Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Beauty of Toys

Dear Readers,

There's a pile of toys sitting in my living room. A couple of Fancy Nancys, an Elmo, a Tumbles, a cow and a moose (they're a couple) and some night vision goggles. They're not mine. Well, they're mine but I don't really play with them. Other than the Elmo and the Tumbles on rare occasion.

These toys came my way via various PR and brand managers who sent them upon request. Most of these toys appeared with me on a TV or web show. Some, like cow and moose, just found their way to me somehow.

The amazing thing about all this is that a year ago, I didn't know much about toys. Now, I have become an official toy expert. Not only am I a contributing editor for Toy Wishes Magazine, but I often appear on TV or online talking about the hottest toys for nieces and nephews of all ages. And I feel confident I know my stuff. Or at least I try.

Of course, there's that incredible Gifts section on SavvyAuntie.com that lists the best toys we've seen this year. Yes, it's nearing 2009 and we're already scouting for the best of the new year. And by we I mean me. Because I'm still a one-woman show. (Although after the new year, I am welcoming @savvychrista and @savvydebi as part-time interns and they are going to be a tremendous help!)

My point about my becoming a toy expert in less than a year is that if you set your mind out to do something, to be something, and if you work hard enough, you might just be able to achieve it.

I learned that when I began working at L'Oreal in 2002. The beauty industry is pretty incestuous. When I thought about getting into the industry just a few years before I landed the job at L'Oreal, a woman who had been in the industry forever told me that if you weren't 'born' into the beauty industry, it was almost impossible to get in. Beauty execs move from one company to another, or are lifers at their first. Rarely do people enter the industry after entry-level.

But I got in at a senior level.... and knew little about cosmetics other than my own passion for them. But I learned. I studied. I inquired. I went to makeup counters and watched. I read research data. I scanned the internet for cosmetics news. I dove right in. And became a beauty expert.

The toy industry reminds me a little of the beauty industry. There are a few independent brands with some winning products, but mostly there are just a few larger companies that own a significant number of toy brands - just like in the beauty industry. And just like the beauty industry, it's tough to get into the toy industry if you weren't born into it.

Both industries thrive on innovation - but true innovation is rare and fleeting. A truly innovative product has never been done before, and it often takes either a small, nimble company, or a rich mega-company, to produce and launch it. And as technology gets easier to replicate, an innovative product doesn't own a category for too long before a copy-cat comes along to steal part if its thunder.

Finally, technologies are often replicated between brands of a larger company. Just like you'll find similar technologies in mascaras across mass and prestige makeup brands, you'll notice similar technologies sweep across toy brands. For example, this year it was hard to find a toy that wasn't motorized in one way or another.

Elmo Live! by Fisher Price is the latest incarnation of our ticklish furry friend, and is really life-like. Or toddler monster-like. While a few steps above the original Tickle-Me Elmo, Elmo Live! is still a motorized plush.

Playskool, a division of Hasbro, and a wonderful Savvy Auntie sponsor, launched Kota the Triceratops, the motorized dino that little kids just love. And Playskool's Tumbles, Biscuit and Butterscotch were also favorites of kids for whom the basic plush is no longer the only option. And Tonka, another brand associated with Hasbro, has a real winner with the Tonka Bounce Back Racer which sold out quickly.

Non-tech toys also made it big this year. Bakugan, a trading card/marbles/action figure game based on the anime series of the same name, caused quite a stir among school-aged boys. And the hackysack-like Myachi, took ten years to become and over-night success.

Alex Toys, a leading crafts brand, launched it's Alex Jr baby plush baby products and I instantly fell in love with the gorgeous colors and designs. Somewhere between pastels and prime colors, the toys are really a delight to look at.

Of course, there are smaller, independant companies that I see a lot of promise for as well. Tedde - the 'un-mass' produced teddy bear company, really has an opportunity to reach an audience that is looking for a different toy to give a unique child.

Finally, companies are making great strides in developing toys specifically for Special Needs kids, or realizing that their traditional products are developmental for those kids as well.

I am eager to see what 2009 will bring for toy innovation and how the economy will shape the industry. What will be this year's Webkindz, Guitar Hero or Wii Fit? Will technology play an even greater role, or will consumers lean toward basic toys as the economy brings them back to basics at home?

I'll be attending the Toy Fair in New York in February and will have a better idea then. I'll share all the new innovations with you as I learn about them myself, here and at SavvyAuntie.com. Plus, this year I'm launching a still hush-hush way of telling you about all the latest, hottest gifts for kids. It's coming soon and I can't wait for the reveal!

In the meantime, I have Elmo and Tumbles to keep me company. And yes - having great toys does make me a very cool Savvy Auntie. Just ask my nephew and nieces. They're coming to play this week.

Auntie Melanie

PS Please join our Facebook Fan Page! There's more there!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Happy Holidays from Savvy Auntie

Dear Readers,

Thanks for being there to support me as I launched the company of my dreams - SavvyAuntie.com!

Happy Holidays!

Auntie Melanie

Happy Holidays Facebook Friends and Fans!

Happy Holidays to the Savvy Auntie Facebook Friends and Fans!

Happy Holidays Twitterati!

Happy Holidays to all my Friends on Twitter - from @SavvyAuntie!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

FOX-y Auntie

Dear Readers,

I appeared on my third segment of the Fox News Strategy Room today. The show is online-only at FoxNews.com/strategyroom daily from 9-6PM EST. I have been on the Lite Lunch nel from noon-1PM. It's kind of like The View, but we're nicer to each other. Really.

What's great about this show is that while I appear as Founder of Savvy Auntie - and often get to tell the viewers what it's all about - it's frankly just a wonderful experience learning how these segments function. We talk about pop-culture stuff - like celebrities we love to hate (I chose the entire cast of The Hills) and famous autographs we cherish (Jaclyn Smith from Charlie's Angels - which spurred a whole Charlie's angel spoof for about 15 seconds of air time). I love the banter and energy in the room. Plus - I'm meeting fantastic people which is one of the best parts.

And the best part of all? Realizing that all this exposure is coming just 5 months after the launch of SavvyAuntie.com. It truly humbles me that so quickly after introducing the Savvy Auntie brand to the world, that I create enough interest in my persona to be asked to repeatedly appear on this show. And on The 10! Show on NBC. And more to come...

The Savvy Auntie brand will grow into books, video and other media extentions. In the meantime, I am having the time of my life. I wonder what took me so long to take life into my own hands?! If I can create this type of success in 5 months... imagine what I can do going forward?!

No worries if you can't imagine it. I've been dreaming about this for years and I see it all coming true. Day by day. Lite Lunch hour by Lite Lunch hour....

If you're thinking about starting your own company...even while you keep your day job and start small...just imagine. Envision. See your dreams come true.

And work really, really hard. Be nice to everyone. And it will all fall into place.

Imagine that.

Auntie Melanie

PS - That's me, third from the right, this past Monday.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Great Press

Dear Readers,

I've been getting some great press lately. And I don't have a PR agency supporting my PR efforts, so I am very fortunate. Some have asked how I am doing it. Well, it's good to have a strong product, and a season twist (gift giving) as well as a first break on TV.

I had a PR agency helping me launch the site back in July, and they did land me a few great 'gigs,' like my initial NBC's The 10! Show and a Better.TV appearance that I recorded last week (and will appear on 12.23.08). I've managed to "up-sell" the NBC 10! Show (local 11AM show in Philadelphia) a few times and have done several Gift segments there, which are fantastic (although a bit of a schlep from NYC).

The first 10! Show appearance helped get me a great opportunity to be a Contributing Editor to Toy Wishes Magazine. This wonderful role has enabled me to have air time on WCBS in NYC and on Fox New Strategy Room just last week (a streaming online news show) and there may be more appearances before the end of the year! Thanks again, Gareb!

Of all my appearances, the Fox News Strategy Room was perhaps the most fun. I didn't have to bring a series of toys and gifts to showcase... it was just me talking on panel with smart people. We talked about the Golden Globes, Jennifer Aniston's recent 'naked' photos in GQ and toys. It was so much fun! And the best part? They asked me back again right after the show! So catch me here http://www.foxnews.com/strategyroom/ tomorrow (Monday, December 15th) at noon-1PM EST.

There is no doubt that I am very lucky. But to paraphrase Thomas Jefferson: "The harder I work, the luckier I am." I'll be writing a post soon about how the best way to achieve success is often to work hard. Very hard. Boy do I know it.

Auntie Melanie

PS - Check out my Top 10 Savvy Holiday Gifts of the Season! http://www.savvyauntie.com/link/top10holiday08

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Over the Moon

Dear Readers,

My last post - on how I am managing the milestone of talking to investors - drove a lot of emails and comments. All very positive, supportive and helpful. So thank you. I've since gotten better educated, more interest from potential investors, and a greater sense of confidence around the whole milestone.

In the meantime, I still struggle as a female entrepreneur in a male-analytical dominated world.

My friend, Patricia Handschiegel, a woman entrepreneur who never seems to sleep, is doing a series in the Huffington Post, where she is a regular contributor, on The New Power Girls. She recently asked me to weigh in on how "instinct" plays a role in my company. Naturally, there is often a difference between how men and women start and manage their entrepreneurial ventures. Women, by nature, are often more instinctual (and less analytical) than men.

And we live in a Man's business world.

It's no surprise that the original computer spreadsheet, upon which the ubiquitous Microsoft Excel is based, was developed by men. It's no surprise that the golf course is the cliche networking activity. Most CEOs are men. Most investors are men. Most people in technology - the industry in which my business is based - are men. There are fewer women entrepreneurs than men entrepreneurs.

And that's because, in my humble opinion, the cost/benefit analysis of an entrepreneurial venture is often calculated within a spreadsheet. And most women don't live in spreadsheets.

Innovation was never born out of a spreadsheet. You simply can't calculate the risk of innovation because by definition, it's never been done before. So we look at market size, growth potential, and then throw in ebitdas and three ways to 'project' the future and take the one in the middle. And we expect major success based on calculated projections.

When looking at a valuation for my company, I asked a male friend helping me flesh some things out this (fair) question: "
How can I possibly responsibly project what will happen? Aren't projections basically a guessing game?" Yes," he texted back immediately, "But no one can guess as well as you."

I don't like guessing. I like envisioning. I like setting tough goals and meeting them. For example, my plan was to look for a literary agent for my children's book two months after I launched SavvyAuntie.com. Thanks to Chris Webb, a Twitter friend, I found my agents two weeks after I followed up on my plan.

When I worked in the non-profit world 12 years ago, I planned to increase participation in a program that I believed - with a some major re-branding - could increase 1000x fold. Sure, I had a plan. And I set a budget. And I hired help. Still, no one believed we would make it. No one was as determined as I. But I had envisioned the success. For me it was no longer a business goal; it was reality. I don't shoot for the moon. I live on the moon and wait for everything to catch up. And we increased participation by 998%.

My boy-genius friend, Eric Kuhn, said recently: "I start at the top and work my way up." That's why he's a genius.

The truth is, business plans worry me. Not a day goes by that something doesn't change everything. Some of those things I control. Some I don't. What never waivers is the end-goal. Not matter how rocky the waters - I know what I am sailing towards.

But I know that I can't fight it. As a business owner seeking investor support, I need to speak in analytics. My new and incredibly helpful friend, Rich Caccappolo, sent me the "10 Slides every entrepreneur should have." I am going to do that now.

In the end, I live in Man's world. But that's okay because there are lots of Power Girls shooting for the moon.

See you there, girls. And yes, there will be martinis. Savvy Auntinies to be precise.

Auntie Melanie

Friday, December 5, 2008

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Monday, November 24, 2008

Investing in Me

Dear Readers,

A couple of days ago, a Follower of mine on Twitter asked me if I qualified to be nominated for the Tech Crunch Crunchies for Best-Bootstrapped Startup: For a company that has raised less than $100,000 cumulatively from individuals, angels or others. Well I certainly qualify.

Last week, someone approached me at a networking event and said that he knew about SavvyAuntie.com - and that he had heard that the founder (me) had used some inheritance money to fund SavvyAuntie.com. I had never heard my business narrative put quite that way, but yes. That qualifies.

I'm a bootstrapper - an entrepreneur who believes in her idea so much that she's willing to invest her time and her life savings to make it happen. And I have.

But now it's time to expand. I need people. People means space. Space means hardware and software. Etc etc...

And yes, there's revenue, but it's far from what I've invested in the company, and far from enough to hire anyone to help me.

So I'm in the process of finding investors.

Fund-raising and writing plans is not my specialty nor within my comfort zone. I didn't start a business because I have a passion for spreadsheets and plans. I started it because I saw a huge opportunity to fill a market gap. Sure - I have a plan. And a clear vision for how to get there. But every day - no joke - every day I learn something new that can really change the paradigm. Plans work really well to sell widgets. But online media is such a moving target, it's hard to keep up - let alone plan around it. For example, I had no idea even 6 months ago what an effect Twitter would have on the success of my company.

Thankfully, I have a number of friends and angel investors who are interested in investing in SavvyAuntie.com Inc. They understand that the potential for this company is huge - and is much larger than the website alone. Plus - the fact that within the first couple of months after launch I was already getting revenue is really impressive - even to me.

But in order to get the funding - you have to give something back in return - a piece of the company I built with some funds my late mother left me 20 years ago when she passed away, and the sweat equity of 1 1/2 years of working every possible minute of every possible day on this site.

And in order to know what is fair to offer in return for an investment, you need to know how much the company is worth today - and how much it might be worth in a few years. That's called a 'valuation.'

And today - the market is rough. Heck, Citi Bank is selling for about $4 a share. And at the same time, Arianna Huffington raised another $15-$20 million for Huffingtonpost.com. So where does my optimistic little company play in all that?

Some say that investor money will be around in February. Others say it will be a much longer wait. Some are ready to invest today.

I have to admit that this part of the process has been the most challenging to-date. There are models and financial plans and a number of things that help an investor decide on his investment. (I say 'his' because so far only men have been interested in investing.)

And there's heart and soul and talent and passion that has to be offered in return.

And no one can really give me a sense of what is really fair to everyone.

And I'm speaking with people who really know about these things - and they say it's really hard to know. Based on his generous valuation, one says not to give much away at all. Another says that one day it will be worth a heck of a lot, but today it's worth much less and to give away a huge chunk in return for cash. Some say the only way to do it is to be one of twenty to present in front of a panel of angel investors, with only two being chosen. Nothing like feeling like a circus monkey. Sorry - too busy running a company to prepare for that kind of humiliation, in my honest opinion. But for some- that's the way it works.

The good news is that I am learning a lot. And I haven't yet made any mistakes.

But I'm skating on thin ice. Good thing it's getting colder out there. Hopefully when I finally do make the decisions they will be solid - for now and for the longer term.

There's a lot I'm planning for this company of mine. And every day that passes is one day closer to fulfilling those dreams.

All this time, I've been investing in me. Now, it's someone else's turn.

Have ideas and thoughts on what I should do? Have you been in this same spot yourself? Please comment here. Or email me at melanie@savvyauntie.com.

Auntie Melanie

PS - I am looking for un-paid interns. Best if in NYC, but there are remote opportunities as well. You'll learn a lot. It's really unavoidable.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

This Show is A 10!

Dear Readers,

Earlier this week, I appeared on The 10! Show - the morning show at 11AM in Philadelphia and Delaware on NBC. It was my second time on the show and knowing what to expect really helped! What I didn't expect was for my segment to get cut from 4.5 minutes to 3 minutes as I was told just as the cameras were set to go.... and other than flubbing the Alex Jr. Round About Farm product name, I held it together.

Thanks to all the manufacturers for their efforts - as well as their internal and external PR teams.

Oh - and get ready because I'm going back on The 10! Show on December 8th with my top picks for gifts for nieces and nephews under $20!

Here's the TV spot! Enjoy!

Auntie Melanie

PS - PLEASE nominate SavvyAuntie.com in the Mashable.com Open Web Awards by November 16th! We're hoping to get nominated in the "Niche and Misc Social Networks" category (the last one on the list). Here's the link! Thanks! http://mashable.com/2008/11/05/open-web-awards-2/

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


Dear Readers,

Last night I attended a wonderful entrepreneur panel hosted by Collective-E. I've blogged a little bit about how Ladies Who Launch was one of the ways that I connected with other women entrepreneurs when I first thought of the idea for SavvyAuntie.com. Well Beth Schoenfeldt, co-founder of that company (and frankly my most favorite half), recently launched Collective-E - a collective of women entrepreneurs, along with my other friends, Katie Helmuth and Sabina Ptacin. And last night was one of their first events - and boy did it draw a crowd! I am so proud of these amazing women. SO proud!!

Now to be honest, I wasn't planning on attending. The panel of successful women entrepreneurs were moms - and the businesses they were discussing: Kidville, Skip*Hop, Patem Pads and Big City Moms, were all very mom-focused. Not being a mom, it wasn't as interesting to me as I would have preferred, but Beth is a good friend and told me I would meet great people if I attended - and I did. Beth is always right about these things and I thank her for persuading me.

But the panel was still very mom focused. There was lots of talk about how the women on the panel were stay-at-home moms looking for something to do and ended up with a very (very!) successful business. Or they were working moms that found a mommy product/service need-gap and wanted to fill it - and have! Each panel member explained how she had to balance being a mom and an entrepreneur - which I am confident is no easy task.

The other thing that these moms had in common was that they are married. One told of how she went to her husband for funding to seed the project (he was still working while she was home with the kids). Another mentioned that her husband was between jobs and starting this company together was the perfect opportunity for him. I've actually met her husband - a couple of months before I launched SavvyAuntie.com I interviewed with him for a marketing job at Skip*Hop. He's an incredibly successful serial entrepreneur, so I am sure he was welcome support and is a valuable partner. In fact, had it not been for the fact that the company's main products are diaper bags, for which I have little passion, I would have loved to work with him.

So here we had five incredible women entrepreneurs (Big City Moms is a sister team) who started their own companies, with children. But they also have husbands that support and contribute to their success. And I wonder: How many of these mompreneurs would have started these businesses without the (emotional, financial and skill) support of being married to their husbands?

I have often said that mompreneurs start businesses because they have children and auntrepreneurs start businesses because we don't. Still, even I delayed becoming an entrepreneur for years because I was hoping to have the support of marriage - which I still do not have - before I did. But in my late 30's - I realized it was time to take control of my destiny and start a company of my dreams anyway.

The good news is that I've never dated more. I guess happy people are attractive. The bad news is that I don't have the support
(emotional, financial and skill) that comes with marriage. And boy could I use a hand (to hold).

So there's no one to hug when a great thing comes about. Or when I am stressed. There's no one to bounce ideas off of. Or learn from. Or get help from. Or share experiences with. Or to be proud of me.

The mom entrepreneurs at the Collective-E event last night joked that finding ways to work with one's husband is a panel discussion all in of itself. And I don't believe having a spouse as a partner is always easy. I am sure it comes with its own set of issues.

But having a partner
to share life with makes having success that much more fruitful. I heard repeated again and again last night: "My husband and I...." "So I said to my husband..." "Our biggest mistake was that my husband and I thought..." Just having the luxury of sharing the entrepreneurial experience with a partner is something I am envious of.

At first, I wondered if these women would have started their businesses if there were single?

And then I wondered... would I have ever started my company if I had actually been married? Would I have been satisfied in just finding my love? Would I have needed to manifest this destiny if I were a wife?

And I wondered if my company would be more successful if I did have the support of a husband. What would he contribute? How would he be my other half?

But then I realized that the truth was, I never needed a Collective-Me. I just needed Me. And while I am working my tail off and have risked my life's savings on starting a business on my own, I have all the support
(emotional, financial and skill) I need. I know that because I've done it. And am doing it. I seem to be all I *needed.

Which isn't everything I've always wanted.

But it's enough for now.

Auntie Melanie

PS - Please use the comments section to tell me if marriage or non-marriage is a help or hindrance to your entrepreneurial ventures and aspirations. Men - this is for you too!

Please vote for SavvyAuntie.com in the Niche and Misc. Social Media category in the Mashable Open Web Awards! http://mashable.com/2008/11/05/open-web-awards-2/ Thanks!

*Notwithstanding all the friends, acquaintances and business colleagues who have and continue to support me. Thank you!)

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Giving Thanks.

Dear Readers,

A couple of weeks ago, I was invited to speak to a wonderful group of women at the Jewish Professional Women Initiative (JPWI) of The Associated in Baltimore, MD.

First, let me say that it was truly an honor to help this group kick off this new semester of their program. They treated me so warmly and it was truly a memorable experience.

I was asked to tell the 65 women in the audience about how I started my business, and show them how they might be inspired to move forward with their careers and entrepreneurial ventures. In preparing for my talk, I looked to this blog and compiled a short list of ideas to motivate women - or frankly anyone - to get to the next level:

1. Keep a gratitude book. Remembering all the people who have helped us every day to move forward to our next day, makes us want to continue!

2. Have lunch with someone new, even if they're not a direct business contact. You never know what might come of out it.

3. Get business cards. If you don't know the name of your new business, at least include the type of company it is with your contact information. And if you're looking for a new job or career, design one that suits the job you want (not the job you have!)

4. Talk to people who inspire you – don’t talk to people who don’t. It's the simple truth. Sometimes the people who love us most don't want us to fail, so they don't want us to take risks. They'll mention every reason they think we'll fail so that we won't take a chance on our dreams. Even their silences can silence our inspiration.

5. Ask for help. Women often don't ask for help because they don't believe they are worthy of it. You are. If you speak to someone with confidence and excitement for your idea, the person offering to help will not only give you advice, but will probably thank YOU for the inspiration. You're infectious! Remember that!

I also told the group about how our dreams tend to whisper so that no one else can hear them but us.... so to listen carefully. And reminded them, as I have said many times before, if you don't know what your dream is yet, wait for it. It's coming.

Speaking at the JPWI was a small way for me to give back to all the people who have helped me along the way. I think Giving Back is important, in whatever way you can do it. Karma rules, in my book.

Here's a list of Children's Charities We Love as part of the Savvy Auntie: Give. Thanks. campaign I am launching on Monday. Many of the charities came from Savvy Aunties who contributed their favorites. Others came from my friends on Twitter. All came from the heart. I hope they inspire you to give back this season.

Auntie Melanie

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Making Community Work

Dear Savvy Aunties,

I love the Savvy Auntie Community. I read the members' profiles and see the passion they have for their nephews and nieces and it feels great to be able to provide a platform for Aunts around the country - and the world. There are many active members on the site, but many are inactive. And while Aunties need to gauge their own Community participation, if we're all going to become Savvy Aunties, we need to connect, inspire and teach each other through making Friends, creating Groups and participating in Forums. This is not happening at the pace I was hoping for. So we're in the process of creating new tools to inspire more Community participation.

On the SavvyAuntie.com Homepage, members who are logged in, will see a number of Savvy Things They Can Do Right Now. They'll also find those same tools in the Community section. And in other places on the site. But I encourage all members to begin new Forum discussions, or reply to those already posted.

Right now there are a couple of Forum posts that should really get a response from the Community. I really hope the Community responds. Once we show how warm the Savvy Auntie community is, we can really start to benefit from the support, advice and information we get from each other.

I am always looking for new ways to make Community more effective. Savvy Aunties have so much to share and we finally have a voice! If you have ideas on how to Make Community Work, please leave a comment here. I would love to see them.

I am so excited about the new opportunities for Community on SavvyAuntie.com!

Auntie Melanie

Monday, October 13, 2008

My Toy Wishes

Dear Readers,

About a year ago, I went to my first event as "press." I was very secretive about Savvy Auntie at that point, but I was somehow able to convince the good people at Toy Wishes to invite me to their toy event at the Jacob Javits Center in New York City.

The Toy Wishes event was great for me. I got to learn about new brands and toys, as well as hear what the classics were up to. I was amazed at the innovation in toys. When I was growing up, it was all My Simon and Light Bright. And my favorite toy was the Easy Bake Oven. And I had a doll named Pebbles. She wasn't from the Flintstones - I guess I just liked the name. She blinked.

I also met a lot of cool people from the toy brands who were nice enough to help me learn about their latest and greatest toy trends. And I met some of the toy inventors, like Jacobe Chrisman from I Can Do That Toys. He's so creative!

So you can imagine my incredible surprise and honor when Toy Wishes' publisher, Gareb Shamus, asked me (ME!) to be their consumer spokesperson this year. And I was right there last Tuesday, October 7th, when Gareb announced the Hot Dozen toys for this Holiday Season. And while I was at the event, I got to to interview some of the brands about their new innovations, and even got to ask a few questions to tween stars Aly and AJ.

If all goes well, I'll be doing a lot of press over the next couple of months, helping Toy Wishes get the word out about their Hot Dozen. In the meantime, you can see them here on SavvyAuntie.com/ToyWishes. They are among the dozens of Savvy Holiday Gift Ideas I have handpicked for Savvy Aunties, uncles, grandparents and even parents!

In just a year, I immersed myself in the toy and gift industry so that I could help Aunties be more Savvy about gift giving. It's no small task. There are so many amazing toys out there. In fact, if you're on Twitter, I am Tweeting a Savvy Holiday Gift Idea of the Day everyday from now until Christmas. I hope that's useful and helpful.

Thomas Jefferson once said: "I'm a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it."

I am very lucky. But make no mistake - I am working very hard at it - for all the Aunties out there so that they can feel more Savvy about giving the best and most wanted toys to their nieces and nephews this holiday season - and rankly any time she feels like it.

At least, that is my wish.

Auntie Melanie

Friday, October 10, 2008

Three Months and Big News

Dear Readers,

Yesterday was the three month anniversary of SavvyAuntie.com! I can't thank you enough for the support! Traffic is unbelievable. We had 58,000 Unique Visitors last month (September). Wow. Considering we have not spent a dollar on advertising the site, those numbers are fantastic! Truth is - even if we did spend money on advertising, those numbers would be outstanding.

Speaking of advertisers, please help me welcome our first major advertiser: Warner Bros. Warner Brothers is promoting the Sex and the City The Movie Download on SavvyAuntie.com. I think it's a great fit for the SavvyAuntie audience. In fact, we have two great articles that relate to Sex and the City on the site: Sex and the Air Water Earth and Fire by our Auntie-Scopes Expert, Jeannine Mercurio, and What Kind of Name is Uncle Katie Anyhow? by Notes from an Uncle, Jeff Cutler.

To have an advertiser as wonderful as WB on SavvyAuntie.com is truly appreciated. They believe in SavvyAuntie.com and I hope we prove them right!

My next big advertiser is launching on October 21st. It's a bigger campaign that fits in well with our Savvy Holiday Gift Ideas holiday gift guide. It's Playskool! Yes - Playskool is going to be advertising on the site in just a few days! They have some real winners for the younger set of nieces and nephews so I am very happy to have them help make Aunties more Savvy about what the toddler and pre-school will really love this holiday season.

There is so much to be thankful for. We have great advertisers. Great traffic. And an even better future ahead... Yay!!

Auntie Melanie

(by the way - I am tweeting a Savvy Holiday Gift Idea every day, so follow me on Twitter.com/savvyauntie if you're not already. Thanks!)

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Forgive Me.

Dear Readers,

Please forgive me.

I'm not sure if I have wronged you but the Jewish New Year is coming and I'm cleaning out my guilty conscience and one way to do that is to ask for forgiveness.

So please forgive me.

Perhaps I wasted your time with a blog post that did not inspire you.

Perhaps I wrote a blog post that did inspire you and you feel slightly guilty for not moving on that inspiration.

Perhaps I have done nothing wrong... but if I did, please forgive me.

There is something about forgiveness that enables us to let go of feeling badly. It's even better to be forgiving.

Years ago, I used to walk around with anger. Colleagues frustrated me. Friends hurt me. Strangers were rude. Whatever the case, I focused too long on the issue, and not long enough on the letting go and forgiving part. Even when they didn't know they did anything wrong - I would hold onto it. Sadly.

Hanging on to anger and hurt is not healthy. And frankly, it only attracts more anger and hurt, in my opinion. I see too many people hung up on life's unfairness and been-done-wrongness that they let it rule their lives. "Someone hurt me, so I did not succeed because they made me feel badly about myself. It's their fault!" "Someone wronged me and so I am focusing my energy on wronging them back."

Whatever the case, now is the time to forgive. Let it go. Move on. Move up. Find your dream. Live your dream. Don't let anything, anyone, guilt or anger stand in your way.

There's a Jewish tradition to ask for forgiveness before the New Year so that we can start the year with a clean slate.

So I am asking you for forgiveness.

I am also asking you to ask your friends, family and colleagues for forgiveness.

And most importantly, I am humbly asking you to forgive yourself for anything you might have done to hurt yourself.

And if I'm wrong and I have done nothing wrong, or you have done nothing wrong, then please forgive me. I am sorry.

Forgiveness. It's a project.

Auntie Melanie

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Savvy Auntie's First Presentation!

Dear Readers,

I was asked by NextWeb to present SavvyAuntie.com at their Meet Up at Webster Hall in New York City this past Monday, September 15th. It was fun to do, although looks like we didn't test the sound effects on the mic well enough before. Still, people seemed to like it.

Here's a copy of the presentation.
Auntie Melanie

Friday, September 12, 2008

Happy New Year! (of sorts)

Dear Readers,

The thing about the Jewish New Year is that it follows the Jewish calendar, which means it doesn't occur on the same day every year, like let's say Christmas (December 25), Valentine's Day (February 14th) and July 4th. But it does generally take place in September. This year, the Jewish New Year, also known in Hebrew as Rosh Hashanah (the head of the year) will begin at sundown on September 29th.

Last year the Jewish New Year began on September 12, 2007. That's one year ago, today.

Earlier that day, we popped at cork over at the Syrup office as we kicked off the start of creating Savvy Auntie. Syrup is the creative agency behind the design of SavvyAuntie.com, the logo and much of the branding.

It was perfect timing. We were celebrating the start of a new year, with the start of the New Year.

And here were are, one year later. Wow.

It's just two months since the launch, and we have paying advertisers, a strong-size membership (over 1300!), traffic galor, major press, more press coming, and wonderful feedback from the Internet and Social Media communities, and of course the Auntie community.

Here's what I am busy doing:

Speaking with agents who are interested in helping me get my children's book published (It's called Auntie and Me and it's delicious!).

Meeting with Venture Capitalists and the meetings are going really well!

Working with brands to represent them on TV and other media!

Getting my Holiday Gifts Guides for Aunties locked up (I say that like I am anywhere near close to finalizing that)

Signing "insertion orders" (Those are contracts from advertisers on the site)

Confirming multiple speaking engagements.

Meeting fanstastic (FANTASTIC) people  who want to help.

Giving back as often as I can.

Oh ya, and managing the Website

I can honestly say that I am still overwhelmed. I don't know when this feeling of never doing enough soon enough is going to subside. Of course, I am so undeniably grateful for all my good fortune. I knew a year ago, when that meeting at Syrup took place, that I wanted unbelievable results.

I got them.

The site is listed on a number of sites that look at top design:


And to think, last year, on this day, I said to Syrup that I wanted to win a number of "best of" awards for design, user-interface, web strategy.

Looks like we're winning already.

It's been quite a year. Happy New Year to me. And to you. Even if you're not Jewish.

Because new beginnings are possible every day, for everyone.

And today is the start of a whole new year...

Sunday, September 7, 2008

5 Tips for Entreprenurial Students

Dear Readers,

On Friday, I addressed a wonderful group of students at the Integrated Digital Media Institute at Polytechnic University in Brooklyn, NY.  I was to show them my Website and talk a little about how I started the company and my strategy for the site.

And I did. I hope.

But what I also found myself doing, rather spontaneously, was giving these students a number of tips I think will help them as they begin to identify their first career paths and move forward toward fulfilling their dreams.

I was told by the Beth Rosenberg, who had invited me to speak to her class, that the students found my time with them inspirational. Well of course, it was they who inspired me, with their smart questions, their coming from various foreign countries (with foreign languages) to study in the US, and by their steadfastness to learn.

Still, if even one student was inspired by anything I said last week, I thought I would repeat some of those tips here. 

5 Tips for Entreprenurial Students:

1) Save for your dream. It's coming
I started my company on the small inheritance my late mother had left me when she passed away 20 years ago. This was the savings I would nuture and grow and one day, when the time was right, finally put towards my dream - whatever that was going to be. Even though there were tough times when I just moved to New York and could barely afford the makeshift room I slept in, or when I lost my job three times in two years during the early 2000's, or when there was lots of pressure to buy luxury clothing and shoes when I worked in the beauty industry, I never took a cent from that savings account. Not a penny. This savings account would fund my dreams.

So please, do not spend money on things you really do not need. Save it for your legacy. It's coming. Wait for it.

2) Be nice. To everyone.
When I first started my company last summer, I went to everyone who would lend their ear and advice. Some of those people I had not seen in years. One, my old colleague, Bernie Milan, from my days at New York Times Digital, gave me stellar advice and contacts to help move my idea forward. (In the first few days of starting a company, any and all reinforcement and support is incredibly inspiring). I thanked Bernie with all my heart, to which he replied: "Melanie, you were always nice to me."

You never know how the dots in your life will connect. People come into your life when they do for a reason. Don't be arrongant to think that people with whom you do not connect right away, are not the final connection in the future to securing what you need. Truth is - Bernie and I connected on day one when we met. But still, I am so happy he remembered me that way.

3) Be ready to help anyone at any time.
I have talked about karma a lot in this blog. As an entrepreneur, I cannot tell you how much karma has helped with the success of SavvyAuntie.com. People often ask me for help. Sometimes it's business related, sometimes, it's not. Either way, I thank them for the opportunity to help. Selfishly, I know it's coming right back to me, by just the right person, at just the right time, just when I need it. And that never fails.

4) You're not entitled to feel entitled
You've got to earn your respect. Listen before your talk. Really. Listen. Listen good and hard. There is a lot to learn out there. The minute you think you know better, or know everything, is the minute you begin to fail. Learning is the key to success. Learning is the fuel that drives inspiration. When you listen, you learn. 

5) Read
Read something that will teach you about how best to succeed in your field of choice, every day. Find blogs that guide you. Buy books that teach you. Read the news. Read. Read. Read. And bookmark the pages you want to read again. Read one business book every two weeks. Read one business blog post every day. Read one business magazine once a month. Just read. If you are blogging more than you are reading, you're not listening. You're talking. So read.

I follow these tips and have since I was a student some years ago. I can't say I've been perfect. But I've been trying. So just try it. That's probably the best tip of them all.

Now I have to run to see my little niece. She's so funny silly delicious! But more tips, including some of the business blogs I love to read, coming soon.

Auntie Melanie

Thursday, September 4, 2008

US Census Points to Increase of PANKs (Professional Aunts No Kids);

Dear Readers,

I hope you don't mind, but I have interrupted my normal blog posts to post this important press release we issued last night from SavvyAuntie.com.

Auntie Melanie

US Census Points to Increase of PANKs (Professional Aunts No Kids); SavvyAuntie.com Launches Perfectly into Growing Niche

New York, NY (PRWEB) September 4, 2008 -- An ever higher number of American women are childless, according to statistics* released by the U.S. Census Bureau on August 18, 2008. The data, which reports a significant rise over the last two years, shows that the percentage of non-moms is nearing the **50 percent mark, making the ratio of moms to non-moms in America almost 1:1.

The trend, while of strong interest to fertility experts and sociologists, also signals the opening of a new demographic segment and opportunity for marketers hoping to reach women with discretionary income and time.

With or without kids of their own, many women love children, and love indulging them," said Melanie Notkin, founder and CEO of SavvyAuntie.com, the first online resource and community for PANKs - Professional Aunts No Kids -- a term she coined. "What makes this growing segment appealing to marketers is that PANKs are in the workforce, affluent and control or influence 85% of their household purchasing decisions."

While spending some of their discretionary income to indulge their nieces, nephews, godchildren and friends' kids with gifts and activities, PANKs also have more time and money than moms for leisure, travel, beauty, fashion, as well as new homes, home improvement, cars and consumer electronics. And PANKs are listening. In just eight weeks since launch, SavvyAuntie.com has received 50,000 visits, with membership growing daily.

SavvyAuntie.com provides resources, activities, gift ideas and community for the tens of millions of women who indulge their nieces and nephews and other children in their lives, as well as themselves. "I'm an aunt to eight awesome nieces and nephews," states SavvyAuntie.com member 'Aunt Pam' in a Savvy Auntie Forum post. "Plus, I'm an honorary aunt to some of my friends' kids. I love being an aunt, it's been incredibly rewarding, fun and gets better every year....This site is a great idea. We aunties need recognition!!"

About SavvyAuntie.com
SavvyAuntie.com is the first resource and online community for Aunts -- Aunts by Relation and Aunts by Choice. With advice and expertise developed just for Aunts, along with activities and gift ideas for their nieces and nephews, Aunts can get what they need to live the Savvy Auntie lifestyle. Moreover, the Savvy Auntie Community enables Aunts to connect and share the best and most challenging parts of Aunt-hood with their Savvy Auntie friends. Dubbed "the first parenting site for non-parents," SavvyAuntie.com empowers and engages aunts with whatever they need celebrate Aunt-hood. The site can currently be found at http://beta.savvyauntie.com

*US Census Bureau Fertility of American Women: 2006
** Data reports that 45.1% of America women up to age 44, do not have children - up 0.5% from 2004.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Take 5

Dear Readers,

I was on TV last week. Like real, full-blown TV. The 10! Show - a morning show on the Philadelphia NBC affiliate - invited me in to talk about great gift ideas for nieces and nephews.

And I did. On August 26th. For 5 minutes.

Five very short minutes.

On TV.

I'm not a shy person. So I wasn't nervous about being on TV. I was more nervous about getting all the gift details right - the names, the pricing, how they work, the benefits, and finally why Savvy Aunties love them. All in 5 minutes.

But I did it. Sort of. I had to rush a bit at the end.

Still, they invited me back to talk about Holiday Gifts for nieces and nephews on November 11th.

For five minutes.

All I need is one more gig and I've got my 15 minutes of fame.


Watch it. It only takes five minutes.

Auntie Melanie

Monday, August 25, 2008

Wait for it....

Dear Readers,

Since it's Back to School season, I thought it was a good time to mention the two greatest lessons I ever learned, from the greatest woman I ever knew: my mom.

Once upon a time, a very long time ago, I was four. I was four and turning five. I was four and turning a "very important number" as I recall stating emphatically on the very day I turned five. There was something magical about the age of five for me. Perhaps it was just because it was 'bigger' than four. Or perhaps it was half a decade (although I doubt I knew what a decade was at four). Perhaps I recalled my older brother being five at one time before me, and thought that was really "big."

Whatever the case, it was winter time and I was clumsily putting on the big rubber boots that went over my shoes, as children did in Montreal, Canada, in the wintertime...clumsily because after all, I was four-not-yet-five, and I remember looking over to my much-adored mother (who always enabled my independence and did not reach over to help me less-clumsily put on my boots- exactly as I would have wanted it) and said, rather excitedly: "I can't wait until I'm five. Five is a very big number."

To which my mother exclaimed, rather disappointingly: "Don't wish your life away."

And then exactly 15 years later, I wished her life back again. And remembered never again to wish my life away. Not a year. Not a month. Not a week. Not a day. Not an hour. Not a minute (with exception of getting my teeth cleaned and other unpleasant moments with people in white coats.) I do not wish my life away. 

But I do wish I were four-not-quite-five again. Just so I could ask my mommy for help with my rubber boots. Seems like I needed more guidance from her than I thought.

And then there was lesson number two, which came about five years later, when I was not quite a teen. My mother read a poem to me, which I did not know was famous, by a poet whose name reminded me of the Holiday season, Robert Frost. The poem was....

The Road Not Taken

She made me memorize it. And I did. Never knowing why. Still, today, not knowing why my mother, who did not necessarily choose her own road less traveled, chose that particlar poem for me to memorize. But I did:

I shall be telling this with a sigh   
Somewhere ages and ages hence:   
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—   
I took the one less traveled by,   
And that has made all the difference.

Now at 10 or so, I did not know there was a life-lesson here for me. But I did fall in love with the poem too. Perhaps because it was a gift from my mother. Perhaps it was the beauty and the rythm of it. Or the frosty warmth it evoked. Or the fact that I, other that just memorizing the poem, could actually choose a road less traveled. One day. When I was big-and-not-just-ten.

As an Aunt by Choice, I sent a girlfriend's daughter a list of things to think about as she turned 16. One of those lessons was to live her dream. And if she didn't know what her dream was yet, to wait for it. It was coming.

Two years ago, I did not have the dream to create SavvyAuntie.com. But I knew I had a dream coming... and believe me, in my early mid late 30's, I was growing impatient for it to come, taking jobs I thought might be my dream job. But then I found myself year after year, job after job, taking the same road. Leading the same path.

Then one day, two roads diverged in my world: to keep the search for a job, sort of same job, different office, or forge out on my own... take the road less traveled.

My dream was before me. And I took it.

And for that very reason, there is no doubt, no moment, no week, no day, no minute that I wish my life away.

These are my lessons, for you, Dear Reader. If you find yourself wishing your work day away, take a walk. Find a woods. Begin your journey. Follow your dreams.

And if you do not know what your dream is yet, wait for it. It's coming.

And that will make all the difference.

Auntie Melanie

(Oh and PS, please vote for me to be in the Hot Blogger Calendar! http://hotbloggercalendar.com/vote-hottest-female Thanks!!)

Friday, August 22, 2008

Somebody's Knockin' on the Door...

Dear Readers,

The 2006 US Census Bureau Fertility Report, which
studies the fertility rates of women ages 15-44, was published earlier this week. This is a big deal, because up until now, we've been working off of data from 2004.

The new 2006 data states that even fewer women are having children than in 2004. In fact, the big highlight of the report is shocking: "20 percent of women 40 to 44 were childless in 2006, twice as high as the level 30 years earlier." Wow.

The data from a similar study done in 2004 stated that 44.6% of women did not have kids. This 2006 study reports that 45.1% did not have children, up 0.5% over those two years.

Neither reports include data on women 'post' fertility who are less likely to ever have children - women 45 and over.

I don't want you to think that I am celebrating childlessness. Childlessness is often not a choice for most women (Although it is for some and for those women, it's the right choice). Personally, I would love to have children. I just haven't met the right guy to have them with me yet. (He's coming, I just know he is, but he's taking his sweet time!)

All I am saying is that the data is the data. The facts are the facts. Fewer women are having children. By choice. Not by choice. Some are childless. Some are childfree. Some are waiting. Some are undecided. Some are trying. Some are too young. Some feel too old. Some are too old. Some are gay and therefore I assume less likely to have their own kids. Whatever the case, in the end, 45.1% of women 15-44, don't have kids.

Here's the "women without children" data, broken down by age range:

15 to 19 years 93.3%
20 to 24 years 68.6%
25 to 29 years 45.6%
30 to 34 years 26.2%
35 to 39 years 18.9%
40 to 44 years 20.4%

Remove the teens from the equation, and 36% of women 20 - 44 don't have kids. Again, this data does not include women 45+. And I am reluctant to exclude the teens because teens have huge spending clout and are very likely to indulge their little nieces and nephews, their little cousins, and their friends' kids - and certainly themselves! And they are looking for ways to connect with the children in their lives, just like older women are. Just because they are less likely to have kids, doesn't mean they are less likely to be loving Savvy Aunties to a child in their life.

But back to the good people at the US Census who have helped us discover we're not alone....

In 2006, the Census Bureau knocked on doors and asked women up to the age of 44 if they have children. 45.1% responded no.

In 2008, I responded with SavvyAuntie.com to give this segment, which I have dubbed PANKs (Professional Aunts, No Kids), a community of our own. And our partners - like Hasbro, FAO Schwarz, Sephora and Ford have responded. And many, many more are knocking on my door. They are trying hard to tell you that they hear you. They see you. They understand that you are not only relevant, you are the unsung family hero.

Finally, Auntie, somebody's ringing the bell!

Do me a favor, open the door, and let 'im in?


Auntie Melanie

PS - Thanks to Sir Paul McCartney and his song, Let 'im in.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Show Me Your Pretty Face!

Dear Readers,

We launched our first contest last Monday, August 18th. It's called "Show Us Your Pretty Face" and it's sponsored by Sephora.

The objective of the contest is to encourage members to upload photos of themselves, or at least a unique avatar. I was tired of seeing the same Savvy Auntie default avatar and knew that it would be more challenging for Savvy Auntie members to engage with each other in the Community, if they didn't upload a photo. And Community engagement is so vital for success.

I asked Aaron Strout, the amazingly talented man on my Advisory Board who plays the role of advising me on Community Management. Aaron had the idea for a promotion, and I had the idea to contact Cathy over at Sephora for help.

Let me tell you a little bit about Cathy. First of all, she's adorable. And a Savvy Auntie herself! Cathy contacted me after reading about the launch of Savvy Auntie just hours after we went live! She 'gets it.' After a number of wonderful emails, and an even more wonderful phone call, Cathy confessed to having to 'run.' She was late delivering 40 pink cupcakes for her little niece's birthday. And might I add, this wasn't a blood relative... just one of her many nieces and nephews from her group of friends. Cathy is truly a Savvy Auntie!

I had the pleasure of meeting Cathy when I was in San Francisco for Blogher last month. She gave me a tour of the HQ office and introduced me to a number of other Savvy Aunties who happen to work there. We had a great meeting and I am hoping that we can partner on many more creative projects in the near future.

But "Show Us Your Pretty Face" is the first. And it's a whopper of an idea! In less than a couple of days, I already see the difference it is making!

So thanks, Cathy. Thanks, Sephora. And thanks to all the members uploading your photos and unique avatars to SavvyAuntie.com. By the way, you can find fun avatars at FaceYourManga.com. These DIY avatars are all the rage! And they are also great for creating images of your nieces and nephews for your profile page!

Well cheers to our first contest! Heh - I'm already a winner!

Auntie Melanie

Sunday, August 17, 2008

I'm Learning

Dear Readers,

I have learned a lot over the last few weeks since the launch of SavvyAuntie.com.

I've learned that I'm pretty good at PR. Because of my connections in social media, I was able to create a lot of buzz around Savvy Auntie before and during launch. And when stories are published online, reporters read them, and are interested in publishing their own stories, and it goes on like that. Sometimes, huge stories just appear. Take this one from the San Francisco Chronicle on Friday. The article is about websites designed for women, and includes SavvyAuntie.com as an example. While the story is not only about my site, the value of associating my brand with brands like Glam.com and Yahoo's Shine is huge. For those of you not in PR, it's called Share of Voice. It was important to be included in this article, and we were. I am very proud.

But back to the power of social media. If you are new to my blog, you may not know that I am active on the social media platform, Twitter.com. (Follow me at Twitter.com/SavvyAuntie). Through my connections there, and through real-life social media meet ups, I've had a lot of friends who blog or host podcasts, interview me. It's been thrilling, quite frankly. And an honor. Every media outlet, no matter how big or how small, gets the same amount of attention from me. It makes scheduling my days a little challenging, but I am so happy to participate in any way I can. So thanks to all of you for your support and your invitations!

I've also learned that advertisers really "get" the idea of the Savvy Auntie segment - the so-called PANKs (Professional Aunts No Kids). Well, I should say that certainly the media buyers at various large digital agencies get it as it's often the media buyers who find me. One media buyer is a PANK herself and when she discovered SavvyAuntie.com in TrendCentral.com, she connected with me. I have to acknowledge how incredibly nice all the media buyers I have spoken with are. They completely understand that the site is just a few weeks old and let me run ideas by them informally so that I can help them and they can help me close the deal. (By the way, we've closed some deals. I want to say a special thank you to Hasbro for being forward thinking and buying into advertising on the site so quickly. The first group of ad partners we get on Savvy Auntie will always be special to me.)

Next, I've learned that I need to create more viral content, and syndicated content. Well to be fair to myself, I knew this months ago, but can put only so much on my plate at a time. I have already met with some video producers and have meetings coming up with other video companies and WOM (word of mouth) companies. I'm not sure I have the capital now to move forward, but I am getting the ball rolling, and that's what's important.

Speaking of capital, I've also learned that I need help. I honestly did not expect the site to get as big as it has as quickly as it has, and I need help managing all the responsibility. I am beginning to look into raising funds from venture capital firms and angel investors. I am also looking for a really talented, passionate and smart COO to have in place for when I do have the funds to begin to hire a team. (For those of you who don't know, I am running SavvyAuntie.com essentially on my own with Dave over at Quarksoft - my technology team and with the help of my advisory board and many people who act like they are on my advisory board.)

I've learned a lot more than I have written about here, but this is a good taste of what's been buzzing in my head just 5 weeks in from launch.

I guess when I stop learning it's time to quite. Good thing I don't see any chance of that happening!

Auntie Melanie

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Ford's Test Drive

Dear Readers,

Yesterday, I drove a Ford. Actually, I drove about a dozen Fords. There were a few amazing things about this experience of note:

1) As a New York City gal, I don't own a car.
2) Because I don't own a car, I rarely drive. I usually pick up a Zipcar to visit the nephew and nieces.
3) I have never owned a Ford, and have never driven one.
4) I was invited by Ford to visit their HQ in Detroit to test-drive their 2009 Ford Model cars and learn more about their Quality, Sustainability and Safety efforts (which are impressive, BTW)

So why would Ford invite me to test drive their cars? Specifically, why would they invite me to an event traditionally attended by automotive reporters and more lately, automotive bloggers? After all, I don't blog about cars. And as a reminder, I rarely drive.

Well they did it because Ford is smart. Specifically Scott Monty, their brand-spanking new head of social media, is smart.

The reason why Ford invited me to Detroit is because they understand that I represent PANKs. In fact,Scott asked me to invite a couple of other PANKs along. And I did.

Sure, automotive reporters will tell Ford's new story. And auto bloggers will too. But are they reaching women? Specifically, are they reaching women without kids? Women who don't worry about juice-boxes spilling on the new leather seats? Women who need cars that make them feel sexy when they go out with their significant other? Women who need cars with large trunk spaces for towing weekend getaway luggage and a few shopping bags along the way? Women who want the ability to throw in a couple of nieces and nephews and their car-seats if necessary?

Probably not.

Why is reaching women so important? Well women make 65% of the car buying decisions for the household. Reaching us is critical. Reaching those of us who don't have children, and therefore may be more likely to buy a luxury vehicle, is pretty important too.

These women visit SavvyAuntie.com. And as Founder and Editor, I can reach them directly. And so I will. Right now.

I absolutely adored the Lincoln MKX. Wow. From the moment I got in, adjusted the seat with ease, and seat belted-up, the experience was pure luxury. Women tend to take in the whole experience when test-driving a car. And while I am not adept at identifying all the stuff that goes into a great car, I can tell you that that test-drive was one wonderful experience. I heard myself self saying things like: "Look how it hugs the road."

And whether or not you're driving with kids, safety is an issue. Well this luxury crossover earned a Top Safety Pick from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The six standard airbags plus the Safety Canopy(R) side curtain air bags were probably major contributors to that. Ford Safety showed me some of the modern technologies that go into your safe drive. I was highly impressed and would feel confident driving around with my nephew and nieces in this vehicle. The MKX also includes the new SYNC communications and entertainment system, so reaching your destination safely with Travel Link, all while listening to great music with the THX(R) II Certified Auto System, is fantastic. There's also a simple way to reach 911.

Did I mention that this model has not one, but two sunroofs. The feel of the seats, the look of the dash, the grip of the steering wheel....it seems that no detail was forgotten.
The photo above is the interior. See what I mean, ladies? Yum.

For Ford, inviting me to test drive their 2009 model cars worked. I fell hard for their new Lincoln MKX. The question is, will Ford's 'test drive' of inviting bloggers and influencers like myself to events like these prove successful? My guess, from the reaction of my social media colleagues, is yes. Ford fell in love with us too.

I've never had a Ford fall in love with me. I guess there's a first for everything.

Auntie Melanie

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Are You a PANK?

Dear Readers,

In order for marketing folks to best understand the segment that SavvyAuntie.com focuses on, we developed an acronym that describes the women most likely to join the Savvy Auntie Community: PANK.

stands for Professional Aunt No Kids.

A few years ago, DINKs were the new segment marketers had their eye on - Double Income No Kids. PANKs, while focusing specifically on women (married, partnered or single) who have no kids, is a pretty large market in the US. In fact, the 2004 US Census Report on Fertility reported that 45% of women up to the age of 44 did not have kids. And that number has been steadily growing over the last couple of decades.

It's pretty remarkable. And when you take an even closer look at this segment, some other interesting data bubbles up. I thought I would share our data with everyone interested in why I thought focusing a business on this niche might prove valuable to marketers seeking to reach women with consumer clout. (The fact that I just adore being an Auntie was the first inspiration, of course. But lo and behold it was a really convincing business model too! Who knew?!):

Key PANK Statistics:

Women without children: 45%*
*This fertility data does not include women over 45 whose fertility is greatly diminished. We surmise therefore that the total number of women without children is well over 50%, and over 25% of the entire adult population.

Childlessness is a fast growing factor among American women:
2004: 45%
2003: 44%
2001: 43%

Women are getting married later, if ever:
Median age for marriage for a woman in 1980: 20.8
Median age for marriage for a woman in 2005: 25.8
Single Women, Never Married in 2006: 26%

Even marriage does not ensure a family:
Married couples without children in 2006: 43%

All above sources U.S. Census

Being a woman means loving kids:
“Our surveys show that most women are child-centered, even when they don’t have or want children of their own… Nearly every single woman we know is a devoted aunt, big sister, godmother, or friend to the children of her relatives, co-workers, and friends. These relationships are often extremely close, and single women often talk about how enriching it is to be involved…”
Source: What Women Really Want: How American Women Are Quietly Erasing Political, Racial, Class, and Religious Lines to Change the Way We Live; Celinda Lake and Kellyanne Conway. 2005

PANKS are Powerful:

85% of all purchasing decisions are influenced or made by women

68% of new car purchases are made by women as are over 50% of traditional “male products” like home improvement products and consumer electronics

*50% of single women own their own homes

**Single women are the fastest growing segment of new home buyers, second home buyers, car purchasers, travelers, new investors and more.

27% of households are headed by women

31% of women earn more than their husbands

Women are expected to control more than $22 trillion by 2010
Sources: Girl Power, * U.S. Census, ** What Women Really Want

So this is why I thought PANKs were an important segment of powerful women that were being overlooked by marketers. Truth is, when it comes to products and services that enable Savvy Aunties to make their nieces and nephews happy as can be, Aunts want to know about them. Plus, without kids of their own, Aunts have more discretionary income and time than most moms. That's why they are more likely to indulge themselves and the children in their lives.

When I approached why Mary Lou Quinlin,
CEO of Just Ask a Woman, a consultancy that advises Fortune 500 companies on marketing to women, for her thoughts on PANKs and SavvyAuntie.com months ago, she responded quite supportively. (Turns out, she's a Savvy Auntie too!) She even added her support in our launch press release: “These professional aunts are loved by their lucky nieces and nephews, yet often overlooked by marketers. Many brands are so focused on moms that they are missing the economic clout of these generous aunts who love to indulge the kids they never had with the gifts and experiences that they can afford. Savvy Auntie is the first site we've seen that's recognizing this powerful segment.”

(By the way, on a side note, Mary Lou Quinlan has been incredibly helpful with 'marketing to women' press inquiries and a really empowering force in my life recently. Thank you, Mary Lou!)

More news later this week about a couple of very important companies that did not need too much convincing to see that PANKs are the new Pink - the new segment of women that marketers should be focusing on. Well ok, I'll give you a "hint" about just one of them: Ford. In fact, I was invited to go
to Detroit this week as the founder of Savvy Auntie and the woman behind the term PANK, for a very exciting event. More about that soon!

Isn't this fun?!

Auntie Melanie

PS: Follow me on Twitter. There's more good stuff there! Twitter.com/savvyauntie