Thursday, December 3, 2009

The I-don’t-know-where-it-goes drawer

This conversation took place minutes ago in my kitchen between my six year old and me…

Charlie: Have you seen the basement?

Me: Which basement?

Charlie: Our basement.

Me: Well, yes.

Charlie: Did you see what a good job I did cleaning it up?

Me: (clueing in) I did. Nice work on that.

Charlie: I didn’t clean up the Polly Pockets. We don’t have an I-don’t-know-where-it-goes drawer in the basement.

Me: I’m sorry, a what?

Charlie: An I-don’t-know-where-it-goes drawer, like the one I have in my room.

Me: You have an I-don’t-know-where-it-goes drawer in your room?

Charlie: Yeah, you know, the one with all the stuff spilling out of it.

As it happens, I do know this drawer. It’s actually a bin, and I must contend with this bin every time we can’t find Anakin’s tiny light sabre, or the Lego knight’s sword. It’s also home to the marbles from Hungry Hippos, the Playmobil horse hay bales, connect 4 pieces and small bits of string. I just didn’t know it had a name.

Besides the fact that we obviously need some better organizational systems in our house (I’ll get that done in my spare time), it occurs to me that the I-don’t-know-where-it-goes drawer just might be a metaphor for the differences in which the males and females in my house go through their days.

For you gals, can you imagine, metaphorically, an I-don’t-know-where-it-goes spot in your brain? It would go something like this, ‘That mom in the playground just made a very snide remark about what I put in my kid’s lunch. Why would she do that? Oh, well – I don’t know where to put that… moving on.’ Or, ‘I found my coworker measuring my office dimensions…I don’t know where to put that – must be no big deal.’ Of course not! No, we stress, we obsess, we call our best friends and discuss. The problem is that most of us are incapable of boxing up and shelving both the big and small stuff.

Men, I think, have a different deal – much like that of my little guy. For example, my husband has a job that involves taking big risks. Sometimes he wins and sometimes he loses. If he feels stress about this I’m pretty sure he puts it into his very own I-don’t-know-where-it-goes drawer. In fact, I’m pretty sure lots of stuff goes into that drawer for him. I have no judgment about this - we’re just different that way. Actually, if I’m being honest, I’d admit that I’m actually very jealous of the I-don’t-know-where-it-goes drawer. It sounds downright relaxing to store things away without delving into the deeper meaning. To put something away without thinking about where it really goes.

Maybe the guys are on to something here. In fact, I’m going to take a page out of their books and leave this stream of thought right here – exactly where I-don’t-know-where-it-goes.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

In my spare time

You know that scene you see in movies and tv shows – the one where the protagonist is sleeping soundly in her bed when suddenly her eyes spring wide open (roll opening credits…). This was me this morning. At 3:55 a.m. It was the beginning of another day in the life of a mompreneur.

Now I’m a terrible sleeper – have been for years. No amount of stress could derail either my husband or my business partner from their sacred shut-eye. But I’ve been known to literally lose sleep when too much is going on in my days. Moms in general and moms with jobs (other than the full time one where they raise their kids) in particular are multi-tasking superstars. We’ve checked in with several hundred mompreneurs over the past year, and many of them tell us that even they can’t believe just how much they can accomplish in a day.

If Amy or I want to get a laugh out of the other one (or any mompreneur we know), we simply add the phrase, ‘in your spare time’ to the end of the sentence. Something like, “Could you just cut out an extra 100 pieces of fleece dino appliqué, in your spare time?” – gets a chuckle every time. Any mom knows that life is filled with minutiae – endless forms for school, lessons to register for, groceries, meals, laundry. But then throw in the minutiae of running a small business – endless forms for everything, customer inquiries, supplier issues, etc. - it can require a whole lot of mental space.

I’ve long believed that I can deal with my kids and my business – but if you throw anything into the mix I may crack. This weekend it’s my daughter’s 5th birthday party (loot bags, a cake, activities for sugar-hyped 5 year olds, etc.) – followed by cupcakes at school on the actual birthday, not to mention the nagging Christmas list and the cooking and baking that this time of year brings. Believe me, I wouldn’t trade one bit of it – not anything. But I wouldn’t mind sleeping either!

So what’s a busy mompreneur to do? Heck, if you’ve got some suggestions for sustaining sleep when the to-do list becomes unmanageable then please send them on! In the meantime, I’m thinking about developing some kind of sleep aid for crazed mompreneurs – in my spare time, that is.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Admiral Road is All Around

There's lots of fun stuff going on this week:

At Admiral Road, it's the most wonderful time of year. This holiday season, we're giving back. Use the coupon code HOLIDAY09 for $7 off your Admiral Road order at check out. It's valid until December 6.

We're also an Editor's Pick at Glow magazine. You can see our owl baby blanket featured here.

To top it off, the team at SavvyMom chose our Treasure Tees as their Pick of the Week. Thank you, ladies. We think you've made a savvy choice.

Today also begins our appearance at Art Market in Calgary. If you're in the neighbourhood, drop by Booth 524 to say, 'Hi.' Our friends at Mally Designs and Bugalug are Stonz are there too.

Admiral Road will not be exhibiting at the One of a Kind Show in Toronto this year. We'll miss connecting with the many customers who come by to see us. Please stay in touch. We're just a phone call or email away. And if you're wondering how late you can leave your holiday orders, you've got plenty of time. Just click here for our holiday delivery info.

Wishing you Fleece on Earth this holiday season.

Amy & Danielle

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Reaching out from the basement

For many of the mom entrepreneurs we know, we’re heading into show season. There are baby shows and children’s shows, not to mention the craft shows that define our lives each fall. On the downside, there’s a whole lot of schlepping involved, not to mention long hours on your feet and juggling childcare. But there’s a silver lining to show season as well, and not just the sales and contacts – there’s the meeting of the mom entrepreneurs.

Over the years we’ve been lucky to meet up with amazing women running fabulous companies. But since Amy and I each get to work with our best friend, we’ve found that we can get a bit insular. We can get so caught up in the minutiae of our joint business and home lives that sometimes we forget to reach out to other business moms. Of course we know how important networking is, but it can definitely be put aside in favour of more pressing ‘To Dos.' Sure, we love to talk to our entrepreneurial friends about business. Anyone who owns their own business can relate to the trials and tribulations. But only a mom entrepreneur really understands what our lives look like.

After years in the basement alone or in the company of each other, it was a (delightful) shock to the system when earlier this year we went out chatted with a whole bunch of mom entrepreneurs. Over the course of a couple of months we met with women we knew well, and women we knew of but didn’t really know. Since time was of the essence we split up for the majority of these coffee dates. To a person, each of the women we met with brought up some interesting perspective we’d never thought of. They also shared their amazing stories as well as tips for juggling business and family. The mom entrepreneurs were friendly, helpful and wise. At the end of it, we felt that we’d made some amazing connections and were only disappointed that we hadn’t each been able to connect with everyone!

We learned a lot from the experience of getting out in the world and connecting. And I’m not talking just about what the mom entrepreneurs had to say. We were reminded how essential networking is – for our business and for ourselves.

The path of the mom entrepreneur can be a lonely one – but there are tons of amazing women at the other end of the phone or across the table at Starbucks. We try harder now to reach out and to stay in touch. It’s important and it’s fun.

So, to our mom entrepreneur friends – if we miss you over the next few busy months – let’s make a date soon for a coffee and a chat!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Better late than never

I took a marketing class in business school where I learned that people behave differently when presented with new technologies. According to the Innovation Curve, the population can be divided into five groups: A very few people are innovators – they lead the charge when it comes to change. Then there are the early adopters – they love to try new things. Most people fall into the early majority and late majority categories: These guys aren’t the quickest ones off the blocks, but they’ll dive in if everyone else does too. Finally, there are the laggards – those of us that have a hard time with change altogether.

My father is a classic “early adopter.” He reads Consumers Report like the Bible and loves knowing about the latest and greatest in technology. We were the first ones on the street to own a VCR. (It was the size of a suitcase.) We also enjoyed a very early Apple home computer on which my brother and I spent many happy hours playing Space Invaders and Pong.

Danielle and I freely admit we are not early adopters of technology. Laptops came into our lives only recently. We don’t necessarily embrace change. I am the last person I know to get a DVD player. (I raced out to buy one only when my husband took my children away for the weekend and I had three whole days to myself.)

