Meet Canada's Hot Mommas!

 

 

The first wave of Canada’s Hot Mommas secured their spot in history earlier this year.  These women have taken mentoring to the next level, offering their stories of personal and professional challenges and a-ha moments to  the world’s largest online library of role models for women and girls – The Hot Mommas Project.  I am thrilled to be part of this stellar group of women and had the pleasure of chatting with these ladies about their Hot Mommas journey.

Importance of having role models

Research has shown that having access to role models increases the self-efficacy of women.  Tamara Plant, the winner of the Top Canadian Case Award for 2010 and publisher of MOM Magazine, said it felt empowering to know that her story will be available to the world as an educational tool, “I want women to take the lessons I’ve learned and the examples from my life and use them for their own successes.”

These women are not just role models to others.  They understand the importance that role models have placed in their own lives as well.  Case author Chrissy Atley, president of TotalHarmonyCoaching.com states, “I think it’s super important to have someone who will support you and give you positive encouragement as you’re trying new things and finding your way through life.  It’s important to choose someone who won’t judge you and is going to be your cheerleader!  This helps to motivate me and in turn follow my dreams.”

Betty Ann Heggie, speaker and founder of StillettoChick.com, has been fascinated by women’s stories right from childhood, “I remember in high school vowing to make all my leisure reading be autobiographies of famous or inspirational women. I always wanted to know what those of my gender did to handle situations and what I could glean from their actions that would be of value for me.”  For females, having access to other women’s stories – whether virtual, in a book, or in person – provides them with an incredibly powerful learning tool.

The thrill of being nominated

Many of the case authors were nominated by others to write their case study.  The Canadian case authors all agreed that being nominated was a thrill.  Atley describes it as, “Amazing!  Unbelievable!  A dream come true!  I have dreamed of being a role model myself and feel so thankful that others may learn or even feel comforted from my experiences.” 

Heggie has spent a number of years mentoring young women and felt that to be recognized for doing something you believe strongly in is a tremendous feeling of achievement, “It is external validation of my internal value-system and that feels like I am on the right course.”

A tool for self-learning

The end result and value of a case study is quite clear.  But how does it feel to actually write your own case?  Marcy Berg, founder of Mortgages4Women.com and one of Canada’s Hot Mommas found that writing her case was an emotional but beneficial experience.  “Writing the case study turned out to be more difficult than I first imagined.  I started my business with a business plan and model but writing the case study was my first experience confronting the emotional force behind the idea.  I learned a lot about myself.”

Lara Galloway, founder of MomBizCoach.com and a Top 25 Case Winner says that in writing her case it gave her an opportunity to step back and reflect on the life she has been living.   She explains, “Although it didn’t always seem so at the time, I realized that I actually WAS following a logical path to get where I am today. And that made me feel satisfied and proud. It also felt good to be honest about the mistakes and problems I’ve had along the way, knowing that people can often learn more from those than from me wrapping my story up with a happy ending and trying to appear perfect.”

Are you ready to be a Hot Momma?

So if the Hot Mommas Project is resonating with you and the idea of writing your case study for this award winning initiative sounds intriguing, there is a strong “just do it!” consensus from the founding Canadian Hot Mommas.  Heggie encourages women by saying, “Go for it!” We all seem to suffer from a syndrome that we believe our stories aren’t significant enough to be shared but all our stories have value for others and may be exactly what someone else needs to hear.”

Rather than looking at your case study as a final piece, it can be a great impetus to self-understanding and appreciation.  Plant encourages, “Don’t over analyze it, just write. And write. And continue to build your story as you go through life. Don’t stop with one case study, write multiple stories!! The final case study will be written by someone else when you’re gone because you can never stop growing or encountering new
experiences.”

To read the case studies of these and other dynamic women, visit the Hot Mommas Project website at www.hotmommasproject.org.

———————————————————

Lydia Fernandes is the Canadian Regional Manager and the 2009 Top Canadian Case Award winner for the Hot Mommas Project.  You can connect with her by email at lydia[at]motivmode.com or visit her website at www.motivmode.com.

Manage Your Business in Difficult Times

Guest post by Althea Francis

 

The primary objective of any business is to achieve maximum profitability and productivity. Even knowing this, it’s alarming how many business owners get into trouble with managing and marketing their business when something goes wrong. Preparing for a rainy day requires sacrifices (at first) that will pay off in the long run.

One of the challenges of running your own business is all the different hats you have to wear. It’s your responsibility to manage and market your business, and if you do not do it personally, there should be systems and processes in place to get things done.

“Circumstances may cause interruptions and delays, but never lose sight of your goal.  Prepare yourself in every way you can by increasing your knowledge and adding to your experience, so that you can make the most of opportunity when it occurs.” – Mario Andretti

If managing your business is killing your productivity & profitability, then make sure you have an active business plan that keeps you focused to maximize your business potential. The business plan is the heart and soul of your company and the platform from which decisions must be made — such as human resources, marketing, finance, products/services, client service, etc. Free sample business plans can be found at www.bplans.com/sample_business_plans.cfm.

Proper business management starts with these important steps aimed to increase revenue and decrease overwhelm (during good and bad times).

 

  1. Get & Stay OrganizedOrganization is the key to being able to properly manage your business. Disorganization leads to wasted time. Make the process of managing your business/clients and selling your products/services less frighten by effectively managing your time and staying organized.
  2. Maximize the Clients You Have – Make the downtime period a time to communicate value and increase sales with existing clients because not all of your clients suffer during recession. It is much easier to focus your marketing efforts to clients you are already building a relationship with.
  3. Increase Brand Awareness – Know your USP (unique selling proposition) and find new advertising opportunity to increase brand awareness. Use every opportunity to create additional demand for your product/service offerings. The ultimate goal is to ignite an emotional connection of loyalty to a specific product/service from clients.
  4. Trim Your Marketing Budget – Avoid marketing methods that produces minimal results. Trimming your advertising cost during difficult times will give less of a return than during an economic boon but your profit margin won’t plummet. Instead, think about low-to-no-cost marketing – like free publicity in the local newspaper. Every advertising dollars saved, is more profit you will earn. For instance, calculate how much you are spending as most businesses can cut this amount in half by allowing some flexibility in the budget. You will find that you can actually build a healthier business on a slimmer budget.
  5. Consider Hiring Professional Help – If you are overwhelmed in your business, then stop trying to do it all by yourself. It is a difficult task to survive and grow your business solely with your own efforts. Beware of the pitfall of trying to do too much on your own because there are other professionals (such as a coach for professional development or virtual assistant for admin. tasks) to help you save time and money to grow your business.


