Category Archives: Story Time

Going Streaking Gym Health

We’re Going Streaking! 29 Days Straight in the Gym (and Counting)

Don’t worry, this isn’t a, “you have to go to the gym or else type of post.” I assure you it’s business related. I want to speak more to the journey of becoming a better entrepreneur, the process of leveling up and what is required to make the quantum leap as a business person.

So, I’m currently in the middle of the longest consecutive day streak of going to the gym in my life (my program is below if you’re interested). It’s not like I haven’t been on a solid long-term routine before, there were just always at least one or two rest days each week. This time my whole approach and mindset is different. The actual working out part is important of course, I very much want to get into great physical shape. But it’s equally (or more) about the mental aspect.

As someone hyper focused on continuing to grow and scale multiple businesses, the level of discipline required to do so increases dramatically. For most of my career I’ve been able to get by and thrive with enthusiasm, spontaneity, and shear determination to put in whatever amount of time and effort was required. There comes a time when brute force, a little charm, and some passion doesn’t quite cut it anymore.

To make the jump to the next level you need to be disciplined, thoughtful, proactive, focused, and truly master time management, productivity, and efficiency. Thus, this streak of mine has been more about building up these skill-sets. I wanted to make a substantial commitment to something very difficult and challenging, and yet stick to it nonetheless.

I’m only accountable to myself in this endeavor, so it would be easier to quit, but knowing that and still progressing has been invaluable. Practicing making hard choices over and over again will eventually make them become easier to make, and without even allowing myself to consider the option of not doing it.

It’s not just the gym I’m doing this with either, it’s other subtler things too, like my 21-day streak of taking my Spanish lessons on Duolingo, practicing mindfulness, reading a daily devotional and chapters from books, and even flossing.

These things may appear trivial, but it’s about getting back to the basics and mastering the small things. This will make the bigger, high stakes business decisions of the near future become easier to make. It’s about building more confidence and self-assurance along the way. It’s about focusing more on, being more mindful of, and enjoying the journey along the way.

What kind of daily habits are you building to become a better entrepreneur/professional?


My Current Workout Program:

Monday – Chest/Bi Super-set

Tuesday – Back/Tri Super-set

Wednesday – Legs/Abs

Thursday – Shoulders

Friday – Arms/”Guido Pump” Bi/Tri Superset

Saturday – Legs/Abs (All different exercises than Wednesday)

Sunday – Cardio

Daily: Stretch, Push-ups, & Plank. I also do cardio every day as a warm up and cool down too. Yes, I know this hinders my “gainz” a bit all you workout warriors, but personally I find it worth it for the sustainability.

Supplements: Whey Protein, BCAA’s, Creatine (all from MRM), and Topical Magnesium Gel (Absolute Game Changer! Use code: Claire for 15% off).

The Potential ROI of Social Media

By now I shouldn’t have to articulate the value or justify the need for a social media strategy for your business. There are literally thousands of articles, white papers, and studies that have been written and distributed highlighting facts, figures, and metrics galore. Rather, I wanted to share a couple recent social media success stories and provide some tangible action steps for you to implement because that’s what this blog is for. As I’ve mentioned publicly, the new mantra is: Add Value.

LinkedIn Is Still King (depending on your target market)

I get referrals on LinkedIn all day long, but then again, I’m fairly active and present on the network. It’s my obvious preference with regard to the long game of business development. Every time I meet a new person at a networking event, or get introduced to a prospect or potential COI (center of influence/referral source) via email my first follow up step is to connect with them here. It just works and compounds.

Another tip: if someone asks you to introduce them to someone you’re connected to: do it. What do you have to lose? Sure, there are exceptions to this, but if you’re not comfortable with that then why are you connected to them in the first place? Even if I don’t know them all that well, I just disclose that fact in the intro and let that person make the call to follow up or not. This simple act often leads them to reciprocate when needed, and is a good reason to reach out to the other person too. Try this: “Hey I know it’s been a while, but so and so reached out to me and asked if I’d make an introduction, figured was a great reason for me to follow up with you too.” The answer is always no if you never ask.

However, you can’t neglect the others such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter

Sometimes you spend days and weeks shouting into an empty vacuum of time and space. The social media vortex swallows your content and garners little more than a like or two, and maybe a share or a re-tweet. You have great content but no one is really seeing it, so you get discouraged and post less frequently or stop altogether. BAD MOVE.

Now these results aren’t typical, but in addition to managing my company’s social media accounts along with a few clients, I also do it for some of my joint ventures. Recently, a life-altering event occurred when we received an inbound lead worth well into the high six/low seven figures. And this deal came in from a single TWITTER post. No joke, you read that right. Even if I never get another lead from Twitter again, that one tweet will pay for a life time of tweeting. The point is keep sharing, and sharing, and sharing.

Ask and Ye Shall Receive

Make sure to be very specific about what you’re looking for. When asking for a general referral, it’s often answered with crickets. It’s not that people don’t WANT to help, rather they just don’t know exactly how, or even what you have to offer. If they have to think too hard about it, you’ve lost them. Therefore, its best to keep things simple and specific.

For example, I recently posted that I was looking for a referral to accounting firms with annual revenue over $5 million. I have an abundance of experience in that space and currently have a gap in my client portfolio. Literally within 3(!) minutes of posting it on Facebook I was introduced to a dream prospect that would be a perfect fit for my business. And 10 minutes after that I was introduced to another one equally as good.

