Archive for the ‘Small Business’ Category

As a teenager I lived on Diet Coke. I’d wake up at 5:00 a.m. and drive to swim practice with a can in my hand. I gave up that habit a long time ago, but every so often I’ll buy one on a hot summer’s day, drink two sips, shake my head in wonder and dump it out. In case you’re curious it tastes like overly carbonated chemicals to me — or just weird (if I were being polite).

I drink a lot of water, the occasional good beer and fantastic wine when I have the chance. However, every so often I want something sweet. Crystal Light doesn’t cut it.

Unrequited Love

Homemade lemonade satisfies, but few restaurants serve it on their menus. Last summer I bought some at a Bastille Day celebration flavored with lavender. It was sublime — tart, slightly sweet and meant to be savored. I’d drink it all the time if I could find it.

Enter Cribbage

Board games don’t obviously have much to do with my search for limonade à lavande except you find plenty of games at tap rooms. And beer + games = fun. Having mastered UNO, Candyland and Monopoly I needed a challenge. I tried golf. Golf goes well with beer and my husband  plays it. Golf does not go well with me — too much sun, takes forever and I have no skill. It’s not a game one can quickly play on par with one’s spouse if said spouse has played since he was six. And you can’t play golf in a taproom, you have to bring the beer to the game.

Cribbage seemed like a more strategic choice. How hard can it be, I thought? But I just can’t remember the rules after 8 ounces of beer. So in the pursuit of excellence one night, I ordered a grapefruit soda at Bad Weather Brewing. It was delicious. In fact, it was so good the next few times we went there I didn’t even order a beer.

Like a seasonal beer, the soda tap rotates at Bad Weather. Gone was the grapefruit Friday night and in its place, cherry basil. By midnight, I was thinking of serving it with barbecued ribs and Thai-style green beans or with a dark chocolate chipotle-laced brownie. In other words, like a wine or beer, it would pair well with food. Plus it’s good for my game.

Back to cribbage:  last week I almost skunked my husband. (That’s an official cribbage term, by the way!) I’m sure the soda helps.



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At the Irish Fair of Minnesota, I love watching the dance schools perform. One of my students recently wrote about Rince na Chroi who’ve been teaching students for 11 years in St. Paul.

Love to dance? Rince Na Chroi is for you!


Are you interesting in dancing? Have you thought about learning Irish dance?

Rince Na Chroi School of Irish Dance

Rince na chroi accepts children age three and up.  They offer year-round class and have hundreds of performances!  As for adult, no worries, they do have adult class where adult can learn the Irish dance as well.

About Rince na Chroi

Rince na Chroi (pronounced Rink-a na cree), Gaelic for “dance of the heart” was found by Katie Stephens Spangler in February 2003.  Rince na Chroi’s purpose is to provide a positive, fun learning atmosphere for all of their students.  These dancers are friends, in and out of the classroom.  They strive to instill a sense of belonging, school sprite and confidence in each and every Rince na Chroi student.


Contact Katie Stephens Spangler via email or call (651) 645-4292 if you are interested in Irish dance classes.

Learn more about Rince na Chroi on the web.

Don’t wait until the Irish Fair to learn how to Irish dance! Call now to register and in no time, you will learn how to Irish Dance

Excerpted from one of my fantastic’s student’s blogs:  Clorblog.wordpress.com at St. Catherine University.

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IMG_3888I had $2, mostly in quarters in my pocket as I biked past the Minnesota Wild merchandise booth at Grand Old Day.

T-shirts and hats for $10.

Eight quarters wasn’t going to help, but my debit card did.

How many Grand Old Day merchants missed out on sales because they only accepted cash?

It’s well known that consumers spend less when they use cash. In a land of food trucks, pop up shops, and licensed peddlers, why would any small business limit their sales to patrons with cash in hand?

Square and Mobile Payments

Forbe’s reported last year that there are many mobile payment options besides the well-known, Square:

Many small merchants, from food truck vendors to hair stylists, use mobile payments to process their transactions. They’re convenient, simple and often come with handy features like receipt delivery and reports. But should small businesses always turn to the first processor they see? Even though companies like Square and PayPal Here dominate the conversation, they’re not always the best choice.

With options like these, small businesses (and non-profits) need to wisely manage payment options.

Kudos to the Minnesota Wild

One – for taking debit cards along side Grand Avenue

Two – for unloading dated playoff merchandise


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Really, these go together. Just watch this video about the economics of local shopping and you’ll understand the connection.

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Saturday dawned foggy and cool, but turned Minnesota Perfect after lunch:  sunny and breezy in the 60s.

This is the THE weekend to be outside.

If you’re not interested in traveling far, consider a drive to Shakopee to visit the Sever’s Corn Maze. Honestly, I’d never been to one until Social Media Breakfast-MSP (#SMBMSP) invited me–unless you count the 2 days I detasseled corn one summer and got lost trying to find the bus home.

Unfortunately, the day I went to Sever’s was freezing–upper 30s with a biting wind. But it was a great day to test my tech-friendly gloves from Talbot’s and take pictures free of frostbite. The Thumbs and forefingers have a special covering that works on touch screens.

While I had my “big camera” with me, I had a lot of fun playing with photography apps and my smart gloves. My Canon Rebel photos can be stunning, however I can’t share them until I download them at home (which I still haven’t done).

Taking Photos and Sharing Them

With my iPhone4, I have the native camera app, Camera+, Hipstamatic, and Instagram.

I take much better photos with Camera+ than I do with Instagram. It’s not only the cool special effects and touch exposure–the photos are clearer–even without the new 99¢ Clarity function. I don’t think it’s operator error either.

My method is the same with each app:  Open, Aim, and Click.

