What’s Your Rating? The Importance of Feedback and Testimonials for Your Business

Aziz Ansari, the comedian, did a great stand-up bit about Millennials and how they research everything before making any decision. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it. But he raises a good point that we can all apply to our businesses: Testimonials and feedback are essential in the growing social and shared economy.

Millennials are already the largest generation in the workforce today and they are on their way to giving Baby Boomers the boot as the largest population, period. (Sorry, Boomers.) And Millennials do their research! So, if the biggest population of consumers on the planet uses reviews and testimonials to find everything from handwoven, ethically-sourced flip flops made from daisies, to the best vegan, gluten-free, non-GMO taco, there better be content for them to read.

Carrie Murray, founder of BRA - Business Relationship Alliance

Here are THREE doable ways to incorporate testimonials and feedback into the marketing of your business:

1. Be bold and ask. Ask for feedback, testimonials, or just the plain old truth. I haven’t been graded and evaluated since my job as a teacher where I had to sit through what was called a “365 review,” where they reviewed me on everything. Side note, here’s the real sad part: As a public school teacher, only about 40% of what you are reviewed on is what is actually happening in the classroom. But as business owners, we get to ask our clients for the relevant feedback we want and need to do better.

2. Be prepared to hear the good and bad. If you ask for the truth, make sure you can handle it first. It’s not always going to be easy to digest, but that’s how we grow and adapt. Constructive criticism is key to improving, so don’t take it personally. Just remember that without honest feedback, we would just keep moving along in the slow lane, unlikely to grow.

3. Support each other and give testimonials. Testimonials and reviews fuel decisions made by potential clients. Just think back to your last Postmates order. Before you’d even closed the door on your delivery person, you got pinged for a review. As important as it is to ask for feedback and testimonials, support your fellow BRA members and friends by offering to give your two cents. If they say no, then there’s no need to push. But chances are, the other person was probably just too shy to ask. In which case, refer them to point number one.

These three tips are very easy ways to make sure you’re integrating client feedback into how your business is perceived. If you start asking for feedback and preparing yourself to use it constructively, you’ll infuse your brand with that authenticity and familiarity Millennials are looking for. And, of course, offering your feedback to fellow BRA members is just another way to keep our resources flowing between us, within our community.

Finally, it shouldn't feel awkward. One of the easiest ways to approach getting new reviews or testimonials is to ask for a favor and give something in return. For example... 

Can I ask a favor? If you're having a great time, and getting a lot out the BRA community, take a minute and write a testimonial. Share it on our official Facebook page or shoot me an email.

Even better, take a video with your phone sharing what you love most about being a BRA member! The best way to do this:

  • set up a tripod or stabilizer for your phone and sit a few feet back
  • ensure you're brightly lit and in front of a simple background, nothingcluttered or distracting
  • turn your phone sideways to capture the horizontal view versus up 'n down
  • bring the real; showcase the most genuine version of YOU in the video

You'll help other lady bosses find their way to BRA and strengthen our network. Now that's a win/win! BONUS: Get tips on how to make an effective testimonial video for YOUR business.

See how easy that was? 😉

Women on the Rise 2018

When I walked into Fig & Olive's atrium last week on a very rainy Thursday I was BLOWN AWAY by how Jennifer of Soirée had transformed the room into a beautiful space that was warm and inviting with just the right amount of pink and a few custom prints designed by Brenda of Sweet Llamita was the finishing touch!

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Two minutes later, I realized the zipper on my dress had broken; my whole side and bra strap were exposed. #YouHadOneJob

What do you do when you have a wardrobe malfunction at an important event, but the show must go on? You find the MacGyver of your tribe and pull yourself together in less than 90 seconds, that's what! 

Guests were arriving in 15 minutes and no one had a safety pin. Argh! Then Jennifer found a paper clip, opened it, bent and twisted it to hold the two sides of the dress together, so thankfully only my hips were now hanging out instead of my entire torso. So be it... neither rain nor indecent exposure were going to stop us!

We began with a warm welcome from yours truly (left), and Xochitl Hernandez (right) spoke about Dress for Success. Catherine, a Dress for Success Alumni (center), attended as well. She has completed the entire Dress for Success program and is now the national DFS West ambassador. 

