Friday, September 23, 2011

The Importance of Video in Social Media

Video is becoming an integral and necessary part of social media and an essential way to reach customers. YouTube, a worldwide video-sharing community, is the second largest search engine in the United States, and more than one-third of the time that someone does a Google search, video content comes up.

There are 24 hours of video downloaded on YouTube every minute of the day…this is where people are “shopping.” Facebook is the second-largest video referrer. By providing potential customers with something interesting to watch, they not only stay on a website longer, but also are a lot more likely to buy.

The quality and value of the video’s content is more important than the quality of the video, as the public are familiar and comfortable with cell phone and inexpensive Flikr camera videos. But that doesn’t mean it can be slipshod. Simple techniques are to keep the background clean, look straight into the camera, and make sure there is good lighting on faces.

Elinor Stutz, CEO of Smooth Sale LLC, says professional video really outshines any other form. “Professionally done looks and sounds better. But you won't do it as frequently. I do a video every single day and it has made a huge difference in my book sales. I can post my videos directly into social media sites. You may want one video on a website to be a truly professional video. But to increase traction for books and speaking, you need to get in front of the masses as often as possible.”

The most effective videos are honest, transparent, real, relevant, educational and authentic, all factors which take the opposite approach of traditional sales, says Jennifer Abernethy, author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Social Media Marketing. And the first and potentially most important component of marketing videos is that the video must be targeted. This means that it must 1) identify your audience and highlight your product with what it can offer that group, 2) target specific groups, because if you are too broad you will glaze over most people, and 3) understand and relate to the groups’ needs and interests that you are targeting.

Set a goal of posting a video on a social media site at least once a week – mark a time in your calendar. Be creative and give valuable information, don’t make it a sales pitch. And for those with home offices, yes its best if you get out of your pajamas for this work assignment.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Kenya Association of Women Business Owners

Kenya Association of Women Business Owners
Inspired by NAWBO, KAWBO is now a thriving reality

Mary Schnack just returned from Kenya and Rwanda where she conducted communications trainings (, as well as purchased more items for, including from a KAWBO member.

The Kenya Association of Women Business Owners (KAWBO) has grown to 120 members since its inception about three years ago. All the members are currently located in Nairobi and their vision is to grow to 1,500 members throughout the country, with chapters set up.

KAWBO was patterned after the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) in the United States. I was the Chair of NAWBO’s International Forum and reached out to the Kenyan women I had met at conferences, including Aoko Midiwo (pictured right with her husband Elkanah Odembo, Kenyan Ambassador to the U.S. and I) of Legacy Books and Eva Muraya (pictured below with me), then of Color Creations, who would become KAWBO’s co-founders.

What a joy it was to see them thriving when I was there to visit. And I bought some terrific items for Up from the Dust from a KAWBO member, Jennifer Mulli. Eva’s new business, Brand Strategy Design (BSD), which contracted for me to come to Nairobi to do a three-day communications seminar, also gave me a wood bowl that was beaded by Jennifer’s company as an appreciation gift.

KAWBO is planning another conference for March 2012. Three of us from NAWBO spoke at KAWBO’s inaugural conference in May of 2009.

“We began in response to a yearning among local business women for a forum in which they could network, professionally engage on issues affecting their businesses and acquire requisite skills that would enable them to upscale their businesses,” said Muraya, Chair of KAWBO’s Board of Directors. “We hope to create more awareness and a stature, along with a significant level of resources, to benefit the women business owners’ communities and contribute to the national economic performance.”

Muraya attended two of NAWBO’s national conferences and met with many board members, Chapter leaders and NAWBO members doing international business. “Using NAWBO as a successful platform and getting information and advice from their members, leaders and sponsors was invaluable for us in starting KAWBO.”

Vital Voices Global Partnership sponsors KAWBO through a grant from their economic development program funded by Exxon Mobile.

