Behind the Scenes of Red Slice: Reinvention + Renewal (Part 3)

Previously in Part 2 of the Red Slice origin story… 

My entrepreneurial journey – and my life-  came screeching to a halt when I almost died from a ruptured brain aneurysm.  There are just some crises you can’t build into your business plan! But, guess what? The sky didn’t fall. In fact, it opened up to a whole new way of living and doing business that would change me forever – and can hopefully change you for the better, too. 

If you missed Part 1, you can read it here. 

If you missed Part 2, please check it out here. 

Get ready for Part 3! 


OK, so I’d survived a ruptured brain aneurysm. It was amazing to me how quickly people can rally around you after a crisis and pick up the slack.  Armed with moxie, and a healthy dose of ignorance about the severity of it all, I thought I’d be back to work in seven weeks, when in reality, it took many months to focus on healing, recovery and therapy.  

I had to overcome quite a few cognitive deficits: information overwhelm, prioritization, short-term memory, even vocabulary recall. All perfectly normal after-effects–and all skills I needed to do my work. 

In addition, I lacked confidence to jump back into my life again. My hair had been shaved off, my eyesight was temporarily impaired and I was still regaining my strength. My husband, God love him, was my rock through it all. But he was not going to be able to jump-start me back to work. 

Finally, after about six months (which is a miraculous timeframe for this type of injury), I was ready to dip my toe back into work and rebuild my business. But how to do it? 

Networking again played a key role. The connections I’d worked so hard to build, both professionally and personally, saved me. I had to get comfortable asking for help–and see it as a sign of strength and resourcefulness, not weakness. People wanted to help. So I asked people to drive me places, accompany me to events, and get me back out there. I decided that if I started acting brave, maybe I’d start feeling brave–and I needed cheerleading and support or I’d lose my nerve all together. Had I not spent the time to build and nurture that community, before I needed it, I’d have been in a world of pain. 

And soon, my network spread the word that I was back in the game and ready for action again. 

LESSON ONE: Build your community and tribe before you need it. Tend to it. Nurture it. If you start only when you need it, it’s already too late. (Tweet!) 


Fast forwarding through recovery, I started the difficult task of embracing the New Me. My brain now worked overtime on tasks that had once come easy to me so I had to adapt and find new strategies. What would this mean to my work, which was all about my IP and executive brain functions? My therapists suggested choosing a simple,  structured project to start.   

Which I did not heed. My first project back was unstructured and complicated. I cried daily.  

But I got through it and gained confidence back in the process. Networking continued to help me get my name back out there. I ran a few workshops with a colleague. I started blogging and guest writing articles again. And slowly but surely, folks realized Red Slice was back. 

During this “gentle” time of figuring things out and taking on limited clients, I finally got serious about writing a book, a dream I’d had since I was a little girl. Having this time to chase long-procrastinated dreams was a gift. I’m not sure I would have otherwise taken the time. 

Soon, I published my first book and started booking more business. Client work was still a struggle, but I surrounded myself with understanding partners who helped me with some of my deficits on the back end.  

In the next two years, I took on some big projects. At one point, I had a dream project with a software company…and simultaneously, a hellacious project with another big company. I finally realized that my passion was for the early strategic phase, where I could ferret out big insights and package them into an amazing brand strategy and story. 

The rest of the project, however, was less fun.  I basically functioned as a project manager, overseeing implementation. This phase made me want to poke my eyes out.  

A wise coach gave me permission. She said, “If you don’t like doing that work, Maria, stop doing it!” And that was it. I was free! I revamped my messaging, repackaged my offerings to just focus on brand strategy and upped my rates.  I was happy to give client’s a firm foundation and then refer out the tactical work so I could move on. 

It was scary to narrow my focus to attract the right clients and do the work I love.  But, hey, it was advice I’d been giving my clients all this time–I just hadn’t followed it myself! 

And guess what happened? More of the right clients came to my door, I was happier, more relaxed and working from my heart.  

Life’s too short to do work you hate. And it’s downright insane if you as an entrepreneur are the one deciding which work you do! 

LESSON TWO: Don’t be afraid to focus, reinvent and make your business work for YOU (Tweet!) 


This life-changing event not only transformed my work but my life. I was no longer the same person I was before the aneurysm. I couldn’t possibly be. 

It wasn’t just having a “near-death experience” or even the psychological and cognitive changes that occurred due to the injury. Powerful lessons punched me dead in the face so there was no way I couldn’t pay attention. 

I had always wanted my work to be more meaningful and now I had the chance to change lives. After much cajoling from others, I was finally ready to share my experience and lessons learned through a book. It was my heart’s mission and responsibility to take my amazing recovery and help others who were not so lucky. I wrote Rebooting My Brain in late 2011 and suddenly found myself playing the role of brain injury awareness advocate, speaking and volunteering to represent the patient point of view. 