The business world belongs to those with a step-by-step plan of action for growth. Using these five easy steps will help your business survive and generate a sustainable profit. A well-managed business will transform challenges (such as the economy) into opportunities by creating new methods of doing business that
weren’t considered during good times – but is necessary for maximum success.

——————————————————

About the Author: Althea Francis is a Certified Life Coach & Business Strategist at MITCEY Business Solutions, a coaching and consulting company that helps small business owners to manage and market their company. Althea works personally with clients to deliver business strategies that fit their personality, goals, and work-style to achieve maximum results. Her passion is to empower freedom in business and life by leveraging the power of the internet to increase revenue and decrease overwhelm. She is available by e-mail at althea@mitcey.com or by phone at 416-725-0598. Visit her website: www.mitcey.com to learn more and sign-up for the free success newsletter, “Passion Needs Action”.

Ask An Expert: Running for Beginner Enthusiasts

QUESTION:

“I’ve recently been thinking about starting a running program.  I have never been terribly athletic, but I think it would be something I’d enjoy and would be a great way to get some much needed exercise.  I just don’t have a clue where to start and how I would keep motivated doing something that kind of scares me a little.”

 

ANSWER:

That’s wonderful!  If it makes you feel any better, I totally understand where you’re coming from:  I was never the athletic type either, and was quite intimidated when I first decided to take up running.  Here are a few of the lessons that I’ve learned along the way – hopefully these tips will help you reach your goals!    

Make a date with yourself – and keep it.

Exercise is an important part of keeping yourself healthy, and you need to treat it that way.  Make it one of your priorities by choosing a time of day that works for you, scheduling it in like any other appointment, and sticking to it.  Are your afternoons frequently disrupted by meetings that go late?  Make your date in the morning.  Do you get a bit of peace in the evenings? Schedule your run after supper.  Do it at lunch if your days are flexible!  It doesn’t matter when you choose to write it in as long as you do it.

Start slow.  Then slow down. 

I find that one of the most common mistakes among new runners is to try to go too fast, too far, too soon.  You think if you’re running, you need to run hard – and you end up flaming out, feeling disappointed (or getting injured!), and quitting.  But there’s no rule saying you have to go fast!  Or far, for that matter!  In fact, when I first took up running, I ran for one minute, and then I walked for one minute.  I did this 10 times for a total of 20 minutes.  I was getting in a solid 20 minutes of exercise, which I would not have made it through if I tried to run the whole thing.  And remember the “talk test”:  you should be able to carry a conversation without too much difficulty – if you can’t, slow down.  If you can sing a song, however, you could probably take it up a notch.

Get dressed.

If you really don’t feel like going for a run when you’re supposed to, just get dressed.  Get a really cute running outfit that you like to put on if that’s what it takes.

Once you’re dressed, get out the door.  Just run for 10 minutes.  If, at the end of 10 minutes, you still would rather poke yourself in the eye than run, turn around and go home.  Most of the time you will find you feel perked up and ready to go by the end of 10 minutes, but even if you don’t, you’ve put in 20 minutes.  Every little bit counts!

Focus on the process and the results will take care of themselves.

Many people take up running because they want a specific result – to get fit, lose weight, lower their blood pressure…you get the idea.  The problem with focusing on the result is that in this age of instant feedback, people get discouraged when they don’t see the result right away.

But what if, instead of focussing on the outcome you’re looking for, you set a goal around the process?  A good goal might be to run 20 minutes a day, three days a week, for 10 weeks.  Unlike getting fit or lowering your blood pressure, you have direct control over it – either you run or you don’t.  You can see your progress towards the goal and you know when you have achieved it.  The best part is, when you’re focussed on the process, the results just sort of happen, whether you are paying attention or not!

Remember your reasons for running.

Maybe you’ve had a scary wake-up call from your doctor, or just want the health benefits of regular exercise.  You want to improve your energy levels and cope better with stress.  Perhaps you want to set a good example for your kids, or even just keep up with them.  Improve your self-esteem. Raise funds for a charity dear to your heart, challenge yourself, step outside your comfort zone.

Whatever your reasons, make them solid somehow.  Write them out, take a photo that reminds you of them, find a quote or an image.  Then on those days when you just don’t feel like keeping your date, take out your reminder, and really think about all you have to gain. 

If you are struggling at first, know that this is normal!  In my opinion, getting started is the hardest part of running.  You didn’t get out of shape over night, so cut yourself some slack, give yourself some time to get back into shape.  Remember that this too, shall pass – if you stick with it, keep your dates, and focus on the process, you will find your groove and it will get much easier.  It won’t be long until you are reaping the benefits of your hard work!

————————————————————————————

Karen Karnis is a running enthusiast and the “Endorphin Junkie” on iRun.ca.  She writes from the heart, sharing her personal experiences and inspiring anyone who wants to run.  Stay tuned for the launch of her brand new website at www.MyHappyPace.com.

Ask An Expert: Beyond Physical Fitness

 

Question:

“I’ve developed a physical fitness routine that I enjoy but still feel like I’m missing a piece of the puzzle. I often feel tensed and stressed and wondered how yoga and deep relaxation therapy can help me? Moreover, how can I fit it into my already hectic schedule and what are some tips to get started?”

 

 

Answer:

Great question. A physical fitness program is a whole lifestyle which addresses cardiovascular health, resistance training, flexibility and mental health. All of these factors must be addressed properly for the program to reap rewards in a timely manner.

The physical fitness program should be tailored to you and would require a live interview with a fitness professional in order to assess your current fitness level and your goals and make sure they are in keeping with the practicality of your lifestyle. In other words, if you only have 15 minutes a day to give to fitness, then your program must reflect that and not expect more.

In our hectic lifestyles of today, it is good to start with a daily 5 minute yoga program. After 6 weeks of that daily program, you can then add to it by adding on a 5 minute meditation to increase the relaxation effect. Meditation means “measuring the mind” and not some specific sitting position or hand position. Sitting in a chair, relaxed and maintaining a sense of calm with meditation techniques brings on great benefits for physical and mental health.