Kenya’s Trade Ministry is assisting in rolling out trainings, which include:
o Entrepreneurs and Handicrafts: How to leverage skills in the handcraft category.
o Start and Improve Your Business. This training is implement in almost 100 countries through the International Labor Organization and KAWBO hopes it will help bring in younger entrepreneurs to their association.

KAWBO also has a training curriculum for mentors, which is different from anything else in the market and supported by the Danish International Development Agency. The five-month, 20-meeting program covers Business Dimension Skills, analytical tools, and Mentoring Dimension Skills, the “softer skill” approaches to working with the mentee.

Monthly breakfast meetings are held which sometimes are devoted to networking and other times feature a speaker on topics such as business finance, business etiquette, human resource policies and elevator pitches. They also have group outings to movies, plays, etc., to increase networking opportunities.

Almost all of the members are in service industries, plus agriculture and banking. Many of the women worked in the corporate sector and now have moved to entrepreneurship.

For more information on KAWBO or their March 2012 conference, please contact Elizabeth Kariuki, Senior Programmes Executive, at, or go to their website at

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Up from the Dust Purchases in Africa

I love shopping! Although I say my passion in starting Up from the Dust is because of my strong desire to help the women in developing countries grow their businesses, I know my shop-a-holic tendencies also are a great contributor.

Here are the women I purchased from during my trip to Africa last month and of course, you can view and purchase the products at

Katchy Kollections was started by Jennifer Mulli and her son, Anthony. Anthony started designing jewelry at the age of 16 years with the aim of helping out in paying house bills, having lost his father at the age of 2 years, as well as creating employment for the youth and women. They started out in the backyard of their house with only two employees in 2006, and a jewelry product line, sold through word of mouth. Today, they employ 15 regular permanent youth and have increased the production line to incorporate leather bags, sisal baskets, sandals and home ware that encompasses beaded wooden bowls, spoons, sisal beaded table mats, cotton beaded table mats, beaded guards etc., and are proud to say that they now have a workshop to work from that allows them expansion.

Anthony continues to be the head designer with a creative and youthful open mind and sets trends for others to follow.

I also had fun doing a little design. I loved their big rings. And I looked at the beaded necklace that Jennifer was wearing when we met. I asked her to take it off and slid my ring on it. Sure enough, the ring also works as a pendant. So – I created a new design, ordered some of them, and they were a big hit at the NAWBO conference in San Diego!

My dear friend Phyllis Mwangi started Zingira Wasanii, literally meaning “embracing the artisans,” which seeks to identify, improve and manage the quality of products created by Kenyan artisans living in low income areas. Once the process is complete, Zingira Wasanii provides market access for the artisans’ products through domestic and international corporate partnerships. Most of the products do well as corporate gifts. Phyllis, who is a terrific trainer and is in the middle of conducting a fabulous youth training program, has done well capturing corporate buyers in the US, but still “humors” me and my customers by providing their fabulous beaded bowls. I hope to add beaded rings to my orders in the future.

A very touching story to my heart is Monda Africa. I bought some items from Carol Monda personally two trips ago when my friend Eva Muraya suggested I look at some higher end jewelry from Kenya. Monda Africa is a Fair Trade Certified Kenyan company with a focus on creative, socially responsible entrepreneurship with an emphasis on eco- friendly products. The products include home decor and personal accessories made of recycled glass and other materials. I met Carol on my last trip and when I contacted her this time, her husband told me the unfortunate news that she had tragically died in July of a pulmonary embolism. I had a pulmonary embolism in February 2010. I was in the US. Carol was in Kenya. Thus the difference in our outcomes. Carol’s husband is committed to continuing the business to support their son and the women who work for them, so I am committed to continue buying from Monda Africa.

I bought more dolls from Beacon of Hope. They have been such a favorite. Their mission is to bring hope to women living with and affected by HIV/AIDS within poor communities by empowering and equipping them to meet their economic needs.

On my first trip to Rwanda, I bought from a woman named Allen Joy. Allen Joy was mentored through the Peace Through Business program ( by a friend Laurie Johnson of Phoenix, who also has a retail business.

