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5 posts from June 2007

June 27, 2007

"The Road Less Traveled" - Good for the Earth, Stunning for the Home

Dscn3432_2Can "earthy-friendly-only" items make it in this market? If you believe market focus groups it's a definite maybe - according to the reports, not enough people care - yet. That didn't stop Delilah Snell, the owner of The Road Less Traveled from trying. The business is thriving despite it's location in a former palm reader's store, next to a major highway turn off AND on a one-way street going in the wrong direction from drive by traffic.

Nina Burokas (a new BlogHer buddy) told me Delilah's store. Nina lives about 20 miles south of the store and I live within 1/2 mile  of it. I drive by the location 5 times a week, but didn't know it was there until word-of-mouth over lunch got me in the door.

Word of mouth works well for her. "What I hear most are 'My _________ told me that I would really like this place.' Or that they where told to check something out that I carry. After they arrive, most comment that they are surprised, informed and feel a sense of calm or just simply inspired/empowered with the information given."

I agree on the calming/inspiring atmosphere. It's akin to walking through an art gallery where you want to touch and experience everything. Check out that dishware from black Columbian clay. That's REAL BLACK clay, not a glaze. It feels amazing in your hands.

Because there is a lot to experience, she notes that many, "just try to 'digest' what is in here the first time... people are surprised and buy things that they didn't think where green, just because they didn't know.  And some others are just needing a store that actually carries eco-friendly items, they are not into buying on-line and enjoy the tangible shopping aspect.  some people just see my cards around town and are simply curious of what the store is, then they are hooked.  I'm here all the time and I have to say that very few never come back.

Dscn3431_2Delilah hand picks what goes in her store. "All the pieces are favorites!", she says, "They wouldn't be here if they weren't!  I really stand behind every item and I think that honesty and sincerity comes through... things are not just things to me and I really think that others believe the same.  We have kind of lost that notion of connectivity," she continued, "And oftentimes are to afraid to ask if this is really worth the purchase.  I am not afraid to say 'that doesn't look good' or 'if you don't know if you should buy it, then sleep on it' or 'this is a top seller/a great product', because that is the truth, not a pitch... I am not a salesperson... If I had to pick my top favorites, best of the best are: 

- Random Nicole tank tops and infant shirts:  I see how each one is created and how she puts love into each piece of clothing. Why?  Because she is my niece, who when finding out that I was opening a 'hippy store'  made a special line of organic cotton clothing to support me.  Yes, it is organic, but I can honestly say that the tops are CUTE! [and very well made]

-  La chamba pottery:  hand-built, non-toxic, and honestly beautiful casserole & cooking items.  I love the story & I love beauty in the useful.  Food is a worldwide theme of coming together, family, community,art, conversation, connection, memories... what better way to reinforce that than with what the food is made in - it is truly special."

She must be doing something right. Her store is bringing in customers who want to buy things, not just look. She's good at spreading the sustainable word. Tomorrow night the shop is hosting a OC Green Drinks. Delilah not only walks the walk, but serves the drinks.

June 26, 2007

The Wisdom of Crowds of Bloggers. Post your first vote now.

Bloghers_actThink of it - 11,000 blogger all talking about the same topic for one full year. All of them carving their opinions into the Internet cave wall and asking others to carve in theirs. All those opinions being picked up by companies who pay to know what blogger's think.

Wisdom_of_the_crowds_2  James Surowiecki, stated on Wisdom of the Crowds that "the many are smarter than the few and how collective wisdom shapes businesss, economies, societies and nations."  BlogHers ACT is out to prove or disprove that notion. (great read, BTW, pick up a copy)

If you want to be a part of it, sign on and select your topics. It's FREE TO DO and you can participate as a BlogHer or him.Consider it part of a mini-experiment in self-actualization.

I'm keeping my figures crossed that the "crowd" will pick Global Warming and then specifically hone in on Sustainable Standards which will keep our little capitalistic ways in line while lowering emissions. It's specific and very trackable goal that will force companies into compliance faster than any law. It also needs to be done NOW in order to be put into action over the next 10 critical years. Once a "real plan" for curing global warming is in place, then we can focus on all the other excellent suggestions. Saving the world from irreversible global warming and economic collapse seems like job #1 to me.

The market needs to be rattled. You would think by now that everyone knows about global warming and are working to help stop it. Manufacturers, retailers and consumers all need to be educated. The sales person I talked to today needs some guidance. He works at one of the biggest furniture store chains in the US. (30% of the CO2 going into the atmosphere is from clearcutting or burning of our forests, homes and furniture use a lot of wood)

MARY: I'm looking to replace my two livingroom chairs, do you have any green or sustainable furniture that I could look at?