My cognitive challenges forced me to make significant work (and life) changes. I had no choice but to learn how to better focus on one thing at a time, stay present, and go easy on myself. My fatigue and overwhelm would not allow for manic multitasking and overscheduling anymore. 

Wow. “Be present.” “Focus.” “Leave breathing room in your schedule.” 

Not a bad way to live, let alone work, eh? 

All of these changes led to a flourishing business once again.  I built a solid reputation, enjoyed national media appearances, and published more books. And I even found a way, despite the high-risk due to my health issues, to have my first child at 41 years old, a beautiful baby boy.   

So where are things right now? 

Life is full.  Somehow, someway, I managed to accomplish many of the goals I had set for myself way back when. I just got to them through a slightly delayed and circuitous route than expected!  

Every day, I’m still learning and growing. I’ve added MOMENTUM, an exclusive coaching program to my offerings (Check it out! It starts October 6!), and am working on my next book. And I’m enjoying every precious moment with my husband, son, family and friends. 

If only I could go back and tell that eager beaver to just relax. Everything you want can fall into place eventually, no matter what curveballs life throws at you.  

I’ve learned that if you focus on your strengths, rather than defining yourself by your weaknesses, you can find creative ways to get to your goals in the end. 

LESSON THREE: Despite setbacks, focus on your strengths + find new ways to your goals (Tweet!) 

Did you enjoy my origin storyWhat was the most valuable lesson you can apply to your own life and work? Tweet me @redslice or comment on my Facebook page  and use #BIZORIGIN to let me know! 

Behind the Scenes of Red Slice: Business Grows…and Crisis Strikes (Part 2)

Previously in Part 1 of the Red Slice origin story…  

After leaving the security of corporate comfort, I embarked on my consulting business in my new home city of Seattle. Savvy, authentic networking and a rock-solid brand strategy accelerated my early growth, resulting in wonderfully interesting small business clients and a lucrative corporate gig.  

If you missed Part 1, including my three powerful lessons learned, read it here. 

Get ready for Part 2!  


Having always been surrounded by structure and process, the free-fall of entrepreneurship felt like fumbling around in the dark–every day. Quickly, I tried to get my legal and financial ducks in a row. Do I need to register as an S-Corp or LLC? What kinds of taxes do I need to pay? How do I manage my invoices and expenses? Ugh.

A new lawyer friend hooked me up with her firm for invaluable legal advice that should have cost thousands but didn’t and so I got the right counsel on risks and requirements I didn’t even know about. They developed my contracts at a bargain price and I filed for an LLC by downloading a free PDF online called, “How to File for a Washington LLC.” The paperwork. The tax requirements. The fees. It was all so damn confusing.   

I promptly hired an accountant to help me with everything financial. Nothing fancy, she helped me set up my first QuickBooks and educated me almost weekly on what I needed to know. It felt like every day, I came up with more questions on how this whole “business ownership” thing worked. And I majored in business!  

LESSON ONE: No one is an island, nor an expert in everything. Stop trying to be a hero and ask for help from experts who know better. (Tweet!)


Nothing paralyzes new business owners like pricing. I knew what similar consultants charged for my corporate client base, and I was comfortable with that rate because those clients have budget. But for my second client segment, small businesses and entrepreneurs, it was a different story. I had to figure out how to serve them with offerings that would still give me a healthy profit for my expertise and time. 

I admit I didn’t do a very good job of this at first. At the time, my business model was that of a virtual agency. I would hire subcontractors to help me complete all aspects of a brand project. But I was horrible at project cost estimation and factoring in their rates, as well as the right markup. So once again, I turned to others: Experienced consultants who generously shared their spreadsheets with me; Partners who educated me on this new (to me) market; Ideal clients, who openly shared their budget realities with me.  

It took me awhile to land on the right rates and project proposals. I seemed to underestimate how long everything would take me and then never billed those extra hours to the client. Many of my subcontractors made more money than I did from my projects! My nagging self-doubt made me undervalue my expertise and give too much away. I mean, I loved this stuff. It came easy for me, as I’d been doing it for close to 15 years at the time.   

I had to learn that value is not about physical time and effort, but the results the client ultimately reaps. What is the impact on their business? My work often results in clients’ increasing their sales and/or saving thousands of dollars in wasted time and effort, not to mention softer benefits such as strategic alignment, message clarity, market awareness, and re-igniting their passion–surely this meaningful work should be valued accordingly. It was a tough lesson to learn, but I’m so glad I did. 

LESSON TWO: Your expertise is valuable. Even if it comes easy to you. If someone else needs it to move forward, you have the right to be compensated well for it (Tweet!)


