The Robi Comb – Amazed And Stunned
Sep 15 2011

I get many people asking me to blog about their products.  Some even offer to pay me.  Most of the requests I ignore as I don’t feel the products are relevant or I don’t have much to say about them.  But when the PR guy for the Robi Comb reached out to me, it piqued my interest.  My kids got head lice for the first time last Spring and it was icky, tiring and awful.  It seems like more than half the kids in the school got them.  We did environmentally friendly, non-toxic treatments that took 4 hours and they had to sit around in caps until late into the night (i.e. past their bed times and past mom’s patience).  Then my son got them again in summer camp.  I was less mortified but still very annoyed.  I remember getting them as a kid when I went to visit Sri Lanka and the stuff they put on our heads was kind of like kerosine.  This is America, not a third world country, so as any American full time working mother would do, I freaked.  The non-toxic treatment stuff they have these days smells like a caramel frappacino.  I was tempted to make my kids smell something nasty so they could experience the same need to run around outside without stopping until the treatment was done, but I let them enjoy the smell of eucalyptus spray and coffee smelling gunk.

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They sent me the following write-up (in italics below) and a free Robi Comb.  I was hoping that I’d never have to use it as certainly my kids were done with that craziness, but lo and behold, it happened again recently.  After asking my son who the heck he was hanging out with (because my daughter escaped them) and they take a bath every day, I used the Robi Comb on him.  It had been sitting on the counter for several weeks and they were curious about it. My son said his head was itchy and I figure he just wanted to use the comb so he was making it up.  I told him that he simply could not have head lice again.  My daughter and I looked in his hair fairly thoroughly with a flashlight and saw pretty much nothing.  Even the things we thought could be nits weren’t.  He has brown hair so it’s easy to see nits and I figured I’d see any stupid lice crawling around.  At his head scratching insistence, I used the comb and I was shocked to discover it found 7 lice.  I swear I saw nothing and everything in my being did not want to believe him when he said he thought he had lice. I guess it was a good thing I listen to my kids most of the time because after running it through his hair several times and changing the sheets, he can go to school without a 4 hour treatment followed up by multiple combings and daily hair spray-ings because 7 lice do not constitute an infestation.  But I decided to use the Robi Comb for a few days just in case and no more were found.  I still sprayed his head with eucalyptus spray and made him use lice shampoo to repel them.  I was impressed with how easy it was to use and how quickly it found them!

As back to school time approaches, so does the head lice boom. Lice, the ultimate creepy crawler, will find its way onto millions of children’s heads this fall. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently reported that an estimated 6 million to 12 million infestations occur each year among children 3 to 11 years of age. However, with the recent increase in head lice breakouts this past year, it’s imperative that all parents be prepared to tackle this common nuisance. This increase has even prompted the American Academy of Pediatrics to amend their “No Nits” policy regarding withholding children from public schools who might still have nits, otherwise known as head lice eggs, present on their scalp. The amended policy says that children with nits do not necessarily pose a risk to the rest of the schools population.

This amended policy has many parents nationwide scratching their head, as they do not want to put their children in any “unnecessary” risk by sending them to schools recently affected by an infestation. As evident by this policy’s amendment, head lice is not so much of a health or hygiene issue; however the way these pests are commonly treated is of greater concern. In the past, the only way to effectively treat head lice was with dangerous toxic shampoos, chemicals, gels or oils; many of which use Pyrethrum or Permethrin, the same pesticides found in household bug killers. Today more than ever, there is a growing concern of the health effects of putting toxins and chemicals such as these on a developing child’s head and the negative long term effects these poisons may have. Aside from being toxic, many of these “traditional” treatments have also been widely reported to not even work, as the lice, in most cases, have built up a resistance to the pesticides used rendering them essentially useless.

In the event your child brings home more than just homework this school year, the Robi Comb from LiceGuard is an ideal product for ridding their scalp of lice without the use of harmful chemicals. The Robi Comb is a non-invasive electronic lice comb powered by a single AA battery that detects and destroys lice on contact simply by combing it through dry hair. When the Robi Comb’s metal teeth touch lice, the lice get zapped, die and then get combed away. Unlike chemical treatments, the Robi Comb can be used as often as you like and can be used repeatedly by the entire family. The Robi Comb lets you know by an audible signal whether or not head lice are present, so it can be used to detect an infestation as well as treat it. In fact, many school nurses are now using the Robi Comb for exactly that reason. School nurses report that Robi Comb is able to find lice which they have missed when checking visually. More than 3,000 school districts in all 50 states are now currently using the Robi Comb. This innovative product is available for purchase for $29.99 at major retailers such as Walgreens, CVS and Rite Aid, as well as thousands of local pharmacies across the nation.

Author: | Filed under: FYI, parent stories, parenting, working mom, working mother | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

A Journey Of A Thousand Miles…
Aug 14 2011

Begins With A Single Step.  This quote brought to you by Lao-Tzu, famous Chinese philosopher.  I’m starting a new journey this week.  Here are some other interesting quotes by him and you can see even more here: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/l/lao_tzu.html

“I have three treasures. Guard and keep them:
The first is deep love,
The second is frugality,
And the third is not to dare to be ahead of the world.
Because of deep love, one is courageous.
Because of frugality, one is generous.
Because of not daring to be ahead of the world, one becomes the leader of the world.”