It’s easy to share my Camera+ photos to Twitter, Facebook, or via email to my dad, but Instagram is a social network. As soon as I snapped and shared the photo of the maze entrance (above), my friend Teresa Boardman of St. Paul Photos liked it! Plus I could look for other friends lost in the maze (or the corn pit that I somehow missed) by their photo maps and hashtags.

When my fingers aren’t freezing (and I have time to kill) I take pictures with Camera+, save them to my Camera Roll and upload them to Instagram. But it’s a lot of work just to share photos with my friends.

Tech Gloves, Typing, and Snapping

My gloves performed beautifully. In fact, I think I type more accurately with them–especially when aiming for an “o” and not an “i.” Oddly they worked better with Instagram than Camera+. I’m not sure why, though. While functional and fashionable, my bright red gloves are wool and slippery, which means driving with them is dangerous. This winter I’ll have to invest in lined leather ones, so I can answer my phone in the car.

Other than Taking Pictures,What Can You Do at Sever’s Corn Maze?

Just Imagine the State Fair with a lot of corn and pumpkins and you’ll get the idea. Here’s a few of the fantastically fun attractions:

  • Mini Donuts
  • Giant Slide (from the Fair)
  • Corn Pit
  • Pumpkin Shooting
  • Straw Bale Mini Maze
  • Camel AND Pony rides
  • Exotic Animal Petting (watch out for the Ostriches)
  • Farm Animal Feeding (the goats are cute)
  • Pumpkins for Purchase
  • Much Appreciated ATM

By the way, if you don’t automatically save your Instagram photos to your iPhone Camera Roll, read here for Mac or here for PC to learn how to download them.

Have a Super Sunday!

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Can you imagine a concrete Rice Krispy bar? Then you’ve got a good idea of what water permeable concrete looks like.

Percoa is an innovative, local company concerned with storm water management. Vice President K.T. Berhagen is a St. Kate’s graduate and one of my former students.

I am so impressed with this technology that I’d love to replace the sidewalk along my city house with it. With a little drain tile underneath, I won’t need to worry about a potentially wet basement anymore.

Click on the link below to see an entire driveway done in Percoa’s permeable concrete.

Parking Lot-Permeable-Pervious-Percoa.

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ONE:  To find out what people are really talking about — the back story to the news

‘Bonny Bear’ wins two Grammys, confounds populace 

The Grammy’s bore me, so I recorded the 3 1/2 hour show and whizzed through all the stuff I didn’t care to see. I was delighted to hear Bon Iver win and see Justin Vernon accept an award in his groovy Dunderdon suit from St. Paul mens’ shop, BlackBlue.

Reading Twitter, I think I was in the minority; it was hilarious. This is what everyday America really thought, excerpted from Vita.MN:

The real fun came from the Web reactions to Vernon’s unlikely wins, a collective “Who???” from mainstream music fans. A “Who is Bon Iver?” Tumblr page quickly popped up, aggregating tweets and Facebook comments from baffled Grammy viewers. Among the choice entries, from tweeter @riccyGee: “What the fuck is a Bon Iver? Sounds like a fucking appetizer at Red Lobster and shit.” And from @TDice4: “Bon Iver?!? Are you joking me?? Who is that? He looks like a lumberjack, go back to Canada!”

A slightly more adorable meme was spawned from a large crop of confused viewers who seemed to think something called “Bonny Bear” was taking home awards. “This Bonny Bear character needa shoot his barber,” tweeted @KoolAidKleff, in reference to Vernon’s thick, full beard.

TWO:  To bring attention to an issue — #NotBuyingIt — that traditional media skips

I hosted a Super Bowl ad party and a game broke out, to paraphrase a famous quote about Minnesota hockey. The ads were not particularly creative, interesting, or memorable except for their sexism. At least we can always count on GoDaddy.com for that…oh wait Fiat, Kia, BestBuy, and Teleflora, too.

Boos and hisses in my basement echoed on Twitter with the #NotBuyingIt hashtag promoted by Girls For A Change and MissRepresentation and reTweeted and repeated still, today–15 days later, which on Twitter, is a lifetime. However, there was nothing in my progressive, big city local paper.

Here are a couple of choice quotes from the Twittersphere courtesy of MotherJones on Storify:

@Kristennel:  @telaflora @godaddy My 12yo independent, smart, creative daughter is watching now. don’t make me explain your stupidity, pls. #notbuyingit

@gladuem:  Really? A woman’s body is a billboard or a car? My daughter and my wife are not commodities. @GoDaddy #notbuyingit

@katgordon:  Best Buy has great record mktg to women but they featured only men inventors in #brandbowl spot #notbuyingit

@sitcomofmylife:  Women love it when you leer at them. It makes us crawl all over perfect strangers. Wait, no, it makes us feel unsafe. #notbuyingit

THREE: To Break News, To Read it First

Last May working hard on Twitter, I hollered down to my husband, “What’s up with riots in Vancouver?” He had no idea what I meant even though he was watching the Stanley Cup live. So he came upstairs and watched the YouTube video some bystander had posted on Twitter. Of course, network TV eventually picked up the story, but I knew first.

Did it matter? No.

But if someone Tweeted about straight lines whipping across the Twin Cities, I’d run to the basement and then turn on the radio.

News breaks on Twitter sometimes an hour before it’s confirmed in traditional media. On Twitter it spreads virally– I read something and share it with my followers, who do the same and in 10 seconds something can be shared thousands of times.

The key, of course, is confirmation. What makes something real and true? If a journalist Tweets it, I believe it — they’ve proven their reliability. What about the people I “know” only on Twitter, can I trust them?

I use my common sense. Essentially, I believe something if it appears to be an “eye witness account.”

  • Mobile updates
  • Tweets with photos or video
  • Volume of Tweets vs. reTweets

Maybe that’s why my local television station calls their programming “eye witness news.”

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