Vote Local: The Patchwork Of Palmer

Contributed by Josh Fryfogle

Patti Dubler is a quilter, not just of quilts, but of the quilting community itself, bringing together quilters from all around to display their carefully crafted handiwork for those who attend the 7th Annual Who Let The Girls Out event - and other notable events like the Wearable Arts Show.

Denise Statz is a quilter, too. But I'm not referring literally to quilts, or metaphorically about the quilting community, but in the locally-owned business community. Denise has brought together a tapestry of local business people, a tapestry of what makes Palmer work.

This year, Who Let The Girls Out is taking some different steps to completion, with Statz stepping back from the role of organizer. Having worked alongside Denise all these years, I have found myself constantly inspired by her drive and action in the community. Leading by example, Denise has put a tremendous amount of her time and resources into our community, making business decisions that consistently reflect her devotion to all things local. While I find myself in the role of coordinator, I still lean heavily on Denise's creative vision.

Truthfully, even the Vote Local campaign has been greatly affected by Denise Statz.

Denise was one of the first people to hear about the Vote Local concept of shopping local as a political action. I took it to her early on because I knew her years of advocating for locally owned business, and her resulting philosophy of doing business, would be a source of sober response.

Denise would tell me any flaw in this Vote Local vision. I mean, why learn the hard way, why not move things along with the benefit of real experience?

And she questioned me, finding where my vision for Vote Local could be stitched into the fabric of the local economy. She helped me to help others. She brought things together.

Now I find myself in a greater role of coordinating Who Let The Girls Out this year. In years past, I have helped Denise do this event, but I've been more than content to serve the role of helper. Having worked with countless business owners over the years, I've always found Statz's vision and drive to be inspiring - a force to be reckoned with! Denise has a style that moves people to act.

But her drive is justified by her sincere respect for people like Patti Dubler. When Denise talks about Patti and what she does with quilts and a community of quilters, that's when that consistent philosophy is most evident. That's when Denise is her truest self.

Palmer is picture-perfect place, a pleasing backdrop for this yearly event, with music all day Saturday at Vagabond Blues, the 5K Run on Friday night, the fashion show at Klondike's that evening and shopping events all day on Saturday. There will be so much to do! Art/Crafts, Contests, Cooking Classes, Drawings, Food, Games, Giveaways, Gym Training, Live Music, Party, Photo Booth, Raffle, Sales, Shows, Tours, Wine Tastings and more.

Who Let The Girls Out is a patchwork of Palmer. I am proud to have been part of Who Let The Girls Out from the beginning, and to have learned from someone like Denise. She gave a pattern to this event that needs only a guiding hand, to thread the needle of commerce and community.

Who Let The Girls Out, April 28th and 29th in Downtown Palmer.

Vote Local.

The Valley Quilt Guild was formed in 1985 and currently has approximately 200 members. They have a monthly newsletter and hold monthly meetings which hosts classes, lectures and many more activities such as quilt retreats, quilt camp and other seasonal activities. For more information, please visit their website at               

Palmer Told To Celebrate Yet Another Big Box - Local Entrepeneurs Foiled Again!


The big box stores are really jarring to me.  A cacophony of nonsense will be propagated in the coming months that the new big box store in Palmer Alaska is a good thing.
Defying the simple concept of cash flow, there are people who will try to convince us that throwing even more money at "Fred Meyer" will help us somehow.  They ignore that "Fred Meyer" is here to profit, to take money from the community.
The real Fred Meyer died years ago, by the way.  His name is now the name of a corporation, so let's not forget that.
Before we go on, let me be clear.  I am not completely against Fred Meyer, or other box stores.  I am against some of their business practices.

More specifically, I am against their lack of doing business locally.

They certainly rake in the dough at Freddie's.  My question is this:  Why aren't they selling more local products?

Seriously, these big boxes take a lot from our community.  They should be obligated to redirect their expenditures to local companies.  Instead, they artificially affect the local economy, buying slave-made products for pennies on the dollar, and undermining local people from providing for themselves.
This disparity games the free market.
Opponents to this will certainly fall back on circular logic.  They will say that the local industry doesn't produce those products.  But local business people have to follow human rights laws that don't exist in the third world.  They have to function in the US economy, under US and Alaska law.  It's a fallacious argument.  Shallow and dismissive.
Our local economy should benefit from the spending of Fred Meyer and other big box stores.  It should be a reciprocal relationship, and it's not.
And it's not, because if it were, then Fred Meyer would have to compete in a truly free market, alongside our neighbors who have dared to live the American Dream.  But Fred Meyer is able to sell it's wares in our town, and use that profit elsewhere in the world to leverage local industry out of the equation.

It's a bad deal, folks. 

What can we do about it?

Some might say we should not shop there.  That's not the solution.  In fact, the solution is just the opposite.  Shop there.  Ask for local products.  Ask for them by name.  Ask to speak to the manager, go to the grand opening and bring it up to the people who work there.  Talk to them about how Fred Meyer might be able to reinvest their expenditures with our community by purchasing local products from local companies.
This will drive the price of those local products down, and build up the industry our State so desperately needs.  This will invigorate our economy.  Locally-owned retailers would benefit.
The cash will flow.  The currency will circulate, and recirculate.
 "Fred Meyer" is asking for our business.  Is it too much for us to ask the same?

Paying Attention

Contributed by Josh Fryfogle

Lots of things are happening lately, so just to collect my thoughts I decided to write a bit about each item.


