Thankful for Long Johns at Civic Center Park – Thanksgiving 2015

I was asked to be a guest blogger for an organization that I’m a member of – AfterHoursdenver.org. Please take a minute and read about the love and joy AfterHours Denver was able to spread on Thanksgiving this year!

Fun Holiday Get Together Ideas

The Holidays are just around the corner and some of us would like to have small or large get together’s/gatherings. Here are a couple of fun ideas to do or have your next party be themed around these ideas:

Host an Ornament Exchange. It’s almost like a white elephant party where the ornament can be stolen 2 or 3 times (depends on who makes the rules!). How my friends have done it is we let the ornament be stolen up to 2 times and when it’s with the third person, that person gets to keep it. If there’s great wrapping or packaging, the final owner gets to keep that too.

Do you host an annual Ugly Sweater party? Why not add to that party by also doing “Ugly Sweater Cookie” decorating. Sprouts sells a kit of already made “Ugly Sweater” shaped sugar cookies and everything you need to decorate those cookies. You may need to buy a few kits so that everyone has a cookie to take home with them. This would be fun for the kids for sure!

Host a cookie exchange party. Everyone brings 2 to 4 dozen different cookies that they made at home then everyone gets to pick different cookies to take home with them. If you are hosting this type of party, be sure you get goodie bags or the disposable plastic wear so everyone has something to take their cookies home in.

Host a Secret Santa party. Ask your guests to bring a gender neutral gift wrapped, then everyone picks a number and when your number is called you get to pick a gift from under the tree. To spice this up, you could do this kind of like the Ornament Exchange or the White Elephant type party and let people steal the gifts up to 2 or 3 times. This is different than the white elephant party because it’s something nice. You may wan to set a price limit so that everyone’s gifts are around the same value.

For after the holidays, after the excitement of the holidays has died down, it’s super fun to host a White Elephant party. We host one every year and it’s gotten bigger every year and also is so much fun. We do a potluck and ask everyone to bring a dish to share. We also ask everyone to bring a White Elephant gift. The gift can be nice or a hand me down that our Great Aunt Marge gave you. We do set a price limit and then let the fun begin!

I’d like to wish you all a very happy holiday season. I hope you have plans to be festive with your family and friends. If not, enjoy the quiet and solitude and do something nice for yourself!

Happy Holidays from Little Miss Idea!

Home Owners become Modern Day Inn Keepers

I’m sure you’ve seen the movie, “The Holiday” staring Cameron Diaz, Kate Winslet, Jack Black and Jude Law about two single ladies who traded homes in England and Los Angeles during the holidays. This is one of my favorite movies, not because of the house trading, more for the love story. Fast forward eight years from when that movie was released and the idea of house swapping started. Now people aren’t “house swapping” per se, but they are becoming Modern Day Inn Keepers of sorts.

I’m sure I have your interest now and you are wondering where I’m going with this. I know several people who rent their homes out when ever they travel. I also have a few other friends who just have extra bedrooms in their homes and one friend who has a basement apartment that they rent out regularly on a short term basis, to make extra money. They have set it up so it’s very easy to do and manage. It’s all done on an app called Airbnb. Anyone with a smart phone can download the Airbnb app and set up a profile. You can use the app to rent a place for your next trip just about anywhere in the world, or you can set your home or spare room/rooms up so you can rent them out to make money. Your extra square footage could be a gold mine that you never even thought of!

If you have an extra room or maybe a basement that could easily be turned into a basement apartment with a kitchenette and bathroom, this may be what you’ve been looking for to make extra money. You have to be ok with strangers being in your home or space when you aren’t home (if you are renting your place out when you travel) and when you are home if you are just renting out an extra room in your home. Some travelers love to rent rooms in local’s homes instead of being isolated in a hotel room.

Basically, if you do have a space that you could easily turn into a revenue producing venture there are a few things you will need to do in preparation to rent your space out.