Meditation techniques include watching the breath for a couple of minutes, or writing therapy administered by a yoga therapy expert. Daily writing of thoughts and then shredding the papers is a great way to release frustrated anger that inhibits us from shining in our lives.

The 5 minute yoga program can be just one sun salutation carried out with proper breathing and focus. This can be followed by a 5 minute session of writing and breathing to increase the relaxation effect in your hectic life. Starting with this base, you can then build on it as time permits.

Dr. Hema Murty

www.getshanti.com

———————————-

Listed in Who’s Who in the World, a yoga instructor and expert in East Indian Philosophy, Hema has spent the past 20 years evolving as a lifestyle coach and personal trainer with a keen interest in training the complete being, rather than just the physical body. She is a Can-Fit-Pro certified personal trainer and teaches yoga classes at workplaces in Ottawa. Hema is an accomplished athlete who has run the Toronto Marathon as she balanced a busy life in the corporate engineering world. Hema currently practices yoga therapy to increase the body, mind, spirit fitness of her clients. She holds an MA in Sanskrit and Yoga Philosophy.

Don’t balance. Blend!

Guest post by Maureen McCann

 

“Many women struggle to find a balance between their family and their career.”

Yikes! Even as I write that sentence, I cringe. What is this elusive ‘balance’ that people refer to?

In his book Who’s Got Your Back, author Keith Ferrazzi writes about the idea of living a blended life, not a balanced one. “The elements you see in [your life] aren’t individual territories or fiefdoms. They should, and will, overlap!”[1]

This got me thinking about how often I struggle to balance my own life. Whether it’s coaching a six-figure executive through a career transition, getting my butt outside to run when it’s -20 degrees, remembering to pack a lunch for my 4-year-old and the diaper bag for my 18-month-old, or finding time to go skiing or sailing, I have to stop looking at these things as separate from one another. They make up one key element – my life.

My take on Ferrazzi’s advice is this: stop trying to balance a myriad of unconnected goals from different areas of life, whether they involve family, finances, fitness, career, or love. Instead, blend your goals into one incredibly fulfilling and rewarding life.

So that’s what I’ve been doing: finding ways to blend activities in my life to make it the most rewarding and fulfilling it can be! The following are some of my cherished secrets – the things I’ve learned that make my life a little easier to ‘blend’.

LOSE THE DRAMA

Whatever it is that’s taking your focus away from the things you want to accomplish in life, drop it! Tough as it sounds, it’s time to let that annoying or frustrating person in your life – even if it’s you – know that you are tired of listening to the complaints about bosses, kids, spouse, and/or the supermarket cashier.

It’s time to choose happiness over drama. Making this choice may mean choosing to spend less time with the source of your frustration. You might instead seek out the company of people who can motivate you, inspire you, or open you up to a whole new way of thinking.

Choosing who will surround you is as important as being open to new people in your surroundings. When you encircle yourself with the best people, it’s almost like osmosis; they bring out the very best in you. Imagine how great that will feel!

GET THE SUPPORT YOU NEED

In her article, my colleague Linda Schnabel writes about the importance of asking for help. She remarks about the significance of moral, referral, strategic, financial, and family support. We all need a little help from time to time; and having a strong support network will encourage you to move well beyond your situation, in pursuit of excellence.

People want to help you. It’s true. If given the opportunity to help someone close to you, you would, wouldn’t you? You might be surprised at how often we have access to the things we want within our own network (think: hockey tickets, job interview, introduction to the nice neighbour down the street), but because we don’t ask for them, we don’t receive them.

Similar to the law of attraction principle (you have to know what you’re after and ‘put it out there’), you have to get your message to the people closest to you – ask, guide, coach, explain, inform – let your contacts know how they can help you.

BE INSPIRED BY OTHERS

As a skier, I know that if I want to improve, I need to challenge myself by skiing with people who are one or two levels (or more) above me. By watching, following, and imitating these skiers, I learn so much. Doing this one small thing encourages me to push myself to go further, turn faster, ski steeper runs than I might if I were skiing alone.

Just last week, I watched Alex Bilodeau win Canada’s first Olympic gold medal at home. He inspired me to reach for my goals, strive for more, and excel in what I do.

Now switch gears and imagine yourself being the inspiration. It doesn’t matter if it’s skiing, skating, running, or pursuing a corporate career – you can be the one doing the inspiring. Look for opportunities to do so.

ANSWER THE CALL

I strongly admire Lydia Fernandes creator of the RedSphere Network. Lydia initially reached out to me through Twitter, using a direct message (DM) to make a personal connection. We then arranged to meet over phone, and subsequently, she asked me to participate as a contributor. She asked that I write two articles and share my story with each of you. Sure I was busy (who isn’t). However, Lydia asked! And I admire that – so I said “YES I’d love to participate – what do you need from me? “

Many of my closest strategic partnerships have started over a cup of coffee, a telephone call, or an email. I’ve learned that when someone wants to meet you – say yes! You never know how valuable this connection may become!

SAGE ADVICE FROM MOM

Just days before my wedding, my mother sat me down and told me: “Maureen, he’ll never make you happy”. My mom always knew how to get my attention and, that day, she had it! Shocked, I could feel my heart pounding. I was about to launch into a combination of defence/offense when she continued, “…because that’s not his job, it’s yours.”

Nearly ten years later – and still married – that advice reminds me to continue to seek the things that make me happy. Being the master of my own happiness is empowering. Knowing it is my job to have a great life and be the kind of person I want to be, means keeping myself accountable for the excuses I make when life gets difficult.

When my life is not working for me, there is only one person to blame: ME! I’m the common denominator in everything that happens in my life, and it’s pointless to point the finger outward.

It’s your job to make yourself happy. No one will do it for you – not your spouse, your kids, your best friend, or your boss. It’s you, just you.

[1] Ferrazzi, Keith. Who’s Got Your Back. 1st Ed. New York: Random House, Inc. 2009.

