Kids in Business: Networking Starts Early

Water on Bleeding Heart Leaf

What is Business?

That's the first question we asked entrepreneur Claire Burge, in our second meeting of Kids in Business.

Claire didn't miss a beat.

"Business is meeting a customer's need," she said. "You might not even know who the customer is yet. You might not have an amazing idea. But if you think about people's critical needs, that's the beginning."

Then Claire shared with us about her very first business, Simplify Learning, which was eventually bought by another education company. It was an uphill struggle to develop the business initially, because even though she saw the need for students to have simple learning tools incorporating technology, the universities she approached did not. In the end, her success was propelled partly by identifying individuals within the universities, who would help champion the idea.

"What do you think business is?" she asked. (If you ever meet Claire, be prepared for the turn-back question. She really loves to hear what people think.)

The girls sat quietly. After all, they'd already heard that business might be different from a hobby and that it might mean crawling under houses and warding off German Shepherds. 

I answered the question with a rather rambly treatise on how business is also about making money—it's not philanthropy—and yet it needs to be about doing that with respect for the people who work with us. "Too many businesses use people up," I said. "That's not the kind of business I want to run. I want a business culture where managers get people to do their best, yes, but with an eye towards making sure they're in their sweet spots... and a watchfulness for when people need a break or a change."

Moving on, we talked about the challenges for women, and I wondered what my girls thought when they heard "it's a male-dominated field"... again. They'd heard that phrase in our first meeting too. But they also heard me laugh, noting that the some of the work I'm currently doing in a male-dominated field is being done with a core team of women. (I think it might have been channeling my German grandmother with that laugh, as she was a business woman many times over.)

Gender, age: these things can work against us, but Claire was extremely encouraging. She told a story of a fourteen-year-old app developer in Ireland, and she told us about her own path of pursuing knowledge about business beginning at age twelve (before ever going to college, she worked for an accounting business, a law firm, an HR firm, a recruiting business, and a software company, so she could figure out what she preferred to study and pursue as a potential career).

When asked what she'd recommend now for the girls (besides getting five jobs), Claire emphasized the importance of having older friends and talking to older people. "I grew up surrounded by older cousins, and my parent's friends all had older kids. Also, I was an only child, and my dad treated me like an adult; it really made a difference. You can learn a lot from older people," she said.

And isn't that exactly what we're doing with Kids in Business?

Photo of Claire Burge, by Kelly Sauer. Check out some of the businesses Claire Burge is currently involved with: Get Organised, Wedding Dates. Claire is also on the core team helping to develop an app with Tweetspeak Poetry.


Kids in Business: The Insurance Adjuster Wins


Our first Kids in Business meeting—with spur-of-the-moment guest Lyla Lindquist—was awesome. Lyla is an insurance adjuster who runs her own business, and since she wasn't waylaid by any recent disasters, she made time for us on short notice. By the end of our meeting, I said I lost five pounds from all the laughing (and now we are thinking of how we might market Lyla as a weight-loss solution).

Besides hearing stories of old men who pretended to get run over or who lived in sub-zero trailers that got ransacked in the middle of nowhere, we learned about the relativity of correct business attire. (Jeans for burrowing under houses. Khakis for above-ground investigations of floods with left-over mold. Slacks for meetings with distressed parents whose children have been bowled over by rogue domestic animals.)

Pajamas, we learned, could potentially suffice as home office attire if they are t-shirts and sweats, but for reasons of focus and a basic sense of professionalism (and to avoid the overwhelming desire to nap between calls), we were told (and mostly agreed) that it is not a bad practice to actually get dressed every day (especially if you have no curtains on your windows).

Though every business is ultimately unique, and this was so evident in a discussion of insurance adjusting, one of the main takeaways from our time with Lyla was the idea that most businesses will be more profitable if you have:

1. knowledge in your area of interest
2. professional contacts (or an effective way to quickly obtain them)

We also discussed what makes a business different from a hobby:

1. it's not something you can just stop doing, because you are trying to make money from it
2. it's not something you can just stop doing, because you have spent money trying to make money from it

Of course you could walk away from a business. Instagram just did that, right? Okay, yes, for $1 billion from Facebook. 