My budget for purchasing from Allen Joy was $300. When my total added up to $600, I scaled back to $500 but I couldn’t justify cutting out anything else. And of course—at my first exhibit, at the NAWBO national conference, I sold out on some of the things I had put back. I bought four beaded belts instead of the original eight I was going to purchase. The four belts sold within minutes of the exhibit hall opening!

And if there are any doubts about why I do this work, Allen Joy told Laurie what a thrill it was to get my big order and she was so pleased that I liked her products. And then she added, “And now my husband is taking my business seriously if I can receive orders like this.”

Helping our sisters’ businesses thrive, that’s what Up from the Dust is all about, and is what helps feed my soul.

Cecilia Katunga of Kenya

In August I went to Kenya to do a three-day communications training. Of course I used that opportunity to buy exciting new items for Up from the Dust. I also made my first trip to Rwanda and bought items from there as well.

But there was one meeting that caused me to break into sobs--sobs of happiness.

I was hosted by Cecilia Katunga at her new home. If you remember, Cecilia's home in the Mukuru Fuatanyayo slum of Nairobi was burned in March of this year. I asked you, my friends, on this list if you could spare $20-$50 to help Cecilia. We sent a total of $750 to Cecilia and that was enough money for her to get out of the slums, and rent a new room.

Actually her new home is two rooms. Orphaned at 13, Cecilia, age 25, still supports a brother and sister who live with her.

Cecilia was so excited to greet us. (My friends Eva and Joe went with me. Eva helped support Cecilia in setting up her knitting business about four years ago). Cecilia was dressed up and couldn't get the smile off her face. She served us tea and buttered bread. They had been on a blackout all day but she was still cheery. (Would we be after a day without electricity?) When Eva said grace before we enjoyed our tea and bread, I just started sobbing. What does $20 mean to us? $50? So little--yet by 10-20 people sending in small amounts of money, Cecilia now has a new life.

I was overwhelmed by how happy she was and what a difference we made in her life. She told Eva, "When I heard from Mary Schnack that she was wiring the money, I was no longer a fire victim."

I bought more scarves from Cecilia (red, black, brown, maroon, white, peach, light green) and two darling baby outfits--one pink and one blue. She has also moved her knitting machines out of Kenyatta Market into her home. Please go online and support her business by buying her products!

Cecilia is so thrilled with her new home, the extra space, the sense of community around her and she said it is a much safer place to live.

Monday, September 12, 2011

I Finally Went to Rwanda

My first trip to Africa was in May, 1994, when a humanitarian aid group, ADRA, sent me to Nairobi to lead their communications efforts during the Rwanda genocide.

We worked out of Nairobi, Kenya, because that’s where the press was centered. We also went to a refugee camp in Burundi, which neighbors Rwanda.

I was in Africa for three weeks and I left before the war was over. When it ended, I had an incredible ache to return to East Africa and go to Rwanda.

Africa had kept a piece of my heart and my life changed forever with that trip.

I have made seven or eight trips to Africa since then, to Ghana, South Africa, Swaziland and many more trips to Nairobi, but I never made it to Rwanda.

I read everything on Rwanda. I watch all the movies and TV shows. I volunteer to do training and mentoring through the Peace Through Business program (, which works with women entrepreneurs from Rwanda and Afghanistan.

Finally, I was able to close the loop and went to Rwanda. It was only a two-day trip, but having the opportunity to go, I had to grab at the chance even though it was far too short.

Called the land of 1,000 hills, the capital city of Kigali is beautiful with so many parks and open, green areas, and most houses and buildings built on the side of hills (giving almost everyone gorgeous views).

I met the three women I have been involved with mentoring through Peace Through Business. Deborah Kakoma has a brand strategy business, Chantal Zirim is working on opening a juice bar and Honorine Mugorewase has a hotel/apartment building which I was able to see and tour.

I also met Chantal’s and Honorine’s families which was such a treat. Deborah took me to the new Film Institute and to a poetry slam. As someone said, I am living my bucket list!

