Ask the Expert: How to Reach Your Financial Resolutions

Our latest Ask the Expert blog installment comes from Sumeit Aggarwal, a financial literacy coach. 

As the calendar turns to 2018, many of us are making (and hopefully keeping) our new year’s resolutions. According to this survey, eating better and exercising more top the list of most popular resolutions, with spending less money coming in third place. The first two are related to weight loss and the next one relates to financial goals. While these goals may seem different at the first glance, they are not very different in terms of what we need to do to succeed in them.

Let's first look at the health goals. Experts say that one of the most effective ways to lose weight is to create a calorie deficit. A calorie deficit is a state in which we burn more calories than we consume. According to some estimates, an average woman needs to eat about 2,000 calories each day to maintain her weight, and 1,500 calories to lose one pound of weight per week. An average man needs 2,500 calories to maintain his weight, and 2,000 to lose one pound of weight per week. These numbers depend on numerous factors; however, on average both men and women need to create a calorie deficit of about 3,500 calories per week to lose weight. One can create a calorie deficit by either eating less calories, burning more calories by exercising, or a combination of the two.

The recipe for achieving our financial goals is not that different. You can create wealth by increasing income or reducing expenses. Everyone’s financial situation is different, but often a combination of increased income and reduced expenses is what’s needed to get our finances under control.

So here are three simple tips to stay on track with your financial goals this year:

1. Make a budget

The old saying goes: “What gets measured gets done.” Cliché, maybe, but it’s effective! So, my first tip would be to make a budget. It doesn’t have to be a line-by-line list of everything you will spend on—start with setting a limit for the major categories of your spending. If this is your first budget, then let’s start with the top 10 categories. This will give you an idea of where to cut back and perhaps where you might be able to spend more in some areas where you didn’t think it was possible.

2. Plan cuts by expense category

An effective way to spend less is to get a handle on what you have already spent in the first place. Most of us live a fairly predictable life, so start with last year’s spending numbers as your guide. Look at your credit card and bank statements or use an online tool like,, etc. Note that online tools would generally require you to link your bank accounts and credit cards to their app. In case you are concerned about your data security, a spreadsheet would work just as well with some discipline and effort. Contact me and I will be happy to share a sample spreadsheet. Now, set targets to reduce spending in areas where it seems manageable. Your mortgage payment may not go down at all, but you might be able to cut down on eating out by a healthy percentage, for example. 

3. Separate your needs from wants

There is nothing more damaging to our financial health than falling in the trap of believing “everything is a need.” One rule that many have found useful is to wait 72 hours before making large purchases and asking yourself if you still “need” that item after 72 hours. Often, this helps prevent impulse buys, and the savings could later be used for something much more useful and enjoyable.

Our lives are a collection of small moments, that are often enjoyable in and of themselves but challenging to see collectively as part of the bigger picture. That’s what I love about New Year’s Resolutions—it’s a great way to take that holistic view of our goals and make a plan on how to achieve them. As Dr. Martin Luther King once said,

“Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase.”

So, let’s take the first step and make this the year we stick to our resolutions and end the year healthier and more financially secure than we started it.

If you have questions that go beyond what I covered in this blog, I’d love to help you out! Get in touch on my Pepperlane profile for a list of upcoming classes or coaching opportunities, and join my mailing list to receive personal finance tips in your inbox; I offer a mix of financial coaching and education sessions.

Sumeit Aggarwal - photo.jpg

Sumeit Aggarwal is a financial literacy coach and advocate. Sumeit believes financial capability is a lifelong endeavor and a critical skill for personal success that requires mastery of financial education, behavior, and incentives.

Why You Should Respond to a New Customer Inquiry like a 911 Call

And how we're going to help...

Here's some research that took us by surprise: the odds of making contact with someone who makes an inquiry to your business on the web drop dramatically over just the first 5 hours. 

According to this Kellogg study of 600 companies reported in Forbes, responding to a new lead within 5 minutes was literally 100 times more effective than replying within just 30 minutes. And 3,000 times more effective (!?) than replying in 5 hours or more. 

And of course, someone who is interested in your services might be contacting multiple service providers. A separate study from reports that 35-50% of sales go to the business that responds first

As crazy as that sounds, it's actually great news, because it's so easy to fix!

We've heard from many of you that you're missing contacts from potential customers that come in through Pepperlane because they're getting lost somewhere in your email inbox. We get it; our personal email inboxes are like a junk drawer where you can never find the scissors.

Screen Shot 2018-01-10 at 4.41.34 PM.png

That's why we just released text message alerts for new leads on Pepperlane. When you set up text message alerts, you'll get a text message the first time you're contacted by a new lead on Pepperlane so you can jump right on the reply.  

It's really easy to set up; just pop in to your Account Settings to add and verify your phone number and select "Send text notifications." The next time you get a message from a new customer, you'll get a text message to notify you and a link to reply. It's that simple. And now that you know how important it is to be speedy, we're sure you'll respond to that new customer as if it were a 911 call! 

If you have any questions, you're probably not the only one! Please ask away in the comments section or message us at 

If you've been on the fence about starting your business, we hope this is one more reason to jump in.




Yes—You Can Start a Business. And the Best Time is Now!

You’re here. You’re standing at the edge of the proverbial cliff and thinking about jumping into business for yourself. Your palms are a little sweaty. You might even be a little scared. OK… your palms are dripping and your heart is beating a million times per minute! You have a flurry of questions racing through your mind! Can I do this? Is now the right time? How will I run a business… and a family?!

Your initial response may be to walk back from the edge and tuck your dream away a little longer. But you know deep down that’s not the right response.

Yes, you can do it! Yes, you can run a business and a family! The best time is now!

Great! Now what? Here are simple steps to take the scariness out of it. You got this!

Define the problem you want to solve

There is only one winning strategy. It is to carefully define the target market and direct a superior offering to that target market.
— Philip Kotler

The first thing you have to determine is who you’re going to serve and what problem you’re going to solve. You might hear it professionally termed as your “target market.” Don’t make the mistake of believing "everyone" is your potential customer. If you prepare vegan meals, a steak lover is not your ideal customer. Decide who you’re going to serve and how you’re going to help them! Spend some time on this one. It will be the foundation of your business.

Put yourself out there

Share your idea with friends and family, and test drive your service with them. Think about partnering with someone in the same business you would like to pursue. Seek them out for counsel on how you should proceed. You may even work with them for a while to learn the business. The ability to earn while you learn is an opportunity not to be missed! As you grow you can share referrals and leads.


Build your Geek Squad

When it comes to running a business, there’s lots to do besides the service you offer. The good news is you don’t have to be good at all of it! Your squad can include a Bookkeeper/Accountant, Tax Professional, and  Insurance Professional, to start. But take a deep breathe and don’t let that intimidate you—when you’re first getting started you don’t need to hire these people. However, it’s a great idea to make it your business to start seeking out these professionals early on and learn from them along the way. The goal is for you to figure out who you’re going to call BEFORE you need to call them. When you have the need, you already know who to call. You might even consider hiring a business coach—a professional who is not emotionally involved in your business that can help you avoid pitfalls, and help guide your direction. (P.S. There are lots of great coaches on Pepperlane). 

Find your network

Starting a business is less scary when you have someone to hold hands with and jump off the cliff!  Start connecting with other women entrepreneurs. Connect with people that will inspire you, motivate you, and hold you accountable. Be open to learning and making mistakes. Be willing to share your struggles and concerns. More good news: you can do all of this on the Pepperlane online community. If you build it correctly, your network will be able to connect you with resources to help you grow, both personally and financially. They’ll be able to point customers your way or connect you to good sources of new leads.  

