Sunday, July 26, 2009

Amongst the Great Ideas: Lend 4 Health

This month's fundraiser is for Lend 4 Health. Read on and you will see why this is such a great idea and you can help...

Julian (Courtesy of Lend4Health)

When
Julian was 18 months old, he was diagnosed with autism. He was spinning the wheels of his cars non-stop, had terrible eczema, wasn't speaking, and wouldn't look when his parents called his name. "I didn’t want to believe this was it," said his mom Rachel from Texas. "I mean, here is my Julian. I thought maybe he’s just a genius and is just interested in finding out how things work? Maybe he just doesn’t like being around lots of people or kids, he’d just rather play alone. I mean don’t kids play alone sometimes?" When he was 3 years old, his parents enrolled him in an Early Childhood Program at the local elementary school. At this point, he was still non-verbal and would only make sounds with constant echolalia. He had limited or no eye contact, bouts of vomiting and loose stools, and would wake up a lot during the night.

Rachel did some research and learned about the
biomedical approach to treating autism. She started Julian on a gluten-free/casein-free (GFCF) diet, and she gave him some vitamin supplements, as well as a calcium supplement. "Slowly," said Rachel, "all of that stopped." Julian's eye contact improved, his language came in, and he just kept getting better. At that point, Rachel looked into making an appointment with a DAN! [Defeat Autism Now!] doctor to see what else they could do for Julian, but their insurance wouldn't cover it, and the cost was prohibitive.

Rachel's husband is in the Air Force, and they were soon stationed overseas in the United Kingdom. Soon thereafter, her husband was sent to Afghanistan, and Rachel was left to fend for herself in a new country, with an autistic son, another 1 1/2 year old son, and a husband in a war zone. Rachel made a goal for herself for the next 4 months that her husband would be gone: "My goal is to get Julian to a DAN! Dr. here overseas to help us through this journey to recovery."

Rachel found
The Autism Clinic in the UK and heard good things about it and Dr. Tommey. An initial consult was $380, and a follow-up was $91 -- none of it was covered by their insurance. And while $471 wasn't a huge sum of money, it was more than she had at the moment. What to do?

Rachel turned to
Lend4Health, a new website that facilitated interest-free "micro-loans" for biomedical autism treatment. Julian and his story were posted on the site, and two weeks later, her loan had been funded. Seventeen people had come together online to contribute to her $471 loan request. One lender was Matt, who follows Lend4Health on Twitter but didn't know Julian or anything about autism. He loaned Rachel $10. Rachel's relative James lent $100. Other relatives, friends, and strangers made loans of $11, $20, and $40. When Rachel called her husband in Afghanistan to give him the good news, he couldn't believe it. "Strangers that we don’t know loaned us money for Julian?" he said. "That’s amazing!” (Although we would say his courageous service in Afghanistan for us -- strangers -- is just as amazing!)

Two weeks later, Rachel had her first appointment at The Autism Clinic, with money in hand from those 17 people who had read her story online and wanted to help. Julian was started on a treatment plan overseen by Dr. Tommey, and Rachel finally had some direction and some hope. She started paying the loan back, interest-free, at $26.16 a month. Sometimes she had extra and would pay back more. A few months later, she had fully repaid her $471 loan to Lend4Health, and all of her 17 lenders got their money back. Many of these lenders then re-loaned their money to another family on Lend4Health.

This past Spring, Rachel's husband came back from Afghanistan, safe. She wrote to her lenders, "Julian is doing great so far on his supplements/vitamins. I see lots of changes happening and all are good. My husband has seen changes physically in Julian too, like no more dark circles under the eyes, speech improvement with lots of new language and sentences he’s using on his own, and he’s so much more social. Really too many things to list in the 4 months he was away, so it’s been good! Your support means so much more than you know. We are forever grateful!! We will continue to keep everyone posted on his progress. Our family thanks you from the bottom of our hearts!!"

Julian (right) with Mom and little brother the day Daddy came home from Afghanistan.

Lend4Health was founded in June 2008 by Tori Tuncan, a mother of two, including one diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder, living in the Washington, DC, area. Inspired by the online microlending site Kiva.org, Lend4Health facilitates community-funded, interest-free microloans for optimal health. Currently, Lend4Health is covering loans for the biomedical treatment of children and adults with autism spectrum and related disorders. Other health issues may be covered on Lend4Health in the future.

As of this writing, there are three open loans on Lend4Health for 3 year old
Lil' Joe from California, 6 year old Ashleigh from Texas, and 4 year old Will from Canada. To date, 55 loans totaling more than $34,000 have been funded on Lend4Health. Twenty loans have been fully repaid, with more than $8,700 sent back to the lenders. No loans have defaulted.


Lil' Joe's ChipIn:

Ashleigh's ChipIn:

Will's ChipIn:

ChipIn to Help Cover Lend4Health Admin Costs (May 2009 PayPal Fees):

20% of online sales of Dapper Snappers from 7/26 through 8/1 will be donated to help cover administration fees. Yes, I am aware my donation is not tax deductible. But I believe in what she is trying to do. So you don't have to donate permanently. You could just Lend 4 Health. It doesn't take much to help in a big way. If you don't need Dapper Snappers, please consider a loan. You can't beat the results!

This article was provided by Lend4Health because my muse is out of town on vacation or something and my ability to put a couple sentences together is severely diminished.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Got Quoted!