Action Keeps You Top of Mind

Even if you do nothing but share existing content from sources such as Entrepreneur Magazine, Inc. Magazine, and others that regularly post timely business-oriented content online you could still see ROI. Take it a step further and curate it with a nugget of commentary and context and over time that’s enough to garner goodwill and establish yourself as a thought leader and resource. This really adds up and pays dividends over the long-haul. People in your network will appreciate your contribution to enhancing their education along the journey.

As always, if there’s anything I can ever do to assist you along your social media journey, please don’t hesitate to reach out! And don’t forget to check out the WIMS Blast Off Bundle: 10Kto10X if you haven’t yet.

Unsolicited Insights From The Minority at the #BlkTechClt Event

First let me start with the description of the event that I, aka “the minority,” just attended:

ThePLUG Daily (make sure to subscribe) presents Charlotte’s first interactive event designed to immerse black tech entrepreneurs, professionals, and enthusiasts in the Queen City’s local startup ecosystem. This new monthly after-work event connects you with Charlotte’s most notable innovators and business leaders over drinks and appetizers while getting a sneak-peak at new products and an opportunity to share your area of expertise.”

Next, let me offer up a few disclaimers:

  1. I’m well aware that this event does not need, nor is seeking, validation from a random white dude whatsoever.
  2. Tito’s Vodka was one of the sponsors (I wrote this immediately upon getting back to my office after the event so pardon the tone…)
  3. Said random white dude’s writing about said event may have un-implied/privileged undertones despite the many clichés of his whole background and existence, i.e. growing up in an “urban environment” and having lots of black friends, etc.

Ok, now after that unfortunate introduction that hopefully in the future won’t even need to be written prior to such subjects because race won’t even be a factor in life whatsoever, let’s get to the key point of all this: random white dude attended the #BlkTechClt event and had his mind blown.

First of all, not like I’m surprised by this at all, but I saw a truly passionate and capable community of brilliant minds, both young and old, male and female, all coming together to empower and encourage one another to do whatever it takes to succeed. There were lawyers, bankers, financial professionals, coders, scholars, hobbyists, dreamers, artists, and just about every type of person you can imagine together sharing ideas, plans, business models, and projects they were working on and receiving feedback, insights, and suggestions from genuinely interested parties. It was an electrifying atmosphere.

Secondly, not only did I experience the reversed perspective of what it must (is? could?) be like being a minority attending a typical professional networking event, but I also noted that I was likely the only one that even noticed, or at least mentioned, the fact that I wasn’t black. Even though everyone embraced me without a second’s thought, the shear self-consciousness of constantly wondering, “Do these people not like me/ do they think I don’t belong/are they wondering why I’m here because I’m white/different” led to a perpetual awkwardness that forced me to bring it up and try to explain myself (note: this is never a good idea) even though I spent a great deal of time growing up in similar scenarios.

To say it was a cultural experience/awakening is an understatement. Because of my background, I tend to try and emphasize that race isn’t an issue to me personally whatsoever. Now I see however, that on the other side that “luxury” or perhaps “ignorance” isn’t even allowed to exist. Those subconscious thoughts stick with you ALWAYS, and are constantly nagging underneath the surface.

Lastly, I made some incredible contacts with potential clients, referral sources, and strategic partners. I would be so lucky to get a chance to work with and collaborate with some of these entrepreneurs that are destined for greatness. I can now only hope that my whiteness doesn’t keep me from consideration (ironic how the tables are turning isn’t it?) and that the new era of diverse businesses begins to thrive.

WIMS: WHO is Mike Simmons? Part 1

“Look at what we did. Came a long way from dirty ghetto kids.” Lupe Fiasco

Not many people know much about my background. Aside from a few exceptions, it’s something I’ve mostly kept private. But since the purpose of creating The WIMS Guide is to sporadically document the entrepreneurial journey I’ve been feeling compelled to share the origins of my story lately.

It’s something I’ve thought about doing for years now, but have hesitated due to a combination of self-consciousness and fear. Will people judge or look at me differently? Or perhaps they just won’t even care at all? I’ve finally realized that regardless if it changes the way people think of me or not, if it’s able to help even one person who’s had a similar experience by encouraging and motivating them to keep pursuing their dreams it will be well worth it.

My journey started out growing up in a pretty ghetto neighborhood in Harrisburg, PA (if you’re skeptical and think I’m embellishing Google Earth: 2353 Logan St.) before later making a relatively lateral move to a trailer park in Mechanicsburg. To say I come from a poor and dysfunctional family would be the understatement of the century.

While I had a very rough start, oddly enough three events that seemed like tragedies at the time ended up altering the course of my destiny and changed my life forever. First, I was sent to a boarding school called Milton Hershey School when I was five years old as my mother just couldn’t take care of me on her own (if you’ve never heard of it, it’s fascinating). Soon after that when I was six my father passed away. And then shortly after when I was seven my sister (who I was closer to more than anyone in the world) moved to California.

At the time, each of these events devastated and shook me to my core. I felt helpless, alone, and extremely confused. However, little did I know at the time that they all would be the very best things to happen to me (later to be trumped by getting married and having a baby). Going through all that at such a young age set the tone for the rest of my life by making me stronger, more independent, and extremely hungry to change my life for the better.