SALES PERSON: We have a chair with micro fiber, that's pretty durable.

MARY: I mean green, or eco-friendly.

SALES PERSON: I've afraid it only comes in teal. (I wish this was a joke, but he really said that.)

Needless to say, the conversation stopped. Even if they did have something, this dude wasn't going to be able to explain what made it safe to buy.

Until both sides of the buyer/seller equation are up to speed, we have no hope of making this world sustainable and emission free.

June 18, 2007

Green to Gold: Keep it Sincere and be the green you want to see in the world

Joan_bladesBIZ WARNING SHOT: According to BlogHers ACT coordinators Emily McKhann and Cooper Munroe, "two weeks ago a Google search of the term “BlogHers Act” turned up zero hits and today there are almost 40,000"! ONE of those contributing ideas for the BlogHersACT project was Joan Blades a founder of Mom's Rising (80,000 members) and MoveOn.org (3 million or so). She suggested that global warming be the top issue as did many of the rest of us. At the Chicago July meeting, we'll find out which topic will become our year long project. I'm hoping the membership will agree to go for global warming. With Joan's machine's as part of the base of operation, I'm sure we can turn that 40,000 into bazillions in a year's time and change the market, which will change the world, forever.

Meanwhile...

I'm a sucker for airport books, the ones that beckon my brain during layovers. Green to Gold grabbed my eye in O'Hare last night. It was timely. I was coming back home after attending a Train the Trainer course for SMART Sustainable Standards. SMART covers 60% of the products and is comparable to the California Gold Standard. Both are for those who are serious about bringing down Global Warming.

Green to Gold overviews which companies are doing what and some of the pitfalls of greenwashing a product, such as the PR backlash and the cost of putting off compliance. It's their tagline that bothered me, however. How Smart companies use environmental strategy to innovate, create value, and build competitive advantage. I'm firmly in touch with my inner capitalist, but I'm also a consumer and one who cares whether the world goes on ticking or not. I want to buy from people and places who see the world through the same, green glasses I do. Pategonia didn't need a "strategy," they did what was right for the planet from the start and for that, I will be loyal.

Yes, we have to change our ways fast if we're going to make our products and our world sustainable, but could we be a tad more sincere about it? When I see "strategy" attached to something that should have been "lifestyle" all the way along, I question the company's intent. I can live with a reformed sinner, just admit it and don't work me, ok? In other words, be the green you want to see in the world.

Sincerity goes a long way and when you're faced with the possibility of millions of bloggers chatting you up or down, sincerity sells best in a market you can't control.

June 06, 2007

Ladies, get your keypads ready for "BlogHers ACT"

Talk_2 On the heels of BlogHer's Lisa Stone hinting at bigger things to come for this summer's BlogHer conference, her partner Elisa Camahort announced BlogHers ACT. In BlogHer community style, they are asking for BlogHer members for suggestions on what we should all blog about for one full year - together - all 11,000 of us if necessary to take ONE topic and make a difference. Talk about grassroots political action, only it's skipping the political part and just taking action.

Bloghers_act Do the math - If only 5,000 members posted on the same topic ALL YEAR, think of the impact that would have. Cooper Munroe and Emily McKhann are leading the charge(s). These two women set up a nationwide effort to help the victims of Katrina - two women and one blog did in days what Brownie couldn't do in weeks, organize a relief effort and put it in place. If anyone knows the POWER that blogging can have to change the world, it's these two.

Uk_green_labels My #1 issue: Demand that all products meet Sustainable Standards and we can stop global warming. If we don't have a safe planet to live on, the rest of the things that need to be addressed (education, healthcare, housing) won't matter as economic collapse is highly probable. If we don't act quickly, we'll lose valuable momentum and people will go to the dark side and give up - and we everyone's help on this one, and fast.

Did you see what the U.K. has proposed?

Rather than outlawing bad products that cause global warming, like a good government should during such a global crisis, the U.K. wants to put red, yellow and green labels on everything to help consumers pick earth safe products and let smart consumers save the world.

So be it. They are trusting consumers, which means WOMEN who comprise 88% of the retail buying world to make the right decisions and save the world. IN WOMEN WE ALL BETTER TRUST!

That said, let's give us some help.