There I was, cranking away on my big corporate client and talking to others. It was big impact work that paid well, but I really fell in love with small business entrepreneurs. I had always enjoyed the San Francisco start-up vibe and many of these folks had that same drive–but for work that also fed their souls. The boutique owner. The cupcake shop. The jewelry designer. The life coach. The leadership consultant. The photographer. They all inspired me! I longed to find a way to make this client segment more profitable in some way.  In the meantime, I was making a name for myself, attending networking events, writing online articles and doing a few (unpaid) speaking engagements.  I started an email newsletter, and began blogging regularly. People began to recognize my brand! Sure, I had to write many proposals for work that never went anywhere, but the point was that Red Slice was gaining traction. 

Added to this new business, I was still trying to do it all: yoga, acting, making new friends, seeing the sights of my new home city, writing freelance wine articles. We were brand-new, first-time homeowners and just adopted a dog. I clearly remember confiding to my bestie, a coach for women entrepreneurs: “It’s all great stuff, but I just feel more overwhelmed and stressed than ever!” And she said, “Maria, you thrive on change but I think even you have hit your limit. Then she shared this gem… 

LESSON THREE: “You can do it all but you don’t have to do it all RIGHT NOW!” (Tweet!)

But by then, it was too late. It all came crashing down. 

After a theatre audition, I was struck by a blinding, sudden headache that was like a drill boring into my skull. My neck and back muscles seized up, nausea flooded me and I had no idea what was happening. After collecting myself, I promptly made a doctor’s appointment. He chalked it up to all the stress and advised me to monitor my blood pressure daily, do physical therapy, yoga and acupuncture and report back to him in about a month. 

Did I pull back? No. Silly, right? The yoga, acupuncture and PT just became more to-do’s on my list. I suffered from a few debilitating migraines over the next month and planned to go see the doctor again – when I had time.  And then, I collapsed, unconscious on the bathroom floor. Luckily, my husband saved my life by calling 911. Or I’d be dead. 

A ruptured brain aneurysm had brought all my business–and life–plans to halt.  

I won’t bore you with the details, as a) I wrote a book about this and b) spoiler alert: I survived.  What I will say is that some sort of crisis WILL hit your life or your business; something random for which you can never, ever prepare.  

It happened to me. Even though clients needed deliverables and my task list was not complete. Even though I thought it was ALL SO IMPORTANT.  

And guess what? The sky didn’t fall.   

The sky actually opened up. It opened up a whole new way of living, relating and doing my work in the world – and you can learn to do the same.  

Tune in for Part Three to learn how I revved up my business again and then reinvented it to better suit my life…right here!

Like this origin story so farWhat major setbacks has your business faced? Tweet me @redslice or comment on my Facebook page  and use #BIZORIGIN to let me know! 

Behind the Scenes: How I Started My Business (Part 1)

How My Business Got Started: Valuable Lessons for You!

Starting a business is not easy. Maintaining it for over nine years (gasp!) can be downright unbelievable. People always ask me, “How did you start?”

Recently, I cleared out some old folders and came across every yearly plan from 2008 on. As one does when decluttering, I got lost in nostalgia, chuckling to myself about all the things I thought I knew – and how far I’d come. 

Inspired, I decided to share with you a three-part look at THE RED SLICE ORIGIN STORY and the valuable lessons that can also help your business grow. Full credit for this idea goes to my friend, Melissa Cassera, who recently published a spine-tingling blog mini-series about her business start.  

Please sit back, grab some popcorn (or a lovely Cabernet) and learn from my entrepreneurial adventure! 


2006. Newly married, I was living in San Francisco and directing global marketing campaigns for a billion-dollar software company. Corporate life was all I’d ever known, working at a big consulting firm, a small ad agency, and a multinational entertainment powerhouse. In 1999, I’d come to SF to chase the dream and did my first stint at a (failed) startup, which was the riskiest thing I’d ever done. But I was still working for someone else for a steady paycheck and full benefits and had never known life without such security. 

My creative urges had led me back into acting and writing, alongside my day job. I landed (unpaid) gigs writing food and wine articles (yum) for local magazines and websites, and soon began my own blog. I wanted to write about many things: theatre, business, culture, marketing, wine, food, film…there were so many facets to my personality. I named this personal blog Red Slice, to represent this redhead’s many “slices” of interest. It was liberating to express my creativity again. Like I had come home to myself.  

Right before I got married, I left my big global firm to be a marketing director for a smaller software company. My amazing team and I remain great friends to this day. But the company itself left a bit to be desired. I was restless. 

