Thursday, October 29, 2009

From Lesleigh via her iphone:
(I love this, especially this time of year, when we are all thigh high in it!)

Quote of the day:

'Whatever you give a woman, she will make greater. If you give her sperm, she'll give you a baby. If you give her a house, she'll give you a home. If you give her groceries, she'll give you a meal. If you give her a smile, she'll give you her heart. She multiplies and enlarges what is given to her. So if you give her any crap, be ready to receive a ton of shit!'
School Portraits worth framing?

A mom weighs in on tradition school photography companies like LIFETOUCH, where "school portraits worth framing" is not their mission. When I see images like these, I know our commitment to bringing professional portraiture into the schools is a value proposition. And Bridget's kids are actually some of the better Lifetouch portraits that I have seen this year. You should see the horrible quality of their sonoma county photographers.

By Bridget Baxter from her blog: Everyday Chaos
School Pictures Stink.

No surprise here but I got our school pictures back and heaven help me. My mom came this weekend and saw them and gave me that look. I know what she’s thinking. She’s hoping I give her wallets so she doesn’t have to display them ;).

Jeremy actually takes pretty normal pictures as far as his body goes but his expression is not my favorite. He likes the “drunk, dazed, and confused smiling chicken” expression. I think you have to have a chicken to know the look. They cock their heads kind of sideways and give you a blank stare. If chickens could smile they would look like this-


When anyone but myself takes Ashlyn’s picture she gets really shy and ducks, losing her neck completely. She looks like one of the Barbies we had growing up that no one played with because her neck was broken so we crammed her head on the neck stem anyway. Every school picture reminds me of neck less Malibu Barbie. Her skin is pretty tricky since she’s so porcelain toned and it almost always comes out green on film. Don’t even get me started on her expression. What is this?


Lifetouch says “looks you’ll love”- uh huh. Every year. So, because these are staying hidden in the kid’s baby books for all time and eternity I decided to take it upon myself to capture my criminal’s mug shots as I see them. (log on to Bridget's blog to see her photos)I had to grab each kid at a different time of day so the coloring is a bit different for each of them. I’m no photographer, and I don’t claim to be, but I think these are just a tiny bit better than Chicken Jim and Malibu Ash.

So mom, you’re welcome. I’m such a nice daughter I won’t make you hang the blue ones on your wall until you’re 90 ;). ...

Monday, October 26, 2009

Single Dad Town Radio featuring Linda Russell (me)

October 10, 2009 - click on date for archived broadcast

I was recently interviewed on The Bill McLeod radio show Single Dad Town Radio. The show starts with Dr. Don Fontenelle discussing how to work on your parenting skills to provide kids with clear expectations regarding behavior. Down to earth tips on how to be HEARD by being a consistent communicator.

Dr. Don Fontenelle is a Child/Adolescent Psychologist with over thirty-five years of experience in the New Orleans area. He has devoted most of his professional career to working with children, their parents and teachers. His efforts are directed toward providing parents with a better understanding of their children and giving them various ways to deal with their children's behavior.

Dr. Fontenelle has had twenty-two books in print on child/adolescent behavior. The books are written for parents and teachers. Seven of his books have been translated and published in French, Spanish, Portuguese, Bahasa (Indonesia), Vietnamese, Arabic and Chinese.

Mugshots School Photography was established in 1993, when photographer Linda J. Russell first discovered school is a great place to photograph kids! As a parent and photographer she saw the opportunity to bring new life to an industry that had turned photography into a generic commodity product focused on price and school service products at the expense of our children. Linda's commitment to bringing the local child photographer back into the schools is rooted in a belief that all children deserve to have a quality portrait and since 2006 she has focused entirely on creating a company committed to providing parents with professional photography at school photography pricing. Linda is a single mother and can relate to the mission and drive of single parents worldwide.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

My Fabulous Friend Gayla Bentley WINS big on Shark Tank

And Nell Merlino blogs about it in her Make Mine a Million$ Blog

Bring It Big

October 14th, 2009

Gayla Bentley’s appearance on Shark Tank last night was truly inspiring. She spoke passionately for her own business and for the millions and millions of women who wear clothing larger than a size 12. When the male Sharks suggested that women over size 12 don’t care about fashion - Gayla didn’t skip a beat - she disabused them of that notion immediately. Women want to look fashionable no matter what their size! For other business owners who are planning to present to potential investors/sharks Gayla did so much right.

