Monthly Archives: December 2013

Meet Joanna Wallis – The Cooking Fairy

It’s 3 pm. You have to take your oldest child to an orthodontist appointment, drop your middle child at ballet class and drive your youngest to the soccer field. Your dog needs to go to the vet and then you have to circle back and pick everyone up from their activities.  You arrive home at 6:00 p.m. and realize there is nothing for dinner, argh.   But wait– you open your fridge and there is a fabulous three-course meal ready to be popped in the oven for 30 minutes.  The Cooking Fairy was here.

Joanna Wallis, aka The Cooking Fairy, left her software sales to stay at home with her three kids. When her youngest, finished a year of preschool, Joanna started thinking about what she wanted to do.  It had to be a 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.  job with flexibility.

“Family meals are so important my own mother made it a habit,” said Joanna.  “ I was a really good cook, so I thought, why not do something around that?”

Her friends always complained that they never had time to make a good meal because they were so busy running their kids around in the afternoons.   For Joanna, family dinner time was the best time of the day with her kids.  “Not only does it encourage good eating habits, but it also teaches conversational skills,” she said. “So, if I could help other families with healthy meal preparation, I’d be offering a great service.”

In 2010, Joanna started cooking for a few families she attracted through word of mouth.  “I’d take all the ingredients and all of my pots and pans to different houses and prepare the meal for the night.  At one point I was cooking for 2 -3 families a day.”

She found that she was particularly busy at the beginning of the week and had to say no to some requests for dinner.  Joanna’s clients became her friends and loved having her preparing dinner while they were in and out with the kids and errands.

As her business grew, Joanna realized that she needed to have one central place where she could prepare meals.  This would allow her to provide dinners for more families.  “I found a catering company that rents me kitchen space during the day.”

Because she was preparing different meals for each family, this was much more efficient.  Joanna works up menus a few days in advance and then leaves the casserole dishes in her clients’ refrigerators so when they get home, dinner is there.

Profitable from the beginning, Joanna wants to build on her concept.  “I hear such great feedback from my clients,” she said. “It’s quite satisfying to know I’m helping families have more time together.”

Who is her target market?  Families with multiple kids involved several after-school activities, working parents and people who don’t cook either because they don’t know how or they don’t have time.  Best of all, she’s finished working by 3 p.m. every day so she can spend time with her children who are now 8, 10 and 11.

What’s her most popular dish, “I get a lot of requests for my garlic and cognac chicken.”  (She made it for me and it was so good, I can’t wait to have it again.)  Her competitive edge:  ”I customize (meals) to  meet each family’s wants and needs.”  The usual request is for a meat dish, starch and green vegetable for two or four a week.

One client said to Joanna, “I don’t know what I would do without you.  We’d probably be having take-out every night.”

“It’s tremendously satisfying to know I built a business on my own terms,” said Joanna.  When Joanna went away for a week, one client said, “So glad you’re back, I’m starving.”

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2013 Kicked Our Ass

My Year-End Rant

I’ve spent this year interviewing amazing women for my report. So, please indulge me this one year-end rant. I promise I’ll be back in January with more inspirational and motivational profiles.

This was a hell of a year. It was the year that most everyone I know finally accepted the ‘new normal.’ Less is truly more and lean and mean is here to stay. My main example: experienced professionals who write, edit, design marketing materials, web sites, shoot video or produce sponsored events are now competing with anyone with a college degree and a smartphone. Unpaid or untalented bloggers are clogging cyberspace with unedited crap. So many of my colleagues have been kicked to the curb and forced to re-invent themselves to keep the lights on. It seems like anyone north of 50 is facing an early and forced retirement.

Editor FFN

I admit it hurts to have my blue-chip clients wind down my long-standing writing, speaking and production contracts. Why pay me when they can use social media? But, I’m not going away. I’ll be speaking several times in 2014—starting with an International Women’s Day event Santa Barbara on March 8.

Despite the bumpy economy, 2013 was a year of new beginnings. I’ve focused my efforts on producing three films. I figure the entertainment business is so random that I have as good a chance as anyone to make great movies—all about strong and fascinating women. So, after writing and producing millions of dollars worth of TV programs and promotional videos, as well as working on other people’s features and short films, I am confident I can do this. We’ll see if the women who complain to me that there are no good movies for them are willing to support my projects. Please check out my first project at:

So, what else is new and different for 2014? Crowd funding is huge—not just for wacky inventions but for all sorts of products and creative projects. (Keep an eye out for new rules and regulations being proposed by the Securities and Exchange Commission which may make it harder to raise money).

