Tag: Blogging

Holly Day Fair-It’s a thing

This was my very first year attending the 52nd Holly Day Fair at the Crown.

I was like WHOA.

In the parking lot.

Cause dude, it was madness! I didn’t know this was such a thing. But it really was.

Snagged a parking spot and skipped in the building to find the crown turned into a holiday shopping wonderland.

Vendors lined the entire place. I’m talking everything from woodworking to wine to Christmas ornaments. It was cool.

Honestly, I had so fun much hanging out with my friends and listening to the vendors stories about their businesses and products. It was such a social experience and I have a great appreciation for that.

I love love love supporting small businesses during the holidays.

Not only are you supporting someone’s dream and their family-but typically what you find at a small business is a lot cooler and more personable than a chain. I love finding unique gifts with a story to tell. Nobody wants another pair of socks, guys. Unless they’re cool like Proven by Ruben style. #letsbereal

Proven by Ruben

While this Holly Day Fair wrapped up on Sunday, it’ll be back next year and I definitely think everyone should go check it out. It got me in the holiday spirit and I got to check out some businesses that I didn’t know about!The place was hoppin’ and I’m glad I tried something new this holiday season!

The Essence of Your Business

Experience facilitates sales. 

If you’re going to have a brick and mortar in a time of online shopping, it’s time to modify the way business has traditionally been done and evolve to meet the needs.

What’s the character of your business? I’m talking, you walk in the door-what do you feel? What’s the vibe? If you don’t know, and I mean know exactly, then you need to go back to square one. 

Square one.

The vibe. Now think about it, online sales are BOOMING. The future of retail is online. No need to get dressed, get in the car, fight crowds, stand in line. Nope. Now people can order whatever they want, whenever they want from the comfort of their own home. In fact, thanks to loads of data being utilized, websites now save your personal information so making a purchasing is literally as easy as clicking a button. No fuss. Who can compete with that? You can’t. 

So now what?

You differentiate.

People love the path of least resistance so eCommerce is perfect for impulse shopping and streamlining the process. However, people also love a good experience. Think social.

Social media is practically a necessity now. Facebook has become its own Google. We jump on this platform to search for products, people, businesses, and even the latest news. Social media has the power to influence consumers. Social media in itself is now in the eCommerce category because you can buy products and services but social media also displays what’s cool and happening cause, ya know-it’s social.

If your business is cool and happening, I’m sure it’s on a social media platform generating a buzz.

If you want to get people in your door and make the most out of the overhead you are paying for-you need that buzz. The experience is key. People may not visit your brick and mortar to purchase a specific product or service, but they will visit to see what’s new, experience what the buzz is about, and socialize.

You have to create an atmosphere that aligns with your brand. 

Think about how your space makes people feel. Do they feel cool? calm? excited? hungry?

What’s going on?

Lighting? Music? Smell? Temperature? Paint color? Is there seating to hang out? No seating so people keep moving along? Employees on the floor to answer questions? Self-service? Signage?

Your brand begins when people have a need. What’s the first thing consumers do when a need arises? More than likely they turn to Google or a friend for a suggestion.

Example: I need new tires. Google: Tires in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Several options pop up. Or, ask a friend, where should I get new tires? Friend more than likely has a suggestion they’ve used before and a personal testimony of why. Now, what makes the consumer follow through with that choice?

Typically, it comes down to:

  • Convenience
  • Experience

If it’s local, fulfills a need, the location and contact information are easy to find, pricing is easy to understand and reasonable, etc. The consumer will feel it’s a convenient option.

Experience comes with brand recognition. Even if the consumer hasn’t been to this place before, if they’ve seen the brand around and recognize it-they are more likely to choose it because they feel that its familiar and legitimate.

Now that the consumer has made a choice, your brand continues on through the product or service you offer. This includes what their EXPERIENCE is like when they walk through the door, what the employee is like that they interact with (and how they represent the business), the actual product or service itself, and even how the transaction is wrapped up (receipt, packaging, follow up). So when the consumer leaves your business, their experience encompasses your brand-from the time they considered you to after you hand them the receipt and even follow up with them to make sure they were satisfied.

