Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Social media at work? We encourage it.

I was recently chatting with several older women when I mentioned that part of my job is "social media marketing." Not surprisingly, they didn't know what that meant. They wouldn't be the first ones. A year ago, neither did I.

I've been personally Facebooking, blogging, and social networking for several years. But it wasn't until last fall that we first ventured into the world of social media as a business.

The first step was a Facebook group. At that point there were all sorts of businesses with "profiles," many with group pages, and a few with fan pages. With our group we posted relevant news, links to articles, and photos of little ones. We also had our first ever giveaway where several dozen customers got to take home sample blankets for little ones in their lives absolutely free! Needless to say it was a big hit. We loved being able to do something fun, and good for our customers. Not to mention we found homes for blankets that otherwise might have gone in the trash. However, we still weren't really connecting with people because there was little room for interaction, only promotion.

After the winter holidays last year, we threw our hats into the blogging ring. Our blog, Blanket Statements, was our chance to share our experiences with life, families, and running a blanket business. It also brought us into a whole new world. Blogging allows people all over the world to form communities with people they've never met. Many women use it as a way to get and give advice on families and children, share stories, and connect about personal triumphs and tragedies. At Admiral Road we share stories about funny things the kids say, business experiences, or new name trends.

After a while we saw that the Facebook group was being replaced by the "Fan Page." We were hesitant to make the switch because we already had several hundred group members and the thought of asking them to switch was painful. But we realized that the group was not working for us, or for our customers as we had hoped, and we made the big jump to the page. As it turns out, it was hugely successful. All of a sudden we were hearing from our customers instead of just posting things for them to read about us. And it is so much more convenient as you no longer have to search for the group and remember to check for updates - important updates about sales and coupons go right to fans' newsfeeds.

Finally there was Twitter. I admit, none of us knew how to use it. I cringed when I had to use the verb "tweet" in a business meeting, and we agonized over early posts to make sure we were "doing it right." I was the biggest resistor, mostly because I didn't think we had time to maintain another social media site and still actually run as business. I also couldn't stand the idea of being 24 and having aging U.S. Congressmen understand a new technology better than I did. But Twitter is where the conversation is really at. We discovered interesting people to follow, business contacts to network with, and funny stories that everyday people were sharing.

People knew early on that social media was a revolutionary way to connect with customers on a different level, but it wasn't clear how it was going to work. It wasn't because we didn't know how to use the technology, it was that the technology didn't know how it wanted to be used yet. Facebook wasn't started as a business tool. It was created for elite American college students to presumably network with more elite college students. Blogging has been around for years, but for most of those years it was exclusively a tool for self-expression. These platforms have evolved into what they are today - impossible to ignore pieces of our everyday lives. And with that comes business. But this is a new kind of business where relationships are built, customers get a say, and companies stand behind what they sell. After all, their face is all over it.

So join us in the social media world. Today, October 1, we will be getting the fall season off to a great start with a fabulous giveaway. Follow us on Twitter to find out how you can win.

Admiral Road has been making personalized blankets since 2002.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

In Praise of the Buddy System

They said not to do it. They swore we shouldn’t do it. And if they didn’t say it out loud, we’re pretty sure they were thinking it.

They told us not to go into business with our best friend. We were courting disaster, risking it all, and generally making a gigantic mistake. Was I scared? Well, a little – but not really. I knew it would work.

Believe me, I can see how going into biz with your buddy could be disastrous. When you work with someone you care about and have history with, it can be harder to broach difficult issues, and sometimes the friendship can get in the way of the work. You can hesitate to get into the tough stuff because you’re worried about hurting your friend, and you can take work conflicts personally. (It can also be hard to settle down to work when there is so much to catch up on in your lives!)

It’s funny though – no one talks about the enormous upside of being best friends in business. There’s the fact that I 100% trust my business partner – with every single aspect of the business. We’ve been able to have babies and take vacations without worrying what’s going on at the office. We’ve also each had the support of someone who cares about us when times have been tough either at work or at home. We’ve been able to support each other’s goals, both personal and professional. We’ve raised our families together and created a gaggle of kids who are madly in love with their ‘cousins.’ We really listen to each other, whether it’s a work or a personal issue.

