Pretzel Party

Yesterday was a special day for some families, it was national pretzel day!  In honor I’ve gathered a scrumptious collection of recipes that are fun to make together and even more fun to eat together!

Pretzel Recipes

Homemade soft

German chocolate

Cinnamon raisin

Scrumptious

Spicy

Pepperoni

Sweet soft

Sourdough

Rye

Whole wheat

Swedish saffron buns

Soft-n-chewy sticks

Kicked Up Pretzels

Holiday treats

Gourmet

Pretzel bars

Honey mustard snacks

Pretzel cookies

Chocolate candy bar

Chocolate covered

What are your favorite pretzels?  I love (of course) warm fresh ones from the oven!

Business Stories

One thing that just about every good business does is tell a story.  There are a few companies who don’t have a story behind them, but they are few and far between.  Why does having a story make a difference in the success or failure of a business?

For one, people love a good story.  When you introduce someone to your partner, romantic or otherwise, people ask “Oh, how did you two meet?”  They want to know the story behind your relationship or partnership.  Disney and similar companies have made millions off people loving a good story.

Two, it’s easier to remember the story than the facts.  There are some people who are really good with the facts, like dates, statistics and details that may or may not matter, but just about everyone, even those who claim to have poor memories, are able to tell tons of stories about who they are or what they’ve witnessed.

Three, a story creates a personal connection between you, the business, and them, the potential customer.  It’s tough to convince people to buy your product or service these days with millions of companies trying to serve the billions of people on the planet.  What separates you from the companies who have similar products or services to yours is your story.  Your story is the quickest way to a potential customer’s heart and memory.

Being memorable means you’ve got a better chance of coming to someone’s mind when they’re in need of what you offer, which means you’ll be more likely to get the sale.

I’d love to hear your story!  What is the story behind your business, and do you share that story?  Share your thoughts below.

Family Fun Earth Day

This weekend we have Earth Day!  It’s one of my favorite days of the year for so many reasons.  I have to admit I do love digging in the dirt and helping the flowers and plants grow.  There’s something really satisfying about creating with the amazing world we live in.  I’ve already shared some thoughts on my Creativity Unleashed blog about gardening, keeping the Earth beautiful, Earth Day crafts and some yummy Earth Day recipes, so today we’re going to talk about things you can do as a family.

1-garden.  What kid doesn’t like getting a little dirty?!  Planting flowers not only increase curb appeal, they also make the neighborhood more inviting.

2-have a picnic. Just getting outside this weekend is a way to participate in Earth Day.  Pack a picnic lunch in reusable containers and grab a blanket, and maybe a Frisbee or two and head over to the nearest park.

3-go see a movie.  If it’s raining where you are on Earth Day, there are 4 nature films in theaters this weekend: To the Arctic, Chimpanzee, Last Call at the Oasis, and The Island President.

4-clean your house.  Another rain-related idea is to clean the house.  Having a cleaner, less cluttered house will not only work wonders on the temperaments of family members, you’ll be able to recycle and donate that which you don’t need or want anymore.

5-take a hike!  I love hiking.  It’s a low-stress, minimal expense, exercise option that just about everyone in the family can do.

6-donate.  If you really don’t want to get down and dirty, have the kids (and parents) donate some allowance money to an organization like Wildlife Conservation Network or The Sierra Club.

What will  you do with your family this Earth Day?

The Business of Volunteering

April is Volunteer Month, an important reminder for many of us who depend on volunteers in our businesses.  Whether they’re our spouses, kids, students volunteering for school credit or those just helping in the community, for many of us we wouldn’t be in business without our volunteers.  Today I want to encourage you in two ways: 1-love your volunteers  and 2-give back.

Let’s start with the first thought, loving your volunteers.  I’ve worked as a volunteer for many organizations through my life and it’s always interesting to see how the business and/or employers treat the volunteers.  Sometimes the volunteers are treated as humans and other times they’re slave labor.  If you have volunteers working for you here are a couple of thoughts:

-make sure to thank your volunteers.  They could volunteer anywhere and they chose you.

-you may think volunteers are a dime-a-dozen, but wait until the grapevine takes effect and they’ve told everyone how terrible you treated them and you won’t have even one volunteer interested in working with you.

-if you can give them a gift beyond any signed paperwork, surprise them.  Consider if there is some, however small, way that you can show your appreciation for their work.

-remember that they’re people too and would really like to be treated as such.  Try to remember their names and give them an occasional break. 

The second important point that Volunteer Month brings up for me is that we business owners need to be giving back.  It’s not just about giving our employees and volunteers recognition, respect and reward, but about helping out in our communities.   Maybe you can’t give financially or volunteer often, but there are lots of little ways you can help out:

-put a box in the office for donations of either clothing or food to be donated to a homeless shelter.

-volunteer to help at a walk for Cancer, AIDS, Autism or even a 5k or Triathlon in your area.  It’s an easy one day commitment.

-donate a percentage of your proceeds to an organization like Wounded Warrior Project or FINCA.

Not only will being a considerate employer, business and community leader feel good to you, you’ll have great feedback from your clients and employees.  What can you do for your volunteers and your community?

April Awareness

April is a month all about awareness: Garden Month, Earth Day, and Child Abuse and Autism Awareness.  As families I think it’s important to discuss the scary prevalence of Autism in our world, and be more aware of the things to look for with Child Abuse.  It’s not about making a mountain out of a mole hill, but I think it’s important for everyone to be more aware, and know what the risk factors are and what to look for.

Autism:

Autism is now being diagnosed in 1/88 kids in the USA.  That’s a pretty scary fact.  Autism usually shows up before age 3, and creates problems in communicating and interacting with others.  Physical disabilities can also manifest. My experience with individuals who have Autism is that they’re wonderful individuals who have a very unique perspective on the world.  Yes, they can get a little violent or seem different, but in just about everyone I’ve met, they’re just people like you and me.  You can learn more about Autism, as well as what to look for with your children here.

Child Abuse:

Over 3 million cases of child abuse are reported in the US each year. One of the most common signs are bruises, but there are others too.  The best way to prevent child abuse is to get connected.  Parents: get responsible sitters in regularly so you are less stressed and frustrated, and seek professional help if your children are excessively violent.  As a community we can get involved by talking with neighbor kids (not strangers) and their parents, as well as donating used clothes to charities who support those who have financial burdens.  I believe child abuse is 100% preventable: it’s up to all of us to get the support we need to raise the children of America, and the world. You can learn more about what you can do here and here.

My heart is not to freak you out and make you see problems where there aren’t any, but to raise awareness and to encourage you to support parents who are dealing with challenges while raising kids.  It’s never easy to raise kids, but if we all support each other in raising our kids, they will have a bright future.

If you’ve got experience as a special needs parent or are someone who counsels families, I’d love to have you share your thoughts below.

The Business of Earth

In just a couple of weeks we’ve got Earth Day!  It’s one of my favorite holidays because we can all spend the day outside enjoying the sun and nature.  I’ve been listening to a conference called Spring of Sustainability, where lots of individuals of different business, economic and environmental backgrounds have come together to help spread the global consciousness of doing business and living more sustainably.  I don’t think there’s much question about the need for greener and more sustainable practices in both how we live and how we do business, not with all the natural disasters and weather changes we’ve seen over the past decade.  What does “going green” mean to businesses?

1-since it’s such a trend right now, you can profit from it.  If you’re doing especially green practices in your business, many people will be willing to not only pick you over someone else, they’ll usually also be willing to pay more for your services.

2-you’re ahead of the game if you’re green now.  Years down the road we’ll all have to be green, so by getting a head start on it now, you’ll have less fees and challenges when businesses are required to go green.

3-the way I see it, if we kill all the people and animals by not being green, there will be no one to do business with.  It’s pretty simple when you look at it that way.

4-it’s an opportunity for you to show humanity that you’re not just another business, you’re focused on not only giving your clients quality results, but also making a good impact on the world.

What do you think about businesses and “going green?” Share your thoughts below.

Focus on Faith

This  month we’re talking about faith.  It’s not an easy topic for a lot of people, many have lost their faith in the government, have been hurt by a church or spiritual group or have experienced something in their life that made them lose or question their faith.  I have had some of those same experiences, yet I still believe that having faith is important.  There are 3 main areas where we will be focusing on faith this month:

Faith in Something Bigger:
Personally, it’s a belief in God.  I have faith that He’s working things out in my life and the lives of those around me.  Having faith in something bigger than me gives me the strength to get through the tough days, work through my failures and have hope that there’s something better in the future.

Faith in myself:
The past few years have really taken a toll on everyone’s self esteem and self confidence.  It’s hard to get out of bed when you know there’s no job for you to go to, and probably no one going to call you about any of the 20 resumes you submitted yesterday.  So we’ve all got the choice to rebuild our lives based on different beliefs and build an image of ourselves not based on the things in our lives.  I believe I can do anything I put my mind to.  I believe you can too.

Faith in each other:
The past few years have reinforced the need to be a community.  A few weeks ago a US Marine from my little town was killed in Afghanistan.  The response from the town and surrounding community has been incredible.  We’ve all come together to support and love the family who lost their son and brother.  It’s unfortunate that tragedy usually is what brings people together, but I’m thankful that I had the opportunity to be part of this community coming together, and it has reinforced my faith in others.

My encouragement to you this month is that you wouldn’t view faith as a strictly spiritual topic, but you would open your heart and see how you can increase your faith in yourself and in others.  I know if we all believed in each other the world would be a better place.  If you’d like more thoughts on the topic of faith, I’m posting on my Life & Spirituality blog every day this month and I’d love for you to join me.

Success Stress

April is, among other things, stress awareness month.  It’s a time for us all to reflect on the stress in our lives and do something about it!  Yes, I’m making an assumption that you’ve got some stress in your life, and as a fellow business owner, I’m thinking that even if things are going well for you, you’ve got some stress in your life.

Here are my recommendations for reducing stress in your life.

1-accept that you’re stressed
Sometimes it’s difficult to even admit that we’re stressed.  We’ve got so much going on, so much that we’re responsible for, that it can be hard to even admit or see that we’ve got some stress.

2-discover what stresses you most
Once you’ve accepted that you’ve got stress, take time to figure out exactly what stresses you.  Is it marketing, billing, emails, networking?  Figure out what stresses you out, because from there you can…

3-make a plan to deal with the stress
It’s not enough to accept that you’re stressed and figure out what stresses you, it’s important to make an actionable plan to reduce the stress.  Come up with ways that you can either outsource, work out, motivate or reduce the things that stress you most.

4-ask for help
This is one of the most crucial parts.  If you can’t ask for help you’ll never be able to really reduce your stress.  I don’t just mean getting a VA (virtual assistant) or someone to help with the business, I mean asking for support from a friend or family member who can help you with learning how to relax.

5-increase the fun in your life
If you’re stressed you’re probably not having fun.  Make fun a part of your daily schedule; whether crafting, playing ball with your dog, reading books with the kids or something else.  Whatever you enjoy most needs to be part of your life frequently.

What stresses you most about your business? Sharing your struggle can help other business owners accept their stress too.