Thursday, June 18, 2009
I grew up in the Yukon. The land of the midnight sun, prospectors and gold. Through the stories of Jack London and the poems of Robert Service, the Yukon has been immortalized as a land of rugged adventure. It was there I went to summer camp.
Camp. The place a child from the city learns to paddle a canoe, swim, hike through the wilderness and tie a really great knot. That is, unless you went to camp in the Yukon.
Most people expect that I have an acute knowledge of hunting, fishing, or perhaps wrestling a bear with my bare hands. Instead, I remember being expected to fall asleep in a hot, old cabin at 9pm, more than two hours before the sun dropped below the horizon for a few hours of twilight. I also remember the morning cabin cleanliness inspections that were used to determine the breakfast line-up order at one camp, and peeling potatoes behind the kitchen building as part of our daily chores at another.
But I do have fond memories of camp. It was there that I got to spend a week with my friends, both new and old, riding horses, playing capture the flag, jumping on trampolines, and in particular, making up songs and skits for nightly gatherings in the main hall.
While I might not have left camp with many - ok, any - wilderness skills, I did leave with lasting friendships and fond memories of summers well spent.
If you're sending your young ones off for a summer camp experience, save $5 off an Admiral Road personalized camp blanket with coupon code CAMP09 until June 30th.
Thursday, June 11, 2009
As a child I was petrified of the water. So great was my fear that my parents never put me in swimming lessons. At camp however, it wasn’t optional. I recall that in order to get the badge I was working on I had to jump off the dock and into the lake. My fear of this caused me more stress than you can imagine – tears, sleepless nights, the whole nine yards. Lori, who was one of those crusty on the outside but gooey on the inside types would not rest until I had overcome this obstacle. She arranged a time at the end of the day when no one else was around – just the two of us. I can still see that dock in my mind, indelibly stamped. I don’t know how long I stood there before I jumped – it could have been ages. Finally I trusted Lori and jumped. It was a slow-motion moment: I have a crystal clear memory of the feeling of my body between dock and lake – suspended in the air. (I have a fuzzier but lovely memory of the cheers and hugs I received afterwards.)
I didn’t get over my fear of the water that summer and I didn’t really learn how to swim until I was an adult. But I did learn that the only thing between us and overcoming a fear is the moment when we jump. I understood that change comes in the moment we decide to move forward.
Many times in my life I have come back to this lesson. One such time was when I decided to risk my career path and my best friendship and jump into the waters of Admiral Road. There were sleepless nights then too. But in the end, I jumped. And you know, the water has been just fine.
June is camp month at Admiral Road. Enter the code CAMP09 at checkout for $5 of a camp blanket.
Thursday, June 4, 2009
I have always been an urban girl. When I was a preschooler, my mother realized I didn’t know the difference between a cow and a horse, and she felt compelled to do something about my distinct lack of rural knowledge. Not long after, we took a family vacation to a working farm.
Similarly, when I got a little older, she insisted I attend overnight summer camp. Although she had never been herself, she sensed how powerful the experience of going away to camp could be. I wasn’t getting a whole lot of wilderness experience in downtown Toronto, so off I went to Algonquin Park in northern Ontario.
My mother was a rather thorough person, so when she did things she did them with intent. Prerequisites for the camp she selected for me included a canoe paddle, a life jacket and a daytime uniform (in tan and green – like the wilderness I was soon to inhabit). This camp could be accessed only by boat. This camp had neither electricity nor indoor plumbing in the cabins. This camp had no showers – that meant we bathed in the lake and I learned about biodegradable shampoo from a tender age.
At this camp, I took my first canoe trip and heard the sound of loons calling. I learned how to make a fire with a single match in the rain. I went sailing and kayaking. I became a better swimmer. I made great friends. I laughed. Really hard.
Now you can’t take the city out of the girl: I still prefer to travel by subway rather than canoe. And I’d choose my duvet over a sleeping bag any day of the week. But my mother’s instincts were right: Camp allowed me to spread my wings. I went for seven magical summers. And you can be sure that when my daughters are old enough, I will take them from their downtown home, and send them away to camp too.
Camp season is just around the corner. Use our coupon CAMP09 at check out to receive $5 off your purchase of an Admiral Road camp blanket.