=====

Maureen McCann is an award-winning, inspiring, and resourceful master certified resume strategist and career consultant, and senior advisor for Career Professionals of Canada. As the owner and principle consultant of ProMotion Career Solutions Maureen works with professionals who find themselves stuck in unsatisfying careers. You can contact Maureen and find more information at www.mypromotion.ca

Interview Series: Christie Ressel, Personal Power Image Consulting

It was 1990 when Andre Agassi uttered his famous tagline in a commercial for Canon saying, “Image is Everything”.  It was a powerful statement back then, and even now it is widely agreed that image carries significant weight in what is believed about us in business.  Skills and credentials cannot be discounted, but the most powerful message comes from how those variables are packaged through how we dress and our body language.

Christie Ressel, image consultant and owner of Personal Power Image Consulting, advises women everyday on how to dress for success.  A family tragedy seemed to channel her into that professional direction.  Christie lost her mother – her good friend – to cancer years ago and as a result she felt very lost and disconnected with herself.  Rather than let it drag her down, this tragic event transformed her outlook on life, wanting more than ever to live a life she felt passionate about.  Now as an international image consultant, Christie is helping women everywhere!  She is Editor of Beauty and Style for ChicGalleria.com and an image consulting instructor at George Brown College.  Christie is living her dream by giving style and image advice to women to help them feel chic and confident!  She writes for over twelve publications about style, etiquette and communication and travels across Canada to speak at shows and events for women.  In our interview with Christie, she shares some “must-know” business fashion tips for women.

  “A girl should be two things: classy and fabulous”– Coco Chanel

What are some of the business fashion faux pas women should steer clear from?

I think trying to be too sexy and fashion forward at work. While I’m all for expressing who you are, and having fun with your attire – when in a place of business, the key is subtly with fashion (unless you are in a very creative environment, in which case you’d have more leniency). If you dress too fashionable you’ll lose credibility with those around you. I recommend using more classic pieces in business that you can dress up while still looking professional. You can use statement pieces of jewellery to make your outfit current and have a pop (max of 2 per outfit) or use things like colourful pumps, and scarves with great prints.

And equally important – make sure that your shoes, clothing, and hair are up to date. This is s must!

 

How can choosing the right colours for a particular individual affect your professional image?

What most people don’t realize is that black doesn’t make most people look good (no matter what you think the slimming affects are). Choosing and knowing which colours suit you personally is the new edge in fashion and business right now. It really makes you stand out as an individual and gives you your own “it” factor. For example, if you’ve ever looked at a loved one, or someone you know and think to yourself, “Wow, they look great today” and you can’t figure out what the difference is because nothing has changed in their style – it’s usually because they are wearing their colours.  It really enhances who you are. It makes your face lift and look brighter, you skin glows, the white of your teeth and eyes become more clear (goodbye whitening strips!), and it smoothes out skin tones so women don’t have to wear to much makeup! Not to mention, knowing your colours will save you time and money shopping because you’ll only invest in pieces that you know will make you shine! The best part? We’re naturally attracted to the colours we should be wearing (as opposed to what we’re socialized into thinking we need to wear) – so our closets will be full of things we can’t wait to put on that will make us feel and look stunning.

Just make sure you see a trained image consultant like myself to do your colours – sadly, many people do it incorrectly.
 
 

Is it possible to dress well without breaking the bank?  What are some tips?

Absolutely! There is an endless supply of fashionable stores that cater to our personal and business lives. H&M is a prime example of that – they have a huge selection of current pieces that will fit anyone’s style, personality and lifestyle requirements.

What I recommend for women to do is invest in classic pieces – so clothing that has simple, clean lines – usually in a solid colour or neutral. This will give you a fabulous foundation for your wardrobe that will give you extra mileage. From there, purchase more inexpensive “trend” items that will only last a couple of months to make your attire current! You’ll end up with hundreds of ways to mix and match your outfits for your many different moods and occasions!
 
 

What wardrobe and accessory advice do you have for women who are going to a job interview?

I cannot stress enough how important it is to research the company you are interviewing for. Know whether you are walking into a company that is conservative, formal, creative, or fun. From there you’ll be able to pick the best outfit for the occasion. But generally speaking, a fabulous pencil skirt, medium pumps and blouse (in your colour of course) with your favourite accessories are best. If the occasion is more formal – add a blazer into the mix.

Make sure that you don’t go accessory overload either – 2 statement pieces at a time. Otherwise, you’ll look over the top and inappropriate.

 

What is one “must have” item a woman should have in her business wardrobe?

A stunning blazer or pencil skirt – either of these pieces can transition to evening looks as well for when you’re out with friends or a loved one!
 

What can a woman, who is interested in enhancing her professional image, expect in a consultation with you?

Well the first thing we’ll do is find out – you! I’m looking to learn about how you spend your time, how you feel about yourself, your image, and what your goals are. From there, I make recommendations on what I think would work best for you. It’s a really personalized experience for everyone. I’m not someone that will point to an outfit and say, “you need to wear this” as they do in makeover shows. I want women to embrace themselves, their bodies, and their signature style (which we help you create). You learn what works for YOU – your body, your life, and your personality – no more frustrating guessing games. From there, we’ll rummage through your closet and create new outfits, things to toss, and things to transition with. I can teach you about makeup techniques for your face, and take you personal shopping – it’s such a fun experience! A real treat because you’re taking time to invest in yourself. Something most women forget about or put on the back burner.

 

Christie’s Picks

Books:  “Style from A to Zoe” by Rachel Zoe and “The Little Dictionary of Fashion: A Guide to Dress Sense for Every Woman” by Christian Dior

Websites:  www.wwd.com if you’re looking for up to the minute fashion industry news. www.personalpowerimage.com for blogs, articles, and newsletters on style tips, business tips, and image news for women!

Canada’s Hot Mommas: a call to action (Part 3)

In Part 1 and Part 2 of this special interview series we spoke with Kathy Korman Frey, founder of The Hot Mommas Project and learned about how this initiative is impacting women and girls through virtual mentoring.   We also chatted with Kathy about her involvement in the Project and she shared some of the key life experiences that have helped shape her both as a person and a professional.

The focus of this third post is simple yet powerful.  It is a call to action.  As the Canadian Regional Manager of The Hot Mommas Project this year, my goal is to increase representation of dynamic women in Canada in the online library of case studies.   Canada is both rich and diverse in expertise, experiences and culture.  Our stories, as Canadian women, need to be heard and shared.  There is a new generation of women aspiring to succeed both professionally and personally, but need to hear our experiences of trial and error, challenges and success to help them maneuver through it.