In the words of Michael Jackson, “You are not alone.”

The only thing left to do is jump!


Today's blog post is brought to you by LuSundra Everett, Pepperlane Ambassador and tax professional specializing in home business. We hope it's just the boost of motivation you need to get going this year! 

Ask the Expert: How to Ring in the New Year on a Budget!

Welcome to Ask the Expert, a new blog series featuring the expertise of our many talented business owners on Pepperlane. We're kicking things off with timely advice from event planner extraordinaire Von Marie Moniz

New Year’s Eve is the best night to go out on the town. You and your partner can go out wherever you want, party as hard as you want, and come home as late as you want! Doesn’t that sound amazing? Well… Not if your parents and can’t find a sitter!

To be honest, you should really see this as a blessing in disguise! There areTONS of people out there thinking the same thing. Bars will be swarming with people that don’t have to be home anytime soon, you’ll have to wait way too long for a drink, and you have to buy a pretty sparkly cocktail dress! No thanks! I rather stay home, save money, and throw my own NYE party.

Here are my best tips and tricks on creating a fun and memorable NYE party without breaking the bank.

 1. Set a budget

As with any party, whether big or small, you do need to think about what you are willing to spend.  Always start with a realistic number and then adjust as you go.

2. Location! Location! Location! 

If you have enough room in your home, (and even if you don’t, you can still make this work) I always suggest having your party at home. This is always a great idea for a mom like myself and our friends with children. There’s no stress about finding a sitter and you can set up a space for the kids to crash.

3. Create your guest list

Keeping it short and sweet is of course the best way to keep costs low. Less people, less mouths to feed, and less of a mess to clean up!

4. Send out your invites

The best way to spread the word about your bash is through creating a Facebook event. It’s a simple and easy way to keep track of everyone invited, who has RSVP’d and who still needs to reply, all in one place and it’s free. E-vites are also very popular. You can use websites such as Eventbrite and Paperless Post to create and send invitations electronically.

5. Hit up the dollar store

Keep the decorations to a minimum. Check out the dollar store for things like serving bowls, utensils, napkins, drinkware, etc. Feel free to also use your leftover decorations from Christmas.

6. Save on champagne

Save some money on alcohol by asking each guest to bring a bottle of champagne. If you’re not a fan of asking your guests to BYOB, consider providing the champagne yourself and adding it to a signature drink. Create a champagne punch or cocktail and serve straight up champagne right before midnight.  

If champagne is too expensive, consider Prosecco instead!

7. Skip the sit down meal  

A New Year’s Eve party doesn’t really start until 8-9pm, so instead of providing dinner or appetizers, try offering dessert. Your guests can have dinner, then head over to your party for some drinks and desserts! 

8. Plan the fun

Homemade photo booths are one way to get the party started. If you’re hosting for a small group you can play trivia games, karaoke, name that tune or any other activity that will keep your guests laughing and having a good time.

9. Create a playlist

Create the playlist on your phone and play the music over speakers. If you’re short on time, or don’t own a speaker, you can use Spotify, Pandora or your television to set the mood.


10. Bring in the New Year in style

Tune in to a TV station that is showing the countdown right before midnight, countdown with your friends and get rowdy! Bring in noise makers, confetti, anything that will be over the top.  (Again, great items to find at the dollar store or on a post-holiday sale).



Staying in doesn’t have to feel like a drag and with these simple tips, there’s still time to put something together for your friends.

Happy 2018!




Wife and mother of two young children, Von Marie Moniz is the Event Planner and Owner of Lovely Events by Von. Clients love her bubbly personality and attention to detail. Planning is what she does, relaxing and enjoying yourself is what you will be doing when you hire Von for your next event. 

Introducing the MOB NW, a new Pepperlane Partner

Pepperlane was born in Massachusetts, but we've been working with an ambassador, Charryse Bigger, in the Portland, OR area to build our first out of state chapter. As part of that effort, we are launching a new partnership with the MOB NW/The MOB Nation, a Portland community focused on connecting and supporting moms who own businesses. Below is some background on how the MOB NW came to be and how it's working to build a strong community of mother owned businesses in the Northwest. We'll be teaming up for our first event in that area in January. 

In 2012, Aria Leighty was a single mom running her first brick and mortar business, an art studio for kids. She knew she needed to network and connect with other business owners, but struggled to fit into traditional networking groups where her purple hair and paint-and-glitter covered clothing was frowned upon.


She founded the MOB NW (Mommy Owned Businesses) as a way to connect with other business owners who were also mothers. In the beginning, a handful of women would get together in their homes, with children present, to share stories and relax with others who understood their struggles. Eventually, the group grew to be a place for mom business owners (called MOBs) to ask business questions, get feedback on ideas, and talk about juggling work and kids.

“At first, I wanted to blend in and be more like the business people I was seeing in the community. But I saw so many other women that were hiding their truth. I want to redefine the way women in business are viewed. Especially moms in business—rock your purple hair, tattoos, whatever. You can still be good and professional,” she says.

By 2016, the Facebook group had grown to over 1,800 MOBs in the Northwest. Aria formed her board of directors (Eva Kelley as Creative Director, Ashely Schlaefli as Treasurer and VP of Membership, Gwen Montoya as VP of Marketing, and Brittainie Henderson as VP of Events and Member Outreach) and launched the MOB Alliance, the paid level of the MOB NW.

The MOB Alliance is a cross between a chamber of commerce for mom-owned businesses, a networking group, and supportive, kid-friendly community. MOB Alliance benefits include free access to kid-friendly meetups, co-working, coffee chats, weekly business and self-development webinars, reduced quarterly conference tickets, discounts from other MOB Alliance members, exclusive discounts on advertising, and listing on the MOB NW website.


Over the past 18 months, the MOB Alliance has grown to over 210 member businesses, six chapters, and nine monthly meetups around Oregon and Washington. Plans to expand nationally led to the creation of The MOB Nation Facebook group for MOBs outside the Northwest as well as rebranding the website as The MOB Nation. The MOB NW was also chosen as a 2017 SCORE Mentors Small Business Championship finalist.

Aria says the impact in the community includes seeing members take the leap into opening a new business getting out of their comfort zones, and expanding current businesses. "What has shocked me the most is to see the personal growth in each member. I love watching the close friendships form, the businesses double, and the people grow as both moms and business owners."

Aria hopes the MOB Nation brings “MOB Culture” and its focus on cooperation over competition and showing up as you are to MOBs all over the country. “I love to see women supporting and helping each other. Every woman should have a tribe of other women who have her back. I truly believe that the MOB is changing the way women network.” she says.

Here's a look at three MOB Alliance businesses:

Author and speaker, Coach Lia Dunlap, is a beloved coach in the MOB community. She’s been a speaker at MOB conferences, and she is one of the first people MOBs turn to when they are struggling with personal or business limitations.  With over 20 years’ experience and direct manner, her thoughtful questions and intuitive guidance have gotten more than one MOB unstuck and on to the path of success!

Bryna Sampey, owner of Doula My Soul, is a birth doula, IBCLC (lactation consultant) and birth educator. She uses a multi-disciplinary approach to breastfeeding and postpartum care to help moms achieve their goals faster and in a more supported way. Her team includes several other MOB Alliance members including Sejal Fichadia (IBCLC, postpartum doula), Anne Tegtmeier (IBCLC, massage therapist), and Jessi Wells St. Claire (IBCLC, postpartum doula).

Lyla, owner of Full Belly Fare – Handcrafted Dinners Delivered, provides meals for busy people.  Her experience making delicious, nourishing dishes for friends and family dealing with severe illness or recovering from surgery give her the skills to create meals that can be customized to accommodate dietary preferences and allergies. Many of her crew are mothers needing extremely part-time work with a flexible schedule. She also co-owns Kitchenhood Commissary, a commercial kitchen that serves as an incubator for small, local food businesses.

