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Business BookSYNOPSIS

At age 23, Allison De Meulder started an online business in a time when ecommerce was a relatively unknown term. Sixteen years later, she reflects back on how she grew the business and how the business turned her into an adult.

This book tells Allison’s story. It is not meant to give advice, but rather to inspire women. She wants to show women that they can have a successful business, be a wife and be a mother, all at the same time. Allison has done it all, from hiring her husband to work with her, bringing the kids to the office on holidays instead of brunching with bunnies, to providing jobs and opportunities and inspiring a corporate culture filled with creativity, comradery and lots of sugar, chick flicks and crafting. Allison did it by choosing the right (and wrong) people for her team, making mistakes at every turn, taking risks and being an introvert. It sounds exhausting and it was, but Allison is still standing tall.

 

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Excerpt from

I Crumpled My Paper, Now What?

Tidbits from an Entrepreneur still in training

Allison De Meulder

 

LOOK FIRST OR LEAP FIRST?

 

I would like to say that mistakes I made along the way I can count on one hand, but that’s definitely not true. Whether you are a perfectionist or not, it’s hard for entrepreneurs to admit they make mistakes. I want to be at the helm and in control, hoping that every “yes” and every “no” I say is undoubtedly the right choice.  However, everyone makes mistakes, and putting my pride aside, I will tell you about some of the ones I have made along the way:

Not Having a Mentor: Someone Who Could Give Me Bear Hugs

I probably didn’t look hard enough, but I have to be honest I was always hoping that a long term mentor would just fall at my doorstep and be there for me throughout the years. I have been in peer groups and met great people but none that I would call a long term mentor. I think this is essential and even though I have been doing this for sixteen years I still hope to find a mentor. They do not necessarily need to be in my industry, (although that would be a bonus) they just need to be someone who is trustworthy, a sounding board, and understands the journey of an entrepreneur. If you are one of those, feel free to look me up!

Not Knowing How to Handle Growing Too Big: A Balloon Hurts When It Pops In Your Face

I have known a few entrepreneurs who can attest to this one. Growing is amazing but the pains are achy and gnawing. Typically people think growth means money and yes that’s part of it. But there are so many decisions to make and actions to take when growth happens. The most important question to ask yourself when growing is, how will we sustain this growth?  When we grew for the first time we did not think about the balloon pop, but now we know and are so much more prepared. Do not move to a bigger office unless you are busting at the seams. For every dollar spent related to growth, ask yourself if it is a dollar well spent and will it help you to continue to grow or does it just feel good (i.e. office upgrades, fancy bonuses, additional hires). It was easy to get caught up in wanting to spend money that we earned for niceties. So, consider how these dollars spent would be affected should a “pop” occur.

Negotiate Harder: Don’t Be a Wimp

There were many times we could have negotiated harder on prices and stood on firmer ground. My husband and I are not very aggressive and dealing with negotiations and confrontation is certainly not one of our stronger suits.  Someone very smart once told me, Allison, everything is negotiable. As times goes on, I can see that more and more. Especially after we bought our first office building and realized that we could have negotiated a better price. That is just one example. So we keep reminding ourselves to push a little harder and establish our ground before caving too quickly.

Fire Sooner: Breaking Up Is Hard To Do, But Hearts Have To Be Broken Sometimes

Firing is one of my least favorite parts of my job description. However, it is a part of my job that I will never be rid of, so I just have to deal with it. I have held onto the wrong employees too long for a laundry list of reasons. One of the biggest reasons was fear. What I learned is that fear will hold you back, fear will encompass you and prohibit you from moving ahead. Even worse, fear will infect an organization.  A fearless leader at the helm can prevent fear from taking over.

Performance Reviews Are Overrated: Don’t Get Your Papers in a Bunch

Let me start by saying I do believe in performance reviews. But reviews should not be a substitution for feedback (constructive criticism and positive reinforcement) on a regular basis. We started out doing performance reviews four times a year and then a few years later changed it to twice a year and two years ago we moved to annually. I felt comfortable with this because 1) I honestly abhor writing reviews and so do my managers 2) half of the items mentioned happened months ago 3) who really remembers everything someone did over a six-month time period 4) the employees seemed underwhelmed by the process. We base our performance reviews off our employees’ job description and let them know how they are doing in each aspect. These reviews are certainly formalities.

We have found that the most effective review tactics happen outside of the formal review and are where 1) we catch the employee doing something fabulous and we praise them right away 2) we  observe the employee doing something not quite stellar and we tell them immediately. If I wait too long, the employee is usually confused and can’t even recall the incident, meanwhile, I had been stewing about the incident for weeks or even months.  In the past we waited too long to give feedback. That was our mistake, but now we know better. Don’t wait for the formal review to make something known, because by then it’s too late. I also recognize that the review process and its effectiveness will vary by organization.

I’ve spoken about mistakes I have made and risks I have taken, but at some point I need to talk about the greatest decisions I have made in business in recent years.

Defending My Place on the Internet Because We Are Here to Stay

I have had to defend myself from day one to friends and family for being an Internet company. Now that I have done the retail store thing too, I can say in all honesty, the Internet has a reach that we could never achieve with our local store. Even though the Internet is saturated with paper players like us, I wouldn’t leave the space. We’ve built up a community of customers and being a working mom I relish convenience and know others do too.

Not Taking Crap from Anyone Because I’m Better than That

I’m just not doing it, not taking crap from anyone. I don’t have the time or patience for nonsense, gossip, or drama and that’s the way I run my ship: simple, straightforward, and without falter.

I know business owners who have gotten caught up on small details, employee issues, and petty competitiveness.  After so long of being on my own, I do not subscribe to anything that will bring us down. Not taking crap also means not being afraid to say “no.”

An Intense Hiring Practice I Will Always Defend

When I talk to business folk about our hiring process, they often have one of two reactions (sometimes both): 1) I love your hiring ideas; they really make sense 2) I can’t believe you really go through all of that trouble. Our hiring process is one of the aspects of the business I am most proud of, and that is because it works, and this is how it goes:

The initial phone interview lets us hear the candidate’s enthusiasm and what their verbal communication skills are like. This is especially important when hiring for our customer service team.

Note to candidate: Wake up at least 30 minutes prior to your phone interview. It is not professional to be woken up from us calling you or to be yawning incessantly. (I have had my fair share of waking up candidates at 10 a.m.)

Meeting face-to-face with managers, not only in the potential employee’s department but in other departments is imperative (we meet 2 – 3 times in person). We expect that candidates will bring a copy of their resume with them, and if they are a graphic designer that they will bring their portfolio.

An application packet (for example, tests for graphic designers, grammar tests for invitation consultants) is quite useful. Sadly, we have had applicants cheat on the graphic design test before. They are obviously immediately disqualified. The application packet also has them writing down references and information about previous positions. For example, can we contact your previous employer?

Note to candidate: Do not write on the application, see resume. We know we can see your resume, but on the application we would like you to fill out all areas. Don’t take shortcuts during the application process.

Reference, credit, and criminal checks (I have spoken in detail about this because it is a hot topic) are gems for character evaluation.

Our hiring process is long and in-depth and I stand behind it.

Keeping the Value of Our Product Because We Are Worth It

It’s easy to want to compete with bigger companies who can offer similar products as us at much lower prices, simply because they can. We are not the cheapest nor the most expensive of our competitors, so we sit nice and pretty in the middle. Around the holidays in our industry, things tend to get ugly, with one company discounting deeper than the next. Their promotions can be construed as obnoxious (for example offering 60% off holiday cards either means you just jacked up your prices to compensate or you are not making that much on an order). Besides offering a fantastic product, we are also offering our services should a customer need our assistance. We’ve learned through the years that devaluing our product with low prices is not the right route for us.  We have placed ourselves in the market mid-priced and with boutique service and that is where we will stay.