As you know, I'm signed up to receive HARO emails (Get Sourced, Get Quoted, Get Famous!). For the first time, and after many many pitches, I have finally succeeded in getting quoted! Check out this article on The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur (TPE) about Mom Entrepreneurs. My advice is #64, right next to my happy face.
Now, this won't make me famous by any means, but at least I know HARO works. I've experienced it for myself. I won't be famous until I become known as "That woman who was on Oprah that made those elastic thingies for little kids' pants. You know who I'm talking about...". In the meantime, I will work my little fingers to the bone, burn myself on the iron (which is what I did last night and now have a blister thank-you-very-much), and see the chiropractor every week because I was sitting cross-legged while quality checking Dapper Snappers which I should know better because "How many times do I have to tell you it's bad on your back Michelle? Now why don't you listen to me for once?" Yes Dr. D...I'm on my way in...again...

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Something to Offer?

I don't write a lot, as you can probably tell. Most of the time I just don't have anything I think anyone would be interested in reading. Part of the problem is that I've always viewed blogs as an online diary. As I have found in the past year, blogs can be whatever people want, but the popular one's often give valuable advice or perspectives. I'm not sure that I have either. So then I pose the question to you and to myself; Do I have something to offer? I have plenty of opinions, however uneducated they may be. Does that constitute an offering worth anyone's time?
Then there are the questions; Will my post offend anyone? Will I look like and idiot? Will I miss something in my research and have the embarrassment of having someone else point it out publicly? Will anyone read this? I know. I worry too much about things that don't matter. Or maybe they do? If I spend all my time second guessing myself until I talk myself out of a post. I don't hold anything back on my personal blog, but this is my business blog. This is where I have to tread lightly. Or is treading lightly that which is holding me back from success?
So I don't write much. But I have a lot to say, just read my tweets! Or follow me on Facebook. Of course, most of that is 140 characters or less of nothing of real importance. Sometimes it's important...

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Freedom to Choose

July is Freedom to Choose month here at Toddler Tech USA! What's that mean? Well, I've had a lot of people ask if there was any way they could buy 3 Dapper Snappers and pay the 3 pack price, a $2.90 savings. There is also the occasional request for 6 Dapper Snappers for the 6 pack price, a $13.75 savings(!). Well, for a limited time, you can. In the spirit of July and our independence, I am giving you the freedom to choose your colors and get the same great deal! From now until July 31st:


Use coupon code 07Freedom3 to get 3 Single Dapper Snappers for the same price as a 3 pack. Use coupon code 07Freedom6 to get 6 Single Dapper Snappers for the same price as a 6 pack.

Happy shopping!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Why a Monthly Fundraiser?

Why a monthly fundraiser? I get that question a lot. Here's the deal...


On June 28th of 2008, I started selling Dapper Snappers online. This is what I've considered to be the start date of my business. What started out as a "Hey...maybe people will buy these things?" quickly turned into a full fledged business.
The more the word got out, the more comments I would get about them. But the emails that touched me the most were about the impact I didn't know I had. Parents of special needs children would write to tell me how happy they are that their child has one less thing to worry about thanks to Dapper Snappers. And every time I would get one of those emails, I would get goosebumps head to toe and start to tear up.
A couple months ago, I was at a fundraiser for Yehu.org, a charity that provides micro-loans to Kenyan women to start their own businesses. It was then I decided to donate 20% of the online sales for the last week of that month. Last month, I received one of those emails that made me cry and decided to write a post about Laura Kate and donate 20% of the online sales for the last week to DreamHouseForKids.org, a charity that helps medically fragile children find their forever homes. I figured out a way to reach a lot of people and raise awareness about the charity. Sales went better than average, so my donation was up 116% over the previous month.
I didn't realize that there were so many other small charities out there, because they don't get the attention that the bigger charities get. They don't get the government funding to be able to afford advertising, or staff to help out. They are mostly volunteers just trying to help those that need it. With that realization came a new personal, and business, mission. I don't have much, but I will do what I can.
So on June 28th, on my 1 year business anniversary, until July 4th, I will be running a fundraiser for Reece's Rainbow. Andrea, the founder, works tirelessly to help children with Down's Syndrome born in other countries that were dumped off at orphanages because they weren't perfect. She matches these children with parents here and helps them through the adoption process. So far, she's been able to find homes for 190 children with Down Syndrome or other special needs. But there are so many more that need our help or they will die from medical neglect.

I don't know about you, but I can't ignore everything around me. Spreading the word about these charities is one way to help them get donations. And it's so easy.

So then I ask you: Will you help? Will you spread the word on Facebook and Twitter (or whatever form of social media you use)? I'm only asking for one tweet or comment or post a month. It really isn't that much, but it can make a big difference. So will you do it? For them?

And lastly, to answer the question "why"?
Doing monthly fundraisers has been challenging, exciting, and gratifying. It's a lot of work but it is so worth it. I feel so blessed that I can help out this way. And it makes my heart feel good...

Friday, June 26, 2009

Happy Birthday to Toddler Tech USA!!!

My business, Toddler Tech USA, is 1 year old today!