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The food was delicious! We laughed and drank rosé. (Meanwhile, our photographer Monica Linda was busy capturing the event and made sure to position me in order to conceal that my dress was wide open. Thanks, girl!) 

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Standing at the pink podium, I proceeded to address the elephant in the room and acknowledge the fact that yes, my dress was wide open, but more importantly, we had some amazing ladies to recognize.

Kathy Schuh was honored as this year’s Woman on the Rise. Trying not to get choked up, I shared how Kathy was with me when I was first developing BRA, and it was through her support and encouragement that it is the network you see today. Woman on the Rise is given to a founding BRA member who has worked with or been hired by the most members. Kathy’s worked with or been hired by more of you than I could have imagined via Kathy Schuh Photography, and many of our members joined us at her recommendation. She lives the BRA mission in her business life – to hire within our network first. 

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Next was Toni Purry, our Empowerment Leader. She really got me to tear up too when she shared how collaborating with me for the My Hype Workshop was the bridge between her publishing a book and implementing its core message. During the workshop, Toni taught us how to celebrate our achievements, no matter the size, with help from her book, My Hype Book. If that doesn’t scream Empowerment Leader, I’m not sure what does. But Toni also embodies another piece of our mission – collaboration over competition – by telling each and every one of you that you are leaders and you have greatness in you.

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Last, but absolutely not least, was our Visionary Woman of the Year, Elena Vasilevsky. Not only has she created her own successful business at INLOVE magazine, but she also gives back to her community and has a real social impact. She teamed up with Sublimitas, a nonprofit organization, and donates proceeds from the magazine to this organization. Sublimitas helps socioeconomically marginalized children and youth in Ukraine, her birth place, develop their potential through education. Thank you for joining us, Elena, please keep up your amazing work as a female entrepreneur and a philanthropist. You really do inspire us all to achieve our full potential.

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SPECIAL THANKS
Behind the scenes, it TRULY does take a village to make an event like this so successful. A special thank you to:

  • Monica Linda of Monica Linda Photography for the beautiful photos featured in this email. Check out dozens more WOTR pictures on our Facebook page!
  • Jennifer Currier of Soirée, made the day beautiful and has such an attention to detail that not a single thing was out of place, and she’s handy with a paperclip!
  • Naomi Newman for the wonderful scarves that were gifted to every attendee
  • Ashley of Pulp Pantry for the yummy treats
  • Amy Brownstein of PR Studio USA who helped bring eyes on BRA to further the advancement of all us in the network.
  • Nadine Shelton of All For One, GP (website pending!) who I contacted to video the event just FOUR days prior and she hustled to make it happen, she was ON IT
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And of course, thank you to everyone who purchased tickets and showed up; we sold every single available seat! It was such a beautiful afternoon and I couldn’t have asked for a better outcome. Speaking of which, drum roll, please...

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FUNDRAISING TOTAL
We reached our goal, raising a total of $1,500 for Dress for Success! Last year we donated clothes; this year we created a lasting partnership and were able to give even more. Next year, I plan on doubling it! 

Finally, as we were leaving and basking in the afterglow of a perfect event despite the rain and broken zipper, Lori reached into her coat pocket and found two safety pins! Figures, right? Lol 

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3 Mistakes to Avoid in your First Year of Business, 2 Pieces of Advice and 1 Shameless Plug

Look it. This isn't my first rodeo. BRA is actually my second dance at the prom of entrepreneurship. More on my first later, but I learned a lot that first time around. Here are some of my best take always, some advice and a plug for my FREE webinar. 

Everyone knows that the first year of business is usually the hardest. It’s a learning curve, and for many first-time entrepreneurs, it doesn’t matter how many books you’ve read or online courses you’ve taken. Year one is going to be trial-by-fire to get your dream off the ground, with plenty of room for mistakes and unforeseen expenses. But you’re smart and savvy, so you’ll do whatever it takes to make it work. And with a little help from women who have been-there-done-that, you can avoid these three common mistakes, and maybe make that first year a little easier.

Mistake #1: Working with someone who’s too much like you.