Although it is late in the game, Danielle and I recently decided that we’d like to have BlackBerrys. It seemed like a good way to make juggling work and family a little easier. And lots of mom entrepreneurs swear by them.
I looked up and realized that I spend a decent amount of time waiting around: Waiting to pick up the kids at school, waiting for the dentist, waiting poolside while the kids are taking swim lessons. I thought that it might make sense to take care of correspondence in these stolen moments, rather than to sit down at my desk at the end of the day to deal with a mountain of work.

I have no intention of sleeping with my BlackBerry under my pillow and I sincerely believe that I’ve got the willpower to fight its addictive qualities.

But it’s red and it’s cute, and even for a laggard like me, I’m happy to accept that it’s in my life.

Now I just have to figure out how to work the darn thing.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Sweet new beginnings

Last month my family celebrated the new year. It’s always made sense to me to celebrate the new year in September. Doesn’t it seem like that’s when the year starts? Back to school, back to business, back to life.

As a part of our New Year celebrations we dipped apples in honey to symbolize a sweet year ahead. And just like the January 1st New Year, September gives me pause to think about how to make my year a little sweeter.

A new year reminds me that I have everything I want and need – how lucky is that? And it makes me think about the people who don’t even come close to being able to make that claim. It occurs to me that what I could use a little of in my life is a little more giving back. I blogged not too long ago about how I wish I had time to give blood (and I do, and I will) – but maybe it’s more about wishing to just give in general.

Then I came across this web site If you’re not familiar with Charity: Water, the story is that a 30-year-old in New York decided that he had some giving back to do, and started an organization to provide clean drinking water to the one billion people on this planet who don’t have it. In just three years, Scott Harrison and his team have provided clean water to 700,000 people. Wow. Not only does this story inspire me, but it makes me feel like I’ve got some work to do…

I showed the trailer from Charity: Water to my four-year-old daughter this morning and explained that kids around the world don’t have clean water to drink. She immediately said, ‘How can we help?’ She was so excited about it that she ran to find her brother and explain the problem to him. It reminds me that the spirit of giving back is contagious. So this year I’m resolving to give more of myself in the coming year, for lots of reasons, not the least of which is to be an example to my very fortunate children.

How sweet is that?

Friday, October 23, 2009

Snuggle Season

Well, it’s officially ‘that time of year.’ At Admiral Road, ‘that time of year’ is Snuggle Season. We LOVE Snuggle Season. The leaves are changing, the temperature is dropping and people are turning their thoughts to keeping cozy.

Snuggle season is when we hear from our favourite customers. And it’s when we get to meet lots of new customers too.

But snuggle season also hectic! We’ve got lots of shows on the calendar and new products on the site. Plus, we’ve got to get our kids to their swimming, gymnastics, karate, piano and dance classes. Whew!

We’ve got two great shows on this weekend. Please stop by to say ‘Hi’ at the Heart of Country Show in Richmond Hill.

We’re also excited to be at the Shop Til You Drop sale on Sunday.

One of the most fun things at Admiral Road right now is the response we’re getting to our new line of Treasure Tees. We’re having trouble keeping them in stock – so if you see us at a show this weekend, make sure to snap one up. They’re sure to keep your little ones cozy during Snuggle Season.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Changing Weather

It's gotten cold where we live. The winter jackets and even hats, scarves and mittens have come out. But as sad as we are to see the leaves fall, we're always happy to ring in snuggle season!

Here at Admiral Road we're busy working on Holiday orders already, not to mention keeping our heads about us as our cozy blankets, adorable scarves and amazing Treasure Tees are flying out the door. If you haven't seen them, be sure and check out our 12 amazing scarf styles - there is something for everyone on your list, and at only $12, the price is right! We've added two great new Treasure Tees to our collection too - our Space Tee features a funny toy alien (they're all different) in an extra terrestrial setting, while our Farm Tee has a lovely pony toy on a beautiful farm. All of our Treasure Tees are just $20 (they're going fast - so grab one now).

Finally, because we want to blanket everyone you love this season, we're offering $5 off your next blanket order between now and Nov. 6th. Just enter the code ARDFALL09 at check out on our web site.

Give Fleece a Chance!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Sorry, I've got to run

I used to be a runner.

When I was in my twenties, my mother inspired me to run. Although she had never been fit, she trained hard and then ran the New York City Marathon at age 51. She and I went on to run countless road races together from 5ks to marathons. We talked while we trained together. We had a blast when we travelled to races together. And it turns out she was a great racer! Uncovering a hidden talent, she consistently won her age category in all the races she entered. It was truly inspirational.

And then she died.

That was it for me. I hung up my running shoes – for good, I thought. The idea of training by myself was too painful. It wasn’t joyful anymore. I wasn’t interested. And then life happened: work, pregnancy, nursing, repeat. For several years it didn’t even feel like my body belonged to me. It was on loan.

One year ago Danielle and I travelled to a trade show in Las Vegas. We had been eyeing that show for years, but last year was the first time that it was feasible for us and our families. I think it was also the first time that I starting feeling like my body belonged to me again. Having forgotten my cross-trainers at home (Freudian?), I popped into a mall and picked up my first pair of running shoes in a decade. While Danielle was working at the trade show, I went back to the hotel gym and climbed on the treadmill. Listening to tunes on Danielle’s borrowed iPod, I rocked out on my run and it was great. In a hotel, in Las Vegas, by myself. (For a busy mom entrepreneur, it’s the stuff dreams are made of.)

I’ve kept up the running ever since. This spring I ran my first, post-babies 10k. This summer I ran a 10-miler. And this past weekend I accomplished my goal for the season: I completed a half-marathon. It wasn’t the fastest time I’ve ever run – there is room for improvement. And I had to choke back the tears at the start line when I looked over and found that my mom wasn’t there. But I did it, and running still feels great.

I miss my mom more than I can say. It’s been eight years, but sometimes I still can’t believe that she’s actually not here. I lose my breath when I think about the fact that she never met my children. But I also think that it might be time for me to run again.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Social media at work? We encourage it.

I was recently chatting with several older women when I mentioned that part of my job is "social media marketing." Not surprisingly, they didn't know what that meant. They wouldn't be the first ones. A year ago, neither did I.

I've been personally Facebooking, blogging, and social networking for several years. But it wasn't until last fall that we first ventured into the world of social media as a business.

The first step was a Facebook group. At that point there were all sorts of businesses with "profiles," many with group pages, and a few with fan pages. With our group we posted relevant news, links to articles, and photos of little ones. We also had our first ever giveaway where several dozen customers got to take home sample blankets for little ones in their lives absolutely free! Needless to say it was a big hit. We loved being able to do something fun, and good for our customers. Not to mention we found homes for blankets that otherwise might have gone in the trash. However, we still weren't really connecting with people because there was little room for interaction, only promotion.

After the winter holidays last year, we threw our hats into the blogging ring. Our blog, Blanket Statements, was our chance to share our experiences with life, families, and running a blanket business. It also brought us into a whole new world. Blogging allows people all over the world to form communities with people they've never met. Many women use it as a way to get and give advice on families and children, share stories, and connect about personal triumphs and tragedies. At Admiral Road we share stories about funny things the kids say, business experiences, or new name trends.

After a while we saw that the Facebook group was being replaced by the "Fan Page." We were hesitant to make the switch because we already had several hundred group members and the thought of asking them to switch was painful. But we realized that the group was not working for us, or for our customers as we had hoped, and we made the big jump to the page. As it turns out, it was hugely successful. All of a sudden we were hearing from our customers instead of just posting things for them to read about us. And it is so much more convenient as you no longer have to search for the group and remember to check for updates - important updates about sales and coupons go right to fans' newsfeeds.

Finally there was Twitter. I admit, none of us knew how to use it. I cringed when I had to use the verb "tweet" in a business meeting, and we agonized over early posts to make sure we were "doing it right." I was the biggest resistor, mostly because I didn't think we had time to maintain another social media site and still actually run as business. I also couldn't stand the idea of being 24 and having aging U.S. Congressmen understand a new technology better than I did. But Twitter is where the conversation is really at. We discovered interesting people to follow, business contacts to network with, and funny stories that everyday people were sharing.

People knew early on that social media was a revolutionary way to connect with customers on a different level, but it wasn't clear how it was going to work. It wasn't because we didn't know how to use the technology, it was that the technology didn't know how it wanted to be used yet. Facebook wasn't started as a business tool. It was created for elite American college students to presumably network with more elite college students. Blogging has been around for years, but for most of those years it was exclusively a tool for self-expression. These platforms have evolved into what they are today - impossible to ignore pieces of our everyday lives. And with that comes business. But this is a new kind of business where relationships are built, customers get a say, and companies stand behind what they sell. After all, their face is all over it.

