5 Tools to Save You Time, Money and Sanity

Non-profit professionals, entrepreneurs and small business owners alike have to be lean. I’ve talked about this before: we have to learn to do more with less, all the while not compromising our work ethic and the final product. Let’s be honest – that’s not easy.

Last week, I wrote a piece for the Orlando Chapter of Young Non-Profit Professionals Network’s monthly enewsletter.  I’ve talked about writing for other publications before and the importance of sharing your knowledge with your target audience, and this was a perfect way to connect with peers.

ynpn logo

If you’re looking for 5 easy tools to make your life a bit easier, check out the piece here.

Follow me on Twitter: @marashorr and @theleoneco.

Follow The Leone Company on Facebook here.



Stay Positive and Productive (featured in the Winter Park / Maitland Observer)

I always enjoy writing for some of the community’s local publications; it not only allows me to extend my talents as a writer to publications I read myself but, an equally important reason, is that it showcases the talents of The Leone Company.

I highly recommend any industry professional with a passion for the pen do the same thing in their own industry.  We’ve found success with this for our clients and know it’s a fantastic tactic.  For example, this past year I’ve written several pieces for Orange Appeal Magazine (here, on Central Florida community leaders Flora Maria Garcia and Barbara Hartley and here on tips to get involved in your community)  and the Winter Park / Maitland Observer here on growing your business in a down economy.

Winter Park Maitland Observer

Last week, I was able to publish another piece for the Winter Park / Maitland Observer, a weekly publication, titled “Stay positive, productive.”  While the essence was based off of this post, published right here on The Leone Company’s blog more than a year ago, it was updated and tweaked to fit the new audience.

I invite you to read the full piece hereand, of course, let me know what you think.  What would YOU add for a positive and productive day?  Go on… don’t be shy!  Let me know!

Follow me on Twitter: @marashorr and @theleoneco.

Follow The Leone Company on Facebook here.

Speaking at Pookie’s RescueFest tomorrow

Last year, I was invited by Centers for Animal Therapies to speak on “Fundraising For Your Animal Non-Profit” at Pookie’s RescueFest, located here in Central Florida.   The crowd of intelligent, hard-working founders of rescues was incredibly engaged and interested, and I was able to combine my passion of pets and non-profits.

This year, I’ve been invited back to speak on “Social Networking to Market and Enhance Your Business,” open not only to founders of rescues but also anyone who has adopted a pet themselves.

(On a side note: The Leone Company actually established its first client from a similar lecture!)

See below for a short video from last year!  After all, how can you NOT love puppies?

Video by Henry Maldonado

And, if you’d like to join me in Lake Lily Park tomorrow at 1:30 p.m., you can see the full list of speakers here.

Follow me on Twitter: @marashorr and @theleoneco.

Follow The Leone Company on Facebook here.

3 Tips: Making a Difference in the New Year

Happy New Year!

It’s no secret we often make New Year’s resolutions around becoming better people.  (I blogged about this last year as well… here.)  Whether it’s fine-tuning something old or creating something new, volunteering is on the top of that list.

Orange Appeal- Philanthropy

I’m sharing a piece I wrote for Orange Appeal magazine, published in November around Central Florida’s National Philanthropy Day event.  (This was my second year as part of the committee, and, once again, I was honored to be a part of such an incredible group of fundraising professionals.)

Check out my three tips on how to become a star volunteer for the organization you dream about assisting.  And, let me know if there’s anything else you would add below!

And remember, you can always see more of my published pieces here.

Like my blog posts?  You can always find more great content when you “like” The Leone Company’s Facebook page here!

Growing a Business in a Down Economy

With a new year on its way, I wanted to share a piece I’ve written, published in an issue of the Winter Park/Maitland Observer last month.

WP Maitland Observer

I’ve had an incredible amount of inspiring discussions outlining how, in its own way, The Leone Company has grown.  Amazing discussions with both casual colleagues and close friends, all over coffee, tea, juice, breakfast, lunch, dinner, drinks and, on one occasion JUST after Thanksgiving, pie.  (Thanks for that delicious slice of homemade apple love, Emma!)

And so, this seems like a great time to share the piece.  Head on over to their site for the full story and incredible amounts of my wisdom, and let me know what you think below!

For a full list of previously published work, head on over here.

Friendships in the Workplace

It’s no secret I love HARO. (My previous blog post explains why…and what it is… here.)  

Through HARO, I saw a press pitch I just couldn’t pass up: a local writer was constructing a piece on friendships in the workplace.  While I normally pitch my clients work, I had just the friendship in mind, as Ani is the person I mentioned in this blog post (and this one) as she’s helped with The Leone Company’s growth.

The story was picked up at TheLedger.com, and, you can read the full piece here.

Tell me: What experience have you had involving workplace friendships? Have you found your partner-in-crime, or wanted to wring someone’s neck instead?