As for the business of insurance adjustment, we learned that it helps to be:

1. braver than the mailman (German shepherds are not uncommon in the field)
2. faster than the mailman (scary and sometimes dangerous situations occasionally arise)
3. really funny or at least appreciative of found-humor (otherwise cynicism about old men who pretend to get run over might turn you into a grouchy person)

I figure it was a rousing success, because my girls would love to talk to Lyla again—about business or anything else she'd care to share. After all, both girls agreed that as far as story-telling goes, J.K. Rowling has got nothing on Lyla, except maybe a few more movies and a few less German shepherds to her name.

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Kids in Business: The First Day

Sara at the Computer

This morning I was feeling the need for business colleagues. Oh, I have plenty, really. But none that I see face to face.

As I was writing about this in my business journal, it suddenly occurred to me that maybe I *do* have colleagues, right here in my own home. I just need to think about them that way. Thus, our new Friday afternoon routine: Kids in Business.

The girls (12 and 14) and I will meet for one hour on Fridays and sometimes host guests. We are really looking forward to speaking with Claire Burge next Friday, for instance. And today, spur of the moment, Lyla Lindquist has graciously agreed to Skype with us.

I don't know where we'll go with all this, except that today we'll start to think about our direction together. I'm coming to the meeting with a a list of ideas. I'll share these with the girls and ask them to come up with more ideas.

So far, this is what I've got. It's just messy thoughts:

—read business articles or a chapter from a business book and discuss; maybe watch a TED Talk or other interesting video

—host fun entrepreneurs who can chat briefly with us

—teach skills like bookkeeping, how to run a meeting, how to use accounting software

—share our business dreams

—have the girls share some research they might do about other kids in business—or anyone in business, for that matter

—cover a host of important topics like financing, branding, marketing, selling, Internet meeting and connecting tools

—share about our respective business goals and accomplishments (the girls have a few non-income-producing "businesses," so we could start with these)

Both girls are happy with the idea (so far :) and they are even dressing up for the meeting. Sonia felt that it was important to look "creative," since we are dealing with entrepreneurship. Thus, her nail polish. In different colors. Sara is set to go too. (Look, she's already doing phone work in her fancy meeting clothes. Gotta love that desk, too. First benefit of working for yourself. You get to choose your own office equipment. ;-)

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1001 Ways to Improve Your Personal Finances: Tip #2—The Starbucks Challenge

Daffodil Windmill

I have two friends.

Okay, I have more than two friends. But for the purposes of this post, I have two friends.

They are real people, not imaginary friends.

The first paid off his house, goes on occasional vacations, and recently bought a second property as a form of investment. He and his family throw fun parties. I like their strawberry rhubarb pie. Maybe you are like my first friend (if so, I might visit you soon for pie.)

My second friend has a second mortgage on his first house, goes on occasional vacations, and often throws huge, fun parties for family occasions. He recently got a big surprise. One day he went outside to get into his car, but the car was gone. While he and his family were sleeping, the car had been stolen away. Not by thieves, but by a repossession company.

I have another friend. This might not count. He's my dad. He helps people like my second friend repossess their financial security. It's not an easy task of course. People have to want it.

Maybe you are like my first friend. If so, good. You probably already take advantage of little known financial savings opportunities like duct-tape wart removal. Maybe you are ready to start a business, and you have everything you need (almost) to Get Rich Click.

Maybe you are like my second friend. Or maybe you are somewhere along the middle of the spectrum. Wherever you're at, if you are worried about the sustainability of your financial practices, my dad has a list of things you can do (he forgot to mention homemade pie-making, so I am going to just stick that in here right now. Did you know it is a lot cheaper to make your own pie than buy it?).

For argument's sake, let's say you followed at least part of Alexa von Tobel's 5 Must-Follow Principles for Personal Finance. Let's say you are not spending more than 50% of your income on housing and other non-negotiables (unfortunately, pie is negotiable).

However, you're in credit card debt over a whole host of negotiables, which is affecting your ability to make your car and house payments on time (this is what happened to my second friend). And somebody wants the money back sometime (or your car in lieu of it, or worse, your house).

It is time to pay that baby down (and, no, you may not throw huge parties in the meantime). Best approach?

1001 Ways to Improve Your Personal Finances: Tip #2

Make 3 lifestyle changes that can reduce your negotiable costs. Give up Starbucks. Borrow books from the library instead of buying them. Turn your heat down a few degrees (or your air conditioner up a few). Whatever it takes to reduce your costs.

That's it.

I know, we didn't say a word about the credit card in this tip. That's because you have to start by freeing up a little money from somewhere. Even if it's only ten dollars a month. Preferably $25. A hundred dollars? Oh, that'd be grand.

