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December 14, 2009

Amy’s New Year No-Shopping Experiment!

I have decided to conduct an experiment - a New Year's No-Shopping Experiment, which involves not buying anything new for myself from January 1st - April 8th (my birthday).

That means: no clothes, shoes or jewelry. I know, I know… there are some who might question this, asking: “what's the big deal?” or reminding me that there are people who rarely get to buy themselves something new.

But for me, it is a big deal. We live in a consumer culture and material goods and the lure of shopping is everywhere. Living in NYC and walking anywhere is like placing yourself in a mall in other parts of the country. Beyond living in THE greatest shopping city in the world, there is the onslaught of catalogues that come in the mail and the more frequent emails announcing that the new season's collection or the sale of the season has arrived.

Oh, and did I mention that I LOVE fashion. And that I think shopping is fun! I am the type of person who can travel anywhere in the world and it's as if I have a sixth sense about finding all the great areas to shop. And I don't discriminate - I will shop in the cities trendiest area and also rummage through the local artists and flea markets. It's the thrill of the find. What will I find that I feel I cannot live without? But that is precisely what stated my thinking about this experiment.

Last week I received the email that makes my heart flutter - the bi-annual Diane Von Furstenberg Sample Sale! As I waited in line for 45 minutes I saw women coming out with large overstuffed packages. And as they let me through the doors I was anticipating a wrap dress that had my name on it. But after looking through the racks, being pushed and shoved by other shoppers who were in a frenzy to find their "I can't live without this DVF find" and leaving empty handed, I thought to myself, "what a colossal waste of time."

As the day went on, I realized that I really didn't need anything new in my closet as I had spent the past two years since my second child was born thoughtfully re-building my wardrobe. Yes, while I am always able to find something new and adorable that would be great and fun - needing it is never really the question.

And so I wondered, how much time would I discover if I cut shopping out of the picture for a dedicated amount of time. What would I do with that time? Would I miss shopping? Would I see the hobby of shopping in a new light? Would I become more creative with my clothes? Would I discover the clothes that I really love and wear vs. the ones I like the idea wearing? All of these questions have intrigued me - most pronounced is the question of time. How much more time would I have and what will I do with it?

Stay tuned....
posted by Amy Abrams

December 11, 2009

Name Calling: You Say Potato; I Say Entrepreneur

(image courtesy of pretty little studio)

We built our business to meet the needs of women entrepreneurs. Our content and programs focuses on helping these women learn the business of running a business and how to think like entrepreneurs.

But we face a consistently big challenge in doing this. “Entrepreneur” is not how many independently-employed women see, label, or refer to themselves.

What do they call themselves instead? Self-employed, freelancer, consultant, designer, practitioner, writer, coach…you get the idea.

It’s not that these other labels are untrue; they just don’t tell the full picture.
If you have chosen to go out on your own and you work for yourself and have strategic control over your venture then you are an ENTREPRENEUR. (Congrats, by the way…)

And it’s not just that these other titles sell you short, they misrepresent the job of the entrepreneur to the entrepreneur.

If you are an entrepreneur but continue to think of yourself “just as a consultant”, you may:

* neglect to focus on all the really critical strategic elements of entrepreneurship

* fail to learn from other businesses outside of your industry that use other labels to describe their work

* miss opportunities to engage with other entrepreneurs and business owners and learn great business building skills, techniques, and technologies

* miss out on innovative business trends and ideas that will keep you current and continue to reshape your business as time progresses

I recognize that it is not always the easiest label to accept! Especially when you have just gotten started, especially when you are small, especially when you feel so different from the models of entrepreneurship that are frequently cited in business publications. It is easy to feel like a fraud or to suffer from the business owner’s imposter complex.

But it is important! Not just for the health and well-being of your own venture but also for the rest of women entrepreneurs. The more we hide behind these other labels and neglect to also call ourselves entrepreneurs, the more invisible we are as a group and the less we are able to learn from each other. The more invisible and fragmented we are, the more we have to reinvent the wheel and the harder it is for us to attain the success we desire.

Tell us about your relationship with the word entrepreneur. Do you use it? Since when or why not?

December 8, 2009

Happy in 2010! Resolutions, Focus, Tips, and Best Practices

(image from Farouche on etsy.com)

I recently signed up to participate in Gretchen Rubin’s Happiness Project for 2010. The Happiness Project was the impetus for Gretchen’s new book coming out on Dec 29.

The book is an account of the year she spent test-driving studies and theories about how to be happier.

I’m all about best practices and love learning about studies so I know always knew the book would be for me. (I can’t wait to learn what is considered hogwash and what actually works!)

But right now I am also intrigued by resolutions and process. I know, the time of year is good for it, but I am also motivated by my experience from this last year.

For the first time, I made good resolutions! I had resolved to improve my grammar and to improve my posture. Is either perfect? Nope. But they’re better. And what’s more, it wasn’t a guilt-ridden, ‘set yourself up for failure experience. Instead, I simply focus on two concrete things I wanted to improve and took several steps to do so.