One year ago today, I started selling Dapper Snappers online and it's been a roller coaster ride ever since. I've always said that this business is my 3rd child. It really is just like having a baby; keeps me up late at night, demands constant attention, makes me worry incessantly... In the past year I have made some amazing friends. I'ver learned what it takes to run your own business. I've learned that I didn't know anything about business. I made some more amazing friends. I've become a multitasking multi-hat-wearer. I've made good choices and bad. I made a commitment to customer service, customer loyalty and product quality. I've become quite the social media addict pro utilizing Twitter, Facebook, and my blog to spread the word about Dapper Snappers and Fundraising efforts for small charities. I've laughed, cried, and got goose-bumps head to toe. I've been scared of loosing everything and I've tried to win it all.
So what now? Well, I lost 50 lbs (11 to go), which is sort of business related since my big goal is to get skinny and get on Oprah. I'm trying to win it all again (Never give up! Never surrender! -Commander Peter Quincy Taggart - Galaxy Quest) and this time I may have a chance at it if I can get everyone to vote every day for the next 94 days. Most of the manufacturing has been moved to Little Buttercups, a local sewing contractor, so I can focus on other areas of the business that have been neglected. We've hired patent attorneys to help us get our patent though. We've gotten 2 new sales reps; Stacey of Giddy Up Kids and Elisa of The Treehouse Showroom, and are looking for more. Our goal this year is to have a store in every state selling Dapper Snappers. This next year promises to be amazing!

It may be Toddler Tech USA's birthday, but I want to give you a present. Here's a coupon code for But 2 Get 1 FREE: Happy1year

Happy Bizaversary! Here's to many many more.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Because of Reece

When Andrea and her husband were pregnant with their first son, they weren't aware of the challenges that lay ahead. The plan was to eventually go back to work after the baby was born. Plans quickly changed when Reece was born with Down Syndrome. Like many unsuspecting birth parents, she and her husband grieved for quite some time after Reece's birth. The life they had envisioned for themselves and their first-born-son was turned completely upside down. Nothing would be the same. But they found resources and support. In time, Andrea found the strength to turn a challenge into a mission. Reece's Rainbow was a vision Andrea woke up with one day in early 2006.


Reece (Isn't he adorable?)


After getting involved with an orphan aid organization supporting children in Ukraine, Andrea learned what Reece's fate might have been had he born in a different country. In these countries, children who aren't born "perfect" face incredible odds. Many of those children are killed at birth. The "lucky" ones are abandoned by their families and sent to live in orphanages and and "public care" (that's the nice way to put it). Although things are slowly changing aborad as a result of the work of Reece's Rainbow, these children are mostly viewed as outcasts with no ability to learn or be functional members of society. They languish in mental institutions, hidden away from the world in shame. Some of these wonderful children do not survive because of serious medical complications...some do not survive because of lack of medical attention, lack of food, lack of LOVE. Andrea was angry and appalled and moved to action. It was impossible to sit back and not defend children like Reece in every way possible! God clearly placed Reece in her life for a special purpose, so Reece's Rainbow was born out of passion, an intense love for her child, and a calling to make a difference, one orphan at a time. It started with 5 children from Ukraine placed with loving families, and has grown to 190 placed children from 32 countries around the world finding their families. Over 200 children are still waiting, and the program grows every day.



Reece's Rainbow is a registered 501(c)3 charity which promotes and facilitates the international adoption and rescue of children with Down syndrome in particular. Reece's Rainbow serves as a VOICE OF HOPE for these children who are suffering in orphanages and mental institutions around the world, when there are literally hundreds of families here in the US, Canada, and the UK who would rescue them if only the funds were available to do so! Grant funds from individual donations make the cost of adopting these beautiful children affordable for interested families. Even $20 can make a life-saving difference.


For June's Fundraising Week, I am donating 20% of online sales of Dapper Snappers from June 28th until July 4th to Reeces Rainbow. If you don't need Dapper Snappers, I encourage you to donate to Reece's Rainbow and help make a difference. Use this ChipIn Widget to donate directly to Reece's Rainbow today!



Most of this article was taken from several pages at http://reecesrainbow.com/ and "rearranged" by me.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Why Voting is Important




I have once again entered into the StartupNation Home-Based 100 competition. Last year, I got an Honorable Mention, which was okay, but I want more. I want to win! To do this, I need YOU to VOTE!

What will I win? Well, according to the StartupNation.com site:

-----------
First off, the publicity is priceless. We know that awareness and driving traffic to your business is one of the biggest challenges for any business owner. Winners of the Home-Based 100 find themselves at the center of a media storm that includes recognition on national and local TV, radio, in newspapers and magazines, and on some of the largest, most influential websites on the web, MSN and StartupNation among them.

In addition, entering your business enables you to engage your website visitors, email database and business contacts with an exciting announcement that you’re a Home-Based 100 contestant. By encouraging them to vote for you and support your quest to be a winner, you provide them with an engaging and fun way to participate in your success. This can help you create deeper loyalty and affinity, which ultimately can lead to business opportunities and increased revenue.