Believe it or not, two of you is not better than one. You’ve probably heard plenty of entrepreneurs say that they wish they could clone themselves, or hire someone who was just like them. It sounds great in theory right? Twice the amount of work done in half the time. But in reality, aligning yourself with a business partner who has the same strengths as you can backfire, like it did for BRA founder, Carrie Murray. “We got nothing done that was truly effective. It was like we had two yangs and no yin.” Instead, work with people who have skill sets different from your own. Your strengths will complement each other and you’ll knock out those to-do lists in record time. Not sure what your strengths are? Carrie recommends taking the Strengths-Based Leadership Test to help you identify your strengths in business and who you should be working with.

Mistake #2: Ordering swag WAY too early.

Unless your company is a t-shirt or clothing line, ordering swag too early can make you look ridiculous. It’s great to be pumped about your business (as you should be!) but maybe hold off on the logo stickers, t-shirts, and hats until later when you’ve established a solid customer base that would be proud to rock your swag. Waiting until you have customers also means waiting until you have money coming in to offset any money going out on swag. Trust us – in your first year of business, there are plenty of other, more effective ways to spend every dollar than mousepads and coffee mugs. Remember: Ordering swag should never put you in the red.

Mistake #3: Thinking that if you build it, followers will come.

A positive attitude is essential to starting a new business. It’s what will keep you persevering through the ups and downs of that roller coaster first year. But just because you have a website and social media handles ready to go, doesn’t mean you will hit 1,000 followers in your first week. It takes work. A LOT of work. Setting up your online presence is only step one. You should be proud of yourself for taking that step, but remember that you have a lot more time and effort to invest to get those numbers up. Go in with realistic expectations and a commitment to slow and steady growth.

Advice #1: Girl, you gotta hustle!

How hungry are you? How hard are you really willing to work? New businesses, on average don't turn a profit until years 4-7. Find creative ways to find an edge and to get ahead. Collaborate, look for free webinars, trade services with other female entrepreneurs and ask for things for free. What's the worse they can say? Hearing, "NO" doesn't cost anything. Remember a tight budget brews creativity.

Advice #2: Build your tribe

Find your tribe. Surround yourself with three important friends; the cheerleader, the mirror and the dreamer. The CHEERLEADER is the most important because they will be in your corner every step of the way, cheering you on with unwavering support. The cheerleader is usually the person you tell new ideas to first. The MIRROR is extremely valuable with their steadfast loyalty, they provide the ground you stand on, show you the face of reality even when it's yucky but will never pass judgement on your dream. Last, the DREAMER, they probably know you the best. The dreamer inspires new ideas, challenges you to look at things from a different perspective and are great problem solvers and strategists. The people who fill these roles today won't necessarily be the same people in 3 years. Life happens, people change and your needs change, so be flexible

Shameless Plug!

Now, that you know which three mistakes to avoid and have some solid advice from myself. It's time to identify your business' strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Don't have a business and just a great idea, this is for you too. Join me on Thursday, October 26th at 10 am PST for a FREE online workshop where I will take you through the steps to focus in on your business' strengths and struggles and propel you forward with an action plan. Register here!

Now go be fabulous,

Carrie

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5 Tips for Mompreneurs Looking to Get Ahead + Meet Tracie, a Mom who is actually doing it.

Let’s face it. As a mom, your normal day-to-day life is already a full-time job. And, fulfilling as it is, you’ve also got your side hustle that you’re trying to build into a fempire you can be proud of and will make feeding that family of yours a little easier. So how can you maximize your potential? That’s the golden ticket (or whatever precious metal you’re into); it’s the question I’m always looking to address for all BRA members. Here are some tips and tricks to get you started on the right track.

 1. Be on the lookout for a good idea.

Find a product or service that other moms need. Trust me there’s always something! Mompreneurs have a unique advantage that other entrepreneurs may not -- you’re already around your target audience. In fact, you are your target audience. When you create a product or service that speaks directly to this market, you’re already ahead of the game because you know your consumers firsthand, how to reach them, what they struggle with and what resources they use to find solutions. It’s not cheating to use what you know to your advantage.