This is my special brand, of just my thoughts. I've been doing the Freedom of Press proxy routine for a decade - for you. The publication business has always been about allowing everyone to express themselves, but as the steward of that publication business, I am the only person in the community who can't fully express myself in that same print publication. 

Funny, right? If I were to use it in that way - in the same way that I hope everyone else uses it - then I would undermine its reputation. People would assume that my altruistic effort to engage the public in their first amendment rights (this is my life's work, my true vocation, my calling) was disingenuous. I recognized this from the beginning and adhered to this philosophy throughout, limiting my own voice to amplify yours. A worthy sacrifice, considering my passion for self-expression.  

But FNN bears my name for a reason. This is a separate brand, my brand. You can count on my commitment to express myself fully through this outlet. I will also be using FryfogleNetwork.News to measure statistically what the public is thinking, based on social media activity and web traffic. I will publish the results by submitting those articles to The People's Paper, the ones that show the most online activity.  

Also, I will be offering my own creative services through this company. Contact me through my website, FryfogleNetwork.News, for more information.

The People's Paper & MAS Mag

That brings me to The People's Paper and Make A Scene. We have changed things up in our submission department. We are publishing your article submissions immediately online - well, at least during business hours - before we go to print. In the past we've timed them together, but no more. Now we publish them as they come in, and this allows us to measure their interest with our online activity.  

This is a natural and philosophically consistent development in our mission - to proxy the first amendment's freedom of press to our community.  

Now, by measuring online activity, we see what the community is truly interested in, and will publish that as well!  But what's more - and this is really exciting! - by telling you how it works, you, the reader, can help shape our community paper by your own intentional activity online.  You've always been able to write articles, but now you can affect public perception of those articles! It is a beautiful development, unfolding the holistic potential of media! We are inspired every day to strive for this idea!

The Vote Local campaign is a campaign we started last year, to promote shopping locally as a political action. The economy is in our hands, folks! In the time that I have worked on this campaign, I've received a lot of input from people, and not just business owners either. Real people have been candid with me, telling me what they think about the campaign and its goals.  The most common theme, the most practical and valid reason for not shopping with locally owned businesses, has been simply:  

"I don't know where to do to find what I need. I would spend all my time traveling around looking, and maybe not find what I need."  

I was discussing this with one business owner, and he suggested that we create an online database where people could search for goods and services, and find a locally-owned business to meet their needs. So that's what we did! Well, we're doing it. Well, I'm doing it. Our small team of three in our small office is very very busy, all the time, so as time allows I will add business info to this database, which you can see online now.  

If you would like to have your business included, go to the website and click on "Submit Your Info" at the top. Simple form at first, and we will follow up with you.

Free Online Ads

I had a meeting with a fellow in the media business and he suggested that we consider putting ads on our website for free - an added bonus to our advertisers and additional content for our readers. Well, duh. Why didn't I think of that? But I'm a good listener. We have added tremendous potential value to our already loyal advertising customers. If you are currently advertising with us, you are already receiving these additional ads! They even click through to your website - check it out! This new bonus, combined with the other efforts I've described above, is part of this expanding effort to empower real people in our community.  

Altogether, these efforts are to empower you, and everyone else - but more than that, it's an effort to listen to each other. If these efforts are to succeed in making people heard, we must also be good listeners. We must empathize with others, see things from their subjective view point, in order to expand our objective awareness. True objectivity will never be realized. The best we can hope for is a cross section of awareness of each others' subjective experience.

Thanks for reading, watching videos, liking and sharing and commenting, too!

I'm listening.

4 Tips To Keep You Out Of Social Media Quicksand

Contributed by Jeanette Gardiner

Note: This is the final article in my five-part productivity series. For access to the entire series and journal exercises in one convenient .pdf workbook (free), send an email to

One of the must-have marketing tools I recommend for my clients is social media. Social media networks can help you:

•    Nurture relationships with your community.

•    Grow your business.

•    Stay on the cutting edge of your industry.

•    Communicate in real time.

•    Quickly receive feedback from your community.

But the downside of using social media is that it can quickly turn into time quicksand. You may log on to post a quick update and before you know it, you’re still browsing three hours later. 

Social media is too valuable a marketing tool for most small business owners to stop using it altogether, but that doesn’t mean you have to be consumed by it. 

To help you stay out of social media quicksand, use these four productivity tips to manage your accounts more effectively.

Use Apps to Track Your Time:

Do you really know how much time you’re spending on networks like Facebook and Twitter? You may be surprised. To help you acknowledge your social media habits, monitor the amount of time you spend by installing time tracking software on your laptop or computer. There are several out there, including:

•    RescueTime (free & paid versions)

•    TopTracker (free)

•    Due Time Tracking (free)

The time tracker reality check helps you take control of your social media usage and will prompt you to create (and implement) a more effective social media marketing plan.

Log Off:

After every social media session, log out of your account completely. When you stay logged in constantly, the temptation to “check updates for a minute” is too easy. Having to take the extra step of logging in is often an effective deterrent to keeping you out of social media quicksand.

Unplug With Scheduled Down Time:

Despite what you may believe, you don’t have to stay constantly plugged into social media. It’s not healthy and distracts you from what you’re working on in the present.

Determine the block of time that you will schedule for “unplugged” down time. Actually write this block of time on your calendar so that it becomes part of your routine. These down times help prevent overwhelm and can boost your mood. It also shows you that the world won't crumble if you don’t respond to every comment the moment that it comes in.