First off, you will need to sign up on the app (Airbnb.com) then set up your complete profile, you will be able to tell your potential renters a little about you, your home and your neighborhood. You will write a description of your home or room in a way that will make them want to rent from you instead of someone else. If you have more than one room to rent, you probably want to list them separately. Make sure your home/rooms that you would like to rent are clean and tidy when you take photos of them before you upload photos that accurately represent what the space looks like. Your description and photos are what is going to sell your space, so make sure they show your space in the best possible way.

Once you are on the app and ready to set everything up, you can set your price, your cancellation policy, your cleaning policy (do they pay a cleaning fee or clean it themselves before they leave). Most of my friends, charge a cleaning fee then hire someone to go in and clean between rentals. Airbnb does take a percentage of whatever you rent your space for. So take that into consideration when you are setting your price.

The price for your space will be dependent on what the market in your area is like. In the Denver market, short term rentals are really hard to find and a lot of people are turning to Airbnb to find short term rentals until they can find a more permanent housing solution. Most of the people I know who are renting rooms or homes on the app charge between $75 and $200 a night. The price is dependent on what is offered with each rental. Some friends only offer the space while another friend also cooks her renters one meal a day (normally dinner) and that is included in the price of the rental. Most of them don’t allow more than a 28 rental. By only allowing short term rentals, they aren’t going to run into any landlord/tenant issues.

Some things one of my friends did to get ready to rent her space out while she was going to be traveling:

1. Secure valuables that you don’t want your renters to use away in a closet or cabinet and put a lock on the door that only you have a key for.

2. Clean out drawers and a closet so that your renters have space to unpack and hang up clothes that may need to be be hung.

3. Leave a couple of bottles of water, a couple of granola bars and a few pieces of fruit (fresh apples work great) with a welcome note for your renters. This is a nice thing to do in case your renters will be arriving late and may need a snack or a quick breakfast in the morning before they can get to the store to stock up on essentials.

4. If you want your renters to wash the sheets/towels before they leave/check out – leave instructions for them and if you have pay laundry, leave quarters for laundry.

5. Have a guest book for your renters to sign or leave you notes in. This is a great way to keep track of where your guests are from and share what a great time they had at your place.

6. Create an instruction/welcome page or book, that describes the house rules (if there are any), any nuances about your pipes, electricity, neighbors, etc… and has emergency contacts on it. If you are traveling and you are renting your space out while you are on vacation, you don’t want to get a call about your hot water heater bursting. I’d recommend you try to find someone to be the point person or emergency contact while you are away. Maybe a neighbor or the person you have hired to come clean between rentals can be your emergency contact?

7. Get a combination lock box to secure to your doorknob or someplace near your front door to secure your key in. Then only send the combination for the lock box to your rentals once everything is confirmed on the app.

8. Set up your banking info on the app, so that Airbnb can transfer the funds to your account once your guest checks in and everything is going great. I believe that Airbnb pays once the guest has been there for 24 hours minus the Airbnb fee. You’ll have to read the fine print on the website to know the fee percentage and the details of when you will get paid. Also familiarize yourself with how they handle cancellations and any complaints.

Once your space is clean, your valuables have been secured, you are all set up on the app and your place is set up on the app as a space for rent with the dates that it is available (you can specify when it will be available for rent and when it’s booked or unavailable), you can go on your trip and make money while you are away or rent your extra space out regularly to make extra money.

You will have to claim anything more than $600 on your taxes as income, but if you set yourself up as a business you can also write things off that you purchase or have to repair to keep your rental in top renting shape. So keep receipts for any home repairs, any thing you purchase for your renters (water, fruit, snacks & wine/beer if you leave these type of things for them) and more. Check with your tax person to get a full list of things you might be able to claim on your taxes once you set yourself up as a business.

The possibilities are endless as to how creative you can be with whatever space you have for rent. You can rent one room, several rooms, your entire house, your basement or even your camper that is sitting in your back yard empty. Whatever you decide to get ready to rent, I recommend that you sleep or stay in the space at least once before you rent it out to a stranger. This way you can fine tune the bedding, towels, amenities (guests love amenities) and anything else before you host your first paying guest.