Monday, June 1, 2009
Admiral Road is giving a way a great prize. Just by writing a blog you'll be entered in a draw to win! You could be one of 7 lucky winners who will receive a blanket prize pack.
Here's what to do:
- Write a blog about Admiral Road Designs Personalized Blankets. It can be a review, story, poem - whatever you can think of. Creativity is encouraged.
- Include a link to www.admiralroad.com somewhere in your post.
- Tag your post "Admiral Road Designs Personalized Blankets"
- Post a comment on this blog with a link to your blog post.
- You will receive an extra entry for every blog post you create, every time you tweet the link on Twitter (to a maximum of one per day), if you share it on your Facebook, or share your blog with any other online community.
Remember to tag @AdmiralRoad in Twitter, and send me an email with the link to your twitter feed or a screen shot of your Facebook update.
Thursday, May 28, 2009
I’ve been thinking a lot about this notion of completeness. It may be a male idea altogether. A woman who doesn’t think she has something to improve upon is a rare commodity. I did have a close friend who one day declared herself ‘state of the art.’ Many hours on the therapist’s couch and hundreds of miles on her running shoes, not to mention checking off many of her life’s goals had preceded this – and my dear friend was a truly remarkable woman. I think I was so struck by her declaring herself ‘complete’ because it’s something I can’t actually imagine.
I am in a constant state of self-improvement – or at least trying. You may be familiar with the internal refrain, “I should lose 10 pounds/volunteer more/see my friends more often/make more money/be a better mother, wife, friend/etc. etc.” One of my favourites is that I think I should give blood. I really do want to give blood. I know there is a need for my blood. So what’s the problem? Well, it may have something to do with two kids in kindergarten, a business, a house, husband, extended family, friends – not to mention all the other new projects I am working on. So I don’t give blood YET, but it’s a handy thing to feel incomplete about in the meantime.
I once asked my (older and wiser) brother when he thought we got to be ‘complete.’ He answered, ‘if you’re lucky, about 3 minutes before you die.’ Perhaps he’s right. Maybe the point is the journey towards completion rather than actually attaining it. Jerry Maguire was lucky – all he needed was his wife! I’d ponder this more, but I’ve got a whole pile of ‘shoulds’ to get to before the kids get home.
Thursday, May 21, 2009
She occasionally enjoys a bowl of Raisin Brown cereal.
But at the coffee shop she likes to order a bright yellow croissant. (Butter croissant.)
For lunch she's partial to a girl cheese sandwich.
And her favourite flavour of ice cream is choc-lick.
After she bathes, she'll slip into her bath-rope.
If she's going away, she'll pack her things in a soup case.
And the worst part about summer is most certainly when I have to apply the sun-scream.
Surely your little ones must say these kinds of things too. Please write to me and tell me what's on your kid's mind. I'd love to hear.
Thursday, May 14, 2009
It occurred to me some time ago that I am a much better mom on a Monday than I am on a Thursday. On Mondays we chat about the week ahead, what we did on the weekend, who would win in a battle between Yoda and Dumbledore (jury’s out), etc. I am patient, interested and enthusiastic. So what happens to my reservoir of motherhood as the week goes by? And more importantly, how can I avoid this every week? After all, it’s not the kids’ fault that it’s Thursday. I’ve heard the adage that parenthood is a marathon and not a sprint, but I didn’t realize that for me the marathon would begin anew every seven days. I guess I need to work on this, particularly since there are about 800 more Thursdays until my kids are more or less grown. On the bright side, this does give me ample time to get it right. And in the shorter term, we’ll all look forward to Friday’s mom who knows that an afternoon at Grandma’s and takeout sushi are in the cards.
Thursday, May 7, 2009
Everbody uses short cuts to save themselves time, aggravation and effort. Who wants to spend life in line ups, traffic or any situation when there is faster, better alternative?
Now, when the occasion merits, I've been known to be something of a "crowd snake." I've got a skill (and enthusiasm) for sussing out the fastest line, the table that's about to open up in the crowded cafeteria, the empty seats in the movie theatre. I'm quite proud of it, actually. It makes me feel efficient.
Yesterday, with 20 minutes to spare before a meeting on the other side of town, I dashed into the supermarket. If I didn't do it then, it wouldn't have gotten done that day. And it had to get done. I plotted my course through the aisles and with military precision grabbed what I needed.
