Growing a Business in a Down Economy

With a new year on its way, I wanted to share a piece I’ve written, published in an issue of the Winter Park/Maitland Observer last month.

WP Maitland Observer

I’ve had an incredible amount of inspiring discussions outlining how, in its own way, The Leone Company has grown.  Amazing discussions with both casual colleagues and close friends, all over coffee, tea, juice, breakfast, lunch, dinner, drinks and, on one occasion JUST after Thanksgiving, pie.  (Thanks for that delicious slice of homemade apple love, Emma!)

And so, this seems like a great time to share the piece.  Head on over to their site for the full story and incredible amounts of my wisdom, and let me know what you think below!

For a full list of previously published work, head on over here.

4 Reasons I Knew I Could Grow Business

When I left my former company just over two months ago, I had one, maybe two, strong prospects; that was enough to give me the confidence to start The Leone Company.  Why?  Because I knew the rest would follow.  (Okay, I hoped a whole heck of a lot and have worked really hard to push the rest to follow.)  In fact, Michael Schechter hits it spot on with last week’s post, “Making Something Magical.”

Am I nuts?  Well, my grandfather thought so.  But here’s why I knew I could build business.

  1. I let everyone know what I’m doing.  I was fortunate that, when I was letting my contacts know I was leaving my now-former company, my then-boss had no problem with my telling them about my exciting new adventure.  (This is how one of my first clients, edible Orlando, came to me.)
  2. I’ve been sitting on committees and collaboration meetings for, well, a really long time.  So when a project came up for the Association of Fundraising Professionals – National Philanthropy Day and for the Garden Theatre, the folks seeking help thought of me.  They know my work ethic.  They know my contacts.  They know my follow through.  They know my love for a morning bagel and schmear.  (Although that last one, I’m guessing, didn’t get me the jobs.)
  3. I’m not afraid to speak in front of groups.  It was through a course I’d signed up to teach with Centers for Animal Therapies that I’d met the founder of feline rescue group Candy’s Cats, Inc.  Turns out, she loved what I had to say so much in a one-on-one session she hired me within a week.
  4. I have my father’s gift of gab. When I was little, my father used to talk to strangers in the supermarket.  (A great way to network, perhaps, but a lousy way to please a hungry nine-year-old who’s shivering in the ice cream aisle.)  But today, more than half of the contacts I’m discussing relationships with are people I’ve met at those same types of random moments. Volunteering for a kids’ camp two weeks ago.  Dinner at one of our favorite German restaurants.  A glass of wine with friends.  I always carry business cards, and I’m always ready to tell people what I do, since what I do may just be able to help them where they need it most.
I love new secrets: What is your best tip for growing new business?  Please share!

Inspiration On My Desk

The fabulous Mimi Flatley, a good friend of mine who always manages to tell a great story, was my very first friend in Orlando.  We actually met through a double date with our mothers; we had both just moved to town and were seeking new friends.  (On a side note: we still get together and double date with our moms once a year for our “momiversary” at Hot Olives, the very same restaurant that it all started.)

So when Mimi asked to meet for happy hour this past week, I absolutely agreed.  (Sushi and wine with a great friend?  That’s an easy answer!)  When we arrived, she reached into her purse, and handed me something :

The inside let me know she’s excited for me and the future of The Leone Company. She wrote inside, “You’re an amazing woman doing amazing things!!” (She also added a few gift cards to help with renovations to the office, tunes and a dose of caffeine 🙂

This card now sits proudly on my desk, along with a few others from when I decided to start The Leone Company, including my parents, my grandmother, my former co-workers and my insanely amazing sanity-keeper Vanessa at Parlour Salon and Spa.  They serve as daily reminders of my support system.

So I ask you: what do you keep on your desk that makes you smile every day?  Comment in the blog and let me know!

(And, as always, don’t forget you can subscribe to this blog right on the website!)

8 Things I Learned from Growing Bolder’s Marc Middleton

When Maria Diestro, Online Services and Communications Manager for Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida (and fabulous former co-worker) let me know about the Central Florida Bloggers’ Conference, I couldn’t have been more excited to attend. 

Coming away with pages and pages of notes, here are just a few things I learned from the morning’s keynote speaker, Growing Bolder‘s Marc Middleton:


  1. Always look for leverage and leverage what you have. Leverage your friends, but give more than you ask.  I recently sat down for a “just to catch up” lunch with friend Kristin Weissman, who created Studio K this past year.  (We met when her former company was a sponsor of an event in which I was, well, in charge of seeking sponsors.)  She’s insanely invigorating and a breath of fresh air, because she’s not only incredibly successful, but she’s not afraid to tell you where she’s looking for help.  The best part?  I was able to help her, because I just so happened to know players she’s looking to reach.  I didn’t want anything in return, and it just turned out that way.  But now, she’s asked point blank, HOW CAN I HELP YOU?  How incredibly cool is that?
  2. Learn to do everything yourself.  As a small business owner, I serve as the mail collector, the accounting department, the IT department, the new business department, the creative department and the waste management department.  I’m now the web producer, the cleaning staff… you get the drift.  I’m learning that there’s a whole lot you can learn through Google.
  3. Provided it’s a thoughtful leap of faith, the more leaps you take, the less scared you’ll be.  The universe will catch you.  It’s true.  I left my steady job with a few prospects.  Those prospects turned into contracts, and the networking time (and hard work) is paying off.  So is the leap of faith that it would all work out.
  4. Don’t spend a dollar you don’t have to (which ties in to…) Repurpose, and simplify whenever possible. I use both sides of a sheet of paper.  I asked around (read: raided my mother’s house) to decorate the office.  I have built my site on WordPress and use Mint for budgeting right now.  I’ve found out about these things from talking with others.
  5. Have a mission statement, and a clear and understandable elevator speech.  The Leone Company’s tagline: Marketing.  Fundraising.  Community Relations.  Life.
  6. Nimble wins.  Your competitors can’t turn on a dime, but you can.  Use that!  A true advantage to being a small company here.
  7. When you decide to do something, you defeat the option not to.  Like, say, leaving your steady job, and going out on your own, perhaps?  Or taking on that new client that’s far more impressive than you ever thought you could land?  Yup, like that.
  8. Your product is hope.  For my clients, it’s hope for new dollars, stronger messaging, new partnerships … or just a little more time for their families while I do their work.

5 Resume Tips (Obvious or Not!)

A few months ago, when I gave my then-employer notice I would be leaving, they posted my position… and received floods of resumes.  I looked on, noticing obvious, glaring advice I wanted to give those who applied.

What makes a resume stand out?

  • Sending your resume in two formats: a Word document as well as a PDF.  Typefaces and spacing may be different on each computer, throwing off the well-balanced look you worked so hard to achieve.  However, do let your potentially future employer know the copy is the same (preventing them from spending time they don’t have looking for the differences), and you’re doing so to save them time.
  • Attaching your cover letter instead of simply embedding it in the body of an e-mail.  Again, spacing in e-mail is much, much different than in a Word document, causing the letter to print in a funky, funky way.
  • Cutting the clip art.  That cheesy graphic of a pen and paper won’t get you hired.  Neither will the fact that you put your name in WingDings, for that matter.
  • Keeping it short.  As in one page, possibly two if you’ve been in business for more than a dozen years.  Sometimes, less is more.
  • Sending the resume through a personal contact if you have them, or even through LinkedIn if you can detect who the hiring manager is.  Don’t be afraid to use the fact that you know someone who knows someone who knows someone to your advantage!