2. Avoid working in direct sales.

Sure, direct sales may sound appealing at first, with its promises of a flexible work schedule, the potential to earn six figures and so on. But don’t believe the hype – when anything sounds too good to be true, it usually is. Direct sales usually results in spending a lot more time, effort and frustration on that new venture than most people realize. Women who are successful in this line of work are actually working a minimum of 40 hours a week to advance themselves -- and much of the time, those women aren’t even doing a job that they find personally fulfilling...it’s not addressing their passion, it’s serving someone else’s. The market is also extremely saturated with people selling the exact same products. If it really were that easy to make six figures on a part-time work schedule, everyone would do it. And hello, it's usually a pyramid scheme.

3. DIY what you can.

You don’t have to be a graphic designer to make your business look polished. Instead of trying to learn Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop like the pros, check out more beginner and user-friendly apps like Planoly, Canva, Word Swag, and Animoto. The more you can DIY for your website and social media accounts, the more you can save to hire a graphic designer for the bigger projects later on.

4. Hire help.

Even if it’s just an extra hour or two a week, finding someone to babysit can do wonders for every mompreneur looking to get more work done. Finding a good nanny or enrolling your child in an after school class will cost money, but will also help you make more money in the long run. If you don’t have the budget, you can try to convince your mother, aunt, or – dare we say it – your mother-in-law to step in and support you, as needed.

5. Use apps to improve your time management.

Mompreneurs know how valuable every child-free hour is. Time management is key when you’re a parent and even more so when you also run your own business. Fortunately, there are lots of apps available that can help you manage your schedule. Most of them work by showing you how long you spend on each task. A few of our favorites include: MeetEdgar, 17hats, and Harvest. These apps will help you make the most of every minute. And when you have a sleeping baby or only one hour a day to yourself, you’ve got to make every minute count.

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Meet Tracie of Rest Well Baby

Here is a perfect example of a mom who found her entrepreneurial spirit in her sleep deprived nights. As a mom who had a baby that had sleep challenges, Tracie understands what it feels like to be sleep deprived and she knows the benefits of learning healthy sleep habits that will last a lifetime! She works closely with each family to formulate an individualized, flexible sleep plan all while taking into consideration the family’s sleep issue, needs and values. Tracie Kesatie is passionate about helping tired families get the sleep they need. Here is a mom turned mompreneur. She had to get her kids to sleep and she made a business out of it.

Some of Tracie's training topics included:

  • Basic counseling and child development
  • Sleep science and behavioral modification techniques to help parents of children age 0 to 6 years old
  • Secure attachment theory
  • Support for the breastfeeding mother

CARRIE MURRAY

CARRIE MURRAY

"What I learned when I decided to leave education."

I have no tips or tricks to share today with our wonderful group, but I do have a confession, 
I never wanted to be a Stay at Home Mom.
I have nothing against them, in fact, some of my favorite friends are SAHM and damn if that isn’t the toughest effing job out there.
When I had my kids I was working as an Academic Director at a K-12 charter school with a very flexible work schedule, I worked part-time and my actual "work" wasn't much of a challenge, but I got to massage that teaching muscle and still make it in time to a Mommy & Me class with Synthia Praglin and later Siggie Cohen. For awhile, it felt really, really great. However, I was getting progressively more and more bored with work. Not because I missed being at home with my kids, LOL I said this was a confession!! It was because the actual work wasn’t challenging at all, some days I totally phoned it in and everyone kept telling me how fabulous I was and I was thinking, “Dude, I could do SO much more, but ok!”

So what does my Executive Director do when I tell her I’m not really being challenged enough??? 
Why, she promotes me of course! AND gives me a raise! I was like, “HUH??” 
They promoted me to Interim - Principal (the current was on bed rest) with the goal being I would the Asst. Principal when she returned in February. Well this was now even further away from me being a SAHM, so I thought, why not!?! At the same time, Caitlyn is starting Kinder and a River is in preschool and I'm supervising 300 kids, their families and 30 teachers and staff, including Melissa Gallegos!Be careful what you wish because I was now VERY challenged. (Side note this promotion led to me meeting, Jennifer 'Ross' Sellz. So yes, every cloud has a silver lining.) 
By the time I was half way through from my second year, I had enough. Being on the administrative side of public school education is not star stickers and crazy hair day. It is UGLY. I was finding myself saying and doing things that actually WERE NOT in the best interest of the students but of the budget and I couldn’t take it. I missed family, my friends, yoga and sleep. Also, I was feeling that boredom sneaking in again… 

"Complacent Carrie, is not a good Carrie to be.” - Thomas Jefferson

If I kept my my mouth shut, I would have had a very successful career as a principal. 
I now ENIVED all those SAHM so much!!!!! 