We also shared some more about Pepperlane on the MOB NW blog; take a look

55+ skills & talents you can turn into your own micro-business

We know many mothers are excited by the possibilities of flexible micro-businesses (small businesses that allow you to work on the schedule you determine), but many aren’t sure exactly what skills and services they could sell.

So we’ve done the upfront work to create a list of them for inspiration, especially the not-so-obvious ones, or the small, hyper-specific slices of more well-known services. For example, instead of soup-to-nuts interior design, you could scour Wayfair or Target to pick out new pillows for someone (I’ll hire you for that!). Currently more than 55 different types of skills are sold on Pepperlane, so we thought that we’d take that number and run with it for this blog post. But we hope to see this list grow based on your ideas and contributions!


Many of these skills are sold on our site currently (we’ve included links to specific businesses where relevant), and perhaps even more are services the team here at Pepperlane HQ would pay for in a heartbeat. So if you sign up to sell one of these, I’m betting you’d get your first customer pretty quickly.  

This resulting list is hopefully just a starting point—if you have a skill you’re excited to offer or a service you need in your life, please let us know in the comments! We’ll keep adding to this, and we’re excited to see the discussion it sparks! In some cases the skill may be self explanatory and in some cases we’ve added more color or explanation. Take a look!

Food & Cooking


We have to eat—every day, in fact. If you’re passionate about food, cooking, or grocery shopping (I envy you for this one), there are lots of micro-business opportunities.

  1. Home chef/meal prep: For busy people that want to eat healthy and are done with takeout. You can even specialize in a particular region of cuisine.

  2. Recipe planning and grocery list planning: If you’re obsessed with food blogs, a pro at organizing but aren’t looking to cook, consider this one. Maybe someone is OK cooking for themselves, but they’re having trouble finding the recipes they like and planning the grocery lists to bring them to life.

  3. Dessert creation: Make a killer Magic Bar or picture-perfect cupcake? Sell that to someone for their next party.

  4. Cake decorating: Pro at fondant and can make a cake that looks like anything? Your neighbor would much rather higher you than their grocery store bakery department.

  5. Healthy eating planning: someone wants to clean up their diet and doesn’t know where to start. You’d be good at this if you’ve done the Whole30 and actually found the delicious recipes that fit into it.



Many people sell full-scale home organization services, but perhaps there’s one room, item, or area of life that you excel at organizing. Be super specific and sell just that. Here are some ideas:

  1. Fridge or pantry: reorganize the contents and set someone up with a system that will keep things in place going forward.

  2. Closets: Do you actually look forward to switching things out for change of season? Color code your closet like a boss? Actually have an proper place for shoes/hats/scarves?

  3. Kids closets: Like the above, but specifically focused on kids because they grow out of things so darn fast!

  4. Basement or garage overhaul: Bins, boxes, labels, all sorted in a logical way that doesn’t make the basement a scary place.  

  5. Art work: Kids bring home lots of it and no one wants to hurt their feelings by throwing it out. Come up with a plan for sorting through and displaying it in a way that works for everyone.

  6. Organize my inbox, tabs, folders, triggers, filters: I really wish I could be one of those people that has the perfect folder, color, and tab for every piece of correspondence that hits their inbox and actually adheres to that system.

  7. Finances: Get someone set up with the online (or offline—hello envelopes!) tools for organizing their personal finances and getting good budgets and systems in place.

  8. Book all my appointments/things I have been putting off: Enough said.

  9. Pack a family for vacation: If you pack your suitcases days before vacation and have traveled with your family enough times to know exactly what’s needed, this one’s for you.

  10. Calendar planning for parents: Help a busy parent schedule appointments, various kids’ extracurriculars and figure out where they’ll need childcare or transportation help to make it all helping

  11. College move-in prep: It’s an emotional roller coaster when a kid goes to college and also a very logistic-heavy time. Help an overwhelmed family with dorm packing, shopping, and other planning to navigate this major life change.

  12. Photo organizing: Organize overflowing boxes, computers and phones full of photo files. Go a step further and put them into beautiful displays or books.

  13. Fitness routine planning: No need to physically train anyone. Work with clients based on their goals, come up with a recommendation of fitness activities, gym classes, and the schedule to fit it into their life.

  14. Picking up prescriptions and other essentials: From the woman who has left her prescriptions at CVS for weeks on end, despite their incessant automatic phone calls

  15. Ebay reselling: So many ways to offload and make money from stuff you are done with, but many people can’t get around to it. Open up your own virtual consignment shop by helping them resell on eBay and more

Business & Communications


Take the talents you’ve honed over the years and offer them to small businesses or non profits on a more flexible basis.

  1. Negotiating: Coach someone on learning to advocate for themselves, in anything from a tough situation at work to asking for a refund for a service they’re not pleased with.   

  2. Emails: No one loves them, everyone’s got to write them. Write a small business’ marketing emails to customers, in areas like welcomes, announcements, promotions, sales, and more.  

  3. Cold outreach emails: Perhaps even more painful than most emails. In business it’s always good to go in with a warm connection, sometimes you just have to reach out cold. If you’ve mastered this art, coach someone on how to write good pitch emails that get answered.

  4. Communications and tact: Similar to negotiating, but a step further. Perhaps a business owner needs help creating a compelling case for a potential client who doesn’t want to pay them what they’re asking for, or addressing other customer conflicts. This is a business I’d run myself if I didn’t work for Pepperlane, so it’s all yours!

  5. Slide deck creation: I envy people who can make beautiful and thoughtful PowerPoint decks in business settings. Mine always end up having too much text. If you’re a master at making cohesive points and pulling in the right visuals, there’s a great market for you.

  6. Market research: Track down stats and statistics to support someone else’s slide decks, business pitches, product planning, and more.

  7. Office setup/decorating for collaboration and morale boosting: I have a friend who set his office up with lightbulbs that flashed different colors as the company hit their goals, which was super motivating for all. If you have creative hacks to help offices look and feel their best, sell that!  

  8. Customer service assistance: Answer online product questions, returns and exchange requests, and other customer service needs that will help a small business (or non profit) put their best foot forward.

  9. Social media content planning: Busy executives need to know what’s happening in their industry, but don’t have the time to read all the articles or follow all the relevant people. Do this for them, hand off the right tweets to share, and make them look great in the process.



Whether it’s providing flexible, creative activities and outlets for kids to making it easier for parents to throw parties, there are lots of options here to suit a whole range of passions and talents

  1. Music lessons for kids and babies: So many instruments, so many ages to benefit from music.

  2. Art lessons: Same, but with all the different visual art mediums.

  3. Museum outings: Organize outings to art museums and more. Especially helpful for mothers with multiple kids or new babies, but toddlers who still need to have fun!

  4. Wine advice: This one’s for the parents (or the adult who’s running the kids outings ;)). No need to be a sommelier or even have a license. Joanne helps people come up with the perfect pairings for parties and other intimate social outings and leaves the purchasing to them.

  5. Party themes: Cute first birthday parties are all the rage but there is no way I’m going to plan one. Help me!

  6. Party favors: Go a layer deeper and just focus on creative trinkets for guests to take away

  7. Summer vacation planning for family: Camps, playdates, travel, and more. Lots of free time to kill and lots of ways it could go. Help a family scour the options in the area, understand the costs, and make smart decisions that keep things running as smooth as they did during the school year. Do some of the entertaining yourself even!

