Local & Small Faves

This is it! The Christmas I’ve been waiting for. This is the year when internet shopping has become so easy that it is now a thousand times easier to support small and local businesses and find uber cool gifts from the comfort of your desk (couch, bed, coffee shop).

As I’ve gone to fairs and events this past year I’ve noticed that even the smallest vendors now accept credit cards and almost all have a web site.   The big box stores and malls are worried and they should be. Millions of people are selling unique, local, personal items that I want to give my friends and family. I love supporting small and local businesses just as much as I love finding the best stuff.

So I want to share a few of my favorites with you and I hope you will join in and share some of yours. The one thing local and small businesses don’t have is advertising budgets. Let’s help each other out and give up the goods on where you’ve found some really great gift ideas.

Makeda’s Butter Cookies – I personally met Makeda at a street fair where she told me her cookies were butta-licious. Damn, she was right! They are the essence of butta-love. She’s a local girl from here in Memphis but you can order her cookies from her website (click here for the link). Not only are these great to send as a gift, but you can order some for your own holiday party. And if you’re like me you’ll need to order some for yourself, you know, that bag you hide from the kids.

Bow and DrapeBow & Drape – These are super-clever, chic, glitzy sweatshirts (and other gifts) that you can customize or order from their suggestions. They are made NYC and beat the goofy sayings on the mall shirts by a mile. (Link here)

 

Speaking of custom–Etsy. If you haven’t found this wonderland of cool gifts yet, set aside a few hours (or days) to get lost in all the perfect, often handmade, items. The really beautiful thing here is that it’s all searchable. If you specifically want a rainbow tutu you can search it and will find so many great options. It’s all small businesses looking big by banding together.

Amazon — I know they are the biggest of the big, but they are also the au laitmarket place for many small businesses (like authors…) The trick is finding the small guys on this mega site. If you find one, please share! Years ago my parents brought me some incredible lotion from Scotland that I thought I would never be able to find again. I can now order through Amazon. If you don’t like strong scented bath products I can’t recommend the Au Lait Scottish Fine Soap Company enough. Here’s a link.

Finally, don’t forget your local coffee shop for gift cards. These are great for people you know live in the same area; teachers, friends, etc. I broke myself of the drive-thru-Starbucks habit when I found my local shop, Pinks. The owner is super supportive of me as a local author, her food and coffee is delish and I always end up finding out all the news that would be in our local paper (if we still had one.)

So spill–tell the world about your favorite small and local business that have the coolest or yummiest stuff that can be ordered online. Clue us in to your best secrets in the comments below.

 

 

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A Gutsy Business Plan

Last year I started a business. The crazy thing is I didn’t really realize that I was starting a business when I did it. When I clicked on the publish button on Kindle Direct Publishing I was not only sending my first novel (my baby) out into the world, I was also launching my own company, Karen Gordon – Author. 

I was aware that self publishing would mean that I was self promoting but I had a tip-of-the-iceberg view of what I had just jumped into. I would image it’s the same with starting almost any business. There are always hidden aspects, things that weren’t on your radar when you got your initial spark of genius. The good news is that the same internet that allows so many of us to start a business is also replete with guru’s to help you keep going after that first plunge. 

I found my first business mentor when I was writing Burnouts, Geeks & Jesus Freaks: a love story. Danielle LaPorte was (and still is) the perfect combination of business-savy entrepreneur, spiritual mystic and blunt friend who will tell it like it is (with a few choice cuss words thrown in for emphasis). Her Firestarter Sessions book was exactly what I needed to light a fire under me and push my novel out of my head and into kindles around the world. I recommend her to anyone, but especially women, who have a dream they want to turn into a business. 

I also found a lot of great advice about ways to use social media to grow my fledgling business. I found apps and sites that I never knew existed or had never ventured into, but each promised to be a great way to connect with my audience. So I LinkedIn to Wattpad. I Google+(ed) a Pintrest pin. I Instagramed my FB posts. I tweeted my Reddit quotes and reposted my blogs on Goodreads.

 I scattered myself; my time, my message, my energy so far and wide forgot the reason I was doing it in the first place–my writing. And to make matters worse, I wasn’t good at or entirely comfortable being that social. It’s really not my nature.

Then I found Let’s Get Digital by David Gaughran. The author was featured on a self-publishing podcast where he spoke eloquently to the introvert in me that was finding it harder than I thought it would be to put myself (and not just my work) out there in social media. The book not only had great ideas for those who might be a little social media adverse, it helped me bring my focus back onto who I am, what I do and what I offer. David Gaughran helped me get back to where Danielle LaPorte started me–following my gut.

I slowed down and backed off. I stopped chasing every possible social media stream and took the time to figure out those few that worked best for me. (Turns out it’s the ones I was already drawn to before I was a business.) I focused on and studied the four forms of social media I enjoyed: FaceBook, Pintrest, Goodreads and Twitter. I learned amazing things about each that I never knew as a casual user and it never felt like a chore. Following your business gut guarantees more fun and less drudge. 

 I’m writing slower too, which really seems to go against prevailing wisdom. I’m not sure how so many authors are producing four or more novels a year, but my quota is closer to two (some years, one). While I can write like the wind once I get going, I need to do a lot of research and pre-planning and outlining before I can begin to think about daily word quotas. I could feel each character and knew each deeply as I wrote my first two novels. Until I get to that point I can’t officially start writing on the next. 

I don’t think my new business plan is so much brave as it is perfect for me. It comes from my gut. What about your business plan? Or life plan? Have you found your guru’s? Have you found the mix of producing and marketing that’s working for you? If you have, please comment and share.