Even though most of my childhood was rough I often say that I was blessed to have the “Michael Jordan of Guardian Angels” by the way things turned out. MHS fed me, clothed me, and provided a wonderful well-rounded education along with opportunities I would have never experienced otherwise. Not to mention I hit the jackpot with an incredible set of “house parents” that taught me so much about life and how to be a man. Going there also allowed me to be able to visit my sister in California three times a year which opened my eyes up to an entirely different world, one with infinite possibility.

Despite greatly improved conditions compared to what they could have been, I do still vividly remember many times of going hungry when I was away from school at home. The memory of that feeling, along with that of having to live in the places we did, sticks with me to this day and creates an incredible desire to be successful and never go back to that again.

Being broke all the time made me realize that I wanted to eventually be an entrepreneur so I could have more control over my life. Ever since elementary school I started countless businesses such as selling sports cards, beanie babies, Pokemon, Pogs, and just about anything else I could profit from. Unfortunately, I had to do quite a few things I’m not proud of to get by as well.

Because of these experiences I developed a sense of ambition, drive, and commitment to doing well in school and getting good grades. Well that and the fear of my mother’s wrath if I didn’t. Understanding the importance of good grades was crucial and ended up paying off big time. After graduation, I literally became the first person in my family to attend college. On top of that, it was with a full academic scholarship to the University of Miami, half from “The U” and the rest from MHS. While there I earned my Bachelor’s Degree with a double major in Marketing and Finance and a minor in Advertising.

If my story ended there I would still feel extremely proud of what I was able to accomplish given how things began. But fortunately, I was just getting started.

To be continued…

Go F Yourself!

Let me start off by apologizing for the super click-bait-y title, I just couldn’t help myself. Also, FOR those of you who were expecting an epic verbal-lashing style rant I’m sorry to disappoint you too, you’re more than welcome to keep it moving if so (but if you do then you can take the title literally…just kidding). Rather, this is yet another post about personal and professional development/self-improvement.

As The WIMS Guide’s scope suggests, these posts are meant to be about documenting the journey. Thus, I wanted to share some insights with you all as I’ve been experiencing a great period of growth and progress over the past few months after shifting my FOCUS towards a now sacred set of priorities. And you guessed it, they all start with the letter “F.”

These aren’t all going to be FOR everyone, so FEEL FREE to pick and choose the ones that are most applicable to you. Also, if I’ve left any out, whether they begin with “F” or not, please make sure to share them.

FAITH – It truly starts with this above all else FOR me. Praying, reading devotionals, and hearing the word of God regularly has helped me significantly, especially lately. The confidence and reassurance I get allows me to continue to take calculated risks without doubting myself. If you’re one of my atheist FRIENDS, I’m not trying to preach here, the term is relative and you can shift the meaning towards having FAITH in yourself if you prefer. Nonetheless it really sets the tone FOR everything else.

FAMILY & FRIENDS – #2 on my list because this is generally the purpose and reason why you and I hustle and grind our asses off. I don’t mind working 16-hour days (I’m a sicko and actually enjoy it) as much when I at least get to spend a couple hours having dinner and relaxing with my wife before returning to my desk FOR the late shift. Spending quality time with F&F is crucial, even if it’s just on the phone or Skype/FACETIME.

FINANCES – This is what keeps the merry-go-round (aka your business) spinning, so having a handle of your FINANCES is imperative to being a good professional, entrepreneur, and person in general. You don’t need to be rich or well-off FOR this to matter, in FACT it’s even more important to properly plan and budget if money is tight. FROM the business side, it’s all about FACTS, FIGURES, and FORECASTING, because “if you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.” – Peter Drucker.

FITNESS & FOOD – Wow, what a tremendous difference incorporating FITNESS and a healthy diet into my daily routine has made on my life. I’m not talking about one-off gym sessions, but truly making a commitment to it at least 5 days a week. My energy, passion, and positive attitude lately has shot through the roof and has become borderline annoying to people that aren’t on the same level. I’m not going to dwell on this topic as you know already know the benefits, but I suggest not waiting until the new year, get on it today and get a head start.

FOLLOW UP & FOLLOW THROUGH – FOR those of you in sales (and let’s be honest every single person on earth is selling something whether they know it or not) this is by FAR the most important thing from a professional/business perspective. Now I’ve made incredible progress, but I still struggle with this and strive to improve every single FREAKING day. I get so caught up on the next thing I can tend to slip on closing out the last thing. And that’s even with a great CRM program to help me (btw – if you need to implement one hit me up).

FUN – You just have to take some time to recover and let loose occasionally as burning the candle from both ends will only end in burn out. Some of my personal FAVORITES to keep the theme going: FANTASY FOOTBALL, FILMS, FICTION, etc.

Now believe me, I’m FAR FROM perfect and still struggle with every one of these regularly, so its ok to slip up. The key is not to beat yourself up and let that disappointment or shame linger. Just keep getting back on the wagon and keep F-ing yourself until you get it right. When you see how FAR you’ve come, you’ll be happy you did.