Home Management & Cleaning


There are lots of great generalists when it comes to cleaning, but not everyone needs a frequent house cleaner, or they may just want to outsource that deep cleaning tasks that are the toughest to drum up the motivation for. Here are some ideas.

  1. Handywomen: Patch up holes, hammer in nails, tackle the repairs that so many of us ignore for months (or years).

  2. Window washing: Speaking of, I’m pretty sure people go on for years without doing this, and once done it instantly elevates a space.  

  3. Deep floor cleaning (and moving all my stuff to go with it): So necessary, so hard to do!

  4. Cabinet cleaning, kitchen counter conditioning: in the theme of deep cleaning things that are important but hard to do.   

  5. Laundry: It never ends. New York City has lots of laundry services; they are harder to come by in the suburbs where people have washing machines in home, but they still seem incredibly helpful.

  6. Household management: Laundry folding and organization, packing kids’ lunches and daycare bags, creating lists for errands, and more.  

  7. Home Depot planning and shopping: This place takes hours off my family’s life and seems so hard to navigate. Come up with a plan for me to get what I need out of it and get out.



Cheryl’s business (tech consulting that connects tech-savvy teens with adults who are, well, less skilled at understanding their smart phones) is a brilliant example of the problems to be solved here.

  1. Think through apps I need in my life: As someone who previously worked at an app company, I know how useful they can be—but there are so many out there it’s hard to know where to begin. If you’re on top of the tech and gadget blogs, turn your passion into something that can improve the quality of someone else’s life.

  2. Computer shortcut help: Help someone make the most of their computer and iPad’s tricks and shortcuts so they’re not wasting time on things they shouldn’t be

  3. Graphic design software lessons: If you’re well-versed in a software like Adobe Photoshop (or any others), help someone get up to speed and empowered to create their own simple graphics and more.

  4. Camera lessons: Teach simple tricks to help someone take better pictures of their dogs or kids.

Design & Style


Pinterest and HGTV have really brought the creative and design talent out of people. If you want to share your passion with the world, there are lots of simple, resourceful ways to do it.

  1. Individual room design: Sara focuses on kids’ rooms but maybe you can’t get enough of subway tile and bathroom design Pinterest boards.  

  2. Pillow, lighting, rug, etc refresh: So many places to buy decor these days that it can make it hard to pull the trigger. Ease someone’s anxiety by understanding their design tastes, budgets, and scouring big websites and stores for a range of options for them to choose from.  

  3. Shop at Ikea/Target/Salvation Army/you name it: Take it a step further and shop through physical stores for additional inspiration. Bonus points if you like to hit up thrift or antique shops!

  4. Holiday decorating: Bring your love of all things festive to someone else’s home.

  5. Pick paint colors: I nominate my mother for this. She can pick out a specific Benjamin Moore color on sight and knows exactly which beige is too green (apparently beige has green in it?). Someone else out there has to be like her, right?

  6. Hang up pictures post move: Raise your hand if you’ve left your walls blank for an embarrassing amount of time after moving into a new place? If only there were someone to pick out and measure frames and figure out your art and photos to go in them. That someone could be you.

  7. Renovation organization: Lots of old homes in the Boston area in need of upgrades and lots of HGTV to make people want to buy their own fixer uppers. Surely they’ll need help sorting through plans, vendors, and more.

  8. Small repair coordination: Source electricians, plumbers, and other handy-people and book appointments.

Now’s your turn. Tell us what YOU dream of doing, if only someone would pay you! Chances are they would, and that there’s a simple resource for getting started (that’s Pepperlane). Let us know in the comments what dream business or service we didn’t cover, and go ahead and take the plunge.

P.S. We know many people rightfully are concerned about legal liabilities when getting into businesses for themselves. But Mellinda has a great hack to save you time: focus on getting insurance over other more costly legal services like setting up an LLC. A broker will help you get to where you need to go, so your bases are covered without wasting time or money. 


October is Women’s Small Business Month and you’re our reason for celebrating

It’s all in the title. To celebrate the last 10 days of this awesome month, we brought together a dream team of Pepperlane businesses to offer their services to help you be YOUR best. We’re awarding our Women’s Small Business Giveaway to one lucky Pepperlane member at random!


What’s included?

Business coaching with Rebecca Moore: Fine-tune your objectives and build the confidence to go (or grow) for it! (15-minute intro session plus 1-hour strategy session)

Uncover your distinct value session with Robyn Mather: Know how to position your natural advantages into messages that help you get clients, get hired and get ahead. (45 minutes)

Social media consulting with Stephani Roberts: Learn the basics and how to maximize your impact for your business. (1-hour Zoom call recorded, so you can revisit later!)

Accounting guidance with LuSundra Everett: Understand how to set yourself up for tax success. (1 hour)

Customer service assistance with Zoe Pirnie: Help setting up appointments and following up with customers. (3 hours)

How to enter?

It’s simple. Sign up for Pepperlane, work on your Pepperlane website with an approved service to sell and make sure you’ve hit "Apply to Sell" before the end of October (the 31st at midnight Pacific Time, to be exact, for you West Coast people!). You can start your Pepperlane website from your dashboard, where it clearly shows what pieces you need to have in order to apply. 

If you’ve already applied to sell on Pepperlane, you’re automatically entered.

You’ll also get one additional entry for each person who you refer to sell her services on Pepperlane (she’ll just need to mention your name as the referral source when she signs up). We’ll notify the winner on November 1st!

Full contest terms are here

Do I need to be in Massachusetts?

No! These services can all be offered via phone or video chat, so we welcome business owners from all over the U.S. to apply and have a shot at winning. And it’s a great reason to share Pepperlane with your friends in other states who have been looking to get involved!

Is this a good fit for my business?

YES. Whatever stage you’re in, we think this collection of services will give you the boost you need to take the next steps and go farther. That’s why we made apply to sell our entry point: things don’t have to be perfect when you apply and taking the step to start is something that should be celebrated! Even if you don’t win, each of these experts will be sharing their tips and tricks on our blog in the coming month so you still get the boost you need.

If you’re thinking about starting your business or are just getting off the ground

Your session with Rebecca will help you identify your strengths and goals and build confidence, Robyn will guide you through presenting yourself effectively for your very first customers, Stephani will make sure you spend your time on the social media channels that can help you most, LuSundra will make sure questions about taxes aren’t an obstacle to starting,  and Zoe will make sure that administrative details don’t have to bog you down.

For businesses who have been at it longer

Rebecca will help you outline goals and work towards them, Robyn’s branding guidance is sure to make your existing messaging that much better, Stephani will help you spend your time on social media most effectively, LuSundra can identify areas for improvements in your tax practices, and Zoe will bring some organization to areas of chaos.

Now go ahead and get started! Or spread the word to another friend you know who has been thinking about starting! Let’s make these last 10 days of Women’s Small Business Month awesome.

Mothers, Manage that Mental Load with Marie Levey-Pabst

If you've ever felt overworked, overwhelmed, and like you can't quite get a handle on life's many competing responsibilities (raises hand), Marie Levey-Pabst's service is for you. Through her business Create Balance, she works with busy working parents to reclaim their time and energy—she believes that we all have the right to create balance on our own terms, and to be in charge of how our time and mental space is used.

Read on to learn what led Marie to start her business and how you can win an hour with her for your very own "Get Organized" session! 

Why Marie Started Create Balance


Before I had children I was a pinnacle of organization and control. I always met my deadlines, had a clear to-do list, and was ambitious and driven in my career. I was going to be a leader in my field and have a nation-wide impact on the field of adolescent literacy

And then I had my first child.

