5 Essential Books Authored by Women

I typically choose books based on subject and recommendations. However, I noticed that some of the books that have made the most difference in my life have been authored by women. I hope this list will be a growing list. For now, let’s start with these 5 books and see how our list grows.

How to Work a Room
By Susan Roane
This book is essential for the wallflowers among us. Although, I have never been shy Susan offered real techniques for getting the most out of every event you attend. From class reunions to seminars and social functions, How to Work a Room provides strategies for meeting people, establishing rapport, and following up on friendship, business opportunities, and creative collaborations. Roane’s book was the first I had read about the subject and its advice still lingers years later. The 25th-anniversary edition updates the book with social media platforms that need to function as the new rooms to be worked in contemporary times. Roane includes many examples and stories from her own life which makes the book a fun as well as informative read. Communication with others is an essential skill to possess in any area of life. Roane navigates these rooms with ease and authenticity and teaches the readers how to duplicate her charm. The book soothes the ego by reminding it’s readers that we are all human and taking is the first step to connecting is awkward for anyone. This is a gentle reminder that fear when meeting people can be overcome and Roane is our special guide.

The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It
By Kelly McGonigal
This book explains the idea of willpower from scientific standpoints of medical, psychology, economy and neuroscience. The book was based on a course taught by McGonigal and has a good structure on how to teach the subject matter because of this format. All self-help books should be written this way as it makes the book an ideal tool for self-improvement. The idea of willpower as McGonigal explains is not a character trait but a physical and mental response to the outside stimuli. Willpower can be improved by sleep, nutrition exercise, and meditation. This self-help book is backed by scientific research and gives step by step strategies on how to combat the lack of willpower we all experience in our lives while performing a range of tasks from saving money to dieting. McGonigal provides examples to follow in the book and writes with a simple friendly tone which is an enjoyable read even though some of the science can be a bit dense. The exercise of self-control in our lives is crucial to good health and McGonigal’s book is an essential read for anyone trying to improve their willpower to achieve any goal.

Lean In
By Cheryl Sandberg
In this book Cheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook analyses the reasons progression for woman has stalled in the American workforce, and challenges woman to make active decision to realize positions of power in their career. The book encourages women to stay engaged in their career despite raising families. Although many other books have focused on the external barriers to women’s success at the top of the corporate structure, Sandberg examines the internal decisions woman make inhibiting their rise to the top. The author uses self-deprecating humor to engage the audience to understand her perspective. The use of anecdotes in her book often display the common reasons women may question their own ability to become successful in their careers. Although the book may not resonate with all woman, its special look at internal female dialog evokes honesty and earnestness in self-evaluation. The largest criticism of the book is that it is advice tailored for the affluent and privileged woman rather than the mass population of women in the workforce. However, the overall message of the book is positive. It advises women to take on challenges and opportunities in the workforce. She exclaims that woman should not shy away from open doors but continually strive to be a powerful force in corporate America.

Mindset: The New Psychology of Success
By Carol Dweck
Stanford University psychologist has presented new theories about success. Her studies on achievements in life have categorized people on a scale of fixed mindset to the growth mindset. Dweck describes people who use hard work, practice, strategies and constructive feedback to improve their achievements are people with growth mindsets. The fixed mindsets people feel that achievement and success can only be achieved through talent and luck. Dweck presented examples of students presented with challenging assignments, who were praised for their hard work went on to achieve more than students who were praised for their talent and intelligence. The growth mindset children although may initially fail they achieve more in the end through diligence, practice, effective strategies, following advice and hard work than children who are more naturally gifted and do not learn the lessons of the growth mindset factors. Dweck writes chapter after chapter of examples of growth mindset individuals achieving at academics, work, art, sales and other avenues. The concepts in the book are presented to overwhelm the reader with examples, but this helped with helping reinforce the message of the book. The book also provides questions to think over to develop growth mindsets in ourselves.