I also recommend that you browse other rooms or homes for rent on the app that are in your market to get a feel for what your competition is renting for, what amenities they may offer and just get an idea for how many others in your area are renting spaces out on the app. If you live in or near a city or well traveled area, you will most likely be busier or rented more often. Even if you live in a more rural area, you may still be able to rent your space out. You may just need to add some extra’s in (think about adding a continental breakfast or wine & cheese hour in the evenings) to entice someone to stay in a more rural area. Some people love staying in Bed and Breakfast Inn’s and you could set yourself up in your description to sound more like a bed and breakfast to entice city folks to want to stay in your home.

I think this is a brilliant way to make money on unused square footage or to make money while you are on your annual vacation. Check out the app (Airbnb.com) and let me know your thoughts about this idea of renting out rooms or homes by using a smart phone app. If you end up renting your space, I’d love to hear how it’s going and any pointers you may have once you have renting your space down to a science.

Rejection is tough, but sometimes it’s a good thing!

I have been looking for and interviewing for part time marketing jobs and was a final candidate for two that I was really excited about. I could have seen myself doing really well at either of them. I was feeling very confident and fairly certain that I was going to have to make a choice when I was offered them both. So you can imagine my disappointment and how rejected I felt when I wasn’t offered either of them!

I could have really gone down a rat hole and been super depressed over this, however, I chose to see the blessing and opportunity in this situation instead. At the time I was interviewing and trying to come up with a way to start a new job, get married, go on a honeymoon but still be “available and effective” in my new job. That was extremely stressful for me and not very realistic. Now without the stress of a new job, I can get married, really enjoy my day with my husband and enjoy all of my guests who are coming from afar to celebrate with us and then take a fabulous honeymoon without any guilt of having just started a new job and needing time off right away. I was very honest about the time off I would need while I was interviewing. I’m not sure if that played a part in their decision to not hire me. It may have. It doesn’t really matter though. What matters is now I can be present and really enjoy my time off.

I will continue my search for the perfect marketing or communications job for me when I return from my honeymoon. I feel there will be more opportunities available for me when I can fully devote my time and energy to the job at hand, which will be finding the perfect position that will be a perfect fit for me this time around. So even though I felt rejected for a few minutes after each call. It was short lived and actually has allowed me to really think about what I want for myself and to develop a better plan for the type of work I want to do and how I want to spend my time while I’m working in the future. That’s pretty amazing in my eyes!

Unplugged in New Orleans

I spent 3 nights and 4 days with nine of my fabulous girlfriends this past weekend to celebrate my upcoming nuptials. On the way to the airport, my smart phone had some fatal crashes and started removing apps and contacts on it’s own. My fiance was able to restore my contacts so that I could use my phone to make calls and send text messages while I was away. I didn’t have time to go and get a new phone before I left for the trip, so I just used my phone very minimally for the weekend.

It was actually really nice to not be tied to my phone all weekend. I was truly engaged and present with the people I was with. I didn’t miss my phone and left it in my hotel room most of the days. It wasn’t working well anyway and it was one more thing to worry about and carry along in the heat. I got a feeling of freedom from not being tied to my phone all weekend. I wasn’t able to take any photos or post any of my adventures on my social sites, but the other girls had that all covered, so I just really enjoyed the freedom of being unplugged.

We covered some serious ground and logged thousands of steps all weekend. For the most part, we saw New Orleans by foot and on the “Hop on, Hop off” tour bus we got tickets for. It was a great tour and we took advantage of the schedule and route to get to the parts of town we wanted to be in each day. It was a 3 day pass for $39, which also included FREE walking tours. That’s an amazing deal, if you ask me! I highly recommend you do this tour on your next trip to New Orleans.

When I got home, of course, I went right to the mobile store to get a new phone. I wasn’t thrilled about being forced to get a bigger phone, but the new phone is actually pretty amazing. It has more memory, more core power, is able to multi-task better than my old phone, can handle me playing music and doing another task at the same time…kind of awesome!  I’m sure I’ll get used to the larger size in no time.