Gayla’s pitch was some of the best television I’ve seen in a long time. She dripped personality and confidence, which wasn’t just to seem likeable – Gayla’s brand is hinged on her own sass and style, which she was selling just as much as her products. Most importantly, she knows her numbers backwards and forwards and had quantifiable evidence to answer all of the Shark’s questions. They asked how she could open a flagship in this economy, and she said that she had turned half of her showroom into retail and was up 137%! There was plenty of debate going on in what was the longest, and most revealing, segment of the show, but Gayla never lost her poise and conviction that she knew her business best. Ultimately she got the $225,000 investment she came for, and the support of Daymond John and Barbara Corcoran. I know that we are going to watch Gayla soar over the million-dollar mark very soon.

Every woman in business needs to watch this clip of Gayla and learn how to make a deal like she did.

I loved at the end of the segment Gayla turned around with her crew of plus size models and said “C’mon girls, let’s go eat!”

More Single Mom Business owners from Make Mine A Million weigh in on the discussion...

  • Re: Self Employment and Single Parenting

    Running my own business has given me the flexibility I need as a single parent - I can't imagine how I would do it if I had to be in an office or work mandatory hours for someone else. At times it is stressful knowing our well being relies entirely on my business, but the flexibility I have to take Fridays off to spend with my daughter and take her to ballet class, volunteer in her preschool, and pick her up and take her to school the days I have her is well worth it. I wouldn't trade it.

    ~Alyssa Gasca

  • Self Employment and Single Parenting

    Being self-employed has made it possible for me to be a better and more engaged parent. Running my own business absolutely gives me the flexibility to put my energies in the appropriate place at the necessary time. Granted my daughter is almost 16 years old so it's a bit easier than it was when she was little, I still firmly believe that being self-employed allows me to priortitize MY WHOLE LIFE to the greatest advantage. In fact, the seamless quality of my life contributes in a positive way to all my endeavors as I've built a team of associates, friends and family that all multi-task with me to get things done. My dog LOVES the fact that there are 3 or 4 people who he views as potential sources of pats and snacks and walks!

    I also think that I'm setting a great example. So many kids grow up thinking---as their parents reflect---that the option of being self-employed is somehow a stretch---not achievable. We dispell that theory around here every day!

    Robin Moorad

  • Single moms

    I'm a single mom. I had a few good years with my business Lemongrass Consulting ( This year has been hard. On the one hand, if I had a spouse, I could lean on that 2nd income. But, on the other hand, if I had a spouse, I would have to deal with that can of worms. I pay premium for my freedom and independence; and good partners on all fronts are tough to find.

By Clovia Hamilton

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Single Mom Business

This week I had the pleasure of working with Amber. Amber is a single mom with a 3rd grade son. She assisted me at Tam Valley school helping direct hundreds of sweet faces in making photos that you will cherish. I picked her up early in front of her apartment because she doesn't have a car. When my son first suggested that Amber would be a great assistant but needed to be picked up, I had a moment of resistance- I already have to get up at the crack of dawn in order to manage my business, as well as be set up and ready to shoot when the school bell rings- now I have to get up even earlier to pick up an assistant! It took about 30 seconds to check myself and relate to what must be a total hassle each day for Amber, getting her son to school, finding a way to get to work, grocery shopping, etc, etc. All those things that I take for granted as I jet about town in the MugsyMobile.

After we finished our day of photos, Amber and I stopped for a late lunch at In and Out Burgers. As a 20 year veteran of single parenting Amber and I questioned each other on coping skills. She is always broke. Eleven hundred dollars of her sixteen hundred dollar monthly income as a restaurant hostess going to rent. Her boss was sick of her transportation issues, she was fighting hard for day shifts so she could be home with her son in the evenings to keep him on task regarding homework. She wants to go back to school but she is not sure how she can do it. Money. Transportation. Time. Listening to her rolled back my clock to my beginning days of divorce. Two small children, no degree, no money, foreclosure, bankruptcy. Existing entirely on a desire to do the best by my kids.

Being a second generation single mom I knew what I didn't want back in 1990. I didn't want to come home from a job I hated, filled with resentment and anger toward my kids. I didn't want to raise latch key kids who filled their lonely time between school and darkness with television and junk food. It was with these "didn't want to dos" that I decided to start my own business. Owning my schedule, my income, and my direction, was my antidote to hopelessness and the trap of under-employed single mothering. At the time it didn't seem crazy to just decide set out on my own path with no security or benefits. It felt like the only way I could balance my family and my economic needs. In hindsight it was a moment of brilliance. I created a life situation for myself where failure was not an option, and my needs would be met by my energy and determination. For me, it worked. Was it hard? Absolutely. Did I always balance with grace. No way. Sometimes I chose customers over kids, other times I compromised income for soccer. But ultimately I believe being a business owner was the lifesaver I needed to succeed what at times seemed impossible.

Over burgers and fries, I encouraged Amber. I celebrated her desire to grow, and her commitment to raising a young man of integrity and strength. I validated her dreams. I also suggested she start her own business. I rattled off the stats- 65% of businesses today are started by women. I relayed the business success stories I have heard from fellow Make Mine A Million Dollar winners. I shared my own mistakes and accomplishments. I told her what I knew of programs and opportunities. What she does with this information is Amber's journey, but as I hugged her goodbye I was grateful for the reminder of the courage it takes for a woman to embrace her strengths and move toward success. I have had many opportunities along the way but none has changed my life more than my decision to create my own work life and revenue streams. I would recommend this choice to all single moms with determination and focus, it truly made a difference in my ability to balance the parenting load.

Go steadfast toward your dreams Amber! They are possible.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Updates from the Circus Tent

In September I wrote from my fantasy trapeze platform high above the crowd as we launched our website. Humming "she flies thru the air" I grabbed for my imaginary swing and kicked off a new level of business. Thank God for safety nets.

In this case it has been a tightly woven network of service providers. Nichole and Rick from our new lab partner have spent weekends and nights working out the kinks of our fabulous data management and image upload system. Mike and his team have stood behind their work as they combed thru a level of code equal to War and Peace for the dastardly buzzing bugs that cause chain of misguided reactions. Lesliegh, our new customer service queen, embraces each of our customer's concerns with the heartfelt compassion and boundaries of a seasoned mother. Henry is checking production logs at night when other early twenty somethings are thinking of their next beer-bomb. Jarreau has stretched to the level of photographer that he has surpassed me in creative ways to pose your kids. Becca continues to edit tens of thousands of images attempting to divine which ones will make your heart sing enough to purchase them in order to hold your child's smile forever.

As I swing like a pendulum, my heart is filled with gratitude (and adrenaline). Behind each one of these photographs you see on our site there is a tribe of people all working toward this vision of beautiful portraits at affordable prices. Photographers whose talent and fortitude for creating images sustains them thru what sometimes seems like an ENDLESS line of kids waiting for their moment before the lens. You can't even imagine what energy it takes to entertain, set limits and truly "see" each individual before our lens. That this dedicated group of talent has joined Mugshots makes my heart sing!

Bugs, misfires and naming conventions beware, we are on to you and in the not too distant future your short lives will be over and our website will be THE BEST school photography site in the country.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Count Me In Leadership Institute

Heat continues to be a theme here as it was REALLY hot in Boca Raton FL for the yearly meeting of the dedicated businesswomen of Make Mine A Million$ Business winners and racers. The meeting was at the corporate headquarters of Office Depot. An amazing place filled with a sense of community and inspiration. To be truthful, I have never been a "corporate" person so I didn't have a true sense of what it is to work in a positive team environment. It was really lovely. We were treated so well I am now an Office Depot shopper for life, sorry Staples.

The photo above is of Isisara Bey our "journey agent" for leadership whose voice rings in my head when I feel business swirling out of hand, she projects this remarkable balance between boundries and fun that continues to inspire me.

In the middle is Monica Luechtefeld, Office Depot's Executive Vice President of E-Commerce and Direct Marketing. Her back story is she personally spear-headed Office Depot's development of e-commerce. She is the visionary who said small business will order online when the common logic was "no way". So what we take for granted everyday- the ease of ordering office supplies online today and having them at your door the next, came from a woman who stayed true to her vision. And in those days women were more likely to be executive secretaries than Executive VPs.