Knowing Your Value
By Mika Bryzinski
In this book, Brzezinski examines her experience of being underappreciated and underpaid at one point in her career. She explains that this is not unique to her own story but a common thread among professional women in all careers. She uses personal stories of the famous woman to show that there are reasons woman do not negotiate pay, ask for what they deserve and equal men in their financial earnings. The book is heavily anecdotal and leans on the experience of broadcast journalists rather than a scientific study of reasons for the disparity in pay. The book also neglects the experience of women across industries. However, the book is insightful in that there are common traits woman have that lead them to be underpaid in a world where they are equally educated and experienced.

By Angela Duckworth
This book is must read for anyone who has ever challenged themselves to never give up. The essential truth is that many successful people Duckworth studied were people who kept going even after failure. These people had passion and perseverance and that is the essential meaning of having grit. The measurement of grit accounts for more success that other commonly measured traits such as emotional stability and extroversion. People with more grit were also more likely to have a higher education, do better at sales. Duckworth asserts that effort is just as important as talent although we may have a bias for feeling that talent is most important. Things like passion, practice, purpose, and hope are elements of what makes people never give up. The book also includes the elements necessary to foster in grit in children with a few subjects on parenting. In addition, there are tips for fostering grit in our own lives. The book is a compelling read.

Plan B

Plan B for the Goals in your Life

The uncertainty in life can be a challenge for anyone to navigate. Having a Plan B or a contingency plan can help steer your life in a productive and fulfilling way. It allows you to overcome fear, take greater risks in life and always be prepared.

Eggs in a Basket
Let’s start by discussing Plan A. It is the direction we choose to follow now. Setting up goals, writing a plan to follow and creating a step-by-step path often produce unwanted anxiety as you begin to take concrete actions to a particular plan. This is often due to fear of the unforeseen or contingencies that happen in life along our journey. Making decisions and intentions for your future and the focus of your energy in the present can be a daunting task. It is at this phase reflection on what could happen when all does not go according to plan can be a necessary step to ease the burden of investing in a Plan A. The adage is “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket” and planning for the proverbial different baskets can provide us with a measure of freedom to more securely travel whatever road we choose at the moment.

Walking across a tightrope without a net can be a scary proposition to most people. The fear of crossing can debilitate any person trying to reach the destination across the circus tent. This is why it is so amazing to see the spectacle of the tightrope walker in midair. However, most people would rather walk their path with some sort of contingency plan in place to ensure a soft landing in case of the dreaded fall. Plan B can often be a necessary psychological step in moving forward on Plan A. It is as if we need to build a safety net that provides us with an extra measure of security to move forward on the path we have chosen for ourselves. Plan B or a contingency plan is exactly the alternative plan in case the first plan cannot be carried out as pre-defined or if a decision is made that the original plan will not result in the expected outcomes.

Most contingency plans in life are conceptualized due to fear of the future. Fear can be a positive motivator in the process of writing a Plan B. It can allow us to focus initially on the essential needs for survival but eventuality on essential needs for growth. A good plan Plan B also balances the short term goals with the long term goals. As we move from Plan A to Plan B the smoothness of the transition can be thought through with essential steps in pre-planning.

Greater Risk, Greater Reward
Plan B can allow you to take larger risks with whatever goals you are currently working on. The knowledge that if their is a failure at any point on your current path there is an alternative option that can allow you great freedom of thought and action. With greater risks come greater rewards as well as the possibility of greater failures. Plan B is the antidote for the fear of risk.

Trigger Point

The first step in constructing a Plan B is define what are the deadlines, pivot points and decisions that must be made with regards to Plan A to determine if it is time to make a change. What are the crucial outcomes and measurable progress when determining whether Plan A is succeeding. This is the trigger point that we must define to begin to implement our Plan B or the contingency plan.

S.M.A.R.T. goals
S.M.A.R.T. goals can help with making the final decision to move to Plan B or the contingency plan. S.M.A.R.T. goals are defined as goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time bound. With this in mind a decision must be made as to whether the original goals can be attained with moderation or should a completely new contingency plan be undertaken. The trigger points should be built into the original plan with specific and measurable outcomes weighed for the decision to implement a Plan B. In addition, the unforeseen developments with regards to a plan should be assessed as possible risks and challenges that may make a Plan A unachievable or unrealistic within specific and measurable goals and time constraints.

