Thursday, January 21, 2010
Needless to say, the first time that Danielle (a huge fan of the road trip) proposed a road trip in the name of Admiral Road I was horrified. Why would anyone drive to New York City when it is a mere one-hour flight away? Well, as it happens there were a number of very good reasons. So I acquiesced, but felt a little queasy about the whole idea.
It turns out that road tripping is not so bad – Admiral Road tripping, that is. It’s actually kind of fun, (apart from the 5 a.m. departure Danielle insists on) and can be productive in lots of ways. For one thing, road tripping with my business partner means dedicated time for talking about the business. We joke that road trips are our “off-site” meetings. It’s not so different, really. Time in the car is time away from our usual routines to devote to talking about the biz – and if we squeeze in a little unrelated chit chat, well, that’s okay too.
Then there are the pit stops! The bittersweet last Tim Horton’s coffee (the ones in New York City which call themselves something like ‘Tim Hortons coffee and pastry shop’ hardly count), and there’s the experience of an all-American Denny’s (Friendly’s, Perkins) lunch. There are navigational triumphs and disasters (more of the latter on this last trip, regrettably), and memories made. We’ve laughed every time we’ve recalled the pea soup-like fog we encountered in Pennsylvania - it was like something out of a Stephen King novel – much funnier now than it was at the time, but forever burned in our memories.
The road trip also offers the gift of time. Time suspended between home and work. I’m freed from the distractions of managing my two full-time jobs (mom and business owner). On the road trip, I don’t have to make dinner or take anyone to the bathroom. I also don’t pay bills or manage suppliers. It’s a magical in-between space.
And they say that it’s about the journey and not the destination. Well, it’s certainly true that the journey is great, there’s also something great to be said for five days in Manhattan. I do love New York City. And I’ll admit, it’s fun to put on my (fancier) jeans and hang out with other grown-ups while we’re away. I’m not sure when the next Admiral Road trip will be, but I’m looking forward to another chance to recharge the batteries and come back ready for both of my full-time jobs.
Friday, January 15, 2010
This week we're thinking about the hundreds of thousands of victims of the earthquake in Haiti who could use a little warmth delivered just about now. While we can't wrap each one of them in a blanket, we'd like to help where we can. We'll be donating proceeds from orders placed between now and Sunday to Humanitarian Coalition, a group of Canadian NGOs (Oxfam, Care, Save the Children) providing relief in Haiti. So, if you could use a blanket, now is a great time to get your order in.
If you don't need a blanket just now but want to help, visit http://www.humanitariancoalition.ca/ to donate. (And FYI, the Canadian government is matching all private donations to the relief effort.)
Go on, deliver a little warmth of your own.
Thursday, January 7, 2010
“Think you have self-control to keep resolutions? Then you won’t.”
That’s the chipper headline that stared up at me today while drinking my morning coffee. Not buried in the “Life” section (that I love), but on the actual cover of our national newspaper. It’s not enough that I’m peeling kids out of bed in the dark and rushing them to school after a blissful two week respite? Apparently not, because now I seemingly over-estimate my own self-control too. Well, Happy New Year to me.
I tend to be a glass-is-half-full kind of girl. So this article reminds me that,
1. This is why I don’t make New Year’s resolutions. They’re set arbitrarily on the calendar with a false sense of urgency. Other than the fact that I’ve eaten my face off for the past month, January 1st doesn’t herald in anything worth changing my life for.
2. I am a creature of habit. I make myself the same breakfast every day. I like to work out on the same days at the same time each week. My kids have a set bedtime. Routine breeds comfort. I don’t need to go shaking it up just because the calendar has changed.
3. No one I know makes New Year’s resolutions. We were at a dinner party on the weekend and our host asked if any of us were making resolutions. Other than the host himself (abstention from alcohol for the month of January – fair enough), no one had anything to contribute. I took it as a sign that everyone was pretty happy with where their lives were at – not a bad thing at all.