So join us in the social media world. Today, October 1, we will be getting the fall season off to a great start with a fabulous giveaway. Follow us on Twitter to find out how you can win.

Admiral Road has been making personalized blankets since 2002.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

In Praise of the Buddy System

They said not to do it. They swore we shouldn’t do it. And if they didn’t say it out loud, we’re pretty sure they were thinking it.

They told us not to go into business with our best friend. We were courting disaster, risking it all, and generally making a gigantic mistake. Was I scared? Well, a little – but not really. I knew it would work.

Believe me, I can see how going into biz with your buddy could be disastrous. When you work with someone you care about and have history with, it can be harder to broach difficult issues, and sometimes the friendship can get in the way of the work. You can hesitate to get into the tough stuff because you’re worried about hurting your friend, and you can take work conflicts personally. (It can also be hard to settle down to work when there is so much to catch up on in your lives!)

It’s funny though – no one talks about the enormous upside of being best friends in business. There’s the fact that I 100% trust my business partner – with every single aspect of the business. We’ve been able to have babies and take vacations without worrying what’s going on at the office. We’ve also each had the support of someone who cares about us when times have been tough either at work or at home. We’ve been able to support each other’s goals, both personal and professional. We’ve raised our families together and created a gaggle of kids who are madly in love with their ‘cousins.’ We really listen to each other, whether it’s a work or a personal issue.

But here’s the biggest benefit, and no one ever talks about this one: We’ve had a blast. I can’t think of anyone I’d rather be on the mom entrepreneur rollercoaster ride with than my best friend. We’ve enjoyed our business because we’ve done it together. I don’t think either of us would have lasted 7.5 years (and counting) on our own. We’ve celebrated our accomplishments together and commiserated when things haven’t gone as planned. We laugh. Every single day.

Should you go into business with your best friend? Well, conventional wisdom says you shouldn’t – but these best friends in business are flouting that wisdom, so why can’t you?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Companies We Love

This week's featured company makes its products in Canada, just like we do at Admiral Road. If you know of other great small businesses, let us know! We’d love to hear about them.

Company Name: Mally Designs

Company Web Site:

Owners: Ron and Nicole Garza

What they do: Make beautiful bibs out of leather. They’re durable, easy to clean and stain resistant.

Why we love 'em: Because their products are beautifully designed and of the highest quality. And they’re made in Canada! This company has achieved so much in a short time – Mally Bibs are everywhere! Their success is truly inspirational.

What you can get: Their new pocket peeker designs – so cute. You can also keep your eye out for Mally Bibs on sale.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

How to choose?

There are many reasons babies get the names they do. My first name, Mary, is from my Grandmother, and my middle name, Elizabeth, seems to be inspired by a variety of sources - my favourite being the street I was born on (though my father denies it). At Admiral Road, we see all sorts of unique names and name trends. This gives rise to one of my favourite things to do: Guess the trend.

While I can never be sure why anyone has chosen a name for their child, it seems reasonable that a sudden rise in a previously almost non-existent name has probably been inspired by some outside source – like a TV show. Case in point – Addison. Surely this girls’ name gained its massive popularity from the character on Grey’s Anatomy/Private Practice. And Cohen, a traditional Jewish last name, shows up almost weekly. I’m convinced this is after the character on the now off-the-air TV show, The O.C.

And then there are the perfectly nice names that you think would catch on, but don’t. Take Meredith from Grey’s Anatomy, or Marissa from The O.C. Who is to say why some things enter the collective sub-conscious while others remain on the sidelines?

Other celeb inspired trends: Lexie and George (Grey’s Anatomy), Ainsley (The West Wing), Sawyer (Lost), Blake (actress from Gossip Girl), Dexter (Dexter), and Danica (Indy driver/pin-up girl Danica Patrick). But my absolute favourites are twins Max and Ruby, and Will and Grace.

How did you choose your kid’s name?

Admiral Road has been making personalized blankets since 2002.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Back to School Blues

I can’t believe it. I can taste the beginning of school and somehow I’m not excited about it – I’m actually feeling something akin to dread. Any self-respecting mompreneur should be jumping up and down at the prospect of having kids out of the house. It’s an opportunity for structured, guilt-free work time. So what gives?

I was discussing this dread with Amy the other day and ended up articulating the problem. In my opinion, moving small kids through the daily routine is roughly equivalent in effort to pushing a grand piano through a tight doorway every single day. For the next 10 months.

There is the kid who just can’t put those shoes on until I’m apoplectic. Then there’s the little one still in kindergarten, which requires an afternoon program a few days a week, which requires multiple pick up times and locations. There’s the anxiety about how the shoeless one is going to settle into full-day school and how the kindergartener will like her new teacher. In short, I’m a bit stressed out!

Fear not, I’m doing my utmost to hide these feelings from my kids and am hoping that it’s not seeping through the cracks. The kids have had a structured summer, so school shouldn’t be a huge shock to their systems. The thing is, I can hear them right now playing beautifully together – relaxed and happy. In exactly 5 days at this moment I’ll be begging for the shoes to be put on and wondering if I have everything. Not quite the same..

I’m going to do my utmost to enjoy the last few unstructured days. And then I’m going to have to make peace with that piano.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Sister Sister

If you’ve read our blog before, you’ll know that I’m apt to fret about the future of our youth. Well, the youth that live in my house, anyway.

When I was pregnant with my firstborn, we didn’t find out who was in there because we wanted a surprise delivery. Our daughter was born and we were thrilled. When I got pregnant again, I wanted to find out the baby’s gender. (My husband didn’t – but since I was carrying the darn baby, I figured I had veto power.) Of course I didn’t care who was in there, but I wanted to prepare myself if I was to have another girl.

Having grown up with one brother myself, my childhood home was fairly harmonious. We were – and still are – very different, so there was little competition between us growing up. I feared having a second girl because of my perceptions about sisters. I was terrified of them. The brother-sister relationship seemed so easy. There were so many ways to encourage different interests. And the brother-brother relationship? Well I just figured they’d whack each other to resolve their differences. But the sister-sister relationship seemed to be the most fraught of all. Sisters can be best friends and worst enemies all in the same relationship. There’s so much angst. And girls can be SO MEAN to each other!

Of course I was destined to have a second daughter. And then a third.

But then a really good thing happened to us this weekend. We reconnected with some cousins who we don’t see often and don’t know very well. They are raising sisters. They have an 11-year-old daughter and a 14-year-old daughter. And these kids blew me away. They were SO NICE! They were kind and authentic and well-mannered and charming. And they were delighted to play with my children! (My three girls swimming away while my husband and I sat poolside? My idea of paradise!) Sure those adolescent girls sleep ‘til noon – but as far as I can tell, that’s a break from the 6:30 a.m. wake-up call we have going on around here. These girls gave me hope that it’s possible to raise great kids and happy sisters.

Plus, I think I may have scored myself two future babysitters.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Mompreneur ROI

As we work through our writing project about mom entrepreneurship I found myself thinking about ROI – or return on investment – the other day. There’s an ugly looking formula to figure out your ROI – I’ll include it here just to amuse ourselves:

Despite the fact that I made it through business school I’m not what you would call a quant jock – so anytime a formula is involved I start to feel a little unwell. But in our business we do measure and consider whether the things we spend money on generate returns.

We’re not sure that all small business people think about what their returns are. At a recent show we were next to a woman who did the most beautiful quilts and who lost money at a staggering rate throughout the show. We don’t blame her for that – you’ll never know how something will work out unless you try, right? But she’ll be back, and that’s the problem. She comes back every year. And she’s not the only one. So if we're talking about issues in starting a business we want to raise the issue of considering returns.

The thing is though that we’re talking about mompreneurs here – not your average Joe or Jo-Anne Entrepreneur. Many of us start our businesses looking not only for money, but for family time and balance as well. The returns may be different for us.

Here are some of the profits and (losses) in my daily mompreneur experience.

Yesterday I picked up my kids from the camp bus and walked them home. I sat with them while they had a popsicle and heard about their day.

(Later I shushed my son and visibly hurt his feelings when he tried to tell me something while I was on the phone for a work call.)

I’m taking a few days off next week to go camping with my husband and kids. And I didn’t have to ask anyone’s permission.