Steps to building the contingency plan or Plan B:

-Develop an overarching vision for Plan B, like all good plans the vision is crucial to seeing the end result clearly in order to move forward on the path.

-Take an inventory of your skills, assets, network, education, energy, connections and time. This allow you the ability to see what is available to you currently and may illuminate a future path whether it is divergent or complementary.

-Invest time in researching a contingency plan. Set aside a small amount of time each week to work on Plan B even if Plan A is going smoothly. The results of this work can bring new insight or excitement to your current plan as well as provide a break from the routine of Plan A.

-Make your Plan B or the contingency plan a goal on the opposite end of a spectrum from what Plan A’s goals are defined as. This would provide a creative outlet or a nuts and bolts goal for the future to utilize all aspects of your skills and abilities. For instance, if your are an accountant, a goal such as a creative writing project may provide the balance of your skills or vice versa if you are a performer would starting to take classes to be a physical therapist excite you?

-Identify small steps that can be done in advance to prepare for the worst case scenario should Plan A have to be abandoned. These small steps can accumulate in time to reach a formidable body of work to mitigate any total disaster. Make sure these steps provide a level of fun or reward in your life as the enjoyable the tasks are the more you will follow through with accomplishing them.

-Plan B should have immediate steps to take if they must be implemented and long term goals to reach for to achieve the stated vision. A list of things to do or have is helpful in executing a Plan B.

-Keeping it simple at first so that the road ahead is clear as you begin to turn the wheel in a new direction.

-Assess your immediate needs and long term needs for switching paths along your journey.

-Defining success can be a prime motivator when implementing a Plan B that allows for the development of goals and step by step plans.

Steps Forward
A contingency plan in life ensures that there is always a step forward to work on. Job situations, family illnesses, tragedy, unforeseen developments with your spouse or children, natural disaster or failure in any area can be mitigated with a Plan B. The Plan B or contingency plan although sometimes elicited by fear does not have to be a burdensome task. The plan to develop new skills, monetize a hobby, save for a dream, start a creative project, look for a new job, plan a move or the accomplishment of goals can be an exercise in fun visualizing when establishing steps for a Plan B. The Plan B is only limited by imagination. Start taking those small steps forward on your life’s contingency and become fearless in your daily decisions.

Written by:
Yolanda Ortega

Trello, project management tool, screenshot

Easy Project Management with Trello

Trello offers an easy to use project management tool that is not only easy and fun to use, it is beautifully visual, encourages collaboration and is intuitive to understand at first glance.

Web Based Project Management Application
Trello is a free web-based project management system application that is available on iPad, iPhone, Android, Windows 8, and web browsers.

Visual Thinking
Trello is the greatest project management tool for visual thinkers. Trello is a project management tool that emulates a board with sticky notes on a wall or notecards on a cork board. It is a highly visual organizational tool to manage the process of completing a project. The project’s lifecycle is easily managed between tasks and milestones to provide a bird’s eye view of the work process.

Kanban Style Format
Boards are the essential collaboration tools that allows you to organize each individual project in a kanban style format. The kanban style or method, for managing work, prioritizes delivery at appropriate times to alleviate overload of information by people assigned to a given project. This process defines the task as it moves through the work process until it’s completion or delivery to customers. The purpose of Trello is to display the process in all it’s steps in the kanban style. Team members pull work from the assigned cards. In essence, Trello and the kanban system tells members what to produce, when to produce it and how much to produce.

Layered System
The layout is a layered system. First you create organizations, then you create a board for each project, on each board, you can create lists, within the lists you create cards. The board is set-up with columns across the top horizontally and cards making up the lists going down the columns vertically. As mentioned above, it is reminiscent of a cork board with cards pinned under different headings. The cards can be dragged to the appropriate columns when they are completed.