“Stories are the creative conversion of life itself into a more powerful, clearer, more meaningful experience. They are the currency of human contact.”— Robert McKee

Do women and girls need role models?  Moreover, do they need same-gender role models?  Research seems to point in that direction.  According to a study conducted by Dr. Penelope Lockwood at the University of Toronto, women more than men need role models who are the same gender as they are.  She states: 

“Outstanding women can function as inspirational examples of success, illustrating the kinds of achievements that are possible for women around them. They demonstrate that it is possible to overcome traditional gender barriers, indicating to other women that high levels of success are indeed attainable” .

So what can YOU do?

In addition to authoring my own case study in 2009, I have nominated select women that I know to serve as role models and contribute their story to this amazing initiative.  My call to action to all of you is to look at the remarkable women in your circle who you think would make great role models and nominate them to author their case study.  You can also self-nominate and begin writing your case study immediately.  I, personally, found the writing process to be very enlightening and therapeutic.

To nominate a woman, send an email to support@hotmommasproject.org

To begin writing your case study, here is a Video Tutorial and a Full list of case writer resources.

The RedSphere Network will be showcasing all Hot Mommas Project cases authored by women in Canada.  Now is the time to act and to be part of the solution!

Important dates:

  • January 4-31, 2010 – Official case-writing period. TELL YOUR STORY. Join the fun and see our upcoming article on Maria Shriver’s Women’s Conference site, judge announcements, and more! Updates listed on column of our site www.HotMommasProject.org or sign up for our blog’s email updates.
  • January 31, 2010 – Last day to submit your story on www.HotMommasProject.org and make a difference in the life of a young woman.
  • April 28, 2010 – Hot Mommas Project 2010 award winners announced at Women in Philanthropy Forum. Top three winners plus special Schwab Foundation financial literacy category case winner will be published in a Prentice Hall textbook.

Interview Series: Kathy Korman Frey, Chief Hot Momma (Part 2)

In Part 1 of this special Special Interview Series, we learned about the importance of role models for women’s success, the value of case studies and how both of these have come to life together through  The Hot Mommas® Project.  In Part 2, we chat with the remarkable woman behind this initiative – founder Kathy Korman Frey, who is also Adjunct Professor at George Washington University.

In addition to being a savvy entrepreneur and educator, Kathy is mother to two beautiful children – Maxwell and Delilah – and is married to her entrepreneurial husband Josh who, as she puts it, is her “third child, entertainer, partner and best friend”.  Her big issues are the aged (she used to work in the field) and civil rights, which has recently expanded to human rights for girls and women after reading “Half the Sky.”

Kathy is very proud of how The Hot Mommas® Project has grown – having put it together working part-time and in a mere seven months.  It made her redefine success and what is possible.  She has a theory now on maximizing time and thinking big, “I see many women who have less time, and therefore shoot lower. My message is ‘shoot higher’,  because you only have a few hours – so make it good.”

If you are looking for an example of keen self-awareness and how it relates to professional success, look no further.  Kathy has built her success, in large part, by paying close attention to life experiences right from childhood.  From selling Amway and Girl Guide cookies as a kid to observing and connecting with family and “power women”, Kathy has learned that key activities and people along the way – even the seemingly insignificant – have had a huge impact and have helped her become who she is today.

More with Kathy…

We have all a better guide in ourselves, if we would attend to it, than any other person can be.  ~ Jane Austen

Kathy, who has been your role model?

I have a bunch. I gravitate toward people who are incredibly accomplished and smart – and therefore could easily have an excuse to have screwed up values; But they don’t, and they know what really matters. I also tend to gravitate toward highly intuitive people who are authentic. I actually have a theory about a sort of business intuitives movement going on, but that is another story.

My mom – She could and can literally do anything professionally. She reminds me of this guy in an old TV series called ‘The Pretender’ where a genius can do any profession flawlessly. So, looking at my mom growing up, it didn’t occur to me that I couldn’t do something. But, she also taught me about the challenges associated with this type of competence. Yes, she can do anything, but what does she CHOOSE to do? What makes her happy?  I think the multi-tasking, massively capable women of today are kind of drowning in this question. I had an early intro to this topic.

Another point about my mom: You know when someone is a really good gift-giver? They just know what people will like and you open up the present and say, “Oh I LOVE it?” My mom is like that. She has this freakishly accurate intuition. When she would say to me growing up “You can do it!” it wasn’t your average pep talk. It was literally, like “You can do this. You will be good at this.” She was always right.

My dad and my aunt have also been big influencers. They are both well known experts in their fields.  Random people always come up to me and tell me what a big deal my dad and aunt are to them. They both help people at their most vulnerable. (My dad is a well-known family lawyer, and my aunt is one of the nation’s leading child behavior experts). They are just so humble, and so cool, and so smart and funny, yet so well respected in their field. I like that. Making a difference, and not being a jerk about it. And, they both really love what they do which has been one of the most important lessons for me: Love what you do and be great at it.

The “when I grow up” people…I want to be like:

My grandfather – To me he was just “Grampy.”  We had the same birthday. He was a BIG. He gave me bear hugs. But, almost 30 years after his death there are STILL people who talk about my grandfather and the influence he had on their lives. Some still call him “the judge” (he was a judge). I just love him and miss him still. We all have those people in our lives who just don’t seem totally gone.

Professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter – There is just no other way to say this: Rosabeth Moss Kanter is one of the most brilliant, authentic, and truly generous people I’ve ever met. She’s been named as one of the 50 most powerful women in the world, and one of the world’s top 50 business thinkers. But, when you meet her and talk to her, she bears no diva-gene whatsoever. You know when you feel drawn to someone and just always learn so much from them? It’s like that with Rosabeth.

 

When did you realize that entrepreneurship was for you?  Was it a childhood experience?