But IF I did want to make a resolution, I feel confident that I’d be able to keep it. And if YOU make New Year’s resolutions, I’m sure you’ll do great with them too. Why not? It’s a new year and a new you. We all have the power to make changes (that are within our power, of course).
So, national newspaper, please don’t suggest that I over-estimate my self-control. In fact, I’m exercising it right now by not sharing fully what I think about your article this morning.
Here is to a very Happy New Year. And Happy New Year to you too, national newspaper.
Thursday, December 3, 2009
Charlie: Have you seen the basement?
As it happens, I do know this drawer. It’s actually a bin, and I must contend with this bin every time we can’t find Anakin’s tiny light sabre, or the Lego knight’s sword. It’s also home to the marbles from Hungry Hippos, the Playmobil horse hay bales, connect 4 pieces and small bits of string. I just didn’t know it had a name.
Besides the fact that we obviously need some better organizational systems in our house (I’ll get that done in my spare time), it occurs to me that the I-don’t-know-where-it-goes drawer just might be a metaphor for the differences in which the males and females in my house go through their days.
For you gals, can you imagine, metaphorically, an I-don’t-know-where-it-goes spot in your brain? It would go something like this, ‘That mom in the playground just made a very snide remark about what I put in my kid’s lunch. Why would she do that? Oh, well – I don’t know where to put that… moving on.’ Or, ‘I found my coworker measuring my office dimensions…I don’t know where to put that – must be no big deal.’ Of course not! No, we stress, we obsess, we call our best friends and discuss. The problem is that most of us are incapable of boxing up and shelving both the big and small stuff.
Men, I think, have a different deal – much like that of my little guy. For example, my husband has a job that involves taking big risks. Sometimes he wins and sometimes he loses. If he feels stress about this I’m pretty sure he puts it into his very own I-don’t-know-where-it-goes drawer. In fact, I’m pretty sure lots of stuff goes into that drawer for him. I have no judgment about this - we’re just different that way. Actually, if I’m being honest, I’d admit that I’m actually very jealous of the I-don’t-know-where-it-goes drawer. It sounds downright relaxing to store things away without delving into the deeper meaning. To put something away without thinking about where it really goes.
Maybe the guys are on to something here. In fact, I’m going to take a page out of their books and leave this stream of thought right here – exactly where I-don’t-know-where-it-goes.
Thursday, November 26, 2009
Now I’m a terrible sleeper – have been for years. No amount of stress could derail either my husband or my business partner from their sacred shut-eye. But I’ve been known to literally lose sleep when too much is going on in my days. Moms in general and moms with jobs (other than the full time one where they raise their kids) in particular are multi-tasking superstars. We’ve checked in with several hundred mompreneurs over the past year, and many of them tell us that even they can’t believe just how much they can accomplish in a day.
If Amy or I want to get a laugh out of the other one (or any mompreneur we know), we simply add the phrase, ‘in your spare time’ to the end of the sentence. Something like, “Could you just cut out an extra 100 pieces of fleece dino appliqué, in your spare time?” – gets a chuckle every time. Any mom knows that life is filled with minutiae – endless forms for school, lessons to register for, groceries, meals, laundry. But then throw in the minutiae of running a small business – endless forms for everything, customer inquiries, supplier issues, etc. - it can require a whole lot of mental space.
I’ve long believed that I can deal with my kids and my business – but if you throw anything into the mix I may crack. This weekend it’s my daughter’s 5th birthday party (loot bags, a cake, activities for sugar-hyped 5 year olds, etc.) – followed by cupcakes at school on the actual birthday, not to mention the nagging Christmas list and the cooking and baking that this time of year brings. Believe me, I wouldn’t trade one bit of it – not anything. But I wouldn’t mind sleeping either!
