July 26, 2017

6 lessons I learned about life (and business) from Cars 3

Cars 3 movie still

I recently took the morning off to watch the new Cars 3 movie with my 5-year-old. I loved the story and characters in the first movie, so I was curious about the third installment in the Disney Cars series. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that although the story is targeted toward kids, the movie also had life (and business) lessons for all of us “big kids” as well. Luckily my son had a notebook in his backpack so I started scribbling notes in the dark.

The Cars 3 characters of Lightning McQueen (an, ahem, older racer feeling aged out of his sport), Cruz Ramirez (a female trainer who dreams of being a racer) and Jackson Storm (one of the high-tech racers taking over the sport) spoke about facing adversity, thinking creatively, gaining confidence, finding a mentor, overcoming ageism, and standing your ground. Whew—quite a lot for a so-called kids movie!

Face (and overcome) adversity

Cruz has always dreamed of being a racer, but because she thinks she doesn’t look like the other racecars, she is afraid to try. Lightning advises her, “Just because you don’t look like the others, doesn’t mean you can’t be in the race. You ARE a racer, use that.”

Think creatively

Lightening realizes that his age may be catching up with him and he just can’t keep up with the fancy, high-tech cars that are faster than him. Instead of giving up, he comes up with a creative solution to get back in the race (no spoilers, you’ll have to watch the movie!) As he says, “I can’t go out on the track and do the same old thing, it won’t work.”

Be confident

At one point when Cruz is trying to talk herself into the fact that she can be a racer, she asks Lightening “How did you know you could do it?” to which he replies, “I don’t know, I just never thought I couldn’t.”

Don’t fear failure. Be afraid of not having the chance, you have the chance! – Sally Carrera

Find a mentor

Once Lightening realizes he needs help getting back in the race, he goes out in search for a mentor. He finds a (reluctant) mentor, his coach’s former mentor Smokey, who helps him regain his confidence through unconventional training methods that encourage him to use his smarts as well as his speed. Smokey tells him, “You will never be as fast as Jackson Storm, but you can be smarter than him.”

Overcome ageism

Lightning quickly comes to the realization that the younger, faster racers have an advantage over him. When the TV announcers are predicting his retirement from racing, Lightning declares, “I decide when I’m done.” And instead of speed, he instead uses his experience and creativity to get back in the race.

Stand your ground

Toward the end of her big race, Cruz faces opposition from Jackson Storm who sees her gaining on him and says, “You’re not one of us, you don’t belong.” She confidently replies, “Yes, I do!” and goes on to…well, I won’t give away any spoilers, but I think you can figure it out.

As one of the racing announcers in the movie observes, “The racing world is changing.” Things are changing in the “real world” too. And we have to use both our smarts as well as our speed to keep up.



October 24, 2014

10-Minute Marketing: list your marketing essentials

10-Minute Marketing: list your marketing essentialsIf you are on my mailing list, you saw my recent newsletter about marketing essentials. What are marketing essentials?

The marketing channels that bring you the most return on your investment of money and especially, time. With so many ways to market yourself—and so little time—it’s best to focus on a few marketing techniques that are working, instead of trying to do it all.

Potential marketing essentials:

  1. Website
  2. Email newsletter
  3. Social media
  4. Content marketing
  5. Printed materials
  6. Cold calling (or emailing)
  7. Networking

This week’s 10-Minute Marketing task:

Write down your top 3 marketing essentials and post it on your office wall.

10-Minute Marketing is a weekly series featuring short, easy-to-accomplish marketing tasks. Follow along with past posts here.

June 3, 2014

Round-up: kicking LinkedIn up a notch

Filed under: Marketing & Promotion,Networking,Round-up — Tags: , , — lidia @ 10:00 am

This week’s round-up features my latest obsession: LinkedIn. I never thought much about my profile, however after talking with a marketing coach, I decided to revamp mine and use it more actively—and found lots of great resources along the way.

  1. 10 Insights: How to Use LinkedIn to Build Business Success Faster than Your Competitors [Jeffbullas’s Blog]
  2. How to Use LinkedIn as an Effective Prospecting Tool [Smarter Freelancing Podcast]
  3. How to Attract Great Clients With LinkedIn [Smarter Freelancing Podcast]
  4. How I Used LinkedIn to Get a 41 percent Response Rate and 6 New Clients [biznik]
  5. How to Create a Compelling & Optimized LinkedIn Profile [Top Dog Social Media]
  6. Build a Killer LinkedIn Profile | Think-n-Drink, Chicago – LIVE EVENT TONIGHT 6/3

Have you found ways to maximize LinkedIn? Share your success stories.