(FULL disclosure: some of the puns and innuendo may have been intentional FOR the sake of FUN)…

Step into the Ring with the Trauma Fighter

Joe Swafford is not your traditional entrepreneur, if there even is such a thing. He still has, and loves, his full time career at Carolinas Healthcare System, where he is a Peer Support Specialist for the Mindy Ellen Levine Behavioral Health Center. He is also a full time hustler, squeezing every second he can out of each day to pursue his passion of helping others. His company, Trauma Fighter, has been growing like crazy lately, yet he still finds time to juggle it all. On top of all this there is his favorite role of them all: devoted father and family man. Where does he find the time to make it all work? Let’s find out.

Trauma Fighter has evolved quite a bit since I started it. One of the most important things I’ve learned is that whatever you start out thinking you’re going to do rarely is the case in reality. You plan for things to go a certain way and then they can change on you in an instant. Because of this I always try to keep an open mind and pursue opportunities as they come.

In the beginning I thought I was only going to do public speaking engagements. That’s how I started at least. Fortunately, they have all been very well received, and because of that so many other doors have opened up to me. Speaking is still a huge part of what I do of course, but now I also spend a great deal of my time teaching classes at AHEC and for private companies, as well as providing life coaching sessions to a select group of individual clients.

I’ve been very blessed in that the more of these things I do, the more opportunities keep presenting themselves. I’ve not only presented at large conferences at my company, but have now worked with large organizations like Big Brothers Big Sisters, and the Charlotte Mecklenburg School District among others.

The cool thing about the growth I’ve experienced so far is that it’s been done solely by word of mouth. I haven’t really done any advertising or marketing yet. Most of my clients have heard me speak, took one of my classes, or were referred to me by someone else that had. Currently I discuss topics like mental health, depression, and anti-bullying, however I am always thinking of new angles and approaches to reach my audience and help them any way I can.

One rule I live by is that I always reflect and think about how I can fit my dreams into my family? It’s never the other way around, I work around my family always. One way I make that work is that my ride home from work now doubles as a business meeting every single day. I have a very long commute, so my car has become my office.

There is certainly no set protocol yet to what I’m doing and I’m not following anyone’s rule-book but my own. I do what feels right and figure out the rest out as I go. Eventually I know that I’m going to have to implement more structured policies, but for now it has been working great. One specific example relates to my pricing structure, being flexible on this has allowed me to test and validate what my market rate is. I find that for some opportunities my price is way too high even when I think I’m quoting a lower rate than normal, while others think it’s low and a bargain for the value they get. I know I miss out on some things here and there but that’s part of the deal.

To continue growing the company I’ve been trying to learn as much as I can and I even started dabbling with things like social media. I tend to be long-winded so Twitter hasn’t been the best platform for me. Facebook on the other hand has been working really well, and the data it provides has been extremely helpful as I test what works. It’s very important for me to engage with my audience wherever they’re at. I recently purchased a GoPro and launched a weekly video series called Trauma Fighter Tuesday. It seems to be working really well as with each post I reach new people that I didn’t know, and not only are they befriending me, but they’re also reaching out to learn more about what I do and asking for help.

There are plenty of great speakers and teachers out there, so in order to differentiate myself I’ve really had to be open about my background and share stories that are often painful to relive. This is often the source of a lot of fear and anxiety for me, but I know that doing this is a big part of my purpose and calling. Knowing and accepting this has led me to launch one of my scariest projects yet that I’ve been putting off for years: writing a book. I started working with a ghost writer to assist me with it and we’re planning to launch it by the end of the year so stay tuned.

Being an entrepreneur has a lot of ups and downs, but when you’re truly living your purpose and feel passionately about what you’re doing it makes it all worth it. I know I have a lot to learn yet and have plenty of room to grow, but when you discover that you were able to impact even just one life it’s such a rewarding feeling that you have no choice but to push on and keep fighting.

Joe can be reached via his website, Facebook page, or by email at

WIMS: Where is Mike Simmons?!

To say that the 1st quarter plus of 2016 has been intense would be an understatement! WIMS Consulting has been in full-on hyper growth mode with lots of incredible new clients and projects currently underway and several others in the pipeline as well. While I’m extremely grateful and would never complain about that, one downside has been that The WIMS Guide has fallen off a bit.

Luckily, thanks to lessons learned from Tim Ferris and The 4-Hour Workweek this will no longer be the case due to a technique called “batching.” Essentially that means that I’ve been writing several posts simultaneously so that I can build up an inventory in advance to keep them going regularly. Between my personal posts and the stacked roster of diverse guest writers I’ve been recruiting there is going to be a lot of great content coming your way.

Now, back to my original question of “Where is Mike Simmons?!”

Over the past few months I’ve been extremely focused on growing the business. Landing new clients in my home base of Charlotte has been a significant priority, and so far this year has already been exceeding expectations as I’m now working with companies here varying from startups to multi-billion dollar entities and everything in between.

I’ve also been fortunate enough to be able to do quite a bit of traveling, my business trip to Miami last month was very successful as it remains a key component of my growth strategy. Maintaining my footprint there means a great deal to me and fortunately my existing relationships continue to bring new opportunities.

The California trip was primarily for vacation, however expanding the business there is another 2016 goal of mine and it looks very promising. In addition, as New York remains the holy grail of markets, I’m thrilled to have landed an amazing client there too, which I will elaborate on further when the time is right.