So for this next year, in addition to continuing my grammar and posture initiatives I would like to improve my blackberry boundaries. Specifically, I would like to insulate myself from my blackberry during certain hours. Right now, even if I know I won’t respond to any emails I see, I can find myself deliberately and absent-mindedly checking my blackberry at stupid times during the evening right up until I go to bed. The problem is that whatever emails are awaiting me kick my mind into gear and prevent me from truly relaxing, focusing on something else, or turning off work for a while. I would like to improve this by focus on it more and being more aware of my desired outcome and behavior.

I’m joining the happiness project because I think it will be a nice accompaniment to the book and also because I would like Gretchen’s help spotlighting other areas of my life to I can focus on them as well. I find the positive tone of Gretchen’s tips and writing to be appealing and I also appreciate that she her advice is of the “meet you were you are” type style. No one needs to start the year by heaping expectations and pressure on to their self.

So more about the project process:
Starting each month in 2010, Gretchen will propose an area of life to tackle, and once a week, over the next four weeks, she’ll suggest concrete, manageable resolutions to help you boost your happiness – and remind you to stick with them. She’s also going to do a series of short videos on the proposed resolutions and why they matter. Want to join us?

Right now she has the following topics slated:
December--Boot Camp Perfect

(This monthly focus reminds me of the awesome Give It Up! My Year of Learning to Live Better with Less by Mary Carlomagno)

I’m happy to share how it is going throughout the year! In the meantime, I’m excited for the book. And I'd love to know what you are resolving for the New Year! Tell us.

December 4, 2009

Taking Stock, Giving Thanks

(card by Linda & Harriet)

With Thanksgiving behind us and the holidays rapidly approaching, I always find myself reflecting on the past year and thinking about the year ahead. This year, I have been giving a lot of thought to the idea of gratitude, being gracious and giving thanks. All interconnected ideas, of course.

When I think about the business we have created and the work that I do, I feel incredible grateful that I get to interact and surround myself with so many dynamic, smart and sophisticated women. Our community is one that I constantly learn from. Lessons learned have involved how to shape our business, how to conduct business and even choices about parenting and my overall lifestyle.

My work is filled with opportunities to be inspired by women who believe in themselves and their business. While they may feel discouraged at moments and experience growing pains in their business, they always plow forward and continue to pave the road ahead. And the fact that they come to IGC to be a part of a community where they can learn, share and grow with other like minded business owners is something not to be taken lightly. I feel incredibly grateful for our community.

On a personal level, as the mother of two daughters, I feel proud to be a part of a business where my daughters can be inspired by so many remarkable women. I love demonstrating the idea that having your own business is an equally accessible career path as being a teacher or a nurse may have been for women in the past.

And on a professional level, I feel incredibly grateful to have a business partner who helps me be a better business owner and entrepreneur. Together we get the thrilling opportunity to tap our creativity, take chances, innovate and celebrate success.

These are the things that I am grateful for and give thanks. And for the coming year, I look forward to honing my gratitude skills throughout the year, as opposed to just the end of the year!

While I know as business owners, we are always trying to improve our business, land our next client or finally cross of everything on our to-do list. Sometimes it is great to just take a moment to realize how lucky we are, how much we appreciate those we work with (in the form of colleagues, clients and supporters) and how grateful we are to be able to get to create work that works for us.

posted by Amy Abrams

December 1, 2009

Women Business Owners Contribute a Total Economic Impact of $3 Trillion! And the Only Ones Getting Sold Short Are the Women.

(glass piggy banks by Roost from Velocity Art & Design)
(article in full posted on Huffington Post 12/1 - Adelaide Lancaster)

Apparently the independence we women entrepreneurs seek is coming at a big price. The benefits of entrepreneurship are driving more women than ever into self-employment, yet the financial rewards necessary to make this trend stick, still elude most of us.

In October the Center for Women's Business Research published the first ever study on the economic impact of women business owners in the US.

The following data were rightly heralded by many media outlets as a great triumph:

* There are approximately 8 million women-owned businesses nationwide

* Women-owned businesses employ 23 million workers (16% of total US jobs)

* Women business owners account for approximately $3 trillion dollars of total economic impact

Pretty impressive stuff.

As someone who strongly believes that entrepreneurship is an important economic and employment vehicle for both women and the US, I am thrilled to see the growing national economic contribution by women-owned businesses confirmed. Understandably then I was disturbed by one underreported statistic.

According to the study, 87.5% of all women-owned businesses are without employees - perhaps a dramatic majority, but not necessarily a problematic one. Let's not forget that flexibility is the third most motivating startup factor for women business owners, according to a 2006 MasterCard survey, and many such women feel that the responsibility of managing employees would impinge upon that.

What is disturbing upon further examination of these statistics, however, is that the projected average annual revenue of these non-employee firms is $27,000, compared to the average annual revenue for firms with employees of $910,000. This means that 87.5% of women owned businesses are only making 17% of the revenue.