At the center of your being you have the answer; you know who you are and you know what you want.

Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.”

How many journeys have you started?  I’ve lost count of how many I’ve started.  Some led to interesting discoveries and some led to dead ends, but as they say it’s the journey that matters, not the destination.  However, I’m still hoping that there’s a small pot of gold at the end of this one though…

Author: | Filed under: Just For Fun, random stuff, working mom, working mother | Tags: | 2 Comments »

Helping Young Moms Go To School
Jan 22 2011

Here’s a guest post about getting your degree when you still have kids at home by Lisa Darling.  Lisa is a twenty something internet consultant and freelance writer.   She has two degrees in marketing and creative writing.   She loves watching sports, golfing, traveling and supporting the arts.  In her free time, she designs jewelry and spends time with her family.

There Are Options For You!

An article about helping young mothers earn a degree.

As a busy mother I totally understand the obstacles we face when deciding to continue our educations. If you are a working mother like me, you are probably asking yourself, how will I find the time? Who will be with the kids? Can I afford school, plus full time daycare? There are tons of questions that come to mind when you are trying to decide if you are ready to continue your education. These questions aren’t only difficult to answer, but they require you to map out your future life. We, as busy moms, put many things on the back burner, education being one of the main things. It can be a really big step to make.

Now for the good news!

With the advances in not only distance, but online educations as well, we as mothers can now get our education on our terms, in our free time! Sounds too good to be true, huh?  I will admit, I was skeptical, but I have done my research and am here to share my findings.

When my daughter was younger I attempted a campus education and managed to make it through one semester. It not only took me away from all of her newborn moments, but also made me feel like getting things done at home was impossible. It was a stressful situation and adding work on top of that was almost unbearable. So, after that experience I decided to better explore my options and check out what other opportunities were out there for working mothers. What I found was a great outlet and opportunity that I believe every working mother should take advantage of.

Being the skeptic I am, there were plenty of questions that I had. I wanted to know if my degree would hold the same value, what are the requirements, are the prices the same, etc. I’m sure some of you have the same questions, the great news is I have answers!

First is the value of the degree or certification that you receive when earning your education through an online or distance program. This really all depends on the school you choose, which is a very important aspect of earning your education. Finding a school that is nationally recognized and accredited should be first on your check list. You can find tons of information online and can even contact the schools if you have more questions. I always checked the FAQ pages and a lot of my questions would be answered there. When you choose your school, if you choose an accredited school your degree will hold the same value, some well known institutions are even offering some of their programs online. What is so important is that your degree will be just as recognized; the only difference is in the way that you earned it.

Something else that is so important, and is sometimes the reasons that we as mothers don’t take the next step towards a continued education, is the price of tuition. The tuition prices can be more than overwhelming, and trying to find not only the extra time but the extra money is hard. With online and distance education you will save a ton of money. Not only on the schools tuition itself, but also on the money you would have spent traveling to and from. Most online educations are much cheaper because they don’t include some of the campus fees, for recreation and organizations, or even on campus eating. Not to mention, of course, the gas money and other traveling expenses. I was pleasantly surprised at the difference in price between a traditional campus education and an online education.

There are many advantages to earning your education at an online university, and some disadvantages as well. Finding the school that suits you depends of course, on your own personal requirements. I was excited by my findings and wanted to share them with other mothers who may have had the same issues as me. I have since started a distance education program and thoroughly enjoy it! I work at my own pace, on my own time and that is something as a busy mother that is crucial. I hope that this information answered some of the questions you may have had, and sparked your interest in a continued education. In today’s working world it is coming increasingly important to have a college education, and we as mothers deserve the same opportunities as everyone else. Taking advantage of these new opportunities was an easy decision for me, but may not be as easy for you. I do hope that you will find a school that suits your needs and take your education to the next level. Do some exploring and find the education path that is right for you, you are sure to be surprised at all of the opportunities!

Author: | Filed under: guest post, parenting, working mother | Tags: , | 2 Comments »

How Dooce Changed My Twitter Reputation
Apr 8 2009

dooce-8apr09I went to Heather Armstrong’s (a.k.a. Dooce) book signing for It Sucked and Then I Cried: How I Had a Baby, a Breakdown, and a Much Needed Margaritatonight only because one of the interns, Laura Benold, at my day job happened to tell me about it.  She’s been following Dooce since she was 18 years old.  She’s not much older now, but still.

Yes, I was feeling kind of pathetic since I’m sort of a mommy blogger and Dooce is the top mommy blogger on the planet making reportedly up to $500K per year from her blog.   I am grateful that Laura took an interest in what I was trying to do with Babble Soft and asked me if I knew about it.  And my lame excuse is I’m doing way too much, have two kids, thankfully no pets, and I haven’t found a way to get her blog to come to me in email form like the other blogs I read.  Believe me I have tried several times to figure out how to get her blog in email…I’m going to blame it on the proverbial ‘mommy brain syndrome.’

I almost didn’t make it because our son has been home sick the last couple of days.  I was thinking about taking him and our daughter with me and I am SO glad I didn’t.   Fortunately their dad was able to rearrange his schedule to watch them.  It would not have been fun at all because they would have lost their patience and my son would have been worn out in say 20 minutes.