I really was naive. I was so excited to have my son and to turn my partnership with my husband into a new type of family. I knew that life would be different after I added the role “mom” to my roles of teacher, wife, friend, and community member. I thought I could handle it all with a planner, a notebook, and a good sleep-tracking app.

I was really naive.

My world was turned upside down the day my son was born, and I was struggling to find equilibrium again.

When my daughter was born two years later I decided it was time to really figure some things out. I didn’t want to keep living a life where I was too frenzied to know what was happening around me and too busy to even know what moment I was in, let alone appreciate it and be able to store it in my memory. I often felt like I missed out on my son’s first two years not because I was physically absent, but because my mind and soul were too worn down to pay attention. I wanted to stop being a victim of a society that both glorifies and shames mothers, who says it values women who “do it all” but then provides some of the worst family leave policies in the world.

I was done trying to “find” balance in the crappy choices I was given. I was ready to Create Balance in my life on my terms.

From that drive (and the research and practice and learning that followed) I developed two systems that let me create a balanced life on my terms day after day:

  • The Organized Parent Organizational System

  • The Create Balance Method

These are the systems I use. These are the systems I teach. These are also the systems that tie together the Create Balance community of parents who are dedicated to creating balance on their terms and recognize that this journey is one that we go on collectively.
I still struggle. Some days are better than others. But I’ve created a pretty amazing map to guide me on this journey. And I’m excited to share that map, and a ton of other tools, with you.


I think we all need some of Marie's approach in our lives, and the good news is you could win a "get organized" session with her, thanks to our Mothers' Self-Care Giveaway. Enter below for a shot at it, plus four other self-care services from Pepperlane businesses. 

In your one-hour session with Marie (worth $100), you'll discuss your mental load (learn more here!), make it visible, and then set up a system to keep that mental load out of your head. The result? More mental space to focus on what matters most to you.

Can't wait to see if you win? We understand. You can also get in touch with Marie now.  

We’re Giving Away Over $500 Worth of Local Self-Care Services for Mothers!

As mothers, we know it can be extremely hard to prioritize self-care. To help you out, we’ve teamed up with five amazing Pepperlane businesses from Medford, Cambridge, Arlington, and Belmont, to create our first-ever Mothers’ Self-Care Giveaway!

You can enter the giveaway by following the steps above! Better yet, you can unlock additional entries into the giveaway through connecting with us on social media, and getting your friends to enter the giveaway as well. That means more chances to win! The giveaway runs from September 26th through October 12th and we’ll randomly draw one winner at the end of it Go ahead and enter—you deserve it!

The Mothers’ Self Care Giveaway includes:

A “Get Organized” session for busy parents with Marie Levey-Pabst

Medford, MA

ProfilePic (1) - Marie Levey-Pabst.png

Marie helps working parents reclaim their time and energy and maximize what they spend on the things that matter most. You know that swirl of remembering, noticing, and planning that you do in your head . . . constantly? It's called the "mental load" and it's not just you—plenty more people (especially parents and caretakers) carry it. (Learn more here!) In your one-hour session with Marie (worth $100), you'll discuss your mental load, make it visible, and then set up a system to keep that mental load out of your head. The result? More mental space to focus on what matters most to you.

A SwapIt Light closet styling session with Stefanie Johnson

Medford, MA


Stefanie created SwapIt because she knew she didn’t need a $5,000 shopping spree to make her style happen; she wanted to make the most out of what she already owned. In this 1-hour session (worth $125), you'll be able to dial into the styling topics that matter most to you! That includes things like packing for a trip, planning next week's outfits, matching up some skirts, find something to wear to a conference, weeding out t-shirts—the list goes on! Stefanie and team will get to know you, go through their workbook, and work together to shop your closet and create outfits to match your needs and goals for the session.

12 meals and a loaf of fresh-baked bread from Ashlee Thompson

Cambridge, MA

IMG_0771 - Ashlee Thompson.JPG

When Ashlee found herself stuck in a job that she didn't enjoy, she dove right into learning everything she could about cooking, an area she had always felt drawn to. She is finishing her bachelor’s with hopes to one day open a bakery. Her meal giveaway (worth over $100) will feed a family of four three times, and you can choose exactly how you want to break those up (three dinners or one day’s full of breakfast, lunch, and dinner, for example).

A wellness coaching session with Danielle Gottesman

Arlington, MA

IMG_9610 - birdie benaroche.JPG

After nearly twenty years as a Pilates instructor with a passion for wellness, a formal education as a Wellness Coach led Danielle to specialize in self care for individuals, and food allergy consults for families. During her coaching session (worth over $100), Danielle will review the client’s goals and take stock of areas of life that need work to come up with an approach to move them closer to achieving those goals, in areas from food to mediation, and much more.

A fitness assessment with Kim Raubenheimer

Belmont, MA

RR wiped.jpg

Kim created Your Health Sense, a nutrition and fitness coaching company, in the late 90's. She was determined to learn all she could about nutrition, fitness, sleep, stress, hydration, and movement and what it does for the body. Now in her 50's she feels better than she did in her 20's. During this 45-minute session with Kim (worth $100), you'll get an assessment and analysis of your posture and functional movements. Interested mothers can even get a diastasis recti assessment, if requested. At the end you'll have recommendations made based on the goals you discussed.

Stay tuned over the next few weeks as we share a bit more about the women behind each of these amazing services on our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts. 


What’s Pepperlane?

For those who are new here, Pepperlane is an online platform that helps mothers turn their ideas, passions, and skills into businesses that fit into their lives. We provide our members with a high-quality website template that allows them to create a customer-ready storefront for their businesses, and immediate exposure to a community that’s excited to support moms.

Giveaway Winner Fine Print

All prizes offered in the giveaway are services sold by Massachusetts-area businesses, that typically service a small radius of towns. People from all over the U.S. are eligible to enter the giveaway, but are Winner is responsible for travel to redeem the services. In some cases services may be able to be offered remotely. No part of any prize is redeemable for cash, regardless of reason.  For full Giveaway Terms, click the Terms & Conditions on the entry widget above 

Announcing the Winners of Pepperlane's First Build a Business Competition in Lexington!

Yesterday at our members conference To Begin, Begin we had the privilege of awarding the winners of our first ever Build a Business Competition in Lexington. We launched the competition earlier this spring to celebrate our first chapter in Lexington (a lot of firsts happening around here), and to encourage our members there to spread the word about their businesses and ask for help (something that can be really hard for mothers!).

We awarded three grants, ranging from $500 to $2000, and are also offering each winner a $250 credit to spend with a business in Pepperlane. Congratulations to Robin, Sairey, and Sonia for taking the top spots! Read below to learn a bit more about this diverse set of businesses and how they plan to spend the award money.

1st Place: Robin Fishkind, Dog walking and pet care

Grant Winner Quotes - Robin (1).png

Robin brings pet owners peace of mind while they are away, through dog walks, outings and boardings with her business, Zen Paws. She plans to use her prize money for a much-needed new computer, training, and organizational help.

2nd Place: Sairey Luterman, grief counselor

Grant Winner Quotes - Sairey.png


Sairey works with individuals who have suffered a loss and need support and compassion while they grieve, through Sairey Luterman Grief Support. She has many ideas for how to spend her prize money, including: purchasing craft materials for when she works with teens, completing her Death Doula training to better serve her clients, purchasing books for a lending library, and buying comfortable furniture and accessories for her office.

3rd Place: Sonia DeMarta, personal chef

Grant Winner Quotes - Sonia.png

Sonia keeps busy families well fed with cooking instruction and home cooking through her business, From Seed to Supper.  She plans to invest in acupuncture to help her feet from standing and her tennis elbow from chopping. She'd also like to take a few cooking classes, and maybe a class on simple accounting. 


