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!

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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. Work on your Pepperlane website 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!).

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

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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.

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

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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.

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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 

Murphy-Kotyan

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! 

Experienced Pepperlane Members tell us how they won their first customer

Getting your first customer can be one of the hardest parts about striking out on your own.  Luckily, at Pepperlane , a number of our members have been running their businesses for years. Three of them -- Julie, Liz, and Paula -- sat down with us to share their tips for finding your first customer.

Continue reading below or jump to key insights.

Meet our three stellar members

Julie Sheridan: The Interior Designer Founder, design 2 order

Julie Sheridan: The Interior Designer
Founder, design 2 order

Liz Mirabile: The Reiki Master Founder, Well and Balanced

Liz Mirabile: The Reiki Master
Founder, Well and Balanced

Paula Sacco: The Professional Coach Paula Sacco Coaching for Moms

Paula Sacco: The Professional Coach
Paula Sacco Coaching for Moms

What kind of services do you provide?

Julie: I provide interior design (including renovations, color consultations and room redesigns) and professional organizing services.

Liz: On Pepperane, I offer Reiki and other energy coaching. I’ve been doing it “on the side” of my main business which is something called Allergy Release Technique (A.R.T.), but I’d like to do more of pure energy healing

Paula: I am a Certified Professional Coach who helps mothers design their life as their kids start leaving home.  Figuring out what’s next after mothering can be daunting.  My coaching helps these women gain confidence as they get clear on what they want and develop the path to get there. 

How many years have you been doing this?


Julie: I have been a practicing interior designer for over 20 years and a professional organizer for over 6 years.  I started my own business (design 2 order) 5 years ago.

Liz: I have been practicing A.R.T. for 5 years and Reiki and other energy modalities for 4 years.  I came to the practice after suffering some health issues brought on mostly by stress.  I personally had extraordinary results so I started my practice to share what I learned with others.  

Paula: I finished my certification with Coaches Training Institute in 2012 and started coaching right away.

How did you get your first paying customer? Any insights for people trying to transition from doing it free for friends and family?

If you charge a fee that undervalues you and your service neither they nor you will feel good about it.
— Paula Sacco

Julie: My first paying client, at design 2 order, was actually the mother of a former colleague.  I ran into my former colleague at a town function (Trunk or Treat, in Bedford) for my children.  We chatted for a short while.  I told her that I started my own company and explained what I was doing.  She mentioned that her mom had recently moved to Bedford and needed help.  I designed and coordinated the renovation of her basement.  I also worked on many other multiple projects within her house.  She then recommended me to several of her friends and now her daughter (the original friend who referred me to her mom) has now hired me to help her with several projects in her house!

Liz: The first person I charged for my services was the friend of someone who I had seen for free.  When I first opened my business, I practiced on and worked with friends and family for about 6 months to build up my confidence and skill-set.  At the 6 month mark, I decided it was time to begin charging for my work. I asked those who had been coming to me to tell others about my services if they’d been happy with them.  

Paula: My first paying client was a friend of a friend who ended up continuing the coaching after I was certified.  I was nervous about asking for a full fee after she had been at a reduced fee but she was willing to pay.   I realized then that it was beneficial to both of us to feel that there was a value to our exchange.  I find that people want to know that the service they are buying has value.  If you charge a fee that undervalues you and your service neither they nor you will feel good about it.  

Had you previously provided your services for free? If so, what was different about doing it for payment?

...there is an energy to money so it is important that you charge something, even if it’s $1, for your services.
— Paula Sacco

Julie:  I often was (and still am) asked to answer design questions, select paint colors and offer organizational tips/tricks/product help.  I don’t mind helping or giving my opinions.  However, some people do not understand the amount of time it takes to do some of the tasks they request.  Although I love HGTV and the many design and organizing shows; it also has made ‘real life’ interior design and organizing a bit more challenging.  It takes a lot more time, than what is shown on TV, to design or organize a space(s).  TV has a way of making it look very quick and often times people are surprised when it takes longer than they realized.  This is also why it is super important to set up realistic expectations at the beginning of a project.  Communication is key!  

Liz: Starting to charge for my work was a little nerve wracking for the first couple of months.  I worried if I was charging too much or too little and if I was providing good value to my clients.  The surprising thing I learned was that people actually did better (in my case, became healthier) more quickly when they were paying for my services.  I don’t know if it’s because they are literally more invested in the outcome or more likely to follow advice I give them, but it’s a powerful effect.  So not only do I feel better and more valued because I’m getting paid, but the people I see improve more quickly. 

Paula: During the coaching certification process it was a requirement that I had to have 5 paying clients.  My instructor explained that there is an energy to money so it is important that you charge something, even if it’s $1, for your services.  Obtaining 5 clients at the time seemed overwhelming but I did it.  I basically asked everyone I knew if they or someone they knew would be interested in coaching.   

It’s ok to charge a reduced fee at first until you gain experience but try to avoid doing anything for free.  You won’t feel good about it and neither will your client! Don’t worry about finding the perfect price point.  It’s not a science, just pick a number that feels right to you and go with it.  You can always adjust it later.  

What would you advise someone who is just starting out about how to find their first paid customer?

...start charging at some point - set a deadline and commit to it because you don’t want to end up being taken advantage of.
— Liz Mirabile

Julie: My best and most successful form of marketing is what I always refer to as my: 'kid network’.  I have been fortunate enough to have many clients come out of relationships through my kids (their parents and friends of friends).  Some of my most successful, impromptu networking sessions have actually been on the sidelines of sporting events, or while volunteering with other parents at the school, or a school related function.  It is important for me to add, although I have been very fortunate to secure jobs through this type of networking, it was never my intent.  It is critical to always be yourself and not try to sell yourself in an unnatural way and things have a way of working out.

Liz: To this day, I find that referrals are my greatest source of clients.  If possible, I would recommend offering your services to friends and family for free or a reduced cost.  And focus on the quality of your work instead of on marketing.  If you make your clients happy, they will become the best marketing you could hope for.  But definitely start charging at some point - set a deadline and commit to it because you don’t want to end up being taken advantage of.

Paula: It can be scary asking for full fee but if you don’t ask you won’t get it!  Use a confident voice, state your fee and then close your mouth (and keep it closed!).  People also want to know how much they need to pay and HOW to pay (check, Paypal, cash, etc) without any wishy washiness.  So be clear and confident!  

Key insights for winning your first customer:

  • Free is fine - but not for long: Offering complimentary or reduced fee services when you’re starting out is a great way to learn from mistakes, build confidence, and generate buzz. But don't wait too long to start asking for what you're worth.
  • Ask and you shall receive: Don't forget: ask for money, ask for referrals, and ask for testimonials. Otherwise you might not get any of them!
  • Word-of-mouth: We hear it from everyone, a good experience coupled with a referral is the best and strongest way to get your first customer. Save the fancy marketing for when you've got a few more notches on your belt.
  • Communicate clearly: Set clear expectations up front about payments and timing and guarantee good experiences for all.

Did you find this helpful? Send us an email at hello@pepperlane.co