Go Offline When You’re Working:

One of the biggest productivity killers is constantly checking social media. When it's time to get down to work, block your internet access for an hour or two. You'll be amazed at what you're able to accomplish. If you can’t find the willpower to block yourself, look for an app to help you. A popular one is (pricing varies).

Some apps will lock down your internet access for a period of two or more hours at a time. This works well because the only way to regain internet access is to shut off your device and reload your operating system.

Social media networks are valuable marketing tools, and like any tool, are most effective when used consistently and properly. To help you develop a new, healthier social media habit for your business, I’ve created a short 3-question journal exercise that you may access by sending an email to Jeanette at

About Jeanette Gardiner

Jeanette Gardiner lives in Palmer, Alaska, and is the owner of SeaStar Strategies LLC where she helps time-strapped small business owners discover the gift of time by streamlining their administrative and marketing systems. Learn more at

Are Your To-Dos Really Valuable?

Contributed by Jeanette Gardiner

I bet you didn’t know an Italian economist, born in 1848 could influence your to-do list today.

But Vilfredo Pareto can. Ever heard of the 80/20 rule?

You see Pareto observed that that eighty percent of income in Italy was received by twenty percent of the Italian population. And the assumption is that most of the results in any situation are determined by a small number of causes.

Starting to see the connection?

Go ahead and grab your to-do list along with your calendar. Can you identify the actions and tasks that contribute to eighty percent of your business success? Chances are your days are brimming with what seem to be actions and tasks that generate revenue and produce energy-filled days (which both contribute to your business success). 

But take a closer look at how valuable your to-dos really are. If you can’t clearly identify the value of each action and task on there, then it’s time to dig a little deeper.

Knowing which to-dos are the most valuable will help you make smarter business decisions and reenergize your days. If you’re not sure how to determine which are the most valuable, use these three questions to help you get started.

1.    Can this task be done by someone else?

Your most valuable tasks will always be the ones that only you can do. If you're a New York Times bestselling author, then your most valuable task would be writing. If you're a coach, your most valuable task would be coaching your clients. If you’re working on a project and there are pieces that someone else can do, don’t be afraid to outsource. By outsourcing, you’ll focus on bringing your very best to the project. 

If you’re not sure where to look for qualified help, here are some suggestions:

•    Ask colleagues for referrals.
•    Check with your local chamber of commerce, networking groups or professional associations.
•    Search FIVRR or Upwork for freelancers. 

2.    Does this task generate revenue?

Your most valuable tasks are revenue generators. This is important to understand because many business owners spend too much time on activities that aren’t profitable. Tasks like spending two hours fussing over your Facebook cover image or agonizing over colors for your website aren’t likely generating revenue for your business.

If a task doesn't generate revenue, then you need to ask if this is something that truly needs to be completed by you. Outsourcing day-to-day tasks lets you focus on big picture tasks and actions that increase your income.

3.    Am I energized by this task?

Your most valuable tasks are the ones that energize and strengthen you. If you love a task and it fires you up, chances are that it's a valuable task. Many business owners dread the small, everyday tasks because they already know these tasks don't matter that much.

When it comes to activities that are energy-draining, you need to evaluate whether they even need to be done in the first place. It could be that you’re holding onto outdated advice or that your business has changed so much that you no longer need to do this task. 

Review your to-do’s regularly.

Regular reviews of your to-do’s and calendar will help you stay ahead of energy-draining, non-revenue generating actions and tasks. At the very least, evaluate your work at the beginning of the year (quarterly would be better) to identify the truly valuable actions and tasks that are on your plate. And don’t be afraid to let go of or outsource the eighty percent tasks so you can embrace the twenty percent that will help you bring your best self to serving your customers.

Ready to move this information into action? Download the journal exercise over on my website today ( and use it along with your to-do list and calendar to identify your most valuable twenty percent actions and tasks.  

About Jeanette Gardiner:
Jeanette Gardiner lives in Palmer, Alaska, and is the Owner of SeaStar Strategies LLC where she helps time-strapped small business owners discover the gift of time by streamlining their administrative and marketing systems. Learn more at

Boost Your Content Creation Productivity

Contributed by Jeanette Gardiner

Your community of customers, clients and prospects wants to hear from you. 

They want to get to know you better.

And that means you need to be creating and sharing valuable content with them on a regular basis. But creating relevant, relatable and valuable content that is helpful to your community can be time-consuming. If you struggle with content creation, it may take you hours to write a simple blog post or article. You dread each creation session because you know it’ll be hours before you’re done. 

Or you just don’t do it all, which is a disservice to both your community and your business.

If you spend hours agonizing over each piece of content you create, these four basic content productivity tips will help you shave hours off the process and who knows, you may even grow to enjoy your content creating sessions.

Start with an outline.

This is not your high school teacher’s idea of an outline. Your outline can be simple with just a few bullet points, or it can be more complex with complete paragraphs that you flesh out later. Choose an outline method that works best for you.

Outlines make it much easier to write when you already know the main points you want to cover. Start by writing down several points you want to touch on, then go back and number them in order of importance. You’ll want to share your most important points early in your content.

Write a terrible first draft.

Is there anything more powerful than perfectionism to stop you before you even get started? 

If you try to craft the perfect content piece right from the start, you likely struggle with content creation. It’s much easier to write a terrible first draft and edit it later, than it is to create perfection the first time around.