(I’ll be a little stressed out about how far behind I am when I get back. I’ll disappear and leave the kids to their dad so I can catch up when we return.)

I have breakfast with my kids every day.

(My laptop is on the kitchen table sometimes.)

I get to decide when I work and where, and I love that freedom.

(I sometimes miss the companionship of a busy office. And I wouldn’t mind making more money either!)

I haven’t ‘missed’ anything as my kids have been small. I’ve felt every new tooth come in, seen them roll, crawl, walk and speak for the first time. I’ve soothed hurt feelings and kissed owies better.

(I’m not always as present with my kids as I’d like to be.)

So what’s the ROI on my mompreneur experience? Well, I’ve invested the last 7 years of my life (and counting), I’ve forgone both a lucrative career in the corporate world as well as being a full-time mum. But even though there’s a ‘loss’ for every ‘profit’ I’m still definitely ahead. I choose the positives even knowing that there are negatives and I know that the gains are worth more to me than the losses.

Maybe it’s time we wrote a new formula.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Things I'm too old to do

My fortieth birthday is around the corner. Well, not around the next corner. But it’s around the one after that. In recent months Danielle and I have been talking a lot about things that we’re too old to do. It started late last year when we had an important business meeting. We’ve been off the corporate path for a while now, and since we’ve popped out five babies between us in the past six years, our business wardrobes are non-existent. Jeans and t-shirts are pretty strict uniforms around here, and neither one of us has a decent suit in the closet. When we asked someone’s advice, she suggested that the company we were meeting was pretty formal. So what’s a girl to do?

Rather than getting all wound up about what to wear, we put on our (best) jeans and headed to the meeting. We decided that we were too old to run around to buy an outfit just for this occasion. After all, we were representing ourselves – and jeans are where we’re at right now. (The meeting went very well, by the way.)

Since we first started talking about this, I’ve added other things to my list. According to me, I am now too old to:

- Wear a crop top. Or a mini-skirt;

- Drink so much that I’m incapacitated the next day and unable to care for my children;

- Fight with my friends;

- Help anyone move. (This applies to anyone over the age of 30 – not just me. When your 20s are behind you, you are too old to “pay” your friends with pizza and beer for helping you move. You should outsource this task to professionals.)

As I age, some things just aren’t the same, but there have been some improvements too. You get to know yourself better. You know what works and doesn’t work in your life. You get better at saying, “No.” But here’s the problem: Now there are a bunch of things that I’m definitely old enough to handle, but just don’t want to. Like the rodent who briefly took up residence under my kitchen sink. (Disgusting. Disastrous. Needed the husband to deal with it.) Or the rain in my bedroom as a result of a recent thunderstorm. (Still begging the roofer to come by and patch the hole.) Or the baby puke on my sweater that now needs to be dry-cleaned. (Well, that’s just part and parcel of the many thankless tasks of motherhood.)

Look out 40 – I’m coming! Here’s hoping for just the right balance of the things I’m too old to do and the things I’m now ready to handle.

Monday, August 10, 2009

And the Winner Is....

Congratulations to Alexandra Macqueen! She is the winner of our summer contest. Alexandra has won an Admiral Road Camp Blanket AND a Mabel's Labels Camp/School Pack!

Here's what Alexandra had to say about Admiral Road and Mabel's Labels:

"Oh, these blankets look fantastic! I am already a huge fan of Mabel’s Labels; I am sure my kids would be ecstatic to get their own blankets - especially as they have relatively unusual names!!"

Thanks to everyone who entered our contest and left us such great comments! We love to hear from you!

Be sure to check our Mabel's Labels for all your labelling needs

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Mompreneurs past, present and fictional

We’re thinking about mom entrepreneurs a lot these days as we are knee-deep in a writing project on the subject. Nowadays it seems like the term mompreneur or mom entrepreneur is everywhere – but our generation certainly didn’t invent the concept. My grandmother ran a hotel while my dad and uncles tore the place apart. Amy’s grandmother ran a grocery store in the Ottawa market with four kids underfoot. Mompreneurs have been around forever and exist in all facets of life. Here is a list of some notable mompreneurs of the big and small screen.

JC Wiatt (Diane Keaton) – Baby Boom: Didn’t you love this movie? JC gives up her fancy job and huge shoulder pads for a money-pit of a house in Vermont and full-time mommyhood when she ‘inherits’ a baby girl. But she takes life’s lemons (apples) and makes lemonade (applesauce). Not only does she get the hunky town vet, but she also gets revenge on her former corporate colleagues. A mompreneur must see!

Elyse Keaton (Meredith Baxter Birney) – Family Ties: Oh Elyse – the mother we all wanted. She could draw up plans for a new house while strumming Dylan tunes on the guitar and imparting life lessons to her kids. And she did it all with never a hair out of place – a true mompreneur indeed!

Angela Bower (Judith Light) – Who’s the Boss: She gets the career and the hunky housekeeper. What else is there to say? (And don’t you dare judge me for calling Tony Danza a hunk, you were totally crushing on him in the 90’s too!)

Kate McCardle (Susan Saint James) & Allie Lowell (Jane Curtain) – Kate & Allie: These quick-witted mompreneurs not only worked together, but they also lived together and raised their children Emma, Chip & Jennie. It certainly couldn’t have been easy to spend all that time together, but more puzzling is how they afforded a brownstone in Greenwich Village on a start-up catering company’s earnings. Hmmm… perhaps they had the same real estate agent as the did kids on "Friends"….but I digress.

Lorelai Gilmore (Lauren Graham) – Gilmore Girls: Lorelai Gilmore, beautiful mom to beautiful Rory. She quips, she caffeinates, she runs the Dragonfly – and raises a great kid, with time for romance too. It must be all that coffee.

Nancy Botwin (Mary Louise Parker) – Weeds: Selling dope may not be for every mom- but it pays the bills!

These are just a few famous mompreneurs. Send us your favourites!

Coming soon – mompreneurs in fiction!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Fun Stuff

I have to admit, it's pretty fun to work at a baby blanket company. We had a team meeting at my house this week which breeds a certain informality. It's that environment that allows us to laugh a lot - and this week, we spent a lot of time laughing. So it's a fitting occasion to launch our brand new Fun Stuff section. We built it for you and your little ones to enjoy, learn and just monkey around. We hope you like it.

Here's another fun thing: We're teaming up with our friends at Mabel's Labels for a Summer Contest. You can win an Admiral Road Camp Blanket and a Camp/School Combo Pack of Mabel's Labels. You can enter by leaving a comment here (be sure to include your name) or on the Mabel's Labels blog. We'll randomly select a winner on August 10th.

One last bit of fun: For a limited time, get $5 off your Admiral Road blanket purchase. Just enter ARDSUMMER09 at check out. This offer is valid until August 14.

Have fun!

The Admiral Road Team

Monday, July 27, 2009

Summer Contest

Admiral Road is teaming up with our friends at Mabel's Labels to bring you our summer contest. Here's what you can win:

An Admiral Road Personalized Camp Blanket of your choice, including shipping. Camp blankets are perfect for twin beds, bunks or the couch. Cozy and durable, our camp blankets are made to suit any member of the family.


A Camp/School Combo Pack of Mabel's Labels, including shipping. We don't let our kids take anything out of the house unless it's got a Mabel's label in it. Trust us, Mabel's Labels are perfect for the stuff kids lose.

Here's how to enter:

Leave a comment here (be sure to include your name) or on the Mabel's Labels blog. We'll randomly select a winner on August 10th.

Good luck!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Customers We Love

Customers We Love

Admiral Road customers come from far and wide. In this ongoing feature we will profile some of the Admiral Road "Customers We Love." Do you love us too? Let us know at We'd love to hear from you. Any customers featured in our blog receive a very nice coupon toward their next order.

Name: Sarita D.

Hometown: London, UK

Customer since: 2002

Became an Admiral Road fan after: she learned about the company from a friend. After sending her first blanket and getting a great reaction, Admiral Road became her new baby gift destination.

Likes Admiral Road because: "I've sent an Admiral Road blanket to every new baby I know, on both sides of the ocean. People love to receive them. My friends in the UK have been especially excited by them as there is nothing else like them over here."

Thursday, July 16, 2009

War No More

Growing up, I could lend my support to the War on Drugs. This seemed intuitive to me. Too many drugs = bad.

War on fat? Check. Thanks to current information, I diligently monitor the intake of fat for myself and my family.

