The official blog of Nancy Marshall Communications
offering tips, techniques, and thoughts from Maine's PR Maven, Nancy Marshall

 

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New York City

Em Robertson Makes her Mark with Mprint

Owner and Designer of Mprint, Em Robertson
Modeling the Mprint Honolulu Transit Pendant

New York City, Boston, California, Canada and Presque Isle are some of the places this week’s Monday Maine Maven has called home. Em Robertson is the owner and designer of Mprint jewelry, a Maine-based accessories company.

Robertson says her love for the world of design and fashion was cultivated at a young age. She says, “My mother was a retail fashion buyer and would tell me about her buying trips in New York City. That really opened the doors to the business side of the fashion industry to me.”

The Presque Isle native says that she is “extremely proud” that she grew up a country girl adding, “I think it is one of the main reasons I am so driven and hard-working. Yes, it is really far up north, freezing, and it isn’t filled with endless things to do, but it is a great community that is full of hard-working and supportive people.”

Em’s parents wanted their children to experience different cultures, so Em and her family would travel four to five times a year—trips that she credits for her development of “the travel itch” at a very young age.

However, when it came to making a career choice for herself, Em wasn’t quite sure that fashion was the perfect fit. She stayed local, attending the University of Maine at Orono to study business marketing. During her junior year, she interned in New York City with Macy’s corporate marketing division and she says, “It confirmed the idea that I wanted to continue my education in fashion.”

After graduating, Em spent her summer applying to the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising and moved to Los Angeles. She says, “I felt like it was a place I needed to conquer. Being involved in such a creative culture and community of talented people made the transition much easier.”

Robertson says, “I had a lot of learning experiences in Hollywood,” but ultimately, she decided to move back to Maine to launch her jewelry collection.

Just a sampling of the jewelry you can find at www.mprintjewelry.com

The launch of Mprint has been incredibly successful on local, national and international levels, with her jewelry being featured in online stores, magazines and various noteworthy fashion blogs. One of her necklaces even made an appearance on ABC’s Good Morning America worn by correspondent Rachel Smith.

The success of the launch is credited to Em’s strong public relations background and the use of social media. She says, “I wrote everyone I knew to start spreading the word and tried to get as much information and product to top editors, stylists and boutique owners to build awareness of the brand.” She adds, “I think Facebook creates an unreal buzz for designers—people can express to their peers what they like, and it opens doors for other people to like the product. The accessibility to this kind of online marketing for a start-up company like Mprint is beyond beneficial.”

According to Em, social media, Instagram in particular, is a great tool for inspiration, too. Em says, “I definitely draw inspiration for my collection pieces by immersing myself in social media sites, but my go-to is Instagram. Maybe it’s because I’m a creative person, but I just feel like seeing an image speaks so much louder than words.” Other sources that inspire are local consignment shops, family heirlooms, street style and nature.

Em Robertson says that social media serves as a vital part of her branding strategy for Mprint.

What’s next for Mprint? Em says, “I’m constantly thinking about ways to expand Mprint, and to grow as a socially responsible brand.” This is why they will be introducing a new hair accessories collaboration in their Fall ’13 collection with a design-driven nonprofit social enterprise that supports women-owned businesses in Rwanda.

You will also find them at one of the world’s largest and most vibrant marketplace tradeshows, AccessoriesTheShow, in New York City next month.

To learn more about Em and Mprint you may check out her website, www.mprintjewelry.com, like them on Facebook, facebook.com/Mprintjewelry or follow @Mprintjewelry on Twitter.

Zaarly: Bringing Local Storefronts Online

Founders of Zaarly (L-R) Ian Hunter, Bo Fishback, and Eric Koester. Koester departed in in February.

One of our recent Monday Maine Mavens, Jordan Weymouth Richards, discussed the importance and value of doing what you love each and every day. Zaarly’s three founders, Eric Koester, Bo Fishback and Ian Hunter feel the same way. The business was created in a single weekend two years ago and doesn’t show any sign of slowing down.