Thank you to all of our Lexington members (and those who voted for them) for participating in this experience and stay tuned to see what's next! 

Introducing Payments on Pepperlane: Get paid faster!

Everything we do at Pepperlane is meant to support our mission of empowering mothers to start and grow businesses that fit into their lives. We’ve heard from many of our members that asking for money is awkward and figuring out how to actually accept payments is a pain, so we’ve recently added the capabilities to do just that—without having to leave Pepperlane.

We’ve partnered with Stripe, one of the largest secure payment processing platforms in the US, to allow you to securely, conveniently, and quickly request and receive payments from your customers, using all major credit and debit cards.



Why process customer payments through Pepperlane?

  • Some of you may already use cash, checks, or other third-party online payment tools with your customers, but there are several perks for using our Stripe-powered system:

  • No separate invoicing needed. The notes you input when you send the payment request to a customer can take the place of a traditional invoice.

  • You’ll automatically get an accurate record of the payments you’ve received, making it easy to track your total income. You can even track when a customer pays you via another method, like cash or check.

  • You’ll protect your customers. Our secure payment interface means there’s no need for you to handle or store customers’ sensitive payment information directly.

  • There’s no upfront cost. And Stripe’s low per-transaction fees (2.9% of transaction total plus $0.30) are automatically deducted from payments to further simplify your income reporting.

  • Automated follow up with customers. Testimonials and reviews are so important for marketing your service, and the confirmation email your customers get automatically remind them to review your service. One less thing for you to think about!  

You can learn more about payments setup and best practices in our comprehensive support guide.  This is a big step forward for the Pepperlane product and our mission to help you run your business and do what you love! We can’t wait to see you use it, and we’re excited for many great updates to follow this fall.

Screen Shot 2017-09-06 at 9.44.19 AM.png

How I Turned My Hobby Into a Business & Did Something For Myself

Jana Blanchette is a Sudbury, MA-based mother of three who sells custom memory quilts on Pepperlane. She takes articles and pieces of clothing important to you or even of loved ones you've lost and turns them into memory quilts that last a lifetime. We spoke with Jana about how she got her business off the ground and how Pepperlane has helped her do what she loves and still have the flexibility she needs as a mother

....when I started doing my custom quilts for people I found this new energy inside of me. And in a way it almost, I think, made me a better mother. Because I had more to focus on than just my kids and my family. I was doing something truly for myself for the first time in 12 years.
— Jana

PL: How did you get your start with your quilting service?

JB: I started sewing at a young age. I was taught by my mom and I actually took a few lessons, mainly on clothes construction. But that’s not something I was truly interested in—I went to high school, college, never touched a sewing machine. After I graduated from college and I got my first tax refund, I actually spent it on a sewing machine and quilting lessons twenty years ago—I’m sure that’s what most people do with their tax refunds when they’re 21 years old. But that’s what I decided to do and I’ve been sewing ever since.

I made a lot of quilts for friends and family. Going through the baby boom with friends having kids, I was making a lot of baby quilts. But it wasn’t until four years ago when a friend reached out to me and said, “I have a friend that would like a t-shirt quilt, is that something you can do?” And I thought “Sure. I’m sure I can figure it out. How hard can that be?”

I then met the woman and she had t-shirts ranging in size from 4 inches to XXL when her son was in college. And I thought, "I can’t do this. I can’t make it like the way every other internet quilt company makes it—just cutting it the same size." I had to do something different. It forced me out of my comfort zone—and yet I did it—and it turned out beautiful and the mom and the son loved it. 

I don’t want to just make you a quilt. I want it to be something that reminds you of those special moments in your life that mean something to you, and will continue to mean something to you down the road.
— Jana

And then I just started posting things on Facebook and through word of mouth. And the next thing you know I got another client, and another client, and another client.  I think what I love about what I do is I really try to connect with the people that I’m working with. I don’t want to just make you a quilt. I want it to be something that reminds you of those special moments in your life that mean something to you, and will continue to mean something to you down the road.

A few weeks ago I was having dinner with a friend and he said to me, “Well it’ll be great when you stop making quilts for friends and you have actual customers.” And I looked at him and said, “I haven’t made one quilt for one friend. These have all been customers.”  And he’s like, “I didn’t realize that; by the way you post these things it sounds like you know them!” And I was like “Good, that’s the point, I want to get to know them because I want them to be unique and special.” So I hope that’s what I’m providing for people. And I’m loving every minute of it.

PL: How did you find out about Pepperlane?

JB: I found out about Pepperlane through a Facebook post by my friend Charlotte. My husband was out of town that night, I had a glass of wine, I read about it and I thought “Why not? I’ve got a service to sell. I think I can do this.” Business had started picking up for me, word of mouth was going well for me,  so I did it, and it’s the best thing I could have done for myself.

PL: How has Pepperlane helped your business?

JB: I feel like the exposure that I’ve gotten has been priceless. I’ve already had two customers and I’ve spoken to many more potential ones. So for me it’s been the best thing I could have done and I’m so grateful Charlotte decided to post that night.

PL: Were you planning on building a website for your business?

JB: It was one of those things that always felt too big for me. I don’t consider myself a techie and was completely overwhelmed by the thought of doing it on my own. Having this Pepperlane platform was huge for me. In the past I’d send people to my Facebook page. It wasn't a business Facebook page; it was a personal page. My quilts would get lost in the process, but doing my own website felt way beyond what I was capable of.

PL: Tell us a little about work-life balance between your family and your service business?

JB: So for so many years I’ve been a happy stay-at-home mom doing the carpool, the cooking, the cleaning, all the kids stuff. And it’s been wonderful. But when I started doing my custom quilts for people I found this new energy inside of me. And in a way it almost, I think, made me a better mother. Because I had more to focus on than just my kids and my family. I was actually doing something truly for myself for the first time in 12 years.

Jana's custom quilting is one of over 52 unique types of services sold by mothers on Pepperlane, an online platform that provides all the website you need to get off the ground and connect you with a likeminded community of people excited to support moms. We make it easy for mothers to create businesses that fit into their lives and allow them to embrace the skills and passions they already have. Do something for yourself today. 

Introducing the Pepperlane 2017 Forum Exhibitors

This September 7th we're hosting our first ever members' conference, To Begin, Begin: Pepperlane 2017 Forum. The event will be hosted at The Lexington Depot and will feature inspiring speakers, panelists, videos, and breakout sessions, and serve as a reminder that whoever we are and wherever we are in life, we are all beginning something new. 

A special part of the day is our members' exhibit, where Pepperlane business owners will showcase their services. We're excited to official announce this group of women, whose services range from college counseling to personal styling. Please take a look below to learn more about them, and keep an eye out on Pepperlane's Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter channels, where we'll be sharing more about each one of these business owners over the next few weeks. 

And if you haven't registered for our conference yet, be sure to sign up! Spots are filling up fast and you won't want to miss the opportunity to network with other business owners and learn the tools you need to start and grow yours. 

Jana Blanchette

Jana uses her passion and talent for sewing to make the most of your memories, through JLB Custom Memory Quilts.

Stefanie Johnson

With SwapIt create a closet that makes it possible to get up and throw on something fabulous in minutes using what you already own.

Cheryl employs high school and college students as technology consultants to help adults understand how to better use their smartphones, tablets, and computers.

Isobel helps busy people keep one step ahead of clutter, with sorting, donating, selling, and other practical organization services.

Karen helps parents relate better to their kids, reduce challenging behavior, and build their kids' skills in self-regulation, flexibility and communication.



Carmel brings relief to the challenging experience of caring for an aging parent.