Lastly, being named a winner and displaying the digital winner’s emblem on your website and in your emails will not only a source of pride for you, but also adds immense credibility to your site, your brand and your business. It’s a huge achievement to be selected from among the millions of home-based businesses, and your customers will recognize and respect this immediately.
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I could use all the help I can get with publicity. PR is not one of those hats I wear well. Getting noticed is hard to do in this line of work as it is. The money involved, as high as $4,000 per month, to get someone to run a PR campaign on our behalf is just not in our budget. What I can do though, is get friends, family, and fans to help us rise to the top. I can't do it alone. I NEED You! So please, vote daily.
There are 101 voting days left. That's 101 times you could help us win. And it's so easy to vote. Just go to http://bit.ly/dsvote and click on the vote now button. That's it! That's all there is to it. To make it even easier, you could sign up for the daily email reminder to vote. They won't send you anything but that daily email. All you do is VOTE and together WE WIN!
Oh please don't make me beg...

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

I'm All FIRED UP!!!

I'm so fired up right now that someone's going to have to peel me off the ceiling! As you probably already know, nothing gets me going more than customer service. If it's bad, it takes me a while to calm down and I will not be nice when I talk about what I received. But when it's good? I am in Customer Heaven. And I can tell you right now, I am indeed a very happy woman!

We came home on Sunday to find that our garage door would only open about a foot and then stop. It took us a bit, but we finally tracked down the problem: a broken torsion spring. Every time I needed to get out of the garage, I had to have my clicker in hand, press it and push up on the door at the same time to help the motor get the door up. What a pain!
I tried calling Sears, but was informed that it would cost $65 just for them to come out, inspect it, and tell me how much it would cost to fix it. $65?!? Really??? No, not worth it. So then I consulted Google: Garage Door Torsion Spring Repair Hillsboro Oregon. And to what should my wandering eyes should appear at the top of the page? American Garage Doors at my service. I saw the 5 star rating and gave them a call. I told Cory, business owner extraordinaire, about my frustrations with trying to find a part to fix it ourselves and was wondering what he charged to do the work. He was very reasonable! He eased my fears right on the phone about anything extra I could be charged for. He doesn't try to sell anyone anything they don't actually need. I love it! To top it off, he was able to come over to fix it the same day.
He was on time. I, however, was not. I had to pick up the kids so I was running a wee bit late. He called to make sure he had the right house and I explained I was going to be home in a few minutes. He was more than happy to wait. No attitude, no stress. By the time I showed up 10 minutes later, my husband was already home and Cory was hard at work.
We kept the kids inside and busy with dinner. I heard the occasional noise out there, but I figured I would let the man do his job. It didn't take him long at all. He even had to do extra work because someone had welded or soldered parts together that shouldn't have been. He helped us reprogram our remotes and change the code on the keypad. He even lubed all the hinges and rollers, and tightened the chain. All this extra work and he didn't charge us one cent over what he initially quoted over the phone.
Cory from American Garage Doors gets an A++++++++ from me for excellent customer service, outstanding quality, and incredible ethics! I know of a lot businesses that could take a clue from this guy. Overall, I am impressed!
And there you have it. I am a loyal customer for life. If anyone in the area needs garage doors, repair, parts, etc, Cory is your man. Man am I pumped! WOOOHOOOO!!!!
(really I'm not crazy...I just love great customer service)

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

I Feel Like Such a Fool


I feel like such a fool. I am disappointed. Beyond disappointed really. Part of me thinks I shouldn't write this post because a) I will look like a fool to everyone else, b) I should have known better. You be the judge... (all names have been omitted or changed to x's to protect all involved...well except me that is.)


I couple months ago, I got on a website to help me get contact info for celebrities. My hope of course was to send Dapper Snappers to these people and either have my product spotted on their children or at least have something from them saying how wonderful they think my product is. I still haven't sent any out...ugh. Anyway... I saw the Celebrity Gifting Opportunities and thought, Hey! This could work. I send them product and for a nominal fee I get the opportunity I'm hoping for...right?

I contacted the celebrity gifting company and got caught up in the excitement of gifting an Anonymous celebrity (no, they wouldn't tell us who it was for - just adding to the suspense) who was expecting a baby boy. I did the works with customizing and quadruple checking quality of the Dapper Snappers. I sent special packaging with it and a self addressed stamped envelope with nice blank note card so they could write back those words I longed for (I just LOVE the Dapper Snappers! Thank you so much!!! etc). And I paid the not so nominal fee of $75.00 that I really couldn't afford, but I was taking a gamble. Anyone who knows me, knows I do not gamble...ever. 

The possibilities were endless. I just didn't think about the other extreme "possibilities". So imagine my disappointment today when I finally got my note back, and it was signed by some guy I'd never heard of. I looked him up and he's one step above an extra. He's not even a B-list celebrity. I feel cheated, misled, and stupid. 

What was I thinking? I won't put a quarter in a slot machine, but I give this company $75? 

I decided to write an email. I haven't sent this email yet and am not sure it would even do any good. When I started the email, I was very angry. I rewrote it until I came across as more sensible and understandably upset. Hubby said it sounds like I'm acting as an upset mom and not a business. I'm not sure it matters. They didn't make any promises other than I was guaranteed a response. I have no legal recourse. All I can do is be angry. 

Here's the email. Again, name's protected, etc. 
------------------------
Mxxxxxx,

I received the reply today. Who is Sxxxx Txxx? I thought all the secrecy was because it was an A list celebrity. I can't use his autograph for anything. I basically wasted $75 and product for this note back to me:

Toddler Tech,
Thank you for your lovely gift.
All the best.
Cheers.
Scribbled autograph

That is unacceptable. I, like other product-based businesses that gift celebrities, had hopes that Dapper Snappers would be given to someone well-known, and that maybe someday their child would be spotted wearing a Dapper Snapper, thus promoting my brand, and of course all the wonderful success that follows a product spotting. I also had hoped for a better response (something I could use immediately on my press page) than "Thank you for your lovely gift." It doesn't even mention what I gave him. I am so disappointed.