When I first moved to New York City in 2008, the biggest question was, where do I live? How do I find a cheap (college student here) apartment in this expensive city? I met a few people who recommended Craigslist and I found my dream place—two-bedroom/two-bathroom with hardwood floors, granite countertops, stainless-steel appliances, full dining and living room for a mere $1,650/month in a nice Harlem neighborhood and two blocks from the A train.

It seems like a dream, right? Well, for me it was, but when I recommended it to a friend last year it seemed deals were hard to find and scams were heavily abundant. Enter Zaarly—a site that brings e-commerce to a new level by allowing the seller to create a virtual storefront, complete with product descriptions, a profile picture and comments—the model is remarkably similar to a social media site for your business/services.

Your virtual storefront works like a social media site. Profile picture? Check. Comments? Check. Creativity is welcomed from a company that claims, “Rules for Work. We do not have these.”

Co-founder and CEO of Zaarly, Bo Fishback says, “Craigslist built a great first version of how to use the Web to make local economies work a little better. It’s coming on 20 years since Craigslist was started and it is unchanged at a time when technology is changing faster than it’s ever changed before—I just had a super simple idea about how to create a hyper-local marketplace.”

It all began at Startup Weekendin February 2011. Two of the founders, Bo Fishback and Eric Koester were inspired by personal pet peeves and/or inconveniences. The third founder, Ian Hunter, had been thinking of a similar idea, virtual garage sales—how can you create the sale without actually having to go to the sale? They pitched their idea and Ashton Kutcher just happened to be one of the judges that evening and loved it. He funded the project with $14 million.

All three guys quit their jobs, went all in, and in a mere two years they have grown their idea into a million-dollar brand, boasting 100,000 registered users, 200 cities, 30 employees, 15,000 unique monthly listings, and $6 million worth of posted transactions.

The idea is that they introduce you to local business people who are passionate about what they do—Zaarly helps you meet people within your community, and those relationships and core connections are the key to their business model. Their website tells you to reclaim your local economy, stating that buying local means investing in your community’s future.

On their blog, Fishback tells the story of how much he loves picnics and how happy he was with a fulfilled picnic request he posted on Zaarly. Bo and his wife, son and dog enjoyed a relaxing two hours provided by “a third-grade teacher during the day, but a picnic wizard by night (and weekends),” who made the experience the best picnic of his life. Former Zaarly Chief Operating Office Eric Koester tells a similar story about a bride who had a DJ cancel the day of her wedding. She posted on Zaarly and within a few hours she had a new DJ booked and the crisis was resolved.

In honor of Zaarly’s goal of bringing people and businesses together, their team page makes it easy for you to ‘meet’ them.

Fishback says, “We help people get paid to do what they love—it’s amazing when you talk to these sellers and they come up with amazing things. We’re just welcoming the sellers into this marketplace; we did not have to invent the world of trust and safety in peer to peer marketplaces—we just get to improve on it.”

An improvement to that system came in February when they decided to leave their peer-to-peer model and approach it from the merchant perspective. Storefronts were born, and similar to Etsy and Shopify, they allow businesses to successfully market their products to customers, receive orders and confirm details.

Fishback says this was a difficult decision, but necessary based on the metrics of their original marketplace. He says that being a startup comes with uncertainty from the market saying, “If you don’t know if there are any fish in the pond, or what kind of fish are there, why would you fish?” Their new model establishes the sellers and on average their sellers are making between $1,500 and $2,000 per month, with some reaching between $6,000 and $7,000 each month.

So how can Zaarly help your business? Here in Maine, we are lucky to have an abundance of ‘Mom and Pop’ stores that not only exist, but are doing exceedingly well. We also have a variety of downtown alliances and organizations that are all about promoting local businesses, farmer’s markets and more.

Zaarly helps connect these businesses and people, promoting local prosperity. They are currently represented in San Francisco, New York, Seattle, Kansas City and Los Angeles, and are always looking to expand their markets.

Check out Zaarly and sign up for a free account today. If you’re looking for great ideas for your business then I suggest you follow their awesome founders on Twitter @ianhunter, @bowman, @erickoester.