The label makers in the U.K. or women in the U.S., can't make the right decisions unless they know for sure which items really cause global warming and which ones don't. Water by itself doesn't contribute. Water packaged and shipped in a plastic bottle does contribute. The only way to know if products are carbon neutral is to conduct a Life Cycle Assessment to measure where in the manufacturing process is the most CO2 being generated. It might be in the transportation alone. Oh, and make sure it's audited by a third party to keep everyone honest. Trust, but verify!

For me the #1 action we have to do is blog about agreed on Sustainable Standards that can pinpoint the problem and certify which products are REALLY sustainable and safe for the future of our planet and which ones aren't. There is no do-over on this one. We HAVE to get it right and get it right NOW. Sustainable Standards are already in place and ready to work their magic, they just need to be demanded by consumers and you'll be amazed at how fast companies will get their products certified.

More math...

  • 90% of the world's products come from just 100 companies.
  • 2/3 of the US gross domestic product is made up of consumer goods.
  • 88% of consumer purchases are made by women.
  • Marketing-to-Women went from "never heard of it" to "can't escape it" in 3 years.
  • 1% of a population talking, is enough to set off a tipping point that can change markets, and the world. We can do this!

Companies are listening to everything women say, not because it's the right thing to do, but because it's the economically right thing to do. They are turning a bright, dark green not because it's the right thing to do, but because it's the economically right thing to do.

BlogHer, with it's diverse reach of women can instantly create the (dare I say it) Sustainable buzz needed to kickstart this market transformation into place. After a year, with the market on the mend, we'll have the time to address the other big issues facing society. We only have 10 years, make that 9 now, to turn the global warming problem around and get 60% OR MORE of the CO2 out of the atmosphere. Ultimately, it won't be politics, it will be consumers making the right choices that will change the world.

Let me know if you feel the same way.

June 01, 2007

INSIDE BlogHer with Lisa Stone, President, Operations and Evangelism

Lisa_stone_2What is the sound of 1000 women blogging? We'll find out on July 27th on Chicago's Navy Pier. As one of BlogHer's three founders, Lisa Stone gave me an indication of what's set for the summer meeting. At the same time, she provides tips for companies now turning to bloggers for word of mouth advertising.

MARY: Companies are trying to understand the women's market as well as social media. As a mega blogger and also a moderator of the BlogHer Ad network; what key issues perk to the top of conversations over and over. What can companies learn from them if they want to be best friends with these outspoken women?

LISA: What do women online want from companies? I recommend that companies ask, don't tell. Companies who want to establish great relationships with women online will spend most of their time listening.

Effective companies will appreciate -- or be willing to learn -- that women who blog don't fit a single stereotype by subject or budget. The 9,000-plus blogs in BlogHer's growing blog directory are proof that women are writing about everything under the sun. Successful companies will also restrain themselves from SPAMing women online with commercial messages we didn't ask for. Instead, I recommend any enterprise -- from media initiatives to consumer products -- directly support bloggers and what interests us. Sponsor our blogs. Be respectful about the types of advertising you bring to blogs (hit the monkey? no thanks). Ask us to join your conversation on a blog too. Just be sure to tell online consumers:
Who you are
What you're doing
Why you're doing it

Transparency is the key to the social media queendom. And because women are the power users of Web 2.0, I use that term deliberately.

Mary, thanks but I don't deserve the compliment. BlogHer is now a full-fledged start-up and my work with Elisa Camahort, Jory Des Jardins and the entire community keeps me from writing as often as I'd like. These days I'm more of a mega-commenter! I look forward to writing more soon.

MARY: I have to commend BlogHer for having a code of conduct before anyone else. The code, loose that it is, helps new bloggers understand what's expected without denying them their free speech. Now that the Kathy Sierra story has had time to settle, do you think bloggers at large will become kinder or be more angry? Will there always be a need for a sanctuary, like BlogHer for women to gather and share ideas?

LISA: We launched our community hub on January 30, 2006 with the existing Community Guidelines in place. Our decision to do so was very deliberate: We wanted to create a place where women who blog could mix it up, but without having to deal with speech that is abusive, threatening or harassing. We felt we owed that to the community. We also ban plagiarism, libel and if anyone uses our site to violate some third party's privacy, that is unacceptable. The guidelines have served us well, and we believe that every blogger and every site has the right to set policies for their own site and community, and only that community can come up with the guidelines that are appropriate. That's why I don't think one-size-fits-all guidelines cannot be determined or enforced by an outside force.