But here’s the biggest benefit, and no one ever talks about this one: We’ve had a blast. I can’t think of anyone I’d rather be on the mom entrepreneur rollercoaster ride with than my best friend. We’ve enjoyed our business because we’ve done it together. I don’t think either of us would have lasted 7.5 years (and counting) on our own. We’ve celebrated our accomplishments together and commiserated when things haven’t gone as planned. We laugh. Every single day.

Should you go into business with your best friend? Well, conventional wisdom says you shouldn’t – but these best friends in business are flouting that wisdom, so why can’t you?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Companies We Love

This week's featured company makes its products in Canada, just like we do at Admiral Road. If you know of other great small businesses, let us know! We’d love to hear about them.

Company Name: Mally Designs

Company Web Site:

Owners: Ron and Nicole Garza

What they do: Make beautiful bibs out of leather. They’re durable, easy to clean and stain resistant.

Why we love 'em: Because their products are beautifully designed and of the highest quality. And they’re made in Canada! This company has achieved so much in a short time – Mally Bibs are everywhere! Their success is truly inspirational.

What you can get: Their new pocket peeker designs – so cute. You can also keep your eye out for Mally Bibs on sale.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

How to choose?

There are many reasons babies get the names they do. My first name, Mary, is from my Grandmother, and my middle name, Elizabeth, seems to be inspired by a variety of sources - my favourite being the street I was born on (though my father denies it). At Admiral Road, we see all sorts of unique names and name trends. This gives rise to one of my favourite things to do: Guess the trend.

While I can never be sure why anyone has chosen a name for their child, it seems reasonable that a sudden rise in a previously almost non-existent name has probably been inspired by some outside source – like a TV show. Case in point – Addison. Surely this girls’ name gained its massive popularity from the character on Grey’s Anatomy/Private Practice. And Cohen, a traditional Jewish last name, shows up almost weekly. I’m convinced this is after the character on the now off-the-air TV show, The O.C.

And then there are the perfectly nice names that you think would catch on, but don’t. Take Meredith from Grey’s Anatomy, or Marissa from The O.C. Who is to say why some things enter the collective sub-conscious while others remain on the sidelines?

Other celeb inspired trends: Lexie and George (Grey’s Anatomy), Ainsley (The West Wing), Sawyer (Lost), Blake (actress from Gossip Girl), Dexter (Dexter), and Danica (Indy driver/pin-up girl Danica Patrick). But my absolute favourites are twins Max and Ruby, and Will and Grace.

How did you choose your kid’s name?

Admiral Road has been making personalized blankets since 2002.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Back to School Blues

I can’t believe it. I can taste the beginning of school and somehow I’m not excited about it – I’m actually feeling something akin to dread. Any self-respecting mompreneur should be jumping up and down at the prospect of having kids out of the house. It’s an opportunity for structured, guilt-free work time. So what gives?

I was discussing this dread with Amy the other day and ended up articulating the problem. In my opinion, moving small kids through the daily routine is roughly equivalent in effort to pushing a grand piano through a tight doorway every single day. For the next 10 months.

There is the kid who just can’t put those shoes on until I’m apoplectic. Then there’s the little one still in kindergarten, which requires an afternoon program a few days a week, which requires multiple pick up times and locations. There’s the anxiety about how the shoeless one is going to settle into full-day school and how the kindergartener will like her new teacher. In short, I’m a bit stressed out!

Fear not, I’m doing my utmost to hide these feelings from my kids and am hoping that it’s not seeping through the cracks. The kids have had a structured summer, so school shouldn’t be a huge shock to their systems. The thing is, I can hear them right now playing beautifully together – relaxed and happy. In exactly 5 days at this moment I’ll be begging for the shoes to be put on and wondering if I have everything. Not quite the same..

I’m going to do my utmost to enjoy the last few unstructured days. And then I’m going to have to make peace with that piano.