E-commerce is bigger and better than ever. While Amazon dominates the consumer market, artists, jewelers and designers are aggregating their work on cool sites including and

Sharing creative and office space is a cool trend. With commercial rents so high in many places, working communally makes sense for sole proprietors and small teams of people. But finding somewhere affordable to work other than a noisy café is a challenge. The We Work drop-in lounge where I used to work in SoHo now has a long waiting list despite a major price hike.

The new, 20,000-square foot New York Media Center in DUMBO, (Brooklyn) is offering memberships starting at $150 a month for a stretch of counter space and access to wi-fi on a first-come, first-served basis. This week, I’m visiting a swanky shared work space that looks like a posh hotel with a bar and luxurious lobby furniture. If you dare to apply for membership you need to be referred by a member and be interviewed. I passed the interview with a willowy, 20-something and they sent me an application to join.

Although small business employment has ticked up in recent months, hiring is still anemic. Few businesses I’ve profiled this year are hiring full-time workers. If they need help, they are hiring contractors or part-timers. Many business owners I know are relying on unpaid or under-paid interns.

So, the new normal is here, but it isn’t so terrible. We have learned to do less with more, while watching the super-rich grow richer. Corporations are awash in cash, while the middle class sinks into poverty.

On the bright side, technology has never been more affordable. Competition is driving prices down (except Apple products). It’s easy to have a fantastic web site and gorgeous marketing materials to promote your products and services worldwide.

One final note: if you are looking for help to solve problems and grow your business in 2014, Maui Mastermind is offering special deals to my readers through this link:

You’ll find information about accessing the $2,400 online version of the $20,000 coaching program at no charge. The program includes lots of valuable online tools. This offer is made possible by my friend, Patty DeDominic, former national president of NAWBO.

Here’s to a healthy and happy New Year!

Cool Jewelry Companies Offer New Twist on Holiday Gifts

By Jane Applegate

Last Christmas, my husband and I presented our daughter with a small, turquoise box from Tiffany. She burst into tears. “I’ve told you—never, ever, ever buy me jewelry!”

Without opening it, she handed it back to me and walked away.

If you have similar challenges buying jewelry, read on. Two fashion-forward sisters launched a website to help shoppers select the perfect gift for the pickiest person. (not .com) based in Chicago, created a ‘gifting engine’ that allows shoppers describe the person they need  to buy a gift for. Based on that information, the site presents you with a variety of styles and options.

There’s also a cool social element that lets you share your options with friends and family to get their input before making a purchase. Best of all, Heirlume offers a unique, curated collection of jewelry made by independent designers. They hope their unique online platform will take a bite of the $40 billion domestic market for fine jewelry. Currently, 88 percent of sales are made offline, according to industry experts.

“Men have no idea how to buy jewelry, but most women love receiving jewelry,” said Elaine Russell, who co-founded the company with her sister, Vanessa Stofenmacher, who serves as creative director. “Both of us were watching our husbands and guy friends struggle with buying gifts.”

Russell began her career in the retail investment banking group at JPMorgan in NYC. In 2009, she completed an MBA from Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management. From there, she moved to Silicon Valley and headed up business development at Tiny Prints, eventually managing the wedding brand, Wedding Paper Divas. In 2011, Tiny Prints was acquired by Shutterfly and Russell moved back to Chicago to work for an e-commerce platform.

Russell and Stofenmacher started the company with their own money. They are busy tweaking the site to handle holiday sales. “We are really focused on learning from each customer on our site,” said Russell, who works in the 1871 tech incubator in downtown Chicago. Stofenmacher, who manages the site and shoots the photos, is based in Los Angeles. The sisters are active on Facebook and Twitter, sharing information about how to buy jewelry and tips on the latest trends.

They streamline the process by sending their designers boxes and branded packaging. When an order is placed, the designer ships it directly to the customer. The company currently represents about a dozen designers and is seeking more to add to the mix.

“We don’t hold any inventory ourselves, so we could get off the ground fairly quickly,” she said, adding that they buy the jewelry from designers at the wholesale price and sell it at retail, offering the pieces at the same price the designers do. The designers can still sell their work directly to customers if they choose to. “Our main priority is to offer the best price and experience to customers.”

Across the country, Brooklyn-based Urban Boulder sells contemporary designer jewelry featuring boulder opal, a colorful stone found only in the Australian outback. Founded by Lisa Simpson and Remo Carbone, the company leverages Simpson’s marketing and branding skills with Carbone’s family relationship with the miners who find the stones in the Outback. (Be sure to watch the video on the About page of their site).