Heather is an awesome and hilarious writer!  She curses profusely, swears, and talks about all the things people don’t talk about but should on the topic of motherhood and life.  So I began tweeting about some of the things she was saying and reading from her book and here are some of the more colorful tweets (corrected for iPhone typing errors):

@dooce about to talk about sex after vaginal birth.

Took 7 months after baby born before they had sex. 6 weeks is bs. Says @dooce

Her vagina was ready after she wore a tampax and her husband wrote a thank you letter to them.

Then @dooce says she got a urinary tract infection.

@dooce now talking about her dog called Satan and when they took the dog coco hunting.

All of a sudden I started getting tweets and direct messages on twitter asking what was going on with me.  A few people thought my account was hacked since the tweets were very out of character for me.  I was sure I had lost some followers, but I think I actually gained a few.

I’m so glad I went!  I met her husband Jon (@blurb on twitter) and chatting with him for a while.  He is on tour with her and manages the back end of her website.  He was so cute and funny about how he took pictures of her and then sat in the audience listening to what I assume has to be the umpteenth time she’s spoken at a book signing on this tour.  He participated a bit in the Q&A portion and then stood off to the side while she signed books.  I checked his twitter stream when I got back and saw that his two tweets were:

@dooce is lookin fine. Damn fine.

@dooce kicking ass! http://twitpic.com/30ynn

I went to chat with him for a while and gave him some gift subscriptions to Babble Soft web and mobile software (which is iPhone ready – I noticed Heather was reading something to the audience from her pink cased iPhone), and he seemed genuinely interested in checking it out.  I gave him extra ones to give to any of their friends or readers if they wanted to.

I was in the 3rd group of people to get the book signed and somewhere around 8:30 p.m., I knew I was not going to make it to 9:30 after having been most of the day with a sick kid, and I started to leave.  I was almost out the door when I said to myself, I don’t really want to leave without a signature at all do I?  So I went back up the stairs and asked Jon if he would sign it since I had to go, and he graciously did!

So I’m wondering how many people have a copy of It Sucked and Then I Cried: How I Had a Baby, a Breakdown, and a Much Needed Margaritasigned by Dooce’s husband!  That’s got to be extremely valuable. :-)

Author: | Filed under: entrepreneurship, working mom, working mother | Tags: , | 9 Comments »

All About Business
Mar 5 2009

I have many blog post ideas swimming in my head and jotted down in my little spiral notebook.  Finding the time to get the thoughts out of my jam packed brain into a blog post is hard to do, but some people tell me they are impressed with how much I do post.  I would post every day if I could, but I can’t physically or mentally do it because my life is currently all about business.  The business of work, the business of family, the business of motherhood, the business of writing, the business of management, the business of people, the business of figuring myself out, etc., etc., etc.  It is all busy-ness but I’m fortunate enough to be able to enjoy it when I’m not distracted by it all (which is often).  I’m not sure I would know what to do with myself if I didn’t have something to do.  I’m not sure I would know how to retire, but I wouldn’t mind a week long beach vacation right now!

I get frustrated sometimes that I can’t do all the things I want to do.  I get frustrated that I’m not even really sure what I want (other than a beach vacation).  I feel constrained by mostly my own self-imposed limitations and societal expectations, but I know I’m not the first one on this planet to experience all of this, but I like to naively believe that my experience is unique.

So, it’s all about business, but is it really?  Sometimes it’s just about squeezing and kissing my adorable kids who laugh and flash their heart melting smiles at me or drinking a glass of really good red wine or a newly discovered ginger martini…

Author: | Filed under: entrepreneurship, working mom, working mother | 2 Comments »

Resolutions Anyone?
Jan 4 2009

Photo by Sandy Blanchardwhitetulip-sandybphotos

Last year I made New Year resolutions despite not normally liking to do so.  I even did a blog post called One Entrepreneur’s 2008 Goals.  And guess what? Some of them came true and some of them didn’t.  This year I’m not making any resolutions.  I’m going to try to go more with the flow.  Now that doesn’t mean I don’t have things I’d like to accomplish but I’m not going to make them goals.

Interestingly, I achieved all of my 2008 personal goals.  I lost 5 lbs (actually I lost more like 8).  I signed up for and took yoga as consistently as is possible with two kids and two jobs.  The yoga helped me lose 5 lbs, the other 3 I lost due to stress and an ongoing existential crisis.  I’m one of those people who doesn’t eat much and fidgets a lot when I get stressed.  I know some people hate me for it, but let me tell you the elevated crazy brain activity more than overrides the weight loss benefit.   I mean I don’t get as bad as seeing dead people, but I start saying and doing things that don’t make sense (at least to me), and I start making wild interpretations of other people’s actions (and non-actions) and words that probably don’t make sense but might and if they actually meant what I thought they meant, my world would be turned upside down.  Yeah, don’t even try to understand that last sentence.

I even laughed more and that’s because my son is a budding comedian, and I work with some funny people at my day job.  The only personal goal that I can’t say with 100% certainty I made significant progress in was “be less concerned with what other people think.”  I made some progress, but the trauma of “what will they think of me if I wear a purple peacock hat to a lunch meeting?” still plagues me.  As I’ve gotten older, I’ve cared less but I’m waiting for that day I can walk into a room and say whatever is on my mind (well not whatever because it would shock the innocent) and not give a flying flip if people think I’m nuts, a crazy entrepreneur, or a hysterical brown woman because I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that what I’m saying is actually wise, intelligible, actionable, and worthy to be said.