In 2007, we moved to Seattle for my husband’s job. By then, you must understand, I had lived through three layoffs during the tech bust. I no longer viewed “working for someone else” as the secure proposition I once did. Rocked by my experiences, I expanded my career thinking. I was also getting older and really fed up with corporate political B.S. Most of my time and energy was spent on bureaucratic B.S, rather than doing actual good work. 

I flirted with consulting and daydreamed about working with clients I liked, doing work I loved. While I’d done freelance consulting between layoffs, permanent entrepreneurship was not in my blood. My two grandfathers, both Italian immigrants, had owned businesses at one stage or another, but my dad had sailed steady, loving his decades-long engineering career with the same firm. Stability was everything to me. 

Luckily, my small software company kindly allowed me to work from Seattle. As this extrovert adjusted to working on my own, setting (mostly) my own hours, an addiction formed. A freedom addiction. 

LESSON #1: Leading a life where you call the shots and every ounce of work you do benefits YOU is positively addictive. There is no freedom quite like entrepreneurial freedom, even though you’re working harder than you ever have in your life. (TWEET!) 

For fun in my off-hours, I built a crappy little consulting website in GoDaddy and, naturally, called it Red Slice. I liked the name: It stood out from the crowd, intrigued people and also had a double meaning of helping my clients’ brands stand out, like anything “red” often does. I would offer clients “slices” of services to fit their needs.  

Then, fate gave me a big push. In early 2008, my company laid off the entire marketing department in prep for a sale. The day we got the final notice, I flipped the switch on the crappy website and sent an email to everyone I knew: Red Slice, the marketing and brand consultancy was born! 


While the visuals were horrendous, I focused more on the brand strategy and the messaging, naturally! I wanted a fresh, focused, innovative brand and to offer my full breadth of skills earned from many years in communications, branding and marketing.  I got to say what I wanted to say, in my own sassy voice, without corporate jargon. #Freedom.

A treasured agency contact from my corporate days offered to design me a better website for free, and his team came up with the fruit imagery you see today.  While my website has evolved since then, they nailed it on their very first design because I had done a great job of articulating my brand strategy, value and vibe before they even got started. Some old corporate colleagues scoffed that clients “wouldn’t take me seriously” if I mentioned my writing and acting on my business website. I doubted myself, but bravely stood my ground: I wanted my brand to showcase my unique blend of practical business savvy and playful creativity.  

LESSON #2: Nail down your brand strategy before you even think about a logo, website or marketing tactics – unless you like wasting hours of time, burning piles of money (TWEET!)  


Lacking any sort of professional Seattle network, I joined a Ladies Who Launch incubator. There, I met a ton of cool, smart women, including Melody, the woman who’d become a dear friend, brainstorming partner and personal escort into the world of independent business owners – a client base I’d never even considered.  She got me my very first small client! 

asked friends to introduce me to folks they knew in Seattle and met them on coffee blind dates. I networked like crazy with the few other contacts I DID have, and it got me into meetings to eventually become a subcontractor for a consulting firm doing work at Microsoft. So two months into my new venture, I had a super fun small business client and a large, well-paying corporate client.  

LESSON #3: Networking is your biggest business booster and it doesn’t have to be icky. It should be part of any marketing plan. Network with people you genuinely like and who knows what doors will open (TWEET!) 

I quickly realized that the large project put me right back into corporate bureaucracy again so I began exploring the small business community. It was like discovering this wonderful subculture I never knew existed when I was in my corporate bubble.  

But that exploration came to a screeching halt when, just eight months into my new business, crisis struck.  

Nothing would ever be the same… 

Tune in for Part Two to learn what nearly crushed me and my business for good..right here!

Like this origin story? How did your business start out? Tweet me @redslice or comment on my Facebook page  and use #BIZORIGIN to let me know! 

Why Empathy is Good for Business + How to Show It

Empathy is good for business! It's just as important as all the marketing tips, hr advice, and other business advice out there. Click through if you'd like to add more empathy to your work!

When you think of the personality traits of a successful business owner, what do you picture?

Tenacious? Hard-working? Creative?

Sure! A little tenacity never hurt anyone. But what if I told you the most important quality a business owner can have is … empathy?

4 reasons empathy is good for business

  1. Empathy increases the know/like/trust factor

Let’s say you can’t throw anything out and you’re suffocated by your clutter. You decided it’s finally time to hire a professional organizer.

Who are you more likely to connect with, relate to, and ultimately hire:

* the person who tells you that five years ago they too had drawers overflowing with old t-shirts?

* the person who’s somehow “naturally organized”?

* The person who doesn’t tell you anything about themselves or their background?

I bet you connected with the person who knows your struggle, didn’t you? It’s human nature! We’re more likely to know, like, and trust people who are similar to us. And – as I’m sure you know – we’re more likely to buy from people we know, like, and trust.