 

Contributed by Erika Bush

Big Solutions for Every Business in Maine

President of CORE Solutions, Heather Veilleux.

What do New York, Maine and Ohio have in common? President of CORE Solutions and this week’s Maine Maven, Heather Veilleux, has called all of them home. While she has enjoyed each of them, Heather says, “The truth is, my plan was to move back to Maine all along.”

Veilleux adds that although it was hard to make the decision to move back to Augusta from New York City,  it was also a very exciting opportunity. She says, “Maine has more space to grow and more ways to be unique.”

Maine also has, by far, a much slower and steadier pace. While living in New York, Heather was working three jobs as a real estate agent at Bold New York by day, and a waitress at LongHorn Steakhouse in New Jersey and Marseille in New York City by night, and the occasional weekend gig through Total Entertainment! Not to mention that she was also juggling classes at Berkeley College and remotely creating her own start-up business. How did she do it? Veilleux says, “I realized that I simply didn’t have the time to go to class, so I began taking online classes. Ultimately, this allowed me to start and run a business that would eventually be located in Maine.”

Heather on a trip to Africa last year with the Flying Kites Global. Former Maine Maven, Ashley Underwood was also on this trip.

We hate to get political, but it’s hard to ignore that Heather’s life became consumed with politics shortly after she moved back to Maine last fall. Her fiancé (then boyfriend), Matthew Pouliot, announced that he would be running for office. “Little did I know what a great ride we were in for,” she says, and it would become a great inspiration for her re-evaluation of her business, Heels to Healing.

Through designing and planning advertisements and social media outreach during the campaign, Veilleux realized that there was an opportunity to help small businesses in the area using the same tactics. Heels to Healing was originally created to raise money through events for other nonprofits, but she realized that this model was making her business into a small United Way.

“I felt that rebranding and creating a for-profit business with a strong social mission was a better way to run a business and help my community,” says Veilleux about the change. With a new outlook and the creation of CORE Solutions, her goal is to help other businesses and organizations by offering services that they may not be able to have without hiring a full-time employee and/or hiring multiple companies. CORE Solutions offers high value for a low cost in assisting with event planning, fundraising, marketing and more.

CORE Solutions is an Augusta-based company offering quality business solutions that are designed to fit every budget.

CORE Solution’s signature event is the semi-annual Maine’s Fashion Night Out (MFNO). Originally created as a starting point for Heels to Healing, the event incorporates all of Heather’s favorite things: fashion, music, dance and central Maine! That’s right, it’s located right here in Augusta. Veilleux says, “I feel that central Maine is deprived when it comes to big events, especially in fashion. I live in Augusta and grew up in Hallowell, and I want to be a part of its growth.”

The mission of MFNO is to bring together the community, to promote local business and nonprofit organizations, and to network. They are currently looking for sponsors and volunteers—check out out www.MainesFNO.com for more information on how you can get involved and/or purchase your ticket for their upcoming event at the Armory.

To contact Heather, you may follow her on Twitter @coremaine, like her page on Facebook www.facebook.com/coremaine, or email her heather@coremaine.com.

Positive Social Media Role Model

Kelly LaBrecque, meteorologist at WCSH 6

When we were young, anyone on television had to be famous—as in billboards and paparazzi famous. We idolized and admired the people we saw as public figures. Today, their lives are displayed across multiple social networks and through social networks fans get an up close and personal look at the daily lives of their favorite ‘celebrities.’ So what happens when you’re a local celebrity? How do you balance your personal and professional life and share ‘just enough’?

This week’s Monday Maine Maven, Kelly LaBrecque of WCSH 6, discusses how she manages that balance and what motivates her. Kelly’s advice to those young admirers: “Work hard at whatever you want to do and know that your hard work will pay off!”

LaBrecque grew up in Maine and went to school in New York, but she says, “I worked in New York City for a little while after college, but I realized that my heart is in Maine.” She ultimately chose to move nearer to her family, with whom she is incredibly close. Kelly says, “I grew up with my grandparents living right down the street; I saw them almost every day and I knew that having my parents in my own children’s lives in a similar way was important to me.”