No one knows who he is. I can't even find any information about his family, or any new baby boy. Your service has done nothing for me but waste my money. I feel like such a fool.

Needless to say, I won't be doing business with your company again.
 
Sincerely,

Michelle
------------------------

So I am a fool. It was a dumb thing to do. I am going to go kick myself for a while. And maybe pout a bit. Yeah...pouting sounds good. Sigh...

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Another Successful Fundraiser!

Guess what? I am able to donate $108 to Dream House for Kids! That money represents 20% of the last weeks sales. Know what else it is? It's a 116% increase over last months fundraiser for Yehu.org! 

Thank you on behalf of Dream House for Kids! 
What's up for June you ask? All I can tell you right now is that the fundraiser will run from June 28th to July 4th. I don't have any details beyond that, but I'm working on it. 
I have lots of great things to blog about this month! See you back here soon!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Meet Laura Kate

IMAGINE...being a child trapped by life's circumstances.

IMAGINE...needs so complex someone else must care for you.

IMAGINE...living for years in a hospital room or adult nursing home because your family abandoned you.

IMAGINE...being a child forced to stay in a neglectful, abusive home simply because there is no other place to go.


On May 5th, 2005, Laura Kate, a 21 week gestation preemie was born at one pound nine ounces. She was in the hospital for her first three months, barely clinging to life. She had a hole in her heart, extreme low birth weight, acid reflux that caused severe sleep apnea, was on oxygen, and supplemental tube feeding. Because she was removed from her biological parents at birth, Laura Kate was placed in the state's custody (Welfare, Social Services...they call it DFACS -Department of Family and Children's Services- in Georgia). At three months of age she came to Dream House for Kids for what is called End of Days Care. Dream House is a children's charity in Georgia that teaches families and communities how to help kids with complex health conditions thrive at home. They take in and care for medically fragile children. They give hope. And they give loving childhoods for however long they last. Everyone knew Laura Kate was going to die, but Dream House was going to hold her and love her for as long as they could.


The sleep apnea caused Laura Kate "flat line" for brief periods until she could be resuscitated and brought back to life. She wore a monitor that would beep when she stopped breathing. It beeped so frequently that she had to be hospitalized and have a surgery to fix her reflux problem. She went through Open Heart Surgery to repair the hole. Then there was the removal of her tonsils and adenoids, and tubes put in her ears. She even had an emergency surgery to fix a bowel blockage. Laura Kate was still on oxygen 24/7 and the Doctors had said she would have to be on it for an indefinite period, but she wasn't. She got better, and kept getting better.


After almost a year at Dream House it was agreed that this tiny little girl was going to be around for a while and needed a permanent home. Laura Kate was adopted by Kelly Coker, a stay at home mom and pediatric nurse, and her husband Todd. Terry Walls, one of Laura Kate's caregivers at Dream House from the time she came to them from the hospital, rocked and fell so hard for Laura Kate that the adoptive parents adopted her too. On January 1, 2009 they celebrated one full year hospitalization free.


Laura Kate at 1 year old with mom Kelly,

and siblings Caroline, Grant, and Grayson


This month Laura Kate turned four. She loves tv too much and watches Dora and Little Einsteins over and over again. Swinging is an addiction and you cannot push her high enough. She just shuts and eyes and "flies". She loves tea parties and baby dolls and trucks. She is a flirt and a charmer. Everything is done with much expression and giggles. With the exception of being below weight for the pediatric charts, Laura Kate is one fine and sassy little girl. She just made the height chart for the very first time. She is in the bottom 2% but this is the first growth chart she has ever made and her family is thrilled.


Laura Kate, age 4


With her height and slim body comes the clothing problem. Getting clothes long enough for her always require taking in. Belts were working but then came potty training a very independent girl and belts just caused more issues. Terry went online and asked Google for "Toddler Adjustable Belts" and found Dapper Snappers. As a long time volunteer with a Dream House, Terry is a first-hand witness to medical issues that cause kids never really fit into sizes and lengths properly. She knows that Laura Kate, and many of the other kids the Dream House cares for, are very independent and cannot tolerate being helped with a belt. Now she has Dapper Snappers and pants just go up and down so easy, and the pants stay up and never fall down. She now has one less thing to worry about in a long line of obstacles she's faced.


Laura Kate's growing, thriving, and surviving against all the odds she faced as a preemie and all because of the wonderful people at Dream House for kids. What an amazing organization!


-----


As the Mompreneur responsible for inventing and manufacturing Dapper Snappers, I can't begin to tell you how deeply I am touched by Laura Kate's story. An impossibly tiny baby, fighting against all odds to survive, left in the care of strangers to die. But these strangers gave her the love she needed. These strangers are true miracle workers. They have the kind of heart it takes to give of their time to care for those who've been given up on. Can you imagine being one of those children? I can't. It just breaks my heart. I am trying to hold back my tears, very unsuccessfully, just thinking about it.