I really only knocked out of the park one of my Babble Soft business goals and that was to “find great people to help make it happen.”  And that happened when Nicole Johnson joined me as VP of Product Development back in October.  We are slowly but surely making things happen and it’s so amazing to have someone as great as she is along for the ride.  We don’t know how it will all turn out yet given what’s going on in the world, but I feel honored to be working with such a talented, personable individual, who can fully relate to my life situation of a day job and two little kids!

The other business goals were thwarted by: the economy, my husband leaving his job to consult and start an amazing dual language immersion school called The Magellan School (i.e., hence the day job – health care benefits are very important when you have kids), having to unexpectedly pay a significant portion of my father-in-law’s triple bypass surgery expenses (yes, he was not insured), my mid-life crisis, and a random butterfly flapping its wings in China.

But you know what? Despite not making most of my business goals, life is great.  All my close family and friends are healthy.  My kids laugh and smile every day which makes me happy.  I enjoy my day job because although I’m underpaid (working on changing that slightly), it’s probably the best place I can be to help build the Austin entrepreneurial community and ride out this economic downturn.  Plus, I really like the people I work with.  I’m a huge believer in fostering an amazing work culture and a positive work environment, and we currently have that at the Austin Technology Incubator (ATI) and I have that with Nicole at Babble Soft.  So yes, overall my life is pretty darned good.

So my non-resolutions for 2009 are to sing more, laugh more, write more, make more funny faces at my kids, be less repressed, empower people, unashamedly love people, continue to take yoga, find a purple hat (any suggestions?), make some life changing decisions (I already got my hair cut short), and move the ball forward one day at a time on Babble Soft and at ATI.

So no resolutions for me, but I do like to get shit done and I’m hoping our brand new President of the United States feels the same, and I think he does! 

Oh, did I mention I plan to curse more too!  For most of my adult and teenage life many of my friends (most of them guys) have tried to get me to curse more and I saw no need for it.  Their jaws would drop on the rare instances I would curse, so I’ll see if I can work in more curse words into my daily (or weekly) discourse (mostly off the blog because I have a hard time writing curse words).  It might be awkward at first, but I’ll suck it up and overcome the awkwardness just like Dooce and The Bloggess have been able to.  They are some of the top cursing mommy bloggers on the Internet today and I cry laughing (or is that laugh crying?) whenever I read their posts.   I mean go read: This is one of those posts about how you can make money off your blog but instead of money you get a coupon for a burrito and tell me you don’t start laughing your ass off.  I’ll just have to remember not to curse in front of the kids…  Sorry mom!

How’s that for some non-Resolutions?!!

Author: | Filed under: entrepreneurship, fundraising, parenting, working mom, working mother | Tags: , | 10 Comments »

So Much For My Blog Post Today
Dec 11 2008

It’s been a whole week since I last posted something despite wanting desperately to do so. As usual, life got in the way. I participated in a fabulous 3 day and 1 weeknight long seminar called the Landmark Forum last weekend which was extremely time intensive and extremely insightful. I’ll write more about it when I get the chance.

My new Babble Soft partner and I have been been making progress on a new blog, new product development, and other creative endeavors.

Life at my day job has been interesting in as much as office politics are interesting. It’s amazing how one person can cause so much strife and another so much joy and both be in the same organization.

So until life provides me a window of opportunity to write about the

a) Landmark Forum,

b) our “fireside” chat with Jimmy Treybig, founder of Tandem Computers and partner at venture capital firm NEA and Jim Hoover, investor, entrepreneur, and ex-Navy Seal,

c) how the difference between being perceived as stubborn or persistent is how pretty you are,

d) school supplies,

e) Poke Mon,

f) a new children’s book called Nacho the Party Puppy, and/or

g) how my 6 year old son is so wise and smart

go re-read my post called The Strength of a Thought. It might be the most profound post I’ve ever written — well at least according to my aunt! :-)

Author: | Filed under: babble soft, entrepreneurship, working mother | Comments Off

The Entrepreneurial Ledge
Nov 20 2008

I had to talk myself off the entrepreneurial ledge yesterday.  Of course there is the often publicized glamour of entrepreneurship and then there is the unsung story of the not so glamorous side.  I think most entrepreneurs are a little bit neurotic, myself included, so when I heard that the first company I was founding CEO of officially shut down recently, I entered a state of…well I still haven’t figured out what state that is.  

The company was alive for 11 years.  For 11 years it provided experience, salaries, products and services to employees and customers.  I left in 2001 and my husband, Erin, who was the CTO left in 2003, and we have had nothing to do with the day to day operations since.  But the profound affect it has had on me cannot be reduced to mere words.  In many ways, it was like my first child (without the diaper changing).  It was a difficult parting of ways for me both personally and professionally.  

