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I was contacted by Dakota’s Personalized Gifts asking if I would be willing to do a product review for their company. Once I visited their website I was thrilled to have the opportunity. The hardest decision was what product I wanted to review! They have a large selection of items for men, women, babies, weddings, graduations, memorials…. There are a pile of options to choose from.

I chose the Personalized Rhinestone Ladies Baby Tee Shirt and the Personalized Rhinestone Ladies Cotton Shorts from their Birthday Gifts For Her area. Soon after, I was sent the outfit.


The first thing I noticed when the package arrived was how soft the shirt and shorts were. They were soft like my favorite t-shirt. They weren’t stiff like some brands. The seams of the outfit were sewn straight and the rhinestone decals were placed nicely. I chose the letter R for my name. I love the outfit! It’s so comfortable!!

About Dakota’s Personalized Gifts:

We started in a spare bedroom about 5 years ago more as a part time hobby than a business with The Anniversary Rose making roses for the traditional anniversary gifts (i.e. 1st year paper, 2nd year cotton, 5th year wood etc) cutting rose petals by hand with scissors. It quickly grew from a part time hobby to a full time business, adding help and equipment to keep up. Then, we started expanding into personalized anniversary gifts. We started getting many requests from our customers for personalized wedding, Mother’s & Father’s Day and Christmas gifts etc. That’s when we started Dakota’s Personalized Gifts. Soon the business took over a second bedroom and the garage, the following year it occupying two bedrooms, the garage & a full basement. With no room left to expand we were forced to move into a commercial location in 2009. We continue to expand with new products and updated equipment all the time which allows us to produce most of the personalized items in house.

Buy It: The Personalized Rhinestone Ladies Baby Tee Shirt retails for $28.95 and the Personalized Rhinestone Ladies Cotton Shorts retail for $28.95 as well.
You may use the following coupon codes when you order:

10OFF50 for $10 off when you spend $50
15OFF75 for $15 off when you spend $75
GRD-OCT31
for free ground shipping when you spend $35

Win It: Dakota’s Personalized Gifts has been kind enough to offer one lucky Dozenroses13 reader a choice between a $50 gift certificate and free US shipping OR a T-Shirt and Shorts set as shown above.

If you’d like to enter to win this prize, please follow this link to my new and improved blog site to enter.  I am planning to migrate all further posts over there.

Good Luck!

**I received no monetary compensation for this post. Dakota’s Personalized Gifts provided me with sample products for my review. The opinions expressed herein are my own.**
Images from: Michael T. Henry Photography & Dakota’s Personalized Gifts

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You Are Massachusetts


You are smart, serious, and quite traditional. You don’t have a lot of time for junk in your life.

It’s likely that you’re well-educated and hard-working. You live a very goal oriented life.

You are probably socially liberal, but personally quite conservative. You would never be described as wild.

But you’re more diverse than people give you credit for. You’re equally comfortable at a business meeting and at a rowdy sports game!

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If you get good service you may tell one or two people about it – BUT – if you get bad service you’ll tell everyone you know.

[tweetmeme] Just to prove that we don’t only speak up when we get bad service… let’s talk about some awesome service we’ve gotten lately!!

Kristen at Berkshire Bank in 20 Mall in Guilderland.  She is top-notch!  Michael had a problem with his account last week due to a mistake Price Chopper made. (One of many, they’re on my shit-list this week) Kristen was quick to get us in touch with someone who could resolve the problem.  She did it all with a smile in her voice and a good attitude.  I didn’t mention that we spoke with her over the phone.  Her positive attitude came right through the phone.  We called her manager Jason who was working in another location and he immediately rectified the situation.

We stopped in to thank Kristen and Jason in person the next day.  Kristen was there and we had a wonderful conversation.  We were sad to learn though that Jason was transferred to their Colonie branch.  Not as convenient, but still not too far away.  I highly recommend either of these two branches for your banking needs.

The other awesome service we received was at Max BMWMichael was in contact with them regarding test-riding a couple of motorcycles so he could talk about them on his biker blogCraig and Ben took the time to meet with us and answer all the questions we asked.  The dealership was quite busy since they were sponsoring an event, but they made us feel like we were the only two on their sales floor.

