How to donate your birthday to a special cause

#nikkis40 Homelessness Fundraiser

Many years ago, I was impressed by a major fundraiser my friend Brandi Richard did in honor of one of her milestone birthdays.  I admired how she used her growing platform to increase awareness of a certain cause and raise money on its behalf.  I’ve wanted to do the same since that time. I have done a few small birthday fundraisers but this birthday, my 40th, is my most ambitious yet. The same way I was inspired to donate my birthday, I hope to inspire others to do it as well.

Birthday fundraisers come in different forms. You can host a concert and raise cash like my friend Brandi did. You can have people bring in-kind donations to your birthday party and donate the collection to your preferred charity. Age doesn’t matter either – a child at my sons’ school has used the month of April, his birthday month and Autism Awareness Month, for a few years now to raise money for The Autism Society of North Carolina.

When developing your birthday fundraiser, consider making your goal more achievable with some planning.

Choose a cause & your why

The birthday fundraisers I mentioned earlier were each associated with causes special to the honorees. My chosen cause is homelessness with the beneficiary Urban Ministries of Durham (UMD).

I have felt a connection to homelessness frankly because I’ve felt nearly in that state of being. The end of my marriage brought very difficult financial times and my experience as a single mother has had its challenges (FYI: single parent families are at high risk of homelessness). In similar ways, the homeless population can be discounted and overlooked. As a Christian, I know God calls for us to help the hungry, poor and those without shelter. I wanted to do more for this population than I had up to that point.  So four years ago after a stint of volunteering with my children for Meals on Wheels, I felt called to put my time, treasure, and talent to use with homelessness. I have been on the UMD board of directors since 2013 and as former Board Treasurer and newly elected Board Chair, it was a no-brainer to choose them as the beneficiary.

We connect with the community to end homelessness and fight poverty by offering food, shelter and a future to neighbors in need. – Mission of Urban Ministries of Durham

Pick a cause that is exceptionally connected to you and make sure you know why you have that connection. One that makes sense for people to contribute their treasure in honor of your existence. If you are not connected to a specific beneficiary, consider local groups in your current or past hometown. To be more diligent, check or a similar site to ensure you are okay with the way they spend money.


Select a platform

I’ve done research for this in the past and there really are so many options. This time around, I just wanted to get it done. I am on Facebook a lot and connected to others who are as well so I finally decided to use Facebook Fundraisers. It was very easy and convenient to create a fundraiser on the site. They even prompted me about donating my birthday so after a quick check on the process and fees, I decided to go with it.

Facebook Fundraiser Welcome Page


Fortunately UMD is in their fundraising system since Network for Good facilitates the collection and distribution process for Facebook, and already does the same for UMD online donations. The money transfer should have no problems!

Research fundraising platforms before choosing one. You want convenience in setting up the fundraiser as well as for donors to give.

Considerations include:

  • ease of use for you and donors
  • fundraising fees
  • ease of money transfer to the nonprofit


Decide on a goal

I wasn’t sure of what I wanted to do. I’m from the school of thought that participation counts more than money raised so I wanted to make the barrier for participation low. After debating on various ways to put my impending age into a goal, I settled on $40 donations (since I’m turning 40) towards ending homelessness for one person which is estimated at nearly $5,000. I created a higher goal of ending homelessness for a family of four which takes nearly $20,000.


When you create a goal, connect your birthday in some way – whether you choose your age, the date, or time you were born. Your age can be the donation amount. Or multiply your age to create your goal. Make it easy for your friends and network to participate. Maybe most of your friends can only contribute $20. Or you have high-roller friends who can easily give $4,000.

I made sure to state my goal but also welcome any contribution amount because it all helps. Fortunately, some friends have not used my guideline and have contributed more than requested 🙂

Write your story

I wrote a compelling story so others would buy-in and support the cause.

My Facebook Fundraiser Story

Remember when you chose your cause and why you are supporting it? Use that as a basis for the story you will put into your campaign. Invite others to join you in achieving the goal or vision you share. Make sure you include the cause and beneficiary, why you chose the cause and/or beneficiary, goal amount and deadline. One thing I love about Facebook Fundraisers is it shows progress towards the campaign goal and automatically acknowledges donors.

By the way, I created my promotional graphic on but you could easily use, Adobe Spark, Photoshop, and other software.

Hit publish & share everywhere

It really took me less than 30 minutes to create the graphic, write the story and hit publish. I have shared on my Facebook profile as well as my Facebook business pages. I posted on Twitter and now I’m posting here. I shared with UMD staff too so they would have a heads up.

Donations have been coming in since I published the campaign. I’ve received donations offline as well.

The plans in my head were to share daily from the time I hit publish. However, things have not worked out that way. Since I’m going out of town with limited access to the internet during the campaign, I will use buffer and/or hootsuite to pick up my slack. If I do it again next year or for the next milestone birthday, I will take a few more moments to plan out my marketing better. I would do the following:

  • Create a daily plan to share via social media and offline means before publishing the campaign.
  • Create a shortened url and use it to share everywhere including on a card or flyer to for offline distribution {done}.
  • Use facts and images associated with the cause to increase awareness and compel others to donate.
  • Share videos – live or pre-recorded – to increase awareness about the cause as well as share how the campaign is going.

You are invited

And on that note, I invite you to contribute to ending homelessness in honor of my 40th birthday at

Your gift would go directly to a great cause and would do well to honor my existence!

Thank you for your consideration.

Yolanda Brown

Board Chair of Urban Ministries of Durham

Our Day At The New Smithsonian Museum

Visit the New Smithsonian Museum

The National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) was a treat my family couldn’t get enough of. I highly recommend visiting when you get a chance.

Even better, make it a two-day affair. There is SO MUCH to take in and that’s hard to do in a few hours.

I won’t call the museum perfect but it is an awesome start and a welcome addition as a new national treasure.

Exciting Surprise?!?Free Tickets To The Museum!

I have heard about the NMAAHC since it was authorized in 2002 to be built and the tremendous feat to raise $540 million to build it. It seemed like a set-up but per usual, a way was made out of no way and the museum has finally opened its doors almost 15 years later. The best part is hometown architect Phil Freelon is the architect on record and a co-designer of the museum… a fact I shared repeatedly with my future architect son. I had to get him and his brother to D.C. to see what he could accomplish one day.

I did not make plans to go too close to the opening but when a friend offered her tickets for early October since she was unable to make it, I gladly obliged! My Dad was able to join us making it a three generation adventure!

Tip #1: Tickets go fast so please spread the love. If you can’t make it to your appointed time, please send your tickets to a friend or cancel them so someone else can grab them. There was an endless line of people without tickets standing in the rain with hopes of getting inside. That wasn’t happening without available space (aka tickets). Free yours up so others can have the opportunity to take it all in. 

Exploring African American History

Though we got into the building immediately, we still had to wait over an hour in line before we could see the main exhibit — three underground floors containing the history of my ancestors through my generation… from pre-slavery to present day.

