Knowing When to Grow

When I tell you life’s been busy, that’s an incredible understatement.  In five weeks, I spent two weekends at home, with a mix of business and pleasure occupying that time.  We’ve  named my suitcase, since she’s my constant travel companion.  (Russ decided “Victoria” was appropriate, and I decided that I was too tired to brainstorm names for a green L.L. Bean product.  Victoria it is.)

I’ve been to South Florida.  I’ve been to Vegas.  I’ve been to Amelia Island.  I’m heading BACK to South Florida again soon, with possible trips to Vegas, Cape Cod and Jersey City before the summer’s over.

I’m not complaining.  As far as travel plans go, there are far, far worse places for conferences and birthday celebrations.  But ultimately, I’m looking forward to having a clear agenda for a few weeks in a row.

But I have realized, thanks to a recent post by Ali Brown, that it was time to ask for help for The Leone Company.

I’m excited to be working with a few different people, growing The Leone Company in a way that, six months ago, I wouldn’t have dreamed possible.  I have someone helping with administrative work and research, a brilliant marketing strategist assisting with projects I know are her personal strengths and another person assisting with a community relations and outreach project.  It’s an exciting time to be a business owner.

The best part?  All three of these wonderful players were already within my network.  One is a former intern from my days with the Florida Film Festival, the other two women I had met and come to admire over the past seven years as a Central Florida resident.  We’ve kept in touch, over a glass of wine or a cup of coffee, and, when I knew it was time to grow The Leone Company, I knew exactly who to reach out to.  As I have mentioned before, I never stopped networking… and neither did they.

And being able to contract out pieces of projects, or just the research that needs to be done to do a project WELL, is just the thing that is going to allow me to take on more clients and grow the business.  Because, as Gini Dietrich so brilliantly put it, I need to remember to remember to take time from working IN the business and put aside time to work ON the business.

And I’m thrilled to be growing with a great team.

Birthdays, Beaches and Brand New State-of-Mind

I started writing this blog post while facing the ocean last weekend.  With no internet connection, I was thrilled to be able to get back to a bit of writing for my blog, neglected with the daily needs of fantastic clients.  While that’s a great problem to have, I’d broken the cardinal rule of working ON the business, not just IN the business.

I started writing from Amelia Island, to be exact. Other than the fact that I’d spent the weekend with a few extraordinary ladies, who utilize powers I can’t even fathom possessing, what you need to know about Amelia Island is this:

It is one of my mother’s favorite places in the whole world.

My stepfather, a loving, caring, brilliant man (and marketing genius) who has treated me as his own daughter for more than half of my life, reserved this very penthouse (and, therefore, oceanfront balcony) as our escape from reality. The weekend was reserved for my mother and her friends; she says that she considers me one of her very BEST friends, which is how I came to find myself listening to the waves.  Henry joined us on Monday, making the drive with my grandmother, their suitcases… and an extra bag just for her wrinkle creams.  When you’re 87, you, too, can have an entirely separate bag just for wrinkle creams.

And we did all of this for one simple reason.

My mother’s birthday.  She’s forbidden me from telling most people how old she is, although, between us, it may just rhyme with schmixty.

And so, in honor of my mother’s birthday, I forced myself to take a deep breath and think about exciting things for the future.  As I waited for Carla, Joan and Patti to return from their day of facials, haircuts and shopping excursions to Chico’s, and for my mother to rise from her mid-day birthday nap, I’m grateful I made the three-hour drive and stepped away from an internet connection for a few days.

I received clarity on my next steps with The Leone Company from these extraordinary entrepreneurs… and I got back to a calm place that had long since fallen to the wayside.  Any small business owner can relate, I’m sure.

I’m excited to be back home, rejuvenated, centered and ready to improve this year.

I’m excited to have spent time with some of the most inspirational ladies I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing.

And I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t excited waking up to the sound of the ocean.  And that Swedish massage.

How Do You Define Your Identity?


I love superheroes.  Perhaps it’s because I grew up stepping on my younger brother’s Batman figures.  Perhaps its because my cousin’s oldest son wholeheartedly believed, at the age of two, that his father looked just like Superman.  (For the record, while he does have dark hair and flies…planes, John is not Superman.)

As an adult, I notice their abilities to keep their two identities completely separate.

Often, as an entrepreneur, small business owner, large business owner or, honestly, just someone who adores his or her job, we wrap our identities into our careers.  (Ali Brown does a fantastic job of discussing the subject here.)  For years, I was “Mara Shorr, Radio Producer,” “Mara Shorr, Fundraising Producer,” “Mara Shorr, Director of Development and Community Relations” and so on.  And now, indeed, “Mara Shorr, President of The Leone Company.”