I knew a few good people who were still there and through the years they have reached out to me to help them find another job or share their experiences about working there.  Good people came and went.  Some bad ones came and went and some bad ones stayed, but overwhelmingly greatness was among us.  I heard about the company shutting down a few weeks ago but just mentioned it to a group of college friends on an email group I’ve been a part of since 1995 (pre-social networking sites for people who love mushrooms, pre-blogging, pre-twitter).  I had convinced one of the guy’s in the group to join us for the journey and he replied by saying this: 

Aruni – I know I’ve poked at you and Isochron since I left but I have to say it was the best business class I could have taken. This piece of Oil Field Trash was polished quite a bit while in Austin. I do want to thank you and Erin for giving me the opportunity to be a part of it. From that trial I learned sooooo much. I’m not sure I ever put it together sufficiently for you guys to know what the experience meant for me. Thanks! You and Erin were a rock I could depend on during my time in Austin as well. It meant a lot.

When I read his note on my phone before going in to an invitation only IBM Women Entrepreneur’s Webcast event held at IBM, the flood gates cracked a little.  I was sitting in my car in the parking lot so I had to pull myself together and go in.  The rest of the day I was on edge and I still am. 

I had to walk into my day job after the IBM Webcast and deal with bureaucracy, with people wanting 5 approvals to get something done, with collections, with employee allocations, and with being extremely underpaid because I’m doing much more than I was hired to do.  I had to suspend reality to make it through the day.   I repeated to myself “floodgates don’t open at work” over and over.  If I was a man and punched the wall, it would be more acceptable.  I had a “What am I doing with my life?” moment.  I had a “I’m working for ‘the man,’ I have two kids, I’ve been married for 7 years, we have a house and car payment, I have to keep our insurance benefits, our savings have sunk due to the crazy economic situation, and I feel trapped” moment. 

I had already committed to guest lecture at an executive MBA class yesterday evening so I went in not knowing what would come out of my mouth.  I shared the ups and downs of entrepreneurship and received several questions about Babble Soft and my day job.  I was surprised at how calm I felt giving my talk given the emotional roller coaster I had been riding all day.  One of the students took my card and said he wanted to see if he could help me get introduced to someone for a possible opportunity for Babble Soft.

I also happened to receive an email through facebook from one of my former students (I taught entrepreneurship at The University of Texas at Austin) who happens to be expecting a baby.  He sent me a link to a new book by Randy Komisar who wrote The Monk and the Riddle: The Art of Creating a Life While Making a Living (a book I made required reading in my class) called This I Believe.  Komisar writes about the Deferred Life Plan and how we make excuses about not doing what we want to do and putting off things until the time is right.

So despite all of that, I talked myself off the entrepreneurial ledge because I live in the real world.  The real world is where I have two beautiful children who smile and laugh.  A world where I tell my son after he ate a big dinner tonight that he was a ‘hungry hippo’ and he immediately replies and says in a comedian (trying to make his voice sound deep) tone “There’s a Hungry Hippo in the House!”  My daughter laughs, and I look at him with a smile on my face and know instantly he got his sense of humor from me. 8)

[Hippo photo by my friend Sandy Blanchard]

So I take solace from some words my day job boss told me the other day.  When I asked him why he wanted to hire me he said ‘because he heard I was a natural entrepreneur and he wanted one on staff.’  When I thought about those words later in the day, my soul said ‘thank you grandpa’ because he is who I gained my natural entrepreneurial tendencies from…I just happen to be a woman girl.

I hope both my children will be able to express themselves throughout their lives in ways I was never able to in the past but aspire to in the future.

Author: | Filed under: blogging, entrepreneur, entrepreneurship, social networks, working mother | Tags: , , , , , , , | 18 Comments »

Are Your Children’s Identities Safe?
Nov 16 2008

The following is a guest post by a friend and fellow entrepreneur Julie Fergerson.  We met several years ago while each of us was in the middle of our very own first high tech start-up.  Julie is currently a VP at Debix.  Debix provides services to help you monitor your credit.  My husband and I signed up a while ago, and we recently signed up our kids.  We were at her daughter’s 5 year old birthday party that she mentions below.  We just got the results back for our kids who were part of a batch of 83 kids that were evaluated.  Thank goodness our kids are safe but 3 of those kids had compromised credit.  Check out Julie’s post below to learn more about how to protect your children’s identities.

Are Your Children’s Identities Safe?

Hi, my name is Julie and I am a mother of two little kids, age 2 and 5.  I am also an executive at Debix, the Identity Protection Network, and have been chasing criminals and stopping fraud over the past decade.  Recently, I helped design a new product to protect children’s identities.  As usual with any new product launch (July 28th, 2008), I asked my friends at my daughter’s fifth birthday party to enroll and give me feedback on what they thought. 

I was stunned to find that two of the fourteen children at the party (age 4 and age 9) had someone else using their identities.  This hit so close to home that I decided to research the size of the problem.

So we scanned 500 children who were under the age of 18, and found that 1 in 20 kids (5%) already have someone else using their social security number.  To put that in perspective, that means about one kid in every classroom in the US is a victim of identity theft.  Worse yet, the average child victim had over $12,000 in debt and 12% of the child victims are age 5 and younger – shocking!

To ensure the results were accurate we hired Javelin Strategy and Research, a top-tier analyst firm to analyze the results and report their conclusions.   You can download the research report here: www.debix.com/research.

You can hear stories from the parents about their children being victims at (http://news.debix.com/index.php/categories/child-victims/).

As I talk about this problem with other Moms, the first question is always, “what does it mean that their kid is a victim of identity theft?”  It means the child will not be able to use his credit when he needs it for things as important as college loans, first apartments or even a first job.  As part of my research I met Lindsey, a college student at Texas State, who is living this problem.  When she applied for her first internship competing against 400 other candidates, she was thrilled when she got the job and received the company welcome gift.  Unfortunately a few weeks later, she received a letter rescinding her job offer – she was told she was not hirable because someone else was using her social security number.  After what she calls “a full time job” of working to clear her name for six months, she was able to restore her identity and get the job.  

The next question I get is “how can this happen?  Surely companies know the social security number belongs to a kid.”  The answer is no.  There is no system in place to warn companies and the Social Security Administration does not publish a database of social security numbers with names and ages of kids.  The social security administration has a formula for issuing a social security number, but you can’t tell the difference between a number that was issued to a 39 year old immigrant to the US and a newborn.  About all you can tell from the number is the year and location it was issued (check out SSA Algorithm for issuing SSNs.)

It is our job as parents to protect our children and give them every possible advantage when they become an adult.  We have to protect our kids as best we can so when they start out they have a clean record and aren’t starting adult life at a disadvantage.

The solution I built at Debix finds the problems and restores the child’s identity for $20 per year.  While we try to keep our pricing affordable, we also took the time to publish the steps a parent would need to do if they wanted to protect their kids on their own at www.childrenscreditcrisis.org

I also worked with the FBI to produce a webcast to teach parents how to protect their kids from Identity Theft.  Feel free to pass this information along.

*******
Do you have any stories to share about identity theft either from personal experience or a friend’s?

Author: | Filed under: entrepreneur, FYI, guest post, parenting, working mom, working mother | Tags: , , , , , | 7 Comments »

Making Things Convenient
Oct 11 2008

How important is it to make things convenient for your customer, your friend, your boss, your co-worker, your employees, your spouse, your family?  Do people even think about that?  Do people wake up every day and think to themselves, “How can I make life easier for someone else?” I know that I don’t wake up every day thinking that, but I have seen the positive results when I accidentally or on purpose try to make others lives just a bit easier and fight some of their battles for them so that they don’t have to. 

Sometimes people notice and other times people do not.  Sometimes they say ‘thank you‘ and sometimes they say nothing leaving you wondering if they noticed or not.  I’m probably guilty of not noticing what people might be doing for me because sometimes I get too caught up in moving from one thing to the next to appreciate the little things.  The busier we get sometimes the harder it is to notice except for when your expectations are exceeded. 

I recently had my expectations exceeded (nay blown away) and by a government entity no less.  It almost made up for my traffic court tribulations!  I recently received the annual mailing about renewing my car registration.  I’m already grateful that I can pay $1.00 extra to do this by mail.  This time I saw that there was a notice on the renewal form that said something like “You need to order new plates.”  It was in all capital letters but no where on the notice could I find instructions on how and when I needed to get them. 

First, I wondered why the heck I needed new plates even though my current ones were 7 years old.  I guess I haven’t owned a car for 7 years before and it didn’t (and still doesn’t) make sense why I needed to replace perfectly good plates.  I groaned inside thinking that now I’ll have to figure out how to get new plates.  I decided not to think about it and mailed in my check.  I figured I’d deal with the bureaucratic mess of calling and/or going to multiple government/city offices to get these new plates sometime in the not so distant future. 

To my absolute amazement and utter surprise, I received in the mail from the County Tax Collector – Travis County, Nelda Wells Spears, two new plates!  I almost fell over with excitement because I was now relieved of having to figure out how to get them.  I could literally feel a small weight being lifted off my mind.  I can only hope that whoever wins the next US presidential election, they wake up every day thinking about out how they can make all of our lives just a little bit easier!

As a busy, working-mom, when someone makes my life easier I am ever so grateful.  I don’t know how to personally thank the Tax Collector’s office so I’ll thank them with this blog post.  Maybe Nelda has a Google Alert set-up for her name, and she’ll see this post. :-)

So if you have nothing better to do or even if you do, go try to make someone else’s life just a little more convenient…even if they don’t say anything, I bet they smile a little inside.

Author: | Filed under: FYI, random stuff, working mom, working mother | Tags: , , , , , | 6 Comments »

Self Starter – Gay Gaddis of T3
Jul 26 2008

I co-write articles for university alumni magazines with my fabulous writing partner Pam Losefsky.  You can also see more of our write-ups on the article page

One of our latest articles for The University of Texas at Austin’s alumni magazine, The Alcalde, is on Gay Gaddis.  Gay is the founder of T3 - The Think Tank, the largest women-owned advertising agency in the US!

Here is a thought provoking quote from Gay’s interview:

You get knocked down a couple times and your confidence gets busted and you draw back a little bit,” she says, “but you have to allow yourself the mistakes and the rejection and not let them eat you up.

I agree with Gay that many entrepreneurs give up is when they let their mistakes eat them up instead of learning from them and moving forward.  I struggle with limiting thoughts often.

Gay has 3 kids and came from a long line of entrepreneurs so she saw the reality of how it is to build a business.  She started helping her mother with her kindergarten program when she was 13 years old after her father died!     

 

There are more articles to come, so sign up for free email updates to get them right in your inbox!