Here’s a great example of a blogger showing us how to break bad habits by sharing the bad habits she struggled with!

2. Empathy shows that you walk the walk

If you can show your clients that you’ve been where they are, found a solution, and emerged triumphantly, you’re modeling success.

You’re demonstrating that you’re empathetic to their struggles and you’ve made specific changes to overcome those struggles. You’re living proof that they don’t have to stay stuck! Living proof makes for pretty convincing marketing.

3. Empathy helps your clients be more vulnerable with you

When you show your clients you understand them, you’re helping them feel safe. You’re showing them that they can be honest and vulnerable with you. When you say “I get it. I used to be overwhelmed by social media too,” you’re making it easier for your clients to open up to you.

And the more they open up to you, the more you can help them, and the better their results will be.

4. Data without empathy is meaningless

These days it’s pretty easy to look at your analytics and see which blog posts your clients read, which tweets they liked, and how many people watched your video. But if you don’t understand why they read that blog post or what problem you helped them solve, that data is useless.

We all just want to feel understood and supported. Leading with empathy makes that possible. Click To Tweet

How can you make empathy good for your business?

Share your backstory

What have you struggled with? What hurdles have you overcome in your business? And how does this make you uniquely well-qualified to help us overcome something similar?

Maybe you overcame stage fright; maybe you undercharged for years. Perhaps you mismanaged your team and lost a big account or had self-limiting beliefs that held you back for years.

Whatever your backstory is: share it. Help us know, like, and trust you. Show us how you can help us overcome what we’re struggling with.

Share examples of people or situations for which you feel empathy 

You can also look to current events or public figures who are experiencing something with which you empathize.

For example, if you’re a financial adviser you could say, “When I heard about Johnny Depp declaring bankruptcy I thought, ‘Ugh. I know how that feels.’” Then you share the story of how you struggled with credit card debt in your early twenties and how you righted that ship to make healthy money management your life’s calling.

If you’re a life coach you could say “When Emma Stone talked about navigating her career while managing an anxiety disorder, I wanted to raise my hand and shout “Me, too!” And then you can share how you changed your workday, workload, or daily habits to get past this hurdle.

Anticipate where they might get stuck

If you’ve been in business for a while, you probably already know where your clients freeze up or give up. You know they’re nervous about being on camera or intimidated by downloading new software. You know which excuses they’ll pull out.

Show them you understand them and you’ve got their back! This can be as easy as using phrases like “You might be thinking ___________” or “I know you’re probably worried that ____________”. Then explain why that reasoning or excuse doesn’t apply here.  Or just assure them that they’ve got this and it’s not as hard as it seems!

My friend Sarah spent years working as a teacher and now creates and sells online courses. Every module of every course includes a ‘Where you might get stuck’ section where she addresses common hurdles!

If you don’t know what your people are struggling with or how you can help, ASK

None of these methods will help you if you don’t understand your people. If you don’t know what they’re struggling with, it’s hard to empathize, right?

Luckily, there are tons of ways to figure this out.

  • Invite someone who’s an ideal client out for coffee
  • Request a Zoom chat
  • Simply ask your social media followers “What are you struggling with at the moment?”
  • Create a survey and ask your blog readers and newsletter subscribers to fill it out. Make sure to clarify that their answers will help you create things that are more helpful and useful!

For more research and strategies on why empathy is great for business, check out The Empathy Edge podcast and book!

Why You Need to Untangle Your Brain

Why You Need to Untangle Your Brain

Every night, I do crossword puzzles for a little while before bed. Thank goodness for Kindle and it’s practically unlimited apps! Crosswords help me transition from daily stress into nighttime serenity.  My husband totally gets why I have to keep the light on at least twenty more minutes after he turns in.

Every day, I switch mental gears and recharge by watching game shows. I eat lunch while watching my recording of the previous night’s Jeopardy! No matter what craziness is going on with my work, game shows help me use different parts of my brain, embrace my inner competitor and have a little fun.

When I had my brain injury in 2008, puzzles and games were big parts of my rehab. They helped me get my cognitive edge back and sped up my brain gears to react faster. I am convinced that if I had not discovered Lumosity or returned to my word games and crossword puzzles, my recovery would have taken longer and been less effective.

These games helped me unstick my brain from neutral into drive.  Conversely, at night, they helped me downshift my busy-bee mind into park.

It’s common knowledge that sleep is the key to mental acuity and brain health. When the stresses of the day bear down on you too much, and that hamster just won’t get off its wheel, find out what you need to untangle your anxious thoughts so you can be healthy, happy and more creative.

We all need to untangle our brains. At night, we need to do so for sound sleep. By day, we need to unstick our brains to tackle tough challenges and find new, creative ideas.