I was so moved by the Dream House for Kids organization, and all that they stand for, that I donated 50 Dapper Snappers and will donate 20% of online sales for the week of May 24-31. I wish I could do more, but mine is a very small business and funds are tight. But maybe you can help. If you don't need Dapper Snappers, you could donate directly to Dream House for Kids. Please be sure to write in the comments "On behalf of Laura Kate and Dapper Snappers" so they know that we sent you. Donate today and help save lives!


(Portions of this post were taken from http://www.dreamhouseforkids.org)

Friday, May 15, 2009

I Had the Strangest Dream

I work all the time. I am constantly working on new ways to promote Dapper Snappers, getting new customers, and keeping existing customers happy. It's no wonder then why I dreamt what I did last night. I was at Peter Shankman's home enjoying a very casual meeting. If you don't know Peter of HARO (Help A Reporter Out), you are missing out. He's taken an idea, helping reporters find sources for stories, and turned it into an incredible business. He now has 100,000 members and speaks at engagements around the world about PR. I had written him once about advertising costs for HARO and let's just say it's way out of my range. 

So back to the dream... As I was saying, I was at his home just chit-chatting about business. He asked me, "What do small businesses (like yours) need?" "Free stuff!" I replied. For some reason this struck Peter as incredibly funny. Then I explained to him that we (small business owners) know we won't get anything for free. This is the nature of any business. There is a price for everything, even if it's not money and not apparent. But how do we get out from under the rock we don't want to hide under? We spent a while in quiet contemplation while people filtered past making comments to Peter about meetings, phone calls, and speaking gigs. 
It was then I told him what I wanted. I want to get skinny (39.5 lbs down, 16.5 lbs to my goal!) and get on Oprah. It's either her or Ellen. (I just realized while writing this that I want to be on Oprah and Ellen showcasing Dapper Snappers, what it takes to be an inventor and a Mamapreneur. But I would be happy if I could even get local coverage just for Dapper Snappers.) I told him that if I could do that, then we would finally have enough capital to start working on our other inventions. Then we could start helping other aspiring Mamapreneurs find their success. I then said something clever to make him think (not sure what it was). We parted ways without a plan, but with an understanding. Funny thing about dreams; You don't always get to remember all the answers. He was happy to help me where he could, when he could, and would keep in touch.
It wasn't until I woke up that I understood why I couldn't advertise with HARO. I want Dapper Snappers to be discovered and be famous. All this time I thought that if I explained that what I wanted advertised was for people to help me with my personal/business mission (because if the woman who invented Jibbitz could get on Oprah, why can't I?) and to get more USA product reps, then that might push Dapper Snappers to the next level. Here's the problem; I would attract the wrong people. Instead of generous people just wanting to help because it would be the nice thing to do, I would get PR consultants that "for a small fee" that I couldn't afford, they could help get me, and/or my product, the media attention I/it deserves. Because NOTHING is FREE. I wouldn't get any product reps either, at least not professional ones. It really couldn't end up in anything but disaster.
What am I going to do now? Keep doing what I can afford to do. I throw out my pitches and hope that one of them sticks. I keep writing to news stations, talk shows, whoever will listen, and tell them about me, and about Dapper Snappers and why they are so great. And if anyone out there wants to help me with my big goal, I will appreciate it immensely. I can't afford to pay them, but I could put them in my Thank You credits. 
Oh, and Peter... Thanks. I had been kicking around this idea of advertising for months. Now I understand I'm looking for easy answers where there aren't any. Sometimes discoveries happen. I'm going to keep combing the HARO emails for opportunities to "Get Sourced. Get Quoted. Get Famous." but I won't hold my breath. I'm going to keep working at it. But Peter, if you are so inclined and happen to know someone who is feeling particularly philanthropic...

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Say It With Me...

On Saturday, the day before Mother's day, we went on a family bike ride. It was wonderful. It was relaxing...until my husband did something to turn the ride from bike to roller coaster (for me at least). You see, my son is 4 and he's been struggling with us about his training wheels. We want them off, he wants to keep them on. We compromised by putting them up high enough that the only time the they touch the ground is when he turns. But the time had come for a change. Every time he leaned one way or the other the training wheel on that side would grab and the handles would yank him, making him turn unexpectedly. My husband had seen enough and talked Super Dude out of his training wheels with the promise of helping him keep stable by guiding him by the seat. That lasted all of 2 seconds. Next thing I know, Super Dude is halfway down the street all on his own. I clapped and yelled "Good Job!!!" as he headed back towards us. I've never been so proud of and so scared for him at the same time. I was tremendously proud when he crawled at 6 months. I was ecstatic when he walked at 8 1/2 months. But now he's on his own. I can't hold his hand as he tries to steady himself. I can't catch him when he falls down. I don't think I've ever been so terrified as I was following him down the slight hill home. Terrified of him falling down and hurting himself on his first day and never wanting to try again. Mostly terrified of letting him grow up.



Now as I sit in my garage working, watching him circling our cul-de-sac as fast as he can, I begin to draw parallels to my business. At what point to I let go? When do I start delegating and trusting others that they can do it right? I know I will still have that feeling in the pit of my stomach with all the "what ifs" but don't I have to take off the training wheels at some point?Isn't that the whole point? So in an effort to move forward, I am turning over production of Dapper Snappers to a manufacturer (in the USA of course) so I can focus on other parts of the business that are starving for attention. Since I've been unsuccessful in cloning myself, I've got to go with the obvious; get help. My business can't grow, can't thrive, unless I take those training wheels off. I can't lie, I'm terrified. But I can't let my fears of the unknown stunt my growth. 
Look Ma! No training wheels! Let's leave the "no hands" for a later date... Say it with me, "Everything will be Okay"

Friday, May 1, 2009

The Buzzzzz

Okay, I'm doing an unsolicited product review for 3 items I use everyday and love. Since they are big companies, I am pretty sure they won't even notice, but that's fine by me. I am just feeling the need to share my happiness with products that do what they say they are supposed to. And I believe these would make good Mother's Day gifts. (Hubby, you are going to have to find me something else, because I already have these)

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I have perpetually dry hands and feet. It seems that ever since having my daughter, my knuckles look like worn out leather. What happened to my beautiful hands??? Hormones! Those bastards! Well I have tried all kinds of things. Every lotion seemed to cause some allergic reaction where my skin would get bumpy, red, and severely itchy to the point of having to take Benadryl. Even the lotions for sensitive skin caused irritation. I've been on a search for a long, long, expensive time. 

But Hallelujah! My search is over! Burt's Bees Shea Butter Hand Repair Creme to the rescue! Now, my husband lovingly calls it "Hippy Stank" (no offense to Hippies or Burt's Bees) because it contains natural, earthy smelling ingredients that make a perfect scent to induce relaxation. And best of all? The skin on my hands is soft and not red or bumpy or anything! So if it wasn't enough for Burt's Bees to break me of my Carmex addiction with the awesome-est lip balm on the planet, but now they own my hands too. 
As for my feet? They are thoroughly owned by the Ped Egg and Aveda Foot Relief. I cannot rave enough about the Ped Egg. My feet have never been so smooth! It's amazing and I can never live without it ever ever again. It's so easy to use. 
Aveda Foot Relief smells good and doesn't leave my feet greasy (I have a thing about sliminess between my toes...ewww). They also have a great hand lotion I use during the day between hand washings (because I only use Hippy Stank at night) called Aveda Hand Relief.

So those are my recommendations. I'm a mom and I love these products. (Hubby, I could use a massage...yes another one...)

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Who You Gonna Call?

I have 2 children; Super Dude just turned 4 and the Bug is 2 (28 months to be exact). Things happen, they get into things they shouldn't, they are kids after all. So here's something that happened the other day and the call to action I face now. 

Super Dude & the Bug

Every morning we have the same routine. Get the kids downstairs. Feed the kids cereal (even though my daughter insists on Hot Dogs - or as she calls them "Hock Gogs" - the answer is always "No"). And then give them their milk & gummies (GummyVites). I place 2 each on top of their sippy cups and wait until they are done with breakfast to give it to them. 
The other morning was very busy and I didn't pay much attention to where I put the cups. The Bug got down from her breakfast and grabbed her milk & gummies. Then Super Dude got down a couple minutes later and came to get his. The Bug was happy to hand Super Dude his sippy cup, minus the gummies. "ACK! Sissy! Did you eat brother's gummies???" "NOoooo..." she replies giggling. Well, okay, so she had 4 gummies, she'll probably be okay. No need to worry. 
I gave Super Dude 2 more gummies and started to turn away when "HEYYYYyyyy! MommEEEEeee! Sissy took my gummy!" It took her less than a second to take the gummy he had just set on his cup, shove it in her mouth, and swallow. Oh boy... 5 Gummies? 
I had better call Poison Control just to be safe. After all, that's what they are there for, right? I don't think the phone even rang on their end when a friendly nurse answered and helped me through the process of determining if I had anything to worry about. Now, I'm not one of those freak-out-at-every-little-thing moms and I spent most of the time on the phone joking about the situation. But it was good to know that she didn't eat a poisonous amount of vitamins, and what to look for if there was going to be a problem. Phew! Poison Control saves the day again! That's right, I've called them a few times. Super Dude ate a strawberry that was recently sprayed with a pesticide when he was 15 months old and once he tried to drink oil out of one of those scented oil warmers. Another time was for me and my Post C-Section Percocet induced idiocy.
Back to the story... Later that day, someone from Poison Control called to check up on the Bug (something that they do with every case). Then he asked me if I wouldn't mind answering a survey. Sure, no problem. That's the least I can do for this free service that I take advantage of. After answering the questions, he told me that the reason for the survey is that they are in danger of closing down. WHAT?!?!? 
This is what he told me (taken from their website SaveOPC.com):

The Oregon Legislature's Joint Ways and Means Committee is determining what budget cuts are necessary for the next budget. Each state-funded program has submitted a description of the impact of a 20 to 30% budget cut. (A full listing of all the agency responses is available at: http://www.leg.state.or.us/budget/home.htm.)
We have communicated to the committee the Oregon Poison Center would not be able to continue if a 20% or 30% cut were implemented.