Looking back, I realize many experiences gave me the confidence to start my own consulting firm, Vision Forward with the original “Hot Mommas” (dynamic women who worked for my firm part-time). However, I’ll never forget “the email-of-death” day. This is when – one day during 2001 – I sent an email telling everyone in my Outlook contacts list that I was starting my own business. Now, as an entrepreneur, this one act does not seem like a big deal because I put my butt on the line constantly. But, I had historically worked in various companies which made me feel protected. I was “yada yada” title for “yada yada” company. But, to be out there on my own and live or die by my own hand was a BIG STEP.  I doubt I would have gotten there without being forced. I was pushed out of the nest into entrepreneurship when a venture I worked for went by the way of the dot-com. I thought about my options practically with a spreadsheet. I said, “Okay, I could make ‘X’ much money working 60 hours per week, or, I could make ‘X times 3’ working 20 hours per week and pay my consultants when the company is paid so I don’t have to get a loan.” So, that made things pretty clear for me: Work less, make more. I make a lot of my decision in this way. First, there is the intuition or idea. Then, I try to quantify that I’m not high.

For the curious, here is what I see as the journey to entrepreneurship which started WAY before “the email-of-death” day.  Before that, everything was a series of experiments leading up to the confidence I needed to send that email.  These are the EXACT kinds of things you’ll be thinking about as a case writer:

  • Selling Amway at age 8 – Lesson: This was forced on me by my parents, but, it was good to have the exposure. If cash is king, sales is queen I teach my students.
  • Office depreciation – Also at age 8, I overheard my parents’ conversation about office equipment depreciation and told them I had an idea. They laughed. Then realized I totally understood what they were talking about. Lesson: I understood business. My mom mainly internalized this and guided me later in life. I had no idea what was going on.
  • Girl Scout cookies – You heard me. I LOVE THAT THE GIRL SCOUTS TEACH SALES!!! Also sort of forced on my by my parents, and, there is a distinct possibility I was kicked out of girl scouts for mouthing off. Anywhoo – onto the lessons. Lesson #1: Success. I liked seeing that list of cookie orders fill up. Lesson #2: Competition – I could care less what the other girl scouts were doing, I was just focused on my own list. I didn’t feel competitive with others, just myself.
  • Mediocrity – There were periods of my schooling where I felt mediocre…just trying to keep up, fit in, drifting, but faking like all was fine. Lesson: I remember to be patient with myself when I am feeling mediocre or in a waiting period. There are dry periods and down periods amidst the chaos of entrepreneurship.
  • Joining a dance company – I auditioned for a start-up dance troupe formed by some really fabulous young dancers. I wondered if I was good enough, and then I got in. That was a great feeling. Also, because it was a true passion, it was just SO FUN! I miss it to this day and am always looking for artistic outlets.
  • Being a senate page – I was a Virginia State Senate page in high school. Again, this was essentially an idea of my parents’ which they got from our family friends the Greenes. I rode down and back to the Capitol each week with Senator Clive DuVall. He was the real deal. And he asked my opinions on things. I was like, “huh? I’m 15!” I became an informal leader of the page group. Maybe it was formal leadership and I got voted into something. I really can’t remember. But, what I remember was the feeling, “Hey, people seem to kind of like and trust me.”  Lesson: I felt like I mattered. And, I began to feel a little bit of leadership quality bubbling.
  • Being high school president – I had lost an election for class secretary my freshman year. After being a page, I thought: “Screw it!” Why not?” and I ran for President. My dad is a great artist and we came up with really funny signs. Like, one showed the scary dude with the hockey mask from Halloween with blood dripping from an axe and it said, “Vote Kathy Korman for President…..Please.” You have to see it. Lesson: “Why not?” can turn into A LOT!!
  • Founding a service group in college – I had an idea about connecting senior citizens with college students when I was at the University of Virginia. I got very into a research topic, “The Greying of Charlottesville,” assigned to me by my news writing professor.  It turned out that the two largest populations in the town were the student and senior populations. I started a group to connect them, we won a hoity toity award, and I ditched my interest in news production for an internship at a local Area Agency on Aging. Lesson: Implementing an idea that you come up with is fun!
  • Excelling professionally –  I was just built for the working world. I knew that my last year in college when I was just ready to go out and work. I hit the ground running working for Markowitz & McNaughton after school after graduating. I went on to do lots of other impressive-sounding things in my career, however I will never, never, never forget my time at Markowitz & McNaughton. They let me do things someone my age really had no business doing. It was AWESOME and I learned a ton. It was like a match made in heaven. Lesson #1: Implementing an idea – even in someone else’s company – is fun!  Lesson #2: Who are the decision-makers in your company/organization and do you connect with them? If so, and you deliver, your career will soar. If not, even if you deliver, your career might not.  If you connect with someone, and do not deliver, you’ll fool them for a while but will ultimately be found out.
  • Teaching at GW – I started teaching at GW when I was 30. I wore glasses and was hoping the students wouldn’t find out how old I was. Soon I gained confidence as the classroom became an entrepreneurial experience for me. I made up new exercises and could guess – pretty accurately – how they would go over in class. I shared them with other professors and taught them in other professor’s classes. I once used an exercise I developed on 400 high school kids! This led to my creating an entrepreneurship curriculum for Visa as well as an ongoing relationship with the Young Entrepreneur Foundation at the NFIB (world’s largest small business association), the SBA, and Prentice Hall. This interest in education has opened up countless doors for me. I was, and still am, part-time faculty. I like having one foot in the real world, and one foot in academia, so I can help play telephone back and forth. Lesson: Implementing an idea – even in a classroom – is fun!
  •  The Hot Mommas® Project– This has been a fun, constantly moving, series of experiments that just keep working out. When I hear the “click” in my mind and am ready to pursue an idea for the project, I try to focus and really shoot for the moon, and be patient with myself when I find that instead of shooting for the moon I am actually checking emails and on Twitter and looking up activities for my kids and getting more coffee. Then, I re-focus, and shoot for the moon again! I am always surprised when some idea I have is successful. First the academic awards, now the case study competition. All the press coverage REALLY sent me for a loop. I am really, really interested as to what’s next and have been thinking about that all summer and fall and driving myself nuts over it.

As you can see, entrepreneurship has been a pretty long process of discovery for me. I don’t think it ever ends. I am always learning. Sometimes it is really tiring mentally. Earlier this year, I sat around a conference table with a team of executives who needed some help designing a market research project (This is what I used to do at Markowitz & McNaughton). It was so easy, like falling off a log. I miss that sometimes.  But, there is no going back. Every entrepreneur knows that. Even if you go back to work for someone, being an entrepreneur changes you.

Stay tuned for Part 3 in this series…

Interview Series: The Hot Mommas® Project (Part 1)

It has been almost one year since I learned for the first time about an incredible initiative that pretty much changed my life.  I was always on the lookout for great causes to align myself with, and one day while flipping through one of my online newsletter subscriptions I came across a request for mentors.  What intrigued me about this particular request was the “how” of the involvement.  They were looking for dynamic women to author their own case study – it would be housed on an online library and used by educators, women and girls around the world.

I was on it.

Almost a year later, this initiative – The Hot Mommas® Project– has grown like wildfire.  It is officially the world’s largest online library of professional role models for women and girls.  In this three-part series, we will share the wonderous impact of The Hot Mommas® Project, meet the brains (and heart) behind this masterpiece, and decalre our call to action to Canadian women across the country.

 

PART 1 – The Hot Mommas® Project – changing women’s lives, an interview with Kathy Korman Frey

 

What was your inspiration for the The Hot Mommas® Project?

The idea of “Hot Mommas” percolated in my head since 1998 when I was in business school. However, the project as it stands today is a collection of women’s stories designed to help one another and the next generation. This is a pretty good article about how it came about, but, the bottom line is:

  • How – Girls and women don’t just want to know that women can be successful, they want to know HOW. Saying how to price a product is not really showing them “how.” What happens when they leave the office? That is what women really need to know in addition to the textbook lessons. That’s why we take the professional AND personal stories of women and help make them teachable.
  •  Scale – Dual income households are on the rise. Volunteerism among women is down. It’s not too tough of an equation: We are too busy multitasking to be there for each other. So, I thought, “If someone told their story online, maybe that could be like a virtual role model or mentor to a young woman.” It takes the little bit of time we have and makes it as valuable and scalable as possible.
  •  Real women, and the changing definition of success – What about the woman who is running a profitable business out of her basement? What about the woman who works 20 hours and is the happiest and she’s been in years? What about the stay at home mom who is just waiting for the right time to press “go” on her venture. Don’t these women count? I think we as a society are not really sure. Putting the stories of new and different versions of success helps us try these on for size. We help showcase women’s stories and the idea that EVERYONE has something to teach.  

 

What does the research tell us about the importance of role models for women’s success?

Role models are tied to success, especially for girls and women who have documented lower self confidence in certain career situations.

  •  Studies show women are less likely to network and promote themselves than their male counterparts and that girls and women are more likely to limit their career aspirations due to lack of confidence in their abilities (Bandura, 1992, Bandura, A., Barbaranelli, C., Caprara, G., & Pastorelli, C., 2001).
  • Access to role models in the form of case studies is a known successful intervention or solution to this issue (Cox, Mueller, & Moss, 2002). The Hot Mommas® Project provides curricula focused on role modeling and personal leadership – as well as key business and professional skills – housed within a credible, proven, award-winning case study framework.

Here is a good women’s business fact sheet.
 
How has The Hot Mommas® Project changed the lives of women and girls thus far?

The winners from last year were published in one of Prentice Hall’s top entrepreneurship textbooks, so, that will have a tremendous reach as will PINK Magazine’s feature of the winners.

On a one-to-one level there are some great stories.

Michelle Scheumann, who is a stay at home mom was not even going to WRITE her case. She thought, “I’m a stay at home mom, I have nothing to offer.” But she did. We all do. So, I coached her through how to write her case (video) and she wrote it (here it is). And she inspired Marla Isackson, a former American Express big wig and founder of Hearts of Gold, to write HER case. Here it is.  They met at the first annual Hot Mommas Project case awards last year. It was great.

Lydia, who is probably too humble to mention this, really made it very very clear to me how much writing her case impacted her life. She DROVE from Canada for The Hot Mommas® Project awards ceremony last year in DC. How cool is that? I wrote about Lydia’s fabulous perspectives in a recent piece for Maria Shriver’s Women’s Conference site. Here is Lydia’s case.

So, this is what has been the surprising part of the project to me – that in telling our stories, we’re helping ourselves. It’s actually prompted me to recruit a prominent female leader in the Native American business community to be a judge for us this year. That tradition of oral history can’t be beat. We also have another judge who is literally one of the best storytellers in America.

Then, there is the student perspective. Here is a slideshow and podcast series highlighting student reactions to cases. Bottom line: Young women find these stories real, and inspiring. There is no b.s.ing Generation Y in case you haven’t noticed.

 
Some women may want to write their case study but feel the writing process may be too daunting.  What type of support do you have in place?

We have a lot of tutorials on the site, and have weekly conference calls every Friday in January. We recommend this for people who are ready to share, write, or have thought about writing. Many women say, “I’m too busy” – but, this is actually perfect for busy women because you can tell your story once, and it will be told over and over again.

Video Tutorial

Full list of case writer resources
 
My hope is to get more Canadian women to become Hot Mommas!  Why do you think it is important to have a global voice and presence in the Project? What would you like to say to Canadian women who may be thinking about writing their case study?

The perspectives from diverse women are critical. Some young woman, somewhere, is going to read your story and say “Yes, that’s it for me – I identify with her.” You could be in Canada, or Egypt, or France, or the U.S. But, if you don’t tell your story, that opportunity goes away for that young woman. We all need to start thinking of ourselves as part of the answer. There is no secret “other person” that is going to come riding in on a white horse. It’s us, ladies. Nominate someone, yourself included, and start writing your story today.

 

More Hot Mommas® Project buzz:

  • Teachable moments – We are all teachers, and The Hot Mommas® Project allows you to share your teachable moments no matter how big or small by writing your story on our site using our “case wizard.” (P.s. Case study is an academic term for story with specific teaching points.)
  • Mentors/Role models – The Hot Mommas® Project is currently the world’s largest library of virtual mentors/role models for women and girls. This is important because, research on women and girls show lower self confidence than males. We need to help one another and make it a priority. As Marie Wilson has said, “If you can’t see it, you can’t be it.
  • Helping others, helping yourself – Many women who have written their stories have been forced (through our “case wizard”) to really explore what they have learned in life and at work and share it. I originally started the project to help the next generation. I did not anticipate that women would be helping themselves. The reactions we’ve gotten from women who have written their stories continue to astound me. I’ve heard things like, “It changed my life” and “I felt like I mattered.” There are pretty much no words to describe how I feel when I hear that. I am just so proud of these women.
  • The surprising wildfire – The Hot Mommas® Project is the winner of a Coleman Foundation Case award. The first Hot Mommas Project stories or case studies were a true experiment. I remember sitting at my desk doing a proposal for the case award at USASBE which is the largest organization of small business and entrepreneurship professors. I thought, “I’m calling this ‘Hot Mommas’, and it talks about this woman’s personal life in addition to the traditional teaching points. Boy, am I going to get rejected. HARD!” But, instead, we won an award and were basically celebrated by this organization, and later published by Prentice Hall. I continue to be amazed by the supporters of this project.

