Tag Archives: Small business


Every time I sit down to try to share my thoughts on Groupon, I get so caught up in it, that I can’t send an effective message. So excuse the post for its broad generalizations and the lazy suggestion to google… but here goes, it just finally had to come out of my brain.

Here is what you should know about Groupon:

It is a deceitful company built on the broken backs of small business owners. Groupon does not express to small business that it is a short-term financing proposition. It suggests that they are helping to market the small businesses to new customers and a wider audience. What they do is create a discount so deep that there is no recovery. If you have a margin so large, that you can afford to offer Groupon deals, you do not need Groupon in the first place. Groupon will not suggest to limit the number of deals. They will simply ‘grope-on’ to a business’ cash flow without ever stepping foot into the establishment.

Some business owners are making horrible decisions to raise capital this way, and sure, that is their fault. Keep in mind that they are being misled by all the slick stuff on Groupon’s site and by the sales staff on the streets.

Here is what the businesses who have participated or are considering it should know:

This isn’t a way to raise money, but a way to spend money. Your target customer is never a coupon clipper. If you want to attract a wider audience, you should define it, assign a budget and market to them yourself and measure the results. Think: I want to attract folks within so many miles of ‘x’ who earn ‘y’ and have an interest in ‘z.’ I want to spend ‘a’ with expected results of ‘b.’ It isn’t that hard, and you don’t need a giant legalized mafia-esque company coming into your company to take funds that give you completely unwanted results and costs. Are you prepared to service on only deep discount customers? Can you hire and train additional staff to keep up with the needs created by this offer? Do you want this customer at all? Will they return and pay full price?

Here is what a person who buys a groupon should know:

Go back to the place that served you up at an extreme discount when you used the Groupon and support them at full price at least 10 times. Are they even still in business? Don’t demonize these companies, or help to demolish them. They are the backbone of your community, providing jobs, feeding the tax machine, and always working far more than 40 hours, to passionately bring you their best.  If you try to use a groupon and are turned away, realize  that they are just trying to get by. They have been deceived by Groupon in the first place and can’t necessarily handle the situation. Groupon isn’t there to help. They are somewhere else, conning the next business and counting your money.

The Take Away from this post: #Grouponkills small business

At the heart of this all, is that Groupon has done an extremely great job of blurring the lines between marketing and financing. Buyers all beware!  I will try to find time to be more specific, then update and suggest other avenues for ‘marketing’ and ‘financing’ separately. I am not in the business of either of those things, but I can tell the difference! I just want folks to think hard about all of this. Please feel free to comment and post links to your experiences here.

Do your own research:

Google “Groupon is bad” or “Groupon kills” to find numerous stories on what has happened to some businesses that have participated. You may also find more specific definitions about how the offer has been made, how it ‘really’ works, and better examples of my broad statements above. If you know anyone thinking about buying, offering or using a Groupon, please help them do their research.



I have been a very bad blogger this year for some very good reasons! A lot of other folks did some darn fine writing for me! Here’s hoping for an amazing 2012! Some of my year’s milestones, distractions and fun moments:

1) Bocktown Monaca opened September 7th! I had fun chatting about it on Should I Drink That’s Podcast

2) My wonderful brother-in-law was married on the beach in Wilmington, NC. Cheers to a beautiful couple and beautiful few days off in November!

3) Plans for the first ever Pittsburgh Craft Beer Week got underway! (Late April 2012) Here is hoping for a great week of beer events in the ‘burgh!

4) Entrepreneur Magazine stopped by to talk with me about Tabbedout! (December issue, page 45!)

5) My husband and I had dinner with Rick Sebak! He’s got my vote for one of my most favorite people ever. If you don’t know who he is, google him and buy some of his wonderful DVDs from WQED. Here is his blog: It is called Rick Sebak’s Blog which is a perfect name for it if you know him. You won’t be sorry for investing time in all things Rick (If you are on twitter he’s @rickaroundhere)

5.5) Don’t ask me why this made my little list, but this was one of my favorite badges from Foursquare ONLY because I received it for my fun ‘Imaginary Starbucks’ location! I checked in 100 times there… (in my spare time!)

6) I spoke at Beaver County Women’s Conference, Podcamp and Duquesne’s Entrepreneur’s Growth Conference, some of it was caught on video… I can’t watch it at all! I do plan on doing much more of this in 2012! Eventually I have to get good at it, right?

7) in 2011, lots of folks wrote very nice things about me, about Bocktown and about our use of social media. If you actually link through to these folks, take some time to read/subscribe to the other stories they have written!

Scott Beveridge from the Washington Observer gave me some courage at Podcamp and wrote about me in his blog: A Twitter and Business Marriage Success Story

China Millman from the Post Gazette actually noted our use of social media with Bocktown!  A 2012 goal is to get her to taste our food and beer pairings! Social Media Promote Local Food Scene

Deb Smit from Pop City notes our use of Social to build business. Business is buzzing at Bocktown Beer and Grill thanks to social media

Mike Pound from The Beaver County Times helped and helped and helped herald in the opening of ‘b2’ with this nice followup article to a very long and arduous entrepreneurial journey: B- Ready New Bocktown is Open The original article mentioning the second location was published in August of 2009! Thanks for hanging in there with me, Mike!