When you have decided how you are going to free up some money—preferably at least the amount of your minimum payment on your lowest-balance credit card—you'll be ready for the next step: Paying down those credit cards.

But for today, just sit down and make a list of everything you spend money on and decide on 3 lifestyle changes. Let everything else remain equal for now, but commit to those 3 changes.

You can do this. It's only 3 things.

BONUS (completely free of charge)...

Today's personal finances confession:

I still didn't buy the pink duct tape, though we actually saw some in the grocery store and my daughter wanted it because of the pink duct tape post. However, I did buy a book for a friend the other day. She probably didn't need the book, but I wanted to buy it for her. It was a small splurge, but it was in the budget. And I like the author well enough; he's smart and funny, and he seems like the type who might eat pie.


1001 Ways to Improve Your Personal FInances: Tip #1 Pink Duct Tape

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1001 Ways to Improve Your Personal Finances

Designer Duct Tape

Yesterday I posted Alexa von Tobel's video on the 5 Must-Follow Principles for Personal Finance.

Today I'm thinking about the small ways we can stop spending money on needless things, so we can put 20% of our income towards savings and the future.

I probably shouldn't start thinking though, because...

a. I will either stop, because I get bored with the idea

b. I will never get the bored with the idea (but you might)

So I'm setting an unreachable goal of sharing 1001 ways to improve your personal finances, because that just seems like the thing to do. The *one* at the end of the 1000 is for good measure and extra unreachableness.

Anyway, to improve your personal finances, like Alexa says, you should start by spending only 50% of your income on housing and related non-negotiables.

The rest?

Up for negotiation.

This means that fake eyelashes, fake nails, Botox, and new Maggie's Cotton Camisoles (maroon or dusty lilac) are not necessarily in the budget. (Yes, Alexa recommends you make a budget. At this point, I might lose credibility with you, because I have never lived by a budget. I just don't spend much money, and I have a fascination for doing things myself instead of paying someone else to do them. Not counting housework, of course. Or the construction of dusty-lilac camisoles.)

Okay, if you're still with me, here is today's health-care cost-avoidance tip, so you don't have to go to the dermatologist and pay for a nitrogen blast, should you happen to develop an unsightly wart just days before a big writer's conference (or any other inconvenient time, like next month before your first trip to the Farmer's Market for the new season. Yes, you'll save money at the Farmer's Market, as long as you don't get waylaid by the sweet man selling artisanal pickles.)

Here goes...

1001 Ways to Improve Your Personal Finances: Tip #1

Remove warts with duct tape. Not in a kind of rip-and-go fashion—like getting a waxing, which is not in your budget... ahem—but in a starve-the-little-unwanted-extra-body-blips approach. (Please do not attempt to use duct tape as weight-loss solution; that is not what is being recommended. Apply duct tape only to wart-affected area.)

That's it. Tip number one. I am not making this up. It works. And the duct tape will double as a household fix-it item. Unless you buy the girlie kind of duct tape, which, if you are a girlie, you might prefer.

BONUS (completely free of charge)...

Today's personal finances confession:

No, I did not buy the girlie duct tape. Yes, I bought two Maggie's cotton camisoles the other day. It was Lyla's fault. But the cotton-buy, um... fit the budget.


1001 Ways to Improve Your Personal Finances: Tip #2—The Starbucks Challenge

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The 5 Must-Follow Principles for Personal Finance

I still remember when my grandmother sat me down, when I was just out of college, and she explained the exact principles of personal finance to me (you'll see them in the TED video).

And I remember my father telling me around the same time... to never, ever carry credit card debt. "Pay it off every single time," he said, "and if you aren't going to be able to pay it off, don't buy."


Who knew how important those two conversations would become? And who knew that about 61% of Americans live from paycheck to paycheck, because they never get this education, not from their families, not from school?

Alexa von Tobel is hoping that the principles of personal finance will go viral. That's definitely an idea worth spreading.

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The Business of Tea, 2

Tea the Drink near Forsythia

Did you know you can grow your own tea? You can.

According to Tea the Drink that Changed the World, tea bushes prefer the same growing conditions as azaleas and rhododendrons. They also like shade, and they don't like to compete for root space.

Whether you have the fortitude not only to grow your tea but to take it through the processing stage is another question. You can read all about the amazing steps of harvesting and processing in Tea the Drink that Changed the World. You could also choose a middle road and simply add some lovely ingredients to a plain, quality loose tea.

Here's mine this morning, including a Spring wild-edible: violets!