Controversial At Best: The Customer Is Not Always Right (but they pay the bills)

My controversial statement is: the customer is not always right. Once I admitted it, I felt like I could move forward and deal with the stress from customers better. It is no secret that working with customers and clients is challenging. Some can even be dishonest, unreasonable, and petty. But at the end of the day, they pay our bills, so who am I to complain. No matter how complicated or heated a situation gets, I will never personally disrespect a customer or allow my team to. Even though I was a previous hot head with customers who stretched the truth in my early twenties, I have fully evolved in maturity and understanding.

Since we speak with most of our customers over the phone, via email, or online chat, we lack that face-to-face interaction. So our verbal intonation for the phone and word choice for emails has to be professional and understanding.  To be honest, a lot can get lost in translation when you cannot see someone’s facial expressions or body language. We have become an impersonal society, where texting and comments on social media have replaced everyday interactions.  So we have to do everything on our end as a business to make sure that each interaction with our customers is professional and enjoyable.

My customer service team members have been yelled at, some even brought to tears, hung up on, and threatened. We talk about maintaining our composure even in the hardest of situations. We don’t always know what prompts the customers to lash out, for all we know it could have been a breakup, they missed the train, a pipe burst, really anything. So as long as I know in the back of my head the customer is not always right (please know most of the time they are), I feel like I can assist any situation.

Being able to assess your own mistakes and triumphs can only bring you closer to clarity, acceptance, success, and happiness as an entrepreneur.

allisonAbout Allison De Meulder

Successful entrepreneur, creative genius, passionate leader. They may seem like buzzwords, but nevertheless they describe Allison De Meulder. In 1999 she launched InvitationConsultants.com, one of the first online retailers of personalized invitations and announcements. In 1999, she was a true pioneer. In 2015, In 2015, she remains at the helm of one of the few original online invitation companies that has survived the dot com bust and the wave of consolidation in the industry. The company is still privately owned and never accepted any capital or debt. Their products have been featured on Good Morning America, the Today Show, Real Weddings, The Knot magazine, HGTV Magazine, Woman’s Day and numerous other publications.

In December of 2013, she successfully launched the wholesale line Matrick & Eve, a strong brand of paper and gifts sold in brick and mortar stores. She saw an opportunity in the market for creative, fun and unique products. The line features greeting cards, coasters, notepads, stationery, and more. All of the products are designed, printed and packaged in-house at the Matrick and Eve studio, proudly made in the USA. In one year, the line went from zero to over three hundred stores, including museums, boutiques, home decor shops, bookstores, and stationery and gift stores, and is still growing strong. This spring Matrick and Eve can be found in such stores around the country as Sur La Table, Francesca’s and Paper Source.

Allison’s main focus is to maintain a company culture steeped in creativity, teamwork, service and out-of-the-box thinking. Fun is always present at the office and can be seen at their craft days, sketching afternoons and monthly luncheons which usually involve movie trivia. Allison has grown her company to be a unique place of opportunity for designers as well as those creative minded individuals who want to be in an innovative and challenging environment where things are always changing and growth is not a noun but a state of mind.

Born in New York City and raised in Miami Beach, Allison dreamed of becoming an entertainment lawyer. She majored in business because she thought it would be a good foundation for law. She studied at Boston University’s School of Management before finishing her degree at the University of Tampa. To her surprise she fell in love with everything business and took a different path. She then earned her MBA. Allison’s work experience includes marketing communications and public relations. She considers her areas of expertise to be: organizational management, product development, creative direction and change management.

Allison enjoys sharing her passion for business and creativity through public speaking and writing. She is currently writing her first book, a business book with a personal twist. To follow Allison’s business musings, and for news about her book, visit http://www.allisondm.com.
She enjoys spending her free time traveling with her family, watching chick flicks, listening to 80’s music, collecting interior design books, walking, writing, reading, dreaming of new products, touring universities and working on interior design projects that focus on rustic chic and modern vintage decor. She and her husband have three children and four chickens.

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

 

 

 

Inside the Book:
The Early Years
Title: The Early Years
Author: Rachel G. Carrington
Publisher: iUniverse
Genre: Biography
Format: Ebook/Paperback

Author Rachel G. Carrington lays no claim to lofty jobs, higher education, nor grand accomplishments except for a love-filled, multifaceted, family-oriented, poverty-to-plenty life. In The Early Years, the first in a series, she shares her story.

