Reasons to Own a Business

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Girl Power

This last week or so, I keep seeing things that
make me all weepy. Yeah, I’m a girl, and girls do that.
But there’s power in these images, these stories, and these
tears. This is for your girls, you, and even your boys.
Prepare to be awed.

Last night, a friend sent me
the post titled, “I am Malala.” This is the story
of the young girl shot point blank in the head by the Taliban for
advocating for the rights of girls to go to school. Here’s
the video of Malala’s family’s situation
well before this took place. Trust me, it is worth the 9
minutes, even if it shocks you or makes you cry. Her father thought
he was offering himself up to danger to stand up to the forces of
evil, but his daughter took the bullet. What this man and his
daughter teach the world, for her sake, for her friends’ sake, and
for the betterment of his whole country, is really
awe-inspiring.

;

Hours before
that, I was sitting in the ballroom of the Baldwin School taking a professional
development class. The class, by the way, was organized by
and for moms in social media who help
each other grow their networks and their businesses, which alone is
a testament to the creativity and power of thinking women. I
entered the building a bit put off by the wealth and entitlement of
the expensive private school education that the Baldwin girls
receive. But after taking a tour led by some of the senior
class, I can’t help but admit what a great world it would be if
all girls were
nurtured in the way that these bright, motivated girls clearly were
within their school. I actually came home thinking, now how
could I create that same environment of a close-knit community that
encourages the kids to become “thinking girls”… but without the
tuition? In fact, nearly all of the children that I
personally know here in America receive an entitled education,
compared to what the girls in Malala’s class- and girls in much of
the world- have access to.

Today, Daily Worth highlighted a new project,
being funded through Kickstarter, that offers the first engineering
toy specifically for girls. You have to go watch this video
for GoldiBlox, The Engineering Toy for
Girls
. Yep, I got weepy while watching. You
see, my girls love to read, and they are super smart (of course
they are). But I’m still afraid that they won’t even consider a
lifetime in the science and engineering fields. Why would
they? I didn’t even know what an engineer was until I was in
college. Despite my label of gifted as a youngster, despite
my involvement in problem solving clubs, despite my curiosity about
the world, no one ever mentioned a career where I might engineer my
world. Ever. I ended up in the language arts,
because I was a good reader. I would
gladly pony up $30 today to give my girls that option, covered in
pink and ribbon and accompanied by a book, but over 5,500 other
people beat me to it, and now I’ll have to wait to buy mine when it
hits the stores next year.

;

Just last week,
I was overjoyed (more tears) to hear that the practically medieval
law disproportionately affecting stay at home moms that
incredibly got passed and put into effect last
year is going to be revised. The CARD Act of 2009 included a
provision that kicked in last year disallowing stay-at-home parents the right to
their own credit
without the approval of their spouse if
they could not document their own income.
GRRRRR. What bull!!! But thanks largely to one woman,
Holly McCall, and www.MomsRising.org,
it looks like the CARD Act will be revised to make sense
for families. Even when society falls back to bad choices for
women and their families, we persevere, pull together, and make
things better for our daughters.

Having been
decimated by divorce, having been shaken by layoffs, having seen
friends who lost their whole self when their world was financially
devastated because of some man, I’m grateful to have this business,
started before my kids and carried on through two pregnancies, to
carve out my professional self. I am not an engineer, I am
not a politian, I am not an international activist, but I am a mom
who is modeling success in this world to my daughters through my
business. I have that right. I have that
privilege. And so do you.

You go,
girl.

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What, you don’t know what BlogHer is?  A year ago, I didn’t, either.  It turns out, there really is a time and a place for everything, and the time for (mommy) bloggers to hang out is at the original blogging conference called BlogHer.  In 2012, it’s being held in NYC, so a lot of my friends and colleagues are going, since it’s an easy drive from Philly.  I’ve been watching with amusement the emails, tweets, FB posts and blog posts posing and answering the number one question:

What should I wear to BlogHer? 

This very question drives me crazy.  As women, we get up every single day and decide what to wear.  Usually we look fabulous without even trying.  We dress our kids.  Some of you even dress your husbands.  Why does this primal cry ring out when we ladies are headed to conference, or any large gathering???  Here are the reasons that I think we go all irrational.

1.  It’s been a long time(maybe forever) since some of us were in corporate, where there may or may not have been an accepted style or even “uniform”.  Here’s mine, from back in the day.  Please excuse the dust on the shoulders.  I pretty much keep this outfit for funerals and the odd (very odd) corporate interview.  I know.

