common sense…business sense

As I was returning home from exercise class this morning, I overheard chef Tom Douglas, a Seattle fixture, speaking on NPR radio. He was in the midst of an interview with the station’s host.

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_MG_9096 (Photo credit: rwoan)

It was no surprise that the main discourse centered upon food, recipes and Douglas’ several restaurants, of which there are many…

Lola
Palace Kitchen
Dahlia Lounge
Dahlia Bakery
Etta’s
Serious Pie Downtown
Seatown
Brave Horse Tavern
Cuoco
Serious Biscuit
Serious Pie Westlake
Ting Momo

Douglas was also promoting his recently published…The Dahlia Bakery Cookbook.

While I did salivate at the mention of…flaky pie crusts piled high with homemade coconut cream filling…made-from-scratch whipped cream…soft, fluffy, buttery biscuits…it was Douglas’ talk about something else that I found most intriguing.

The news has been rife with talk about businesses that are planning to adopt drastic measures with regards to the Affordable Health Care Act, should President Obama win a second term. Among them…firing employees, or cutting hours so that full-time employees are made part-timers without benefits.

Chef Douglas spoke with disdain for a particular restaurant conglomerate that is opting for the part-time solution. The crime in this, as Douglas sees it, is that the conglomerate has just purchased a large chain of restaurants for $567 million…IN CASH!!!

A throwback to the good old days, Douglas places great value upon his employees. He takes pride in providing a workplace environment in which his workers are productive. And for their efforts, Douglas pays them well and provides them with good health insurance.

It was my sense, that how he managed his employees was a…no brainer. Interesting how some businessmen get it…and others haven’t a clue.

When asked how much his labor costs were, Douglas indicated it was 45% of his business. He went on to say that with revenues in the millions, he felt it was a fair price to pay. Douglas admitted to a thin margin of profit, but explained that it was enough for him to live well.

HHHEEELLLOOO???  Could we please clone this man…Chef Tom Douglas???

I’ve been to two of his restaurants, Etta’s and Dahlia. Having been enlightened about Douglas’ management practices, I plan to patronize his establishments more regularly.

Seattle chef Tom Douglas and staff in front of...

Seattle chef Tom Douglas and staff in front of his restaurant, the Dahlia Lounge, on Second Avenue in, Seattle, Washington, doing a sort of pre-Thanksgiving Day stunt of giving away food. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

…we can make a difference…one decision at a time…

………hugmamma. 

new age billionaires…how so?

Larry Page and Sergey Brin, founders of Google...

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I’m clueless as to how these young whippersnappers dream up these seemingly intangible internet schemes that make them overnight billionaires! How do they do it? Have they significantly huge brains, the machinations of which normal folks like us can’t fathom? Of course you know of whom I speak…Microsoft’s Bill Gates and Paul Allen, Facebook‘s Mark Zuckerberg, and Google’s Sergey Brin and Larry Page. But then there are the foot soldiers. You know the littler men who make inroads into lesser, but no less lucrative, territories. One that comes to mind is Bob Parsons, Ceo and founder of Godaddy.com.

Many of you have probably not heard of the man. Well I’d kind of heard of his “goose that laid the golden egg,” godaddy.com. Where I can’t remember, which is usually the case with me. I’ve so much minutiae spilling out of my mental vault. Perhaps it was on Aol.com. The jist of the story was that a couple was suing godaddy.com for the return of their website’s domain name. Having decided at one point to cease working at their business, which if I remember correctly was in home furnishings, their website’s name hung out in Limbo. It seems godaddy.com came along and swooped it up, adding it to their ever-growing inventory of domain names for sale. What’s the point you ask? What’s in a domain name?

It seems domain names are like the goose of golden egg fame. The traffic that has been generated during the course of the domain’s existence can be like money in the bank for someone enterprising enough to cash in on it. Whatever the source of my information, according to it, godaddy.com’s Bob Parsons was the entrepeneur with the brainiac idea. Voile! The man is rich, rich, rich. Bob Parsons® 16 Rules Poster

Why do I care about such things? Because I just made WordPress.com richer by buying into its “domain for sale” gimmick. To the tune of $17 a year, and another $8 to keep my personal information private, I now own hugmamma.com. In the world of internet space I’ve just bought my own little planet. I should say I’ve leased my own little planet, since I have to keep up the annual payments. No other internet-gallactic planet can have my domain name. Big deal, you say? You’re right. I’ve yet to see what the big deal is all about. 