As a young teenager, just entering high school in the small town of Denton, Kentucky, Carrington planned to attend college and become a teacher. With coursework geared toward college attendance, she was offered a lucrative scholarship that would help her to attain her goal. However, it took only a single event to send her down a different path. She met a returned World War II veteran who was attempting to pick up the pieces after finding his marriage in irreparable shambles and his children gone. As he struggled, Carrington was there, and they pulled together to clear the many hurdles before them.

In this memoir, she tells the story of their journey and how their love and dedication for each other kept moving them forward. Filled with the joys, disappointments, and struggles of a couple, The Early Years narrates how the love of the heavenly Father was the continuous thread that bound Carrington’s life together.

 

Meet the Author:

Rachel G. Carrington, a transplanted Kentuckian, is a widow, mother of seven and grandmother to three generations. Included with her many other interests, she spends much of her time writing and lives in Hamilton, Ohio and in Honolulu, Hawaii.

 

 

Giveaway

Rachel is  giving away a $25 Gift Card!

 

Terms & Conditions:
  • By entering the giveaway, you are confirming you are at least 18 years old.
  • One winner will be chosen via Rafflecopter to receive one $25 Gift Certificate to the e-retailer of your choice
  • This giveaway begins May 23 and ends on June 3.
  • Winners will be contacted via email on June 4.
  • Winner has 48 hours to reply.

Good luck everyone!

ENTER TO WIN!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Inside the Book:

Title: A World Between
Author: Robert Herzog
Publisher: Story Plant
Genre: Literary Fiction
Format: Ecopy/Paperback

Parts of the world have disappeared. For a while, nobody notices. Or cares. But as an increasing number of voids disrupt the fabric of reality, threatening the foundation of our world, they propel some of the greatest minds on the planet to determine what force, godlike or human, is behind the change. Now they must race to stop a dread emptiness before it leads to global oblivion.

A breathtaking novel that thrills on both an epic and human scale, A WORLD BETWEEN is an adventure at the frontiers of consciousness, where fractal geometry, quantum physics, and politics collide to create a story unlike any you’ve ever read.

 photo addtogoodreadssmall_zpsa2a6cf28.png photo B6096376-6C81-4465-8935-CE890C777EB9-1855-000001A1E900B890_zps5affbed6.jpgB&N 

Meet the Author

 

Robert M. Herzog has had his stories and poems published in Solstice Literary Magazine, Toasted Cheese, Downstate Story Magazine, Straylight Literary Arts Magazine, and South Jersey Underground. He was a physics major until he read Nietzsche, a political philosopher turned entrepreneur dealing with the major issues of our time, from energy and environment to technology and health care, a Brooklyn boy who’s climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro and remembers the taste of the first (and subsequent) great wine he drank.

 

Tour Schedule

Tuesday, May 24 – Book featured at The Bookworm Lodge
Wednesday, May 25 – Book featured at Bound 2 Escape
Thursday, May 26 – Interviewed at The Review From Here
Friday, May 27 – Guest blogging at The Dark Phantom
________
Monday, June 6 – Book reviewed at The Recipe Fairy
Tuesday, June 7 – Guest blogging at The Noise Beneath the Apple
Wednesday, June 8 – Book featured at Booklover Sue
Thursday, June 9 – Guest blogging at Mythical Books
Friday, June 10 – Interviewed at Literal Exposure
________
Monday, June 13 – Guest blogging at The Writer’s Life
Tuesday, June 14 – Interviewed at As the Page Turns
Wednesday, June 15 – Book featured at Harmonious Publicity
Thursday, June 16 – Book reviewed at I’m Shelf-ish
Friday, June 17 – Interviewed at Straight From the Authors Mouth
________
Monday, June 20 – Book featured at A Taste of My Mind
Tuesday, June 21 – Book reviewed at The Recipe Fairy
Wednesday, June 22 – Interviewed at Book Marketing Buzz
Thursday, June 23 – Book featured at A Title Wave
Friday, June 24 – Guest blogging at Voodoo Princess
________
Monday, June 27 – Book featured at Mello and June, It’s a Book Thing
Tuesday, June 28 – Book featured at The Literary Nook
Wednesday, June 29 – Book featured at Bent Over Bookwords
Thursday, June 30 – Book featured at Book Cover Junkie
Friday, July 1 – Book reviewed at 3 Partners in Shopping
________
Monday, July 4 – B00k featured at From Paperback to Leatherbound
Tuesday, July 5 – Guest blogging at Write and Take Flight
Wednesday, July 6 – Book featured at Confessions of an Eccentric Bookaholic
Thursday, July 7 – Book featured at The Hype and the Hoopla
Friday, July 8 – Guest blogging at My Bookish Pleasures
________
Monday, July 11 – Book reviewed at Deal Sharing Aunt
Tuesday, July 12 – Book featured at All Inclusive Retort
Wednesday, July 13 – Book featured at Stormy Vixen Book Reviews
Thursday, July 14 – Book featured at Inkslinger’s Opus
Friday, July 15 – Guest blogging at The Revolving Bookshelf
________