An effective strategy for writing a first draft is to set a timer and using only your outline, write until your timer goes off. And don’t feel you have to begin at the beginning (the introduction). If it’s easier to write your conclusion first, begin there. 

Feel free to jump around as you create your content, but write it as quickly as possible. Your goal right now is just to get your ideas on the page. Later, you organize or edit those ideas.

Block out interruptions.

Repeated interruptions also present a challenge when it comes to content creation. When you’re interrupted frequently, you lose your original thought and it can be difficult to pick up where you left off. Once you enter the creative state, it’s best to stay in it until you’ve completed your project. 

Calendar blocks of uninterrupted time on your calendar where your only focus is content creation.

PS: It also helps if these blocks of time are when you are at your creative best. You likely know when that is. For me, it’s typically in the morning after my two-and-a-half-mile walk with my dog.

Batch it.

Batching is a great productivity strategy for many tasks, not just content creation. This is where you group similar tasks into the same block of time.

So as you’re blocking uninterrupted time for content creation, see if you can work in an extra 30 to 60 minutes so that you can write several blog posts or articles back to back. When you work this way, you’ll stimulate your creativity and will come up with even more ideas. As a bonus, you’ll have content that you can schedule in advance.

Increasing your content creation productivity is a skill that you can learn, especially when you focus on the strategies and tips that work best for you. To help you put these tips into action, I’ve created a short journal exercise with three questions that will get you thinking about your content creation sessions in a new light! Send me a quick email at for access to the journal exercise.

About Jeanette Gardiner

Jeanette Gardiner lives in Palmer, Alaska, and is the owner of SeaStar Strategies LLC where she helps time-strapped small business owners discover the gift of time by streamlining their administrative and marketing systems. Learn more at

Dig Out From Under Your Email Avalanche

Contributed by Jeanette Gardiner

If you’re like me, you have a love-hate relationship with email.

You love that you’re able to send messages quickly and virtually free to anyone around the world, but that same convenience also creates frustration with the avalanche of messages you receive daily.

Email is a great way to connect with, engage and stay in touch with your customers, clients, prospects and colleagues. But just like every other business tool, you have to know how to use email properly or it can easily consume your days.

 If you’re struggling under an email avalanche, start digging out with these four strategies:

Don’t check your email constantly.

If you have your email account synced to a mobile device, it can be challenging to not check your email 24/7. The temptation to drop everything and check your email happens the second you get a new notification. But when you check your email too often, two things happen:

1.    You make a mental note to respond later. And then you forget or ignore the message. 
2.    Or you think “this will only take a minute” to respond right away, which distracts you from the task at hand (even if the “task” is spending quality time with family, friends or relaxing on vacation).

Instead, set a designated time to check and respond to messages. It's usually best to have one to two times during the day that you stop and manage your email. An efficient and effective schedule is to check your email in the morning and again just before you call it a day.

Create Templates.

Email often serves as the first point-of-contact for many businesses, with questions or inquiries which are very similar in nature. One of my clients received almost daily inquiries about her private training sessions so we worked together to create an email template that she quickly and easily copied, pasted and personalized. Not only did the email templates provide helpful and responsive answers to those inquiring, they were incredible time-savers for my client. 

Take a look at the messages in your inbox for similarities and create template responses that you can quickly copy, paste and personalize. Keep them in your draft folder for easy access.

Make a decision quickly.

Procrastination is the enemy when it comes to email productivity. You only have a few basic options when it comes to managing your email messages: Respond, file, delegate or delete.

Once you make a decision, ask yourself if you’ll need the information again later. For example when you get an electronic receipt for a business purchase, it’s usually best to file it. But emails that aren’t important or that you don’t have to follow up with can be deleted. 

And if you like to save information (like newsletters) to read later, create a “Read Later” folder and set up a rule on those types of messages to direct them to that folder. 

Know when to pick up the phone.

Sometimes a phone call is more effective and efficient than email. With a phone call, you have the advantage of tone and inflection. This is especially important when dealing with challenging or difficult situations that could be easily misinterpreted by the written word. And the written word is often misinterpreted – no matter how many emojis you use to express your tone.

Email doesn’t have to control your schedule or focus. With the right systems and habits, you can take control of your inbox and end the electronic avalanche. And to help you begin your new (more productive) email habit, I’ve created a quick journal exercise that you can download today at

 P.S. This is the third article and journal exercise in a five-part series to boost your productivity. Email for access to the entire series.

About Jeanette Gardiner

Jeanette Gardiner lives in Palmer, Alaska, and is the owner of SeaStar Strategies LLC where she helps time-strapped small business owners discover the gift of time by streamlining their administrative and marketing systems. Learn more at

Small Business Saturday: A Simple Way To Invest In Your Community

Contributed by Jeanette Gardiner

Small Business Saturday
11/26/2016 – All Day
American Express
Downtown Palmer
FREE Admission

I don’t know about you, but I really like my sleep. 

And waking in the middle of the night, or worse, staying up all night just to get in line for this year’s “must have” gift on Black Friday just doesn’t appeal to me.

So instead, I’ll be heading to Palmer with many of my friends and neighbors for Small Business Saturday, November 26th, where we’ll invest in our community by supporting our unique and friendly hometown businesses.

I appreciate shopping where the business owner knows me by name and takes the time to help me select just the right gift. And I know without a doubt that they genuinely appreciate that I shopped with them.