As far as I can surmise the big deal is that the traffic I’ve generated, and will continue to generate, cannot be stolen by would-be robbers. Except that there’s a whole bunch of other ways one can configure hugmamma, although mine is the most common. My husband thinks I got it cheap. Cheap to me is free. Who sells the internet? It’s mind-boggling! Blows me away to think the unseen can be bought and sold like tangible, manufactured goods. Boy, am I a dinosaur from prehistoric times! But you know someone actually bought a domain name from godaddy.com for $60,000? Evidently there are those who attach themselves to certain names, like a favorite stuffed animal or something. If someone wants to buy hugmamma.com, come see me, I’ll sell it to you for half the price. 

…we’ll just have to see what that price is…hmmm…hugmamma. 😉   

entepeneurialship…the royal connection

Kate Middleton at the Garter Procession (with ...

Image via Wikipedia

As the “wedding of the century” draws near, media outlets are looking for any angle to draw us into their particular “spin” on the story. Being the romantic that I am, I’m a real sucker for whatever they throw at me. Hey! Seems I’m the only one in my exercise class planning to ditch class tomorrow because I’ll be glued to the TV, beginning at 1 a.m. Pacific Coast Time. I may be old, but I’m not beyond being swept away by Kate Middleton‘s Cinderella fantasy-come-true. I’ll be there to “oohhh” and “aahhh” as she confirms her fairy tale ending to her prince charming, Prince William. I know I won’t be alone. My friend Sylvia, a few years older than me, will likewise be hanging out the “do not distub” sign. AND, she’s inviting a few close friends over tomorrow evening to celebrate the marriage of her future king and queen. 

I liked John Berlau‘s “twist” to the story of Catherine Middleton, future queen of England.

The Entrepreneurs‘ Princess

Much has been made of the fact that Kate Middleton, Prince William’s bride-to-be, is a “commoner.” Her mother and father began their careers working as a flight attendant and flight dispatcher for British Airways, respectively. Yet she has known many of the privileges of aristocracy because her parents built a multimillion-dollar business that supported elite educations for her and her siblings.

Some have wondered if Kate will be a “people’s princess,” in the mold of Prince William’s late mother, Diana. But Kate and her family actually embody a noble, if relatively modern, tradition of their own:  a  tradition of bettering oneself and one’s family, while improving the lot of society. In other words, entrepreneurship.

For centuries in Britain, commercial activities were looked down upon by many in the aristocracy, whose wealth lay in landownership and who would not deign to dabble in trade. This week’s wedding can be seen as the culmination of a long process of elevating the social status of entrepreneurship itself.

Kate Middleton fashion at The Goring HotelThe story of the Middletons’ rise to wealth has been told, but its implications for British culture and public policy have been little explored. When Kate was 5, her mother, like many aspiring entrepreneurs, saw a niche that could be filled to help others in her situation. As described on the website of the family business, PartyPieces.co.uk, “Carole Middleton founded Party Pieces in 1987 after finding it difficult to source fun, simple party products for her children’s parties.”

Like Microsoft and Google, which had their beginnings in residential garages, Party Pieces started out in a shed in the Middletons’ garden. There, mail orders were taken for boxes with preselected party favors to fit a certain theme.

Party Pieces really took off with the advent of the Internet. Today one can go on the website and order plates, cups and napkins with themes ranging from Barbie to the Transformers. If one of the royal duties is to ensure the happiness of subjects, Kate’s family has given her a head start by bringing joy to so many British parents and children.

Happiness through individual initiative is something Kate could encourage once she joins the royal family, by pointing to her family’s entrepreneurial background and championing Britain’s innovative firms, many of which have origins similar to that of Party Pieces. Margaret Thatcher has written that “however pervasive an enterprise culture is, most people are not born entrepreneurs.” But the Middletons, through the story of their success, will serve as a constant reminder of what enterprising men and women can achieve.

Over the three decades that span the lifetimes of Kate and Prince William, the commercial classes have attained newfound respect in British culture. The idea of ordinary people building successful businesses–a concept often called the “American Dream”–is now idealized in British programs such as BBC’s “Dragons’ Den.”

If the royal family were to utilize Kate’s background to help encourage and spread this culture of entrepreneurship, the effects in Britain–and possibly much of the world–could be great. The people of the United Kingdom would be much richer, and not just in material terms. “Earned success gives people a sense of meaning about their lives,” writes American Enterprise Institute President Arthur Brooks.

Indeed, studies show that in both the U.S. and U.K., many blue-and white-collar workers prefer to have the opportunity to advance, even if this means a less equal income distribution. A study of thousands of British employees by Andrew Clark, associate chair of the Paris School of Economics, found that measures of these workers’ happiness actually rose as their demographic group’s average income increased relative to their own.

These findings suggest that as people see members of their peer group gain wealth–even surpassing them–it gives them hope that they can improve their own lot as well. As Mr. Clark put it in his study of British workers, “income inequality…need not be harmful for economic growth” if it also “contains an aspect of opportunity.”

The Middletons symbolize the opportunity that exists in a free-market system for those who take advantage of it. It is worth noting that they founded Party Pieces during the Thatcher era, when the Conservative government focused on lifting barriers to entrepreneurs through lower taxation, less regulation, and privatization. Coincidentally or not, the year Kate’s parents started their business, 1987, was also the year that their longtime employer British Airways was sold off, with shares of stock going to its workers.

Even though Kate’s family has long been in the spotlight due to her relationship with Prince William, recent comments by Carole Middleton show that she still sympathizes with the small business owner. In an interview on the Party Pieces website, she says: “I still work through to the early hours to hit a deadline and never take our success for granted.”

The union of Prince William and Kate has been called a modern royal marriage, and in many ways it is. It will fulfill the traditional function of merging families, but in a new way. When this couple says their “I dos,” the royal family will officially be wed to the dreams and aspitations of millions of entrepreneurs in the U.K. and throughout the world.

Mr. Berlau is director of the Center for Investors and Entrepreneurs at the Competitive Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C. 

(Wall Street Journal, 4/28/11)

the japanese, a stalwart people

A bowl of miso soup

Image via Wikipedia

My husband and I had dinner at Tokyo, a small Japanese restaurant. Some might call it a “hole in the wall.” Regular diners, like ourselves, use the phrase lovingly. In other words the restaurant’s appearance is nothing spectacular, but its food is “to die for,” and its prices are fair. My combination dinner of miso soup, salad with Japanese dressing, teriyaki salmon, California roll, brown rice and a peeled orange that was sweet and juicy, “hit the spot.” I love Japanese food, at least the westernized version of the more traditional fare.

California roll served in Shanghai, China. Pre...

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During dinner my husband asked if I’d thought about the next topic for my blog. I said “Yes, that I had.” The recent Tsunami in Japan had me thinking about its people. While I don’t know anyone who lives there, I’m well acquainted with their culture. Hawaii is a melting pot of ethnicities, Japanese being one of them. Historically they were enlisted to work the plantations, replacing the first wave of immigrants, the Chinese, who improved their lot, moving from laborers to small business owners.

Growing up among the Japanese in Maui, I saw them as a quiet, soft-spoken, hard-working people. Family and honor were important in their culture. They were leaders, for sure, but they led by example. Children knew what was expected of them, because they did as their parents did. And the adults seemed to do whatever was necessary to provide for themselves and their families, by simply doing. They grew their own produce, they fished, they opened small mom and pop grocery stores. From what I observed, the Japanese seemed a very self-sufficient people. Moreover, I never heard them complain. It seemed they felt anything was possible, if they just worked hard enough.

When learning of the devastating losses it has suffered in the wake of the Tsunami, I could only think that Japan will re-emerge strong once again, like the mythological phoenix which arose from its own ashes. It is not a nation that cries out in desperation. Instead its people will put their noses to the proverbial grindstone, and rebuild their country from the ground up, making it even better than before. If God ever imbued a people with the gift of everlasting hope, in my opinion it would have to be the Japanese.

for a country of hard-working people…hugs and prayers…hugmamma.

“dave’s killer bread,” or saying no to “bread on drugs!”

My favorite bread to go with my favorite peanut butter featured in my 1/12/11 post? Robust Raisin by Dave’s Killer Bread! It’s 100% whole grain with 6 grams of protein, 4 grams of fiber and 700 miligrams of Omega 3 fatty acids in each slice. Yes, there are 10 grams of sugar, but it’s a treat for me since I’ve reduced my sugar consumption considerably. I refrain from pigging out on candies, pastries, cookies, cake, ice cream and sugar in any hot beverage. I’ve even cut way, way back on having sweet, alcoholic drinks. No more lemon drop or sour apple martinis. Boo hoo, poor me!

I’m a sucker for a good story, and Dave tells a great one about redemption, his.