I'd like to point out, though, that what happened to Kathy, while not an isolated incident online, reflects a microcosm of society -- not the blogosphere. Every medium has been used for hate speech and violence against women in particular.  Look at what happened when humans developed the printing press: First, we printed the bible. Next, we printed pornography. Bottom line: Blogs are a tool, and the media produced by bloggers will be as diverse as human conversation. Some of it is precious, some of it is garbage. I personally love the diversity available in free expression.

MARY: In that same theme - on your personal blog, you quote Gail Sheehy, "Women's liberation is not the end...it is the beginning of a lot of work. There is a whole world out there that needs to be totally transformed so that women and men can create, desire, build and play..." How do you see BlogHer transforming the world? Will BlogHer try to unify the voices say, on global warming? Or, in the self organizing nature of the blogosphere, would you ever survey all BlogHer members to get their psychographic profile? It crosses the line of letting individuals be individuals, but it also would show what their collective conscious looks like.

LISA: Absolutely. In fact, in time for BlogHer '07, we're working on a project to galvanize and support BlogHers who want to work together to transform the world. The combination of committed women and social media tools is pretty powerful, as many women in this community have proven! But we need a few more weeks before we can say anything else.

Indeed, we do survey our community, our conference attendees, our editors, our ad network members often, to try to get a pulse for where the community wants to lead us. That certainly doesn't mean we all agree...far from it, women who blog span the spectrum of ideologies on every subject...but we believe very strongly in "Don't tell, ask" as the way to get a clearer picture of what our community wants. We maintain this philosophy whether building conference programing or choosing public service announcements to run on the BlogHer Ad Network. And not every member wants all of those things, so we create a lot of different opportunities, and let the individual BlogHer choose which to pursue. BlogHer's Mission is to create opportunities for women bloggers to pursue education, exposure, community and economic empowerment.

MARY: While women bloggers have different interests, they all buy stuff. Do you think the women bloggers know how much power they  have in the market when they blog pro or con about a company? Do you do give an orientation to your BlogAd network when they join?

LISA: Women who blog are becoming much more aware of their power as influential consumers, mostly because they're being approached by companies on a regular basis. The primary guideline we give to our BlogHer Ad Network members is that they absolutely cannot accept money or merchandise in exchange for a blog post (whether positive or negative). Our commitment to our advertisers includes assuring them that their ad won't be appearing on what is, essentially, another ad. There are lot of advertorial opportunities available to bloggers right now, and we pride ourselves on making it quite clear where the lines are drawn between advertising and editorial on all of our member blogs.

MARY: BlogHer started as a way to connect like minded women and get their words posted on the Internet cave wall. Last year you had 4000 members, this year you're topping 9,000. How do you hope to keep the spirit of connectiveness alive? How do you envision BlogHer's direction (and maybe purpose) going forward? Any more formal women-helping-women things like what you offered for first time bloggers last year?

LISA: I think my partner Elisa Camahort said it best in 2005, when she described our first BlogHer conference as "the conference the community built." We work every day to embody that spirit. Our goal is to continue to be the best listeners we can be, so that we can use community feedback to shape BlogHer's priorities. We've been listening hard this spring, and that's why we're at work on a redesign of the BlogHer Community Hub and we're planning to re-open BlogHer's Ad Network to new subscribers this summer. We're also eager to dig into this activism initiative and continue to advocate for women, online and off. BlogHer started as a labor of love -- and now that we're two quarters into our third year, with three community-driven businesses designed to raise the profile of women who blog, we feel we're only just beginning.

MARY:  I'm looking forward to this July's meeting on Chicago's Navy Pier. How are you going to top last summer's gathering in San Jose?

LISA: That, Mary, will be up to BlogHer attendees! BlogHer's conferences are what the attendees make them -- and I anticipate great things from BlogHer '07. Here's a taster for Day One and Day Two. Every year our attendees make us smarter, giving us feedback that leads us to add more content and add nuance about how we present it. This year our technical track is going to be more gloriously geeky, featuring hands-on lab segments on Day Two such as Food Photography. We're also providing professional training that bloggers have asked for, such as media training for television and print interviews, and speaker training. And of course, with November 2008 less than 18 months away, our Politics track is going to focus on action...particularly on how to get more women voting, and how to get politicians and the media talking more about the issues women care about, regardless of their ideological stripe, such as the environment, healthcare and Iraq. We continue to bring new voices to BlogHer, and we have a lot left to announce, including some really exciting activities. It's summer by the lakeshore in Chicago; frankly, the better question might be: how will we top it next year!

MARY: I have no doubt you will top it next year for the very reason you gave earlier, you "ask, members what they want to do next, vs. telling them."

See you in a month!