Famous people whom we admire for accomplishing great things often have their own brain untangling methods. For example,  Einstein played the violin and piano as a way to brainstorm and find solutions. There is also strong evidence that doodling helps you focus and unleash your creativity.

Studies show that our brains work best and generate new ideas when we use different parts of them. A 2015 University of Haifa study showed: The researchers hypothesized that for a creative idea to be produced, the brain must activate a number of different – and perhaps even contradictory – networks.

Find ways to untangle your brain and make them a part of your daily habits and nighttime rituals. If you can master this, you will be happier, healthier, AND more present, productive and creative.

Find ways to untangle your brain at night for sound sleep + during the day for more creativity! Click To Tweet

Other articles you may enjoy on this topic:

How Our Brains Work When We Are Creative: The Science of Great Ideas

Too Stressed to Sleep? How to Turn Off Your Brain Before Bed

What’s your favorite untangling ritual? Tweet me and let me know, or post it to the Facebook page!

How to Create a Simple Marketing Plan That Brings You Joy

Do you want a simple marketing plan that actually works? If you're looking for easy marketing tips that won't overwhelm you, click through for marketing advice from an expert!

Are you narrowing your eyes at the title of this blog post, thinking “There’s no such thing as a simple marketing plan, Maria”?

If every marketing plan you’ve ever tried has made you feel overwhelmed, allow me to explain simple marketing via a story about milk and pasta.

Picture this:  Your husband opens the refrigerator and removes a carton of milk. He asks, “How long has this been in here?” and you shrug.

He opens the carton, takes a big whiff, and recoils in disgust. You think he might actually start crying.

“Ugh! I think this milk has gone off! Here, smell it.”

Are you kidding me? You have very clearly shown that what awaits me is horrific. With that ringing endorsement, no thank you. I’ll pass.


You’re in a restaurant with your bestie and, upon tucking into her gorgeous pasta dish, she rolls her eyes in ecstasy and moans in a very inappropriate way.

“Oh my gosh! You have got to take a bite of this. It’s amazing!”

With that kind of enthusiasm, hell yes. Of course, you take a bite. And enter into blissful euphoria yourself.

Whether people are trying to persuade you to take a whiff, try a bite, or buy that must-have new product, their excitement or disgust is what will–or won’t–sell you.

Now imagine if you asked the store owner if the milk they sell is good. And they said, “It’s okay, I guess.”

Or if the head chef said, “Here’s your meal. It’s no big deal. Maybe you’ll like it, maybe you won’t.”

If makers and sellers don’t talk about their own work with passion…or worse, talk about it with disinterest or disgust…are you going to be convinced to buy from them? 

If you hate marketing your “thing” and don’t promote it with passion…or worse, talk about it with disinterest, that’s exactly what you’re doing to your prospective clients, fans or customers.

To find more joy in promoting your work, simplify your marketing plan. Click To Tweet

It’s the overwhelm that’s killing you.  You’re trying to do everything and doing it all…badly. And you think they can fool people by plastering on a sweet smile and phoning it in.

Not only can people tell your heart’s not in it, but you probably aren’t consistent and effective with your marketing efforts. If you hate blogging, will you really commit to doing it on a regular basis? Heck no.

Relax. You don’t have to be everywhere. In fact, you CAN’T be everywhere.

Here’s my simple marketing plan for you

Consider two factors:

  1. What do I enjoy doing? My joy.
  1. Where is my target audience? My tribe.

Seriously. That’s it.  This intersection of your joy and your tribe will give you your marketing plan. And the great news is that if your target audience plays in several places, you have a choice.

You may be crystal clear about #1 but if you’re clueless about #2? Ask them where they like to hang out and how they like to get new information about work like yours!

To simplify your plan and find your joy…and your tribe…please download this handy dandy little free worksheet I made for you (it’s actually a Sneak Peek Playbook from my powerful coaching program, MOMENTUM, so enjoy the free taste!)

It’s yours for free. My gift. Because this issue is killing you and I want you to love marketing your work, not detest it.

Try it. Seriously.

6 Links Small Business Owners Should Click

6 Links Small Business Owners Should Click

Facebook ads. #Winning hashtags for your small business. How to still be productive when WiFi goes down. Just a few of the latest and greatest things I’ve found on the Internet the last few weeks, curated just for you. You’re welcome!

8 (relatively) easy Facebook tips that will help your business by Sarah Von Bargen @yesandyesblog PS, I tried the one about the Facebook cover photo and it seems to be increasing email signups!

You can make excuses or you can make progress. By Alexandra Franzen. Damn. If this little boy doesn’t inspire you to get off your butt and stop whining about why you can’t succeed, nothing will.