I was a four-time loser before I realized I was in the wrong game. 15 years in prison is a pretty tough way to find oneself, but I have no regrets. This time around, I took advantage of all those long and lonely days by practicing my guitar, exercising, and getting to know myself–without drugs. To my utter amazement, I started liking what I was seeing. It’s been said that adversity introduces a man to himself and I found this to be true. If I had not suffered, I can safely assure you that you would not be reading the label on a loaf of my killer bread. A whole lot of suffering has transformed an ex-con into an honest man who is doing his best to make the world a better place…one loaf of bread at a time. DAVE DAHL

Dave goes on to describe his brand of bread.

When I set out to make a killer raisin bread, I knew it had to be healthier than any other raisin bread out there. I designed it to be 100% whole grain with loads of tasty, nutritious seeds. And like all killer breads, it needed to be organic and free of animal products. That was easier said than done, and this product is the result of a lot of trial and error. Try it, I think you’ll love it. DAVE

Google “Facebook/Dave’skillerbread” to become a fan. Follow him on Twitter: @killerbreadman. Get the whole story: www.Daveskillerbread.com/story.

for sandwiches, i like dave’s killer bread “21 whole grains,” 5 frams fiber, 6 grams protein, and only 4 grams sugar…yummy…hugmamma

holiday cookies, father-daughter tradition

Ever since she was little, my daughter and husband have baked holiday cookies. I think it had been a tradition between he and his mom. She told me that as a child he loved to bake. So it was my husband’s idea to carry on the tradition with our daughter. He even chose the recipe.  While not difficult, the process is tedious. I’m very happy to leave this holiday chore entirely in their capable hands.

We have always shared the cookies with family and close friends. That’s how special they are. In elementary school, our daughter’s classmates looked forward to platters of the homemade treats not only at Christmastime, but also at Easter, Halloween and Thanksgiving. They were disappointed on the rare occasion when there were no cookies, because of our busy schedule. Even now, our daughter’s friends are delighted when they are treated to a platter of cookies during Nutcracker rehearsals.

Shortly after Christmas, a year or so ago a nephew deployed to the Middle East on the aircraft carrier, the USS Abraham Lincoln. My husband baked a special batch of these signature cookies as a parting gift. Our nephew would have enough to share with crew mates, and still have a hidden stash for himself. I wrapped each of the 50 cookies in bubble wrap so that there would be no breakage, or at least it would be kept to a minimum. Needless to say they were enjoyed, right down to the last morsel.

If memory serves me, the idea for these cookies may have come from me. The first Christmas my husband managed the Garden City, Long Island American Express Travel office, I made them for his staff. I used cookie cutters in the characters of the “Peanuts” comic strip, Charley Brown, Lucy, Linus, and Snoopy. They were as charming as they were delicious. But they were also a lot of work. I’m sure that’s why I kept my distance, and let my husband and daughter do their thing.

Some who have tasted these sweet morsels have remarked that my husband should start a business. Not one for entrepeneurial endeavors, my husband has declined the challenge, preferring to remain at his corporate day job. Thank you very much. I agree he’d never be able to charge enough for the labor that’s involved. And there are already competitors who do a very good job. Laboring for loved ones is reward enough for my husband, and even more, he relishes the time  he spends with his daughter.

So from our family to yours, here’s a gift to share at Christmas, or any time you and loved ones gather.

I LOVE SHORTBREAD

About 16 cookies

Ingredients: butter, sugar, flour, salt, confectioner’s sugar

Utensils: medium bowl, dry measuring cups, long-handled spoon, rolling pin, cookie cutters, cookie sheet, potholders, spatula, wire cooling rack

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Mix together in medium bowl, 3/4 cups butter, softened, and 1/4 cup sugar. Stir in 1  3/4 cups all-purpose flour and a dash of salt. Mixture will be dry and crumbly. Pinch mixture together with clean hands until it all sticks together. Shape dough into a ball. Sprinkle a clean surface (such as a kitchen counter or breadboard) with flour. Place dough on surface. Roll or pat out dough 1/4 inch thick. Cut dough with cookie cutter. Place cutouts about 1/2 inch apart on cookie sheet. Bake about 10 to 15 minutes or until very light golden brown on the edges. Take the cookies off the cookie sheet right away with spatula. Cool shortbread on wire rack.

Mix powdered sugar with water, or milk, to paste consistency. Frost cookies as desired.

from our home to yours, hugs…hugmamma.