While some of the current projects remain confidential, I at least wanted to share some details about a few of them.

Nimbus – A payment processing platform based in Charlotte. It’s currently available online, via iOS mobile application (soon on Android as well), and it’s compatible with PC/Mac. You can process credit card payments on your phone by taking a picture so a swiper is no longer needed, it also processes ACH, Apple/Android Pay and other alternative methods as well. Rates start at 2.25% (best rates available) and will decrease automatically based on transaction volume. It also has an open API, allowing other applications and platforms to integrate it into their own systems to process payments. Pretty cool stuff and that’s just the beginning of what it can offer.

SalesFuel – This is a really interesting concept that I’m excited about collaborating on. I recently partnered with a South Florida based company called On the Ball/SalesFuel which is a business development firm that works with organizations’ sales team to get them meetings with the C-Level suite. We’re building a team that will span across the country and already beginning to work with some amazing companies.

Golf Squad – In a business world where sales and lead generation strategies are rapidly evolving, one approach continues to remain extremely effective: the game of golf. The Golf Squad Corporate Program was created to pursue the mission of formally blending the golf and business worlds together. Each program is led by a PGA professional and operations currently exist in over a dozen states and counting.

Ok, that’s enough of the shameless plugs for now but I wanted to provide some additional insight into what I’ve been up to, along with a snapshot of some of the companies I’ve been working with.

I will start wrapping up with a lesson I’m currently learning the hard way. Most of the talk about being an entrepreneur focuses on how difficult it is to get new clients and business. That is certainly true, but what seems to be discussed less often is the great challenge it is to service them and implement afterwards which is at least as equally important. To be frank the balancing act is a full on struggle and I’ve certainly been experiencing growing pains. Because of that I’ve been working on building the team, so any referrals in that regard would be greatly appreciated.

Lastly, as always I’d love to hear your thoughts, comments, insights, etc. so please feel free to reach out and let me know what you think!


Ten months ago, I became a mom for the first time. Four months after that, my second baby was born. I know the math seems kind of weird, but that’s because the second baby was my Etsy store, Casa Confetti. Yes, I started a business with a four-month-old. Yes, it’s been CRAZY. It has also been one of the most rewarding things I have ever done, and although I’m still learning to juggle motherhood and entrepreneurship (a.k.a. mompreneurship), I wanted to share a few things I’ve learned along the way. Maybe this will inspire some of you who are on the fence to take the plunge and join me on this crazy journey. Come over to the dark side. We have cookies. And milk (of a different kind).

Identify a need and carve out your niche.

I started designing invitations and printables while planning my wedding, when I decided to save some money by making my own welcome cards and favor tags. But it wasn’t until I was pregnant with my son and planning my baby shower that I really hit my stride. I had become seriously obsessed with finding the perfect baby shower invitations, and no matter how hard I looked I just didn’t see anything that fit my style. I finally got so exasperated that I decided to design my own. Without realizing it at the time, I had found my niche!

Know your market.

By the time that I decided to take the plunge and start Casa Confetti, I was pretty much an expert in the Etsy printable invitation market. I knew what search terms yielded what kinds of results because I had run so many searches myself, which allowed me to tailor my product descriptions in order to maximize views. I knew what other Etsy stores charged for their products. And I had identified the major players in the printables market, because I had seen their names pop up in searches over and over again. A little more research into the nuts and bolts of setting up an Etsy store and I was ready to go. But I can’t stress how important doing this kind of background research is – you’ve got to know your market! And studying the habits of other, successful entrepreneurs is a must.

You can’t do it all, and that’s okay.

Being a mom is a 24/7 job. Being an entrepreneur is a 24/7 job. So, yes, a lot of the time it feels like I’m trying to squeeze 48 hours into a 24-hour day. And I don’t really know how to do it. It means that a lot of the time, a lot of things don’t get done. And that’s ok.

As a mompreneur, you need to be realistic. Everything takes about ten times as long to do with a child. Of course I wish I could sit in a quiet space designing invitations all day, but that’s not an option with a tiny tyrant around. Instead, I work with what I have. Coming up with a new, original design takes lots of time and energy, so once I do one, I make tiny edits and squeeze out about ten different variations from it. It becomes a baby shower invitation, a birthday party invitation, and a bridal shower invitation. I make a few minor changes and, voila! Three additional products.

My best-selling items are baby shower and first birthday invitations, because that’s what I know best. It makes me happy to work with customers who are in the same life stage as me, so I try to stick with that. Eventually I’d like to break into weddings, but for now, I like where I am. Which brings me to my next point.

Love where you are.

The flexibility that being your own boss affords you is invaluable when you’re a mom. Even if I have to work until 2 a.m. to fulfill my orders from that day, and then wake up at 7 a.m. when my husband brings my crying baby to the bed, the fact that I can be there for the little things makes all the difference in the world. I can put off orders for an hour to take my son to the park. I am hyper-diligent about getting orders out almost as soon as they’re received, so that if my son, Levi, is having a bad day, I can afford to spend time with him and cut myself some slack.