Lists and Cards
As mentioned, you organize the board by columns horizontally that are called lists so that you can get an overview of the project’s process and then add cards vertically within the lists that you can move across the columns. The cards can contain checklists, colored labels, images and attachments. Each card can be assigned to different people and files can be attached that are important to the project. In addition, each card can be moved, copied, subscribed to or archived.

Reasons for using Trello

1.) It keeps things neat and organized if you have a separate board for each project

2.) It’s easy to move between projects with the menu at the top of the Trello screen

3.) You can move cards easily from list to list (column), for instance if you follow the “To do”, “Doing”, and “Done” lists you can move cards easily as you progess

4.) You can manage running conversations almost like an email chain in an easily viewed and understandable format

5.) You will get notifications for new activity which eliminates the need for checking Trello throughout the day

6.) You can upload attachments from Google Drive, Dropbox, Box, Computer, OneDrive

7.) Simplicity is an overriding factor for some when choosing a project management tool

8.) Built for easy collaboration

Client Projects
Trello is an effective way to handle client projects. Creating a board for every client project eases the communication flow when going through various stages of the work process. It is easy to assign tasks and allow the client the view of the project in process and who is performing what task. There is also an efficiency of time due to the fact that the team spends less time checking in.

Personal Projects
Trello can be used for personal projects, keeping track of family priorities, small business assignments, art projects, daily tasks, lesson plans, hobbies etc…

It is also a place to brainstorm, re-organize, prioritize and plan out the visual landscape of a project. The basic principles of using the system are to visualize the workflow, limit the amount of tasks in the “in progress” column, pull completed work from column to column as completed and finally and most importantly, monitor, adapt and improve.

Trello is simple in design but can be integrated with hundreds of applications including gmail, Evernote, Sunrise Calendar, Twitter, Salesforce, Google Drive, Zapier and IFTTT.

Inspirational Examples

-Weddings, Baby and Bridal Showers, Anniversary and Birthday Parties can be planned easily with boards that use lists that detail timing such as 12-months out, 6-months out, 3-months out, 1-month out, 2-weeks out.

-Vacations can be planned easily with Trello boards to research different destination options, to dos before trip, itinerary, restaurant research, historical site research, planning, packing, etc…

-Recipe Organization can include lists for meal planning, recipe collection and grocery store strategies

-Job search can be organized with boards that list preparation, open positions, companies, interviews and follow-ups

-Home renovations can be planned with family members to interview contractors, schedule prep work, materials, design ideas, communicate thoroughly and coordinate schedules

-Editorial calendars can be created to write blogs, books, articles social media content or writing portfolios.

Trello’s basic plan for individuals is free. The Business plan is $100 per year/per user and the Enterprise pricing is $250 per year for multiple teams.

As you can see the possibilities for managing projects are endless with this phenomenal tools at hand. The visual nature makes this tool beautiful to use. It’s simplicity for use with teams or individually is a major selling point. The integrations with other applications ensures that you can really create a robust project management tool. Create your first board today and begin the journey to easy project management. Click here to try Trello!

Written by:
Yolanda Ortega

Chinese red envelope and oranges

7 Steps to Being Luckier

Definition of Luck
According to Merriam-Webster the definition of luck is “a. a force that brings good fortune or adversity. b : the events or circumstances that operate for or against an individual.” Many people believe that this force, event or circumstance can only come about by randomness or chance. However, it is through experience that I have learned that good luck is something you can bring about through action or openness to chance or randomness. Good luck is really new opportunities that can come in a few varieties such as new information, ideas, people or stuff that can change our lives in small or large ways to the benefit of our lives.

Why We Need Good Luck
We need good luck in our lives to bring about success and prosperity. It is said that success is a function of both preparedness and opportunity colliding and it is in both these two functions that someone can invite in good luck that will lead to success.

Preparedness and Opportunity
Good luck doesn’t have to be random. Good luck leading to success brought about by preparedness and opportunity can be initiated by changing what we pay attention to in our daily lives. I posit the theory that good luck is everywhere in the air all around us, and we only need to pay attention to what is going on in a different way to change our luck from bad or nonexistent to good.