It broke my heart to see some Africans who sold people into slavery, did so to keep from being enslaved.

And seeing the tiny shackles for children who were enslaved 😥 .

The middle passage display was not as emotional or jarring as the display I cried tears over at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit but it made a point.

I was excited to see the stories about the lives of my ancestors who lived in Georgia, South Carolina and Louisiana. My Dad and sons left me as I read about the lifestyles, work and issues met by my people in these parts of the country.

I was horrified to see the number of enslaved people dramatically rose AFTER the Revolutionary War! Especially when many African Americans joined the war including the first casualty Crispus Attucks.

Fortunately this museum shared diverse stories and artifacts of the enslaved and the free including self-emancipated Harriet Tubman.

The stories of slaves, slave masters, freemen, and the fight to make things right encompassed the whole first floor. We saw those stories no one likes to talk about or seems to be in denial about like…

Yes, slaves built the White House and here’s a picture portraying what it looked like!

or sharing how many of our nation’s powerful historical figures had slaves on their balance sheets and in their homes (looking at you Jefferson AND Washington).

Common themes of spirituality and entrepreneurship were scattered throughout the entire exhibit.

There was SO much to read. So much couldn’t be read since it was in very small, sometimes handwritten print. And we were trying to get through the museum so there really wasn’t time to read very much.

Tip #2: Be ready to expend a lot of energy. After a good breakfast, all that waiting, and exploration of HALF of the FIRST floor, my Dad and I started to hear the chorus of the day

“I’m hungry.”

Warning: Once you are on the first floor, it’s very difficult to leave and come back for anything. There is a bathroom and water fountain down there but none on the next two floors. Once you leave this exhibit space, you have to wait in line to return again. If you have children, I strongly suggest quietly bringing small, “clean” snacks to help the experience remain as pleasant as possible (shhh… it’s our secret).

Fight For Freedom

The second floor brought emancipation, reconstruction, Jim Crow and the Civil Rights Movement. There was a chronological view of what freedom from slavery really meant after the end of the Civil War. The struggle was illustrated much more than I’ve ever seen before. Not only were the enslaved released with little to no resources for survival, there were actual groups and laws formed to hold them back from growing too much economically. Lynching became common to terrorize African Americans for any reason and no reason at all.

For a while, there were race riots occurring in cities across the country for anything from a white woman accusing a black man of whistling at her to accusations of job stealing. A big hole I saw when discussing race riots was the missing 1898 Wilmington Race Riot. I think this was one of the most significant riots to share because it is the only documented coup d’etat on U.S. soil. I’m sure it’s coming eventually, but still… THE ONLY COUP D’ETAT IN THE U.S. WAS AGAINST AN ELECTED CITY GOVERNMENT OF AFRICAN AMERICANS and this event did not make it into a museum all about African American History in the nation’s capital??

I was so amazed when I learned about this story just a few years ago because I didn’t realize African Americans had that kind of political power immediately post-slavery. Excuse me if I think more people should know about it. 

However, I was glad to see East St Louis, IL and its controversial past represented. I think the city remains in a state of blight because of how this went down nearly 100 years ago. To imagine this fight was about JOBS in EAST ST LOUIS.

This wasn’t the only story from close to home (by the way, I’m from St. Louis).

One of my favorite entrepreneurs, Ms. Annie Turnbo Malone, had a presence in the building. Although the display directly next to her about CJ Walker claims otherwise, evidence shows Annie Malone as the first black female millionaire. She did so much for St. Louis and her direct legacy continues working today.

I know the question of who the first black female millionaire can be a controversial topic. I hope the curators at NMAAHC or someone takes the time to clear this up once and for all.  

Of course there were regulars like MLK, Emmitt Till (in a powerful, special display in its own room), March on Washington, relics of the KKK (side note: I wondered why they were there, but this group DID have a profound effect on African Americans as an early modern terrorist organization) …

The information and artifacts in these displays were more comprehensive than other museums I’ve been to that were not specifically dedicated to one person or period of time — on that note, PLEASE go visit the International Civil Rights Center & Museum in Greensboro, NC for an awesome, emotional experience on the civil rights movement in the United States and others from around the world.

The biggest takeaway here was the fight my grandparents’ generation had to endure just to have some control over their own lives whether money to work or the ability to vote. They were terrorized in so many ways, even to the point of losing lives, because others didn’t want them to participate or use their voices. 

Tip #4: Take breaks. As you move to higher floors, you will see spaces to sit and watch video, or participate in other interactive media. I strongly suggest doing so as a way to get off your feet for a bit. My kids especially LOVED the interactive lunch counter. It gave them something to do and an opportunity to experience the kind of decision-making that took place during different resistance movements. There weren’t many seats there but I sat one child on my lap. 

Picking Up The Pace Of History

By the post-1968 floor, we were pushing it to get off our feet and fed. I was carrying my 7-year-old on my back, assuring him that we were almost finished, a rallying cry I heard from many fellow parents by this time. I still tried my best to soak as much information as I could. That said, the number of artifacts and displays seemed less than before anyway.

I was excited to see artifacts and images from the Million Women March I attended as a college student in 1997. I shared the story with my children of getting on a bus and riding across the country in one day, spending the day in Philadelphia, and then getting right back on the bus to ride home to Columbia, MO. That was such a LONG ride but I remember the ride home being the best part about the entire trip just from the bonding that took place among us Mizzou sisters.

Anyway, Oprah Winfrey had an expansive display and there was an NWA flag that took up a major piece of space compared to the rest of the artifacts in the museum.

Though there was mention of how “the projects” were formed as well as African American vacations at The Inkwell on Martha’s Vineyard, MA, the greatest focus was on the middle class experience. That’s all good but there was more happening in our world than that — gangs, drugs, and other real pieces of African American society during this time were not present or discussed (unless I missed it). This is an opportunity to break down the stereotypes and tell the real story about why these vices came to exist in our communities as well as how they have evolved.

And where was Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas? He’s not my favorite person either but, really??? He’s a rare, high-ranking, African-American presence in this age at one of the highest levels of U.S. government.

Anita Hill was in there, why not him? I don’t dispute her rightful place in any museum, especially this one, but he should have a place too.

This IS an opportunity to tell the unvarnished truth about his contributions to society at this level.

To tell the FACTS of what he did with the platform he was chosen to have. Just the facts will be enough (so they won’t get twisted later).

This void reminds me of the many museums that are missing African American stories except for slavery and Martin Luther King, Jr with the Civil Rights Movement. There is so much that could be done with telling all of our story and telling it right.

Since we have a NATIONAL African American Museum, it should tell the whole experience, not just the ones that look good. I admit, I couldn’t take it all in so I may have missed the stories I thought was missing. If that’s the case, my bad.

This exhibit ends with the Obama presidency including First Lady Michelle Obama’s dress from the March on Washington’s 50th anniversary celebration. That said, sprinkled throughout this floor were #BlackLivesMatter and people/stories that inspired the movement.

Side Note: Where Is The History Space For Kids?

