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Local Business (96)

Wednesday, 22 February 2012 18:00

Why I can't resist rotisserie chicken

Written by Deb Neuman

I went into the grocery store for milk, bread, cat food and toothpaste - and left with a rotisserie chicken. Once again, the smell of that chicken got to me and I just had to have one! It got me thinking about the many times I have left a store with items I had no intention of buying.

My first job after college was with a company called Dansk Designs. We carried high end cookware, tableware and home accessories. Part of my job was to set up displays and arrange the store to sell more. Believe it or not there is a science to this, and part of my training involved learning how to arrange merchandise to appeal to human nature.

Here are a few ways it's done.

Wednesday, 09 November 2011 09:35

'Delayed' (again)

Written by Deb Neuman

The airports: one of the most stressful environments ever. I was reminded of this during a recent trip from Bangor to Pittsburgh via a stop in Philly. I flew out the day of our first snow storm. Leaving Bangor was easy, breezy - but that all changed about halfway to Philly when the plane hit turbulence. That was one bumpy ride! I have never been so happy to land. That was the beginning of a very long day as flights were cancelled and postponed, and travelers and flight crews were grounded. The Philly airport was full of people staring at the departures board and making calls to family, friends and colleagues to keep them apprised of their status.

So what can you do when things don't go as planned? This is a situation that is entirely out of your control. You have two options: stress out and be a royal pain to the gate agents or just roll with it. I chose the latter when I found my flight from Philly to Pitt delayed once, then twice, and then again and again and again.

Wednesday, 02 November 2011 10:28

'Tis the season

Written by Deb Neuman

It creeps up on me every year: the holiday season. Wasn't it just the Fourth of July? The first clue that we are entering the stretch that extends from November through early January begins with the delivery of Christmas catalogs to my mailbox, followed by the appearance of holiday wrapping paper at the grocery store and then the realization that I need to book travel plans if I want to spend the holidays with my out-of-state family and not spend a fortune.

Now that Halloween has passed and the first snow has made its appearance, it's time to start gearing up for the season. If you're a business owner and you count on holiday sales, now is the time to be gearing up for what is projected to be an 'OK' season. According to the National Retail Federation, 'The 2011 holiday season can be summed up in one word: average. On the heels of a holiday season that outperformed most analysts' expectations, holiday retail sales for 2011 are expected to increase 2.8 percent to $465.6 billion. While that growth is far lower than the 5.2 percent increase retailers experienced last year, it is slightly higher than the 10-year average holiday sales increase of 2.6 percent.' According to the NRF, continued high unemployment is a huge contributor to this forecast.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011 12:34

Back to Biz - Break a leg

Written by Deb Neuman

Sometimes when things go wrong, they actually turn out better than if they hadn't. Case in point: The latest production of 'Forever Plaid' at the Penobscot Theatre took an unexpected twist when, just days before the performance, one of the Plaids became hospitalized. As they say in show biz, 'The show must go on,' and it did. But rather than replacing the ailing 'Plaid' or leaving the character out of the performance altogether, the cast and crew adapted the play to not only accommodate the wheelchair-bound 'Plaid' but to make the most of the situation. The result was an amazing performance and a captive audience as the Plaids performed their numbers three of them dancing, singing and moving on two feet with the fourth Plaid singin', rockin' and wheelin' from his seat! It was as if it was planned that way from the beginning.

It reminded me of my theatre days and a production of 'Bye Bye Birdie' when I played a comedic old lady. During the opening performance I was to lean against a trash can. I leaned in a little too far and fell in. Rather than break my concentration, I acted as if that was the plan, and the audience roared with laughter as I recited my lines while my knee-high-clad legs hung over the side of the can. We kept that bit in for the entire run of the show.

Wednesday, 07 September 2011 05:39

Back to Biz - Love thy neighbor (with protection)

Written by Deb Neuman

September is Disaster Preparedness Month. Too often when we think about "disaster," we think about a hurricane, fire, flood or something awful that puts us out of business for a period of time - if not forever. But what we don't think about is what would happen if our business neighbor has a disaster and we find ourselves the unsuspecting victim of their tragedy.