Ready to pay, I scanned the check outs and weighed my options. (Fifteen minutes to get to the meeting now.) Four people ahead of me in line at the "8 items or less" counter; nobody at the self-serve check out. I know it's a risky move, but I proceed to the self-serve aisle. I begin to scan my items.
"Put your item in the bag!" the invisible cashier tells me.
What? It is in the bag! I've put my item in the bag! The "real" cashier has to come over and help me out. "This is supposed to be faster," I mutter to myself.
Ten minutes until meeting.
"Take the item out of the bag," invisible cashier demands.
Out of the bag? Why do I have to take the item out of the bag?? I just had real cashier help put the item in the bag. I glance behind me, customers gracefully moving through the "8 items or less" aisle. The real cashier has to come back. Again.
"This aisle is supposed to be faster," I mutter to her. "I chose this aisle because it's supposed faster!" I'm freaking out now. Everyone who was ahead of me in the other aisle is finished. They're probably in their cars. They might even be at home by now, happily unpacking their groceries.
I pay. I literally run out of the grocery store. I race to my meeting.
You know, if the idea is to make life simpler, easier and more efficient, I’m all for a little self-serve. Clearly, however, this “short cut” didn’t turn out to be the big time-saver I thought it would. On the way to the meeting I couldn't help but think that in life, in work, sometimes you just need to slog it out and that short cuts just don't pay.
Thursday, April 30, 2009
Have you ever been faced with a problem and been told that you just have to live with it? It just doesn’t seem right. I’m not talking about the Biggies like cancer or bankruptcy problems – more like pesky problems that seem like they ought to be fixable.
A friend of mine has such a problem at the moment. A small thing is causing a LOT of trouble. This is easy to believe when you take into consideration that the small thing is a skunk who has been living under her kitchen for the past six weeks and stink-bombing them every few days. For effect, I should add that my dear friend is seven months pregnant with her third child.
Now a skunk can be a problem, but here’s what’s got me thinking. No one will do anything to help them get rid of the skunk. The ‘wildlife’ experts my friend has called in will barely even get out of their cars in front of the house and no one – I repeat, no one - is going under that kitchen to meet Mr. Skunk in person. Things are getting desperate at her place – last I heard, my very pregnant friend had to construct a ‘skunk-ramp’ under the house to assist the skunk in departing. Herself.
Now, in situations such as these, I ask myself, “What would Julia do?” Julia Roberts, that is. If Julia Roberts had a skunk under her kitchen, sharing its perfume with Danny, Henry and the twins would she be told, “Sorry. Nothing we can do.”? Obviously not. I am positive that someone would be right over, thank you very much. (When I posed this question to my friend, she dryly replied that Julia would move to the Malibu house while the skunk was removed and that she’d have her kitchen remodelled while they were at it.) But the point is, if there is a solution for Julia, surely there is a solution for all of us. And what’s good for the goose, ought to be good for the skunk sufferer. Haven’t we all been in a situation where we’re told that we have to accept a poor outcome when it seems like there ought to be a solution?
As a business owner, I can relate to the wildlife guy not wanting to crawl around in dark places where one is likely to meet a skunk. We don’t have anything equivalently daunting at Admiral Road. In our case it’s more like someone wanting to order a custom blanket, with Sanskrit script, above the image of a family of ferrets. (It’s not available, in case you were wondering). However, if someone was in desperate need of said blanket I’d like to believe we’d try and find a way to help them – either by working with them to modify their idea or even by referring them to a competitor if need be. Leaving someone high and dry? We think it stinks.
Thursday, April 23, 2009
While on a much smaller scale, businesses also have complex problems that require thought and planning. When you own your own business, planning is key. Without planning you are liable to drift off course, at best by being reactive to the minutiae of daily business life, or at worst – whiling away hours on facebook or with Oprah.
After starting our business, Danielle and I spent much of our early years mired in the weeds. Sure, we had done a comprehensive business plan when we started the company (you can’t take the MBA out of the girl!), but there is a big difference between a business plan and ongoing business planning. Although a helpful exercise, your business plan pretty much becomes obsolete the minute you finish it. Businesses are organic creatures, changing all the time. For us, there was so much initially to learn just to get a blanket out the door – how to make one, how to ship one, where to find our customers. Planning definitely took a back seat. Then, about two years in, we had what we called the G2 Summit. (That would be Danielle. And me.) We sat down and talked about our priorities for the business and began to look at our business in a new way. We made a plan and then executed it. A year later we had another G2 Summit and made up a whole new "to do" list for the year ahead. Annual planning was a huge change for us. Up until then, business planning meant looking, at most, three months down the road. Now we understand that by clarifying our goals for the year ahead we are better prepared to deal with issues that arise.