These days I won’t do business with a store who’s customer service ISN’T top-notch.  Tons of businesses compete for my attention, so why should I put up with rudeness or bad attitudes?

Where have you gotten awesome service lately?
Where has customer service fallen short?

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This was originally posted on my friend Lynn Hidy’s website Up Your TeleSales on May 31, 2010.

Who Will You Be When The Pilgrimage Is Over?

Rose Niekrewicz-Winters is a friend of mine, I met when we were both on a bus trip with a band in Ireland…. ‘nuf said. Instead of telling you, I’ve asked Rose to share her pilgrimage and thoughts about it:

It’s been quite a long pilgrimage.  I’ve traveled through the past year and a half searching for a job.  Not just any job, but “the” job.  I know, I know – in this economy many would say I’m a fool to NOT just take any job.  What those people don’t realize is that if I just take any old job and then if it doesn’t work out and they lay me off, it could jeopardize my future unemployment status.  The bottom line is that I’m picky.

Who

Some may say it’s all about who you know.  I’ve found that sometimes that just doesn’t matter.  I have over 600 friends on Facebook, over 200 members in the motorcycle club, I’m in, thousands of hits to my blog, piles of former clients….  The list goes on and on.  Nobody seems to know anyone who is hiring.  I keep my ear to the ground because all it takes is 1 “right person” to drop your name at the right time.

Who I will be at the end of the journey is hopefully someone gainfully employed and happy at my job.  Push that angle aside and I’ll also be a person who took the time to get to know hundreds of people in the process and did good things for others along the way.

What

What did I do to keep my sanity?  I helped others.  I spent time working on a charity poker run for a girl with optic nerve cancer.  I helped some friends whose house burned down rebuild their lives.  I volunteered to help do work to open up the Double H “Hole in the Woods” Ranch in Lake Luzerne, NY.  I helped out a friend who was in a motorcycle accident. I supported a friend whose daughter has leukemia and tried to help her spread the word about a fundraiser for her.  I tell friends that I may have an empty bank account and can’t financially contribute to everything I’d like, but I do have time and a bank full of good karma!

When

When did I find the time?  Being out of work many people assume you’ve got all the time in the world to run around and help them with their errands.  There is nothing further from the truth.  I look at my schedule lately and wonder “when will I find the time to work when I get that new job?”  When you get extra time in your life, life decides to throw things at you to fill the time!

Where

Where do you meet the people?  Anywhere and Everywhere!  I talk to people every chance I get.  I make friends at a local coffee shop, on vacation, at concerts, at networking events, online, through other friends….  I keep saying it only takes talking to the one right person to land that perfect job….

How

How I’ve dealt with being out of work so long is a common question.  The answer is by keeping a positive attitude.  I always keep in mind that nobody wants to hire a complainer who’s crying in their beer all the time.  So I’ve been careful not to be that person. At the end of the How Far Are You Willing to Travel article in the A Chip Off the Block newsletter some questions were asked.

How would you like it to be instead?

Obviously I’d like to be employed.  I’d love it to be with a solid company that’s willing to recognize and pay for a quality employee.  Those $10/hour job calls just frustrate me to the point of asking “Did you even read my resume??”

How open to new, sometimes crazy sounding ideas are you?

I started my job search very focused on a sales job.  Later I reflected on my career and realized I was selling myself short.  True I’ve held many sales positions as of late, but I also have done marketing, data processing, management, etc.  So pigeon holing myself was a horrible thing to do!  I later realized that opening myself up to other markets and other professions was a great idea and now I tell people that I’m keeping my options open and I’d love to hear their ideas, no matter how crazy they may sound.

Just last night a good friend told me that another mutual friend counts on me for my ideas.  Apparently I’m her “think tank” and I never knew it.  I’m analytical and try to think three steps ahead and my friend doesn’t normally think past the first step.  She let’s things unfold as they happen.  I’ve learned in life to think about the future because your actions today can make or break things.

How much effort will you put in?

I work hard so I can play hard.  Everyone likes to make money.  They’d be lying if they said otherwise.  I like to do a job in the most efficient way and get it out of the way.  I put in the effort to get a job done right the first time so it doesn’t have to be revised 4 times therefore wasting valuable “play time.”

