Archive

Posts Tagged ‘Women’

The Mother of all Deals: Danielle Connelly

April 25, 2011 7 comments

Life is like a game of cards. The hand that is dealt you represents determinism; the way you play it is free will.
Jawaharal Nehru

It’s Motivational Monday, and today I’m profiling Danielle Connelly, a wonderful person I have recently met who tries to help other moms find the best deals in town. She has turned this idea into a successful, growing business. I was inspired by her great story, and hope you will be, too.

When her boys were little, Danielle Connelly started a blog designed to do what is chief on many young mothers minds: save money. What began as a small hobby has turned into a fast growing business four years later. Her website, www.motherofadeal.com, is a virtual treasure trove of deals that appeal to parents.

Here is her recipe for success: take a great idea (saving money), add some knowledge and hard work, and be at the right place at the right time.

Shortly after starting her blog, she had gone to a momcafe event – another growing enterprise where mothers spend a morning networking and listening to inspiring speakers. On this morning, a woman spoke about a self employment program at Douglas College. If you had been on maternity leave within the last five years and fit the eligibility requirements, you could actually get paid to attend this program through Service Canada.

The program is offered through many post-secondary institutions across the country, and is a perfect way of launching your own business, while getting support from like-minded and entrepreneurial instructors.

Inspired by the idea of working for herself, Danielle promptly enrolled in this program. It set the wheels in motion, turning her blog into a growing business.

She is undeniably a busy woman, her boys now four and six years old, but they are some of her biggest supporters. They occasionally help out at family trade shows, and her youngest will blurt out to strangers that his mother does Mother of a Deal.

It’s an ongoing exercise trying to be both a great mother and run a successful business from her house, she says. Setting boundaries has been a key element to keeping the occasional resentment her children show at bay. “Are you doing work stuff, mom?” they will ask. But she tries to make Mother of a Deal a shared experience for her family, and one they will hopefully benefit from as they grow.

Like any small business owner, Danielle has faced adversity along the way, but her online community has been overwhelmingly supportive. In 2009, her father passed away, and she decided to give up on her site to focus on her family. When she shared what she was going through with her subscribers, she experienced a huge outpouring of love from mothers, most of whom she had never met. Somehow, her site stayed strong through this tough time and continued to grow. She believes her father had a hand in this – he was so proud of her drive and determination to succeed. He continues to inspire her everyday, she says.

She has big goals for next year, when her boys are both in school full-time. She plans on making some changes to her site to make it a more interactive experience, and is hoping to attract more subscribers.

With the end goal of helping people help themselves, and the phenomenal success of other money saving websites like Groupon, Mother of a Deal seems like a mother of an invention.

Danielle Connelly: Mother/Entrepreneur

Advertisements

Wings of Paper Mache

March 14, 2011 4 comments

Whenever I’m in a book store discreetly trying to find a self-help book on how to make my life perfect, incognito in hoodie and sunglasses, I inevitably bump into another woman I know.

We exchange weak smiles and tell each other we’re looking for a gift for a down and out friend.

When I was growing up there was a copy of Dale Carnegie’s bestseller, How to Win Friends and Influence People, floating around my house. My brother was a disciple of this book, and quoted it often. I once thumbed through it, but quickly determined it would not help me in any way break into the cool crowd in high school. That was a different chapter altogether.

Since then I have read many self-help books that have been as unhelpful.

My inclusive but not exhaustive list includes: Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, All I Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff, The Happiness Project, The Four Agreements, and The Secret. I draw the line at anything with Dummie or Chicken Soup in the title.

It was worth a shot, I thought, if the key to the perfect life was written in black and white, it would be silly of me not to to read it. Like buying a lottery ticket, they were a harmless gamble. But the only thing any of them did was instill in me a desire to write a legitimate self-help book, one that would actually give practical tips on living a better life.

I’m slowly getting it. The secret is there is no secret.

None of these books seemed to speak to me, personally. Of course they didn’t, they were written for the masses. They were written for the world at large, as though our brains function similarly. As though we are all wired the same.

We are so not.

I once saw Sia, a folksy Australian singer, in concert. She came out on stage wearing massive seven-feet high paper mache wings. It was quite a spectacle. She told us they were made out of every self-help book she had ever read. Ironically these heavy wings caused her to suffer from heat exhaustion and she left the stage after only four songs.

All those self-help books did was weigh her down.

And so it goes. Last week I went to the Momcafe in Vancouver, where the speaker implored us to stop looking for that last self-help book. The room erupted in laughter, we all knew what she was referring to. The answers can’t be found on a book shelf. Yet we can’t stop ourselves from looking, which is why The Power, the sequel to The Secret, has become a bestseller. Obviously, The Secret didn’t quite get it done.

Like Dr. Seuss summed up so eloquently in Oh, the Places You’ll Go!, so many of us are in the waiting room. Waiting for the phone to ring, or the snow to snow, or waiting around for a Yes or a No… Everyone is just waiting.

I was waiting to read the perfect self-help book.

The answer is in each of us, if we care to listen. What’s important to me might not be important to you. What I love you may despise. Listen to yourself, and don’t let a book tell you how to live. Instead, write your own personal version.

When terrible things happen to other people, it’s a wake up call to live your best life now. There can be no silver lining from Japan’s tragic earthquake, simply a reminder to all those more fortunate to not take any day for granted, squeeze whatever you can out of today because tomorrow holds no promises.

In creating its famous advertising campaign, Nike inadvertently gave us all the perfect slogan: Just Do It.

Between Nike and Dr. Seuss, I have all the self-help I need. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some wings to build.

You’ve Come A Long Way (in Football), Baby

February 8, 2011 2 comments
Women's Football Alliance

Image via Wikipedia

During the Super Bowl, my daughter asked me why girls can’t play football.

I put down my beer and formulated my answer carefully, sensing this was a moment to rise to the occasion rather than shoo her away. I dusted off my Second Wave Feminist self and told my child to make herself comfortable, this could take awhile.

For starters, you are looking at a girl who played in a women’s touch football league, I told her. It was two-hand touch, no cumbersome gear or helmets required, more befitting our casual commitment to a some fun and exercise a few hours a week. We were fearless, running patterns and breaking nails. So let’s begin today’s lecture by taking the “can’t” out of that question.

Women can play football, they just can’t be paid to play football. Or so I thought.

I was ready to begin my diatribe on how it has been largely a man’s world for approximately 2000 years when thoughts of “A League of Their Own” flashed through my head – one of my favorite movies of all time despite the fact I hate baseball, a testament to its powerful message rather than exhilarating action. Surely the women in football omission has been addressed by this time in our evolution. I put my diatribe on hold and consulted the internet.

My indispensable friend Google tells me there is indeed a professional women’s football league in the United States. The Women’s Football Alliance is a full-contact American football league comprised of 62 teams across the United States and Mexico. The WFA is the largest and fastest growing league in America, it tells me on its website.

I doubt many New Yorkers have heard of the New York Sharks, despite the fact this woman’s football team has existed for a decade (tryouts were last weekend – no previous football experience necessary). I’m sure its team members will never experience the superhero status of the NFL’s players, although hopefully they more law-abiding than their male counterparts. But the very fact this league exists  – and I didn’t have to tell my daughter women can’t play professional football – makes me weep with gratitude for its unsung heroes.

The phrase “you can do anything you set your mind to” rolls off the tongue so much better.

At halftime they replayed an earlier scene where ten-year-old Ava Childs handed the game ball to an official. Ava won this honor by entering an essay contest. Her dream is to be the first female kicker in the NFL. Obviously, Ava already had this conversation with her parents, whose answer must have been a mixture of “never say never” and “dream big”.

Whether or not you want your daughter to become a professional athlete, it’s heartening to know the possibilities are as limitless as our imaginations. You go, girl.

Ava Childs was chosen to deliver game ball at Super Bowl

Secret Daughter – book review

January 4, 2011 3 comments
A chawl is a name for a type of building found...

Image via Wikipedia

I love traveling to India.

I’ve never been there in the flesh, but frequently visit through literature (The Namesake and The White Tiger were other recent trips), and I find its colorful saris, succulent dishes and chaotic streets intriguing and intoxicating.  My family knows when I am reading a book set in India – I offer them chai tea in the afternoon, and experiment with new curry dishes for dinner – my sweet potato and lentil dish the other night was particularly good.