Liz is an expert in Reiki, a Japanese technique for stress reduction, relaxation and healing.

Karen will work with you to create beautiful coffee table PhotoBooks that showcase your memories where you can actually enjoy them.

Sharon helps students in grades 8-12 chart a path towards college while maintaining balance in their lives.

Diane takes her experience from the advertising industry to help small businesses better tell their story.

5 Ways to Make Your Life Easier When Starting Your Business, from Accountant and Pepperlane Member Mellinda Abbott.

When you’re starting your own business it can be really easy to get hung up on all the things you think you need to have in place. But accountant and Pepperlane member Mellinda Abbott says it doesn’t have to be that hard.

Mellinda Abbott, Accountant & Pepperlane member

Mellinda Abbott, Accountant & Pepperlane member

She would know. Her firm, Abbott & Company, is focused on helping small businesses think through their finances and make sure they are spending their money in the right way.

“I think people get caught up in a lot of the legalities and formality of starting a business.” Mellinda says. “We coach businesses to first understand that the critical part is getting customers, then once you do that the rest is easy.”

We asked Mellinda for some more specifics on what people should and shouldn’t worry about when getting started. (The good news is setting up an LLC falls into that “shouldn't” category.) Read on for her tips on how to make your life as a new business owner so much easier.

1. Use envelopes for expense tracking

That might sound old school, but if you make your expense tracking system too elaborate, you won’t end up using it at all, Mellinda says. She recommends keeping an envelope in your car, bag, and home, and whenever you buy something related to your business, throw the receipt in there. Review every few months to see where your money is going. And be sure to know what expense are deductible so taxes are easier (we outline some starting points on there here.)

2. Open a separate bank account for your business

“It doesn’t have to be fancy,” Mellinda says. Getting a separate bank account and credit card ensures you won’t mix up your personal spending and business spending. Not knowing where your money is going makes it far too easy to spend more than you actually make.

Don’t get hung up on finding an official “business” credit card, as those can be harder to qualify for; the more important thing is that it’s distinct from your everyday spending credit card and account.

3. Opt for insurance over pricier legal work

Those of us who like to play by the rules (talking to you, mothers) think that we need to get a lawyer involved to make our business more official, Mellinda says. Luckily there’s an easier way: insurance. Mellinda says that if you don’t have an office or employees, your risk is still pretty low, and setting up an LLC or getting an expensive lawyer involved is premature. As your company grows you move into that, but getting insured is a much more efficient first step.

Not sure where to begin? “An insurance agent is your friend,” Mellinda says. “Make sure you understand what you’re getting and what you need and how much it’s going to cost.” Insurance can vary widely by industry, particularly with all the new industries and services sprouting up (home organizers, as one example), and an agent will help sort through all that.

the critical part is getting customers, then once you do that the rest is easy.
— Mellinda

4. Get mentors

And check in with them regularly, so they can keep you accountable, Mellinda says. They’ll help you understand why you didn’t follow through on something you committed to, and how to improve.

You can join the Pepperlane members forum or our community Facebook group to connect with other mothers who are building their businesses, too. And if you’re looking for even more inspiration and support, consider attending our first annual members’ conference this fall in Lexington.

5. Remember that a business is about making money

That may seem obvious, but our behavior doesn’t always indicate that, Mellinda says. While starting your business can be a great way to explore your passion and get some me time, it’s important to remember that it is a business after all. That means don’t spend too much time on things that won’t bring in money or won’t help you grow. “Our whole entire business system is built around the idea that businesses make money. But businesses lose sight of that. It takes a lot of work.”

If you want to focus more on developing your passion and feel like you need some extra help thinking through the business aspect, consider working with Mellinda and her team. You get in touch with her here.

This Pepperlane business will help you figure out your high-tech phone: Meet Cheryl Kirkman of konnectme

We know the thought of starting a business can be intimidating. It doesn’t have to be. Sometimes it just starts with a skill, a passion, or a crazy idea. Or sometimes it’s the answer to a problem.

That’s the case for this Pepperlane member, Cheryl Kirkman. Her Concord, MA-based business, konnectme, hires teenagers as consultants to help adults get more from their smartphones, tablets, and computers. We interviewed Cheryl to learn more about her business and how she got it going. We hope this inspires you to develop that idea you've or keep your eyes open for that problem that could turn into a business. 

Meet Cheryl Kirkman of konnectme 

Her business employs teens to help adults learn how to best use their smartphones and other technology 

Pepperlane: How did you get the idea for your business?

Cheryl: I have a 16-year-old son who struggled to find a job that would allow him flexibility to travel.  Our family isn’t in one place for the whole summer so he was not able to commit to a seasonal job. His understanding of how to use his technology is so much greater than the average adult. In fact, most teenagers have this expertise because they grew up with these devices in their hands. I soon learned that my son was not alone in both his skillset and need for a flexible job.

The other side of it is I’m 49, and many people I know who are my age or older don’t always know how to get the most out of the smartphones they carry with them. We struggle with understanding which apps can make our lives easier, how to sync our devices, organize our photos and files, use the “cloud” effectively, or even understanding useful standard features on our smartphones. What seems foreign to us is second nature to the younger generations.

There are no affordable options for people to get help with using their technology more efficiently. Adults don’t necessarily know that they need help because they are not even aware of many of the amazing features on their smartphones. Konnectme offers an affordable solution to educate us. One session with a talented and personable konnectme consultant provides our customers with useful skills that make a difference in their everyday lives.  

PL: How are you getting it off the ground?

Cheryl: I’m creating the need for people who don’t know they have this need yet. We do this one customer at a time. This is a community-based business so we are advertising locally and hoping that customers tell their friends about us. Our goal is to hire consultants in surrounding communities—supplying flexible, skilled work for students and empowering adults in those communities as well.

PL: How do you find your consultants?

Cheryl: My first five consultants are students I know who are smart, creative, and problem solvers. We have an application form online that needs to be completed and I meet with each consultant to train them before they see customers. I am looking for students who know how to ask questions in order to fully understand what the customer needs.

I feel empowered and more confident about what I am doing since becoming a member at Pepperlane. When you’re starting a business there are lots of ups and downs and unknowns. The Pepperlane community reminds me that I can do this.
— Cheryl

PL: What made you join Pepperlane?

Cheryl:  I learned of Pepperlane through a friend. I was excited to learn of Pepperlane because I love the idea of a platform to share ideas with other moms who are in my situation. I am inspired by the women I meet through Pepperlane. I left my “career” when I had children and although I have had many jobs and started other small companies, I never had the support network that Pepperlane offers. I feel empowered and more confident about what I am doing since becoming a member at Pepperlane. When you’re starting a business there are lots of ups and downs and unknowns. The Pepperlane community reminds me that I can do this. Pepperlane is a perfect fit for konnectme because its members understand my customers and my consultants.

Pepperlane also has the element of “get my business out there;” it’s a good marketing tool for me. I like the idea that I could hire another mom. I eventually will need some help. My skillset is broad, but there are areas I don’t go deep enough in. I will need to hire or have somebody come onboard in some capacity to take it to whatever place I want it to go to.

PL: What made you take the leap into starting your business?

Cheryl: I knew there was a need for affordable technology consulting. I also knew teenagers needed flexible, skilled labor. I had the idea in my head for a while but one day I woke up with a sense of urgency to start this right away. The timing was right and I think I had all of my thoughts together in my head. When you work for yourself and by yourself, you need accountability for what you’re doing. It would be too easy to have an idea and not make it happen.  So once I told people about my business, I felt accountable. Then, once I hired and trained consultants I did not want to let them down. They are excited to work! Talking to people about my business helps also helps shape my ideas, it helps me think of things I might not have thought of.