Tea Infuser with Rooibos and Violets

Cherry Citrus Violet Red Tea

1 teaspoon loose Upton Tea Rooibos Superior Organic

1/2 to 3/4-inch orange peel, cut into pieces

10 wild violets (don't use yellow, as they're inedible)

4 dried cherries, cut into pieces

Just add lightly-boiled water and let steep for at least four minutes—more if you want the flavors to intensify (I took out the orange peel after four minutes and left the rest, just because I don't like too strong a citrus flavor).

Antique White Tea Cup

When I finally sit down to drink, I love using the antique cup that my dear friend Ann Kroeker gave me. She has a matching cup, so we can take tea "together."

But sometimes when I'm feeling a little one-stop-ish, I'll brew my tea in the same cup I'll drink it in... the ForLife Tea Mug with Infuser and Lid.

This morning, because I want a little anti-allergy boost, I'm also adding raw honey. Mine's got pomegranate. More red for me!

More on the subject of tea: The Business of Tea, 1. Includes recipe with wild flowers

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The Business of Tea

Red Tea With Dried Fruit

Tea is big business in my house. So when I started experiencing adverse effects from caffeine, you can imagine my distress. My morning and afternoon ritual is indispensable!

What to do?

First, I determined that I'd allow myself my favorite French teas only on Mondays. Well, that took care of Monday. But it left six other days of tea-emptiness, which I refused to fill with Chamomile.

They say necessity is the mother of invention, and in this case it's true. I determined that I *must* create some exotic tea experiences to fill those other six days.

I've been experimenting, and today I found a little bit of heaven with a seasonal tea concoction that should also serve as an anti-allergy solution for Spring.

Red Tea with Forsythia

Red Tea with Forsythia

1 overfull teaspoon Republic of Tea Rooibos & Passionfruit loose tea

1 scant 1/2 tsp Thé Mariage (black tea with chocolate caramel overtones; can substitute any strong black tea like English Breakfast)

1 dried prune, chopped small

1 dried apricot, chopped small

5 forsythia flowers (or other bitter-sweet edible flower)

1 teapot's worth of boiling water, poured over ingredients. Steep for at least four minutes. But you can leave it in the steeper and it will only sweeten with time.

I'm in love. :)

Regarding quantities, I make a pot for the whole day—enough for me and for others in the family who might want to sneak a little tea. This is my absolute favorite teapot for the job, though mine's a tangerine cheery color. Includes steeper, which I love...

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Love is the Killer App: How to Win Business

Love is the Killer App

Knowledge, network, compassion.

That's what it takes to win in business, says Tim Sanders in Love Is the Killer App: How to Win Business and Influence Friends.

This book reads like a great inspirational speech, but I don't hold that against it; I feel inspired.

Today, I'm in the Knowledge section, and I couldn't agree more: "I say there is no option. I've looked at all the possibilites, and for the student of business, books are the answer."

Sanders is recommending books over articles (and blog posts :), because books "are the complete thought meal" containing...

- hypotheses
- data
- research
- conclusions
- meta-ideas (statements that give unique perspectives)

Of course I see the value of the above-average blog post. This is where a person can gather those first facts and ideas that make for a larger desire to know and apply. Sanders perhaps sees the value too, when he recommends a reading diet of 80% books and 20% articles.

From my writer and business-person perspective, I can say this sounds about right. I scan articles for quick tips and quotes. These often lead me to read books. And that's where my mind really gets going. That's where I take away bigger concepts like the ones in Get Rich Click that I shared with my dear friend Ann Kroeker yesterday (and I can't wait to see where she takes them).

How to find the best reads?

Sanders suggests searching for keywords in book titles. On the Internet you could do this at Goodreads. (Or ditch the keywords and peek into a friend's Goodreads recommendations. I highly value entrepreneur Claire Burge's reading list. In fact, that's where I found Love is the Killer App.)

If you want to try searching some keywords in Goodreads, here are some keyword ideas from Sanders. When I'm done stealing [borrowing] Claire Burge's book list, I'll probably try this:

for business in general: brand marketing, globalism, the new economy, partnerships, strategic alliances, the future, profit-and-loss

for sales: negotiation, closing, clients for life, making clients happy, persuasion

for entrepreneurs: economy theory, macro-economics, success stories, profit, locating capital, angel investors, raising money, business plans

Of course, you could always just come here for the low-down on the best ideas in business books. And then we could talk about where to take them.

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