Speaking of follow up, following up a sale with a question is a great way to remain relevant in a customer’s mind. Consider a question or conversation starter that’s relevant to what you’re offering. Example: I just got new tires-they may ask me, “Are you in need of an oil change soon?” and add on “If so, we’ve attached a coupon for you when you’re ready.” This follow up question and offer planted a seed in my mind so that when the need arises, I’ll think of them again and I may not turn to Google because I already have that experience in mind.

Repeat customers are crucial. Not just for profits sake but for expanding your customer base. If you have a repeat customer, they are more than likely spreading the word to their friends and family. Word of mouth is so important. After all, think about platforms like Facebook and Instagram…if you consider it, all of the information being spread on social media is word of mouth. “I like your shirt where did you get it?” “Looking for a good place to eat, any suggestions?” “I need new tires, where should I go?” …there are ample opportunities for businesses to receive marketing via word of mouth for free on these platforms.

Nowadays, everything is documented in the form of photos, videos, and status updates. Ensuring your customers are having a great experience interacting with your business is crucial.

As business owners, you train your customers to associate your brand with a certain feeling or idea. 

For example, Target. Now, the symbol of a Target has absolutely nothing to do with wicker storage baskets, DVDs, baby clothes, and trendy furniture. However, Target has trained the public to associate that symbol with retail. So now, when I see that red Target logo, I think of a one-stop shop for trendy, affordable items rather than something to aim at.

Target maintains a whimsical approach. Their ads are fun, family friendly, and they focus on solving everyday problems with products which shows convenience. They also utilize color as a way of brand recognition. If I see a red shopping cart I just flat out assume I’ve landed at Target. I know I’m not alone in that. 

Target has trained me to think positively about their brand. I’ve never had a bad experience at Target. They always accept anything I want to return and hand me my cash back. They just make my life easier. Target gets me. That right there is how they get you-the experience. Could I buy any of the things I buy at Target online? Yes. Do I want to avoid the physical location of Target? No. Why? Because I have fun at Target. They’ve created an environment where I’m not embarrassed if my kids have a tantrum, everything I need is there, and I’m entertained by their turnover of products. None of these factors is on accident, I can assure you of that.

So training your customers to associate your brand with a certain feeling or concept is important. You don’t want them to think “long lines” or “bad quality” when they see your logo. You want them to associate their GOOD experience with your logo, color scheme, and business name. People should be happy to go to your actual location. Think about what gets people in the door. What would get you in the door? 

I have much more to say on this topic but I’ll save my book for another time!  I could honestly talk ALL day about customer experience, branding, marketing, etc. I love watching the retail world evolve. It’s pretty awesome.

Chill in Chilote

Chilote House Shoes

Made fair in Patagonia.These positive impact, sheep wool slippers are created to empower women. How awesome is that? Gosh I love a product with a good cause. This company gives women in Patagonia an opportunity to do what they know how to do (and love to do) to make a living.

So they’re made out of sheeps wool and get this-the bottoms are made of salmon leather. Salmon. Leather. How neat is that?Chilote sent me some House Shoes to try out and I have to say-they live up to the hype! They are soft, cozy, and warm. I love them! They’re also super cute and go with everything so I feel extra cool rockin’ around the house to Billy Joel.Each and every pair of slippers is made by artisan women that live in remote, rural areas of Patagonia. So, when you receive your slippers in the mail just know they were carefully handmade. I love that my slippers have such a story behind them.To add to the coolness. Each pair has a QR code on the tag that links to the specific artisan group that made them. It’s so interesting how personable this company is. You can even see photos of some of the women on their website based on the location in Patagonia they come from.Overall, a product that is made with pride, empowers women to be independent while doing what they love, and is super comfy, high quality, and cute scores an A+ in my book.

