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 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! 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 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 By the way, you can find fun avatars at 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

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 as an example. While the story is not only about my site, the value of associating my brand with brands like 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, (Follow me at 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 in, 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 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 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 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 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 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!