Any entrepreneur can tell you that starting your own business is full of highs and lows. Some days I feel like I don’t even have time to breathe. I’ll be bombarded with orders and questions from potential buyers, and I find myself questioning how in the world I’ll get it all done. Other days are slower, and having Levi there as a constant makes it easier to ride out these lows. I’ll start to feel down on myself for not being at the level where I feel like I should be, but then I remember that part of the appeal of this job is having time to spend with my baby. If I can do that and still make money, then it’s going as well as I could ever hope.

Don’t sell yourself short.

Even before I had Levi, the question started popping up in almost every conversation: “So, are you going back to work?” The truth is that at first I didn’t know the answer. I knew that I didn’t want to work full-time, but if I was being honest with myself, I wasn’t sure that I was willing to go the full-on, stay-at-home-mom route either. Motherhood had given me this crazy surge of courage. I firmly believe that the best gift you can give your child is a happy mom. So I got to getting happy.

At first when people asked me if I was back at work, I’d get embarrassed and kind of mutter under my breath, “No, just staying at home.” But I wasn’t JUST staying at home! I was working 24 hours a day! I had started a business and had already had more sales than I could have ever anticipated. So I’d quietly add, “Oh you know, it’s no big deal, I just started a little Etsy store on the side. It’s silly.” But then my store started taking off, and I started to feel immensely proud of my store and my ability. I realized that I had been selling myself short – if I were a man, I’d have been introducing myself as a CEO. So why as a woman was I “just a mom?” Once I changed my attitude, I started feeling so much more fulfilled and empowered. I get to spend time with my son and still make more than I was earning as a lawyer. As everyone says, the key to having it all is realizing that you already do!


Gaby Abrams is the owner of Casa Confetti Party Designs on Etsy and a stay-at-home mom to Levi (10 months old). She lives in New York City with her husband, Jake. Prior to having a baby and starting Casa Confetti, Gaby worked as a lawyer. Follow Gaby on Instagram at @casaconfettishop or email her at

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Chipping Away at New Product Development

By: Jarrod Mains

What do you know about product development? If you are like me when I decided to start a company that makes a new golf training aid, then nothing! I had zero experience designing, producing, building, managing, sourcing, or engineering a new product. The only thing I have ever done professionally is sell. But I was very passionate about this product my next door neighbor invented and I truly believe that it makes people who use it a better golfer. So we decided to start Perfect Shot Golf Loft, LLC.

I have learned the hard way that the most difficult part of developing a new product is getting the design and manufacturing set up. The initial steps you take during this process are crucial. I could not afford to make any mistakes as my budget was very limited, but like anything you haven’t done in life before, you live and you learn. I have listed several of the lessons I learned during my product development cycle over the past 18 months below with the hope that they can help you develop your own product quickly, efficiently, and as equally important: within your budget!

Lesson #1 – Do your research.

I’ve always liked the saying, “if you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” I’ve never started a job I hadn’t researched and crunched numbers for prior to beginning and this venture was no different. Knowledge is power and the more knowledge you have, the better off you will be. Before starting a business you need to research the entire industry you are looking to enter and dissect any/all information available. Developing a business plan and researching how to make it happen is by far the most important step before you decide to start your own company.

Again, I had ZERO product development experience and really didn’t know what I was getting into but was so confident this product was going to be successful, that I didn’t care. I was focusing on what was going to happen several steps away, looking forward to the point where I had inventory to sell. Never in my wildest dreams did I think it would be so hard to get to that point! There is only so much you can do during the development stage as a sales/marketing guy. So like any smart CEO would do when he didn’t know what to do, I hired a consultant.

In August 2014, we sent our home built prototype to a company we contracted with in Buffalo, NY to look it over so they could build us a more professional, consumer ready product. They succeeded in doing this about eight months later. Which brings me to my next lesson…

Lesson #2 – Don’t contract with a design firm that is so far away.

The design stage of developing a product is critical. The more you can communicate and meet with your designers the better off you will be. Sam (my business partner) and I are in Florida; the consultants we hired were in Buffalo, NY. While we did do some Skype sessions and conference calls, it’s not the same as being able to drive down the street and check to see how your project is coming along.

Looking back, there were many small things these design consultants messed up which could have been avoided had we been closer to point things out sooner. Whenever somebody messes something up in the design stage, it not only costs time, but costs money too! Of course there will be some trial and error along the way, but the errors they made were pretty standard requests.

Sam was a foreman on large scale projects such as building power plants and skyscrapers, so he was very specific with how he wanted his invention built (our “blueprint”) yet these guys kept getting measurements wrong, spacing off, and all sorts of other things that seemed simple to us. We thought we were pretty clear as to what we were asking for and they always said they understood, but whenever we got a new part or sample piece the changes we asked for and things we stressed were not done properly until the second, third, fourth time.

For example, it was very frustrating having to tell professional design engineers to make sure the holes in the stakes are close enough together to where you have to squeeze the poles together providing more stability and friction on the unit, yet it takes them nine tries to get it right!

Lesson #3 – If possible, pay for the project as a whole, not on an hourly basis.

Design engineers are like lawyers. If you let them, they will rack up billable hours! We had the option upfront in this firm’s proposal to pay for the project as a whole, but we decided to go with the hourly option and have them send us monthly invoices for the time they spent working on our project. Maybe they were making all those mistakes referenced above on purpose to run up the bill on us, who knows. But we had to learn the expensive way that it would have been much better to pay one lump sum for the project instead of leaving it open to the engineers to “work” on it at their own discretion will while working on other projects for their other clients simultaneously.

This company itemized their hours so I was able to see how much time they claimed they were working on each portion of the product. After looking at the monthly invoices each month, I was getting fed up of seeing some of the same stuff on there each and every month for things that should have been completed already. Again, being so far away and never meeting these guys in person was a big mistake. The trust factor was lacking.

Lesson #4 – Search for vendors yourself.

Again, I had to learn this the hard/expensive way! The consultants we hired claimed they already had resources in place to get us all the parts we needed in their initial proposal. We soon figured out that was far from reality as they were simply searching online for vendors and charging us to do it. After a few months I finally asked them why it was costing us so much for them to search for vendors and why it was taking so long to find these resources they claimed they already had in place. After that conversation, I decided to take over this aspect of the process myself.

If you don’t search for your own vendors – which isn’t hard, just time consuming – you pay engineers $90+ per hour to do it for you! The consultants initially got us three quotes on injection molds, all of which were over $100,000. I made the mistake of simply sending them websites saying, “Hey look into these guys,” not knowing they were still going to charge me so much money to gather these quotes.

I finally told them to stop searching for vendors, I’ll do that from now on. And boy was that a great decision! I not only saved money by searching myself, I saved money by finding better priced vendors for virtually every part we needed! Plus, I learned a lot about manufacturing while doing my searches and talking to these vendors so this move was quite beneficial.

Lesson #5– Plan for your product to take longer than expected.

Our objective when we first started was to have a finished product in time for the start of golf season, spring of 2015. That didn’t happen. Designing and ordering custom parts that don’t exist yet takes longer than you probably think. For one, it was tough to find vendors in the USA to do it at a reasonable cost, so lots of times we had to get sample parts from China…which means waiting for them to get here. If you don’t want to spend the extra money on shipping overnight internationally – which can add up quick – you have to wait longer. But time is money so you have to consider what is best for your situation.

Around June of 2015, the product was finally designed the way we wanted it and we had found vendors for most of the parts. Now we were finally ready to go to production! Except there was one more problem…we didn’t have enough money to pay for the injection molds. All of our start-up funds went into product development and legal fees (patents, trademarks, operating agreements, etc.). While we could make our product cheaper and “dumb it down” a little bit, we don’t want to do that.

We want this to be the Cadillac of golf training aids instead of being like most of the other cheap crap out there on the market. We want people to use this product for years, not just once or twice and throw it away like a lot of other goofy golf gadgets. I’m smart enough to know that cheap doesn’t last and you get what you pay for, I’m a big believer in that. If we start cutting corners now and cheapening our product, it’s going to cause us more work and cost us more money in the long run. And we can’t afford that. So we decided to build it the right way rather than the quick and cheap way.

I hope these lessons and our company’s start-up experience have helped you understand the product development stage in some way. While it does require hard work, I want to encourage you to go for it, just be mindful of what it takes to be successful. We have passed a big road block but the route has only begun as we have many more obstacles to navigate through. Stay tuned for my next article on fundraising and creating a crowd funding campaign. Until then, to be continued… GOLFLOFTNoBackGround-500X500


Jarrod Mains is the CEO of Perfect Shot Golf Loft, LLC. He has many years of experience working in the professional sports industry with a variety of leagues and in a variety of roles. He earned his MBA in Sports Management from Florida Atlantic University. He can be reached here.

The BEST Approach to get Media Coverage for Your Business

Most entrepreneurs and small businesses do not have the budget to shell out high dollars for paid advertisements to promote their services. Instead, they need to rely on cost effective or free ways to get their message out. The same is true for public relations professionals who are tasked with gaining publicity and raising awareness for their organization. While their marketing and advertising colleagues often have a nice chunk of change to spend on ads or partnerships that promise coverage, the majority of the publicity the public relations team brings in is done with little or no cost.

I’d like to share what I have found to be one of the most successful methods of getting a news outlet to talk about your work and demonstrate how you can do the same for your business. It all comes down to identifying a great story and crafting the perfect pitch. Media with CHS 2

  1. Make your pitch a story and not a commercial

My first tip is the most important. Do NOT make your pitch a commercial. No one is interested in how wonderful and intelligent your product is. If your pitch goes on and on about why everyone needs to buy this product or how great of a business person you are, it will get thrown in the trash, along with your reputation.

The best way to promote your business is to dig a little deeper and find a real life example that clearly illustrates why something is news worthy. This will take more effort on your part but it will make all the difference in whether or not you get coverage, and ultimately, the story that comes out will resonate with your target audience much better than an expensive commercial.

  1. Find the essential “characters” for your pitch

Your pitch needs to focus around the main character. This should be someone who is not affiliated with your business; such as a customer or a client. If you are promoting a product or a service, find someone who uses it on their own (meaning they are not getting paid to do so) and who genuinely has a positive experience with it. Your pitch will highlight their experience and what led them to use your service/product and the difference it has made on their life.

Secondly, you need an expert; whether it’s yourself or a designated spokesperson for your company.   This role is to discuss how the service or product benefitted your main character. They should also discuss what they personally did to help this person and what their work means to the community. This role does not include showing off, gloating or trying to steal the spotlight.