I also spoke to a gathering of about 30 Peace Through Business graduates. Many of the women I have met before and call friends, as I have done training for the program the past four years. Their enthusiasm for business, soaking up new ideas and experiencing the new concept of networking is inspirational and one of the things that keeps me going through difficult times.

Deborah introduced me to Rose Kabuye. When commenting on all the greenbelts and parks in Kigali, she said, “Thank you. I like to think I had something to do with that.” Rose, who had been just another woman business owner that I enjoyed meeting and talking to at lunch, was now larger than life.

She told me some of her background, which I have augmented with her Wikipedia entry. She is a retired Lieutenant Colonel in the Rwandan Army and remains the highest ranking woman ever to serve in her country's armed forces. She is currently working in the private sector as Chief Executive Officer of Virunga Logistics and Startech Limited but is best known for her work as a freedom fighter in the liberation of Rwanda from 1990 through 1993. She subsequently became Mayor of Kigali City, Rwandan Chief of State Protocol, and a member of the Rwandan parliament. Because of her participation in the liberation struggle, she was awarded The Rwandan National Liberation Medal and the Campaign Against Genocide Medal.

Now as a board member on the Rwanda women entrepreneurs group, she hopes to encourage women to get involved politically at their local community levels.

I could have talked to her all day. Be sure to Google her and look at the Wikipedia entry on her. I have only told a small, small part of her story.

I also bought more items for Up from the Dust from another Peace Through Business graduate, Allen Joy Mbabazi (more in another upcoming blog). Saudah Nalule treated me at her Spa and Salon to the most incredible facial I have ever had and Immy Kamarade sent me home with fresh roasted coffee from her business. Immy was recently named the President of Rwanda’s women’s chamber of commerce.

Chantal showed me the real “Hotel Rwanda.” Honorine took me to the Kigali Genocide Memorial. Besides many mass graves, there is an outstanding exhibition, which goes through the history of Rwanda and what led up to the genocide. It is a powerful presentation and should be seen by all.

I did not realize at the time that Honorine lost her parents and family in the genocide and spent three months in a refugee camp in Burundi. It must have been difficult for her to be there with me. Afterwards, I got to meet three of her four children, her husband and see her new business. She is a great example of how Rwanda has worked towards recovery (I think recovered is still too strong of a word) in a short 17 years since the genocide.

My main thought after going to the Memorial is how embarrassed the international community must be at letting this genocide happen. It could have been stopped. At the least, it should not have lasted as long as it did.

The Memorial also details other genocides. The world said it would learn after World War II and the genocide of the Jews at the hands of Hitler. But it is clear that we did not.

And now it is clear how much we have to learn from Rwanda.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

How Many Other People Can Recite Your Elevator Pitch?

I used to own a sign and banner shop in Marina del Rey, California. It is the first business I started as an entrepreneur. I set up shop in the same geographic area as the hospitals where I had worked. Since Community Relations reported to me at the hospitals, I had been active in the Chambers of Commerce and a lot of other local groups.

My #1 form of marketing was networking. Besides the Chambers (I think I joined five), the police auxiliary board, morning breakfast meetings such as LeTip, and the American Cancer Society, I also targeted women’s business groups.

My “elevator pitch” was “A business with no sign is a sign of no business.” Catchy, memorable and a good call to action. (See Rhonda Abrams story about Signs, the tried and true in marketing business).

In fact, when I would stand up to introduce myself, after just a couple of weeks, those present would say my tag line for me. My phone number was the same forwards and backwards and something I made note of when I said it, so that made everyone remember my specific phone number as well.

I had equal success with clients. When Broadway Gymnastic School reinvigorated their branding, we added the tag line “Helping Children Grow Since 1979”. This says that they do more than gymnastics,--they care about children overall, and are not a new start-up gym but a long time community member. They were able to use this phrase effectively--and immediately--when their gym burned down and the media and concerned community members and parents were at their doorstep.