Our Round-Up features useful business tidbits we’ve collected. See past Round-Ups here.

March 21, 2014

10-Minute Marketing: write your positioning statement

Filed under: 10-Minute Marketing — Tags: , , , , — lidia @ 1:59 pm

10-Minute Marketing: write your positioning statementYour positioning statement, also known as your USP (unique selling point) tells people the “what” and “who” of your business.

It’s a crucial part of your branding and marketing. I refer to mine before doing any type of marketing outreach, i.e. drafting website copy, writing a blog post or planning a marketing campaign. It should be basic and straightforward, without any industry jargon.

Your positioning statement can be broken down into the following:

  1. Your unique service or product
  2. Who you provide it for

10-Minute Marketing task:

Write your positioning statement


  • Wharton Business School: The only business school that trains managers who are global, cross-functional, good leaders, and leveraged by technology. (via dummies.com)
  • typebaby: typebaby is a line of baby & kids apparel for urban parents that lets kids share their personality type through typography.

10-Minute Marketing is a weekly series featuring short, easy-to-accomplish marketing tasks. Follow along with past posts here.

March 7, 2014

10-Minute Marketing: Write your vision statement

Filed under: 10-Minute Marketing — Tags: , , , — lidia @ 10:00 am

10-Minute Marketing: write your vision statement [Biz Mama blog]Your vision statement captures the passion and future plans you have for your business. As this Forbes.com post says, it answers the question: “What’s the best you can be?

It may seem complicated, but you can break it down into the following: who (customers), what (product or service), where (region) and why (your passion/vision).

Why write a vision statement?  It serves as a guide for how your company presents itself in daily business and marketing activities—as well as long-term goals. It’s not just for start-ups; it should evolve as your business grows.

Your 10-Minute Marketing task:

Write your vision statement.

Example – Whole Foods
Our motto—Whole Foods, Whole People, Whole Planet — emphasizes that our vision reaches beyond food retailing [why]. In fact, our deepest purpose as an organization is helping support the health, well-being, and healing [what] of both people [who] — customers, Team Members, and business organizations in general — and the planet [where].

Need inspiration? Google your favorite company + vision statement for ideas.

10-Minute Marketing is a weekly series featuring short, easy-to-accomplish marketing tasks. Follow along with past posts here.

December 12, 2013

End-of-year tax preparation tips for small businesses [guest blog]

Filed under: Small Business — Tags: , , , , — lidia @ 11:27 am

Guest blogger: CArrie Hochins-WittHello readers!  I want to thank Lidia, the original Biz Mama, for inviting me to write a post for her blog. I have known Lidia for many years and we have worked together often, most recently when she created my logo and branding. I am excited that we are able to support each other’s businesses, and help out other Biz Mamas who are on their way to success!

I operate a tax preparation and financial planning business, and one of the most satisfying parts of my job is advising business owners and individuals on tax planning issues.  It is not uncommon for me to see first year business owners, or individuals who have recently gone through “major life events,” to be surprised at their tax bill come April 15.  In fact, this happened to me (one year I owed the IRS $20K!) before I began my journey towards becoming a tax and personal finance professional.

As such, I’d like to share with you some end-of-the-year tax tips so that you can minimize your tax bill and take action to respond to many of the tax law changes that have occurred this past year.

Changes to tax laws

As has been the case in many recent years, the federal government made some big changes to the tax laws in 2013.  In particular, some of the more significant changes will impact higher-income earners, possibly raising their tax bills.  If you have a high income (generally, over $200K for individuals and $250K for married filing jointly), be prepared for a higher tax bill this year due to the following changes:

  • A new tax bracket of 39.6% for top earners.
  • A new net investment tax of 3.8%.
  • A Medicare surtax of .9%.

Reducing your taxable income

Even if you are one of the unlucky businesses or individuals to suffer a greater tax bill due to these changes, it is not too late to reduce your taxable income for 2013.  Some of the easiest ways for lowering your taxable income (and thus your tax bill) include:

  • Contributing to a retirement plan such as a traditional IRA, SEP IRA, Simple IRA, or employer-sponsored plan.
  • Paying medical and/or business expenses, and making large business purchases, in 2013 rather than 2014.
  • Donating more to charitable organizations.

Changes in the laws dealing with health insurance

Most of us are well aware that there have been some big changes in the laws dealing with health insurance. Starting January 1, 2014, most people will be required to obtain health insurance, and many businesses will be required to provide it to their employees. With respect to these new requirements, some things you should be aware of include:

  • If your company pays for health insurance for its employees, your company may qualify for a tax credit of up to 50% of the cost of health insurance. In fact, if you are your business’s sole employee, your business may be able to qualify for this credit (to pay your health insurance), depending on how your business is organized.
  • If you pay for health insurance as an individual, you also may qualify for a tax deduction or credit for a portion of the premium

Getting the best tax and financial advice

We should all ensure that we are receiving the best tax and financial advice available. Tax laws grow more complex each year, and individuals and business owners should take full advantage of every legal avenue to reduce their tax liability.  One way to make sure you are getting the best advice is to check your tax preparer’s and financial planner’s credentials.

  • Many people are surprised to find out that no education or licensing requirements exist for tax preparers. You should check with your tax preparer to ensure he or she is trained, experienced, and comfortable with the type of tax return you need. Choosing a credentialed tax preparer will ensure professionalism, ethics, and competency.  Enrolled Agents (EA) are “America’s Tax Experts,” federally licensed by the IRS to specialize in taxation and represent taxpayers before the IRS. CPAs and tax attorneys also have unlimited rights to practice before the IRS, but they may or may not specialize in taxation.  For more information on EAs, see www.irs.gov/Tax-Professionals/Enrolled-Agent-Information
  • The Certified Financial Planner (CFP®) designation is considered the gold standard by which to judge personal finance professionals. Only financial planners who have fulfilled the certification and renewal requirements of the CFP Board can display the CFP® certification marks, which represent the highest level of competency, ethics and professionalism. Also, many financial planners earn their income through commissions they receive by selling financial products.  If you desire truly objective financial planning advice, you should seek a fee-only Certified Financial PlannerTM Practitioner, who does not sell financial products and thus possesses no conflicts of interest when providing you advice. For more information on CFP®s, see www.cfp.net.

Feel free to contact me if you have any questions or comments. Take some time to slow down and enjoy this holiday season; and a have a happy, healthy, and prosperous new year!

Carrie Houchins-Witt is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNERTM Practitioner (CFP®) and an ENROLLED AGENT (EA) with nearly ten years of professional tax preparation experience and an extensive background in personal finance.  As a fee-only CFP ®, Carrie helps clients through ordinary or extraordinary periods of financial life. As an EA, the highest credential the IRS awards, Carrie can assist with the most complex tax preparation issues; and for individuals with tax problems, Carrie can represent and defend them before the IRS, as any CPA or tax attorney might.  She is known for explaining taxes and personal finances in a simple, thorough way that anyone can understand.

November 18, 2013

13 things I’ve learned in my 13 years of business

Filed under: Small Business — Tags: , , , , — lidia @ 1:25 pm

13 things I’ve learned in my 13 years of business

13 years ago today, I started my graphic design business.

I still recall starting out and telling myself: “I’ll give it a few months and see how it goes. I can always get another job.” And now here I am, 13 years later.

Over these past 13 years, Ive learned a lot. Of course, Ive honed my skills in things like billing and marketing. But Ive also gained many insights that transcend the day-to-day.

  1. Be nice.
  2. But…don’t let people take advantage of you.
  3. Stay in touch.
  4. Reinvent yourself.
  5. Try something new.
  6. Be there when people need you most.
  7. But…don’t be afraid to take a day off.
  8. Stay up-to-date.
  9. Take a risk.
  10. Learn from your mistakes.
  11. Don’t pursue every opportunity.
  12. Never stop learning.
  13. Be grateful.

I couldn’t have made it this far without my family, friends, clients, vendors and other supporters and mentors who I have been inspired by, learned from, and collaborated with. You know who you are, so thank you!

August 22, 2013

June 19, 2013

Have you hugged a small business lately?

Filed under: Small Business — Tags: , , — lidia @ 11:06 am

Hug a small business this week.

June 17-21 is the 50th annual National Small Business Week. Being a proprietor of two small businesses (Lidia Varesco Design and typebaby), I’m always happy to spread the word about supporting small business.

This week, take this challenge with me:

When shopping for a gift or choosing a service provider, choose a small business. Share your experience with others and encourage them to do the same.

Visit the SBA National Small Business Week website for live broadcasts and other events this week.

 How are you supporting small business this week?

November 5, 2012

Biz Mama: Crystal Reynolds of Crystal Ink Design

Filed under: Biz Mama — Tags: , , , , , — lidia @ 10:00 am
Crystal Reynolds

Biz Mama Crystal Reynolds, her workspace, and her family

Biz Mama columnMy first featured Biz Mama is graphic designer and mama of two Crystal Reynolds of Crystal Ink Design in Calgary, Canada.

Crystal and I met “virtually” at the 2011 HOW Design Conference when she was seeking participants for a collaborative post-conference project. I loved her approach of making connections and we have kept in touch ever since.

Speaking of connections, Crystal has a blog called Creatives’ Cupboard in which she connects with other creatives in-person and online. She recently celebrated the 1st anniversary of Creatives’ Lunch, her local gathering for Calgary creative professionals.

Crystal Reynolds of Crystal Ink Design

Tell us a little about your business/job responsibilities.

I am currently running a print design solo design firm with goals of focusing on the niche market of publication design. As a solo firm my roles and responsibilities pretty much cover the full spectrum including from bookkeeping, client relations, sales, production, creative direction, art direction and business development. Oh don’t forget office cleaning and management. Yes, I am living the life.

What are the ages/genders of your children?

I have two girls ages 8 and 6.5. My first was conceived with purpose. I wasn’t happy with my job at the time and felt that I wanted instead to work for myself instead of for someone else’s bottom line. That way I would benefit from my efforts instead of a corporation.

Did you start your business before or after having children?

I had been running a freelance business on the side of my salary jobs for about 5 years before we had kids. Once my year maternity leave was up I made the decision to focus on freelancing and not return to my position as manager of membership services at a high end fitness club.

Having children gave me perspective that one of the challenges of my position worrying about whether guests had towels for example, was not worth the stress. The driving factor to go it on my own was having the authority over my day. Flexibility required when one has children and the opportunities to be available for those moments that count.

How did your business life change after having children?

Since I was working part-time freelance in design before kids, after kids it was still part-time. As I found head space free from motherhood demands the business was my escape. Design was where I found my happy place when parenting made me insane.

As kids grew I needed space for my creative work. For me I couldn’t do that with kids around so found part time care for them. One of the key things I learned was to communicate my working office hours so earn I could be reached by my clients they could have my full attention and focus without kid distractions, as well this has helped to organize and balance my day and the variety of roles I have (designer, mother, wife and friend).

Now that my children are in school full time I have a much more regular work schedule, being house bound I have craved more interaction so started connecting with other creative professionals by hosting a creatives’s lunch where we simply meet up at a restaurant, buy our own lunch and let the conversation flow.

On the work front, seeing a change in my client needs I applied for an in house position at a creative studio and landed a part time freelance gig. It is the best of both worlds. Some regular work as well as an opportunity to work collaboratively. It has been an amazing experience to learn from others as well as flex my design skills on projects I haven’t landed myself.

So as far as how children have impacted my business you could say I have more focus and drive to be efficient and focused. I am a lover of print and I keep in my office a saying my printer has shared, “in the end, it is only ink on paper, you won’t be fretting about these projects when you are on your death bed.” Perhaps a little morbid, but it helps to give me perspective when clients or project deadlines are intense.

 Describe a typical workday.

Wake up an hour or more before the family. Coffee… Breakfast if a good day. Get kids and husband lunches made, their breakfast as well then drag kidlets out of bed, fed, dressed and out the door. Watch them get on the bus from my office window.

Depending on the day I am either out the door to freelance at a studio while kids in school or they don’t need me and I have the day to focus on my clients and the variety of projects I have on the go. (Creatives’ Cupboard, role as president for U of C Kinesiology Alumni Chapter, partnership in cookbook creation and design). Around all of this I still have the business to manage, tidy the house, I cook all the meals and work to have a social life with friends and colleagues.

Then…. The kids get home around 3:30pm and I step away from the computer to focus on them while they cry about being hungry, homework is hard and just overall sisters at each other’s throats… And it isn’t even supper yet. So if I was out freelancing during the day, my evening is filled with catching up on my client work and maybe catching a TV show to chill out then on a good day be in an appropriate mood to be social with my husband. Lately I have been making the effort to get to bed at a decent hour.

I would like to make one comment here about my day. I mentioned my husband a little but the fact is he is half of how I survive in a day. We divide up our responsibilities for the house evenly and I never hear him complain. If anything he complains about, is the limited time I have for us as a couple which as most married peeps know, a marriage is in constant flux and always needs work and TLC when you can.

 What is one tip you can share with other Biz Mamas?

Sleep. The fact is you can kill yourself to try and catch up, but the fact is your job is NEVER done. So get your 7-9 hours of sleep at night (for those who don’t have young babies) or at least make sure to balance your day with anything that will re-energize you.

And NEVER feel like you need to explain or defend this sanity time. If you are waiting for someone to tell you to take a break… You will be waiting a LONG time.

Thank you, Crystal!

Crystal Ink Design

Calgary, AB Canada
www.crystalink.ca & www.creativescupboard.com
Twitter: crystalinkdesig
Facebook: CrystalInkDesign


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