  1. Is there a conflict and resolution?

In order to have a story, your main character needs to have a conflict that your expert has solved by his/her service or product. In addition, you need to make the case that this is something that can help all of the reporter’s audience as well. It can’t be something that will only benefit one person.

Once you have your two main characters, the conflict and the resolution, you can plug your information into a simple format. I’m going to coach you through this format using a recent story I worked on that resulted in coverage for one of my clients, Dr. Oleg Tcheremissine. Claire and the Oosterhuis's

  • Introduction of main character

Example: Peter Oosterhuis, a former golf pro and CBS sports commentator, is incredibly popular and respected among his peers, fans, and family. He has a long and storied career in golf and is known best for defeating golf legends such as Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer.

  • Describe the Conflict

Recently, Peter and his wife began to notice lapses in his memory and professionalism. He struggled with everyday tasks and was growing increasingly frustrated with the mental changes he was experiencing.

  • Introduction of your expert

Peter went to go see a doctor in Texas. The doctor diagnosed him with Alzheimer’s disease; and suggested that he go to Charlotte where the experts there would be the best to treat him. Peter went to Charlotte where he began seeing Dr. Oleg Tcheremissine, who enrolled him in a groundbreaking clinical trial.

  • Resolution

While we don’t know if Peter is receiving the actual drug or a placebo in the trial, he and his wife are on a mission to raise awareness and funding for the treatment and research of Alzheimer’s disease. They want to let others know that this trial is significant for the development of a drug that may ultimately lead to a cure for this devastating disease.

  • Impact- Why should anyone care?

Alzheimer’s can happen to anyone- even the greatest athletes like Peter. The more we talk about this disease, the better the chances of finding a cure. Everyone in Charlotte would appreciate that the world’s best doctors and researchers are located in their backyard and should they or a loved one ever need treatment for Alzheimer’s, they won’t have to go anywhere else.


WCNC, the NBC affiliate in Charlotte, covered this story and ran it during their nightly news cast.

The Alzheimer’s Association shared this story as a message of hope and education for all of the patients and caregivers that follow their YouTube Channel.

Peter’s story remains one of the most viewed on the Carolinas HealthCare System’s Daily Dose blog, which is followed by thousands of people in North and South Carolina.

The Charlotte Observer did an in depth piece on Peter and his wife and describes the clinical trial that has the potential to delay the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.

  1. B-Roll Media with CHS

To provide an additional incentive to reporters, you must find b-roll to support your story. According to the Content Marketing Institute, b-roll is the extra footage captured to enrich the story you’re telling. Instead of featuring only talking heads on video, you want to include additional video footage, still photographs, animation or other graphic elements.

In the case of Peter’s story, we reached out to the Quail Hollow Golf Course who allowed us access to film Peter playing golf there, we supplied reporters with old photographs of Peter and his wife and coordinated with Dr. Tcheremissine at the neurology clinic to film a checkup with Peter. Those visuals really made the story come to life and allowed the viewer to see what it was like to experience what Peter was going through.

  1. Fact Sheet

If you are pitching a story idea to the media, it is your responsibility to know your topic inside and out and you must be able to teach the reporter about it. Often times, the expert may be so advanced they don’t break down the information in an easy to understand way; so the reporter will often rely on you to explain it to them. Or if you are doing the interview yourself, you must absolutely be prepared for every potential question they can ask you. Plus, reporters are on tight deadlines so they don’t often have the time to research each topic. This is where you can be a huge help to them. I like to supply reporters with a fact sheet before and after each interview with suggested questions, key messages, and data. You can even go as far as to write the story for them and supply quotes, photos and links for more information.

Recently I worked on a story about a young woman who got married in her father’s hospital room just days before he passed away. A reporter with People Magazine was at the airport so couldn’t be there in person- so I took photos for her and provided as much information as I could so she could write her story.

  1. Share and Follow Up

Now that you put in all that work to get your story in the spotlight, it’s time to share it! Post the link on social media, your company’s YouTube page, and email your family, friends, and contacts. When the share the coverage with their networks, it gets even more exposure! Plus, it’s a great way to build relationships with everyone involved and if the experience was positive, it will be that much easier to work with that reporter on another story in the future. When reporter Lena Sun with The Washington Post covered the behavioral health integration model, we shared the link and connected with Lena on Twitter to immediately to promote the story, which resulted in greater exposure of the report and our behavioral health team.


According to research done by Paul Zak and his team at the University of California, Berkeley, stories “shape our brains, tie strangers together and move us to be more empathic and generous.” These are all the emotions we should try to evoke when reaching out to our target audiences. Anything less than that and they will change the channel, skip over the story, and stop engaging with you. I encourage you to put on your own reporter hat and ask questions to find that great story that will resonate with reporters and audiences to ultimately help you achieve your goal- showcasing the great work of you/your company and getting your audience to respond and connect with you.


Claire Simmons is with the clinical public relations team at Carolinas HealthCare System in Charlotte, N.C. She is responsible for developing strategic communications initiatives and coordinating public relations activities for women and children’s services, behavioral health and neurosciences. Claire develops and manages annual communications plans that promote new programs, facilities, services and other activities for her various clinical specialties. As a former news producer and reporter, Claire’s favorite aspect of her work revolves around telling stories that connect with the community while promoting her clients. Connect with Claire on LinkedIn or email her at