“What we really want to do is own the stone– the same way people associate diamonds with DeBeers,” said Simpson, who was creative director of an ad agency prior to launching her business with Carbone in 2011. “Having come from world of brands and designing for other people, I wanted to create my own brand and do something different.”

Over brunch, Simpson and Carbone, a family friend, started discussing how his family had been working with the opals for 30 years, but were frustrated that it was not being featured in fine jewelry. Although boulder opal is the national stone of Australia, most of it ends up in tacky trinkets for tourists. Not having any jewelry experience didn’t deter them from starting a jewelry business. They rely on Boris Goynatsky, a veteran jewelry designer in New York City to bring their visions to reality. Urban Boulder’s sleek, angular pieces are produced in gold, silver and platinum. They also do custom designs for clients.

“We cut the stones in Australia,” said Simpson, adding that it takes years to learn how to properly open the boulders and remove the opals.

I met Lisa while she was behind the counter at a ‘pop up’ shop in the Chelsea Market. Urban Boulder, based in her Brooklyn home, sells mostly online but is looking for a variety of outlets.

Her advice for other entrepreneurs: “Before you leave your job, do as much planning for the new phase as you possibly can. Things always take longer that you think. Talk to as many people as you can. Share ideas and seek out mentors.”


Buh-Bye 2013–Bring on the New Year

Did I ever tell you that 13 is my lucky number?  Well it is – just love the 1-3 combination.  My eldest daughter Chloe was born on Friday the 13th.  I had a 13 in the first home I bought.  There was, and still is, a 13 in my ex-husband’s business address (I’m receiving alimony for life, go me!).  You get the picture – I’m loving the number 13 – big time!

Naturally, I had great expectations for 2013!  This year did not disappoint the high hopes I had for the Year of the Snake, in the Chinese calendar.

Come January 2013 I was off to St. Marteen, with my friend Robin, to take full advantage of her amazing timeshare and we had a B-L-A-S-T!  OK, truth be told – I got seasick on a boat ride to St. Barts – but no biggie.  Well, that’s if you weren’t on the boat at the time.  Then, when boarding the plane to come home, a nice older couple behind me asked me if I got seasick in the “air.”  They had been on the boat to St. Barts.  I assured them I didn’t get “air” sick.  Still, a handsome man in the seat behind me gave me his name and number on a barf bag on the flight home.

February was eventful, as well.  I turned 49 – yes, my last year in the fifth decade of my life.  My three teenagers gave me an amazing book, including photos of them from birth through the present time.  Priceless, as MasterCard says, and it is to me.

My beau Tom, during a major snowstorm that occurred on my birthday weekend, spent much of it in bed watching Fox News (my least favorite station).  That is, until I threw a nutty and insisted he attempt to shovel a path out of our side door and make another call to the snowplow company.  Later that day, he successfully did so and slammed his car into my daughter’s (her father’s) car sitting in my driveway.  Cha-ching!

Come March, my youngest daughter, Sophie, called the police on my son, Noah, for hitting her while I was having dinner with Tom in Concord – where we live.  As my luck would have it, my cell phone was on the floor of Tom’s car and I missed the 911 calls to me before the real 911 call was made.

Long story short – the police showed up, my daughter Sophie insisted on being taken by ambulance to the local ER, and my eldest daughter, Chloe, was the one who handled the situation.  How so?  She began by telling the police that my youngest daughter provoked the fight by calling my son names, that my son has Asperger’s Syndrome, and that her mom (ME) must have left her cell phone in the car.  All true.

The town cops opted NOT to “arrest” him and Noah thanked me for saving his “ass.”  I then rushed off to the hospital to check on Sophie and pick up Chloe – only to learn that my ex and his wife were on the way.  The most shocking news of all was that Sophie had been given an Ativan to calm her nerves – when clearly it was meant for me.  I took Chloe home, asked my ex to take Sophie for the night to keep her and Noah apart, and all was well.

The “incident” still made it in the local paper under Police Report.

Thankfully, April and May were relatively quiet months – much deserved, if you ask me.

Chloe recently got her driver’s license and I shared with her a couple of things going against her – she’s inexperienced and only 17.  In June, she was having difficulty getting out of my long driveway and had two friends in the back seat.  As she was backing up, she hit Tom’s car on the side of the driveway.  I suggested she put the car in park and allow me to back out of the driveway.  Instead she kept the care in reverse and when I approached the driver’s side from the back of the car, Chloe hit the GAS – not the brakes.  I got sandwiched between my car and Tom’s and the drivers side of the door.  Chloe managed to take the door off of my car to the tune of $1600+.