Small Business Saturday® was founded by American Express® in 2010, and is a day to celebrate the small businesses that help support their neighborhoods. It’s held every year on the Saturday after Thanksgiving and is embraced as part of the holiday shopping tradition. Each year shoppers, businesses and public officials come together to Shop Small® and show their neighborhood pride.

Why Shop Small?

According to the American Independent Business Alliance, when you choose local and independent businesses for your services, shopping, dining and other needs, you not only get real value and personal service, but you’re helping:

•    Build Community - The casual encounters you enjoy at neighborhood–scale businesses and the public spaces around them build relationships and community cohesiveness. They’re the ultimate social networking sites!

•    Strengthen Your Local Economy - Each dollar you spend at independent businesses returns three times more money to your local economy than one spent at a chain (hundreds of times more than buying from an online mega-retailer) - a benefit we all can bank on.

•    Create Jobs And Opportunities - Not only do independent businesses employ more people directly per dollar of revenue, they also are the customers of local printers, accountants, wholesalers, farms, attorneys, etc., expanding opportunities for local entrepreneurs. 

•    Give Back To Your Community - Small businesses donate more than twice as much per sales dollar to local non-profits, events, and teams compared to big businesses. 


In Palmer, over twenty independently-owned businesses are participating in Small Business Saturday – Palmer. Visit our Facebook event page at to see the list of businesses and what they have planned for the day. 

This holiday season, join your family, friends and neighbors on Small Business Saturday, November 26th and invest in your community by supporting the businesses that help make Palmer the best place to live, work and play in Alaska.

About Jeanette Gardiner

Jeanette Gardiner lives in Palmer, Alaska, and is the owner of SeaStar Strategies LLC where she helps small business owners discover the gift of time by streamlining their administrative and marketing systems. She is also Palmer’s “Neighborhood Champion” for Small Business Saturday 2016. Learn more at

Vote Local: What We Say, What We Do.

Contributed by Josh Fryfogle

Voting in an election is having your say! 

Voting with dollars is what you do every day! 

The greatest danger of voting in elections, and electing representatives, is that the People might be lulled into belief that they have done all that is expected of them - as Americans and as Alaskans - and afterwards it's out of our hands. 

This is the fallacy, which the candidate can do what they say they want to do - what we say we want them to do. 

Once in office, pressure comes from all around them. Spending fuels the economy, and newly elected representatives must quickly learn this reality. The economy is the gauge of the People’s daily activity - what the People do. Spending patterns are what really shapes our political circumstance - not an election. Elections just decide who will proxy for us in dealing with that circumstance we create. 

We hear people talk an awful lot about government spending, but really, it’s our spending that matters. We say we want American jobs, Alaskan jobs, but we spend the majority of our money with outside companies. These same companies report their earnings, by law, to the state and federal government. It is measured. Taxed. 

So, the politician you sent to Juneau or DC gets a crash course in reality. And reality doesn’t jive with what the voters elected the politician to do - what they said they wanted them to do. No, in action the everyday spending patterns of all the People create the metric by which the government realizes itself. 

Political actions do jive with what we, the People, actually do every day. As money changes hands, checks, cards, chips, whatever way we choose, we see increase in those areas. We create the economy, the landscape of finance that enables government to function. We are always voting, in action as well as words. 

Without the economy to measure, the government would not and could not exist as we know it. 

In that predictable cycle, we elect people and then we are disappointed, because we believe the myth that we can transfer responsibility with the simple act of voting in an election. That we can wash our hands of this government, by the People, for the People. 

No can do, People. 

Every time we spend, we empower the people with whom we invest our dollars. 

We often complain that politicians rarely do what they say they will do. We complain that outside interests have such influence. We complain that politicians are influenced by big money. 

Where do you think these outside interests get their big money? 

Shifting your spending pattern intentionally to your neighbors, buying local a little more than usual, can realize political change. It changes the economy, and that changes government. 

Sure, it's not as salacious as the presidential race, not as contentious as our Senate race, and we all like to have our say... 

But what do we do? 

Vote Local. 

Boost Referrals By Nurturing Your Community

Contributed by Jeanette Gardiner

A friend of mine recently shared this picture on her Facebook timeline with a post highlighting the business owner that had surprised and delighted her with this unexpected gift. 

I was so impressed with the handwritten note and gifts that I knew I wanted to meet Korey, the massage therapist behind the photo, and hear more about how she nurtures her community.  I define ‘community’ as anyone who can be an advocate for your business – including your customers, clients, prospects, and other business owners to name a few.

Today I’m sharing a little bit about Korey and how you too, can find simple ways to nurture your community to help boost your repeat and referral business.

As a massage therapist, Korey is a “natural nurturer” so finding ways to show her community she knows what’s important to them comes easily to her. She engages in thoughtful conversations with each of her clients and remembers details of what’s important to them. Like a client’s favorite organic lip balm, for instance. Then she’s mindful to connect with the client, often by text message. But as you can see in the picture, she also uses a more personal approach of mailing a handwritten note.

Korey admits that it’s easy for her to remember these details because she doesn’t have a huge client base, which is where she wants to be right now in her business. When new clients do find her, it’s often because of a referral.

So what can you learn from Korey to help boost referrals to your business, even if remembering the details that are important to your community doesn’t come naturally to you? Or you’re blessed with a very large customer or client base? The following steps will help get you started. 