Check out Chilote House Slippers and their story at www.chiloteshoes.com

These would make an excellent gift for the holidays!

Waste Not, Want Not, Stuff Bought

“There’s trash on the ground! The earth’s going to get sick!”

My daughter even knows better.
I remember when I was little I used to tell my mom she couldn’t buy individual bottles of anything because it was a waste of plastic and filling our landfills. Yeah, I was that kid.
Now, I admit I don’t recycle like I should or go to great lengths to save the planet but, I’m taking small steps towards doing my part.
The first step was cloth diapering my babies. I really loved it so it wasn’t a big deal to me.
A few months ago I switched to stainless steel straws. I felt really good about this decision since my girls use straws everyday. They’re easy to wash and I don’t have to keep re-buying them. Then I thought hmm, I’m saving money, helping the planet, and still have the product I want and it works the same-what else could I switch? 

So I got the Google search intro to the “zero waste” movement.

Soon after, Jessica, the owner of KyMia, reached out to me and I was like BOOM! Meant to be.

KyMia Reusables is a local, eCommerce business. This husband/wife team sells sustainable, no-waste, environmentally conscious products and I totally dig them. 

Not only are the products super cute (fun fabrics and designs) but they’re also high quality and work extremely well! I don’t know why I didn’t switch over sooner.

The first products Jessica gave me to try were:
  • Unpaper Towels
  • Unsponges, and
  • Bamboo utensils

Jessica is amazing by the way. She is one of those people you feel like you’ve known forever right off the bat, super relatable, and a mama of 2 so she gets it! 

So here are my thoughts: 
Unpaper towels ROCK. First off, they’ve covered in avocados so, they were winning in my book before I even used them. Seriously though,  you pull a towel off the roll, use it until you feel like its dirty and then throw it in the laundry. No more buying paper towels, no more creating a ton of waste. I love it!
The Unsponges really got my attention. I was curious how these would do because I am for sure a person who throws away sponges as soon as they seem the slightest bit dingy. I have to say, I’m seriously impressed. They have an anti-microbial hypoallergenic foam core. So, you use the sponge and then throw it in the washing machine and it comes out like new! Jessica even showed me examples of how she cut one in half and how clean it was after being used. So now I don’t have to buy paper towels or sponges anymore?Okay…this is cool. 
The bamboo utensils are pretty epic too. Instead of using plastic utensils when you’re out and about at restaurants you can carry these beauties in your purse, use them, and wash them to reuse again and again. You get to eliminate plastic utensil waste and look adorable when you break these out in public! #winning
So I was hooked…and then I ran into her booth at the Dogwood Festival…
Beeswax food wrap though. Okay guys so literally I’ve been in a bind for months now because I moved and don’t have alot of Tupperware (and don’t want to keep buying it) but I’m also not a fan of aluminum foil. I cook alot so I really need food storage options. Beeswax food wrap is this epic pliable cotton covered in beeswax and jojoba oil. She let me play with it and cover a mason jar. It seals right over the opening and the best part is, you can take it off, rinse it, throw it in a drawer, and keep reusing it! I much prefer this to annoying cling wrap, aluminum foil, or Tupperware. Now I can use my natural, eco-friendly beeswax covered cloth to cover my casserole dishes and mason jars and I feel great about it. Plus it’s cute.
The icing on the cake is that I’m supporting a small business and a lovely family! 
Oh, and I love this bag: I truly recommend checking out what they have to offer. They have more products than just the ones I spoke of and I intend to slowly build my no-waste stash of products over the next few months.  I love that I don’t have to keep buying these items, I’m eliminating toxins in my home, and I’m making environmentally friendly decisions. Plus, I made a new friend!

Maryland Crab Soup

Growing up in Southeastern Pennsylvania, seafood from the Chesapeake was a norm.

One of my favorite recipes is Maryland Crab Soup cause I LOVE Old Bay anything and this is basically Old Bay soup. YAS.