So what’s a busy mompreneur to do? Heck, if you’ve got some suggestions for sustaining sleep when the to-do list becomes unmanageable then please send them on! In the meantime, I’m thinking about developing some kind of sleep aid for crazed mompreneurs – in my spare time, that is.
Thursday, November 19, 2009
At Admiral Road, it's the most wonderful time of year. This holiday season, we're giving back. Use the coupon code HOLIDAY09 for $7 off your Admiral Road order at check out. It's valid until December 6.
We're also an Editor's Pick at Glow magazine. You can see our owl baby blanket featured here.
To top it off, the team at SavvyMom chose our Treasure Tees as their Pick of the Week. Thank you, ladies. We think you've made a savvy choice.
Today also begins our appearance at Art Market in Calgary. If you're in the neighbourhood, drop by Booth 524 to say, 'Hi.' Our friends at Mally Designs and Bugalug are Stonz are there too.
Admiral Road will not be exhibiting at the One of a Kind Show in Toronto this year. We'll miss connecting with the many customers who come by to see us. Please stay in touch. We're just a phone call or email away. And if you're wondering how late you can leave your holiday orders, you've got plenty of time. Just click here for our holiday delivery info.
Wishing you Fleece on Earth this holiday season.
Amy & Danielle
Thursday, November 12, 2009
Over the years we’ve been lucky to meet up with amazing women running fabulous companies. But since Amy and I each get to work with our best friend, we’ve found that we can get a bit insular. We can get so caught up in the minutiae of our joint business and home lives that sometimes we forget to reach out to other business moms. Of course we know how important networking is, but it can definitely be put aside in favour of more pressing ‘To Dos.' Sure, we love to talk to our entrepreneurial friends about business. Anyone who owns their own business can relate to the trials and tribulations. But only a mom entrepreneur really understands what our lives look like.
After years in the basement alone or in the company of each other, it was a (delightful) shock to the system when earlier this year we went out chatted with a whole bunch of mom entrepreneurs. Over the course of a couple of months we met with women we knew well, and women we knew of but didn’t really know. Since time was of the essence we split up for the majority of these coffee dates. To a person, each of the women we met with brought up some interesting perspective we’d never thought of. They also shared their amazing stories as well as tips for juggling business and family. The mom entrepreneurs were friendly, helpful and wise. At the end of it, we felt that we’d made some amazing connections and were only disappointed that we hadn’t each been able to connect with everyone!
We learned a lot from the experience of getting out in the world and connecting. And I’m not talking just about what the mom entrepreneurs had to say. We were reminded how essential networking is – for our business and for ourselves.
The path of the mom entrepreneur can be a lonely one – but there are tons of amazing women at the other end of the phone or across the table at Starbucks. We try harder now to reach out and to stay in touch. It’s important and it’s fun.
So, to our mom entrepreneur friends – if we miss you over the next few busy months – let’s make a date soon for a coffee and a chat!
Thursday, November 5, 2009
Thursday, October 29, 2009
As a part of our New Year celebrations we dipped apples in honey to symbolize a sweet year ahead. And just like the January 1st New Year, September gives me pause to think about how to make my year a little sweeter.
A new year reminds me that I have everything I want and need – how lucky is that? And it makes me think about the people who don’t even come close to being able to make that claim. It occurs to me that what I could use a little of in my life is a little more giving back. I blogged not too long ago about how I wish I had time to give blood (and I do, and I will) – but maybe it’s more about wishing to just give in general.
Then I came across this web site http://www.charitywater.org. If you’re not familiar with Charity: Water, the story is that a 30-year-old in New York decided that he had some giving back to do, and started an organization to provide clean drinking water to the one billion people on this planet who don’t have it. In just three years, Scott Harrison and his team have provided clean water to 700,000 people. Wow. Not only does this story inspire me, but it makes me feel like I’ve got some work to do…
I showed the trailer from Charity: Water to my four-year-old daughter this morning and explained that kids around the world don’t have clean water to drink. She immediately said, ‘How can we help?’ She was so excited about it that she ran to find her brother and explain the problem to him. It reminds me that the spirit of giving back is contagious. So this year I’m resolving to give more of myself in the coming year, for lots of reasons, not the least of which is to be an example to my very fortunate children.