Start by identifying and getting to know your community. 
Create and more importantly, use a simple system to capture and store information that will help you get to know who is in your community and what’s important to them. 

Listen to your community.
Once your system of capturing and storing information is in place, here comes the important part – listen to them. What questions are they asking? What are you hearing in conversations (offline and online)? What problems are they experiencing that your business can solve? And if your business doesn’t have the solution, what business can you refer them to that does?

Get personal with your community.
Korey understands and values the importance of making personal connections with her clients by taking time to handwrite a quick note. But what if you’re blessed with a large customer base? You likely have a smaller group of super loyal customers that would love to hear from you in a more personal way, such as a note or card in the mail. Identify those super loyal customers, and create and implement a plan for personally connecting with them on a regular basis. 

Surprise and delight your community.
When you understand what’s important to your community, it’s much easier to know what will surprise and delight them. Keep in mind this doesn’t have to be expensive. Here are a few suggestions to springboard ideas for you:

o    Make a quick phone call, or send a quick text or email to let a customer know you have a new product you know they’d love (and offer a discount to try it out). 
o    Choose a select group of customers to try and review a new product.
o    Share an article, information or other resource that you know a customer will appreciate or value. Send it electronically, or print it out and mail it with a short handwritten note.
o    Feature a “Customer of the Week/Month” in your e-newsletter, on social media and in your business. 

Remember that your community is more than the customers who purchase from you.

As I was talking with Korey, she mentioned that many of her clients are artists or small business owners themselves, so she always listens for ways that she can help promote them. She takes time to get to know what products or services they offer so that she can send referrals their way. 

Invest some time to get to know your business neighbors. You can create a formal referral process, but starting out with an informal process is just as valuable and builds rapport. And keep in mind that offering referrals is a value-added service to your community, so listen for opportunities. 

I want to leave you with a final thought. Don’t overthink this entire process. It doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. In fact, the more complicated or expensive you think it needs to be, the less likely you will do it all.

So here is your action step for today. Take a cue from Korey and just listen to the customers that come through your door (actually or virtually). Who are they? What’s important to them? How can you better serve them? 

About Jeanette Gardiner

Jeanette Gardiner lives in Palmer, Alaska, and is the Owner of SeaStar Strategies LLC where she helps time-strapped small business owners discover the gift of time by streamlining their administrative and marketing systems. Learn more at

Are You Productive Or Just Busy?

Contributed by Jeanette Gardiner

Your day is starting and your ‘to do’ list is filled with tasks that you’re confident will add value to your business and help you reach your goals. 

If you’re able to tackle the thief known as busy work, that is.

Busy work shows up as things like re-organizing your desk, or checking your email every five minutes. By the end of the day, these “quick” tasks have interrupted the flow of your day and you realize you haven’t made any real progress on the tasks essential to growing your business and reaching your goals. 

Today I want to help you understand busy work a little better, and give you some tips and a downloadable journal exercise so that you can conquer this thief of productivity. 

Busy Work = Urgent

We’ve all been caught in the trap of busy work that feels urgent. But it’s important to understand that busy work doesn’t add value to your business. Something as simple as checking your social media account every time your phone dings may make you feel like you’re being productive when in reality you’re not. 

In order to say no to busy work, you have to be willing to say ‘no’ to seemingly urgent tasks. It’s easy for busy work to show up and take you off track. Maybe you’re working on your next email to your customers and you get a message that it’s time to update your privacy settings on an online account. Before you know it, your day is over and the unfinished email is still waiting. 

Busy Work = Procrastination

Busy work can also disguise itself as procrastination for many [guilty]. It’s tricky that way. You can rationalize all you want that before you begin a project, you need to make a giant to do list and organize your resources instead of simply starting the project.

If you want to say no to busy work, understand that it causes you to make a lot of plans. But it’s the follow through that makes the difference. If your busy work shows up as procrastination, try telling yourself this: “Before I begin on this project, I’m going to take ten minutes to make an outline.” Set a timer and when the ten minutes are up, start working even if your outline isn’t completed yet.

Busy Work = Overwhelm

Have you ever felt overwhelmed at the thought of starting a big project or learning a new program? I know I have. Overwhelm is yet another reason that you sometimes fill your days with busy, less important tasks instead of focusing on what's going to grow your business.

If you find that you’re using busy work to avoid overwhelming projects, write down one task in that bigger project to complete and give it a deadline. For example, if you’re planning a big social media campaign for an upcoming sale, one step could be: “By [your date], I will hire a graphic designer to help create visuals for the campaign.” You’ll find that accomplishing even one small step in a bigger project will give you just the momentum you need to keep moving forward.

Now that you have a better understanding of what busy work is and why you do it, you can tackle the real root of the problem and focus on the work that’s most valuable to growing your business and reaching your goals.

And to help you move this information into action, I’ve created a simple exercise for you to download and complete over on my website here: 

About Jeanette Gardiner

Jeanette Gardiner lives in Palmer, Alaska, and is the owner of SeaStar Strategies LLC where she helps time-strapped small business owners discover the gift of time by streamlining their administrative and marketing systems. Learn more at

My Great Grandfather

Contributed by Josh Fryfogle

As this publication enters year 10, I consider the work that went into this business to keep it going these last 9 years. I can't help but consider the hard work of a man I never knew, Vaughn Fryfogle, Sr., who passed away on February 13, 1975 - over 40 years ago, before I was born.  So much time and heart and family goes into a business, and that's what comes out of a business too.  