Popular Twitter hashtags to promote your small business every day of the week. For when you’re like, “Why don’t more people notice my Twitter awesomeness?” from @smallbiztrends

When you need clarity around your mission and why you’re doing all this work in the first place: Why I turned down a $100,000 deal on Shark Tank by Lisa Binderow, founder and CEO of Nicepipes Apparel @nicepipestweets

No Internet? No Problem. 12 tips for staying productive offline by Lindsay Kolowich  @lkolow.

62% of small business owners says that Facebook ads don’t work. Here’s why experts disagree by Marla Tabaka @MarlaTabaka

Now, you know I can’t be everywhere so help me curate! Got a link you’re dying to share with the tribe?  Post it to the Facebook page right now and share your sensational find! Cute animal videos count, too.

5 Ways Your Business Can Make the World a Better Place

Flashback: I’m seventeen and my mom and I are driving somewhere, talking about my future career goals. College application season was in full swing so the topic weighed heavy on me. What did I want to study?

My mom would have loved for me to pursue acting or journalism, but I wanted to study business and go into advertising or marketing. Rebel.

Some people know exactly what they want to do and go for it. But I was never the person who had an early calling on any one thing. Maybe you can relate? My attention span is too short, my interests too varied.

From age ten, one of my older brothers wanted to be a lawyer. And at fifty, he’s now…a successful lawyer. How I envied such clarity.

Some of my friends wanted to be doctors, teachers, scientists. Wanting to make a difference myself, I was torn up by my non-philanthropic career goals. I longed to create, communicate and impact in my own way, like running marketing for a city arts or theatre company.

“Maria, it’s okay to do something you love,” Mom said. “Not everyone can pursue a ‘noble’ profession. Things still need to get done. But you can still do good in the world, no matter what you do for a living.”

This conversation is a hazy memory, I’m not sure if it was real or imagined. Regardless, it has shaped my world view.

My deeper purpose has always been to engage, inform and delight with my work in order to make the world a better place. And it informs one of my primary values: With great success comes great responsibility.

With great success comes great responsibility: 5 ways your biz can make the world better @redslice Click To Tweet

We don’t all have the drive to join the PeaceCorps. We can’t all run into burning buildings to save puppies. Our work may not involve curing cancer or advancing world peace, but we can do many philanthropic things with our businesses.

Here are five ways your business can make the world a better place:

  1. Donate a percentage of profits: You can use your good fortune to help worthy causes. This type of social entrepreneurship is getting more and more popular. Why not make yourself successful so you can in turn support honorable causes? You can do this consistently or with special promotions. You could become a one-for-one company and donate an item to people in need for every item you sell like Tom’s or Embrace Baby Warmers. If you can’t be in the trenches, find a way to use your profits to support those who are.
  2. Give the gift of giving back: I do this every year at the holidays. Instead of useless mugs or pens that will just get lost or thrown away, I thank my clients and partners by allowing them to choose from a selection of my favorite charities and I give a gift in their name. They remember my brand with respect, feel good about not cluttering their desk, and the organization gets the resources to continue its good work. #winning
  3. Take on a pro bono project: My friend used to run a design agency and every quarter they would take on one pro bono project to help a community organization. They had deep values in promoting social good and did a lot of paid work for socially responsible companies. Those paid gigs enabled them to generously donate their time and talent to help local worthy causes with tiny budgets. And side bonus: the PR was priceless.
  4. Choose your clients wisely: No one says you have to serve organizations who pollute the environment or product marketers who scam old people. It’s your business! You absolutely have the right and responsibility to define your values and work only with people or brands who do no harm. This includes partners. The more you support those kinds of people or businesses, the more we all win.
  5. Be a good, authentic person: You can choose to add to the scandalous marketing trash out there polluting our hearts and minds or you can rise above. Stay truthful in your advertising. You are called to create something that matters, so offer value and substance. Be good to your customers and clients. Show empathy. Keep your word. You can only control yourself, so be the example.

Image Credit via Flickr

The 3 best children’s books for entrepreneurs

The 3 best children’s books for entrepreneurs

As I snuggle with my three year-old son at bedtime, it’s fascinating to me the lessons he’s already learning about life from these charming books.

Lessons all of us entrepreneurs need more often than we think.

Lessons on resilience, taking action, understanding that things won’t always go smoothly. Lessons on failing over and over again yet still not letting go of your dreams.

Here are three wonderful children’s books you should add to your business library, whether you have kids or not!

  1. Oh, The Places You’ll Go! by Dr. Seuss

This one may seem like a “Duh” selection, but have you ever actually read the words with an entrepreneurial mindset?  The main lesson about the ebb and flow of success and failure is profound:

Fame! You’ll be famous as famous can be,
with the whole wide world watching you win on TV.
Except when they don’t.
Because, sometimes, they won’t.
I’m afraid that some times
You’ll play lonely games too.
Games you can’t win
‘cause you’ll play against you.