After attending one of my communication seminars, Gone Rural from Swaziland, Africa, added a tag line : Gone Rural designs and produces uniquely beautiful home accessories handmade by 700 rural Swazi women. The only part of the story that tag line doesn’t tell is that Swaziland has the highest rate of HIV infection in the world—and many of those women are raising their grandchildren.

As Runa Magnusdottir and I teach in our BRANDit workshop (, whether you are trying to raise capital, promote your company, or promote yourself, it‘s essential to have an elevator pitch. You have less than a minute to explain yourself, your business, your goals, and your passions. Your audience knows none of these. Are you prepared? Can you present your vision smoothly, enticing them to want to know more?

1. WHO

DESCRIBE WHO YOU ARE: Keep it short.
HINT: What would you most want the listener to remember about you?


DESCRIBE WHAT YOU DO: Here is where you state your value phrased as key results or impact. To organize your thoughts, it may help to think of this as your tag line.
HINT: this should allow the listener to understand how you or your company would add value.

3. WHY

DESCRIBE WHY YOU ARE UNIQUE: Now it‘s time to show the unique benefits that you and/or your company bring to business.
HINT: Show what you do that is different or better than others.


DESCRIBE YOUR GOAL: Describe your immediate goals or intentions. Look at your markers from Your BRAND Your Passion worksheets. Include a time frame.
HINT: This is the final step and it should be readily apparent to the listener what you are asking of him / her.


These guidelines help you communicate your main message quickly, clearly, and distinctly to someone who doesn‘t even know you. A good pitch takes planning and practice to deliver quickly and to make it memorable.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

PR WORKS: Know your Strengths …..And Weaknesses

When creating a communications plan or branding statement, one of the most important things to come up with is: “How are you unique?” It’s a question that a lot of business owners feel challenged in answering, but it’s the key to making them stand out from the crowd.

Now I want to take that idea one step further: As important as it is to understand your strengths, it is even more critical to know your skeletons, or areas of vulnerability. Understand these skeletons and work to correct them, but also be prepared to communicate about them.

How well do you really know and understand your organization…it’s structure, the mission statement, the history, past, present and future challenges. Who are you? Why do you exist? Who is your customer? By answering these questions, you’ll find your businesses strengths….and weaknesses.

For example, in the mid-1800s, a group of Adventists set a date for the end of the world. Although the mainstream Seventh-day Adventist Church has never sanctioned date-setting, it is an irrefutable reputation of the church. One cannot just respond to a question on date-setting with a denial. There must be a brief, sensible explanation on how it happened in the first place and why it no longer happens now. (I counseled them on this during the Waco Cult standoff in 1993.)

Besides understanding our own strengths and weaknesses, it is imperative to know what is going on in our community, our industry, with small businesses, and overall--our world. What are challenges that others are facing? You may not be immune to those same challenges for long. What is happening in your specific community? In the business and political worlds in which we operate? It is important to have a grasp on the world around us to put our own strengths and weaknesses into perspective.

When I owned a sign shop in the mid-90s, we used vinyl to make the lettering on our signs and banners. It was a big step forward from the toxic paints that had been used in the past. At the same time, I was aware that there was a lot of publicity around the fact that disposable diapers, such as Pampers and Huggies, did not break down in landfills and there was a push to go back to cloth diapers for the environment.

So what do diapers in a landfill have to do with a sign shop?

I investigated the vinyl we used for our signs and found out they would take far longer than diapers to break down. If diapers had become a major story, what about all of these new vinyl sign shops that were opening across the country? Fortunately, this never came to the media’s attention, but I knew it was an area of vulnerability if it did break, and I was prepared with answers.

Access where you are vulnerable. Seek out the vulnerable areas within your area where you can prevent a crisis and immediately begin to correct the problem.

With the advent of social media, we are even more vulnerable as word spreads virally much more quickly.

This is where a crisis communications plan is helpful. You note a problem, anticipate what type of crisis may occur even after taking precautions, and then label a set of steps to take place to handle the situation and communicate during the crisis. Have your message points ready and include plans for social media. It’s far better to do this in advance than in a reactive mode.