Throughout the history exhibit, there were signs letting us know where children shouldn’t view or go without parental guidance. I SO wish there was at least one space for children to go and experience our history in their special way. There was no space for them to touch, hear, and see stories relatable to them and in their language.

There’s More Museum?!?

When we finally exited the history exhibit some HOURS later, we briefly considered the much discussed Sweet Home Cafe’. Since that meant another line to get into and a displayed menu of food that didn’t seem kid-friendly (although days later I looked at the #NMAAHC app and saw there actually was kid-friendly fare), we decided to go upstairs and out of the museum. Eventually we made it to the food truck line outside. But first I remembered the kids insistence on going upstairs when we first entered the museum, before we went downstairs. They were excited to go up the escalator again to the upper floors to quickly check out this space.

The Rest of The Museum

So there are another THREE floors of museum that could really be their own spaces. Definitely more ways to personally interact with history including a family genealogy space, a stepshow simulation, and a further exploration of various artifacts in the history exhibit via touchscreen.

Apparently my oldest son’s favorite part of the museum was video footage of the shipwrecked Sao Jose, a Portuguese slave ship that got caught in tumultuous waves off the East African coast in the 1800s. Various artifacts from the shipwreck are in the museum and this underwater video footage of them getting those artifacts was interesting.

This was one of my favorite areas and I had to capture a picture of it:

The Sports and Military galleries were AMAZING. By the time we sped through this floor, it was really time to go and we missed what I heard was the BEST part of the museum… the next floor up… the exhibit all about the arts. We just had to go eat and rest our feet.

I really could go on and on about more of what we saw but I’m sure you’re ready to go too!

Tip #5: Navigation strategy – bottom up to main, top back to bottom. When you finish the history exhibit, go to the top floor and work your way down to the main floor. I received this tip after our visit and I think it is a good strategy to lighten up after taking all of that history in. From what I hear, there are wonderful views of outside and great music to take in. As you make your way down, there will be more seating to rest your laurels and really reflect on everything you have taken in.

Overall, this visit was awesome. I can’t wait to take the kids back next year. I know over 35,000 artifacts are held by this museum of which we only saw a fraction of.

Maybe I’ll see the items I missed before the next time we go.

Regardless, I’m glad this museum FINALLY exists and look forward to visiting and interacting with it much more in the future.

Feel free to share this review with others:

Check out this family's visit to the #NMAAHC so you can plan yours. Click To Tweet

If you’ve been to visit the NMAAHC, comment below to let me know your family’s favorite area of the museum and share tips for other families to have a great first-time experience.

7 Steps To Prepare For 2017

To prepare for 2017 work as a CEO and leader, it’s important to look at my past year.

Over the last year…

I’ve been diving deep into understanding online business, my role in it and how it will contribute to my income.

Online business word cloud

there. is. so. much. information.

Honestly, I’ve heard about some of this way of working over the years but have never truly studied what I needed to do to make it work for me including different techniques, case studies or even virtual mentors beyond Ramit Sethi, Pat Flynn and my fave inspiration MarieMarie Forleo Work


until this last year.

Work. Work. Work.

To prepare for the work I expected to do in 2016, I subscribed to way too many email lists, purchased digital products, downloaded and then turned off Periscope, created so many graphics with Canva and Typorama, and got down into the weeds of creating a semi-passive, digital empire that would work for me, my family, and my other interests (and company).

Yolanda Brown MBA Collage of Work in 2016


If you didn’t have a chance to help in adding to this by sharing what you need to become a better entrepreneur and/or community leader, I would love your comments. Start with this survey for mom entrepreneurs and leaders ;-).

I observed styles that were executed in some ways I thought would not work for me and other ways I figured would. Having a grip on my personal mission, vision, and values helped TREMENDOUSLY with filtering out the noise.

I just had to get to the point of doing the filtering.

I even created a great editorial calendar with themes for each month from this summer through the end of 2016. With a 2016 personal theme of EXCELLENCE, these monthly themes spoke to my quest to improve that trait in me.

Last week we had our vision boarding session and it was awesome. My theme for 2016 is EXCELLENCE so I added affirmations and imagery that spoke to excellence and outcomes I want from owning that in my life. I may add more to the #visionboard but here’s my base. This weekend is about creating the goals and #strategy to make it happen. Shout out to @surefire16 for joining in the session with all of our kids and mom too! #excellence #godswill #momlife #wealthcreator #sharelove #healthylife #wanderlust #lifestylebusiness #goals #writeabook #franchisebusiness #halfmarathon #cookmore #motivation #mindset #inspiration #businesswoman #bosslady #entrepreneur #mompreneur #christianpreneur #businesscoach #entrepreneurship #entrepreneurism #womeninbusiness #womeninbiz #momsinbusiness

A photo posted by Yolanda Brown, MBA (@yolandanichole777) on

I defined EXCELLENCE as pushing for daily practice to get better and better at my craft, particularly as a content provider.

The same thing I did to complete my first half-marathon almost a year ago.

Awesome work and plan. Poor execution.

I came up with some great topics to share that would relate well with my offers but took forever to actually write out the words.

The worst thing I did was HIDE my work by not talking about it every day with the world. I kept holding back on actually pushing publish on this blog or the live button on Facebook or Periscope because of feelings of inadequacy in this space or simply not being ready. There was always more information to gather before deciding on the right path for me 🙄 .

In some ways I actually wasn’t ready since I had nothing to sell that aligned with my vision. I’ve given away free content online for many years but admit to struggling with monetizing in a way that works.

I did hit publish on a few new lead magnets including:

Essential tools for creating income for the mobile mom entrepreneur


CEO Resource Library by Yolanda Brown, MBA

The CEO Library includes all of my free content upgrades and lead magnets as well some of the resources I access to help my business go.

And then my latest – 

Strategy Session with Yolanda Brown MBA

I also created and developed the following products:

Launch Your Business Now 10 day challenge


YESFilter - Determine who you are and say yes to more focused, meaningful work

and a fast upcoming Plan Your Business 30 Day Bootcamp. {Details soon}

This hasn’t been my sole focus in life either.

The highlights of the last nine months and what I’ve been busy doing:

  • selected, interviewed, and hired a new Executive Director as part of the transition team for Urban Ministries of Durham (UMD).
  • voted in as Vice-Chair of the board of directors for UMD.
  • advocated for the rights of others in a way I have not before including standing up to racism against my youngest son and therefore other young African-American boys.
  • grew in knowledge about the history of racial inequities in my country and the unhelpful implicit biases that I and so many around me continue to hold.
  • helped plan the Cub Scouts Occoneechee Council Cuboree (spring camping) and volunteered for the Mawat district summer day camp. I did these in addition to my regular duties as Pack Committee Chair (which I’m still learning) and building our pack’s leadership team. I supported Cub Scouting in a way I never expected but with gladness to help many boys have good, positive influences that help build strong character. This has become my contribution to mentoring the next generation in a way that I never expected but always hoped for especially without compromising my role as a mom.
  • continue to raise two happy, healthy, friendly boys and make sure they have experiences that help them grow into loving, well-balanced men.