How does this fit into your goals?

This all fits into my goals.  My goals are to work hard so I can afford to play hard.  I love to travel (in fact that’s how Lynn of Up Your Telesales and I met and became friends), ride motorcycles, attend concerts, etc.  All of that is tough to do when you’re unemployed.  So I’m hoping my positive attitude and outgoing personality I’m putting out there will pay off with the job of my dreams!

How will you keep going when it gets tough?

That’s a loaded question if I ever saw one!  Things have gotten tough.  Life is tough.  The question is will you choose to have a “Whoa is me” attitude or a positive attitude?  Attitude is half the battle!  Times get tough and somehow it motivates me to work harder and put in even more effort than I had prior.

In closing the How Far Are You Willing To Travel article said:  “It’s your pilgrimage so there are no right or wrong answers – plus if you’re happy with the path you’re on, continue!”

I may not always be happy with the path I’m on, but I’m always aware of the next crossroad and am very aware that my life can be very different based on the choices I make.  All events shape the outcome of future events.  Just like Marty and Doc discussed in Back to the Future It’s all about the “Space Time Continuum”. Make every moment count.

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smAlbany Small Business Day 2010

[tweetmeme] I started my day remembering a blog I’d read the night prior.  Tea Contains Less Caffeine Than Coffee on the Broken Secrets blog.  I couldn’t get my caffeine soon enough!  I rarely drink coffee, but when I do I get the caffeine kick I need.  Since I knew I’d be talking to people though – I did them all a favor and DIDN’T drink coffee.  Coffee breath stays with me all day — so I opted for Mountain Dew Typhoon instead.  (I needed something caffeinated to help me function on 2 hours sleep!)

College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering

Once Michael and I checked in at the registration desk and mingled some, we settled in to the auditorium at the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering building (For those that don’t know it’s the big glass building at the corner of Fuller Road and Washington Avenue Ext. in Albany)

Below are some notes about the forums that were offered.
I found as I started writing this that it was VERY difficult to keep up with all the information the panels were presenting.  Many of the following sections will appear more as “notes” vs. a “narrative.”

Times Union:  Tools for Small Business Success

Speaker: Tena Tyler – News and Information Services Senior Editor 518.454.5324

To have your business information printed in the Times Union you need to understand your audience.  You need to know how to speak their language.  She stressed that a business needs to know when to call an editor.  If you’ve sent in a press release and two weeks have passed and it hasn’t been published, make sure you call in.  Tena stated that one of the biggest problems with small businesses in the region is that they don’t accept that online is a form of publication.  Many businesses are turning to Facebook and Twitter to market their businesses, but small businesses seem to be slower to use the online medium for marketing.

The TU wants to help small businesses in the region
If you have a story about your business: TUBusiness@timesunion.com
If you have a business event and would like it added to our business calendar: TUCalendar@timesunion.com
If you want your event to be in the print version – please contact them 3 weeks in advance
Eric Anderson – Business editor 453-5323

Speaker: Craig Eustace – Retail Advertising Manager 518.454.5529
Craig spoke about the paid marketing that the Times Union offers.
The Times Union now has Niche publications.
Life @Home – geared towards your home – design ideas, DIY projects, etc.
Healthy Life – geared towards women’s issues and things women would like to read about.
Explore – Where to go what to do – travel/tourism
In Motion – Automotive magazine
Vow – Brand New – Wedding magazine (Just launched Tuesday!)

You can advertise your small business in these publications to get your ad in front of a targeted audience.
Pay per click is also offered.  You will know how many people clicked on your ad.  It is track-able so you will know what your return on investment is.

They offer direct mail marketing.  They can provide demographic lists.  For example – If you’re a roofer – they can get you a list of all houses in the readership area that are 25 years or older.  You can target them and send your ad to those target customers.

Tim Cronin & Lisbeth Calandrino

Keynote Speaker:  Lisbeth Calandrino – Make It Happen
Lisbeth CalandrinoOwner of Lisbeth Calandrino Business Consulting, speaker, trainer, business coach and author of Red Hot Customer Service.

We have huge growth in the technology market in the capital region.

2 out of 3 jobs are created by small businesses

Earlier this month Sam’s Club did a survey of their small business customers.
“What is it that you need in order to stay in business?” was the main question.
The answer: MONEY!  Sam’s Club partnered with the National Business Association and the Small Business Administration to figure out how to get small business loans for the small business community.  If the small businesses don’t have money to maintain their businesses, it will directly effect Sam’s Club’s bottom line.  This act alone shows that Sam’s Club partners with their customers.

What do small businesses need around Albany?
Many have good business but it isn’t steady.
Figure out how to get your customer out to shop.
Consumers are afraid to shop.  Afraid to spend – need to save their money.
If you want to make it as a small business, you need to be a partner with your customer
It’s your job to be friends with you customers.

She quoted 212 – The Extra Degree by Sam Parker & Mac Anderson
“At 211 degrees, water is hot.
At 212 degrees, it boils.
And with boiling water, comes steam.
And steam can power a locomotive.”

Meet the Media Who Cover The Local Business News
Moderated by Lydia Kulbida from WTEN and Times Union Blogger

The Panelists
Larry Rulison
Lauren Rose
Mary Darcy
Mike Hendricks

Read your tweets and messages out loud.  Would you want to buy whatever your pitching?
Engage with your audience – have a fun personality.
Friend every reporter out there to get your name out in many forms of media.
Comment on the blogs, Facebook, Twitter….
Interact with your customers on Twitter & Facebook with personal tweets and comments.

Times Union – Panel on Social Media, Blogging and Your Customers
Moderated by Mike Huber – Interactive Audience Manager at the Times Union

The Panelists
Sonja Stark

Merci Miglino
Lissa D’Aquanni
Rev. Alan Rudnick
Vic Christopher

Questions that you should ask yourself prior to blogging are:
“Why should people read your blog?  Why should they care?
People blog for different reasons.  Some blog to market their business, others blog to build a sense of community.
“Careful what you put out there.  Count to 10 before you hit publish.”
“What degree do ethics play in a community?”
Rev. Alan Rudnick spoke about people who “hide behind the veil” AKA – Anonymous bloggers.
Merci reminded us that “Blogging is a knee jerk – reactive media.”
“If you don’t believe in your product, in yourself, and that you can cheer yourself out of a corner – you shouldn’t start a blog.”
“Be a follower OR have a following.”  Your choice.
They spoke about the recent “Ding Dong Ditch” incident that happened locally last week.  Why did it become such a firestorm?  It was a story that contained emotion.  It could happen to any home owner.    Social Media helped that story spread like wild-fire.  So much so that CNN picked up the story.

An audience member Karen McGowan spoke that she hadn’t considered a blog for her business until today.  The panel encouraged her to start blogging about her business Capital Interior Scapes an interior plant scape business.  By blogging she would humanize her business and she would appear as an expert in her industry.  She could post customer recommendations, pictures of plant-scapes she’d designed, lists of plants that people could consider and so many other things.

Going Mobile – The Mobile Revolution in Social Media
Presented by Rhea Drysdale of Outspoken Media and Verizon Wireless

Why is  mobile taking over everyone’s lives?
It makes our lives easier.

What is social media?
“Social media are media designed to be disseminated through social interaction, using highly accessible and scalable publishing techniques…  They support the democratization of knowledge and information and transform people from content consumers to content producers.”

Benefits of social media
New customer acquisition
Current customer outreach
Loyalty rewards
Corporate branding
Personal branding
Brand monitoring and management

They spoke about using Facebook, Twitter, Ning, Yelp, FourSquare GetListed and Know Em to market your business.  Go to these sites and fill out your business profile.  They stressed to fill in EVERY blank and as many keywords as are relevant to help your business come up in internet search engine results.

54% of the phone users in the local market use Verizon service.
30-40% of them are smart phones.
52% of the phones sold last week in his store were smartphones – ie. Droids, Blackberries, etc.

Top 10 Things Your Small Biz Website Needs in 2010
Presented by: Miriam Paska – Creative Strategist from Intellisites

She didn’t present them as a “Top 10” but some of the key points were:

Have a unique Design
You need to know who you’re competing against and what their web presence and marketing strategies are.
Keep your important information “above the fold”
You want the viewer of your site to see the important information without having to scroll down the page.
Use keyword phrases in your blog and on your website so you will organically show up on Web search results.
She also spoke about using Google Alerts to monitor the online activity of your company name.

Using Social Media For Your Job Hunt
Presented by: Alexis Grant

Use social media to:
Tap into your existing network
Expand your network s to include contacts at the companies where you want to work.

Facebook
Biggest online community – most bang for your buck – IT’S FREE!
People know you, like you, and WANT to help you
Great excuse to keep in touch with people who could help you

She stressed the importance of making small-talk first.  Don’t friend request someone and immediately ask them if their company is hiring.  Make some small talk and as the conversation evolves, your job search will be mentioned.

Alexis spoke about using your Facebook privacy settings to control what potential employers could see on your profile.    You want to be personal, yet still professional.

LinkedIn
Connect with professionals you might not want to see your personal life on Facebook
Your resume will appear on Google, showing potential employers what you want them to see.
LinkedIn has job boards as well as groups you can join based on your alma mater and industry.
You can find out background information about potential employers
There is an introductions feature that you can use to meet someone who a mutual friend knows.

Twitter
Network outside your circle of friends
Prove yourself as an expert
Hear about jobs
Keep on top of new trends in your industry
Make connections with companies and employers who may not have otherwise noticed you)

Tips when using social media
Fill out your profile completely
If you’re not going to do it well, don’t do it at all
Rather than being on every network – choose a few and grow quality followings

Thank you to Tim Cronin and Larry Zimbler for the invitation to be a VIP Guest Blogger at the smAlbany Small Business Day 2010.  I look forward to interacting with you in the future.

smAlbany Image from: http://www.smalbany.org
Mountain Dew Image from: http://thishelpdesk.com/mountain-dew-typhoon/
College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering Image from: http://todaysfacilitymanager.com/facilityblog/2009/12
Tim Cronin and Lisbeth Calandrino image by Michael T. Henry: http://tcrpmg.wordpress.com

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This picture was taken before we combined with the pasta so you could see the main ingredients. It came out really delicious!

The pictures a little dim, but we had out first dinner with zucchini out of the garden!  Michael has worked so hard on making the garden a success.  He wrote a nice blog about things he learned from his first garden.  Check it out.

Here’s how I made dinner:

Boneless Chicken Breasts
Zucchini
Mushrooms
Butter
Chicken Broth
Garlic Powder
Beau Monde
Salt
Pepper
Pasta of choice – I used Penne

Make pasta to instructions on package.  While it is cooking do the following:

Chop up the boneless chicken breasts into cubes.  (I used 3 breasts)
Saute the chicken in some butter until they’re cooked through.
Remove from pan and cover to keep them warm.
Next saute the zucchini in the pan with butter.  Sprinkle with garlic powder, salt and pepper.
Heat until they are soft, but remove them from the heat before they get soggy.
Then saute the mushrooms in butter. (YES, I KNOW I LIKE BUTTER!!)
Sprinkle with garlic powder, beau monde, salt and pepper.

Combine the chicken, zucchini, and mushrooms all in a pan together.
Pour in some chicken broth, about half way up the pan.  Heat until the broth is warm.
Combine with the pasta, mix and serve.

Do you have a garden?
Have you harvested anything yet?

If you have recipes to share, please visit my Recipe Group on Facebook.

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[tweetmeme]

Yesterday I posted my 200th blog post!
Unfortunately I wasn’t around to pimp it like I wanted to,
so check it out today.
It was a good post that I put more time than usual into.

So far we’ve talked about quite a bit.
You’ve gotten to know some of my very important people.
You’ve been lectured by me to watch for motorcycles.
You’ve met my dog Isabella.
There are so many more things to come!

At this point, my top 3 blog posts have been:

I Love A Good Heist

PLEASE HELP!  My Friend Needs Relationship Advice!!

No Longer With Us

Thank you to all of you for hanging around and reading my ramblings!!

My blog jumps around quite a bit.

What else should we discuss??
Do you have any favorite blogs I’ve written?

Please comment and subscribe :)

200th Blog Post Image from: http://mariannsimms.blogspot.com/2009/11/fired-up-over-my-200th-blog-post.html

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