Being unplugged and not tied to my phone all weekend did bring back memories of my younger days, when owning a cell phone was just for those who had a lot of money or who were Exec’s at Tech companies. I didn’t have my first real cell phone until about 15 years ago and even then I didn’t use it all that often and only took it with me on long car rides and in case of “emergencies”.  Wow, how the times have changes in such a short amount of time!

As a society, we have become so dependent on our smart phones that we may be missing out on important moments and things that are right in front of us. I am going to try to stay in a place where I continue to unplug when I’m with others, be it I’m out to dinner with friends, taking a walk or even just sitting on my couch watching TV.  I want to live now and be present in this time and I feel, for myself anyway, that when I’m on my phone, I’m not 100% in the moment or engaged. I hope you will join me to try to unplug a little bit each day and especially when spending time with those you love. Engage with them instead of the apps on your smart phone and enjoy the moments that are happening now that you will never be able to get back or repeat.

Gratitude & Grace

33453777-investing-in-ideas-business-concept-and-financial-backing-of-innovation-as-an-open-lightbulb-symbol-One of my personal goals is to be a better public speaker. I had the opportunity to speak at our Monday night church group, After Hours Denver this week. I spent a few days writing and re-writing a very long and detailed speech about what gratitude currently means to me.

When I got up in from the group of almost 40 people, I had my pre-written, very long speech in front of me and I was ready to get after it.  I didn’t want to stand there and read what I had written word for word though.  So, I started with the definition of gratitude according to dictionary.com.

gratitude [grat-i-tood, -tyood]noun 1. the quality or feeling of being grateful or thankful: He expressed his gratitude to everyone on the staff.

Synonyms thanks, thankfulness, appreciation, gratefulness.

Then instead of reading my very long, well written speech, I spoke from my heart. I told my story of my health challenges over the last six months and how I had to ask to ask for help. I needed help physically, emotionally and financially. People that I know stepped up more than I could ever have imagined. They took time out of their busy schedules to come over for in person visits, bring food to me and my fiance, give me rides to and from doctors appointments and donated to my Go Fund Me Account (a popular crowdfunding site – more on crowdfunding later) to help me pay my increasing medical bills.

I got hurt on January 31st and have been in 5 casts, had 1 pretty major surgery, used crutches at 3 different times over the last six months and am still in a walking boot; using a cane when walking outside for balance. My mobility has been very limited. Some days, my spirits have been extremely low and my bank account has definitely been stretched thin. With out the help of others at this time, things would have been so much more difficult for me.

I did have fear around asking for help. I’m not normally one to ask for help. I’m usually the one that is helping others. I was raised as a “doer” and I normally have a “I can do anything kind of attitude”.  Being the one who needed help was quite a switch for me. I especially had fear around asking for monetary help. Money is a tricky subject and especially exchanging money amongst family and friends. I was afraid I’d get some back lash for asking for money to help me pay my bills. Until now, I have been very self reliant, resourceful and a hard worker. Unfortunately, with my injury and loss of mobility, my ability to get out and do the work I normally do was next to impossible.

I was able to do some work from home and actually completed two large projects while I was in a cast with my leg propped up, working from my couch. When those two projects ended at the end of February and I wasn’t able to get out and network to get more work and meet new clients.  That’s when reality set in.I knew I had to ask for help.

Amazingly, my family and friends came to my rescue! I raised more than $10,000 (with crowdfunding) in less than 3 weeks. I never in my wildest dreams imagined that I would be able to meet my goal that fast or even at all, truth be told. The amount of positive messages, visits, and calls I got more than out weighed the few negative comments and messages I did end up getting.  I didn’t focus on the negative though, instead I accepted the help I was given by the other very generous people in my life with a heart full of love and grace.  I don’t think I’ve experienced this much generosity ever before in my life.

I can’t repay every single person who has helped me over the last six months, but I can say this. “Your ability to help me physically and financially however small or large, has restored my faith in humanity and deepened my spiritual beliefs more than you will ever know. I saw first hand what helping someone can do. It lifted my spirits, kept me smiling and finding joy in the every day things that were actually really hard (and still are a bit hard some-days).” I am forever grateful and do plan on paying it forward as I heal and especially when I am 100% back to myself again.