If you work hard, like my great grandfather.

Vaughn Franklin Fryfogle, Sr.

He started a business in small town Mississippi: V.F. Fryfogle's Hardware. From that lifestyle sprung a tradition of business ownership in my family. Of course, that was more common then, when my great grandad was in business, before corporate interests "invested" so heavily in our communities... 

But I digress.

He was a "Yankee" in small town Mississippi, something that would certainly present some obstacles to success. Still he was accepted and admired, despite his unorthodox religion, German heritage, or Yankee roots. My Pawpaw Fryfogle would only attend Jehovah's Witness meetings, because the other church groups at the time were still segregated. He donated the land for their Kingdom Hall, and the materials from his hardware, and built it too. But he was a freethinker, refusing to be baptized into their organization.  

Before he opened the hardware store, he built houses all over the area, tearing down old buildings and reusing the lumber and nails.  He learned efficiency when times were tough, learning to work hard and smart. The Great Depression was during the prime of his life, and he was the product of that time.

Looking back on my teens and early twenties - a life of ease compared to my grandfather's boyhood - the time I spent working for family, I see how much it shaped me.

I worked with a man named T.A. Rampshure, who knew my great grandfather very well.  He worked for him in that old hardware store.  He installed carpet and vinyl flooring back then, a subcontractor for my Pawpaw Fryfogle, and continued to do so throughout his life. T.A. taught me to install flooring, and paid me a percentage by the yard. He taught me to hustle.  

T.A. expected a lot of me.  

T.A. was working primarily for older folks in the community, by the time I came to work for him at around 16 years old.  As his helper, I hauled the tools, did all the running to and from, heavy lifting, and learned the skills of a carpet mechanic along the way.  Still, I learned something more than that.

Helping T.A. allowed me to work in the homes of the elders of that community. The people who requested T.A.'s services were usually of that generation, my great grandad's generation; his customers from the old hardware.

I would walk in, and these older folks would look me up and down, and ask, "Who's boy are you?" They knew I was a Fryfogle, by family features, so they didn't bother confirming. They just wanted to know which of my Great Grandfather's sons I had descended from. I would oblige politely, and they would always take the time to tell me how much they respected him, by telling me something about him.  

"Hardest working man I knew!"

"An honest man."

"All business!"

"You could set your clock by him. He was dependable."

The compliments and admiration from these elders, heaped upon my young head as if it were my inheritance, was a heavy burden to me because I was none of those things that they said about my Great Grandad. I was a reprobate, school dropout, good for nothing, dishonest, untrustworthy kid who only worked because I had to. I did not appreciate those accolades then, at least not for what they were. I might have pretended I was worthy for a moment or two, basking in the glow of someone else's accomplishments. But I always knew it wasn't deserved.

These elders expected a lot of me.

T.A. would always nod along in agreement during these predictable conversations.

These people who knew my great grandfather, they spoke so highly of him. They didn't bring up his material wealth, but they did talk about his character, his unique characteristics, what made him someone to remember. His financial security was a side note in his legacy; wealth was a side effect of his worth.

This alludes to something special for me. My grandfather built a good business as a result of his conscious character development. No one spoke of his failures when he was gone. They were forgotten. His business was remembered, but only for context in storytelling.  

He died digging a fencepost. He died working. I've been told this by so many, a common theme after recollecting their unique stories. His death was the perfect symbol of the man I never knew.  A simple, hardworking inheritance - a spiritual blessing of physical burden.

Years later the hardware store burned down. All his worldly wealth, consumed in a column of flame. Yet his memory is still here, his soul beyond the reach of that fire, eternal life.

Later on in life, I was told that my Pawpaw Fryfogle spent time in Oakley Training School in Oakley, Mississippi.  Apparently he was a troubled youth, much like I had been. But that is certainly not how he is remembered. He was remembered in other ways...  

During hurricane Camille, the most damaging hurricane on the Gulf Coast until Katrina, he reduced prices, rather than raise prices like other suppliers had done.

He was driven. He talked fast, and wrote faster. He was in a bad wreck when he was 13.  He couldn't walk for a few weeks. According to family, he promised God if he could walk again, he would never slow down. And he did walk again, and he didn't slow down.

He wore grey and brown work clothing, Deecee work clothing, and a leather belt every day. He was humble and reserved in his appearance. Practical.

He didn't believe in having carpet in his car.  Luxurious and extravagant. He rarely ate steak - again, a luxury.

He would serve his customers personally.  He walked faster in that old hardware store than most jog. Every customer was treated the same, even if they were there for a simple bolt. He didn't point a customer in the right direction, but led them there, quickly.

He was a man in charge, no matter where he went.

He forgave all debts over seven years, because it was Biblical. He would not sue over debt.

He could take a square and compass and design anything, and solve any math problem. He was a mathematical wiz, using that skill in his craft and a builder, and later in his hardware business.

He had hands like baseball mitts, rough and wide. He used them like tools, doing work.

When he died, his room looked perfect, like no one lived there. It was in perfect order.

He paid retail for what he wanted, and he never knew anything other than shopping locally.

Clearly, my great grandad lived by a code. He believed certain things to be true, and he acted on those truths. He stood up to convention, but conformed completely to hard work and humble living. He was no social justice warrior, but his day-to-day actions and behaviors reflected a deep respect for what was right.  