 

 

 

 

Inside the Book:
Memoir of a Journey with Mental Illness
Title: Memoir of a Journey with Mental Illness

Author: M.S. Burke

Publisher: iUniverse

Genre: Biography

Format: Ebook

M.S. Burke was only nineteen years old when she inexplicably tried to kill herself.

It made no sense: She lived a privileged life of yacht clubs, tennis lessons, private schools, and summers in Canada. If you named it, she had it, including an incredible family-with three sisters she adored and two loving, supportive parents.

Many years later, she still starts each day with the same question: “Will today be the day that I have another breakdown?”

At least she was able to make sense of her feelings after being diagnosed with manic depression, and she shares how she’s coped with the condition in this inspirational memoir.

With one out of every four people suffering from some form of mental illness, one of the most critical lessons she learned is that if you want to achieve anything in life, you must overcome its stigma.

From her diagnosis to her hospitalizations, she reveals how she’s refused to let her affliction define what she can and cannot do with the support of family, friends, and psychiatric professionals in Memoir of A Journey with Mental Illness: Treading Water.

Meet the Author:

 

M.S. Burke teaches reading and has a master’s degree in special education. She lives in Florida with her two children and her love, Tina.

Giveaway

M.S. is  giving away a $25 Gift Card!

 

Terms & Conditions:
  • By entering the giveaway, you are confirming you are at least 18 years old.
  • One winner will be chosen via Rafflecopter to receive one $25 Gift Certificate to the e-retailer of your choice
  • This giveaway begins May 23 and ends on June 3.
  • Winners will be contacted via email on June 4.
  • Winner has 48 hours to reply.

Good luck everyone!

ENTER TO WIN!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Massacre of Innocents

 

 

Inside the Book:
A-Massacre-of-Innocents
Title: A Massacre of Innocents
Author: Loren Abbey & Pamela Zibura
Publisher: iUniverse
Genre: True Crime/Murder
Format: Ebook

In 1952 on a highway in the small Northern California mountain village of Chester, a local businessman and four small children are carjacked, robbed and savagely bludgeoned. Three of the children are killed.

A year earlier, a Folsom gold mine operator had been murdered in a home break-in robbery attempt and five months after the Chester murders, the quiet Southern California city of Burbank is rocked when, during another home break-in, an elderly widow is found bound, gagged and brutally murdered in her own home.

Thus begins the terrifying chronicle of the Mountain Murder Mob’s deadly rampage up, down and through the Golden State—from the gritty back alleyways of the Los Angeles suburbs to the forested foothills of the Northern Sierras—a gang of ruthless killers ply their murderous trade by preying on society’s most vulnerable citizens.

And behind the scenes, the victims’ young wife and mother copes with the grief of a life turned upside down after her heartbreaking loss. Struggling to build a new life for herself and for what now remains of her devastated family, she leans on her unwavering faith and a deep reservoir of inner strength.

A Massacre of Innocents is the previously untold true story of the Mountain Murder Mob’s horrific crimes and how they ultimately paid for those crimes.

 

Meet the Author:

Loren Abbey has been a prolific blogger and contributor to a number of periodicals and trade journals. A former Silicon Valley executive, he is now retired, residing in Roseville, California.

Pamela Zibura is a successful realtor and mother of four grown children, She resides with her husband Tony, in South Carolina near the historic antebellum city of Charleston. A Massacre of Innocents is her first book.

 

 

 

Inside the Book:

The+“No+Title”+Book
Title: The “No Title” Book
Author: Lim Siew Lan
Publisher: Partridge Publishing
Genre: Self Help
Format: Ebook/Paperback/Hardcover

Do you feel out of control, as though you’re not in charge of your own life? Does it seem like others are living your life for you? You have the power to change that feeling. You can take charge of your destiny.

Author Lim Siew Lan believes we all have the capacity to meet a higher purpose by simply tapping into the depths of our own minds. In this inspirational manual, she presents a guide to discovering the depth and dimensionality of the mind through a series of an ancient time tested inspired steps designed to resemble those found in a common recipe book. She offers a true recipe for success in all aspects of life.

Lim Siew Lan believes you are the captain of your own ship, and you must be well-trained and well-equipped in order to weather the storms that life brings to each of us. After a lifetime of dedicated spiritual study, she has created this collection of essential wisdom to help you delve deep into your own being and become aware of your own mind. Learning about yourself and what makes you tick is the key to a lifetime of success.

 

Giveaway

Lim is giving away a $25 Gift Card!

 

Terms & Conditions:
  • By entering the giveaway, you are confirming you are at least 18 years old.
  • One winner will be chosen via Rafflecopter to receive one $25 Gift Certificate to the e-retailer of your choice
  • This giveaway begins May 23 and ends on June 3.
  • Winners will be contacted via email on June 4.
  • Winner has 48 hours to reply.

Good luck everyone!

ENTER TO WIN!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

 

 

Inside the Book:
Title: Musings of a Mad Scientist
Author: David Gretch
Publisher: iUniverse
Genre: Philosophy/Mind and Body
Format: Ebook/Paperback

What if human nature, in its most primal and innocent stage, is kind and gentle? What if despite the hostility, deception, and corruption of the moment, we earthlings are in fact spirit beings capable of reversion to our innate condition of being a kind and gentle species? If such a synchronous evolutionary leap in consciousness is possible, then past rules can be overlooked as newer and more positive perspectives emerge.

Musings of a Mad Scientist attempts to revive an old conversation about what it is to be human, and it peers into our inner world, our inner sanctuary, and the inner quiet-something that scientists don’t speak too much about. It explores these questions and answers with passion and a belief in God-something else scientists are not encouraged to do-and it prompts us to fight the exploitation and adverse social conditioning that results in the pestilence of weakness, disease, and economic turmoil. In the mad doctor’s own words, “the arresting of adverse social conditioning is required for the solution of a nurturing, non-competitive global culture to optimally materialize.”

As the gentleness and kindness innate to our being reaches out with a mind of its own and yearns for a connection with like-minded humans, we can have the realization that we are all related in harmony with Mother Earth. This revival of the good spirit of humanity is about our inner selves, our outer connections, and how we should both understand ourselves and act as living, breathing spirits.

 

Meet the Author:

David Gretch has doctoral degrees in both medicine and microbiology, and after a successful career in medical research he has turned his critical attention toward society and what it means to be human. A native of Montana, he now resides within the damp yet spectacular forests of the Pacific Northwest.

 

 

Giveaway

David is  giving away a $25 Gift Card!

 

Terms & Conditions:
  • By entering the giveaway, you are confirming you are at least 18 years old.
  • One winner will be chosen via Rafflecopter to receive one $25 Gift Certificate to the e-retailer of your choice
  • This giveaway begins May 23 and ends on June 3.
  • Winners will be contacted via email on June 4.
  • Winner has 48 hours to reply.

Good luck everyone!

ENTER TO WIN!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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