Shilpi Somaya Gowda’s novel, Secret Daughter, shows us two sides of India: primitive villages, where its inhabitants struggle to feed themselves and dream of a better life, and the privileged urban upper class, who throw elaborate weddings and lead more fanciful lives geared towards shopping and entertaining.  The distance between the two India’s is gaping and shocking, the divide almost never bridged.

Gowda begins by detailing the chilling treatment of infant girls and women in these remote villages, where farming is a priority, and boys and men favored.  Our protagonist is Kavita, and readers are quickly seduced by her growing strength and resolve in the face of India’s pro-testosterone culture.

Halfway around the globe in San Francisco lives Somer, the other protagonist and voice in this book.  Through Somer, readers are introduced to the miseries of infertility, as she plummets to the depths of despair due to her inability to conceive.

These women are worlds apart in every way, geographically, educationally and culturally, yet their lives are brought closer together by the child Kavita risked her life to deliver to an orphanage, saving not only her baby daughter, but also Somer’s marriage and, perhaps, life, in the process.

Filled with courage and hope, the importance of family and love, and shedding light on modern Mumbai, this journey to India is a worthy trip; but remember to pack some Kleenex.

Reduce, reuse and SWAP

December 15, 2010 2 comments
Color Clothes

Image by Orin Zebest via Flickr

I had forgotten how utterly distracting a roomful of clothes yet to be discovered can be.  Clothing swaps, although tons of fun, are no place to catch up with friends.  My long lost pals from distant neighborhoods across the bridge would enter, say a quick hello, and then get down to business surveying the scene.  If you did attempt to engage them before they had properly done so, it was obvious they were only half listening – no matter how fabulous your story was, their eyes would dart from rack to rack behind you.

It is a feast for the eyes: racks of silent treasures, hanging modestly, waiting for you to fall in love.  Once again, the clothing swap was a resounding success, everyone of us leaving with something a little more treasured than we had given up, giddy from chatting and bubbles.

As always, there were coveted items that caused no end of plotting.  The highly acclaimed Diane Von Furstenberg dress was back, under the rumor that it had been consigned after its last swap showing (horror of all horrors!), but somehow mysteriously made itself back into the fray.  Sisterhood of the traveling dress in the making, and much more sensible for a wrap dress to flatter different body types than jeans.  If Hollywood could only have that one over.

There were twice as many women in attendance, a nod to its burgeoning success, causing us to round corners even more slowly lest you bowl over a half clad stranger.  As I stopped to zip up one such stranger and glimpsed a view of her behind, it occurred to me how truly funny it is that we were all running around trying on things and garnering public opinion on their effect.  A de facto benefit from this night is viewing up close and personal all of the underwear choices out there, be they Panties by Post or the Gap.  A stunning array.

Winning the item of your desire is a numbers game – the better your number, the better your chance of getting a coveted item.  Just when I thought I had scored a great number – 22 out of a possible 70 – our gracious hostess Ruthie changed the methodology on us, freeing both the first and then the last of the numbers to choose their items, once again ensuring I was one of the last to choose.  The cloud of bad luck follows me at these gigs, so I’m a good target to sit beside if you want a good number.  Nevertheless, I got a sweet pair of high brown Franco Sarto boots that I can’t wait to wear with the dress I am now looking to buy, so it’s all good.  I missed out on the DVF dress, but my great friend Nancy swiped it, so it was a victory in two ways; my friend got the trophy and now that dress hangs a stone’s throw away in an attainable closet.

With its expanding attendance, it is a great evening for women entrepreneurs to showcase their artistry and products, so also on display were beautiful prints and jewelery, cool housewares, environmentally friendly cleaning products, and Sun Ice ski jackets at wholesale prices.  I scored a beautiful long necklace for a ridiculously reduced price which I would tell you, but then I would have to kill you, so let’s leave it at ridiculous.

At the end of the evening, all of the remaining clothes are donated to a local women’s shelter, which is of course the biggest victory of all; women helping women.