I am amazed how a man can reach into his great grandson's heart, across time and space, and obligate my conscience. To carry that burden with me, willfully, so that it might help my sons, and their sons, and even their sons - this is my opportunity as a man. Doing my absolute best, accepting my failures along the way. I hope the memories of my own human weakness die along with my mortal body, and that only my struggle and effort for good might obligate my own grandchildren, my great grandad's grandchildren, to do the same. 

I never knew my Great Grandfather, but I grew up knowing that he was great.  

Business is our moral fiber, it is the medium of our communal interdependence. It is so much more than a way to make money. It ties us together. Imagine how different your community would be if you had to deal with a community of neighbors to supply your needs. How would that affect the culture? To really know your neighbors, their weaknesses and strengths, and to build a community together! What stories would people remember?  How many memories are never made because we've lost this medium of community interaction?

That is at the heart of this Vote Local campaign, the core issue. Locally owned business is community. We learn to communicate with each other when we trade with each other. We learn to shake hands, make eye contact, read body language and other subtle communication skills, set aside differences for the good of the community, and work together for stability. This is the natural expression of humanity, and the self-checkout, self-serve, foreign-sourced economy that we currently live in is artificial. In Alaska we see that the oil economy is on the skids, we know it's coming. So what's our plan? Mass exodus of workers looking for opportunity elsewhere could very likely be in our near future. A population decrease can and may indeed happen - what then? And the larger national economy, and still larger international economy are also vulnerable to inherent weaknesses in the macroeconomic system that supplies our needs. 

Investing in locally owned business is an investment in our own future. Let's not forget our past.  Let's do something in the present.

Vote Local.

Representative Government & Symbolism

Contributed by Josh Fryfogle

The English word 'politics' is rooted in the Greek word 'polis', meaning city, and the word 'polites', meaning citizen.

We know that the influence of collective organizations - corporations, lobbying groups, unions, super pacs, etc. - has shaped our society. We all know this, but why is it so? How is it made possible?

Simple: We give them our support.

We as a society give incredible sums of money to these groups, and the people in charge of those entities spend that money as they see fit. The influence that they have is based completely on the money we transfer to them by choice.

The Vote Local campaign is an effort to shift that power back to the citizen (Greek 'polites').

By spending money with locally owned business, we decrease the influence of collectivist groups, and increase the influence of local people. These are people you can look in the eye, express your feelings and thoughts with and share in societal circumstance. Try that with a corporation or a union!  These behemoth organizations are far removed from reality, existing in the minds of men. They are not good or evil, but without conscience. Their 'philosophy', expressed through corporate policy, is malleable, changing with whoever is tasked with executive power. And we pay for it, by choice.

The point of this campaign is not to teach that shopping with locally owned business is 'like' voting. No, shopping with locally owned business is voting. Real action, real effect - transferring influence to real people, diversifying influence over government. Elections are just symbolic, and symbols represent things. Symbolic voting in elections yields 'Representative' government.  Again, symbolism.

These elected officials are symbolic of our vote. They continue to make symbolic efforts, voting on behalf of those who choose to influence them, documenting their policy on paper with yet more symbolism. All too often, they seem to go against the will of the people, but that is because the people have transferred power to those collective entities that use that collected power to influence the system. In fact, it is not our elected leaders who betray our vote, but the collective entities that we support through our spending. They take what we give them through commerce, and use that support to increase that same commerce.  

Names and nomenclature are symbolic as well. As the names change, the thoughts and ideas remain the same. The symbol of a word can only contain an idea, and only for those who are made familiar with it. For example, the word 'vote' comes from the Latin 'vovere', meaning 'vow'.  When we spend money, we hand someone symbolic paper that is intrinsically worthless. Really, it's just paper, and it only has value because we believe it has value. We have faith in it. We truly believe that if we have money, we can redeem it for what we want in life. As long as everyone agrees, money does what we want it to do. But it's only paper, covered in symbols.  

Every time we transfer this currency between us and another entity, we are empowering that entity to further its goals. If that entity is a human being who shares in our communal circumstance then we are likely to find common ground, both metaphorically and literally. So no matter what collective political party you find yourself in partial agreement with, a democrat and a republican that live in the same neighborhood have more in common with each other than either have with a republican or democrat in any other place. 

We are truly in this together, and we would do well to remember that.  

Collective entities, regardless of their differing corporate philosophies, all have in common the need to assimilate the individual, to borrow their conscience, to accept their financial support that sustains the abstraction. Without us, these entities are just lost symbols, emptied out of any meaning that they once held.  

As a whole, our nation cannot and will not shift to a locally owned spending pattern. Truthfully, it would crash the system. But the system is built to crash, it is unsustainable.  

In Alaska, as a micro version of a bigger economy, we need to plan for that Big Winter, preparing for all eventualities. This can be achieved by trading with locally owned companies, and asking those companies to trade with each other - always looking for a new way to do more business here. This will grease the wheels of industry, building and sustaining infrastructure that exists in reality, not just the minds of men.

Alaskans should act now, and not by bugging politicians to do it for us. The power is in our hands to make a difference, a little at a time, all the time. The politicians will go with the flow, and reflect in their symbolic actions what the people actually do, day-to-day. But the only way to measure that, the only quantifiable method, is economic activity. If we give all our financial support to collective groups, be it political parties, corporations, unions, and the like, so will our elected Representatives.  

The solution is simple, represented by symbols.

Vote Local.