War on sugar? Sure – I can get behind this one too. (Anyone who’s ever been to a kid’s party has seen firsthand the impact of birthday cake on a small person.) Why wouldn’t I want to be cognizant of how much sugar the little ones are ingesting?

War on salmon? This one I had a little more trouble with. I thought that those omegas were supposed to be good for you…

War on meat? Cattle-rearing produces more greenhouse gases than driving cars?? Wait a minute – I thought that eating meat constituted part of a balanced diet.

And as of last week, Canada has declared a war on salt. I’m sorry, but I just don’t think that I’ve got this fight in me. For years, sodium has been the single aspect of the nutrition label that I have blissfully ignored. I’ve counted and compared calories, fats and sugars. But sodium? Nuh-uh. This one I’ve overlooked – until now. Now my eye goes directly to the middle of that label – shocked at how high this sodium number can climb. Now I know that I’m failing, on a daily basis, to limit my intake to the appropriate recommended amount. Sodium is added to everything – especially prepared foods.

To wage the war on salt, my newspaper nutrition columnist suggests that I cook my foods from scratch and then season them with cayenne pepper or citrus. Okay – so here’s a question, World: You want me to work to support my family, be a doting yet firm mother, a supportive and available friend and family member AND TO COOK MY FOODS FROM SCRATCH AND SEASON THEM WITH CITRUS? No, I say. I just can’t do it. I cannot juggle Admiral Road, my children's schedules, my schedule and grow my own foods too. My kids will eat Cheerios (loaded with sodium) and hot dogs (who knows what’s in those?) and as long as our blood pressure remains under control I’ll do my best to get them reared into adulthood.

I’ve fought the good fight, but I just can’t fight the war on salt. I’m saving my strength. Twelve years from now I’ll have three teenaged girls in my house and I’m going to have other battles to pick.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Pretend Mommy

I spend a lot of time with kids. I worked through university as a part-time nanny and babysitter so I have had plenty of experience with feeding and entertaining, playdates and playgrounds, school pick-ups and drop-offs, and time-outs and bedtimes. I can discuss, with a reasonable amount of accuracy, Toopy, Max and Ruby, Bob the Builder, the Backyardigans and more. So I guess it is only fitting that I am a key employee of a company run by mom-entrepreneurs that specializes in baby gifts!

This is a mom company. Throughout the day we talk about babies, families, and life. Sometimes my work day is interrupted by a 4 year old who needs help with her computer game or a sick kid home from school that brings me pictures she has drawn. Sometimes there are babies at business meetings.

I started reading “mommy blogs” and keeping up to date on the world of celebrity babies – all work related I’m quick to tell anyone who will listen. But somewhere along the way I realized I was enjoying them….and occasionally related to them. I guess I am far more entrenched in their world than I thought.

I used to think I ended up at Admiral Road by accidental networking (I babysat their kids), but the more time I spend here, I realize that there is probably a good reason that I fit in so well. In school I thought I was working towards a degree to get a job. As it turns out, sometimes knowledge of diapers and Dora can be a lot more useful if you’ve got the right audience.

Admiral Road has been making personalized blankets since 2002.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

It’s not what goes wrong; it’s how you fix it

We spend lots of time thinking about small businesses – our own included. And we think a lot of about what constitutes great customer service. At Admiral Road we’ve always strived for and prided ourselves on excellent customer service. Interestingly, a few of our best customer experiences have been born out of error.

Anyone who has ever been responsible for a lot of moving parts knows that inevitably something, sometime is going to go wrong. We’re human and occasionally we make mistakes. In the event that this happens, we try our very best to do everything possible to help our customer and fix the situation. Invariably, our customers are surprised and grateful to be treated decently and fairly – a testament to the sorry state of customer service in general, I think. It seems so many companies have a ‘you’re on your own’ attitude. Who wants to be treated like that, especially when you’ve paid for a product or service? We just don’t understand it.

Every now and then, though, a company will restore your faith. Last Christmas, I had a great customer service experience – and it all started when a company really screwed up.

My husband, an avid cyclist, had been pining for a particular pair of bike shorts. I scouted them out and ordered them from a local bike shop. It was extremely busy at Admiral Road and I had no time to go pick up the shorts. I called to ask that the shorts be held for me until I could come and collect them. I had a bad feeling about it and actually made the guy on the phone promise me to hold them. When I eventually went to collect the shorts they were nowhere to be found. They had been sold and were out of stock.

I was beside myself. But I also really felt for the bike shop owner who was just trying to deal with his busy season. The owner promptly offered to re-order the shorts. I didn’t want to have to go back to the bike store, so the owner delivered them to my house himself a few days later. Also, the shorts I had ordered were no longer available, so they gave me even fancier shorts at the same price.

As a business owner I know that this transaction resulted in a lot of work with no profit for the store. However, I also know that I will shop there for years to come because of how they fixed the problem. We all just want to be treated fairly – it makes all the difference. Every company makes mistakes - but they are defined by how they handle them.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Companies We Love

Danielle and I have been working on a project that has put us in touch with tons of amazing mom-owned businesses. We'd like to use this little bit of internet real estate to tell you about some of them. Know any great mom-owned businesses that we should know about? Please share them with us if you do!

Company Name: Mabel's Labels

Company Web Site:

Owners: Cynthia Esp, Julie Ellis, Julie Cole and Tricia Mumby

What they do: Provide all kinds of fabulous labels for the stuff kids lose

Why we love 'em: Because their company is innovative - their web site is great and their products even better. Because the Mabel women are inspirational. They won the inaugural SavvyMom Mom Entrepreneur of the Year Award and constantly push themselves. They've set the bar for what mom entrepreneurs can achieve.

What you can get: A great camp combo pack full of everything you'll need for your child's camp experience this summer.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Camp Days Part 3 - In the Land of the Midnight Sun....

I grew up in the Yukon. The land of the midnight sun, prospectors and gold. Through the stories of Jack London and the poems of Robert Service, the Yukon has been immortalized as a land of rugged adventure. It was there I went to summer camp.

Camp. The place a child from the city learns to paddle a canoe, swim, hike through the wilderness and tie a really great knot. That is, unless you went to camp in the Yukon.

Most people expect that I have an acute knowledge of hunting, fishing, or perhaps wrestling a bear with my bare hands. Instead, I remember being expected to fall asleep in a hot, old cabin at 9pm, more than two hours before the sun dropped below the horizon for a few hours of twilight. I also remember the morning cabin cleanliness inspections that were used to determine the breakfast line-up order at one camp, and peeling potatoes behind the kitchen building as part of our daily chores at another.

But I do have fond memories of camp. It was there that I got to spend a week with my friends, both new and old, riding horses, playing capture the flag, jumping on trampolines, and in particular, making up songs and skits for nightly gatherings in the main hall.

While I might not have left camp with many - ok, any - wilderness skills, I did leave with lasting friendships and fond memories of summers well spent.

If you're sending your young ones off for a summer camp experience, save $5 off an Admiral Road personalized camp blanket with coupon code CAMP09 until June 30th.

Admiral Road has been making personalized blankets since 2002.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Camp Days - Part 2

We’re in camp blanket season at Admiral Road, and it has me thinking about my camp experiences. I spent a few lovely summers at overnight camp and wouldn’t have traded it for anything. I have a lot of great memories – most too silly to share here. The one that has stayed with me for my whole life came courtesy of Lori, my swimming instructor.

As a child I was petrified of the water. So great was my fear that my parents never put me in swimming lessons. At camp however, it wasn’t optional. I recall that in order to get the badge I was working on I had to jump off the dock and into the lake. My fear of this caused me more stress than you can imagine – tears, sleepless nights, the whole nine yards. Lori, who was one of those crusty on the outside but gooey on the inside types would not rest until I had overcome this obstacle. She arranged a time at the end of the day when no one else was around – just the two of us. I can still see that dock in my mind, indelibly stamped. I don’t know how long I stood there before I jumped – it could have been ages. Finally I trusted Lori and jumped. It was a slow-motion moment: I have a crystal clear memory of the feeling of my body between dock and lake – suspended in the air. (I have a fuzzier but lovely memory of the cheers and hugs I received afterwards.)

I didn’t get over my fear of the water that summer and I didn’t really learn how to swim until I was an adult. But I did learn that the only thing between us and overcoming a fear is the moment when we jump. I understood that change comes in the moment we decide to move forward.