July – Chloe got a speeding ticket on her way to pick up her brother and sister at my parents home.  A court date ensued and thankfully she was given immunity by the judge who could visibly see her short-comings when it comes to driving.

Sophie spends most of July with my brother, sister-in-law and their three small children babysitting – and proves to be a real pro.

August – relatively quiet month getting ready for school.  The kids spent two weeks on Martha’s Vineyard with their dad for a respite and Noah decided to become a vegetarian – despite his love of seafood.

September – My son started taking Prozac.  Bullet dodged – I no longer need to up my meds.

October — Tom treated me with a trip to Prague, Vienna and Budapest, adding to my Thanksgiving gratitude list come November!

November –Noah is gaining more independence and begins to work at his dad’s pawn shop in the south end of Boston.  I drop him off at the train station in Concord Center and he proceeds to fall asleep on the train into Boston.  Panic ensues and as I’m talking to the Concord Police – he emerges from the train that fortunately didn’t take off in the other direction.

Bad news from my doctor – I was diagnosed with “fat” in my liver.  I just thought I had a fat ass and stomach?  Now my liver?

For the first time in a long time, I didn’t host Thanksgiving.  There was no major waiting on lines in the grocery store, slaving away at the stove and oven for hours/days on end.  Instead, I showed up with a side dish, a pie and a bottle of wine – I’ll drink to that. Or, ah, no I won’t – remember the “fatty” liver?

December – Will prove to be the perfect way to end 2013 with a trip to Ireland for a wedding for Tom’s friends courtesy of Tom’s “American Depressed” card.  I arrive in Shannon just in time for a hat fitting – an ingenious idea of the bride-to-be.  A contest will be held for the best hat – so keep your fingers crossed that I’m the lucky winner (photos to follow).

We end the year with another wedding – of my friend locally – on, you guessed it!  New Years Eve!  I can’t think of a better way to ring in 2014, can you?

So, 2013 will go out with a bang – similar to the way it started.  I wouldn’t change a thing!

Here’s to 2014 – let’s bring it on!

Find out more about Nancy’s marketing expertise at:


Great Holiday Gifts to Make for Grandparents

 “Mommy on a Shoestring”

 Ask any grandparent and they’ll tell you, the best holiday gifts are those that are made by hand and if the gifts include fun games the whole family can play, even better. Here are my favorites:

Block Photo Puzzle

Not only does this 6-sided photo puzzle provide hours of family fun, but it’s also a great way to reuse favorite family photos.

You will need:

9 – Wooden blocks (I recommend using either old alphabet blocks or a wooden block puzzle)

6 – 8 x 10 Photograph prints (colored copies work equally as well)


Scissors or X-Acto knife

Mod Podge and paintbrush


  • Arrange blocks in a square and measure the length and width of the square.
  • Measure and cut print to the exact same size as the 9-block square.
  • Arrange blocks in a square on top of the print. Position blocks so they’re lined up neatly and as close together as possible.
  • Trace the outline of each block onto the print and carefully cut out using scissors or an X-Acto knife.
  • Use a small paintbrush and Mod Podge to adhere the print pieces to the blocks.
  • Wait several hours until the glue is completely dry and then seal with a final layer of Mod Podge.
  • Repeat this process until your have covered all 6 sides of the blocks with different photographs.

Thank you to the creative folks at for sharing this idea! Be sure to check out their website for more fun photo ideas.


Story Stones

Give your kids a chance to spin a yarn or two with their grandparents with batch of story stones.

You will need:

Flat stones

Pictures (hand drawn or use clip art).

Mod Podge and paintbrush


  • Create characters, places and things with drawings or clip art.  Make sure each picture is about the same size (or smaller) than the stones.
  • Glue pictures to stones with Mod Podge.  Be sure to add a top layer of Mod Podge to seal the picture and prevent it from tearing.
  • Arrange stones in a cute bowl or pouch for gifting.
  • To play: Players take turns choosing different stones to help guide them as they tell a story.

Family Memory

This card game is a great gift for grandparents who are sure to enjoy seeing their family faces as they uncover each card.  Another bonus is that there is always room to “grow” the deck.

Materials Needed:

Family photos (2 sets of each photo, colored copied)

  • Double stick tape, or a glue stick
  • Index cards
  • Scissors
  • Your child’s artwork or cute clip art (to decorate back of card)


  • Tape photos to index cards
  • Decorate the back of each cards with cute clip art or have your kids draw a picture which you can color copy and attach to the back of each cards. (Note: you want the back of each card to look exactly the same.
  • The cards are now ready for play! Place the cards face down on a flat surface and players take turns trying to finding matching pairs.

For more great ideas visit: