Thursday, January 26, 2012

It starts with You!

We are a month into a new year, and many of the blog topics, *mine included
 Are yammering at you to set goals, whether or not you have any interest in doing so, or perhaps you are stuck with where to begin?

When we get stuck, its time to start at square one.  Start with you.

To thine own self be true:
To share a personal experience, these words didn’t really ring true for me until I gave myself the gift of living alone.  At that time I wasn’t happy about a relationship ending, and not feeling good about myself. As I was  packing up a box in my home, I knew I also had some personal housecleaning that needed to be done.
  I got a dry erase board and hung it in my kitchen and started writing out a plan to change how I was looking at things.  You can use a pad of paper, which works just fine, and is much easier to carry around.

Mind your Ps & R’s?

Growing up you may have heard the saying “mind your P’s & Q’s”- It’s an old term that originated in the pubs.  Mead and Ale were served in pint & quart containers, hence the P- for Pint & Q- for quart.
I have two P’s and two R’s that in today’s world are important for each of us to be mindful of.

When your making a commitment with yourself there is no middleman, no special equipment or tools needed, only the simplicity of being honest with yourself. (it’s ok, no one is watching). Allow yourself to check you P’s and R’s

On your pad of paper list these categories as column headers:

Potential   Pitfalls      Reflection      React

Under each column, you’re going to look back over your year and list as many things that resonates with you. I have included some idea’s and thoughts for you to consider when moving through each category:

Potential:  Each of us has limitless potential, what are your strengths /gifts and are you utilizing them to be your best ability?
-Good at organizing?
-Love to talk to people?
-Likes to drive, plan routes
-Incredible cook?
-Good at photography?
 Ultimately where do you want your skills to lead you?

Pitfalls: What are the problem areas for you?
 Are you bad with money?
Are you a terrible organizer?
To you have a short temper?
 Trouble communicating well with your colleges and loved ones
Are there area’s where you need some additional training, or development?

Reflection: Think back over the past year, list major events and  individuals that you met.  You will be surprised when you scroll through your iPhone or Android iCalendar, you’ll come up with names, and recall situations where you met someone significant or attended a event

React- How did you respond to individuals and react to situations this past year? Did you burn any bridges? Or did your network  grow?  You cannot be responsible for the outcome of all situations; however, you are always responsible for how you react going forward to help facilitate communication.  And where it’s appropriate, accept responsibility and make amends when you messed up!

I usually walk around with the written list with my 2R’s & 2P’s that I add things to as I think about them. At the end of the week, I have captured as much information as I can shake loose.

  It feels like trimming back the garden, the more honest with yourself you are, clearing away the unwanted trimmings and undergrowth the better growing season you have to look forward to.

Share a success you have had with your personal “gardening” in the comment section below

Tamra Engle is a independent  business strategist based in the S.F. bay area she is available for private consultations to help you develop your creative project or business. You can read more about her and join her mailing list at 

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Growing our musical business- Coyote Grace interview

               Coyote Grace photo: by Libby Bulloff 2011 (c)

We often get so focused on what is in front of us, we don’t stop to savor the successes that have occurred along the way. I wanted to check in with musical friends and former clients Coyote Grace to share in their own words what tips and  secrets they use to support  their  growing musical business:
Key to Interview:
TE: Tamra Engle
CG: Coyote Grace
MTC=Michael Connolly

TE: Your music offers listeners the roots of down home Americana with a bit of a twist. To listeners who have never heard of CG how do you describe your musical style:

ING: This question is probably every artist’s least favorite question, but I’ll try to have fun answering it:  Imagine Gillian Welch and James Taylor have a one-night stand. Then, the unplanned kid is adopted by Indigo Girls, has crazy cat-lady Joni Mitchell for a nanny, and grows up playing with the neighbor kids, Nickel Creek. Eventually, it falls in love and runs away to elope genderbendy heart-throb, Girlyman.  That bastard lovechild is Coyote Grace.

TE: Are there any  “little known secrets” about the CG family that folks might not know that you don’t mind sharing?

ING: We started as a sweet heart duo. A lot of our fan base may not be hip to the fact that we are no longer romantically involved, but the chemistry and history is still there. We are still best of friends and family to each other. Another little known fact is that our great friend and long time musical collaborator Michael Connolly has been in the wings and behind the scenes since the band’s beginnings. A man of many talents, we are honored to have him as a full time band member now (and in on this interview as well!).

TE: You began your career as buskers in Pike Place Market in Seattle in 2004, and recently you completed tours with the Indigo Girls and Girlyman. What unexpected lessons did you learn from working with these bands that have helped you develop your creative business?
ING: Touring with the Indigo Girls and Girlyman has given us the opportunity to attune our stage show for bigger venues and larger crowds -  from longer more involved sound checks to appealing to a crowd of hundreds as opposed to a packed pub.

Joe: Also, we’ve learned to not make fun of the sounds guys.  They are      god.

MTC:  Lessons of the road: It’s hard to keep up with a van driver that sleeps all day and drives all night. We are our own roadies.

TE: I understand you broke record sales for a opening band touring with the Indigo Girls?  Congratulations! Were you prepared for the increased demand of your merch inventory?  If not how did you handle it?

ING: We had reinforcements in the inventory department at home - aka MOM and DAD.
Joe: One time, we ran out of credit card slips and went to a Home depot to see if they had any on hand. That huge corporate store didn’t have any, but the hot dog vendor guy outside did.
MTC: It was his last day working there, so he freely gave them to us. Even though they were covered in hot dog grease, we were happy to take them.

TE: It is a really tough time economically & personally for artists establishing and growing their music business- Have you have to change how you do things as a result of the economic climate?

JOE:  Not really. The biggest impact we’ve seen at our level of the music industry is that quite a few of the venues in our circuit are closing. We’ve been able to find shows elsewhere, but it’s sad to see these sweet places go.

TE: What is the most important lesson you have learned about building the CG music business that prepared you for touring with larger touring acts.

ING:  Showing up is half the battle. Just keeping at it when others started to give up life on the road has seriously contributed to our success.

MTC: In 2008, we played a single show opening Indigo Girls in Seattle, and after that, we didn’t know what the next step would be. Two years later, Amy & Emily asked us to do a string of 3 tours with them all over the country, which was a slow but natural progression from playing that first show with them.

JOE :  But during that 2-year gap, we just kept doing what we do - playing shows, increasing our fan base in different cities and writing new songs till the right opportunity presented itself. They knew we were still out there and the buzz about us was growing in lots of grassroots communities.

TE: It seems like you are always on the road touring nationally.
Keeping balance in relationships  & routines is pretty hard when your on the road. Do you have tricks that you use to help you stay healthy and centered day to day?

Joe : Emergen-C emergen-C emergen-C  and try to get enough sleep!

ING: Small routines, no matter how trivial they are, help provide a sense of familiarity when you wake up in a different place every day. I bring my loose leaf tea and travel mug. And the nightstand beside whatever random bed I’m sleeping in looks exactly the same each night.

Joe: Yeah, I bring my house slippers on tour.

MTC: Knowing coffee will happen in the morning keeps me from feeling homesick.

ING: We also try and make sure our tours are no longer than 2 weeks because we really value home time and having a balance between home and tour.

TE:  Thank you for sharing your tips for growing your creative musical business.
Readers, we would love to hear what tips and tricks do you use to help you keep balance in your relationships and routines in the comment section below.
COYOTE GRACE: Backstage rehearsal w/ Indigo Girls and Julie Wolf
Video used by permission via: Coyote Grace

Buy this terrific CD!   

LINK: to video of green room jam w/ Indigo Girls

Picture Coyote Grace –4 © 2011 by Libby Bulloff.

LINK: to video of green room jam w/ Indigo Girls
Picture Coyote Grace –4 © 2011 by Libby Bulloff.
Video & Link used by permission Coyote Grace 2011

Thursday, January 12, 2012

"Why" did you do it?

Are you so caught up in “what” your doing, 
that you are forgetting to communicate  "why" you do what you do?