That said, there is still more to do for this year to be a success in my book.

The Struggle is Real

At times, I struggled as a leader and, often, sole decision-maker, particularly over my children’s well-beings. I have to remind myself that in leadership, I chose it not others, so I shouldn’t expect them to do or even want to do what I do.

At the end of the day, work must be done and it’s bigger than me. I can’t be frustrated about the indecisiveness of others and be indecisive myself. Thankfully, I’ve taken my advice and started tapping into strategic advisers just to talk things out, relieve some anxiety and make better decisions. I look forward to the day when I can delegate more too.

I’ve said NO to opportunities that sounded REALLY enticing but would add one more thing to my plate and take focus away from work I’m still building or I’m already neglecting (like my company and my running – no half-marathons this month 😥 ).

We Have One Quarter Left

With my two growing boys to raise and the life I desperately want to live, I know I have to step things up a notch… to put it lightly.

After experiencing losses in my family this year of both young and middle-aged men, it’s crucial for me to get this right for me and the boys. Part of my life mission is to show them how to live a good life and that’s just frankly not happening. I’m not in pursuit of perfection but I am in the pursuit of excellence… joy… peace.

Over the next few months, I’ll be grinding daily to pull off my vision for this year, and decide on the theme and plan for 2017. I feel much more confident and prepared for 2017 than I was for 2016 this time last year.

This time last year, I was more distracted except for my single great focus on crossing the finish line of my first half-marathon! Having a running partner was so crucial to that success.

I am challenging myself to release content every day for the next 45 days.

Why you may ask?

Because it’s time and I am prepared.

Just confirmed tonight by watching this video after it randomly popped on my social feed

(language warning: cursing persists but the message is awesome and relevant)

Watch for more to come from me very soon.

Your Turn To Prepare For 2017 With A Call To Action For October!

  1. Review your work and experiences since January especially things that took you out of your comfort zone. Setbacks included – consider what you can learn from them and how to mitigate them so you can reduce any losses.
  2. Write out the accomplishments and note how you have grown.
  3. Create a visual of the fruit of your work AND list them out in text. Consider creating a video or slideshow to have it in another format especially if you plan to share with the masses.
  4. Celebrate! I bet you got more accomplished than you thought you did.
  5. Review your plan for the last quarter of 2016. Make sure it is aligned with what you want out of life (or life this year). If you have no plan, create it to end the year on a good, measurable note. It’s never too late to create or start a plan when the buck stops with you anyway.
  6. In a similar vein, begin brainstorming about 2017 and how you want to grow in the year – personally and professionally. Think of the last couple of months and pull out any frustrations, patterns, or sentiments you have noticed. How can you explore, improve or change these?
  7. Choose inspiration to pull you through your plan. What is your reward for following through with this plan? Not the monetary rewards that come naturally, but the reward you will purchase as a gift to yourself for fulfilling commitments to yourself. A real family vacation for you and your children? That new shiny car you’ve been eyeing for way too long? Or because your legacy can’t wait any longer???

You don’t have to plan for 2017 immediately but I strongly suggest a deadline now (and may I suggest it be prior to Thanksgiving so you won’t be distracted by the holiday season… if that’s your thing).

How will you finish 2016 and prepare for 2017? Share in the comments.

P.S. My favorite mentors this season have been:

Course experts: Regina Anaejinou, Melyssa Griffin

List-building experts: Bryan Harris, Melyssa Griffin

General life/business success

Motivation Monday: Be Awesome

"Doesn't matter if you've failed, if you've been beaten. All that really matters is if you get back up and try again. Because winning is fun, but winning when nobody thought you would IS JUST AWESOME." - Unknown. Be Awesome!

Although we are certain to fail at some things in life, what distinguishes a few of us is the fortitude to keep trying and trying again. As single parents, we especially seem to have a target on our backs with expectations for us to lose (though many surely want us to win).

This Motivation Monday, I urge you to keep moving even when things look dark. Just like babies who try to walk (fall)… try to walk (fall)… try to walk (fall)… then learn to walk AND run, when we keep pursuing/ practicing/ becoming an expert at something we initially failed at, we WILL succeed and be awesome in spite of the haters!

It doesn’t matter if you’ve failed, if you’ve been beaten. All that really matters is if you get back up and try again. Because winning is fun, but winning when nobody thought you would is just awesome. – Unknown

J.K. Rowling

One of the most famous single parents in recent history who continued to “fail” and had many people who thought she wouldn’t win… but succeeded anyway in a most awesome way! As a divorced mother of one living on welfare, she bravely put herself out there and shared her words with the world. Despite her manuscript being rejected 12 times, one publisher said yes and Rowling changed the literature world with her ideas,  and became one of the richest people in the U.K. She fought depression and became a self-made billionaire! Even as an accomplished author, she recently attempted to publish a now best-selling novel under a pseudonym and WAS STILL REJECTED… until one said yes… all it takes is one.

We can’t all expect to have a JK Rowling story, but we can sure try.

Watch her speak to Harvard graduates about the benefits of failure (21 minutes):

Rowling’s 2010 interview with Oprah (42 minutes):


It doesn't matter if you've failed, if you've been beaten. All that really matters is if you get back up and try again. Because winning is fun, but winning when nobody thought you would is just awesome. - Unknown Click To Tweet

Keep moving. Don’t internalize negativity. Be awesome!

3 Audacious Reasons to Launch Your Business in 2016

It's Time To Launch Your Business Now

It’s time.

Have you ever struggled with a product you bought and just wished they would add (or take away) this one thing to make it work better for you?

Do you look at your community and wish there was just one service offered locally that would make your life sooo much easier?

Will you go to work tomorrow wondering if your skills could create the type of income for yourself that you create for your employers?

Is there an experience you wish you could have? A book you wish someone would write? A message you feel is missing in your universe?

If you exclaimed “YES!” to any of those questions, what are you waiting for?

It's time to pursue your entrepreneurial dreams. Click To Tweet


Reasons to Launch Your Business Now

You already have the talent and interest to get started. You will need a little help… any successful entrepreneur does. Believe me, no one does this well by themselves.

So what’s been holding you back?

Time? Money? Contacts?

Or you just don’t think you can get it done right now (whatever it is)?

These can all be quickly remedied in a multitude of ways. But let me backtrack… here are a few audacious reasons that 2016 is the time for you to go forth and officially become an entrepreneur.

Quick commercial break: As an Amazon associate, I will receive a small commission if you decide to click on a couple of the links below and make purchases there. It would be at no cost to you and would help me buy shoes for my growing boys 🙂 Now back to the program…

Reasons to Launch

Our Evolving World

On a large scale, the world is changing and it’s changing faster than it used to. It takes more money to have a comfortable lifestyle for you and your family, and yet it’s cheaper to run a business (financially and time-wise). Information technologies are increasingly changing the way companies operate, a fact that could affect your job security… but also affects how quickly and easily your business can scale up. It takes two seconds to connect via video, audio or text with anyone in any part of the world – a factor in considering communicating with customers, employees, partners, investors and other stakeholders… the possibilities are endless.

