It was dark, damp, and very scary the first time I walked through the shuttered train tunnel that ran under my hometown. I was a teenager. That’s what you did when you were a teenager in Brockville.
It was a right of passage.
You had to survive walking through Canada’s first railway tunnel - a closed (I mean, DO NOT ENTER) dilapidated tunnel that runs north for four blocks underground from the riverfront.
I flipped my calendar over to May 1st by the warm glow of our Christmas lights, still shining brightly through my front window.
Hey, I’m not the only one still in the festive spirit. John, my new next-door neighbour, still has several strings of multi-coloured lights hanging in his tree - and they’ve been there since last November.
We found a magical beach on the Bay of Fundy that is completely covered in beach glass.
The glass is absolutely everywhere - covering the seabed, in the rocks, under the seaweed. The stuff of dreams - the dreams of a beach glass hunter.
I was gonna need a bigger bag.
What does it mean to have a teenage business?
Well, if you’ve been in biz over ten years, you already know. If you haven’t, it’s this: you’re probably pretty good at what you do if you’ve lasted this long. You’ve seen a lot. And you’ve got a lot figured out.
So what about when your business enters it’s twenties?
I mean, what was I expecting from a place called The Orange Cat Cafe?
An orange cat, of course.
But I was pleasantly surprised by the sense of fun I felt as I entered this rural Maine eatery .
The Orange Cat Cafe is on our route to Ontario from New Brunswick - we take a short cut through Maine and come back into Canada somewhere in Quebec. (it’s a long but beautiful drive)
I joined a twin club in Ottawa when I found out we were in a BOGO baby situation.
They offered prenatal classes for moms with multiples. (yes, some moms were having more that two)
And even though I had already been through this experience once before - and had what the twin community calls a “singleton” already - having one baby vs having two babies was a whole new ballgame, with it’s own unique set of rules.
You could have divided that prenatal class in half.
I found a loophole when I was in high school that allowed me to complete all the credits I needed to graduate early - one semester before my classmates.
How did that happen?
My school switched from full-year courses to a semester system when I was in grade 11 and, because I hadn't taken any "spares", I found a way to finish up at the end of January (instead of June) in my graduation year.
You could not surprise me as a kid.
Or so I thought.
I was TERRIBLE.
I searched every nook and cranny for hidden Christmas presents leading up to the big day.
I opened and re-wrapped gifts under the tree.
I. Could. Not. Help. Myself.
How many people do you know who spell their name J-e-n-n-e?
Not very many, I'll bet.
My daughter-in-law is Jenne, with an "e".
Because I'd never seen that spelling before, I just assumed it was super rare.
Then this happened.
Have you ever seen your life flash before your eyes? No? Me neither.
But I have had the closest thing to it. I used to jokingly call these situations "brushes with death". But it's funnier than it sounds.
It all started with the sound of a summer tire bouncing onto the driveway.
Do you remember the first word you ever said?
I don’t even remember the first words my kids said. Maybe Momma? Dada?
But I DO remember the first word that Melanie ever said.
Melanie was the young daughter of a photographer I worked for in my early twenties. Some days I worked in the darkroom at his photo studio, some days I was sorting negatives. And some days I looked after little Mel if her Mom got called in to work.
Those were the fun days.
I don’t think my Dad ever drove by a wide open parking lot after a fresh snowfall without pulling in to do a few donuts. In the station wagon. With us kids in the back seat, loving it.
This same fun-loving guy sang inappropriate university drinking songs - with modified lyrics - when we were kids. Sometimes while making us breakfast, or getting us ready for school...“She’s got freckles on her BUT she is nice”.
38 years ago today, I joined my buddy June and her brand new husband (Danny) on their honeymoon trip.
Yes, I just revealed that I have friends that are way, WAY older than me.
The wedding took place in our home town, Brockville, and after the festivities subsided I needed to get back to Ottawa.
The newlyweds were heading through Ottawa to a honeymoon destination in Quebec that Sunday and they very generously offered me a ride.
It seemed like a good idea at the time.
You know when you are going shopping for clothes so you dress in an outfit and shoes that are super easy to take off and put back on?
You feel pajamas and slippers are the best option but because you are going out in public, you have to take it up a notch? Yep.
So on a grey day in September, four years ago, when we were living on the upper west side of NYC, I decided I needed some new clothes.
I was living out of a suitcase at the time and was craving some new threads to replace the well-worn collection I'd been wearing for several months, on rotation.
Last week, we packed up our sweet cape cod house, cleaned it from top to bottom and recycled a ton of stuff.
But we were still left with a mountain of garbage, including three old, crappy garbage cans.
What was the hardest part of leaving the house we've been in for 17 years? Was it leaving all the memories behind? Deep cleaning it from top to bottom? Packing a kazillion boxes?
Remember that pivotal day when you KNEW you would start your own business? I remember that day well.
I was downsized from a cool start-up company (along with 60 of my colleagues) and I decided to strike out on my own. No more "job" job.
I was going to be Kim.Inc, put out my own shingle, and start my own company.
Since installing the see-through bird feeder on the window directly in front of my desk, productivity has plummeted at The Houlahan Group.
As soon as I figured out the right seed to use (the little birds like the small stuff), I started getting the regulars to the feeder all day. (We'll talk more about distraction another time!)
There's Walter, the neat and tidy sparrow who carefully steps inside and takes just what he needs.
He's quiet, a little selfish and stealth.
Why was my foot suddenly in excruciating pain while I was hitchhiking from Brindisi to Pescara on that sweltering June afternoon back in 1981?
I was stumped.
We were having a great day up 'til then. Spending more time in cars than on the side of the road. No pain at all.
When I removed my well-worn sandal and looked between my big toe and the next one (you know, the piggy that stayed home), something a little familiar was sticking out.
I didn't know how much I wanted to ride my bike through Times Square in NYC until I realized it might be impossible!
For our two-month stay in Manhattan I was going to rent a bike but when I saw the crazy rental prices at the hole-in-the-wall bike rental shop in Tribeca, I decided to buy one of those cool turquoise city bikes instead.
That bike was my favourite way to get around NYC.
I was a newbie at Banfield-Seguin Advertising & Design in Ottawa back in the late 80’s when I met Bill.
I had heard so many epic stories about Bill and his antics before I got to know him.
Working with him every day was a hoot. I have never met anyone with more spirit and sense of adventure. He could figure anything out. He had an idea for every prank - no matter how complicated - and a costume for every event. Bill was legendary.
My favourite Bill story took place in 1988.
The Small Business Guide
Kim Houlahan is a marketing consultant who loves helping small business owners improve their marketing.
Small Business Guide ~ Archives
See the light at the end of the tunnel?
Speak Volumes without Saying a Word
Why you need to be different
Surprising Advice for Budding Entrepreneurs
What are you doing all the way to the bank?
What a Mom of Twins does NOT need to hear
Have you got a Secret Sauce?
Have you Ruined any Surprises Lately?
What Story Are You Telling Yourself?
When the Rubber hits the Road
How is your Business like a Marriage?
The Right Place at the Right Time
Just Get Out There.
How Hard Can it Be to Describe What you Do?
What's Your Best Productivity Hack?
To Share or Not to Share
Relatively Small Efforts for - wait for it - Great Results
The Truth about Working from Home
What's YOUR Superpower?
6 Things You Can Do Now
Perspective is (Almost) Everything
Are You Sensitive to Customer Needs?
Got a Process for That?
Don't Get Attached!
Aim DIRECTLY at your audience
Know When to Ask for Help
3 Things you Should Never Assume
Avoid the Wild Goose Chase
Where do you Draw the Line?
Give'em a Memorable Experience