Remember: if you’re looking for help with your media pitch, we can help! Send me an e-mail at mara@theleonecompany.com. I’d love to connect.

Blogging for Good: United Arts of Central Florida

*Note: This blog is a part of the “Blogging For Good” Program.

Remember that mention last week of being ready to grow again after a rocky, rocky year? That’s meant bringing in a bit of contract help to get The Leone Company’s website updated and social media channels moving.  (Shameless plug: if you haven’t already, follow us on Twitter @TheLeoneCo or “Like Us” on Facebook at facebook.com/TheLeoneCompany.)  With hundreds of new fans and followers, we’re rocking and rolling as we strive to bring you great content.

But two of the things I’m most excited about go hand-in-hand: my current involvement with United Arts of Central Florida and next weekend’s sold-out Central Florida Blogger’s Conference.  (Remember last year’s post about the 8 Things I Learned From Growing Bolder’s Marc Middleton?  It’s that time of year again.  Let me know if you’re attending!)

Let me explain: I’ve been asked to sit on a grant review panel for the United Arts of Central Florida’s Organizational Project Grants this year, and have happily accepted.

More information about United Arts of Central Florida, pulled from their website:

United Arts of Central Florida is a dynamic collaboration of businesses, governments and school districts, foundations, arts and cultural organizations, artists, and individuals. This partnership works to enhance the quality and variety of cultural experiences available throughout Lake, Orange, Osceola and Seminole counties. Since its inception in 1989, United Arts has invested more than $121 million in local cultural organizations and arts education. United Arts envisions a diverse, well-attended, fiscally sound arts and cultural community that serves residents and visitors of the Central Florida region. 

Granting means fabulous local arts organizations apply for funding for their individual projects, not year-long programs, and I, along with a panel of my peers, review those applications. In my previous life, I’d spent countless hours working with my team to construct the grant applications for submission, and it feels fantastic to be on the other side, being able to help those organizations who deserve funding to present their hard work to the community.  As someone who still works with non-profits and small businesses, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit the geek in me is stoked.

Of course, this means my weekend will be spent buried in the process, but, I’m honored to have been invited and excited to see the great work on this year’s horizon.

Because next weekend, it’s off to proudly fly my geek flag at the conference!

Tell me: what community involvement do YOU feel honored to participate in? How did you become involved?

Remember Janee

One of the first posts I ever read by Kate Walling, founder of Scrappy Face, was this one; that post was dedicated to her grandmother, who had just passed away.  When I emailed Kate for the first time (we met on Twitter),  she let me know that, although she may not blog consistently, when she does, she has something to say.

And now, I have something to say. Truth be told, since this past Memorial Day, I’ve taken time to wrap a bandage around my heart after June 11 left it broken.

This is a longer post.  With that said, let me start from the beginning.  Know there’s a lesson in here somewhere, but, truly, I’m getting “back on the blogging horse.” This is my story:

Over the past two years, my father had created a brilliant, much-needed consulting business, The Best Medical Business Solutions, helping practices strengthen their operational, financial and administrative core; it took off faster than anyone thought it would.  He and my stepmother had big plans to travel around the country in what they called their “retirement,” as neither one could sit still.  Janee couldn’t wait to cheer him on as he spoke at conferences, giving his wisdom to others who so desperately craved it.

His client list grew, and their own medical practice was booming.  (My father had served as Janee’s practice’s vice president of operations.)  Janee’s  tiny, high-heeled, well-dressed pace quickened, and they were excited at what their futures held.

And then my stepmother, a brilliant doctor, got sick.

What started as back pain turned out to be horrific, mind-boggling, stage four terminal cancer, diagnosed the week of Thanksgiving, the week of her 65th birthday, in 2011.  Their dreams shattered into a million pieces: the dermatology practice she worked her entire life to build fell to shambles with her inability to consistently see patients, and touring around the country for my father to see clients and attend conferences became impossible, since planning for tomorrow beat planning for next week.

I had started writing a post of her journey nearly four months ago, but Janee didn’t want her illness broadcast at that point in time, seeing cancer as a sign of weakness.  She held her head high for as long as she could, and, when she wasn’t strong enough to do so any more, just after this past Memorial Day, she entered hospice.

I spent her final weeks with her in hospice, as did the rest of our family.  We remained with her around the clock.  I took my trusted MacBook Air with me, and my clients were understanding, many relating to what I was going through.  They were patient with me, and, for three weeks, I worked at whatever hours I could, sending e-mails at midnight… because the days were filled with spending time with Janee.

On June 11, this strong, courageous woman, lost her battle.

I purchased and edited her obituary through my tears, sitting across from my father at their kitchen table.

Once the final Shiva visitors had left and I had stocked his freezer with as many prepared meals-for-one as the shelves could hold, I left my father’s home in South Florida to come back to Russ, our dogs, cat and life in Orlando.  I returned a different person.  A person who felt defeated; for the first time, there was nothing I could do.

But life had to go on, and I had a business to run, as did my father.  I took time to re-strategize with my current clients, regrouping with them on anything I had missed.  But, for the summer, I held off on additional growth until I knew I was ready for it.

And now, I’m ready.

With the help of one of my best friends, I’ve laid out a plan, which we’re currently activating.  (Even the strongest of women need a crutch when they’re broken and a compass when they’re lost.)

Perhaps you’ve noticed we now have a Facebook page, allowing The Leone Company to share snippets of knowledge with you daily.  I’m blogging again.  We’re creating an e-newsletter.  I have client prospect meetings and I’m again an active part of the non-profit organizations I love so much, sitting on committees and grants panels to boot.

All of the things I typically do for my clients, I’ve finally done for myself.  Because the stronger The Leone Company is, the better I can serve my clients.

And, as I’ve said before, I know I can’t do it all myself.  Because if there’s anything this year has taught me, it’s exactly how important it is to work with clients I value… and who value my role as a family member, too.

And so with that, I’m dedicating this post to my father, in honor of the ninth anniversary of his wedding to Janee.

Knowing When to Grow

When I tell you life’s been busy, that’s an incredible understatement.  In five weeks, I spent two weekends at home, with a mix of business and pleasure occupying that time.  We’ve  named my suitcase, since she’s my constant travel companion.  (Russ decided “Victoria” was appropriate, and I decided that I was too tired to brainstorm names for a green L.L. Bean product.  Victoria it is.)

I’ve been to South Florida.  I’ve been to Vegas.  I’ve been to Amelia Island.  I’m heading BACK to South Florida again soon, with possible trips to Vegas, Cape Cod and Jersey City before the summer’s over.

I’m not complaining.  As far as travel plans go, there are far, far worse places for conferences and birthday celebrations.  But ultimately, I’m looking forward to having a clear agenda for a few weeks in a row.

But I have realized, thanks to a recent post by Ali Brown, that it was time to ask for help for The Leone Company.

I’m excited to be working with a few different people, growing The Leone Company in a way that, six months ago, I wouldn’t have dreamed possible.  I have someone helping with administrative work and research, a brilliant marketing strategist assisting with projects I know are her personal strengths and another person assisting with a community relations and outreach project.  It’s an exciting time to be a business owner.

The best part?  All three of these wonderful players were already within my network.  One is a former intern from my days with the Florida Film Festival, the other two women I had met and come to admire over the past seven years as a Central Florida resident.  We’ve kept in touch, over a glass of wine or a cup of coffee, and, when I knew it was time to grow The Leone Company, I knew exactly who to reach out to.  As I have mentioned before, I never stopped networking… and neither did they.

And being able to contract out pieces of projects, or just the research that needs to be done to do a project WELL, is just the thing that is going to allow me to take on more clients and grow the business.  Because, as Gini Dietrich so brilliantly put it, I need to remember to remember to take time from working IN the business and put aside time to work ON the business.

And I’m thrilled to be growing with a great team.

Birthdays, Beaches and Brand New State-of-Mind

I started writing this blog post while facing the ocean last weekend.  With no internet connection, I was thrilled to be able to get back to a bit of writing for my blog, neglected with the daily needs of fantastic clients.  While that’s a great problem to have, I’d broken the cardinal rule of working ON the business, not just IN the business.

I started writing from Amelia Island, to be exact. Other than the fact that I’d spent the weekend with a few extraordinary ladies, who utilize powers I can’t even fathom possessing, what you need to know about Amelia Island is this:

It is one of my mother’s favorite places in the whole world.

My stepfather, a loving, caring, brilliant man (and marketing genius) who has treated me as his own daughter for more than half of my life, reserved this very penthouse (and, therefore, oceanfront balcony) as our escape from reality. The weekend was reserved for my mother and her friends; she says that she considers me one of her very BEST friends, which is how I came to find myself listening to the waves.  Henry joined us on Monday, making the drive with my grandmother, their suitcases… and an extra bag just for her wrinkle creams.  When you’re 87, you, too, can have an entirely separate bag just for wrinkle creams.

And we did all of this for one simple reason.

My mother’s birthday.  She’s forbidden me from telling most people how old she is, although, between us, it may just rhyme with schmixty.

And so, in honor of my mother’s birthday, I forced myself to take a deep breath and think about exciting things for the future.  As I waited for Carla, Joan and Patti to return from their day of facials, haircuts and shopping excursions to Chico’s, and for my mother to rise from her mid-day birthday nap, I’m grateful I made the three-hour drive and stepped away from an internet connection for a few days.

I received clarity on my next steps with The Leone Company from these extraordinary entrepreneurs… and I got back to a calm place that had long since fallen to the wayside.  Any small business owner can relate, I’m sure.

I’m excited to be back home, rejuvenated, centered and ready to improve this year.

I’m excited to have spent time with some of the most inspirational ladies I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing.

And I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t excited waking up to the sound of the ocean.  And that Swedish massage.