Bob Batz wrote a great piece about Pittsburgh’s women in craft beer, and somehow, I was the above the fold photograph on the front paper! Can you say super-size? I can’t express my thanks enough for the timing of this article. It came out one day after we opened, and three days before the premier beer event of the year, the Steel City Big Pour.  My district manager, and right hand woman, Tera Bevilacqua is also in the article along with other beer pioneers in our area. Crafty Women: In the region’s craft beer industry, women play some key roles

8) I figured out a great big analogy that I want to forget, likening my business to having a baby. I am sure that it is nothing at all alike, since I have never given birth, nor would I want to birth a 5500 sq ft dining space, but I had fun using the analogy just the same. B1 is the first born. B2 is the new little one. We can’t expect the new one to be exactly like the other. It has to crawl, before it can walk. Don’t forget to spend time with the old one, so it doesn’t get jealous…. blah blah blah. So true, but I am over it after this post! I would have been a horrible mother.

9) I bought lots of new tech stuff to help me work more efficiently. Maybe it will start showing in 2012. I hope so.

10) I think my all time best moment of 2011 will be tomorrow night at 11:59 PM when I find my  husband and pull him close for a smooch, and say “Whew! Are you ready to do this all over again? Honey, I am pregnant with our third… Bocktown 3 is a bun in the proverbial oven!” #b3ast

Twitter is the new Pony Express

These questions were asked of me recently. Do I need a break from social media? Sure, I really think that a day off once in a while is a great idea. Will I grow tired of it? Do I feel weighted down by it? No, I am a communicator. These are just the new tools to communicate and log life experiences. Isn’t it obvious that a huge migration is occurring from phone and email, to text, twitter and other social media tools? Isn’t it obvious that social media is making us more productive, or at least more informed in real-time? I think the original questions here are valid, but what I heard is, “Will you grow tired of communicating?” And the answer to that is: NO WAY.

I do see a lot of hesitation out there when I am talking with small groups or even family members about ’embracing social.’ I can see them looking at me like I have three eyes when I say, “Twitter is the new TV,” or “you can’t afford not to be on Facebook and Foursquare.” I suppose owning and running a small business makes me just a bit more in tune or sensitive to these methods of communication, since I can clearly see the effectiveness they have had on brand recognition and customer loyalty for my business, Bocktown Beer and Grill.

While I am online building my brand, I mostly see individuals utilizing Twitter and Facebook, not businesses. These people are there for a variety of purposes: to search out car rides, seek advice, make plans for a date or party, some are helping raise money for charities, they check on traffic and weather, others are blowing off steam, there’s always someone trying to find a new spot to eat, we are playing games, most are keeping in touch with friends, or making friends on the other side of the world. I guess my point here is that people are not just talking to ‘outer space,’ they are communicating!

Think about it, twenty-five years ago, we were moving away from corded phones and sitting down in front of the first Apple computers, now we have one device small enough to fit in our pocket that is a computer and a phone! We are now able to communicate quicker than we can type a letter and mail it, heh, and to more people, perhaps millions of people at one time! Isn’t Twitter is just a new form of the Pony Express?

I can’t wait to see what technological contraption I will be using to communicate with when I am 80 years old! I know if I am here, I will still be talking… er… communicating via some device. I may not make sense, but I will be communicating. If my fingers are crippled, my eyes start failing, or to my husband’s pleasure, my vocal cords give out on me, I know that I can still communicate and create, and that technology will keep new ways coming at us faster than we can say ‘social media.’

If you are reading this, you are already here with me in this social world, shaking your head, mostly in agreement with the points made here. What I am hoping comes from this, is that each of you can help one small business or individual get on board, using these tools to grow their business or hobbies. Use one of these points or analogies to demonstrate that this is nothing new! A few of my other posts may help convince them to break out of the mold of traditional forms of advertising and communication, and I would be glad to chat over a meal or beverage about my experiences with anyone.

It’s truly great to see the light bulb turn on. Will we soon be saying ‘I saw the LED go on?’ Admit it, you are glad you don’t have to make a daily trek to the post office, watching your every step for horse manure. Now we just wince at banner ads and spam, the new manure!

Puking up a Business

I truly believe that every small business is a puked up version of the personality of the founder.  I really do hope Bocktown is a reflection of my personality.  All of my restaurant experiences good and bad went into making it work as it does.  I am extremely proud of it, and am glad some of you see that when you visit us.  Even when I am not there, it seems as if you get my message, my vibe or attitude.

Did I get lucky? Did I paint the walls the right color? Did I order enough craftbeer to keep you interested?  Did I pay attention to every menu item to assure great taste and quality? Did I overload the tables with information and marketing? Sure, all of the above!  The culture of the brand runs very deep, it’s in the host’s smile and under the dishwasher’s fingernails.  It’s under the gazebos in the beer garden and on our t-shirts. I hope it is setting up a little outpost in your heart as well!

This observation goes out to budding business owners: “Don’t be afraid to show your soul to your customers!” They need to love you, understand you, and rally for you.  You need the relationship, not the sale.  Don’t be afraid to be yourself, be human and make mistakes.  Own up, move on, and grow.

If you aren’t specifically on the entrepreneurial tract, next time you are visiting any small business, look around and get to know someone! Embrace them with their faults and their quirks, and be glad that not everything in their world is the same, efficient, monotonous robotic crap that we have been raised to expect. As my tagline says, ’embrace the unusual.’  Don’t run away from it.

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