My Remarks At Indie Business Revolution: Portland

These are my prepared remarks for tonight's event. I wish everyone reading this could be here, but since that's not possible, I wanted to give you a flavor for what fun we are going to have and let you know that I hope to see you at a future event when I come to a town near you! The headings are used here to break up the text and make it easier for you to skip directly to what you might be interested in.

Good evening! I am so excited that you joined me here this evening. I'm Donna Maria Coles Johnson, the founder and CEO of IBN and I am here to have a good time with you! Thank you for joining me here tonight at the lovely Bay 13 Restaurant in the Pearl District of Portland. This is a beautiful setting and I want to acknowledge Ginger who helped me put everything together.



I want to thank our sponsors this evening first of all. Essential Wholesale is the world's largest supplier of naturally derived cosmetics bases. Led by husband and wife team Dennis and Kayla Fioravanti, the company has set a new standard for innovation and service to small business owners that is simply unsurpassed. Essential Wholesale is headquartered right here in Portland, and Kayla is of course one of our speakers this evening.

Also, Stratus Insurance Services in American Fork, Utah, brokers the only products liability insurance in the nation that is specifically designed to serve small and independent cosmetics businesses. At my urging, Stratus last week expanded coverage for IBN members who make cakes, cookies, candies and similar confectionery items. (Learn more about the program at this link.) It is expected that they will expand the programs into parts of Canada over the course of the next several months.

Kayla Fioravanti is the co-owner of Essential Wholesale and a remarkable cosmetics formulator and entrepreneur as well. She is known for her unique style of encouraging women and inspiring them to pursue their dreams. I am also delighted that Monique Hayward, author of “Divas Doing Business: What the Guidebooks Don't Tell You About Being a Woman Entrepreneur,” is here. From January 2005 to July 2009, Monique company owned and operated the award-winning Dessert Noir Café & Bar in Beaverton.

I will share more about our speakers a little bit later.

Spread The Love

As you know, I am a firm believer in sharing information. That's why I carry my camera, an audio recorder and a video recorder everywhere I go, and tonight is no exception.  I like to spread the good news about women like you who are pursuing your entrepreneurial dreams and offering products and services that make the world a better place.

As you mix, mingle and enjoy the food, I hope you don't mind it I snap a few photos and maybe even get a video or two from you about what you do and why you are here.

You can Tweet while you're here as well, and I'd like to encourage that. Share photos and insightful resources and tips that you receive.

Schedule For the Evening

Now to 7:00 – meet, eat, greet, open networking, introductions
7:00 to 7:20 – opening remarks and introduction of speakers
7:20 to 8:30 – Q&A and discussion
8:30 to 9:00 – more networking, closing, sharing of “burning questions and answers”

Ice Breaker

You all received a small colored note cards when you arrived. Some are blank and some have a name. If you got one with a name, it's your job during our open networking time to find that person and  make her acquaintance.

I will ask you to introduce each other later, sharing each other's business names, what you do, and also one burning question each you would like someone to shed some light on tonight. This will allow the speakers to focus their remarks and also make it easy for you to share what you know with others. Use the card to write down your short introduction.

You also received large white cards. These are for taking notes and recording the resources shared with you tonight. At the end of the evening, I will collect them, make copies and forward them to everyone here. This way, everyone will have everyone else's notes. It's a great way to share information and live out the belief that “a rising tide lifts all ships!”

So, let's meet, eat and enjoy a time of open networking! Don't forget to use your small cards so you can introduce the person you find and vice versa. We'll pick up with introductory remarks and speakers at 7:00!

Donna Maria's Introductory Remarks

I know that there are a million other things you could be doing right now, but I know that you prioritized this event for a reason. Oh yes, you want some good food and you want to connect with other women — nice people who are pleasant and get you out of the house for a while.

But I also know that you are here because you want to build a better business, a more profitable business. One that allows you to plan for your future and the future of your family as you also pursue your passion of providing products and services that help other people be successful.

I want to make sure that you don't leave this place tonight without collecting information that moves you definitively toward that goal. And we have two extraordinary women here today who I know can will deliver the goods to make that happen.

I'm going to introduce them to you in a moment but first, I want to share with you 3 reasons why this time in our history, as we progress toward a new year of en economy that for all practical purposes has been in recession for at least two years, presents an incredible business opportunity for everyone in this room.

  1. Uncertainty Creates Opportunity. In times of uncertainty, everything is up for grabs. Our economy has been shaken to its core. The fantastic decline of the housing market, rising unemployment rates and the downfall of greedy corporate executives has forced each of us to question and reevaluate not only how we perceive of the world, but also how we respond to it. This process is ongoing, as are the economic changes we are now experiencing.