Kelly and her husband recently added their son, Silas, to the mix and she credits him as ‘an awesome little dude.’ She admits that it’s been hard to leave the little guy, but that it feels good to be back at work. She says, “Being a Mom has got to be the hardest job in the world!” She laughs at the idea of a routine saying, “Once you think you’ve got the hang of it, some curveball comes your way.”

LaBrecque loves social media and says, “to be able to interact with viewers through Facebook and Twitter is such a cool thing,” but she admits that finding a balance of how much of your personal life you share or not can be difficult. Even though she has always been a pretty open book, she found herself slightly more reserved throughout her pregnancy, but now that Silas is here she says, “If I could I’d post a picture of him every day!” She admits that she has to hold herself back sometimes.

Kelly LaBrecque and Caroline Cornish, a news anchor for WCSH 6

One thing Kelly doesn’t hold back is her passion for the Fit at Five series, which she created. She says, “I never set out to say that I am professional when it comes to fitness and weight loss. I am human and struggle just like most people—like right now with the baby weight that I am working to lose.” She admits that she was nervous about returning to work before losing it all, especially with the sometimes unattainable expectations and pressure put on new Moms, but she adds, “I am choosing to listen to experts who say that slow and steady is the way to go.”

The Fit at Five series helps provide motivation to men and women who feel this pressure and often features stories about building self-esteem and portraying positive feelings about body image. Their new resident trainer, Adam Tielinen, will be providing the team and viewers with some great new tips on how to lose weight and get in shape. Kelly has also been busy helping plan their annual Fit at 5K this fall.

LaBrecque says she loves being able to try all the different workouts and is a self-proclaimed hot yoga junky calling it her ‘reset button.’ Another reset button for Kelly is the entire WCSH 6 team. Kelly calls them fantastic saying, “We have fun, and I think that is important.” Some recent fun has included posting archived videos of the staff behind the scenes, including the video below, which features Kelly, Caroline Cornish and the “News Center Salon”:

Kelly currently resides in Portland with her husband and son. She says, “Portland is the perfect city to live in—not so big as to get lost in the commotion, but just big enough to always be discovering new things.”

To contact Kelly you may find her on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/kelly.labrecque.1?ref=ts&fref=ts, follow her on Twitter: @klabrecque, or join her network on LinkedIn www.linkedin.com/pub/kelly-labrecque/10/441/1a7.

Terrible Typos

Hello, Erika here!

My friend Grace and I were talking about ideas for work the other night and she started laughing as she told me about some of the typos she had seen in emails and documents she had received. We joked about auto correct and the fact that there are sites solely dedicated to people’s “clumsy thumbsies” as Ellen DeGeneres would say.

How many times have you accidentally texted someone something you didn’t mean to? I haven’t been involved in some of the incredibly embarrassing incidents above, but I have accidentally texted “I kiss you” instead of ‘I miss you.” I also told my sister once that “the dogs are dead” when I definitely meant, “the dogs are fed.” Typos happen, but how can you prevent them from making their way into your business?

I decided to share some common typos that frequently go unnoticed and include five fail-proof proofreading tricks—ways to make sure you don’t end up with a grammatical blunder on your hands.

If you work in public service then you are most likely already aware of the common missing “l” in many documents and emails, resulting in some “pubic” disasters. I have a friend that used to work for the New York Housing Authority and this was a commonly overlooked error in their office.

The simple misuse of your vs. you’re, or missing a comma can make a huge difference. If I say, “Let’s eat Julia,” it means something completely different than when I say, “Let’s eat, Julia.” People notice when grammatical errors are made. The other day at a meeting, I overheard a woman say, “Me and Kyle are planning…” and out of nowhere, the gentleman sitting next to me mumbles, “Kyle and I.”

My final example is not capitalizing when we should. When Time Magazine featured an article on Steve Jobs and Apple, they simply referred to him as “steve jobs.” A simple AP styling rule that I found myself rusty on was when to capitalize someone’s job title. When the title comes before the name, it is capitalized, but when it comes after their name, it is in lower case.

So how can you make sure you don’t make these simple grammatical errors? Here are my five tips.

  1. Read aloud
  2. Read backwards
  3. Take a break and re-read
  4. Use a second pair of eyes
  5. Always re-read before sending or posting

My friend Grace Zinnel and me in New York City

Grammar is complicated and AP guidelines are always changing because of the tools available to us. For example the term the Web now requires “web” to be capitalized because it encompasses and summarizes an entity, but a website is still lowercase because it is a smaller part of the Web.

I would recommend that you subscribe to the online AP Style Book or use the AP cheat sheet provided by Scribd. The cheat sheet isn’t as thorough as the complete style book, but it still provides the basics you need. If you really want to work on becoming an expert proofer you should subscribe to online mailing lists. Our proofing Queen, Dianne, swears by dailywritingtips.com and Grammar Girl, which both provide daily emails on various writing techniques, tools and tips.

When I first started at NMC, it had been a while since I had actually written in AP form. I had done it thousands of times in college, but working for different organizations with their own rules and ways of doing things had definitely formed some bad habits. I decided to get back to the basics and made it my mission to write better. I’m not perfect and Dianne can attest to my typos and grammatical errors, but using the right tools has helped me get better and now we joke that it’s only a matter of time before I get a document back without any red ink!

I hope that this week’s witty wisdom helps you, no matter what your skill level when it comes to writing and editing. After all, it never hurts to keep learning new skills and developing new good habits.

Former Survivor Contestant Finds Inspiration Close to Home

Ashley Underwood at Survivor: Redemption Island Reunion show

Former professional basketball player, former Miss USA contestant, registered nurse, and third runner-up on Survivor: Redemption Island—these are just a few of the titles held by this week’s Monday Maine Maven, Ashley Underwood.

As a Cony High School and University of Maine graduate from Benton, Maine, Underwood says Maine will always be her home saying, “I’m a small-town girl.” The mix of her athleticism and lack of fear of getting her hands dirty helped her make her way through the Survivor experience, but it didn’t help with the aftereffect of increased interest from the public.

Across the country, people began to wonder: who is Ashley Underwood? And naturally, people looked her up on Facebook and Twitter. She quickly began to be thankful for various privacy options and the ability to switch location services off. Underwood sometimes feels the need to censor what she puts out there and says, “I will never post my minute-to-minute activities or exactly where I am. I think a lot of people treat social media sites as their diaries and that’s never really been me.”

Post-Survivor Ashley embraced an opportunity in New York City and began working at Leverage Agency, a full-service sports, entertainment and media marketing company. While in the city, she was also on the receiving end of celebrity sightings. She said she was surprised to be recognized especially in a city where there are millions of people who are accustomed to seeing celebrities on a daily basis. She says, “It’s a very bizarre feeling, but it is definitely flattering.”

Ashley in Nairobi while working with Flying Kites Global

Public attention is part of why Ashley prefers to keep her personal life as private as possible. She says, “I am very blessed to have amazing people in my life who have always been supportive.” She admits she’s not perfect and says, “It’s nice to have people that aren’t afraid to just be honest with me.” If you ask anyone who knows her they will tell you she is one of the nicest, most humble and genuine people they know and if you already follow her on Twitter or are friends with her on Facebook, you know that she finds inspiration in her faith.

Underwood has never been shy about her relationship with God and she credits her passion of giving to others to her belief in God. Ashley says that she believes in putting effort into loving others and making a difference; the things that truly matter.  She also credits her parents saying, “They brought me up to be a strong woman of faith and taught me to be true to what I believe in. They gave me a solid foundation to be the woman I am today.”

Last year she volunteered with Flying Kites Global, an organization based out of Africa that focuses on providing orphaned children of Nairobi with the care and resources necessary to build exceptional lives, families and communities. For Underwood it was an experience of a lifetime, which ultimately resulted in not only meeting with the children at the orphanage, but also a hike to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro.

After recently moving back to Maine, Ashley is currently working as a school nurse at Atwood Primary School in Oakland. To connect with Ashley you can follow her on Twitter @AshleyUSurvivor.