Let’s imagine the product you make is a casual shoe that is made from used bicycle tubes and tires. You don't just make shoes, you are someone who cares about your environment, and the waste we human beings create.

Suddenly, you have identified your niche market and are  able to connect with other green consumers who, like you,  are committed to reducing waste by purchasing a re-purposed product, as well as outdoor lifestyle avocates, cyclist, and triathletes.

Being able to express the deeper meaning of “why” you are doing something allows your business to be ready for product growth. You can now very clearly identify and more importantly create a connection with your customers who are purchasing your products. Using their feedback create innovative new product offerings.

If you have not already done this,  The first step to getting started  is writing your mission statement.
If you wonder whether you need a personal or business mission statement.
I encourage you to do both, starting with your personal version. Then, write about the business.  Don’t be surprised that they are different.

A good mission statement should explain clearly and concisely in a paragraph why your business exists, and what it hopes to achieve in the future. It articulates the business’s  character, its values, and its work.

2012 is the Year of the Dragon, who's characteristics are  Artistic, Innovative, Powerful. 
Have you written the mission statement for your business? Share it with us in  the comments below, or if you need help getting started...

 Tamra Engle is a independent business strategist based in the S.F. bay area she is available for private consultations to help you develop your independent creative business, You can read more about her at  you can email her at  

Shoe Bike:

Friday, January 6, 2012

Your customers Rain or Shine!

What’s the best way to increase your bottom line?  Know and grow your customer-fan base.
Understanding who you are, and who your “market” is key to that success.

Today, we are going to take a look at the difference between Mainstream and Niche markets.   

Mainstream Market- Are products and services that are high demand items with a lower price point.
 Niche Market focuses on a more narrow demographic within that group, with a highly specialized market and higher price point.

I wanted to showcase some fun examples of some highly successful business's using Niche Marketing here in the SF Bay area.

The Market:  High End Foodies   
The Product: Gourmet Ice Cream

You are  hard pressed to find American’s who don’t love Ice Cream.
 Most of us probably even  have a pint or two of our favorite Hagen daz or Ben and Jerry's in the freezer. 
My lactose intolerant friends seek delicious options within the Sorbet or  Gelato offerings.
Over the past couple of years, the economy has continued to tank, however, there is a growing market of high end foodie  consumers that  regardless of the weather, which in the bay area is often overcast and cool temperatures. You will find lines of customers wrapped around the block awaiting a scoop, dish, or take home pint of the rich creamy goodness of Gourmet Ice Cream made from fresh, organic, locally produced ingredients!

I have focused on a couple of examples that are local favs:

Fenton’s Old School Creamery  - Dialing into the Old School vibe when you were a kid,  Grown up foodies bring the family and favorite dates year round to this Home foodie hangout.
‘Scream Sorbet- w/ flavors like Thai basil w/ Coconut, Strawberry shortcake, Dark & Decadent Chocolate Peanut butter and the purest Pistasio you could hope for -   $10 pint

Tara’s Organic Ice Cream-  Focusing on all organic ingredients- They don't mind if you don't live locally, you can order 4 pints and have it Fed Ex’d to anywhere in the US. For $54.00 about the same price as their competitors!

Product sold directly to retail outlets:
Jeni’s Homemade (made in ‘their kitchen) - I discovered them  at Market Hall in the  Rockridge shopping area of Oakland.  My selection was  Sweet potatoe w/ Torched Marshmellow.    Delicious Decadence to parlay some holiday flavor.  A pricy but delicious   $12 a pint, that I will be going back for more of.

Rain or shine these businesses have customers lined up for their product, on one particularly chilly 48 degree day, I noted they were able to sell ice cream to Eskimo’s!  Understanding your customers, and what they want regardless of the weather is keeping these businesses thriving, Does your business have a connection like this with your customers? Do you sell direct to consumer, or have relationships with a retail or distribution chain?   if not, now is the time to take a look at your marketing strategy.

Do you have a favorite independent business that is successfully utilizing Niche Marketing?  Tell us about it in your comment section below.


'Scream Sorbet:
Tara's Organic:
Jeni's Homemade: