its active ingredient.  Only alcohol (or bleach) will kill the flu virus.  My personal preference is alcohol wipes, because they come in convenient individually wrapped packets that fit easily into even the smallest purse or pocket.  I have also noticed that many pharmacies now offer alcohol based hand sanitizer in a variety of pleasing scents.  You can also usually find a soothing lavender scented hand sanitizer in the baby care aisle. 

    Even though the old tradition of bobbing for apples may now be a thing of the past, many Halloween traditions still live on.  If you are thinking about giving out bottles of hand sanitizer this year instead of candy, you can expect to fall victim to another time honored tradition: egging. 

    You can connect with Megan Daniel on Facebook.


  • 19 Oct 2009 8:24 PM | Working Women (Administrator)

    In 1953, Congress enacted the Small Business Administration with the passage of the Small Business Act.  If your business could use a helping hand, an SBA loan is something you should consider. Even if you aren’t necessarily looking for a loan, offers a multitude of important information any business can benefit from.   


    Contrary to popular belief, an SBA loan isn’t something specifically for people looking to start a new business, but is more so to help fund new businesses that  need help getting established.  SBA loans offer longer repayment periods and less strict affordability requirements than normal commercial business loans.  A very popular use of SBA loans is for commercial mortgages on buildings, because unlike most bank programs, borrowers are not required to refinance every five years.


    So how do you get started?  First, spend some time familiarizing yourself with their website.  Then, go apply for business loans at private banks.  I know this sounds contradictory, but before seeking an SBA loan, you must first provide the SBA proof that you can't get a loan from a private source.  You must be turned down for a loan by at least two different banks before you can apply.  If you live in a rural area, one turn down might be enough.


    Once you are rejected (don’t take it personally), ask your banker if they would grant you the loan under SBA's loan guarantee plan, or if they would work in conjunction with the SBA on a loan.  If your banker is interested, ask if they will contact them using the SBA’s hotline number, which is 1-800-827-5722, to discuss your application.


    If your bank is just not interested in working with you, then you'll have to apply directly to SBA for a loan on their website.  You'll be required to fill out the SBA loan application, and submit other forms designed to help SBA assess the soundness of your business.  You will need to write a business plan, a statement of personal history, and a monthly cash flow projection.  Although this may sound daunting, the website will walk you through completing these documents with ease.


    After you have submitted your application packet, SBA will evaluate your request to determine your chances of success.  If you plan on operating the business by managing all the day-to-day details on your own, that's an important plus.  Another aspect that will help tip the scales in your favor is if the business will be your sole source of income.  The SBA figures that you'll work that much harder at keeping the business afloat if your family’s livelihood depends on it. 


    The SBA will also look at your ability to repay the loan.  They will look over your credit history, and although it won’t preclude you altogether, if you have a bankruptcy on record or a default of another loan, your application will receive an extra level of attention that may considerably slow down the process. The most important thing to remember is not to give up.  Don't count yourself out no matter how weak your financial condition may currently seem.  


    This program was designed to help American business grow - including yours.  Even if you aren’t looking for a loan right now, the SBA also offers several management assistance programs that could prove to be very valuable.  Don’t be afraid to take advantage of everything Uncle Sam has to offer! 


  • 05 Oct 2009 10:15 PM | Working Women (Administrator)

    Chances are by now you’ve heard of the phrase “The Law of Attraction.” The concept has been made popular by the hit movie, “The Secret.” Even Oprah has shared her thoughts on the topic. When it comes to business, the possibilities are limited only by your imagination.  It’s all about keeping an open mind and an attitude of thankful expectation.

    There are many exercises for playing with this law. One involves thinking of a particular object or experience (something small to begin with). Put all of your focus on it. I used a very juicy & ripe tomato when I tried this the first time. Picture it in your mind’s eye with as much detail (and using as many senses) as possible. Once you’ve vividly imagined your test item in detail for a few minutes, let it go. Don’t think about it again… Just be aware. My tomato showed up for me within a couple of days. It was on the side of a large semi-truck, advertising the restaurant: Sweet Tomatoes.

    So, now you’re excited by the idea… you’re probably wondering how you can use it in your life and in your business, right? You can use a vision board to picture a goal you’ve got for yourself and/or your business. Click here for an example. There’s also an amazing digital vision board – for free – on Oprah’s website. You can combine the use of the vision board with the exercise above and your own imagination. There are so many amazing tools available, for those who are interested. Once you start practicing, I believe you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the ‘coincidences’ that start coming your way.

    My best advice: keep an open mind, express your gratitude on a daily basis, then watch and wait with wonder as your life and business begin to shift!”

    Angel Sullivan

    “A Grateful Heart; A Joyful Life”

  • 03 Oct 2009 1:56 PM | Working Women (Administrator)

    “Going green” is all the rage these days, and from what I can see, being eco-minded not only helps the planet, but can also help your wallet.  I know that many of our Members have a home or small office, so I ask: what two major consumables fuel your operation?  I’d bet the answer is power and paper.  With that in mind, here are just a few earth-friendly, money saving tips.


    You can have save approximately $143 a year in electricity costs by simply customizing the power settings on your computer.  For example, if your computer system sleeps for 21 hours per day, it uses just 5 watts.  Leave your computer running for 24 hours a day, and you will use a comparatively large 160 watts.

    To customize your power settings in any version of Microsoft Windows, go to the Control Panel, select Hardware and Sounds, then choose Power Options.  Alternatively, you can get there by right clicking anywhere on the desktop, choose Screen Saver, and then click on “change power settings” at the bottom of the pop up window. 

    Windows will not tell you exactly how much power you’ll be saving buy altering these settings, but you can find out by using a utility called “LocalCooling,” available as a free download at  This program will give you much greater insight into the amount of power that each component in your computer is drawing.

    To make you feel good not only about the money you are saving but also about the reduced impact you are having on the environment, LocalCooling keeps a running tally of how many trees, gallons of fuel, and kilowatt hours of electricity you are saving by employing the various power saving schemes.  You can even use the utility to view how much energy you are saving relative to other LocalCooling users.

    Another easy way to shrink that power bill a little is to make be sure you unplug these same machines when you go on vacation or leave the office for the weekend.  Be aware that even when the computer is turned off, it may still be drawing power for certain components that have stand-by functions.  Using a power strip, surge protector, or battery backup system can make this task more convenient:  just pull the main line once everything is safely shut down. 

    Printing and Paper:

    Surprisingly, black-and-white laser printers are much cheaper to run than inkjet printers.  Typically, the cost per page of running a laser printer is about half that of the average inkjet printer, due to the great difference in the cost of consumables - and that's assuming that you print only in black ink with your inkjet.  If you print using any colors at all, the cost per page skyrockets over the cost of using a traditional laser printer.  While you may pay a bit more up front for the cost of a laser printer, you should quickly recoup that money in regained overhead.  

    If you love your inkjet and don’t want to make the switch to laser, don’t be afraid to refill your ink cartridges.  In my experience doing this, I have noticed no difference whatsoever in the print quality, nor has it damaged my printer in any way.  At local shops like Walgreens, a refill is only $10 and is usually ready in 1 hour.  The last stop for completely spent ink cartridges should always be a designated ink cartridge recycling bin.

    Whether you are running an inkjet or a laser printer, you can drastically reduce your ink or toner consumption by utilizing the settings in the print driver.  If you are using Windows, open the Control Panel's Printer section, right-click your printer driver, and select Properties from the pop- up menu.  You can also get to the printer’s Properties by right clicking on the small printer icon in the notification area in the lower right of your screen.  From within the printer's Properties panel, look for a setting such as "econo-mode", “fast draft”  or some other setting that allows you to specify 50 per cent ink usage (this depends on your brand of printer).  This change will generally result in printouts that are a bit lighter than they otherwise would be, but they will still be perfectly legible, and you'll save a lot in ink or toner costs.

    You can also save on paper costs if you minimize your usage.  It is estimated that paper accounts for more than half of all municipal solid waste.  Setting up good paper usage habits can really help the Earth in a myriad ways, and reduce the number of those pricey reams you must buy.   A good way to start is to “think before you print.”  Ask yourself: do you really need a hard copy of this document?  Use a hard drive backup service or device and just save a copy of everything important. 

    Here are some more nifty printer tricks you can use:  Only print the page you need to review from Word by hitting Ctrl + P then Alt + E.  This will move thee curser to “only current page”; then hit enter.  Try printing on both sides of the page.  This is only for hardcore savers!  First print the odd pages, then flip the stack, and change the output to only odd pages.  When possible, print in “two up” mode by hitting Ctrl+P, look for “pages per sheet, clicking the drop down arrow, and selecting “2 per page.”  This will make a printout on one page that looks like a book.  Make a scrap paper pile and use that stack when you want to print drafts.  Finally, paper that is too used to put back in the paper tray can be cut into fourths and used to jot quick notes or phone messages.

                You can make a difference in your consumption if you pay attention to what you are using and work small, effective changes into your daily routine.  The payoff will be tangibly reflected in your bottom line:  the amount of which will be a direct reflection of how much you are willing to change. 

    So tell me, what will you do with your newfound green money?  I’ll be spending mine at the next Girls Night Out, proposing a toast to all our hard work!


  • 15 Sep 2009 4:16 PM | Working Women (Administrator)

    Web commerce is growing exponentially, and should be considered a critical component to your business plan.  If you don’t already have a proprietary web sales portal for your product or service, I encourage you to try your hand at entering the online marketplace through Ebay or Amazon.  These sites are a great way to reach a national or even an international market. 

    You can design your own professional looking “store front” which is hosted by the parent site for a monthly fee (between $10 and $15 per month).  If you prefer, you may simply sell items under your username, in which case you will only be charged a small fee to list an item, and another small fee if the item sells.  In both cases the fee is anywhere from a few cents to a few dollars, depending on the level of features you select for the listing and the final selling price. 

    You can choose to sell your products in either an auction style or “buy it now” format.  To set the price, take into consideration the lowest price you would want for the item, but also weigh that against the price other sellers have listed.  The best way to determine what a reasonable price for your item would be is to do a background check on it first by running a search as if you were a buyer.  Remember that something is only worth what someone else is willing to pay for it!  If you have a unique item or service, you can set the price as you like.  However, if you see that there are hundreds of your item for sale at $10 each, for example, you will have the competitive edge by selling yours for $9.50, and your item will appear at the top of the list of search results. 

    Try Ebay’s “Turbolister” program to really simplify and speed up the listing process.  This software is free to download from the “seller’s tools” section of the Ebay website.  With Turbolister, you can set a template of parameters that will remain unchanged in all your listings, so you will not have to type things over and over again.  This is especially valuable if you are selling high volumes of identical items.  Take a few close up and very well lit photos of your item, which the software will then easily import into your completed listing.   Make sure you set up specific terms in your listings, and follow through with what you say, or you will end up with negative feedback.  You are the boss of your site:  make sure you clearly and concisely state the terms of the sale in each listing, as this will trump any conflicts that may arise.  Otherwise the customer is right!

    If a customer has a problem or issue with the transaction and contacts you about it, you will want to attempt to resolve the situation as quickly and as diplomatically as possible.  Even one negative feedback can severely affect your feedback percentage, and if that figure falls below about 98% positive, customers will look to buy from other sellers with higher marks. Usually buyers will not leave negative feedback unless you straight up lie about the product, and only then after you have ignored their emails.   The more positive feedback you get, the more reliable and trustworthy you will appear to your potential customers.  This is one of the ways that e-commerce differentiates from the real world – wouldn’t it be wonderful if there was a similar scorecard next to the front door of every brick and mortar business we venture into to make a purchase?

    Don’t worry about calculating shipping either:  the United States Postal Service is very smoothly linked to your Ebay and PayPal accounts, allowing pre-filled shipping labels to be printed immediately after the transaction.  All you have to do is print out the label and tape it to the box, so there will be no troublesome mistakes in copying the recipient’s address.  I recommend priority mail flat rate boxes: you can then give customers a discount for combined shipping on multiple purchases (always an attractive selling point) no matter what the weight is.  Best of all, USPS will deliver as many boxes in whatever sizes you need (free!) to your home or business, and will pick up your shipments for delivery once they are packed and ready to go. 

    Once you have uploaded your completed listing, you will want to search for your own item.  This way you can see exactly how it will appear to someone who might be looking to buy it.  If your listing doesn’t come up on the first page, try adding additional terms to the title of your listing.  What key words are other sellers using to describe the same or a similar item?  For an additional fee you can also add premium selling boosters such as bold or highlighted words, or a giant sized picture.  You can freely edit your page until the item sells or is bid upon, so check it as soon as it is made public to ensure there are no errors.

    Even if you don’t have one of these stores, you can always benefit from having a PayPal account, which will allow you to avoid the cost of traditional methods of accepting credit card payments.  Additionally, you can accept payments from your face-to-face sales by simply asking the customer to use PayPal and giving them your designated email address for payment.