Hula Hooping, Singing and All Things Nikki Hunt

Nikki Hunt, lead singer and hula hooper of The Nikki Hunt Band

Anyone who lives in Hallowell or frequents the Hallowell scene has heard of this week’s Monday Maine Maven, Nikki Hunt. They know that not only does she sing, she also hula hoops. In fact, her name and hula hoop are almost synonymous—almost as if she invented the thing.

Ironically, the idea was originally brought up as a joke. Her band mate, Sonny True, suggested she bring it on as a floor show since he knew how much she enjoyed hooping for fun. Nikki says she was terrified the first time, so terrified that the hoop never even left the van, but now she says, “The hooping has picked up at shows and if I don’t bring it people ask where it is—it’s been such a hit.”

So how did her passion for performing begin? Nikki Hunt credits her Mom, who got her enrolled in dance lessons very young, and in fifth grade she started voice lessons. Hunt says, “I was frustrated with sports and found myself leaning toward the performing arts.” It was during this time she became heavily involved in the Hallowell and Waterville theater programs.

After high school, Hunt moved to New York City for college. She says that she loved it there, but she felt like she was spending too much time working on everything but her voice.  She eventually left the city and made her way back to Maine. Nikki says it was through this experience that she learned a very important thing about the entertainment industry: “You don’t have to live in New York City, Boston or Los Angeles to write original music and you don’t have to kill yourself, juggling multiple jobs and hundreds of bookings, to pay rent.”

Hunt says that in Maine, she has been able to start her career the way she wants to—in small steps and says, “I’d rather take my time and build a solid foundation than constantly be skating on thin ice.” A part of her plan has been to find ways to build and network with her fan base. “Social media is a phenomenon,” says Hunt. She credits the use of her original MySpace page as a way to branch out to her fans so they could hear her live recordings. This evolved to Facebook where she currently has more than 2,500 friends and fans.

We mentioned in our previous previous post, American Dream in Portland Maine that sending too many event invites via Facebook can be perceived as spamming fans. Nikki started her website for just this reason, “I try not to barrage Facebook friends with event invites,” she says. She adds, “I have a great advantage to communicate clearly with my fans using an email or simply by posting pictures, or a video from YouTube.” She adds that social networking sites can be addicting, so she tries to use them in moderation.

Hunt’s growing success has lead to more interest in who she is, which is why she decided to start an official blog which is set to launch in February. She believes it is important to reach out to fans and to relate to them on a more personal level than Facebook. Nikki hopes that the blog will do just that and help to inspire new material for her and her band mates.

To connect with Nikki, check her out on Facebook or on her website: www.nikkihunt.com

Concrete Jungles and Pine Trees

Erika Bush in New York City

If you ask this week’s Monday Maven, Erika Bush, why she loves public relations, she will respond with, “it’s just what I’ve always done.” She is almost childlike in her enthusiasm as she describes her passion for the job, which developed when she was very young. “I would plan out these elaborate events with my dolls; I would create flyers and ads to tell my parents and sisters when they could come and see my musicals, plays and other events… seating arrangements and all!” She goes on to say her Mom would write reviews, which Erika would then file in folders labeled with event titles, dates and times.

This innate passion for marketing coupled with her gift for writing was noticed by an eighth grade teacher, who first told her she might want to look into a career in public relations. Erika shrugged it off, but in high school she found herself actively involved in the Key Club and was elected as the marketing chair her sophomore year. Her connections with local radio stations increased traffic to the events they hosted, and it was at this time Erika reconsidered the career which had been suggested years before.

Camden, Erika’s coonhound and inspiration for The Camden Collection.

After graduating from Cony High School in 2006, she embarked on a journey to New York City to pursue her passion for marketing and public relations. She obtained her bachelor’s degree in advertising and public relations from The City College of New York while working full-time, interning part-time and freelancing for a local non-profit and a start-up marketing strategic research firm. Erika found juggling tasks exciting; “I took a great interest in developing myself as a working professional and got involved in as many projects as possible.” Continue reading “Concrete Jungles and Pine Trees” »