You want to see me in a panic? Take away the one service I rely on to have my back immediately after my child does something dangerous. I can't always get info in a timely manner from my pediatrician. The emergency room takes too long to get to my emergency. I NEED the Poison Control Center.
I realize that most of my readers aren't Oregonians, but you may want to check to see if the same thing is happening in your neck of the woods. If you do live here, I URGE you to please take action by contacting one (or all) member(s) of the Joint Ways and Means Committee to express your support of Oregon Poison Center. There is a sample letter to send out or you can write your own. It's easy, and necessary. 
The Poison Control Center should not be one of those programs that die because of budget cuts. Please, support SaveOPC.com and save what I believe is the most valuable resource a parent can have. Otherwise, who you gonna call?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

What Dutch Brothers Has

I am always impressed by great customer service. My mantra since starting Toddler Tech USA has been "Customer Satisfaction is Worthless. Customer Loyalty is Priceless." My husband had told me this when he was taking a class/reading the book for his MBA and it has stuck with me ever since. If I get good or bad customer service, know that I will shout it from the mountain tops (or twitter). Good customer service buys you more business. Great customer service buys you my undying affection. I believe that this is where Dutch Brothers excels so much over Starbucks. Here's my story:


I am on a diet and refused to give up my coffee, so I made a compromise by adding 2 shots of espresso over a 1/2 cup of ice to mix with my sugar-free syrup and shake mix for the perfect iced coffee drink. Most of the time I just make really extra strong coffee with my French Press and call it good. But nothing beats 2 shots. Oh the looks I get when I make my order. What? No cream? No sugar? Uh-uh. Ohhhhh-kayyyy...
Here's the first place I notice how Dutch Brothers does it right. "No Problem!" says the uber-happy guy as he simultaneously works the yummy-caffeine-making-machine and asking me about my day. And this isn't an off-handed "How's your day going" with passing interest. He's being genuine. "That will be One Dollar" he says as he hands me my drink, precisely as ordered. Awesome! Not only do I have my drink, but it's a reasonable price and I feel liked not just as a customer, but as a person. 



When I asked for the exact same drink from a girl at the Starbucks drive-thru, I got nothing but attitude. It was as if I were subhuman. Did I not drive the right car? Was it because I didn't wear designer clothes? They stood there making whispered comments to each other and laughing. While I'm sure it had nothing to do with me, it still made me feel self-conscious. I got a snotty attitude and a teenage girl sticking her hand out at me saying "That will be $1.80" and not even looking at me. It took 3 minutes after she ran my card ($1.80??? Starbucks, are you on crack?) for them to hand me my drink, even though they had it sitting right next to the window the whole time. 

Starbucks, you get an F for customer service. First of all, you are WAY over-priced. Second, you've gotten too big for your britches if you think that allowing your employees to have an attitude towards your customers will help your customer base. I for one, will not be going back. And little girls that work at the store I visited; you work in Hillsboro, Oregon, not on 5th ave in New York, so you can ditch the tude. Ok...so I'm still a bit grumpy about it. 

But Dutch Brothers, you totally rock in my book. You have everything you need to keep your customers loyal. Great product, awesome price points, and above all, wonderful customer service. I need a DB window sticker...and a Dutch Press (how cool is that?). But I will have to settle with shouting out my loyalty on Twitter

Do you have a story about Great or Bad Customer Service you received? Please share!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

This I Love...


This I love... A program simple and easy to use, and perfect for my 4 year old Super Dude. The other night I was at an
awesome fundraiser for Yehu.org and won a game from JumpStart called The Legend of Grizzly McGuffin. 


How cool is this? JumpStart is an award-winning adventure-based 3D virtual world that is super-personalized, wildly imaginative and really fun, but don't let that fool you - it also teaches math, reading, and critical thinking skills so kids get a real jump start in life. How smart is that?




And speaking of smart, I love the idea of Yehu.  
Yehu’s mission is to combat poverty by empowering poor rural entrepreneurs in Kenya to help lift themselves out of poverty through enhanced accessibility to sustainable financial services. This includes enabling them to save and earn interest while giving them access to micro-loans, which can be used to start or expand their small businesses. Yehu also provides some business training, micro-insurance and other services to improve the lives of its members.  They, in partnership with Basa Body, have created employment for over 100 Kenyan families.



Basa Body has some great products too! I got to try out the Basa Body Lotion and the Basa Body Stick. I decided to buy the "Kiss Me" gift pack for my mother in law for Mother's Day. Not only does it include the lotion and the stick, but these oh so very yummy soaps; Cherry Chocolate Truffle and Mint Chocolate Truffle. I wanted to eat them...badly! 


Another sponsor of the Mom It Forward fundraising event was GiftTree.com. The donated a huge basket - no, I didn't win and I'm still sad - with chocolates, wine, and treats. Amazingly generous! 

Toddler Tech USA was also a sponsor and gave away loads of Dapper Snappers. We are also donating 20% of proceeds from online sales for this week to the Mom It Forward/Yehu.org fundraising campaign. It's not too late to donate, or to buy products in support of this wonderful cause. 

Sunday, March 15, 2009

It's My Birthday. I Can Give Away Whatever I Want To!

In celebration of my 38th birthday, I am giving away 38 sample Dapper Snappers. These are FREE samples, all you have to do is pay shipping. They are samples due to flaws in manufacturing (stencil marks, too short for packaging, incorrect hemming/snap placement, etc.). These flaws in no way affect the functionality of the Dapper Snapper. I am just a perfectionist and have high standards for what I will sell. 


Available in foliage, girl beige, and boy beige in limited quantities. You can try to request one of those colors, but there are no guarantees.

Please only one sample per family/household. Just trying to be fair...

You will need a coupon code to get it for free: 38freesamp

Happy birthday to me! Or is it to you?