Entrepreneurial A-Ha: The road to your destiny is paved with good days and bad ones; successes and failures. And sometimes your worst enemy will be yourself. (TWEET!)

Another great passage for entrepreneurs:

You can get so confused
that you’ll start into race
down long wiggled roads at a break-necking pace
and grind on for miles across weirdish wild space,
headed, I fear, toward a most useless place.
The Waiting Place…
…for people just waiting
Waiting for a train to go
Or a bus to come, or a plane to go
…or waiting around for a Yes or No
—or waiting perhaps for their Uncle Jake
or a pot to boil or a better break.
Everyone is just waiting.
That’s not for you!
Somehow you’ll escape
all that waiting and staying.
You’ll find the bright places
where Boom Bands are playing.

Entrepreneurial A-Ha: Don’t fruitlessly wait to follow your dreams, get your break or request permission. Take action. (TWEET!) 

  1. How to Catch a Star by Oliver Jeffers

An eager little boy loves stars and dreams that one day he will catch one star to be his friend. Despite multiple worries and setbacks, he keeps trying new ways to make it happen…until in the end, his hopefulness pays off and his dream finally comes true, just not quite in the way he had thought.

The boy tried to jump up and grab it.
But he could not jump high enough.
So, very carefully, he climbed to the tallest tree he could find.
But the star was still way out of reach.
He thought he might lasso the star with the life preserver from his father’s boat.
But it was much too heavy for him to carry.
Perhaps he could get a seagull to help him fly up into the sky to reach his star?
But the only seagull he could find didn’t want to help.
The boy worried he would never catch a star.

Entrepreneurial A-Ha: Never give up your dreams because success comes in many forms. (TWEET!)

  1. The Curious Garden by Peter Brown

A little boy discovers a small patch of abandoned garden in his otherwise dreary industrial city and–through trial, error and love­–helps it thrive, thus transforming his community. The most poignant passage talks about the power of contributing what you can, however you can and learning as you go.

Liam may not have been a gardener, but he knew that he could help. So he turned to the railway the very next day and got to work. The flowers nearly drowned and he had a few pruning problems, but the plants patiently waiting while Liam found better ways of gardening. As the weeks rolled by, Liam began to feel like a real gardener and the plans began to feel like a real garden.

Entrepreneurial A-Ha: Even if you don’t think you’re qualified to do something, with enough caring, learning and patience, you can create something beautiful. (TWEET!)


Image credit via Flickr

Why Face-to-Face in an Internet World Matters

Why face to face in an internet world matters

Branding expert and author Dorie Clark first came on my radar when I saw a powerful video about bravely being yourself and not allowing others to define your brand. Inspired, I began following her work: Harvard Business Review, Forbes and Entrepreneur columnist, TEDx speaker, professor at Duke University, consultant for Fortune 500 companies.

This woman clearly knew how to build a recognized and influential brand that stands out.

And she seemed so…..nice.

In 2014, I boldly reached out to her to offer a free copy of my book, Branding Basics for Small Business, 2nd Edition. If you dig it and you have the time, I emailed, I would so appreciate a kind Amazon review. She didn’t know me from Adam. But she kindly read the book, enjoyed it, and gave me a lovely review.

We developed an Internet friendship: Sharing posts, retweeting each other, and occasionally emailing.  Dorie is seriously one of the most generous people I know.

In 2016, we finally met in person when Dorie kindly invited me to an intimate dinner gathering. She was in town for business and curated a group of interesting and accomplished people who simply “needed to know each other.” It was such an amazing night! I met authors, philanthropists, and savvy business consultants. Dorie even facilitated the lively discussion so we could share both personal and professional happenings.

Dorie is smart and savvy and understands how valuable these face-to-face connections are in an Internet-fueled world. They open doors, build your personal brand and enable you to connect and promote in a friendly, comfortable environment.  She organizes these dinners everywhere she goes in the world.

To learn more about why and how she organizes these dinners, so you might do something similar, please read this great article she wrote.

You can’t just hide behind your screen 24/7 and expect to make a name for yourself or your business.  I know, the introverts out there are shaking in their boots, but you can do this in intimate groups or one-on-one, not just at chaotic, crowded conferences!

If you want to increase your visibility and become a recognized expert, make time for face-to-face connections. (TWEET THIS!)

The personal touch cuts through the clutter. Nothing can build your brand like shaking hands, sharing a cocktail and looking each other in the eye. And yes, giving each other big hugs at the evening’s end!

Image Credit via Flickr