 

Stay tuned for Part 2 and Part 3 in this series…

Interview Series: Marcy Berg, Mortgages For Women

 When my husband and I bought our first home a little over ten years ago, I could not help but feel relieved that I had a partner to help me maneuver through the home-buying process.  Yet there are many women homebuyers going it solo – and the statistics show that this demographic is on the rise.  How can a woman in this situation feel comfortable and confident with her mortgage and financial decisions when you feel like no one understands your needs? 

Enter Mortgages For Women and business partners Marcy Berg and Danny Kellman.  Together, they operate the only financial wellness company in Canada dedicated to women that provides products and services to help women becoming financially independent.  With a wide range of services and a diverse team of experts, they are licensed to offer mortgages, insurance and investment.  Mortgages For Women is the only mortgage broker in Canada that offers loyalty programs such as Air Miles and HBC rewards and they provide services in French, English, Spanish and Haitian Creole.

In our interview, Marcy shares with us her company’s philsophy and unique business approach and why “Prince Charming is not a mortgage strategy”.

 

What kind of trends are we seeing with regards to women and home-buying in Canada?

The trend is statistical – The number of single women entering the Real Estate Market is growing year over year. 

 

There are many people that say “buying a home is the biggest investment”.  What are you thoughts on this?

Yes people “say” that but I think people need to get “real” about real estate.

  • It becomes an investment because you buy and hold to make a profit,
  • It is an expensive investment (i.e. buying a house for 100K and reselling it for 250K, you did not make 150K profit as you have to subtract the cost of carrying that investment such as interest on the mortgage, taxes, repairs, etc)
  • It is really a forced savings plan as you are building equity and you are counting on the increase in the market value.
  • You are leveraging 3 times your salary to make a profit 
  • As a woman, you do not really see it as an investment when we live in it, but a lifestyle which makes us look independent and of course there is a need to be prudent about the market you are buying into.  You also have to consider the length of time you plan to stay in your property.  If there are any gains to be made in the short term then you are counting on market increase in value. 
  • The lure of the “NonSense” stores have us spending money  on the Spring, Fall, Autumn, and Winter looks for our living spaces which eat into their profit, not everybody makes money in real estate.  That is why we make budget, provide insurance and look at this transactions with an investor eye.

 

Tell us about your “a-ha moment”.  What were you noticing in the mortgage industry that made you think you needed to start something specifically for women?

 I was working in the bank and I always had a bent for statistics.  I was tracking my own transactions and I saw the trend growing.  A few years later I started tracking the statistics from CMHC research and I started to realize that this was more than a trend. 

I started to focus on the single woman climate and had to throw out the bank’s method of delivering their service.  Everything became “sales” and methods for dealing with clients was getting pitchy.  I use think I would be offended if anyone spoke to me like that.  The banks have good mortgage product.  It seemed pointless to try and package it with a “sale”.  I quite after a power selling convention thinking there must be a better way to do business. I believe that the client is more important to me than making the bank richer with selling scripts. That’s when I really got serious about my research.

 

I love your tagline, “Because Prince Charming is NOT a mortgage strategy”.  Tell us a little more about this.

I grew up with a belief system that your worth was measure by the type of man you could “bag”.  The better your catch the nicer your house.  Laughable I know but that was true.  Mortgage decisions were based on the “man’s” ability to pay.  I heard tons of stories during my research from women who were denied access to credit for all kinds of reasons related to “no man”.  Women suffered through a lot of turmoil in order to keep a roof over their family’s heads.  I listened to some very sad stuff.  The tag line was born out of the stories I heard during my research.  I had other tag lines in mind but again the research showed the women in my target liked it.  I think financially well women make better partners and moms. 

 

What can a woman expect in an appointment with you?

A woman can expect that the interview will be about her financial situation and her financial well-being. How can she get stronger from where she is today?  She will expect an analysis of her current situation and that we will provide options in order for her to make an informed decision. We will not tell her what to do, we will lay out the options and offer advice. It is a collaborative relationship that we develop with our clients that makes us the mortgage broker of choice for women.

 

What energizes you about the work you do?

The results!  Being able to empower women to follow their dreams and change their lives. Everyone can move forward from where they are right now.  No matter what your situation you can improve it. 

 

What is the one, most important piece of advice you would give to a woman considering purchasing a home on her own?

 Planning: Make sure the plan is not about today, but about what it will look like down the road.  And of course all good plans go sideways from time to time so you really need the confidence that if something happens how will it be okay?

Marcy’s Picks

Books

Liar’s Poker – by Michael Lewis.  Published in 1989 and I read it the year it came out.  It was witty but at the same time it threw open the light switch for me.  I was working in the banking system and it validated how I was feeling.    I had forgotten about it and then a girlfriend reminded me about it when I started Mortgages For Women in 2007 so I re-read it.  Everything that book predicted was suddenly coming true. 

A Woman of Independent Means: A woman’s guide to full financial security by Gail E Vaz-Oxlade  – Gail’s book from 1999 was another life changing book for me.  I would not only recommend her latest book but in fact I would give it to you when you get a mortgage from me.  I really believe in this woman.

Website:  For Real Estate and Real Estate financing Marcy recommends www.cmhc.ca 

Danny’s Picks

Books

HomeGirl – The Single Woman’s Guide to Buying Real Estate in Canada by Brenda Bouw – Danny is so passionate about  this book that she gives away with mortgage approvals. 

101 Streetsmart Condo Buying Tips for Canadians by Douglas Gray – Buying a condo is not as straight forward as you might think.  This book is a must read “heads up” for anyone thinking of buying a condo.

Real Estate Investing in Canada by Don Campbell – If investing in Real was easy we would all be doing it.  It’s a great way to create cash flow and this book is a comprehensive guide to deal with financial and emotional costs of this type of investment.

Website:  Danny recommends www.mortgages4women.ca