On the right is Nell Merlino who believes women owned businesses will be the "recovery act"! Nell was the driving force behind "take our daughters to work" day. And has continued to be a vocal advocate for empowering women. Make Mine A Million$ Business is a program devoted to increasing the dismal 3% of women owned businesses generating 1 million dollars worth of revenue a year by providing women with the educational resources and networking opportunities that they have been outside of for years. From micro lending to macro earnings!

Personally, I am grateful for the opportunity to not only be the photographic historian of this movement but to participate. Being in a room filled with 100's of women dedicated to transforming an idea into a livelihood is an amazing experience. We are there supporting each other in all ways possible- business-and the ultimate challenge of women owned business- life balancing family and ambition!

For more information on this program:

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Hot Day in Fairfax

Thanks to Georgia for helping to create such a lovely portrait on a very warm day this month in Fairfax. She didn't try and hide her braces. Her choice of clothes was complementary to her eyes, hair AND the background. Her expression is honest and sweet.

What is even sweeter is that Georgia is now part of the extended Mugshots Family as her mom Lesleigh has joined our staff as Customer Service Maven. (I still owe some of you thank you notes for all your wonderful and heartfelt comments as well as job interest). It was a difficult decision as all of our applicants were people I would have enjoyed getting to know better and working with. But ultimately Lesleigh was the team player we were hoping to add- a customer who loved our product, who could relate to our customer and with the energy to help shape the vision of customer relations as we grow. Welcome aboard Lesleigh and thank you so much for heeding the call! And we are so grateful to have been able to capture your darling kids portraits as they grow up!!!

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Break the Bottle! We Are Launched!

So we are up and running. You are here. We are here. And all the beautiful photos of your students are starting to fill the "cloud". As you add images to your gallery and begin the process of purchasing memories I want to say thanks so much for being a part of our our dream and our community! We look forward to many years of smiles and milestones!

Please let us know any issues you may have with our new site (4 months late and not as tested as we would have liked). We truly hope we have built something strong and flexible enough to match our vision of hundreds of professional photographers creating school portraits that are cherished images of your children!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Reflections from the Skinny Branches!

"She flies thru the air with the greatest of ease, the daring young girl on the flying trapeze."

I used to sing this song in gym class throughout 9th grade. I have no idea why this was my theme song, but every day surrounded by the sounds and smells of 50 girls changing into our light blue "onesies" I would be inspired me to sing, in a operatic trill, the theme song for circus daredevils. Well, I am singing it again today. And this time I know exactly why, I am swinging on the skinny branches of business.

We are just days away from two months of daily school photo sessions and only hours away from launching this new website. This amazing dream of an e-commerce site that makes real my dream of truly changing school photography. This website built on shoestrings and the commitment of believers who grasp the idea that kids, parents and schools want photography that reflects the eye of a photographer not just a cheap throw away ID photo.

This has not been an easy path. I have to be honest. When I decided to close my studio and move my business from the very lucrative and prestigious wedding business I had developed there were many who thought me crazy. School photography is close to the bottom rung of this industry. Just above passport and drivers license imaging I suppose. So my photographer friends thought me kooky. Business experts gave me lots of feedback. Mostly discouraging. First it was that Mugshots was only about "me" and "Marin". That it wasn't duplicate-able, that only parents in Marin County would be willing to pay a (slight) premium for higher quality school photos. That Mugshots could never survive because "game theory" says that going up against an 80% market share company like Lifetouch means price war, and in a price war the bigger wins (this war might still be ahead). But despite the naysayers I have persevered.

This dream of bringing other portrait photographers into the schools has me swinging high above... no safety net. We are launching today or tomorrow, 3 months late, our labor of love and hopes... the new It is like no other photography distribution site that I have seen or found (and you know I have been looking). It was built from drawings on napkins, words on the page and the vision of a team of developers all the way across this country. Over the last year we have all worked long hours crafting, visualizing and revising to bring to life a store, data management and image hosting system that didn't exist anywhere but in my imagination.

Money needed to be generated to pay for it. Debt created and reckoned with, time siphoned from production to be suffered. Budgets busted. No vacations, no extra money for meals out. Henry, our production manager, with his new hat of project manager. Jarreau, expanding his job to match his vision of recruiting new photographers and schools. Jacca, working late nights, balancing single motherhood, with her amazing design of this online community and store. Novelprojects, our new best friends from the North Carolina Golden Triangle, writing code and rewriting code, as the immense data management issues revealed themselves. Thousands of kids and parents, hundreds of schools and photographers in our present and future. One mistake has huge ramifications. And we are all charting new ground. And here we are about to launch.

I have cried everyday this week. I wish I dealt with pressure as effortlessly as the trapeze artist. Smiling, standing on the tiny platform hundreds of feet above the crowds. But I am a crier. A dramatic Leo who wants everything to be perfect and most of all everyone to be happy. This week as we move toward launch, my stomach has hurt, my mind keeps losing focus, and my nerves have run razor thin. But my hands are on the swing, my voice singing loudly that silly song from middle school, and if I don't look down, I may just swing high enough to reach the other side of the tent. And hopefully, you, our amazing customers will cheer! "Well Done!" "Good Job!" "Bravo!"

My deepest gratitude goes out to the greatest team of people I could ever have imagined. Jacqueline Domin ( Mike McTaggart (, Henry "the great" Silva, Jarreau Cross, OneCal Bank , Nell Merlino and the entire M3 network (, Ellen Rohr who patiently has taught me financial literacy as well as how to wear "big girl pants" elegantly ( and all of my friends and family who have loved me in spite of my obsession. And lastly all of wonderful customers who have supported this company over the years. Watching your children grow up before our lenses has been a blessing.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Win a Family Portrait!! To qualify to win a free portrait session as well as become a member of the MugsyFan Hall of Famers, please email us at to share your feelings about our service and products. The lucky winners are chosen based on heart-felt honesty and feedback.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

MugsyClicks becomes SBA Recovery Act Recipient

It is truly a sign of the times when borrowing money makes you news worthy but that is exactly what happened this week. We are truly grateful to have received a SBA guaranteed loan thru One California Bank in Oakland to help us spread our mission of providing children, families and schools with quality photography. Growing our company will put community photographers to work in an economy where often art is the first thing to go. Below you will find a copy of a blog that chronicles my journey to capital. I originally created the blog for the Make Mine A Million Dollar Business Race ( share with my sisters in business all the ups and downs of committing to debt. I have put it in chronological order so you can enjoy my process.


Show Me the MONEY

March 14, 2009

SBA Loan- Journey to revenue News Update: My local community bank let me know earlier in the week that SBA loans were being guaranteed by the feds up to 90% and banks are feeling very much better about loaning money. After hearing this I immediately began the journey toward funding and thought it might be fun to share this process with my Count Me IN sisters so here goes:

Monday Morning-3/9- Spoke to Robert, the bank SBA loan rep. Made an appointment to meet on Friday. He provided me with forms to fill out.

Tuesday 3/10- Filled out application. Pulled P&Ls and balance sheets.

Wednesday 3/11- Made copies of 3 years of personal tax returns. Copied LLC corp. materials. Began updating 2009-10 projections. Reviewed and updated executive summary. Was really glad I had spent as much time with Ellen Rohr and Libby Ladu who taught me the value of having a working business plan. It was easy to bring things up to date. Once again gave me focus.

Thursday 3/12- Pressure is on. Must have all documentation ready by Friday 1pm. Worked until 12 AM on projections, assumptions and intentions. Basically telling the bank what I needed the money for and how I was going to pay it back. It is important to be crystal clear here. Having a working business plan with a Top Projects list made this easier. I knew what I wanted to do... complete website, consolidate debt and finance sales and marketing push. I outlined how I was going to use the money. The Internet made this fast as I could estimate trade show and printing costs quickly. Other expenses I estimated from experience. Came up with a needed number $250K.

Took a deep breath. Looked at projections, reviewed past year's P&L's. Everything looked good because we have been "ON" our numbers monthly.

Friday 3/13- Woke up early and began printing, reviewing and organizing documentation. Put together a presentation package of marketing and press materials. Put on my Gayla Bentley clothes so I would feel grown up, tidy and professional. Left for bank nervous but optimistic.

My daughter called and reminded me I was powerful and to leave any doubt about my business or self at home in bed. Good advice. Got to bank early. A good omen since I am regrettably one of those people who always try to put just one more thing into a minute and feel the pain of it frequently.