If you share a location with other businesses, you are susceptible should anything happen to them. This came to light for me when I interviewed Gabriella Malchionda, the owner of the successful Mad Gabs company in Westbrook. You have likely seen Mad Gabs lip and body balms on store shelves. Gab rents space in a building with other businesses. One day she and her team were going about their business when the fire alarms went off. Gab grabbed her laptop (a decision that turned out to be a critical one) and they all left the building. When they returned, water was pouring from the ceiling and their entire business was flooded. Everything was ruined. The business on the floor above them had a small fire. When the fire department extinguished the fire, the water extinguished Gab's business.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011 05:39

Back to Biz - September harvest

Written by Deb Neuman

September is by far my favorite month of the year in Maine, with the clear blue skies, warm days, cool nights, the beginning of football season and an abundance of farm-grown produce to enjoy. As I write this, I am baking apple bread from apples I picked at Treworgy Orchards in Levant and marinating fresh tomatoes in olive oil and balsamic vinegar that I bought at the Brewer Farmers Market. I'm so thankful and grateful to the farmers and growers who do all the work to put fresh fruits and veggies on my table. As much as I would love to grow my own, my city dwelling, schedule and talents limit my ability to do so!

Wednesday, 31 August 2011 05:38

Back to Biz - Put a little away today

Written by Deb Neuman

The term "Rainy Day Fund" must have been created by a business owner during a hurricane. Take Irene for example - not a lot of business got done in the days before and after she made her way up the east coast. Most business owners I spoke with shrugged their shoulders in surrender to what they had no control over. They did what needed to be done to protect lives and property and rode out the storm.

Irene reminds us that it is so critical to have a disaster preparedness plan in place. First and foremost we must protect lives, then property, then cash flow. She also reminds us that the notion of being an "independent" business owner is a false one. Business getting done depends on the infrastructure being intact (transportation, internet, power). When those things are compromised (anywhere) - so is our ability to conduct business.

Change is inevitable. This is true in our personal and our business lives. If you want to own a small business and fear change, being in business for yourself might not be a good option for you. If you love the challenges and opportunities associated with change, then owning your own business may be the way to go.

I have met businesses that have survived and thrived through change and businesses that have crashed and burned. These changes may include losing a key customer or employee, rising costs and slowing sales among other things. Some businesses go out of business not because the business is in trouble, but because the owner is. This is often health related and truly unfortunate.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011 05:38

Back to Biz - 08/24/11

Written by Deb Neuman

In spite of the challenging economic times we live in, businesses in this region and state are so generous when it comes to supporting important community causes and events. Case in point: Last weekend I participated in the Champion the Cure Challenge to raise money to support patient treatment and research at the Lafayette Cancer Care Center in Brewer. I was struck by the long list of businesses on the back of every T-shirt - businesses that gave their time and money to support this worthy cause.

I am not really surprised by this. We live in a community where giving is just part of what we do, a community where people go out of their way to help others. I am so proud and humbled to live in this place. At the event I spoke with an 11-year-old boy who lost his grandmother to cancer and ever since has set about raising money to support the cancer center. He was so inspiring and generous and thoughtful and shy and humble about it all. I had a hard time finding the right words to thank him and encouraged him to not feel as though he is being boastful by telling people about or being recognized for this efforts, but rather to understand that the more people know about him and his selfless efforts to help others, the more they will be inspired to do the same. He inspired me that day.

Maine got its claws into me the first time I ate a lobster. I was 6 years old and we were here on vacation. I was so enthralled with my lobster that I insisted on sleeping with the claw under my pillow. So began my love for this place and a mission to make it my home. Fast forward to college in California followed by a corporate job in Pennsylvania and the day I decided to leave it all - pack a UHaul and drive to Maine. I had no idea what I would do for work or where I would live. I only knew Maine was where I wanted to be. I recall sitting on a rock overlooking Frenchman's Bay and thinking "You've taken the leap - you're here - now make it work."

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