So what did I decide to do??? 
I KNOW!!!! I'll open my own school, with my own teachers, my own mission, and use my own philosophy on education. I'll FINALLY get to be apart of the solution in education not perpetuating the same bureaucratic BS like making 6 year olds sit all day, tell their parents they have ADD and they need medication. Nope, at my school they will have plenty of playtime, lots of hands-on learning and tons technology! 

I’M GOING TO BE AN ENTREPRENEUR! 

So with the support of my friends and family; Kathy Scolieri-Schuh built bookcases, Christine Bieselin Clark painted cabinets, Jennifer Garrett Currier planted a garden and Lori Bell Medlin posed as a perspective parent at an Open House to ask all the “right questions” to make me look good. 
I built my school and it was exciting, invigorating and something I was really good at, the parents of my students were all so appreciative of my little school, they saw so much growth in their kids, and we were a happy little group. 
Just me, my teacher, one small class and my business partner. I did everything from the ground up, I wasn’t only the principal, I was also the bookkeeper, janitor, administrative assistant, advertising manager and so much more. I put EVERY ounce of my soul into this venture, I sacrificed even more time with my family, friends and fuck it, who has time for yoga any way.  
BUT...after 2 years.... I found myself bored again and 20 pounds heavier. Side note, those pounds are the reason I meet Stacey Beaman. Silver lining, again. Also, who did I see at the workout classes with me?? Synthia came back into my life, 4 years later.

So about my school….. I guess I always knew I COULD build a school, but I never asked myself if I SHOULD. 

It was also around this time I realized I was surrounded by other women who were entrepreneurs, I’m not kidding like NINE of you I was talking with regularly and you were all entrepreneurs. 

Some of us would get together fairly regularly and the talk about kids, marriage and sales at Trader Joes were now becoming a smaller part of our conversations, it was transitioning into talks about the best Instagram posts, creating marketing campaigns and how to grow our businesses to a higher level of success.. Those are some of my favorite times, I found myself SO looking forward to those meetings with you ladies after my school day. It got to a point where the servers at the restaurants we'd frequent knew what we were drinking and eating as soon as we stepped in the door. They were essentially, on the payroll.

I felt charged and was so eager to learn more about what you all were doing and how I could help.

It was then I realized, what if I got ALL of these ladies in the same room at the same time, we could ALL really benefit from knowing and networking with each other. 

So as luck would have it, in late 2015, I passed ownership of my school over to a very eager teacher and I started
BRA- Business Relationship Alliance.

I don’t have an office space anymore, so I guess that makes me officially a Stay at Home Mom now. Who Knew???

BRA LADIES, I love bringing people together, so my business is to get YOU more business.

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MICHELLE OBAMA

MICHELLE OBAMA

"There is no limit to what we, as women, can accomplish" 

Michelle Obama is one of the Legendary boss ladies that truly inspire me. She looks so polished and well put together. She has a genuine smile, infectious laugh, and just seems really cool. I really feel her work while FLOTUS was pretty amazing. Not matter what your political point of you, you have to admit she and her team have accomplished so much that will have a continued impact on people's lives for years to come. Don't believe me?  Let me name a few....

1. Let’s Move! is a comprehensive initiative, launched by the First Lady, dedicated to solving the problem of obesity within a generation, so that children born today will grow up healthier and able to pursue their dreams.

2. The Reach Higher initiative is the First Lady's effort to inspire every student in America to take charge of their future by completing their education past high school, whether at a professional training program, a community college, or a four-year college or university. @reachhigher2020

3. Joining Forces works hand in hand with the public and private sectors to ensure that service members, veterans, and their families have the tools they need to succeed throughout their lives.

If I could meet her for coffee, I would ask her one thing, "How can I inspire women entrepreneurs the way you inspire me?" Then I imagine we'd split a scone and talk about how holding firm on the battlefield of raising teenagers is the hardest job she has ever had. We'd take a selfie, not like the first two but settle on the last one, choose a flattering filter like Hudson and be social media friends for life. 

Michelle you are a legend. 

 

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