2.  We want to put our best foot forward.  If you work at home, like I do much of the time, this chance to dress to impress doesn’t come along every day.  So our confidence in our ability to be current, in fashion, and comfortable all at the same time might not be as well tuned as we’d like it to be.  I know, trust me.  While I have a closet full of wonderful clothes, the ability to pull together an outfit with great shoes and a current necklace all at the same time sometimes eludes me.

3.  We sieze this as an opportunity to freshen up our look.  All too often, though, we leave this until the last minute, risking buying or bringing something that doesn’t quite hang together. 

4.  If the gathering is something we’ve never been to before, we may honestly need help from veterans on the climate, environment, amount of walking/standing required, and the general mood of the place.

5.  There are no wardrobe rules anymore.  Ever since suits got replaced with “business casual” in the 1980’s, women have been somewhat adrift.  The goal is to be stylish but not faddish, comfortable but professional, standing out just enough to be remembered but still looking apporachable enough for networking. 

Women alone carry this burder.  My husband NEVER, EVER asks what he should wear before he travels.  Of course, today most men can grab a pair of khaki pants with a solid color “polo” or “golf” style shirt and call it a day.   Their shoe choice might be black or brown, with laces or without.  Done.

The best advice is to stay true to your own style and strive for a “professional” look, wherever you are.  My favorite definition of a “professional” look is one that maintains your style without causing anything to detract from your message.  So if feathers in your hair really explains who you are (maybe you are an avian activist or a blogger with a bird-themed logo), go with it.  If feathers in your hair will make everyone you meet think, “Whoa, what’s with that chick?” then skip it.   Here are some good picks from a blogging expert, Jo-Lynne Shane.

If you still need a visual, here are my picks.

I wore this to a professional conference earlier this year.  I always feel more polished with a jacket, but sometimes people are actually intimidated by the one chick in the room with a suit jacket on.  The cardigan is the working gal’s professional friend.  It offers the chance to bring in color, and it’s your best hedge against too warm/too cold meeting spaces.  These tops from Ann Taylor paired well with slightly more interesting than usual large check grey slacks. 

 

And comfortable shoes.

A long column dress works for me because I’m tall, it hides the fact that I’m anti-pantyhose, and a large scale pattern gives me a little boost of color.  Many of these rayon blends also pack suprisingly well and shed wrinkles, which is great for travel.

 

Add a fitted jacket, low heels, and acessories, and this is a very professional look. As a bonus, I was wearing this dress to a conference when I was almost 6 months pregnant and the cut of the jacket actually hid my bump a bit, which was something I was trying to do in that particular crowd.

And comfortable shoes.

 

For something a little more festive, I am getting daring and wearing this to an event tonight (the smaller but just as fun #PhillyHomeHer12).  It meets my criteria of always trying to wear sparklies.  I wouldn’t wear this to a standard button-down cocktail event, but tonight’s even is all gals, and way more fun than your average meet and greet, being hosted by the Firebird Grill and Towne Book Center in Collegeville.  I would feel totally comfortable wearing this to BlogHer, but not to a meeting with a major coporate client. 

And comfortable shoes.  Noticing a theme here?  Yes, these shoes from BORN are indeed comfortable even for my problem feet.

 

Remember, professional, stylish, colorful, feminine are all OK.  It really seems that the only true rule of fashion these days is to wear things that look good on you and make you feel fabulous. But, like mama always said, your best outfit always comes with a smile.

Chrissy DiAngelus of Piccadilly Arts (right) shows off her style at #PhillyHomeHer12. 

If you are pregnant, an entrepreneur, someone who works at home, or found your way here for a little practical wardrobe advice, I hope this works for you. 

If you’ve been to a conference lately, what outfit worked best for you?

 

 

 

 

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If all of this year’s financial news from the Fed, congress and White House
seems too big and uncontrollable for a lot of us, here’s something that hits a
little closer to home.  New financial regulations
of the CARD Act of 2009, Regulation Z, will go into place in October 2011, and
one of them prohibits financial institutions from giving credit cards to people
who do not have documented individual sources of income.  Although it
was originally proposed to ensure students weren’t saddled with consumer debt
through aggressive marketing, the wording was expanded to include any individual without documented
income.  Sounds like a good idea,
right?  Not so fast.  The fallout is that non-employed spouses will
no longer be able to use their household income to qualify for
credit.   

Who cares?  Stay-at-home moms and mister-moms
should.  The National
Retail Federation
said the rule “undermines more than a generation of
progress” since passage of the Equal Credit Opportunity Act. Because of
this rule alone, a woman should consider starting up her own business,
whether it is a primary or side pursuit.