*Crowdfunding according to Wikipeida is:

Crowdfunding is the practice of funding a project or venture by raising monetary contributions from a large number of people, typically via the internet.[1] The crowdfunding model is fueled by three types of actors: the project initiator who proposes the idea and/or project to be funded; individuals or groups who support the idea; and a moderating organization (the “platform”) that brings the parties together to launch the idea.[2] In 2013, the crowdfunding industry grew to be over $5.1 billion worldwide.[3]

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crowdfunding

Confessions of a Channel Marketer

At the current time, I have “one foot in and one foot out” of the IT Channel. My background is IT Channel Marketing. I have been dabbling in other areas and trying my hand at event management, small business marketing execution and even wedding planning over the past nine months. All have been really fun and a great learning process for me to figure out what my true strengths are. However, I am and always will be a Channel Marketer at heart.

I was recently interviewed by ALLBOUND.  ALLBOUND is an innovative SaaS platform that simplifies and accelerates your ability to recruit, onboard, measure and grow your partners.  If you’d like a demo of their platform, go to: REQUEST A DEMO

During the interview, the questions I was asked were thought provoking and I answered them honestly and as best as I could with my current “one foot in and one foot out” Channel situation. I know that things can change in an instant so my answers reflect my personal experience when I was 100% vested in my different Channel roles.

I hope you will enjoy reading the interview. I really enjoyed the process of being interviewed and seeing the final outcome. I think ALLBOUND did an excellent job relaying my thoughts and interpreting all of my statements. Thank you ALLBOUND!

Click here to read the full interview

What Domain Extension speaks to you?

As you know, I am currently making changes to my business model, business name and services. As I’m making these changes I’m having a hard time deciding what domain extension to use. Since I can’t decide and more than one is speaking to me, I thought I’d ask my blog readers which one speaks to them more.

Out of the following domain extensions, does any one of them speak to you more than the others?

.org
.net
.us
.info
.biz
.guru
.rocks
.today

Please comment and let me know one or two that you really like and tell me what emotion they bring up for you.

Thank you for your help with this decision that is proving to be hard!

My decision to leave my corporate job…brought me joy!

Stressed to Bliss!
Going from Stressed to Bliss is possible!

More than twenty years ago, I fell into my career. I didn’t graduate with a Marketing degree. In fact, I had wanted to be a teacher and didn’t plan on becoming a marketing professional at all. I loved kids and wanted to make a difference in their lives. At the time, I thought becoming a teacher was the way to do that. I struggled in college due to having to work more than full time to pay for life and school. Life ended up winning and I worked more than I went to class. It took me almost ten years to complete a two year degree.

Not having a bachelor’s degree was a stumbling block that I had to overcome early on. I over came this by having a charismatic, likeable personality. Going above and beyond and just getting things done. I was known as a go-getter, the person who you wanted on your team if you had lofty goals and needed someone to successfully see the project through to completion. Now years later, thankfully, no one is interested in my education but rather my experience and my professional successes. My go get em’ attitude and work ethic has served me well.

A little more than a year ago, I was working in a job that I didn’t love but could do in my sleep. It was easy and I was good at it. I made great money, had even better benefits but it didn’t fulfill me or satisfy my need to “give back”. I worked for “the man” and just helped a corporation make more money. I got no joy from this and in fact, it took more from my life than it enhanced it.  I was eternally stressed out, always sick, constantly worried that I wasn’t enough and working 60+ hours a week. I didn’t have fun anymore. I was at the doctors all of the time and took way to many sick days because I was physically sick more than I was well. I was taking more medications than I could count. All of my illnesses were stress induced, and since quitting, I’m so excited that I’m no longer on any meds and have lost more than 30 pounds. I am not making a ton of money these days, but I am healthier and happier than I’ve ever been!

Sometimes, choosing to be happy means giving up what you think may be your security blanket of a steady salary and benefits. Don’t get me wrong, making a good living and having great benefits is important but not compared to your health and happiness. If you are working all of the time but not finding any joy in what you are doing, then what’s the point? That’s where I was at.

I didn’t have the best action plan in place when I quit my corporate job, but I am figuring it out as I go. It’s been a great learning process. I’m learning what I’m really good at, what I enjoy doing, that it’s important for me to give back and help others and so much more! I didn’t make a ton of money over the past year, but I made enough to make ends meet and have a little fun along the way.

I’m happy to report that although I’m not making six figures my happiness level is the highest it’s ever been. That speaks volumes and reminds me every day that I made the right decision to quit my job and do things that make me happy instead of working at a job that brought me no joy. If after reading this, you decide that quitting your job is what you’d also like to do, I recommend that you have an action plan in place BEFORE you do that. Here are a few things that are essential for this plan to be successful:

1.      Before you walk into your bosses’ office to give your notice, try journaling to figure out your feelings about your job/career and to help you identify what it is you could start doing that will bring you more joy!

2.     Have a plan about what you are going to do to make the money you will need to support yourself. Have at least three to six months of savings to fall back on. 3.      Make sure your credit cards and other revolving credit lines are paid off but don’t close them. You may need to use credit when you are figuring things out and just getting started.

4.      Be creative and ask your friends and/or professional contacts in your network for their opinion on your idea, business name, business model and any marketing materials. Remember it’s your business and your plan though, so don’t take other’s criticism or any negative comments to personally. It’s ultimately your decision on how you are going make this new way of working and living work for you; be it a new business, freelance jobs or odd jobs that you would love. You will have nay-sayers, but try your best to surround yourself with those friends and contacts that support your idea and lift you up.  That will be a lifesaver for your emotional state and well being.

My decision to leave my J.O.B. didn’t happen over night. I had many obstacles, disappointments and challenges that I had to endure before I came to this decision. I have no regrets and feel that I have more opportunities than I had while I was working full time. I now have time to explore different avenues, network and figure out what I really want to do with the rest of my life. It’s working out beautifully for me and I wish the same for you!

Asking for help is hard!

In early February of this year during a fluke snow storm, I fell and broke my left ankle in two places. Not only was it extremely painful, but it also greatly limited my mobility. I’m still recovering but am thankfully mobile again and not dependent on others to help me any longer. I’m a very proud person and since I am normally the person most people call when they need help, it’s super hard for me to ask for help when I need it.

In this situation, I was in so much pain, on lots of pain meds and not really able to maneuver the crutches very well. I did reach out to friends and was more than amazed by the support and help that they were willing to give to me. They jumped into action and brought me lunches, dinners, cooked for me, cleaned my apartment and so much more!

For the first two weeks that I was injured, my fiance was great and got me all set up in the living room with a large water bottle, a thermos with hot water for tea (I LOVE English Breakfast tea and drink it all morning instead of coffee), snacks, pillows, magazines, my computer and anything else I may need before he left for work each morning. I was able to get to the kitchen to make lunch but bringing lunch back to the living room to actually eat it was super hard. If I didn’t have help, I had to balance on one leg while standing in the kitchen, at the counter, with my crutches and try to eat. Luckily my appetite wasn’t very big and I was also doing a crazy 40 day diet during this time, so I only ate twice a day and most meals were fairly easy to fix. My friends and a few acquaintances came to my aid no questions asked and without any reasons why they couldn’t help.  They were so helpful.  I’m still amazed and grateful!

I think for almost 3 weeks, during the most trying part of my recovery, I had someone over every day for an hour or longer.  They made me lunch, cleaned up my apartment or just hung out and kept me company while they worked on their laptop in my living room. It really made me see how many loving people I have in my life and how blessed I am. My family doesn’t live near and my friends have become my second family. Having help with chores was great, but having great company and knowing that these special people were here because they wanted to help during a tough time touched me more than they will ever know. I believe that most people are innately good and want to help and give back however small that may be. I also think that most people don’t know what they can do to help when things like this happen to loved ones. So my suggestion would be, if you need help, just ask. Some will say they can’t help, but you will most likely be pleasantly surprised (like I was) that most people would love to help in a small way if they can. I look forward to the day I can give back to all of those that helped me and are still helping me as I recover from my broken ankle. I am eternally grateful!