Now, I am not a chef guys…I just cook things and eat them with no exact measurements or professional training…so bear with me as I share my ridiculous ways.

Okay so you’ll need a big pot cause you’ll want leftovers. It’s always better the next day, right?

Ingredients:

  • 1 bag of small red potatoes (cubed)
  • Lima beans
  • Corn
  • Green Beans
  • Cooked carrots (chopped up)
  • Old Bay Seasoning
  • 2 cans of crab meat (feel free to mix in claw meat or whatever you want)
  • 1 can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 can stewed tomatoes
  • 2 cups of beef broth
  • Chopped onion
  • Worcestershire
  • Salt & Pepper

1. Cut up the potatoes and boil them until you can pierce them with a fork easily. While they are boiling-chop up the onion and saute it with some avocado oil until soft.

2. In a large pot (remember you want leftovers) bring your crushed & stewed tomatoes, beef broth, a splash of Worcestershire, and water to a boil. Now, here’s where I’m no help because I totally eyeball how much water and taste test as I go. Add some Old Bay in there too (I add it throughout the entire process in excess) Once it’s all nice and mixed up turn it down to a simmer.

3. Add your onions, corn, green beans, cooked carrots, lima beans,and potatoes. I add the crab meat last and gentle stir so it doesn’t get totally shredded in the mix.

4. Lastly, add Old Bay to taste, salt, and pepper. I literally add so much Old Bay it is unreal. So, if you want my measurement probably about half the can? #notsorry

I recommend eating it with bread 👌🏻

Cornmaze, Pumpkins, and Hayrides, Oh my!

Gallberry Farm was so. much. fun.

It totally wore my girls out so I give it a solid A+

The Mclean family is the sweetest.

Marcus Mclean owns the farm and his dear mother can be found running the show.

His goal with opening the corn maze was to provide wholesome family fun on the land he grew up on.

I really appreciate all that they have to offer because it got my kids active, let their imaginations run wild, and definitely got us in the fall spirit.

Not to mention, their pumpkins are beautiful! This was the first time I had seen “Cinderella” pumpkins and they are a total game changer guys.

I think my girls favorite part was the barrel train and the tube slides. They repeatedly went on these while mama took a break. #justsayin

We also took a hayride which took me back to when I was a kid. It’s a necessity.

The highlight of the farm is their huge corn maze which featured a patriotic theme this year. They also have a smaller maze for tiny tots!

maze2018
Gallberry Corn Maze

I really love that they have a variety of activities for all ages and your experience is very personable. In fact, I just spoke with Jeanette, the mama, and I believe I’ll be taking my girls back this weekend!

Music City-and I didn’t even have to travel

Wooden lit up stage

Guitars jammin

Tunes flowin

Cowgirl boots & dresses, flashing lights, Elvis statues & musicians on every corner hoping for their big break.

I remember walking down Broadway Street in Nashville, TN for the first time like it was yesterday…at 10:00 am.

Yep, it’s the city where music and dreams never sleep. It’s something else.

Music City captures Nashville to a T. I got that Nashville vibe right off the bat and became so invested in the characters as the layers of the story unfolded. I laughed, I cried, I gave Alyssa the “did you see that?” look.Now there is NOT much that makes this Billy Joel lovin’ girl cry but, this musical hit home. Serious props to everyone involved in this production.

So much has gone into bringing this show to life. I got to hear first hand how the story has evolved and let me tell you-it has come a long way! It’s amazing what details change and the thought that goes into it in order to create just the right feeling.

I left with a serious appreciation for what it takes to put on a show like this.

The choreography was done by Tyce Diorio who is well known for his work on the show, “So You Think You Can Dance”. He has choreographed many stars and has won a Primetime Emmy Award for outstanding choreography. The quality of work that went into this is obvious.

Pretty cool if you ask me!The show ended with a standing ovation and conversations of appreciation filled the lobby.

I’m seriously considering going to see it again.

Like today.

Kaylyn Marie who plays “23”