How sweet is that?
Friday, October 23, 2009
Snuggle season is when we hear from our favourite customers. And it’s when we get to meet lots of new customers too.
But snuggle season also hectic! We’ve got lots of shows on the calendar and new products on the site. Plus, we’ve got to get our kids to their swimming, gymnastics, karate, piano and dance classes. Whew!
We’ve got two great shows on this weekend. Please stop by to say ‘Hi’ at the Heart of Country Show in Richmond Hill.
We’re also excited to be at the Shop Til You Drop sale on Sunday.
One of the most fun things at Admiral Road right now is the response we’re getting to our new line of Treasure Tees. We’re having trouble keeping them in stock – so if you see us at a show this weekend, make sure to snap one up. They’re sure to keep your little ones cozy during Snuggle Season.
Friday, October 16, 2009
Thursday, October 8, 2009
When I was in my twenties, my mother inspired me to run. Although she had never been fit, she trained hard and then ran the New York City Marathon at age 51. She and I went on to run countless road races together from 5ks to marathons. We talked while we trained together. We had a blast when we travelled to races together. And it turns out she was a great racer! Uncovering a hidden talent, she consistently won her age category in all the races she entered. It was truly inspirational.
And then she died.
That was it for me. I hung up my running shoes – for good, I thought. The idea of training by myself was too painful. It wasn’t joyful anymore. I wasn’t interested. And then life happened: work, pregnancy, nursing, repeat. For several years it didn’t even feel like my body belonged to me. It was on loan.
One year ago Danielle and I travelled to a trade show in Las Vegas. We had been eyeing that show for years, but last year was the first time that it was feasible for us and our families. I think it was also the first time that I starting feeling like my body belonged to me again. Having forgotten my cross-trainers at home (Freudian?), I popped into a mall and picked up my first pair of running shoes in a decade. While Danielle was working at the trade show, I went back to the hotel gym and climbed on the treadmill. Listening to tunes on Danielle’s borrowed iPod, I rocked out on my run and it was great. In a hotel, in Las Vegas, by myself. (For a busy mom entrepreneur, it’s the stuff dreams are made of.)
I’ve kept up the running ever since. This spring I ran my first, post-babies 10k. This summer I ran a 10-miler. And this past weekend I accomplished my goal for the season: I completed a half-marathon. It wasn’t the fastest time I’ve ever run – there is room for improvement. And I had to choke back the tears at the start line when I looked over and found that my mom wasn’t there. But I did it, and running still feels great.
I miss my mom more than I can say. It’s been eight years, but sometimes I still can’t believe that she’s actually not here. I lose my breath when I think about the fact that she never met my children. But I also think that it might be time for me to run again.
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
I've been personally Facebooking, blogging, and social networking for several years. But it wasn't until last fall that we first ventured into the world of social media as a business.
The first step was a Facebook group. At that point there were all sorts of businesses with "profiles," many with group pages, and a few with fan pages. With our group we posted relevant news, links to articles, and photos of little ones. We also had our first ever giveaway where several dozen customers got to take home sample blankets for little ones in their lives absolutely free! Needless to say it was a big hit. We loved being able to do something fun, and good for our customers. Not to mention we found homes for blankets that otherwise might have gone in the trash. However, we still weren't really connecting with people because there was little room for interaction, only promotion.
After the winter holidays last year, we threw our hats into the blogging ring. Our blog, Blanket Statements, was our chance to share our experiences with life, families, and running a blanket business. It also brought us into a whole new world. Blogging allows people all over the world to form communities with people they've never met. Many women use it as a way to get and give advice on families and children, share stories, and connect about personal triumphs and tragedies. At Admiral Road we share stories about funny things the kids say, business experiences, or new name trends.