When I started The Leone Company, I had a goal I wasn’t sure I could accomplish.  I wanted to represent “The Leone Company” when I was out on business, but represent “Mara Shorr” when I was persuing activities that relate to my personal life.  For example, at networking events, business meetings and strategy sessions with clients: Mara Shorr, President of The Leone Company.  Grocery shopping, wine with friends and dog park trips: Mara Shorr, Lover of Wine, Dogs and Friends.

The more I have attempted to keep the two “Mara Shorrs” separate, the more I realize this may not be possible.  After all, potential clients and opportunities for business are always just a conversation away.  At the grocery store, over wine and at the dog park.

I am, after all, the proud daughter of a father who is known for never having met a stranger, a man with the gift of gab.  It’s been a successful strategy for him, as even when he’s out with my stepmother, a brilliant doctor, playing poker, they meet potential new patients holding the hand next to them.  It’s not abnormal for my stepmother to examine a stranger’s skin right then and there, handing them a business card.  And then receiving a follow up call scheduling an appointment at the office the following day.

My biggest strength, and what sometimes turns into my biggest weakness, is my ability to build strong relationships.  Relationships with family, with friends, with clients and with potential new supporters for said clients.  I enjoy constructing new way to work with the people I admire, including some of my closest friends.  But, does doing so blur the lines between personal and professional identity?

I believe, more and more, that while it’s healthy to have two separate identities, chances are high you’ll have to quickly transition from one identity to the other, acknowledging a potential new client from someone you just met at the grocery store… and knowing when to show a bit of yourself in a business relationship.

I welcome your thoughts: how have you handled your two identities?  Do you believe you should have two… or perhaps more or less?

(And in case you were wondering, this past Halloween, I was absolutely a rockin’ Batman.)

This Week: Guest Posts at i.seeKissimmee!

If you’re wondering where I’ve been this past week, that’s easy.

You can find me at

Having heard from a good friend, Sarah Sekula (@wordzilla), months ago that the Kissimmee Convention and Visitors’ Bureau welcomes guest bloggers each weekly, I was thrilled to have been accepted to write for them.  You’ll find posts about the Florida Film Festival preview party, happy hours on Park Avenue, and a great upcoming series on a few of historic downtown Kissimmee’s offerings.

Wander over and check it out.  But come back soon for more posts here.

If you’re interested in my writing a guest post for YOUR blog, feel free to contact me at  After all, collaboration is better than competition!

New Year’s Resolutions: Vitamins, Dishes, Lists and Happiness

Almost everyone I know has New Year’s resolutions.  Before she had her daughter, in fact, my friend Lyndsay, used to have a series of them which she grouped by category and then deadline.  If you know Lyndsay, believe me, this makes sense.

In fact, this blog was the product of a 2011 New Year’s resolution, before The Leone Company even existed, when Heather Whaling at let me know that, like, Nike, I should “Just do it!” and get blogging already!

And so, more than a week into the new year, I’m laying mine out there.  Hold me accountable, please:

  1. Always put my dishes in the dishwasher before going to bed. (Dad, you’d be ashamed at the piles that we woke up to some mornings!)
  2. Take my vitamins every night.  (Yes, sometimes I count chewable Airborne tablets as my vitamins for the day.)
  3. Always work with clients and projects that make me happy. (Check out that rockstar list of The Leone Company’s clients here.)
  4. Keep a daily, running “To Do” list that, each day, must have items that have been crossed off.

The clients? This is more to keep me on track. I’ve been fortunate to work with a number of wonderful clients through The Leone Company this year, ranging from fundraising to community outreach to marketing projects.  Even contracts that have ended did so on a high note, and something I pride myself on.  Going into the new year, I always want to keep a focus on this.

The “To Do” list? It’s working out well!  Each day, I start out with a freshly printed list (on the reverse side of previously used paper, of course!).  A clean list makes me feel like I’m not bringing yesterday’s baggage into the next morning.  Each list has four categories:

  1. To Do: The Leone Company. (Remember my post about Dedicating Time For Company Growth?  Those are the items on this list.  Updating my website.  Working on potential new clients.  Blogging.  )
  2. To Do: Insert “Client Name” here.  Each client has their own list.  This gathers all of the social media notes, random thoughts I had in the shower, phone calls to return and tasks that require an action item in one place.
  3. To Do: Errands. Taking client packages to the post office.  Picking up dry cleaning.  And yes, even returning two lampshades to Lowe’s because, well, why not just buy three and decide on your favorite at home? (Don’t judge me.  Or my dishes.  Or the fact that I have the vitamin habits of a five-year-old.)
  4. To Do: Personal. You know what goes in this list.  Really, just send your cousins’ holiday gifts already!

