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Something More

Pick me!”If all you have is the desire to get picked, that’s not sufficient.“

Wandering the aisles at a craft show a while back, I was surprised that the same styles and motifs appeared over and over. Most likely, each artist thought of himself as different. But why didn’t anyone want to stand out, especially in a creative industry?

It is said that there are very few original ideas. But there’s plenty of room for a different kind of originality. Put two or more existing ideas together to form a new product or service. Put a new spin on an old idea. Use your voice. If you’re an independent business owner and you’re not putting your unique voice to work, you’re overlooking the one tool you have that no one else does. Read more

Good Finds: Local Business Captured

Even though anyone with Photoshop has long been able to “instagram” a photo, it’s still easier to add a filter or change the focus with Instagram. That ease makes me go for my iPhone as I make the rounds to local businesses.

And before you ask, why are you putting images on a blog post when they’re on Instagram and now, Facebook+Instagram, I’ll just say that no one venue does it all. Here, I can curate. And believe it or not, not everyone is on Facebook or Instagram.

Crate (above) and red truck (below) both at Porch Light in Portland’s Pearl District, an airy store that places great music.

(Below) Blackboard and reclaimed lumber at The Rebuilding Center of Our United Villages, a nonprofit organization that promotes sustainable practices by accepting donations of and selling used building materials.

(Below) Donald inspecting free-roaming chickens at the adorable Pistils Nursery on N. Mississippi—
country living in the city.

(Below) The Meadow specializes in gourmet items like this impressive array of bitters as well as chocolates, salts, flowers and vermouth.

(Below) The dry rock garden at the Portland Japanese Garden, one of the many wondrous spots to linger in.

(Below) A recent find at the Portland Farmers Market booth of Sweetwater Farm. Chef Kathryn of The Farmers Feast cooks up mushrooms alongside Sweetwater Farm. In this case, sauteed porcini and Douglas Fir tips.

(Below) Need a newsprint Chinese umbrella, a wooden head or a 10-foot-long paper dragon?
in the Pearl District might just have it.

(Below) I could roam the aisles of Beaumont Hardware store forever. My favorite find was this wall diagram of available springs. If they had let me, I would have bought the display.

And to top it off with something sweet, below is a portion of 21 pounds of Hood strawberries from Sauvie Island Farms, my favorite spot for picking berries through the summer.

Stay tuned for more…

Do You Call Yourself an I or a We?

As an independent professional, you’re faced with whether to call yourself “I” or “we.” The alternative is to use only a company name and risk producing awkward copy for your website. Awkward, because when you don’t feel comfortable owning that you’re an “I,” but don’t want to claim you’re a “we,” you end up with passive language or other clunky constructions. Worse, you simply can’t express some ideas using only a company name in your verbiage.

I’ve gone back and forth on the issue. I’m coming down on the side of being an “I.” I really am an “I.” I don’t become a “we” because I extend my services by working with other professionals. Not in a true sense, unless this happens on every project, which it doesn’t. Some who all themselves “we” when they’re really an “I” might have a good rationalization. It makes me squeamish so I’ve always avoided “we,” and, well, have a hard time describing my services and client case studies with ease and clarity. Read more

Selling it, kid style

I live in a neighborhood of budding young entrepreneurs, which might be due to the socio-economic status of the parents. But as I take my daily walks, I get the shake down from five-year-olds who can barely talk but who can, at least, point to their wares such as five-cent, hand-painted popsicle sticks. I need to start carrying change with me. It’s hard to say no to a girl in Juliette-inspired dress with a lisp and waving a wand.

Fortunately, there’s no organic lemonade. Stands are, if admirably solid, still lacking polish, making them more appealing than if they looked as though an over-achieving parent had slaved to craft a mini Starbucks.

These kids have a natural business savvy. Many of us business owners bang our heads trying to figure out how to convince someone to hire us or even what specifically we sell. We look for just the right persuasive words. We wait to till our message is perfect before putting it out into the world. Only perfect never comes.

The most basic things really work:

• Meeting people where they are

• Delivering good service

• Being enthusiastic about your product or service

• Having a niche (lemonade or rocks or popsicle sticks, not all three)

• Create incentives to keep them coming back

On the way back from the market one day, I came across three boys. “Rocks for sale!” the youngest one yelled as he ran around a tree. “Spend five dollars and you get a coupon!” he shrieked.

A coupon for what, I asked the little boy. A coupon for more rocks, of course.

These three boys had a relaxed moxie and an air of confidence about their product, of which I found myself almost envious. A particularly interesting fossilized shell would set me back $1.50. I offered a dollar and they accepted—a little too quickly; their only weak point. But then I found a bright pink polished beauty that was only fifty cents. Still, I offered the dollar.

“I guess that makes me a pretty stupid customer,” I said.

The bouncy little boy yelled a little too loudly, “No it doesn’t. It makes you a smart customer!” He couldn’t say why when I asked him, but his sureness won me over and I was satisfied with being a smart customer.

No wonder they’d managed to amass over forty dollars in a few days. Fortunately, I’m not trying to sell rocks because the competition is stiff down the street.