Know that you’re going make mistakes. Learn from your mistakes and keep moving forward. It takes lot of guts to take the leap from an idea to a business.
— Cheryl

PL: What advice do you have for other mothers who are trying to start businesses?

Cheryl: My advice is don’t be afraid of failure. Know that you’re going make mistakes. Learn from your mistakes and keep moving forward. It takes lot of guts to take the leap from an idea to a business. My second piece of advice is to share your ideas with people you trust. You will learn more than you think from talking with people.

PL: How do you find the time to work on your business?

We are never 100% in balance. If you are in balance it’s going to change in an hour.
— Cheryl

Cheryl: Starting my own business gives me flexibility. I try to set realistic goals and prioritize. My most important job is raising my two children. I do my best to not let my work get in the way of their needs. Balancing work, family, friendships, and finding time for myself is a constant struggle. I have learned that some things will just have to wait until tomorrow. I have also learned that just because I can do a task, doesn’t mean I should. I am getting better at asking for help—especially for the tasks that I don’t enjoy and are not so good at.

The balance of life is something I just laugh about. We are never 100% in balance. If you are in balance it’s going to change in an hour.

We hope this inspired you! Remember, if there’s a problem you see or a thing you’re good at, that’s the start of a business. Do you have an idea that you need some help working through? Chat with Pamela, our director of community relations. And if you’d like to be featured in a post like this, let us know. We’d love to share your story.

The Only 5 Things You Need to Launch a "Website" for Your Business

 You’ve decided to take that special skill of yours and turn it into a business. Exciting!

That’s no easy feat, and it may feel like a lot of obstacles stand in your way, but there’s one that definitely shouldn’t: your website or online presence.

We’ve heard the same thing from so many of our members: that they have a website, but it’s not finished, or it really needs to be updated, or that they can’t really launch their business until they’ve paid a professional to create it. 

Let’s take a step back and think about what you need out of your online presence. You need a place to tell your story, describe your service, engage customers, and provide ways for them to easily find and access your services. Perhaps the most important thing you need is a captive audience to market your service—there's no point to create a website with no potential customers.  

So does this really require a full-fledged, custom website—especially when you're starting out? To build it, you could use generic website tools like Wordpress, with endless options around colors, fonts, templates, and layouts—but that dizzying array of choices can quickly feel overwhelming. And it does nothing to get you in front of customers or other like-minded people building their businesses, too.

Your business shouldn’t have to wait in the wings while you get everything “perfect.”  For you to get your first (and 50th) customer to buy what you are offering, there are just a few simple but important things your website needs to do for you:  

1. Clearly communicate the service(s) your business is offering

It may seem obvious, but at its core your website should clearly convey what you are offering the world. Describe your business and be clear about the services you are providing. Talk like a human. This is especially important for when a customer searches for you online.  For example, when you need a dog walker, you likely search exactly those terms, not something overly clever or cheeky, like “dog recreational expert.” While these creative descriptions seem appealing to you, they’ll likely prevent your target customers from finding you online.

Event planner Myriam Michel's description is clear and shows just the right amount of personality, without being obscure. 

Event planner Myriam Michel's description is clear and shows just the right amount of personality, without being obscure. 

2. Create trust

Customers want to have some visibility into who they are working with. Saying a bit about your background and qualifications, whether that’s schooling, previous related positions, or organizations that lend credibility, helps to establish trust. If you’ve had great customer interactions, you’ll want to ask them for feedback and display that proudly on the site. It also never hurts to share a bit about your community connections, personal passions and interests,  so the shopper can connect with you a bit as a person. For a great example, check out how Pepperlane member Cintia Leone presents her house cleaning business here.

Not a natural writer? We’re here to help. You can chat with Pamela, Pepperlane’s director of community outreach, to brainstorm the best ways to describe your business, or even hire one of the many talented writers and editors on Pepperlane if you’re looking to give it that extra layer of polish.

A picture is worth a thousand words, and in this case, quality photography helps reinforce everything you are telling your customers. A great photo will grab their attention and get them excited about your business. In addition to your avatar, Pepperlane includes a place for a primary photo, where you can show yourself in action, and a service photo, so you can display your finished work product. This second piece isn't required, so don't get too hung up on it! And if you feel you don't have the right imagery for this just yet, consider working with a professional photographer (the Pepperlane community is full of them.)

3. Make it easy for interested customers to get in touch

Now that you’ve hooked visitors with your quality description and images, your website should make it easy for them to get in touch and book your service. This is why your Pepperlane website clearly calls out your availability and the location of your business, so customers can easily identify whether you’re a good fit with what they need. And our brand-new messaging feature allows customers to contact you and let you know exactly what they’re looking for, plus manages all of these communication in one convenient inbox. 

Pepperlane's new messaging inbox means you can easily manage customer inquiries

Pepperlane's new messaging inbox means you can easily manage customer inquiries

4. Be shareable and discoverable

Many of us are so focused on crafting the perfect website that we forget an even more important question: how will my potential customers find it? When your business is approved on Pepperlane, we publish it to our marketplace, where interested buyers can shop for your service. We’re also doing a lot behind the scenes to make sure it surfaces nicely in Google searches (what’s known as search engine optimization, or SEO for short), so when someone just recalls your name and service, your Pepperlane site should appear.

Kirsten's Pepperlane website promoting her personal style business is the first result in a Google search

Kirsten's Pepperlane website promoting her personal style business is the first result in a Google search

Not only that, but your website can and should be shared beyond the walls of Pepperlane. Put it on a business card or in your email signature. We’ve just made it possible for your to personalize the name of your Pepperlane website link (URL) to show some personality, and if you own a domain for your business, you can easily forward that to your Pepperlane website, eliminating the need for you to build a website from the ground up elsewhere.

5.  Be fast, responsive, and easy to use

File this under the actually important stuff you didn’t know you needed. Why? To start, a website that loads slowly can lose customer attention, which is why we’re working behind the scenes to make your Pepperlane website fast. Given that many people are now browsing the web on their phone, your website should be responsive on mobile, which means it should provide an easy reading and navigation experience and people shouldn’t have to scroll in weird ways to get the information they need. While this all sounds a bit complicated, the great news is for you it doesn’t have to be. Because—you guessed it—we take care of it for you. We’re also constantly evaluating how visitors are interacting with our webpages and improving that experience. Instead of needing to become a website usability expert, you can focus on building your business and offering great service.

Pepperlane automatically applies mobile web best practices when building your business web page. 

Pepperlane automatically applies mobile web best practices when building your business web page. 

We’ve built Pepperlane to offer you all the website you need—without the customizations you don’t—but we know there are some additional elements that many of our members would like to see. Because your feedback is important to us, we have a lot of improvements planned in the coming weeks. Those include:

  • Adding a Logo: A logo is a great way to give your business that bit of personality and recognizability. Soon we’ll include a place for it on your Pepperlane website. 
  • Connecting Your Social Media Accounts: Social media provides an opportunity for constant conversation with your customer base, and soon we’ll make it easy for you to showcase yours on your Pepperlane website, so interested customers can easily follow you.

We’ve also got some tricks up our sleeve for allowing you to add more photos and display your work product, plus style text so that it pops a bit more (think bold and italic), so stay tuned. For now, we’d love for you to get started building your Pepperlane website. If you need some help discovering what services you should offer, schedule a time to chat with our community outreach director Pamela. And if you’re feeling like you need something more, take a look at our Get Help Building Your Business collection. From graphic design to tax services, our community of mother-owned businesses is here to help.

We'd love to hear from you! What are things you thought you needed to start your business? What do you think still stands in your way? How can Pepperlane help? We're all ears!