After a while we saw that the Facebook group was being replaced by the "Fan Page." We were hesitant to make the switch because we already had several hundred group members and the thought of asking them to switch was painful. But we realized that the group was not working for us, or for our customers as we had hoped, and we made the big jump to the page. As it turns out, it was hugely successful. All of a sudden we were hearing from our customers instead of just posting things for them to read about us. And it is so much more convenient as you no longer have to search for the group and remember to check for updates - important updates about sales and coupons go right to fans' newsfeeds.
Finally there was Twitter. I admit, none of us knew how to use it. I cringed when I had to use the verb "tweet" in a business meeting, and we agonized over early posts to make sure we were "doing it right." I was the biggest resistor, mostly because I didn't think we had time to maintain another social media site and still actually run as business. I also couldn't stand the idea of being 24 and having aging U.S. Congressmen understand a new technology better than I did. But Twitter is where the conversation is really at. We discovered interesting people to follow, business contacts to network with, and funny stories that everyday people were sharing.
People knew early on that social media was a revolutionary way to connect with customers on a different level, but it wasn't clear how it was going to work. It wasn't because we didn't know how to use the technology, it was that the technology didn't know how it wanted to be used yet. Facebook wasn't started as a business tool. It was created for elite American college students to presumably network with more elite college students. Blogging has been around for years, but for most of those years it was exclusively a tool for self-expression. These platforms have evolved into what they are today - impossible to ignore pieces of our everyday lives. And with that comes business. But this is a new kind of business where relationships are built, customers get a say, and companies stand behind what they sell. After all, their face is all over it.
So join us in the social media world. Today, October 1, we will be getting the fall season off to a great start with a fabulous giveaway. Follow us on Twitter to find out how you can win.
Thursday, September 24, 2009
They told us not to go into business with our best friend. We were courting disaster, risking it all, and generally making a gigantic mistake. Was I scared? Well, a little – but not really. I knew it would work.
Believe me, I can see how going into biz with your buddy could be disastrous. When you work with someone you care about and have history with, it can be harder to broach difficult issues, and sometimes the friendship can get in the way of the work. You can hesitate to get into the tough stuff because you’re worried about hurting your friend, and you can take work conflicts personally. (It can also be hard to settle down to work when there is so much to catch up on in your lives!)
It’s funny though – no one talks about the enormous upside of being best friends in business. There’s the fact that I 100% trust my business partner – with every single aspect of the business. We’ve been able to have babies and take vacations without worrying what’s going on at the office. We’ve also each had the support of someone who cares about us when times have been tough either at work or at home. We’ve been able to support each other’s goals, both personal and professional. We’ve raised our families together and created a gaggle of kids who are madly in love with their ‘cousins.’ We really listen to each other, whether it’s a work or a personal issue.
But here’s the biggest benefit, and no one ever talks about this one: We’ve had a blast. I can’t think of anyone I’d rather be on the mom entrepreneur rollercoaster ride with than my best friend. We’ve enjoyed our business because we’ve done it together. I don’t think either of us would have lasted 7.5 years (and counting) on our own. We’ve celebrated our accomplishments together and commiserated when things haven’t gone as planned. We laugh. Every single day.
Should you go into business with your best friend? Well, conventional wisdom says you shouldn’t – but these best friends in business are flouting that wisdom, so why can’t you?
Thursday, September 17, 2009
Company Name: Mally Designs
Company Web Site: mallybibs.com
Owners: Ron and Nicole Garza
What they do: Make beautiful bibs out of leather. They’re durable, easy to clean and stain resistant.
Why we love 'em: Because their products are beautifully designed and of the highest quality. And they’re made in Canada! This company has achieved so much in a short time – Mally Bibs are everywhere! Their success is truly inspirational.
What you can get: Their new pocket peeker designs – so cute. You can also keep your eye out for Mally Bibs on sale.