    And finally - don’t forget to ramp up traffic to your e-commerce sites by including links to them on your social networking pages and your website. You could even create a Facebook Fan Page for your online store and post pictures of new items you've uploaded. There is nothing like a little free advertising. Happy Selling!

  • 29 Aug 2009 1:24 PM | Working Women (Administrator)

    Since this is the inaugural blog, I feel a bit of an introduction of myself is in order: my name is Megan Daniel.  If you want to know more about me, you can check my Facebook, MySpace, twitter, or LinkedIn pages for more detailed info.  If you really want to stalk me, you can also view my ridiculously boring photos on flikr, or even check out what kind of cheesy B movies I enjoy on Netflix.

    Sound familiar?  You probably also have a presence on one or more of the above websites.  If you are a professional woman looking to increase your product or company’s exposure, the internet is a fantastic place to do it.  It is also a great way to market yourself for free.  However, unlike getting yourself all gussied up and putting a polish on your resume to pitch yourself to clients, your web presence is on public display 24/7, and is accessible to a huge number of people worldwide.  You should treat your online persona with the same attention to detail and mindfulness of the impression you want to make as you would on potential clients (or employers) in person.    

    Try these tactics to make sure your online information is an accurate, sparkling and polished representation of yourself:

    You probably already know about Google-ing yourself, but don’t forget to try other search engines like Yahoo or the new search engine Bing, to cover all the proverbial bases.  Also search the name of your business, to see if anyone has perhaps started a “gripe site” against you.  Remember that on sites like Yahoo, people can leave comments or give ratings under your yellow pages listing.  You can also use these sites to check what people are saying about your competitors, which could give you a strategic edge.  If you have a very common name, or have trouble finding anything at all, try searching deeper:  you can get information that might be in the metadata of web pages by clicking on “advanced search” at the top of the search engine’s page.  Some pages will also let you use signals, which are punctuation marks used to refine your search.  For example, using parenthesis around multiple words will return results only for that particular phrase.  Also be sure to run searches for any usernames or handles you have used in the past, as this may produce long forgotten posts to message boards or comments on websites you might not want to have floating around out on the net anymore.  Usually you can’t delete past posted items, but if you scroll to the bottom of the page, click “contact the webmaster,” and you can send them an email asking to delete the undesirable text. 

    Remember that even if you have your privacy or security settings set up on your social networking pages, there are some things that people will always be able to see.  Try checking your pages at a computer where you are not logged on to see what is accessible to the public.  It is wise to have almost everything set to “only friends.”  Be sure to tweak what you are a fan of on Facebook:  no matter how high you crank up the privacy settings, everyone can see what you are a fan of, so use discretion.  Set your profile picture to the most professional looking one you can find.  Recently, Facebook added a new security setting in response to complaints that pictures left on “public” were being dubiously heisted and used by advertisers.  You certainly wouldn’t want a photo of you attached to some inappropriate product or service, so make sure you lock down your photos.  Make sure no one tags you in a photo you find unprofessional.  Un-tag yourself, and politely ask the friend to refrain from tagging you in the future without your authorization.  If they do it again, un-friend them: they are not worth the bad PR.  It’s also worth mentioning that you should be very observant of undesirable things, people, or activities that may be going on in the background of any photos you post.  If possible, check for privacy settings on any sites used for managing photos such as flikr.  If you still have a MySpace page, you might want to consider minimizing it or even shutting it down entirely.  Many people these days view MySpace as a chaotic hangout for teenagers and lonely singles, which may not be the right forum for you or your business.  If you are a Twitter user, you may want to start posting positive messages that reflect the professional, dynamic, creative person that you are.  If you don’t have a LinkedIn page yet, you should consider setting one up.  This site is more geared to the exchange of professional information via a repository of resumes. 

    Your email address is something else to keep in mind. If your email address begins with something like “lovestoparty” or “sexyvampress,” you will want to change it. This is a surprisingly common faux pas that is easily remedied using free email services such as Gmail.  My best advice is to set up an additional email account using your name, or something that relates to your business. You can then use the POP3 settings on your main account to forward all your emails to one convenient place. 

    After you’ve done your “online” housekeeping, sit back, relax, and relish in your newfound e-confidence. You might want to link your pages to one another, which gives the impression of openness and honesty. Another benefit is that potential clients will feel that they have a deeper connection to you as a person, and will be making a more informed decision when doing business with you.  Don’t be afraid to list links to your sites on your business cards. This will demonstrate how techno-savvy you are.  Be proud of your digital self!

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