Now we have monthly planning meetings. We set goals. We assign responsibility. And we move forward. Even if you're a solo-preneur, there is so much value in planning. It helps you learn about your business, how the various parts work together, and how it might evolve. I find a lot of comfort in having a road map. All you need to do is follow it.
Now, if we could only plan our next summit in
Thursday, April 16, 2009
There are many things to consider, of course, when coming up with the big idea – but here’s a little something we learned the easy way: It’s a whole lot nicer to sell joy than pain. Here’s what I mean: When we were in the process of leaping out of corporate life and into entrepreneurship we considered many different business ideas. We were downright methodical about it – we had a list of criteria and a list of ideas and we connected the dots to see what worked. Baby blankets worked. Throw in some money, sleepless nights and a whole lot of work and presto! A business was born. Something noticeably missing from our criteria were the intangible questions, "what is the ‘feel’ of this business?" "What state of mind will my customers be in?" "Is this a joyful product/experience/service or something that our customers enjoy about as much as they do gingivitis?"
We’ve been on the right side of the happy equation for seven years now. Every time a customer contacts us, something lovely is happening in his or her life – a baby has been born, a birthday has arrived, a holiday approaches. Our customers come to us with joy. As a business owner, this makes a whole lot of difference to your day. Have you ever called the phone company joyfully? Of course not. (Not that they deserve it, but don’t get me started on that subject.) The tax office? Uh uh. We can’t believe how many lovely e-mails we’ve received over the years from gracious customers, not to mention photos for our gallery and kind referrals. We’d like to believe that a good product and solid customer service have a lot to do with that, but we know that state of mind goes a long way toward a positive experience.
Can you base your business concept on a warm fuzzy feeling? Probably not. But all other things being equal, we’d definitely recommend it.
Thursday, April 9, 2009
Just in case you didn't receive our latest newsletter, we wanted to let you know that there is a coupon available for $5 off your next blanket order. Just enter ARDSPRING09 at check out. The coupon is valid for another week (until April 17th), so be sure to take advantage.
While you're on the Admiral Road web site, stop by to check out our new gift baskets. They're fresh and gorgeous - sure to be a big hit with babies and parents alike.
Want to know what we've been up to? Visit our Buzz section to see where Admiral Road has shown up over the past year. Our blankets and scarves have cropped up all over the place!
Wishing you a cozy Spring,
The Admiral Road Team
Thursday, March 26, 2009
Name: Greg M.
Hometown: Houston, TX
Customer since: 2005
Became an Admiral Road fan after: he forgot his newspaper at the office. Forced to read a left-behind women's magazine while on the stationary bike, he discovered an Admiral Road blanket featured in its pages. Has been giving ARD blankets to friends and colleagues ever since.
Likes Admiral Road because: "I love the reaction I get when people open their gifts from Admiral Road. I also like the web site. I'm not a big on-line shopper, but Admiral Road makes ordering gifts so easy. Admiral Road blankets are the only present my wife lets me buy without running it by her first!"
Monday, March 23, 2009
Name: Richard D.
Hometown: Great New York City
Customer since: 200?
Why he loves Admiral Road:
Thursday, March 19, 2009
As a consumer, this certainly resonates. And we want our customers to continue to feel comfortable shopping with us. Here at Admiral Road we offer regular discounts to our customers as a part of our newsletters and Facebook pages and we have extra recession-busting coupons lined up for our Facebook group members.
I am however, a little worried about that guy making your morning latte. Odds are he hasn’t experienced any significant drop in his costs. And it follows that if the economy is sluggish, he’s probably selling fewer of those lattes to start with. Has his rent plummeted to meet the struggling economy? Of course not. So now, Mr. Latte Maker is making less money and is being asked for discounts left, right and center. What’s a guy to do? Hopefully he’s got the same kind of great, loyal customers as we do. But I’ve got a sinking feeling that he’s going to be discounting himself all the way to the poorhouse.