 

There are many reasons to own a business in this country,
including tax advantages, continued professional development, schedule flexibility,
and income potential.  This new rule is one more reason for a mom to
have a business, even a teeny-tiny one, that documents profitable income. The
rule does not specify a minimum required income, but not having any documented
income is a show stopper when it comes to securing credit.  For all types of small businesses, including
home-party consultants, part-time blogger moms, retail store owners,
professional consultants, and more, a Schedule C or corporate tax return is the
documentation the credit issuers require.

 

“We’re not sure at all how this is going to work in
practice,” NRF Senior Vice President and General Counsel Mallory
Duncan
said. “Since most stay-at-home spouses are women, this could put
women back more than 20 years in terms of their access to credit.” 

 

I was married and divorced nearly twenty years ago, I went
through a rocky time personally that nearly ruined my credit. I believe
that this provision takes us back even further than twenty years.  We
forget that stay-at-home spouses have economic value in our society, even
though they don’t receive a paycheck.  A non-employed spouse should have
access to credit throughout their marriage so they don’t incur financial
hardship should death, illness, abuse or divorce markedly change their
status after years, sometimes decades, of partnership.  Family tragedies
are difficult enough without removing access to credit, an undeniable necessity
of modern life in America. 
Even those who live debt-free have a credit score.  Having a favorable credit history is as
important as having a job.  Credit doesn’t just mean credit cards, but is
required for basic social functions such as the ability to rent property, buy a
car, or establish phone service.  

 

Many women make major changes to their employment status
when they are pregnant or shortly after having a baby.  Many educated and
talented women step off a professional cliff when they start a family,
potentially creating unintended financial consequences for themselves and their
families.  But starting a family can also be a great time to start
something new professionally.  A business
that a mom runs during naptime or school hours can be rewarding and more economically
beneficial than just a positive profit and loss statement. A business also can
be a woman’s ticket to financial independence. 
With her own income, she no longer depends on her spouse to include her
on a credit account. 

 

Moms put others first in so many ways, but when staying
at home to raise children means you give up your own financial identity,
that’s just wrong.  

 

Since last March when this rule was finalized, there appears
to have been little progress on correcting this language to mitigate the impact
on families and women.  The best thing we
can do is be aware of our options, and owning a business is certainly one of
them. Add this new law to the list of reasons for a woman to have and maintain
a business before, during, and after baby. 

 

 

 

More sources:

http://www.federalreserve.gov/newsevents/press/bcreg/20110318b.htm    

http://www.creditcards.com/credit-card-news/stay-at-home-parent-credit-cards-household-income-1282.php

http://www.nrf.com/modules.php?name=Newsletter&op=viewlive&sp_id=324&id=51

 

Originally published in Kalamazoo Parent magazine, October 2011

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After an article I wrote appeared in Kalamazoo Parents magazine, a stay-at-home dad contacted me because he was mad mad mad about the recent changes curtailing financial rights of non-employed parents.  Did the fed regulations on the CARD ACT of 2009 really update in October 2011 to say that stay-at-home parents without income really have no access to credit?  Here’s what I found.

The information is buried pretty well, but the original reference is here: http://www.federalreserve.gov/newsevents/press/bcreg/20101019a.htm . One of the major provisions of the CARD Act of 2009 was to limit the marketing and credit that could be targeted to college students, who are largely without income.  However, the clarified language expanded the
provision to be of concern to anyone without their own independent income or assets.  See the third bullet in the Fed’s press release:

When evaluating a consumer’s ability to make the required payments
before opening a new credit card account or increasing the credit limit on an
existing account, card issuers must consider information regarding the
consumer’s independent income, rather than his or her household income.

 If you really want to read into it, check out the HRML or PDF link at the bottom of this press release, right about in the middle, where it states:

“The Board generally intended Sec.  226.51 to establish consistent standards for evaluating a consumer’s ability to pay. Specifically, Sec.  226.51 requires that card issuers establish and maintain reasonable written policies and procedures to consider the income or assets and the current obligations of all consumers, regardless of age.

See Sec.  226.51(a)(1)(ii), (b)(1)(i), and (b)(2)(ii)(B). For all consumers, a card issuer must consider either the ratio of debt obligations to income, the ratio of debt obligations to assets, or the income the consumer will have after paying debt obligations. See id. Furthermore, regardless of a consumer’s age, (emphasis added) it would be unreasonable for
a card issuer not to review any information about a consumer’s income, assets, or current obligations, or to issue a credit card to a consumer who does not have any income or assets. See id. Some card issuers request on application forms that applicants simply provide their “income,” while other issuers request that applicants provide their “household income.” The Board understands that there has been some confusion as to whether information provided by a consumer in response to a request for household income can be used by a card issuer to satisfy the requirements of Sec.  226.51. In particular, the Board understands that there has been some uncertainty as to whether Sec.  226.51 established different standards for underage consumers and other consumers with respect to the consideration of household income or assets. There appear to be three sources of this confusion.