    When you change because you must change, and not only because you want to change, your change is that much more profound. Your senses are heightened and your awareness of the truth and consequences of everything you do propels you to push forward toward opportunities that create the kinds of positive and lasting consequences you want to experience.

    Uncertainty creates opportunity.

  2. Opportunity Leads To Innovation. Never before has there been time when so many people want to start a business at the same time as they need to start a business at the same time as they actually have a real opportunity — thanks to new and digital technologies — start a business.

    In a sense, this perfect storm, if you will, of need, possibility and desire forms the platform for the success and profitability of every business that starts today. What they create is a mindset that simply will not take “no” for an answer. A mindset that views every obstacle as a challenge to rise to the occasion. To simultaneously live and compete with your neighbor. To use each other. To sharpen each other.

    A few hungry and determined women on a mission, even if those missions overlap and share similar characteristics, force every person to rise above mediocrity. To take the bull by the horns. To build a better mousetrap if you will.

    In a a word, to innovate beyond what seems possible at first glance.

    Opportunity leads to innovation.

  3. Innovation leads to profitability. To innovate means to create the next new thing ahead of it's time. Steve Jobs does it with digital lifestyle products. Lush does it with cosmetics. Ugg does it with boots. Wal-mart does it with low prices.

    In each case, the companies not only take the present wants of its customers into account, but actually defines their future needs.

    Apple knew that information was more important than computers and processors, so he responded to customer needs for computers in a way that also literally created the demand that information be transportable. In so doing, he not only filled a need, but created one.

    Likewise, Lush began making cosmetics that contain pretty much the same ingredients as all other cosmetics. But they make them by hand and package them in containers that tell buyers who made each product and when. Not only does this satisfy consumers' desire for cosmetics that enhance personal appearance and build confidence, but it also actually helps create the demand for similar products.

    How many of you know first hand that your customers buy your products in large part because they know you actually make them?

    When you listen to the whispers of your customers, follow their conversations, meet and talk with them on a regular basis, then you can innovate naturally. Why? Because the literally tell you what to do!!

    Kayla at Essential Wholesale manages an innovative product testing program she runs through her blog. Customers (or anyone) gets free products in exchange for providing honest feedback about those products. The company uses this feedback to innovate and make the product better. When the product launches, the chances of it being profitable have improved exponentially simply because Kayla and her team listened. They used information to make changes that made the products more appealing. They took things to the next level, and in so doing, actually created the next level.

    Innovation leads to profitability.


So there you have it: uncertainty, innovation, profitability.

We are all experiencing the first of those.

Let's use our time together tonight to inspire and encourage one another to experience the other two as well.

At the end of the evening, I will invite you to share your impressions about how well this event delivered on the promise I made to host an event that would help you make your business more profitable.

Introduction of Speakers

Monique Hayward is President and CEO of Nouveau Connoisseurs Corporation, which she founded in April 2004.  From January 2005 to July 2009, Monique's company owned and operated the award-winning Dessert Noir Café and Bar in Beaverton, Oregon. Monique was selected as a winner in the 2008 Make Mine a Million $ Business program, a collaboration between Count Me In For Women's Economic Independence and Open from American Express. A native of New York City who also spent part of her childhood in Columbia, S.C., Monique has an MBA in marketing from Case Western Reserve University and a BA (magna cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa) in journalism from the University of Maryland College Park.

Kayla Fioravanti is the co-founder and co-owner of Essential Wholesale, the world's largest supplier of naturally derived cosmetics bases. Kayla is an aromatherapist and the companies chief cosmetics formulator. She has single-handedly created literally thousands of cosmetics, from the most delicate of facial creams to the heartiest of scrubs for calluses and dry skin. Kayla and her husband supervise dozens of employees and contractors and serve small businesses all over the world. Three times named one of America's 5,000 fastest growing privately held companies by Inc. Magazine, Essential Wholesale's innovative employee sabbatical and benefit programs, not to mention an employee break room that is the envy of the corporate world, make them a stand out company.

Welcome Monique and Kayla. Now, let's roll up our sleeves and get started with the juicy stuff!

(For the rest of the evening, Monique and Kayla answered questions, shared their best business tips and strategies, and everyone went home with hundreds of resources to grow their companies. I will post photos next week!

Question: What do you think of the ideas shared here? What do you think small and independent business owners must focus on to be successful and profitable?

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About Donna Maria Coles Johnson

Donna Maria is an author, podcaster, attorney, and the founder and CEO of the Indie Business Network, providing affordable product liability insurance and mentoring. Donna Maria teaches Makers and Creative Entrepreneurs how to use technology and community to build a profitable, sustainable business.