 

Author: | Filed under: entrepreneur, entrepreneurship, mom, mother, success, success story, working mother | Tags: , , , , , | Comments Off

MBA Class: Mom’s Business Acumen
Jul 15 2008

And now for a very cool guest post from Michelle Yozzo Drake author of a newly released book: “From the Kitchen to the Corner Office:  Mom’s Wisdom on Leadership.”

MBA Class: Mom’s Business Acumen…Or, “How to Take Skills Learned From Mom to Kick Butt at Work” 

As Aruni braves the balancing act that returning to the “formal” workplace brings for a working mom, I was thrilled that she asked me to do a guest post for entrepremusings.com. 

I love to work with women…they just get it, even if they don’t know it!  Generations of women have been successfully running the home-based business that we call “The Family”.  They have had to utilize all of the skills needed to address the same issues that Fortune 500 companies struggle with. And they’ve done it with grace, style and, okay, maybe a few bad hair days here and there! 

My version of an MBA class focuses on “Mom’s Business Acumen”: 

Risk Management-The art of baking bread, taught to me by my Aunt Giovanna Yozzo Fanelli (Aunt Jennie), yielded a surprising class in risk management, crisis management and plan-failure recovery. As I made loaf after loaf of bread (according to Aunt Jennie’s half Italian/half English instructions) and failed every time, I had to learn how to push past my fear of failure and create new plans to minimize my risks of future bread baking failure! Hours of work sometimes yielded sub-par results (a.k.a “lead-bread” – this made Aunt Jennie laugh as she encouraged me to persevere and continue on my quest for the perfect loaf of bread).  My ultimate victory (at least 20 loafs and 80 hours later) was the title of Bread Maker in my family’s eyes.  And after Aunt Jennie died at 96 years old, she passed her pans to me. I had become the bread and the baker, and she would be proud! 

Mergers and Acquisitions-My sister and a few of my sisters-in-law now have new “blended families”.  With divorce rates and remarriages at an all-time high, there are new things today’s mom has learned. Creating a family with kids from previous marriages and new ones with new husbands takes a lot of hard work and effort…no wonder the idea of running a newly merged company is child’s play for the mom that has balanced issues with siblings, half-brothers, step-sisters, etc.! 

Cultivating Strong Teams and Leaders-Lessons learned from the women in my family who are masters in the kitchen – my mother Mimi and my Aunt Marie, specifically – have been priceless in developing my ability to coach my clients on building strong teams and leaders at work.  Have you ever watched two strong women in the kitchen putting out a holiday meal for the family?  Mimi and Marie were masters at leading and following as they consistently put out a quality product (the seven-course Italian holiday meal) for their customers (35 family members and a few stragglers). The big news is, I never remember a moment of tension in either of their kitchens…but always lots of laughter! 

Budget Cuts-My mother-in-law Marty used to take her twelve children (my husband Rich is number NINE) to the beach on the ferry every Wednesday…because kids ride free on Wednesdays when accompanied by their parent! She knows how to work a budget! Examples like that guided me during my family’s lean years – when I was sewing shorts for my two young sons out of my husband’s old shirts – and during the first crucial years of my businesses when breakeven was only a dream. 

Sales and Product Issues-Have you ever negotiated with a four-year-old over why Oreo cookies are not a breakfast food?  Successfully selling those eggs over the Oreos takes a sales master! How easy negotiating with a customer over the price of your products or services is compared to “selling” bedtime to a child! 

So when I meet a mom getting ready to return to the workplace and she’s fretting over her perceived “resume gap,” I see the opportunity to educate a sister on how to talk about her degree from the “Mommy Management Training University!” 

What have YOU learned from your mom, “mom-figures” in your life, or being a mom yourself? 

Michelle Yozzo Drake is a management consultant who has just released a new book: “From the Kitchen to the Corner Office:  Mom’s Wisdom on Leadership.”  Her Workplace Wisdom Blog is hosting Lipstick Leadership Week -July 14-18 – where Michelle is highlighting other women’s stories about what they have learned from their “moms” or as a mom that helps them succeed at work!  Submit your story (and get a plug for your website!) at LipstickLeadership.com or KitchentoCornerOffice.com 

Author: | Filed under: entrepreneurship, mom, mother, parenting, working mom, working mother | Tags: , , , , | Comments Off

Contest for Innovative Moms
Jul 13 2008

I recently received the following email from one of Whirlpool’s PR reps.  Although I don’t recall being upset (maybe disappointed) about not knowing about the program (which I can’t recall at the moment) she was referring to, I figured I’d share her email about this contest because it seems like a cool idea.  I do have a vague recollection of commenting on a Washington Post article and if I didn’t, she’s a pretty good PR rep to tell me about this contest, because I like to post about programs that support entrepreneurs! 

The cool thing is that if you win you not only win cash but also appliances!  Also, upon reading their site you cannot submit a company/idea for a new appliance.  Your business idea has to be totally unrelated to Whirlpool’s primary business of appliance creation and manufacturing.  

I also noticed that one of the guest judges is Julie Aigner-Clarke, founder of Baby Einstein

I haven’t figured out yet if I can apply for Babble Soft (no issue about us being an appliance :-) ) but I haven’t read all of the fine print yet.  The application looks pretty simple and straight forward so chances are I will apply.  I encourage you all to check it out too and tell other mom-inventors out there about the competition. 

Hi Aruni,

I saw that you commented on a Washington Post blog entry about a grant program and that you were upset you didn’t know the program was going on.  Just wanted to share with you another grant program that I thought might be of interest to you and your readers.

Whirlpool brand has recently kicked-off the fourth annual Mother of Invention Grant Program. In the past three years, Whirlpool brand has recognized and helped more than 15 moms turn their innovative ideas into reality.

The Whirlpool brand Mother of Invention Grant Program provides seed money and expert guidance to moms to turn their invention, business or service ideas into full-fledged businesses.  Contest winners receive:

  • A $20,000 grant for the grand prize winner
  • $24,000 in grant money for the four runners-up
  • Appliance prizes
  • Invitation to business boot camp where winners will receive guidance from Whirlpool and industry experts

This year, we are greening the program by adding a new category focused on moms who create an environmentally friendly product/service or use natural/recycled materials to create their invention. 

More information and entry forms can be found at www.whirlpool.com/moms. Entries are accepted through July 31, 2008.

Please let me know if you have any questions or would like additional information about the program.  I’d also be happy to share information about our past winners, should you be interested. 

Best,

Laura

Author: | Filed under: competition, entrepreneurship, FYI, mom, mother, working mom, working mother | Tags: , , , , , , | 9 Comments »

Look Forward to a Great Fortune and a New Lease on Life!
Jun 25 2008

Photo by: Unknown – could not find link to original creator

So continuing on the fortune cookie blogging escapade, I recently got a fortune (for some reason I eat at a lot of Chinese restaurants) that said “Look forward to great fortune and a new lease on life!”  Of course I saved that one.  I still have a few others on my home office desk that are a little more realistic, but who’s to say a great fortune and a new lease on life isn’t around the corner for me! 

I can definitely say that a new lease on life is definitely in the process of happening just by the sheer fact I’m doing something different day-to-day than I have before.  Whether it’s a good lease or a bad lease depends a lot on my landlords. ;-)

The Austin American Statesman (the main newspaper for Austin) mentioned my new position today in their Up The Ladder are in the business section.  They happened to use a picture of me that’s probably 7 or 8 years old which was when I weighed 10 to 12 lbs more than I do now.  (Of all my New Year’s resolution goals, I have achieved the ‘lose 5 lbs’ goal and ‘take yoga classes’ goal but I’m still working on all of the rest – Sigh). For a more recent picture of me, you can check out the page where I show the articles I’ve co-written on the topic of success and entrepreneurship or even the About page

If you were too lazy busy to click through the Up The Ladder link above, my new day job is running Operations for the Austin Technology Incubator (ATI).  I am acting as the COO/CFO of this small organization (5 to 6 full time employees) that is part of the University of Texas at Austin (and yes subject to the positives of great HR benefits yet at the same time monumental bureaucracy).  It’s a very unique initiative in the university because it supports 15 or so technology companies by helping them get to market, find funding, and build their professional support network. 

The companies get access to student help, consulting support from the directors, flexible space allocation, senior advisors/talent, discounts from ‘incubator friends,’ etc.  ATI is supported by rent and membership fees it collects from the companies as well as grants it receives from various government related entities that are interested in creating companies (thereby jobs) and furthering technology related initiatives in the Austin area related to Wireless, IT, Biotechnology, and Clean Energy. 

My job duties are varied but include helping make sure operations run smoothly internally, the companies are supported, and we have enough money to continue providing a great service to Austin technology companies and the Austin community in general.  I’m most excited about the potential to help entrepreneurs – it can be a lonely/tough job and having been there, done that, and doing it, I believe I can at least share my experience and contacts. 

Now working for the University does not lead to great fortune, but I’m open to it offering a ‘new (and different) lease on life!’

Author: | Filed under: entrepreneur, entrepreneurship, working mother | Tags: , , , | 7 Comments »

Calling All Breadwinning Moms!
Jun 22 2008

Work It, Mom!Nataly Kogan, founder of Work It, Mom!, just told me about a survey they are doing for working mothers who are the main breadwinners in their family (i.e., they have higher salaries than their husbands and foot the majority of the bills).  If you are a breadwinning mom or know someone who plays one on TV or real life, go check out the survey HERE for a chance to win a Sony Reader prize pack. What a cool prize!  Check out Nataly’s post called Breadwinner moms, listen up

Since I took time off and then started working on Babble Soft from home, I have not had the opportunity to experience being the breadwinner mom.  Prior to having kids, my husband’s and my salary was the same until I left our first company to teach, consult, and have kids.  I’ve been wondering if I’ll ever make that kind of salary again!

I have a few breadwinning mom friends and the one common theme amongst all of them is that their husband a) either stays home with the kids or b) has a very flexible job whereby he takes off if the kids are sick, takes them to doctor appointments, buys the birthday gifts, helps with meal planning, etc.

Now, that I have my first come-to-the-office everyday job since the kids were born, I’m working my way back up the salary scale.  However if I find a way to grow my company to the point that it more than sustains us, or if it gets bought by some fabulously generous company, then maybe I’ll get a taste of what it’s like to be the breadwinning mom in the house. ;-)

If you are a breadwinner, regardless if you are a mom or not, please share how that affects your frame of mind or if you don’t even give it a second thought.

Author: | Filed under: working mom, working mother | Tags: , , , | 9 Comments »