After trying apps and other electronic options, I’ve found a hard copy of the list just makes me happier. But I’m always up for new things!

What are your resolutions this year? Send me a note, a tweet at @marashorr or leave a comment below!

This week, I’m a guest blogger at, the website for the Kissimmee Convention and Visitors’ Bureau.  Check it out!

Quoted in Fox Small Business

It’s always exciting to see your name in “lights.”  And by “lights,” I mean the press from a national outlet’s website.

This past week, the Fox Small Business article I had been interviewed for back in July was published.   (Yes, July!  True patience on my part while natural disaster stories trumped this article.)  The topic: what every small business needs to know about making their sponsorship dollars work for them.

The article discusses what makes an event “sponsor-worthy,” what a small business should do to take full advantage of their sponsorship dollars, how to examine ROI and more.

Others have asked me how I came across the lead.  Although I do have a few fabulous writer friends with national credits behind them (like Sarah and Ashley, for instance), this article in particular was completed thanks to the free press lead service HARO. (Want more information on HARO?  See my previous blog post here.)

I follow them daily, or three times each day, as the each e-mail comes out, and make sure to not only comb each lead for possible ways to integrate The Leone Company, but also make a habit out of sending along leads to clients, friends and peers.

When a strong fit comes up, I make a point to send my complete input along to the writer, pitching them only the story they’ve noted.  If they want more information, they’ll be sure to ask.

Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below. What do YOU think makes an event worthy of sponsorship?  What pitch story makes you proud?

Don’t forget to pass this blog along… or subscribe if you haven’t already.

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!

A “P&P” Kind of Day

One thing incredibly obvious to anyone who has ever met me: I’m insanely close with my cousins.

Call each other several times a week (from three to four different states), have an annual Ladies’ Cousins’ Weekend, bridesmaids in each other’s weddings, pick pumpkins together kind of close.  I know that for some families, once the generation reaches adulthood and moves out onto their own, the close relationships “forced” upon us by our parents fade into family reunion pleasantries.

Not us.

The strange things is that we all lead incredibly different lives: the youngest turned 21 yesterday (HAPPY BIRTHDAY, RACH!), one is a high school Spanish teacher (and community theater actress) getting married this December, one proudly earned her MBA and is a stay-at-home mom of three amazing boys and one is the owner of Sassy Sweet Treats, a baked goods company that sells the best Chocolate Chunk cookies you’ll ever taste.

And this “Cookie Cousin” (with the awesomely tall bangs in the first photo and sitting to my right in the second) is who I’m thinking of as I post this blog.

Each morning (or perhaps four mornings each week), Jennie and I send a text back and forth, or, if we’re feeling in need of a bit more inspiration, a phone call, with this message: “Wishing you a P&P kind of day!”

P&P stands for Positive & Productive.

As the owner of a small business, those are two things that can make or break your day: not staying positive and losing productivity.  And, as the owner of a small business, things can sometimes get in your way.  A client doesn’t meet deadline.  Payments are late.  Meetings take far longer than you’d planned.  Or, well, this photo from Jennie late Monday morning…

But here’s my advice: Find your “Jennie.”  Find that person who wants to see you succeed, who you want to cheer for, who understands what you’re going through and will help cheer you on when one “P” slips.  Someone you can laugh with, someone you can share fantastic news with and someone who wants to share fantastic news with you.

It makes your day a whole lot better.

So, I ask: Who is your “Jennie”… your P&P Partner? 

Dedicating Time for Company Growth

Several months ago, most likely through on a recommendation from a fellow friend in the industry, I came across Spin Sucks, Gini Dietrich’s blog, coined as “Professional Development for PR and Marketing Pros.”  Instantly, I was hooked.  I subscribe and read it daily, and even found myself discussing her blog posts with fellow PR friends like we knew Gini personally.  (Okay, mainly, my friend Christina.)

But lately, one of Gini’s posts, “Working On Your Business, Not In It,” has me thinking: I need to be focusing more time on building my business while not dedicating less time to my clients.  My blog posts don’t come as frequently as they used to; there’s no good excuse for my having gone three weeks since my last post.  My website needed a bit of tweaking, things that, a month after they’d been posted, looked a bit “off” to me.  You know, a bit of light housekeeping that will make all the difference.  And maybe, just maybe, I might get around to actually using my Twitter account again one day.  (It’s @marashorr, in case that day happens soon!)

As I set out to do more, I would love suggestions.

What would YOU like to read about?  How would YOU love to see The Leone Company grow?  Feel free to leave a comment below.  

And remember… if you love this blog (which will go back to regular postings now!), send it along to a friend.  Repost it on Facebook.  Encourage your friends to sign up!  (I’m happy to pass along the favor in the future 🙂