   
First, the Board understands that some of the uncertainty regarding household income results from the fact that, in the February 2010 Final Rule, the Board expressly concluded that the income of an underage consumer’s spouse could not be used to satisfy the requirements of Sec.  226.51(b) but did not state a similar conclusion with respect to the general rule in Sec.  226.51(a). See 75 FR 7723. However, the issue of spousal or other household income was not addressed in the context of Sec.  226.51(a) because it was not raised during the comment period.  Accordingly, the Board is addressing the issue in this rulemaking.” 

This rule was tacked onto the previously passed CARD Act after a comment period that expired January 3, 2011, and then the rule passed.  So this was a done deal.  You can
read for yourself the current language in the CARD Act.  You can clearly see that the language was expanded to say any consumer, not just those under 21.

By the way, there are a ton of books on the market, and mine is just one of them, encouraging moms to start and run a professional business from wherever they live.  Although it might feel a bit odd for dads to read these books, they’ve got many of the same issues.  If you are very fired up about this issue (and I hope you are!), let me encourage you to protect your turf with a business if you choose.  If not, that’s cool, too.  We have so many option these days to protect our families and our professional selves, that we really are blessed. 

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You have probably seen the news recently about new financial regulations from the Fed due to start in October.  http://www.federalreserve.gov/newsevents/press/bcreg/20110318b.htm    The new provisions of the Credit Card Act of 2009 that will go into place in October prohibits banks from giving credit cards to people who do not have individual sources of income, such as non-employed parents.  Non-working spouses will no longer be able to use their household income to qualify for credit.   

Who cares?  Non-employed spouses should.  For this reason alone, a woman  should consider starting up her own business, whether she already has a job and is hoping to take time out of the workforce to start a family or she stays at home. There are many reasons to own a business in this country, including tax advantages, continued professional development, flexibility, and income potential.  This new regulation is one more reason for a mom to have a business, even a teeny-tiny one, that documents profitable income. What some may not realize is that small businesses can be more alike than they are different, from the occasional Pampered Chef consultant to the very part-time blogger mom to the retail store owner and more.  Moms who are business owners have advantages over moms who are not.    

“We’re not sure at all how this is going to work in practice,” NRF Senior Vice President and General Counsel Mallory Duncan said. “Since most stay-at-home spouses are women, this could put women back more than 20 years in terms of their access to credit.”  http://www.nrf.com/modules.php?name=Newsletter&op=viewlive&sp_id=324&id=51
 
I was married and divorced nearly twenty years ago, I went through a rocky time personally that nearly ruined my credit. I believe that this provision takes us back even further than twenty years.  We forget that stay-at-home moms (and dads) have economic value in our society, even though they don’t receive a paycheck.  A non-working spouse should have access to credit throughout their marriage partnership so they don’t incur terrible hardship as a financial unknown should death, illness, or divorce markedly change their status after years, sometimes decades.  Family tragedies happen every day and are difficult enough without removing access to credit, an almost undeniable necessity of modern life in America.  Although I advocate for debt-free living, having a credit history is as important as having a job.  Credit doesn’t necessarily mean credit cards, but can impact basic life functions such as the ability to rent, buy a car, or even establish phone service.  
 
Many women make major changes to their employment situation when they are pregnant or shortly after having a baby.  Many professionally trained and talented women take a huge step off a professional cliff when they start a family, potentially creating unintended financial concerns for herself and her family.  A business that a mom runs during naptime and on weekends can not only rewarding and economically beneficial in more ways that you can count on just a profit and loss statement, but it now becomes a woman’s ticket to financial independence, without depending on her spouse to approve her inclusion on a credit account. 
 
Recent articles have advocated that non-employed spouses rush to apply for a credit card before the regulations go into effect, but the banks can already apply the new standards if they chose.  Older women with established credit histories may be less impacted.  I am more concerned for younger women.  I think the best thing we can do is learn to be aware of our options, and owning your own business is certainly one of them.
 
Moms put others first in so many ways, but when staying at home to raise children means you give up your own financial identity, that’s just wrong.  Way before this provision, I realized that I could never comfortably put my entire financial well being into another person’s hands again.  Add this new law to the list of reasons for a woman to have and maintain a business before, during, and after her baby. 

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