Many times in my life I have come back to this lesson. One such time was when I decided to risk my career path and my best friendship and jump into the waters of Admiral Road. There were sleepless nights then too. But in the end, I jumped. And you know, the water has been just fine.

June is camp month at Admiral Road. Enter the code CAMP09 at checkout for $5 of a camp blanket.

Admiral Road has been making personalized blankets since 2002.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Camp Days - Part 1

I have always been an urban girl. When I was a preschooler, my mother realized I didn’t know the difference between a cow and a horse, and she felt compelled to do something about my distinct lack of rural knowledge. Not long after, we took a family vacation to a working farm.

Similarly, when I got a little older, she insisted I attend overnight summer camp. Although she had never been herself, she sensed how powerful the experience of going away to camp could be. I wasn’t getting a whole lot of wilderness experience in downtown Toronto, so off I went to Algonquin Park in northern Ontario.

My mother was a rather thorough person, so when she did things she did them with intent. Prerequisites for the camp she selected for me included a canoe paddle, a life jacket and a daytime uniform (in tan and green – like the wilderness I was soon to inhabit). This camp could be accessed only by boat. This camp had neither electricity nor indoor plumbing in the cabins. This camp had no showers – that meant we bathed in the lake and I learned about biodegradable shampoo from a tender age.

At this camp, I took my first canoe trip and heard the sound of loons calling. I learned how to make a fire with a single match in the rain. I went sailing and kayaking. I became a better swimmer. I made great friends. I laughed. Really hard.

Now you can’t take the city out of the girl: I still prefer to travel by subway rather than canoe. And I’d choose my duvet over a sleeping bag any day of the week. But my mother’s instincts were right: Camp allowed me to spread my wings. I went for seven magical summers. And you can be sure that when my daughters are old enough, I will take them from their downtown home, and send them away to camp too.

Camp season is just around the corner. Use our coupon CAMP09 at check out to receive $5 off your purchase of an Admiral Road camp blanket.

Admiral Road has been making personalized blankets since 2002.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

What 'completes' me

I recently watched Jerry Maguire. I hadn’t seen it in years, and it’s kind of the last time Tom Cruise wasn’t creepy. Besides, my husband was out of town – the kids were in bed and I had poured myself a bowl of cereal for dinner – a chick flick was definitely in order. As for the movie, let’s face it - we’re all sitting through the whole thing just to hear Tom tell Renee, “you complete me.”

I’ve been thinking a lot about this notion of completeness. It may be a male idea altogether. A woman who doesn’t think she has something to improve upon is a rare commodity. I did have a close friend who one day declared herself ‘state of the art.’ Many hours on the therapist’s couch and hundreds of miles on her running shoes, not to mention checking off many of her life’s goals had preceded this – and my dear friend was a truly remarkable woman. I think I was so struck by her declaring herself ‘complete’ because it’s something I can’t actually imagine.

I am in a constant state of self-improvement – or at least trying. You may be familiar with the internal refrain, “I should lose 10 pounds/volunteer more/see my friends more often/make more money/be a better mother, wife, friend/etc. etc.” One of my favourites is that I think I should give blood. I really do want to give blood. I know there is a need for my blood. So what’s the problem? Well, it may have something to do with two kids in kindergarten, a business, a house, husband, extended family, friends – not to mention all the other new projects I am working on. So I don’t give blood YET, but it’s a handy thing to feel incomplete about in the meantime.

I once asked my (older and wiser) brother when he thought we got to be ‘complete.’ He answered, ‘if you’re lucky, about 3 minutes before you die.’ Perhaps he’s right. Maybe the point is the journey towards completion rather than actually attaining it. Jerry Maguire was lucky – all he needed was his wife! I’d ponder this more, but I’ve got a whole pile of ‘shoulds’ to get to before the kids get home.

Admiral Road has been making personalized blankets since 2002.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Kids say the darndest things

Imagine learning about a world where you had no context and no reference points. This must be what it's like to acquire vocabulary as a three-year-old. I love my daughter's turns of phrase because they almost always make sense. To her. One of the perks of working from home is being exposed to what she has to say throughout the day. Here is what she might experience:

She occasionally enjoys a bowl of Raisin Brown cereal.

But at the coffee shop she likes to order a bright yellow croissant. (Butter croissant.)

For lunch she's partial to a girl cheese sandwich.

And her favourite flavour of ice cream is choc-lick.

After she bathes, she'll slip into her bath-rope.

If she's going away, she'll pack her things in a soup case.

And the worst part about summer is most certainly when I have to apply the sun-scream.

Surely your little ones must say these kinds of things too. Please write to me and tell me what's on your kid's mind. I'd love to hear.

Admiral Road has been making personalized blankets since 2002.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Thursday's mom is full of woe

I know it’s Thursday today without even looking at the calendar or doing a quick mental check. I know because my patience and energy for my kids are on their last legs. I fear that the week takes its toll on me, little by little, until I become the dreaded Thursday mom. For example, we ate breakfast this morning in total silence – my son immersed in the Lego magazine, my daughter daydreaming about who-knows-what and me catching up on some work on the laptop that I am embarrassed to admit has been spending more time on the kitchen table than it ought to. What’s worse? I LIKED the silence, I was grateful for the silence.

It occurred to me some time ago that I am a much better mom on a Monday than I am on a Thursday. On Mondays we chat about the week ahead, what we did on the weekend, who would win in a battle between Yoda and Dumbledore (jury’s out), etc. I am patient, interested and enthusiastic. So what happens to my reservoir of motherhood as the week goes by? And more importantly, how can I avoid this every week? After all, it’s not the kids’ fault that it’s Thursday. I’ve heard the adage that parenthood is a marathon and not a sprint, but I didn’t realize that for me the marathon would begin anew every seven days. I guess I need to work on this, particularly since there are about 800 more Thursdays until my kids are more or less grown. On the bright side, this does give me ample time to get it right. And in the shorter term, we’ll all look forward to Friday’s mom who knows that an afternoon at Grandma’s and takeout sushi are in the cards.

Admiral Road has been making personalized blankets since 2002.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Short Cuts

Everbody uses short cuts to save themselves time, aggravation and effort. Who wants to spend life in line ups, traffic or any situation when there is faster, better alternative?

Now, when the occasion merits, I've been known to be something of a "crowd snake." I've got a skill (and enthusiasm) for sussing out the fastest line, the table that's about to open up in the crowded cafeteria, the empty seats in the movie theatre. I'm quite proud of it, actually. It makes me feel efficient.

Yesterday, with 20 minutes to spare before a meeting on the other side of town, I dashed into the supermarket. If I didn't do it then, it wouldn't have gotten done that day. And it had to get done. I plotted my course through the aisles and with military precision grabbed what I needed.

Ready to pay, I scanned the check outs and weighed my options. (Fifteen minutes to get to the meeting now.) Four people ahead of me in line at the "8 items or less" counter; nobody at the self-serve check out. I know it's a risky move, but I proceed to the self-serve aisle. I begin to scan my items.

"Put your item in the bag!" the invisible cashier tells me.

What? It is in the bag! I've put my item in the bag! The "real" cashier has to come over and help me out. "This is supposed to be faster," I mutter to myself.

Ten minutes until meeting.

"Take the item out of the bag," invisible cashier demands.

Out of the bag? Why do I have to take the item out of the bag?? I just had real cashier help put the item in the bag. I glance behind me, customers gracefully moving through the "8 items or less" aisle. The real cashier has to come back. Again.

"This aisle is supposed to be faster," I mutter to her. "I chose this aisle because it's supposed faster!" I'm freaking out now. Everyone who was ahead of me in the other aisle is finished. They're probably in their cars. They might even be at home by now, happily unpacking their groceries.

I pay. I literally run out of the grocery store. I race to my meeting.

You know, if the idea is to make life simpler, easier and more efficient, I’m all for a little self-serve. Clearly, however, this “short cut” didn’t turn out to be the big time-saver I thought it would. On the way to the meeting I couldn't help but think that in life, in work, sometimes you just need to slog it out and that short cuts just don't pay.

Admiral Road has been making personalized blankets since 2002.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

What would Julia do?

Have you ever been faced with a problem and been told that you just have to live with it? It just doesn’t seem right. I’m not talking about the Biggies like cancer or bankruptcy problems – more like pesky problems that seem like they ought to be fixable.

A friend of mine has such a problem at the moment. A small thing is causing a LOT of trouble. This is easy to believe when you take into consideration that the small thing is a skunk who has been living under her kitchen for the past six weeks and stink-bombing them every few days. For effect, I should add that my dear friend is seven months pregnant with her third child.

Now a skunk can be a problem, but here’s what’s got me thinking. No one will do anything to help them get rid of the skunk. The ‘wildlife’ experts my friend has called in will barely even get out of their cars in front of the house and no one – I repeat, no one - is going under that kitchen to meet Mr. Skunk in person. Things are getting desperate at her place – last I heard, my very pregnant friend had to construct a ‘skunk-ramp’ under the house to assist the skunk in departing. Herself.

Now, in situations such as these, I ask myself, “What would Julia do?” Julia Roberts, that is. If Julia Roberts had a skunk under her kitchen, sharing its perfume with Danny, Henry and the twins would she be told, “Sorry. Nothing we can do.”? Obviously not. I am positive that someone would be right over, thank you very much. (When I posed this question to my friend, she dryly replied that Julia would move to the Malibu house while the skunk was removed and that she’d have her kitchen remodelled while they were at it.) But the point is, if there is a solution for Julia, surely there is a solution for all of us. And what’s good for the goose, ought to be good for the skunk sufferer. Haven’t we all been in a situation where we’re told that we have to accept a poor outcome when it seems like there ought to be a solution?

As a business owner, I can relate to the wildlife guy not wanting to crawl around in dark places where one is likely to meet a skunk. We don’t have anything equivalently daunting at Admiral Road. In our case it’s more like someone wanting to order a custom blanket, with Sanskrit script, above the image of a family of ferrets. (It’s not available, in case you were wondering). However, if someone was in desperate need of said blanket I’d like to believe we’d try and find a way to help them – either by working with them to modify their idea or even by referring them to a competitor if need be. Leaving someone high and dry? We think it stinks.

Admiral Road has been making personalized blankets since 2002.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The G2 Summit

Barack Obama has blazed through his first 100 days as President of the United States accomplishing many "firsts" along the way. This summer, Obama will experience another 'first' as he heads to Italy for the annual G8 summit. The G8 began as an informal way for eight of the world's most powerful leaders to get together. Today the goal of the G8 summit is not about quick fixes for complex problems, rather it is an opportunity to raise issues and plan how to tackle them.

While on a much smaller scale, businesses also have complex problems that require thought and planning. When you own your own business, planning is key. Without planning you are liable to drift off course, at best by being reactive to the minutiae of daily business life, or at worst – whiling away hours on facebook or with Oprah.

After starting our business, Danielle and I spent much of our early years mired in the weeds. Sure, we had done a comprehensive business plan when we started the company (you can’t take the MBA out of the girl!), but there is a big difference between a business plan and ongoing business planning. Although a helpful exercise, your business plan pretty much becomes obsolete the minute you finish it. Businesses are organic creatures, changing all the time. For us, there was so much initially to learn just to get a blanket out the door – how to make one, how to ship one, where to find our customers. Planning definitely took a back seat. Then, about two years in, we had what we called the G2 Summit. (That would be Danielle. And me.) We sat down and talked about our priorities for the business and began to look at our business in a new way. We made a plan and then executed it. A year later we had another G2 Summit and made up a whole new "to do" list for the year ahead. Annual planning was a huge change for us. Up until then, business planning meant looking, at most, three months down the road. Now we understand that by clarifying our goals for the year ahead we are better prepared to deal with issues that arise.

Now we have monthly planning meetings. We set goals. We assign responsibility. And we move forward. Even if you're a solo-preneur, there is so much value in planning. It helps you learn about your business, how the various parts work together, and how it might evolve. I find a lot of comfort in having a road map. All you need to do is follow it.

Now, if we could only plan our next summit in Italy.

Admiral Road has been making personalized blankets since 2002.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Selling joy

As long-time mom entrepreneurs, we are routinely approached by women who want to pick our brains as they get their own mom entrepreneur businesses off the ground. We love to hear what other women are doing and really like the exercise of thinking about someone else’s business. (Nothing easier to solve than someone else’s problems!)

There are many things to consider, of course, when coming up with the big idea – but here’s a little something we learned the easy way: It’s a whole lot nicer to sell joy than pain. Here’s what I mean: When we were in the process of leaping out of corporate life and into entrepreneurship we considered many different business ideas. We were downright methodical about it – we had a list of criteria and a list of ideas and we connected the dots to see what worked. Baby blankets worked. Throw in some money, sleepless nights and a whole lot of work and presto! A business was born. Something noticeably missing from our criteria were the intangible questions, "what is the ‘feel’ of this business?" "What state of mind will my customers be in?" "Is this a joyful product/experience/service or something that our customers enjoy about as much as they do gingivitis?"

We’ve been on the right side of the happy equation for seven years now. Every time a customer contacts us, something lovely is happening in his or her life – a baby has been born, a birthday has arrived, a holiday approaches. Our customers come to us with joy. As a business owner, this makes a whole lot of difference to your day. Have you ever called the phone company joyfully? Of course not. (Not that they deserve it, but don’t get me started on that subject.) The tax office? Uh uh. We can’t believe how many lovely e-mails we’ve received over the years from gracious customers, not to mention photos for our gallery and kind referrals. We’d like to believe that a good product and solid customer service have a lot to do with that, but we know that state of mind goes a long way toward a positive experience.

Can you base your business concept on a warm fuzzy feeling? Probably not. But all other things being equal, we’d definitely recommend it.

Admiral Road has been making personalized blankets since 2002.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

It's Coupon Time

Hey Roadies,

Just in case you didn't receive our latest newsletter, we wanted to let you know that there is a coupon available for $5 off your next blanket order. Just enter ARDSPRING09 at check out. The coupon is valid for another week (until April 17th), so be sure to take advantage.

While you're on the Admiral Road web site, stop by to check out our new gift baskets. They're fresh and gorgeous - sure to be a big hit with babies and parents alike.

Want to know what we've been up to? Visit our Buzz section to see where Admiral Road has shown up over the past year. Our blankets and scarves have cropped up all over the place!

Wishing you a cozy Spring,

The Admiral Road Team

Admiral Road has been making personalized blankets since 2002.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Customers We Love

Admiral Road customers come from far and wide. In this ongoing feature we will profile some of the Admiral Road "Customers We Love." Do you love us too? Let us know at We'd love to hear from you. Any customers featured in our blog receive a very nice coupon toward their next order.

Name: Greg M.

Houston, TX

Customer since: 2005

Became an Admiral Road fan after: he forgot his newspaper at the office. Forced to read a left-behind women's magazine while on the stationary bike, he discovered an Admiral Road blanket featured in its pages. Has been giving ARD blankets to friends and colleagues ever since.

Likes Admiral Road because: "I love the reaction I get when people open their gifts from Admiral Road. I also like the web site. I'm not a big on-line shopper, but Admiral Road makes ordering gifts so easy. Admiral Road blankets are the only present my wife lets me buy without running it by her first!"

Admiral Road has been making personalized blankets since 2002.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Recession pricing from the other side of the coin…

My 30 minutes of CNN each morning is not exactly a calming start to the day. The high-pitched, almost hysterical reporting - with edgy rock music at the beginning and end of each segment (remember when CNN did the news?) screams that there is an ugly recession about us and it appears that the sky truly is falling. To make us feel better though, the trusty CNN reporters tell us about all of the great deals around – on everything from our morning lattes to condos in South Beach. And, we’re told, we should feel free to demand the bargains from any company lucky enough to have our business in these uncertain times.

As a consumer, this certainly resonates. And we want our customers to continue to feel comfortable shopping with us. Here at Admiral Road we offer regular discounts to our customers as a part of our newsletters and Facebook pages and we have extra recession-busting coupons lined up for our Facebook group members.

I am however, a little worried about that guy making your morning latte. Odds are he hasn’t experienced any significant drop in his costs. And it follows that if the economy is sluggish, he’s probably selling fewer of those lattes to start with. Has his rent plummeted to meet the struggling economy? Of course not. So now, Mr. Latte Maker is making less money and is being asked for discounts left, right and center. What’s a guy to do? Hopefully he’s got the same kind of great, loyal customers as we do. But I’ve got a sinking feeling that he’s going to be discounting himself all the way to the poorhouse.

Admiral Road has been making personalized blankets since 2002.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Hello kettle? It’s me, pot.

All we do, all day long, is think about baby names. Here at Admiral Road we really see it all. We see traditional baby names, avant garde baby names, and everything in between.

Sometimes we see traditional names with deliberately unusual spellings and, admittedly, I have been known to wonder why a parent would give a child a name that he/she will surely need to spell/pronounce for everybody else for the rest of time.

When I was expecting my second daughter, we wanted to honour my late grandfather (whose Hebrew name was ‘Ya’akov’). We happily stumbled upon the Hebrew name ‘Yakira’ which means ‘precious.’ It was the perfect Hebrew name: unusual but pretty and a tribute to my grandfather.

It also helped to inspire our daughter’s English name, the name which she goes by: Kyra. We loved it.

I dutifully researched her name-to-be in the baby books and found that there were multiple spellings of Kyra (Kira, Keira, Kiera, Keera). Here is the reason we chose the K-Y-R-A spelling: At the time she was born, it was the most popular spelling! I wasn’t trying to be weird. I wasn’t trying to be unusual. I wasn’t trying to present my unborn daughter with a lifelong challenge. In fact, it was quite the opposite. I actually thought that I was doing the kid a favour!

Then Keira Knightly showed up on the scene. After a few hit movies, not only did the name Kyra increase in popularity, so too did the K-E-I-R-A spelling.

To make things worse, I’d show up with my infant daughter at her doctor’s appointments, and the receptionist would call for “KY-ruh” when it was her turn (rhymes with pie/sky/rye). People couldn’t pronounce her name! I had inadvertently given my daughter a name that was routinely mispronounced!

We have sewn thousands of baby names on to thousands of blankets. After all these years, surely you would think that of all people, I would have been able to choose a simple, straightforward name!

Admiral Road has been making personalized blankets since 2002.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

excuse me sweetheart, won't you please PUT YOUR SHOES ON!!!

There was a time when I fantasized about travelling the world – meeting adventure and intrigue along the way. Now I fantasize about walking into any bathroom in my house and finding a flushed toilet. (This is followed closely in the rankings by finding that a dish has made it to the dishwasher without the mandatory stop in the sink – but that’s a marital, not a parenting issue.) Believe me, it’s not like I’ve never pointed out the importance of flushing to my children…it’s only one of long list of things that get said but somehow never heard. I can just hear the parenting experts now saying that we shouldn’t nag our children and we need to hone our messages, etc. etc. The question is – how do we refrain from nagging our children while setting expectations for behaviour – or getting through the day for that matter. Are we meant to settle for the bathroom surprise?

Recently a career mom that I know and love told me with exasperation that her son never puts his shoes on when asked. With a heavy heart she told me that she is sure this is because she works out of the home and isn’t able to manage discipline during the work week. I laughed. Hard. I’m a mom who gets her kids off to school each morning and I assured her that the sentence ‘please put your shoes on’ has never been uttered fewer than 8 times before working in my house – each time with increasing volume and exasperation. I’ve been asking around – and apparently there are legions of children who won’t put their shoes on when asked – I’m beginning to wonder if this is even a global phenomenon (my mind is drifting to children in Fiji refusing to put their flip flops on…).

So what is a beleaguered mom to do? I’m of the firm belief that we moms are hardest on ourselves. I am trying to learn to be kinder to myself and more accepting of the many imperfections of life. Maybe I don’t need to accept that my kids don’t flush or put their shoes on when asked – but maybe I can try to accept that I’m going to have to keep reminding them. Again. And Again.

Admiral Road has been making personalized blankets since 2002.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Is cheap the new green?

If you had asked us a year ago what the most important trend for businesses was, and for children-related businesses in particular, we wouldn’t have hesitated for a nano-second – GREEN, GREEN, GREEN. An amazing variety of products and services all aimed at consumers with an appetite for all-things environmentally responsible cropped up and inspired us all to do a little better. But the shaky global economy has changed things. It’s been a while since I heard a company talking about how green they are…

Here’s a story I found interesting. Amy recently popped into a posh grocer in midtown Toronto. This store is one of a row of shops wryly known for their steep pricing as ‘The Five Robbers’. I don’t want to give you the wrong idea about Amy’s spending habits – it’s just that one of these Robbers carries a chocolate cake that you would practically mortgage your house for (and you almost have to). Amy noticed that a whole handful of products in the store had special packaging pointing out their recession pricing – about 10% off.

Now we could all use a break in these tough economic times – but I’m willing to guess that if you do your groceries at The Five Robbers, then 10% isn’t going to make or break you. So what gives? I think that cheap just may be the new green. I’ll bet a year ago that same store would have been touting eco-friendly products or packaging. I’m afraid that recession pricing at the toniest grocer in the city may be just another marketing gimmick. I think it’s designed to make the customer feel virtuous and responsible, much like a lot of the green marketing did. Does it work? I’m not sure. Ten percent off the world’s best chocolate cake is certainly a nice pick-me-up, but I’m hard pressed to think that sales are way up at that shop as a result. If cheap is the new green, what will be the new cheap? I wish I could predict it – but it’s no piece of cake.

Admiral Road has been making personalized blankets since 2002.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

What's in a title?

There are all sorts of unique experiences I have in my work day that my corporate friends will never have. For instance, I get to make up my own title - which changes depending on the tasks of the day, who I am telling, and which one makes us laugh the most! The truth is I wear many hats at Admiral Road. I am the Office Manager when I have customers to talk to, supplies to order or bills to pay. I am the Director of Social Media (our favourite title) when I am spreading the word via Facebook, in a newsletter, or of course, blogging. Today Amy declared that I am the "web-genius". I get these titles not by virtue of my degree in Sociology (which I am still trying to figure out how to apply to the blanket business), but by virtue of being 23.

I’m not the only one who knows how to use a computer but I do have the advantage of not having had to work very hard at it. I was interested and I grew up at the right time. My family got our first computer when I was 12. It was new and exciting and I fought my 5 siblings for a chance to play with it. Now I can't imagine doing much in life without my computer. Instead of looking words up in a dictionary, I look them up on When I can't remember who was in a movie, the lyrics to a song, or baseball stats, my computer answers me instantly. The Internet is like my very smart best friend that I have grown to know so well that I take it for granted that I had to learn these things.

I have a whole host of knowledge that was acquired simply by being exposed to a huge amount of new technology as it came out. The benefit of my useless knowledge is that I have managed to carve out a unique role at this company because so many "skills" from my everyday life (blogging, Facebooking, troubleshooting) have turned into assets that I didn't know had value.

Now I see 5 year-old kids surfing the webkinz site or 8 year-olds texting on their cell phones (I didn't get a cell phone until I was 18!) and I wonder about my generation gap.What will these kids be able to do in 15 years?

Admiral Road has been making personalized blankets since 2002.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Is imitation flattering?

Where do original ideas come from? Aren’t all new ideas inspired by something? At Admiral Road we have always prided ourselves on our original blanket designs. There is something very satisfying about putting something out into the world that was never there before you made it. Sure, we’re influenced by external factors: The success of the films ‘March of the Penguins’ and ‘Happy Feet’ led us to consider a penguin-themed blanket. But we’ve always put our own stamp on our ideas.

In the world of mompreneurs, we’ve seen imitation run rampant. You wouldn’t believe the things we’ve seen women do to one another. We ourselves have been imitated by other small businesses more times than I can count. (I know! The cut-throat world of baby blankets – who knew?) Our designs have been imitated. We’ve also had content from our web site knocked off many times. Heck, we’ve had to take legal action against a competitor!

But what happens when a big fish gets into the small pond? We recently learned of mass-market retailer who ripped off a mompreneur friend of ours – a children’s dress design. Same unique fabric, same style, same cut. The mass retailer was selling the dress for one-sixth of her retail price.

Where does the mass retailer get its ideas from? Aren’t there teams of designers sitting around designing new things?

I’ve always been a total cheapskate when it comes to my kids’ bibs. Drooling infants can necessitate a staggering number of bib changes in a single day. Five bibs for $1.99 at Ikea – that’s right up my alley. Not all the Ikea bibs lasted for the third kid, however, so I was thrilled when I recently found the good, wipeable kind at this same dress-design-ripping-off mass retailer (3 for $10!) It wasn’t until I got home and took apart the packaging that one of the bibs caught my eye. It looked…familiar. Why, that reminds me an awful lot of our sheep blanket! The sheep, the grass, the fence – those are the same three elements on our blanket. Now that sheep looks a little different, but the grass is a similar green. And my, the shape of that fence is….

Did a big fish imitate a little fish? Maybe not. But maybe….

You be the judge.

Admiral Road has been making personalized blankets since 2002.