Technology is STILL changing the game.

The longer our world spins, the more our technology evolves in form and speed. It’s becoming more common to have machines in the place of people in spaces that are traditionally customer-facing roles. For instance, there is talk of companies quickly pursuing automated solutions for customer service. We already see self-serve machines in restaurants from McDonald’s to Panera Bread…

Reasons to launch: automation of customer service

This happened before with gas stations and even before that in manufacturing… I’m certain it will spread to other industries and at higher levels (A.I. anyone?).

You know… speaking of self-serve… recently the boys and I went to visit our beloved Target on a weekday during the lunch period (their school had early release). By the time we were ready to check-out, this store had ONE regular check-out lane open, ONE express lane open, and THREE self check-out stations open (another self check-out was out of order). The regular line was so long it went past several closed check-outs while self check-out was getting people out quickly. It was so ridiculous it was hard to believe this was really Target since they are usually so much better at serving their customers. In the end, it felt like we were being conditioned to be less reliant on traditional cashiers anyway.

Really?  Who does that during the lunch rush??

Anyway, with all that said…

This was a demonstration of how acceptable it is in 2016 for you to automate different areas of your business including customer service. It doesn’t take much to do it better than that – a large company known for good customer service. You can stay in touch with and serve your current and potential customer base on a 24-hour cycle without losing a wink of sleep.

It's easier and cheaper to run a business now than ever before. Click To Tweet

You will find many tools to do this. I’ve shared my favorite tools in this free resource guide. Click below to download it now.

Essential tools for creating income for the mobile mom entrepreneur

Wage Inequalities

You can work at your highest capabilities and constantly sacrifice your personal lifestyle for your employer but more than likely, you are not being paid what you are worth. You are not being appreciated for your value. On average, women receive 79 cents for every one dollar men receive for the same work. For African-American women, it’s worse when compared to Caucasian men (63 cents for every one dollar FOR THE SAME WORK).

Reasons to launch: Earnings Ratio, by Race/Ethnicity, 2014 -
Earnings Ratio Table – American Association of University Women

As an entrepreneur, you will be able to better set your income. You will even have a chance to create income for other people in your family and community, exponentially affecting the lives of those close to them and their communities.

As an entrepreneur, YOU determine your value. Click To Tweet

We Need You

Minimum wage is a hot-button issue for women. There are different opinions about the purpose of minimum wage jobs but the fact is there are many ADULT women (62% of minimum wage workers in the U.S. are women) who work in these roles with the expectation of providing for their families. In those cases, many of them take on more than one job to better support their families but STILL may need government assistance. Minimum wage in the U.S. is very difficult to live off and provide for a family.

This situation really isn’t new. Families have experienced it for decades, especially in minority communities. Barbara Ehrenreich extensively captured the experience in Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America over ten years ago. It IS expensive to be poor is not only an Atlantic article title – it is a reality for so many.

I highlight minimum wage to say – if you and the other women reading this article launched companies and hired employees, you would directly affect the level of poverty in your communities and likely even country.

Hear me out 

Research in entrepreneurship and hiring has commonly found that African-Americans are hired by African-Americans more often than by people of other races. We also know that women hire women more often than men. If the number of companies owned by these groups increased, not only will wealth increase in their families, but more than likely there would be an increase in the wealth of these demographics (who, by the way, are more represented in low-income communities) and therefore, a reduction in poverty.

Imagine if you launched your company THIS YEAR and the lives you could change by:

  1. Putting your idea out there to the customers you want to target – how will your product make their lives better?
  2. Hiring people and paying them according to the value they provide your company – how will your company change their lives?

How many lives can you CHANGE just by you going forth to release your vision to the world? Click To Tweet

BONUS: When you hire employees to support your company’s growth, you set the culture and can treat employees with the respect and value you have always desired from your own job(s).

Women Who Have Done It

The number of women-owned companies are growing faster than men-owned with those owned by African-American women representing the fastest growth.

Janice Bryant-Howroyd founded ACT-1 Global, a staffing and HR consulting firm, in 1978. She has the distinction of being the first African-American female to own a billion dollar company. Reasons to launch: Janice Bryant-Howroyd, CEO of ACT 1 Global

The nearly 40-year-old company now employs over 2,600 people and operates in 19 countries around the world. This entrepreneurial mother sits on several boards and has a spirit that gives.

She has established herself as an expert in her field by giving keynote speeches about work and business all over the country. She has given many interviews on her philosophy about work and business. She’s even written a book The Art of Work: How to Make Your Work, Work for You (Kindle). You can buy a physical copy here.

She’s very transparent about how she got started in her business. She was working at one job and thought it could be done better so she made it her mission to do just that with very little money. I will say she’s not only person I’ve heard that exact story from and I’m positive she won’t be the last.

Jessica Alba, Judy Faulkner, and Sara Blakely are a few female entrepreneurs who have joined her in the billion dollar company club. These single moms shared their best business advice for entrepreneurs with a similar lifestyle.

I just wanted to show you a few women who launched their own companies and changed the lives of many in the process. I’m not saying you will do EXACTLY what they did, but I’m sharing the possibilities 🙂 Even though more women are going into business ownership, we still trail companies owned by men in number and size.

We need more women-owned companies. It's time to start one now! Click To Tweet

I’ve Been There…

There were so many days that I sat wanting to start a company but didn’t think I had the resources, aptitude, attitude and more to actually make it happen. But I REALLY wanted to be an entrepreneur. I would see other people operate very successful companies and wonder “why not me?”

It finally took finding an idea I was passionate about and could easily share with others – even better than I shared myself – because I fully believed in it as a solution to a major problem.

Now I fully believe it’s time for you to take a serious step towards launching a company in 2016. You already have an interest in entrepreneurship and understand the benefits of it for your lifestyle and those connected to you… the FREEDOM it represents.

We live in a time and country that provides for freedom that women in many other countries are literally dying to have for themselves and their children.

It’s not always easy for us to see that loathsome fact but it’s the truth.

If you have wanted to start a business for yourself, there’s no better time than now. You know you have the knowledge to sell – you’ve already been prepared with it. Given an increasingly automated world, access to (virtual or otherwise) business mentors you can relate to, and a glimpse of the impact you could have, there’s very little that can stop you besides… you.

So what now?

First things first, get the tools you need to move forward in your path to launch your next project. You can see my favorite tools for building and managing my business here.

Essential tools for creating income for the mobile mom entrepreneur


This freebie will give you a solid foundation to launch the doors of a new company or project, and take away the overwhelm you feel about all the things you need to do to launch.

Meanwhile, share in the comments below one thing you will accomplish BECAUSE you launched a business this year. This will be the space to courageously claim it!

P.S. Of course we’re not all called to be business owners, and that’s perfectly okay too. Take your strongest skills; rock them to the fullest for a business you know, trust and relate to; and be the best employee you can be. Entrepreneurs can not do it all and so need your talent to make it all happen for the greater good. We can all make the world a better place when we each do our part.

P.S.S. If you still feel a struggle to jump on the fence, contact me directly and let me know what you are struggling with.

The Entrepreneur Work Schedule – A Proven Secret to Success

Entrepreneur Work Schedule

Do you have time to be an entrepreneur?

As entrepreneurs, it’s so important to have dedicated time set aside to doing the work of building your business. Having no time is a common reason people give for not going into business.

Do you have time for work and life?

Given the many, varied responsibilities of taking care of:

  • home
  • family
  • self
  • current work
  • hobbies
  • community service
  • all the other STUFF

it’s not a wonder why entrepreneurs especially believe they don’t have enough time.

Entrepreneurs must CHOOSE time to work their business activities. Click To Tweet

Deciding to choose time for developing and growing your business idea can make a world of difference in the amount of time you have for business activities. With product development, marketing, servicing your product and customers, administrative tasks, more marketing, accounting, strategic planning, and much much more, finding the time to get it all done just for the business alone can be a challenge.

So, out of the 168 hours we all have each week, how much time can you dedicate to your business?

Here’s a table to consider what that time looks like percentage-wise:

Percent Time

Hours per week

Daily (over 7 days)

Daily (over 5 days)


1.7 (100 minutes) 14 minutes 20 minutes
5% 8.4 1.2 1.7
10% 16.8 2.4 3.4
20% 33.6 4.8 6.7
25% 42 6 8.4

With that, do you still believe you don’t have time? Full-time work is only 25% of your time each week.

10% of your total time is less than two and a half hours each day.

What do you typically accomplish in this amount of time each day?

What can you sacrifice?

Here are a few ideas to find time:

  • watch less TV
  • peruse social media (for non-business use) less
  • cut some phone calls short
  • eliminate inefficiencies in your daily life (unplanned shopping trips and meals,
  • cook meals for the week at one time and use the same ingredients for some meals (i.e. chicken and rice, chicken noodle soup, chicken pot pie, fried chicken… you get the point)
  • DELEGATE tasks you don’t really have to do (even if that means your kids get extra chores – they need more responsibility anyway, right?)
  • wake up an hour earlier
  • go to bed an hour later
  • step down from your leadership role in that one club you’ve wanted to step back from anyway
  • temporarily miss your Friday night out routine… only for a moment while you build
  • so. much. more.

You don’t have to drop all of these activities completely, but reducing the time you dedicate towards each of them will give you an extra two, three or even four hours in a day => a worthy sacrifice while you build your business to a point you can hire people in roles to help you and earn some of the more fun activities back (if you want them).

That said, I’m one who does not believe there’s only one way to do something. Options are an exciting part of my life so I advocate for them in everyone else’s lives too.

Other ways to find more time include:

Pomodoro Technique: dedicate 20-30 minutes to concentrate on completing one task, then take a short break. Repeat this as a cycle for as long as you want to work on your business. This system creates more efficiency in your process because it discourages multi-tasking, a known issue for prolonging the COMPLETION of one task. This is especially helpful for writers and other creatives!

Eliminate Distractions: There are many people, places and things that are distractions for us. Now is the time to rid yourself of those so you can do something greater than you. This could be simply de-cluttering your space or spending less time with certain friends.

Just Say No: saying no to people has been a game-changer for me. I was once a person that said yes whenever I was asked to join a new committee, take on a new project, meet with another friend about a new business project, etc., etc., etc. As long as the world is turning, there will be shiny new objects that will attempt to enter your life. If you haven’t already, now is the time to hone down on what your priorities are and stay true to those. I can help you with that if you have not committed to your own priorities already.

Work Schedule: Assign your days and time to specific tasks just like you would in regular work. You can simply assign a theme for the day or dedicate specific hours in the day to specific tasks for your business. Sometimes getting into too much detail for how you spend your time can be too rigid. You can incorporate flexibility by simply noting the tasks you want to complete that day within a set of hours and crossing them off as you complete them.

Read how different successful entrepreneurs create the best routines for their lifestyles as company owners.

My gift to you: Entrepreneur Work Schedule Template

While developing the Launch Your Business Now 10 Day Challenge, I had to cut some material to make the challenge manageable. In doing that, I’ve decided to give you a sample of what you can expect including a template for you to adopt it yourself. Introducing the Entrepreneur Work Schedule…

Entrepreneur Work Schedule

You can use this blank template to create your own schedule for working on your business tasks. This is a fillable PDF so you can complete it using your laptop and conveniently refer to it while you’re in work mode on your phone or laptop. You can even convert your completed schedule into a jpg and make it your desktop or smartphone wallpaper.

With a hybrid of the techniques mentioned above, you can be well on your way to having time for work AND personal life.

You can download this template and more in our new CEO Resource Library. This space will be where all blog post upgrades from this site live and you get exclusive access as a member of our CEO community.

CEO Resource Library

Get the Entrepreneur Work Schedule to choose time for entrepreneuring! Click To Tweet

Share how you plan to find more time to entrepreneur in the comments below. Also let me know if you will be adopting the schedule.

Business mentors needed!

Business Mentor Needed

Business Mentor – It Goes Both Ways

If you were not aware, January is National Mentoring Month. Mentoring is something that is near to my heart. I have created two mentoring programs and led a couple more. I think mentoring is so very important and is in line with the “it takes a village” belief for growth in any person, young and mature. I have a continued pursuit for the right business mentor for me – in the meantime, I will preach the gospel of being a good mentor.

Business Mentor Needed

One of the easiest ways to be a business mentor is within your company. As a company leader, people are looking to you for direction anyway. This is a good opportunity to influence someone’s career and even hold yourself accountable to your own beliefs professionally and personally. This is one of my favorite aspects of owning a business with staff!

At one time, I mulled over some mentoring possibilities to influence younger people without neglecting my own children or family. Some more possibilities for business professionals to mentor include (listed in order of increasing responsibility):

  1. Speak about your business expertise at your children’s school. You never know how your story will influence the sponge-y minds of children. Your 20 minute talk may open possibilities that didn’t exist for them previously which is an unforgettable moment for them. The future for them, you and your community could be forever changed by your one act. Seriously.
  2. Join leadership or speak at meetings of local professional or college professional development groups. Members of these groups seek new information at every monthly meeting. Information you are able to give would increase their knowledge in an area in which they may sorely lack. Making an appearance on a regular basis (which could be quarterly), may give others the picture of something to strive after.  
  3. Volunteer with or sponsor a local Future Business Leaders of America and/or Junior Achievement chapter. These organizations are ripe with young people who are vested and interested in business. They would be an open audience for what you do. You could also simply  volunteer with your local school district.
  4. Become a Girl Scout or Boy Scout Leader. Scouts participate in a variety of activities to shape their character. They usually meet once per week, and engage with one or two leaders in their club. Commitment depends on your role. FYI – I’ve been a leader in Cub Scouts for the last three years 🙂
  5. Become a Big Sister or Big Brother. This would involve one on one mentoring of a child who has been deemed in need for this type of attention (not necessarily “at-risk”). Commitment is about four dedicated hours per month.
  6. Foster a child (or two). Good foster parents are in dire need throughout the country. Welcoming a child into your home… your sanctuary… one who is likely experiencing major turbulence at home… could do more to shape their lives than any other experience they have had thus far. Usually there are no additional financial expenses for bringing a child in your home and typically you will receive payment (one reason people do it who really shouldn’t be). You must consider the implications for anyone currently in your home but I’m sure the experience would be rewarding for all involved – in some way you will grow and so will that child.

There are several ways mentor others without compromising your family life. Click To Tweet

Beyond these formal opportunities, there are always the informal prospects of making sure you speak to your siblings, cousins, nieces, nephews, and neighborhood kids on a regular basis – asking about their interests and where they are going with them as well as letting them know what you do and how you got there… share stories that they can relate to like people used to do way back when.

When you want to have a mentor, it’s imperative that you BE a mentor. How can you expect for someone to give to you and you don’t give to anyone else? Being a mentor also helps set expectations for what that relationship could look like when the shoe is on the other foot. Frankly, you may attract a mentor just by the initiative you show at being a good mentor.

To find a business mentor, identify people who have a career similar to what you want and possibly similar life circumstances. Contact them, introduce yourself, share information that helps their goals and ask questions that can help you get closer to your goals over a few points of contact. Do this would be after you add them to a spreadsheet, or put together a profile sheet so you can have a clear understanding of why the person would make a good mentor for you.

If you have a mentor and you have not taken the time to thank them, please use January to show your full appreciation. Actually, January 21 is  Thank Your Mentor Day so you can use it to write a blog post, take an ad out in the newspaper, post a video on Youtube or just give them a phone call to share your appreciation for the influence they had on your life.

Do you have ideas for how to become a mentor or solicit a mentor(s)? Please share them in the comments.

School Choice in Durham – My Research & Application Process

Back to School - School Choice

By the time I finished with EJ’s elementary school search, my mom was very surprised it was so complicated. She reminisced on the days when kids simply went to their assigned school. Because of MY experience with that, I had to check out the choices available to my son for his school experience. This post was originally written in 2012 on my old single parenting blog. I’m sharing here as since it was one of my most popular posts and extremely helpful to others.

Several people have asked about my experience leading up to my son starting kindergarten. If you saw Waiting for Superman, my experience was similar except I don’t think my alternative prospects were so dire. Fortunately, I watched the movie after my process but it was still nail-biting and waiting for superman movieconvinced me not to attend the lottery draws. This process was so similar to finding the right college… but it’s kindergarten! I couldn’t believe it, but I also couldn’t just go with our assigned school because:

  1. I was planning to move and did not want to have to pull him out during the middle of school or even after the first year. (my air force brat/divorce kid baggage)
  2. It’s a traditional school, from what I understood, and that’s not the setting I thought he would thrive in.
  3. I wasn’t hearing great things about the school anyway (until after the process of course – they soon launched a school farming project – how cool is that!).

I didn’t even visit the school though. I can’t call whether that was a good decision or not.

This process was so similar to finding the right college... but it's kindergarten! Click To Tweet

Other deciding factors

I knew my son was very friendly, a leader, and had analytical leanings but I wanted to make sure he was heavily exposed to the arts. My first choice for him really was Montessori but we were not accepted into the public Pre-K lottery for either magnet elementary Montessori school, and neither his father nor I could afford private (I researched independent schools before he started preschool) so that became out of the question. Eventually, I prioritized the following characteristics:

  • Arts-Integrated. I was most attracted to arts-integrated because arts was becoming very minimized in traditional schools. I also knew I wanted teachers who taught to various ways of learning.
  • Project-Based. Project-based reminded me of how I did work in graduate school and how people work day-to-day anyway so it seemed like great preparation for the goal of him becoming a productive, working adult.
  • Year-Round Calendar. I preferred the year-round calendar over traditional but was willing to sacrifice that preference for more positive factors that were good for my son. Good levels of community and parent support were important but not crucial.
  • Extracurricular/Leadership. Because of my son’s personality, I looked for clubs, interaction between multiple grades and leadership opportunities in his later years.
  • EOG Scores. I considered end-of-grade (EOG) test scores as a part of the equation but not the strongest factor although seeing academic achievement gaps set off alarms. I considered opinions from multiple parents and friends as well but they didn’t drive my decisions much.
  • Sibling Preference. I thought about my younger son because more likely than not, he would attend the same elementary school as his brother. With sibling preference prevalent in elementary schools, it seemed safe to assume we’ll automatically have that option.

I created a worksheet to help you work through your own school choice options. Feel free to access it below and copy to your Google Drive or download it for use on your favorite spreadsheet software.


1. Narrow Down List of Schools

Once I had an idea of what would philosophically work for our family, my first step was to look at the list of elementary public and charter schools in Durham and choose those within reasonable distance from where I currently live and where I planned to live (central or south Durham). I looked at school review sites including overwhelmingly positive ones, solicited opinions from current parents online and offline, reviewed NC report cards, solicited thoughts about specific schools from staff I knew in the school system, and even engaged in/listened to general talk from everywhere including internet message boards and neighborhood parks. Magnet and charter schools turned out as better options simply because of their flexibility in curriculum and geographic eligibility (i.e. we could move to another part of Durham county and he would be able to stay in the same school).

ONCE I had an idea of what would philosophically work for our family, my first step was to narrow the list of local elementary schools by reasonable commute considering moving plans. Click To Tweet

2. Tour and Interact with Schools

In the winter, I began touring schools. Central Park School for Children was my first tour and ended up being top of the list for my son. I loved the school vibe, many of his preschool classmates already attended there, their approach to curriculum and conflict resolution was great, and the environment was just warm. I had a very friendly interaction with a student in the hallway during my tour and that left a great impression. I knew that my son would thrive there, and I would be able to relate to the parents (some of whom I already knew) and be involved. (2015 Update: both of my sons are in this school and doing well! I’ll do an update before the year is out).

Soon after that tour, Durham Public Schools had their magnet school fair where all the system’s magnet schools displayed their students’ work, had teachers and staff available to discuss their approaches and a few schools even had students share their experiences. Ironically, I visited most schools except the one I ended up choosing! FYI – they had a magnet school fair in November 2015. But you can now contact schools to tour.

After visiting Central Park, I chose to also tour Club Boulevard Humanities Magnet Elementary, Sandy Ridge Visual and Performing Arts Elementary, Voyager Academy (charter), Global Scholars Academy (charter) and R.N. Harris Integrated Arts/Core Knowledge Elementary. When I toured, I paid special attention to:

  • What was going on in classrooms and in the hallways with students, teachers and staff?
  • How students interacted with me and each other? I watched students I saw in the hallways and in classrooms. If I saw warmth and friendliness in some of the students, it made me more comfortable with the school (it was the only thing that impressed me at one charter). When I didn’t see that in students, I didn’t feel connected.
  • Information provided during the tour and who was providing it. Each tour was different with some led by students, teachers, principals, parents or a combination. My favorite tour was student-led.
  • What was the feel of the environment? What was on the walls (like student work and other posters)? What was on some floors? A few schools had boxes of used Capri-suns on the floor. It took a while for me to realize what they were for (fundraising). I also looked at the cafeteria food, the library, etc. I was impressed with one charter school’s full commercial kitchen and their intent behind having it – most charter schools do not have kitchens and offer catered lunch from outside (if anything).

A parent friend convinced me to tour RN Harris with her. It really wasn’t on my radar but it sounded okay so I went to check it out. We took all of our kids too just by happenstance (normally we did not have kids on the tours just so we could fully pay attention). The tour really blew me away! I enjoyed the student interaction, the principal impressed me with her commitment to the school and the classes we visited actually caught EJ’s attention. It had my desired curriculum and teaching style preferences. It was just on the traditional calendar which was not what I desired for my son or our family.

Academic Achievement Gap

Mid-way during the process, the academic achievement gap really got on my radar. My son is African-American and I started noticing wide disparities for African-American boys on EOG scores for schools that had high overall EOG scores on their report cards. I began asking questions

Why does this gap exist in your school?  I started getting so frustrated with the answers to this question, I stopped asking. In one school, I received about five totally different responses from the five members of staff and volunteers that I asked. Many blamed socioeconomic status but didn’t go deeper into what it was about family financial status to make kids not do as well in school as others.

What are you doing to address the gap? I was much more impressed with how some schools addressed this. One school told me a very comprehensive approach they had recently implemented. Then again, I don’t know if they were just throwing everything at it to see what would stick? Regardless, it showed commitment to the issue. There were some school administrators I decided to email since I had already visited their schools and didn’t think to ask while there. Again, stark contrast in responses which really showed me who I was dealing with. I was most impressed when one head of school offered a phone conversation to discuss and did so over the weekend. He presented the most comprehensive attack of the issue including diversity training and ensuring proper credentialing for teachers.

I also reached out to schools outside of my search that had nearly no academic achievement gap and essentially asked what was their secret sauce. They all responded and mainly credited their commitment to ensuring kids understand the material. Practice, practice, practice as well as deep exposure to a variety of topics and subjects. Fortunately, one school I applied to matched this criteria and philosophy too 🙂

3. Apply for top choice schools

There was nothing lost by applying to charter schools so I applied to the ones I most desired, and included Kestrel Heights since they were adding an elementary school and we had ties to the program (but it was really far away from where we lived at the time). Since Global Scholars Academy had a late application deadline and a very small amount of chairs, I decided to wait before applying there and ultimately did not apply since EJ was accepted into a great school.

The tricky thing about applying to Durham choice schools was you could only list two choices. Word on the street was the first choice is the only one seriously considered – it’s rare to get into the second choice school (though it has happened), especially when it was a highly desired program (such as one of the Montessori schools). I didn’t want to waste my choices so I had to be sure about which school to put in the top spot.

I chose RN Harris as number one and Sandy Ridge as my second choice. Though Sandy Ridge had a lot of the elements I wanted, including being year-round, it was brand new and right down the street from where we lived at the time – a place I knew we would move from. The maturity and geographic centrality of the RN Harris program were more appealing and drove it to the #1 spot.

I also applied to Holt Elementary, the year-round school closest to our home. 2015 Update: This process has changed. Parents can no longer apply to magnet and year-round schools separately.


4. The Wait

It took several weeks for the lotteries to happen. There’s almost always a guarantee that a lottery will take place for all the schools I applied to. I celebrated the end of the process, then occupied myself with other projects while we waited. As I mentioned before, I did not attend the actual lottery and just waited for notification. Some schools notified me nearly immediately over email, for others I received a letter, and one, my favorite, didn’t bother with notification at all (BOOOO!).

5. Make a Decision

So first I have to say, we’re fortunate that we were accepted anywhere. We have friends that were not accepted to any schools they applied to. EJ was initially accepted into my top magnet school choice  R.N. Harris and the closest year-round school Holt. I chose Harris!

The day before he was to start at Harris, he received an invitation to join one of the charter schools (which was already in its second week of class). I was excited, shocked and then went into full research mode again. I reached out to parents I knew with children at the school and received some great advice. My decision came down to Harris having a more mature program. At that point in my life, a mature program worked better for our family life than one where the school was trying to work out its kinks and me trying to find my place within that… too much chaos for that time – our first time in elementary school. It may work for others, though. One mom was excited about the chance to help form the culture of a new school. At another point in my life, I would have been excited about that too, but not at that time.

Final Tips

1.Write down your desires and needs for your child’s education and your family’s role in it. This is the key to the whole process if you are going to do it. There’s no point in pursuing an arts magnet if your child has absolutely no love for the arts. Or, if your family has relationships with families in your base traditional school and it seems like a pretty good program, going through this process may be a moot point.

2. Attend tours with other parents and discuss your thoughts with each other. There may be some things you don’t catch that other parents will and vice versa. You may get a certain feeling about a school and think “maybe it was just me/my imagination” but then hear a parent say the exact same thing and realize you were right – confirmation! (TRUE STORY)

3. Ask questions. Many people I toured with did not ask questions even though they had concerns written all over their faces. Take the time to speak up, even if you just wait until after the tour. Even if you only have time to do it over email or with a phone call – be sure to contact the principal or director and get your concerns answered. No one will speak up for your child like you will.

4. Visit your top school(s) multiple times. We visited three or four times before EJ started at RN Harris. It would have been more if we attended the spring fair. Take your paperwork up there instead of sending it in the mail. Go to the upcoming school performance, carnival, fair or other event that shows more of the school’s personality. These are events open to the community so you would be welcomed. Recently I heard a suggestion to volunteer and/or get involved in PTA before joining a school. If it’s a definite that your family will be joining the school, by all means – go for it.

5. Take advantage of community resources. One of the things I love about Durham is the sheer amount of community support for families. I participated in Parent & Family Advocacy and Support Training (PFAST) provided by the NC Cooperative Extension at the beginning of the school year. It quickly helped with navigating and communicating within our elementary school.

By the time EJ was in kindergarten for nearly two months, he was in love with it! He was making new friends, learned so much new material including some of the French language and violin, and became a stronger reader and writer. His class was very diverse and he really was learning so much socially including more about limits (great lessons to have at his age). I was excited about what we would do together with this school (you know I’m getting involved). I really wanted him in a public school so I was happy we were part of a great one.

2015 Update: This excitement didn’t last long :-(. I’ll do an update soon with what happened and how we ended up at Central Park for first grade.


Feel free to leave questions or comments about your process in the section below or contact me directly.

Going beyond

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