Selective Attention
We have all had the experience that after we had thought about buying a shiny new blue Honda, we began to see blue Hondas everywhere. Was there suddenly a rush to buy blue Hondas? No. Could everyone read our minds and steal our idea? No. We now notice the blue Hondas everywhere according to Anne Treisman due to what she defines as Attenuation Theory or selective attention.

Good Luck is Always Waiting to be Noticed
Selective attention theory explains how human beings process only a selected portion of the millions of stimuli surrounding them while completely ignoring other stimuli altogether. This is because the five senses besiege us all day long with information and our brains must prioritize what we process. So when we start thinking of blue Hondas all of a sudden, we notice blue Hondas, but they were always there. Just like “good luck” it’s always there waiting to be noticed.

Meaningful Coincindence
In our busy world it is easy to see how we can completely miss the ability to prepare, and the ability to spot opportunity. And it is in both these functions, we could use good luck to help us along. Carl Jung described luck as a meaningful coincidence. It is possible to put a jolt into randomness and chance and bring about meaningful coincidence or luck by changing your attitude, environments, people and information that you see on a normal basis. This will broaden our selective attention and invite the ability to see, hear, smell, feel and taste new stimuli that will in turn change what our brains process allowing new ideas, information, people or stuff to come into our world. This allow us to choose how we prepare and see opportunity. This is the essence of how we perceive good luck. Here are my tips to being luckier in life:

1.) Have an attitude of expectancy. Start your day everyday with the thought that something lucky will happen. No matter who you meet, no matter where you are remember luck is in the air in the form of information, ideas, people or stuff. Having the attitude that something pleasant will happen will help you to train your selective attention to tune into opportunities aka good luck.

2.) Change your routine. Walk or drive a different path. Do something you’ve never done before. Buy something unusual. Wear different clothing. Use the opposite hand for writing a wish list. Doing something in a different way will help you break out of bad luck or no luck situations by changing what stimuli your brain processes every day. This will give you the chance to see, feel, hear, taste, smell things differently and could start the path to a small new way of thinking and processing the stimuli all around us that could lead to something bigger and that’s good luck.

3.) Start preparing for something. Begin the process of doing something for a project or goal that you need good luck with in your life. For instance, if you want to buy a house go to the bank and talk to a loan officer or go to an open house. You don’t know what information, ideas, people or stuff will come across your path as you go to an information interview, start a savings plan, talk to a real estate agent or talk about loan options. Good luck may reveal itself as you begin to do. Think of it as the pre-planning process. Experiment with doing different things. Remember momentum goes where energy flows. The experience of doing will invite in the good luck by changing the habits that you have acquired over the years that may have stagnated your good luck antenna. Good luck is everywhere the theory of selective attention says you just need to pay attention.

4.) Read. Is there a How-to book you’ve got your eye on? Is there a business book you think might have useful information? Is there a blog writer that you want to follow? Have you ever picked up the alternative newspaper in your city? Have you looked through craigslist ads? Remember you don’t know what you don’t know. You might learn of a club you want to join. You might find out your city is granting microloans for small business. You might find out the neighbor down the street is giving away an armoire. You might find out there is free WordPress training at the local library. In this busy and distracted world reading is still a good way to find lucky information.

5.) Meet new people. You never know who you are meeting, and what kinds of opportunities they could offer you. You may be their perfect new Marketing manager. They may know of a great new Groupon. Networking with people of all backgrounds helps expand your world of knowledge by introducing you to different social circles. Word of Mouth is still the most common way people learn new information. And it has long been believed that the weakest ties within your circle of people may grant you more opportunities than people you normally interact with on a daily basis. This is the new stimuli at work again and the luckiest information you gather may come from that new acquaintance
6.) Take more chances. Are you reluctant to try something new? Try dipping your toe in the water with different projects in your life. Example: apply to several kinds of jobs even if you are not in the market on a weekly basis. Say yes to attending different kinds of social functions at least once of week. Say yes where you would have normally said no. Enter an art contest. Apply for a scholarship or grant. Audition for a play. Wear different colored sweaters. Go to a new restaurant on opening night. Be a leader where you would have normally been a follower. Give good luck a chance to find you. You can never win if you don’t get in and the stimuli in your environment needs a chance to reveal itself.

7.) Be good luck for other people. Visit grandma during the week by surprise. Buy an extra ticket to a concert and treat a friend. Give away a Groupon. Buy that extra bottle of wine or book that you think a friend or co-worker may want. Don’t wait for birthdays. Send handwritten notes to introduce yourself or say thank you. Be the person that people are grateful for in their life and you will find luck will be reciprocated by inviting new stimuli into yours and the people’s lives around you..

Final Thoughts
Creating new stimuli in your life so that your brain can begin to notice new opportunities all around you are the most common ways people report having good luck. You can actually begin to assist your senses to find new stimuli to process and open you up to a whole new world of information, ideas, people or stuff just waiting to find you. What steps can you take today to be luckier in your life?

Written by
Yolanda Ortega


Evernote for New Entrepreneurs

Evernote is a Time Saver

2015 brought me the opportunity to start-up a small business.  I have a myriad of information to deal with from classes on “How to Write a Business Plan” to tips on networking or ideas for the business.  I have been deluged with information and ideas.  This is a good thing.  I had read about Evernote a few years back but never felt the need to explore simply because, I had a tried and true system of organization all in my head.  Well now I’m almost 47 and the memory is not as good as it used to be, so it is fitting that the Evernote logo is an elephant that never forgets.

I’ve been using Evernote and have discovered that it has been invaluable to me thus far, and I can only see it getting better in terms of organizing ideas and projects.  I share these tips for any small business owner to get started.

First let me explain.  My system of collecting information on the internet or links, pdfs, random notes, random thoughts, meeting notes, etc… was almost non-existent.  I would save web clippings in a bookmark file on my  bookmark bar.  I would use yellow pads and notebooks to keep the random notes and thoughts as well as meeting notes together. Pdfs would be saved to a file on my desktop.  All that is over.  I have one central location to put all these things.  Here are my tips for getting started.


First I set-up the Evernote Web accounts on my laptop, tablet and cell phone since you can use each tool to collect data including camera, web clippings, email, pdfs, voice recordings, handwritten notes, etc…


I basically spent some time setting up all of my notebooks where you will put the individual notes that you create or that are links, pdfs emails, pictures, scans, etc….  The word notebook appears on the left side of the screen, right click then click new notebook.

You can also create a stack which is sort of like a suitcase to save all your related notebooks.  Example all of the notebooks related to my business operations can be in one stack.  All of my blog notebooks can be in another stack.  So the hierarchy that I customized for my own life:

  • My Business (Stack)
    • Financial (Notebook)
      • Bank loan (Note: note, article, pdf, link, email, scan, picture)
      • Bank account (Note: note, article, pdf, link, email, scan, picture)
    • Operations (Notebook)
      • Staffing outline  (Note: note, article, pdf, link, email, scan, picture)
      • Meeting (Note: note, article, pdf, link, email, scan, picture)
  • Blog (Stack)
    • Instagram Blog (Notebook)
      • Article about Instagram (Note: note, article, pdf, link, email, scan, picture)
      • picture of Instagram (Note: note, article, pdf, link, email, scan, picture)
      • web clipping re: Instagram (Note: note, article, pdf, link, email, scan, picture)

As you can see it is an easy organization system that anyone can set-up.  Customize in your own way for your own projects.


Create notes clicking the large button on the top of the page marked +New Note.  Begin to create notes and organized them by clicking the dropdown menu to choose the notebook.  This is the way to save the notes that you type.  Then type the tags that you would like to include.


Tagging is an important component when using notes.  They allow you to organize your notes on another level than just the Stack, Notebook, Note method.  I tag with all the keywords in the article or elements of a picture so that I can easily search for notes.


Next take the time to automate some of the functions of Evernote.  I use IFTTT to have gmails that are starred to go directly to a notebook.  There are also IFTTT recipes that allow you to save pictures from FB, Instagram, Twitter or almost any social media channel automatically to a notebook.  The IFTTT recipes with Evernote are a long list automating would be beneficial to save time.

Web Clipper

My favorite tool with Evernote is the Web Clipper an extension for your browser or a widget for your mobile device.  I can scan articles then I can save the link or screenshot to an Evernote notebook.

Another favorite thing I can do with Evernote is create lists with check boxes.  Just click the box on the toolbar that looks like a box with a check mark to place the check boxes in your note.  And get your checkboxes immediately.  It’s nifty little time saver and can eliminate your paper to do list.


This brings me to the next great tool within Evernote that you can use which is the collaboration tools.  You can click the Share button within a note and send your note via Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Email or create a link that you can send to a person or group.


Evernote for your mobile device is the most handy tool of them all.  As a small business owner, I collect a lot of pictures and voice recording as well as random ideas for blogs and services.  First I downloaded the apps for Evernote on my devices.  Then, I easily shared them with my Evernote notebooks using the widget on my phone just choose share on any picture or recording and click the Evernote icon.  It sends directly to my Evernote.


Evernote has allowed me the ability to go paperless in this delicate world.  In addition, this has caused less paper clutter in my life.  I really love this app and have only just begun to discover it’s uses in my life.  Here are some ideas for you:

  • Create outlines
  • Create to do lists
  • Take notes while learning a new skill
  • Record ideas and save in a central location
  • Keep copies of paper, receipts, reports, pdfs, important docs
  • Organize research
  • Record meetings
  • Save children’s artwork
  • Save certificates
  • Save coupons
  • Collect social media updates (automate with IFTTT)

Evernote for Small Business

Evernote has been one of my important discovery thus far as a business owner.  I find that I am more organized than ever because of this tool.  I know I will use this tool far into the future for keeping every project or life task organized.  I am able to do everything to date with the free version of Evernote.  This is a tool I highly recommend for use for any business owner trying to track their projects or ideas.

Written by 
Yolanda Ortega


Tools to Get Started – Social Media for Small Business

As I recently started my own business I went through a list of tasks that will help any business in the planning stages, get started with their social media strategy.  These media outlets cannot be ignored in today’s marketplace.  And success with these outlets starts with taking the time to build carefully from the start.

 A Few Statistics about Social Media

Social Media is an essential tool for today’s small business.  According to the Pew Research Center the growth of Social Media channels continues.  See figures for Total US Population users:

  • 58% Facebook
  • 19% Twitter
  • 21% Instagram
  • 22% Pinterest
  • 23% Linkedin

Tips for Getting Started

If you are a recent startup this article focuses on the tips for getting started.  As you can see there are many social networks to choose from.  It is vital that you understand where your clients or customers are in the social media universe.  Social Media is an investment in time that a small business can see results from in a short period of time.  Everything from SEO to brand building now is generated by your social media strategy.

  1. Choose a Brand or Company name.  These days many people choose their business name based on the research from a keyword planner like  Then checking for URL availability at a site like GoDaddy.  There are many reasons and theories to choose a name but practical considerations such as SEO search ability and uniqueness are optimal reasons too.
  2. Know who your clients or customers are and where they are in the social media space.  You shouldn’t sign up for every social media channel if you do not have the time or resources to adequately build them.  Here are a few key questions to ask yourself about which platforms to use.
    1. Consider your budget today’s social media platforms are pay to play and advertising dollars will be essential since organic growth is a thing of the past.
    2. Consider the time that each social channel will take to maintain.  This is an investment in time if it is to be done well.
    3. Have patience each platform will take time to build.
  3. Checking for availability on Social Media channels is also recommended.  Tools like can help you find a unique name.
  4. Open a special gmail account dedicated solely to your social channels.  One place to see all your social emails.
  5. Signing up for the Social Media channels that you are interested in will require a picture or logo.  A site like can help you size your pictures or logos.
  6. I recommend getting a new headshot for business purposes as this is the first impression people will get of you or your business.
  7. A company mission statement works well for profile descriptions and taglines should use keywords especially for Linkedin.  A good rule of thumb for writing a mission answers four key questions:
    1. What do we do?
    2. How do we do it?
    3. Whom do we do it for?
    4. What value are we bringing?
  8. Think about how you will generate content.  Ideally 80% of your content should be curated from good sources using or  20% of your content should be original.  Following your industry in trade magazines or will help you come up with relevant ideas for content.  In addition, all of your branding material, white papers, customer service success stories, etc… can be used repurposed to generate content for your social channels.
  9. Create a Editorial Calendar to organize your thoughts and strategy with regards to your messaging.
  10. Use a scheduler for your social media calendar.  Hootsuite and Buffer can be huge time savers and manage several media channels including your blog and gmail accounts.  In addition, TakeOff and will assist you with Instagram (only on a mobile device.)

Final Thoughts

This has been a brief overview with the steps for getting started with Social Media for your small business.  It is important to know that effort is required to maintain these social channels but the ROI in today’s market is undeniable.  You need to speak with your customers where they happen to find themselves on the web.  And today that could be Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr, Instagram, Linkedin, Youtube, Foursquare, etc…  And with this toolbox you can get started on the right foot.

Yolanda Ortega
President, Amusing Violet

nut and bolt

The Nuts and Bolts of Managing Instagram

Nuts and Bolts

With over 300 million users and over 5 million photos uploaded each day, Instagram has become a social media outlet that is essential to reach your audience.  Does your strategy include Instagram?  If you know your customers or clients you can begin to tell a story.  Begin by learning what engages your audience and what content will elicit a response.  Then follow the top trends and find the message of the day that is the right fit for your brand.  You can use between 30-50 hashtags on each post, but do the research, they should be the hashtags that balance popularity and relevance.  Then you want to use great content.  It is obvious your followers want to see great things.  Original and authentic content is best.  To spice things up, you can run contests and quizzes just to engage the audience on another level.

When the strategy and tactics are in place there are a few tools that can help you with the nuts and bolts of posting, managing, engaging and measuring your Instagram success.

First step is to set-up the tools on your phone or tablet.  You can’t at this point access Instagram from a desktop so the work may seem more difficult but I’ve set-up short-cuts to make like easier.  Download these free apps to make great use of your Instagram (Hint: keep them on the same page on your phone or tablet): 

  • Instaquote
    • allows users to type text whether original or quoted
    • allows users to credit authors
  • Photogrid
    • allows users to create photo grids, scrapbooks, photo edit, create templates, filmstrips from photos on your cell or photos from Facebook, Instagram, Flickr, Dropbox, Google image
    • allows users to share to Instagram, Google+ Facebook, Twitter, etc..and most importantly Takeoff (see below)
  • RePost
    • allows users to repost content from Instagram to their followers with their own hashtags
    • only allows users to RePost in real time
  • TagsForLikes
    • allows users to pick a category so that they can see a list of pre-written hashtags and copy and paste
  • Dropbox, Google Docs
    • allows users to drop a convenient list of #hashtages they have pre-written and then just copy and paste.
    • Drop photos into Dropbox for easy access to your phone apps
  • Takeoff
    • allows users to schedule Instagram posts ahead of time from apps such as Photogrid and Instaquote  (Because of Instagram’s Terms the app does not post for you.  TakeOff pings your phone or tablet at the pre-set time to post. Then just push a few buttons to post to Instagram.)
    • gives users suggested #hashtags
  • Iconosquare
    • Provides basic metrics to measure your success on Instagram

Working with photos and graphics are a time consuming chore.  However, with these free apps you can create great content for your Instagram account.

Finally, if you’ve done it all correctly your fans will do the sharing of content.  In addition, you should showcase the best of the UGC user generated content to appreciate your followers and encourage engagement.  Was this blog useful?

Homework:  Schedule your Instagram posts for the week using each app!

Yolanda Ortega
President, Amusing Violet