Bank security guard greeted me by name. Wow. Go "One Cal Bank" Oakland! Robert wasn't ready for me early so they let me in the break room for a cup of tea. Nice. Friendly. Darn right neighborly. Robert found me and we went into the conference room. I shared my passion of my company and my dreams. I explained my projections. Answered questions regarding my assumptions. Signed copies of paperwork. He gave me some great suggestions regarding ways to streamline my banking. I felt like I was meeting with a consultant instead of a loan officer. A bank partner in my success. With a warm handshake I left my plans, accounting records, tax returns and future opportunities in his hands. He told me things looked good and I would hear back from him by next Thursday with the bank's decision. The security guard smiled as I left waving "see you soon". I will update in real time here!!


March 16, 2009

Like buying a house. There are a lot of paperwork requests to apply for this SBA loan. A few things I didn't even know existed. In addition to documentation of LLC I needed an "Operating Agreement". Since I am the only member of the MugsyClicks Corporation I had not created one of these. I went online and found a free download and adapted it. I had to dig my fictitious business license out of the files as well as a lease agreement for my studio. Below is a complete list of necessary forms and documentation: ¨ Application¨ Personal Financial Statement ¨ Statement of personal History for each borrower or co-borrower (912 form)¨ Certification Regarding Debarment¨ Tax Transcripts Verification request ¨ Articles of Corporation¨ Operating Agreement¨ Copy of Business License¨ Fictitious name statement¨ Borrower resume¨ Executed Lease¨ Signatures on all borrowers’ financials (can be sign after loan has been approved)¨ 159 Fee Compensation Disclosure (needed only after loan has been approved)I faxed most of the documents (took 30 minutes). I am nervous but excited; with money I can pursue my business dreams with pinpoint focus.


March 19, 2009

Email from SBA Business Loan Manager:"Prequal letter on way, just like promised.” My heart leaped, I wanted to call someone and celebrate. 30 minutes later I feel like throwing up. So much money, so much responsibility. What if, what if, I am "if-ing" all over myself. I am short tempered with staff. I jump in the car to occupy my racing mind with errands. I try to think who I can process this experience with, who do I know that has ever signed their name to a quarter of a million dollars in business debt. This is a M-3 sister moment cause my list of girlfriends does not include CEOs. Yoga instructors, photographers, flight attendants-I leave messages with a few M3's who are thankfully unavailable because what I really need to do is just sit, breathe and go back to my business plan. The plan is there. No bank in this economy is going to loan me money if they don't think I can do this...I get the car washed, eat lunch in a busy cafe where I can give out business cards and decide to sleep on it. Let my breath catch up to my imagination. Tune in tomorrow. Funding ahead

New Day- SBA Loan Pursuit Day 7

March 20, 2009

Woke up strong and regenerated with ideas. Of course debt is scary, I wouldn't be doing right by myself if I wasn't aware of the responsibility but it is also the absolutely correct step for our business growth. Mugshots needs fuel, it cannot grow on just my energy alone, I undermine my business potential when I constrict- it's not like I didn't do my homework. I ran my numbers conservatively as well as explosively. I love the fact that this loan is part of the "stimulus package". I woke up realizing that I am part of the solution to the economy. I certainly believe I will be a good steward to the loan and it feels good to know I am an American citizen doing my part. This is a completely new experience for me on so many different levels. For many years I have seen my business as "mine" now I look at the 15 Mugshots photographers and see an "us". We are part of the Obama vision of America and my heart is full. So now I wait for the pre-qual letter. One of my facebook pals, a former business big wig, gave me the head's up regarding "Covenants?” His post was: Wishing you great success Linda. Covenants? Sounded vaguely biblical with a twist of witchcraft.... I immediately googled "Covenants"- Ah, the terms of the loan. Got to be aware of what I am risking. What the bank wants in the way of assurances that I WILL respect their investment. I will update soon.


March 20, 2009
I have been getting emails from other M3 sisters looking for details. Here are some more...My credit score is 758, it has gone down due to my high credit card debt which is one of the things I am consolidating with the SBA loan. I included in my presentation package. Marketing Materials, an updated executive summary statement from my business plan, a page that outlined why I wanted the money and what I was going to do with it. I also included a list of my board of advisers. I was later asked for a business resume which I put together using a template from iwork pages (they are cool). On the resume I listed Make Mine A Million and our latest win- Best of Marin.


March 20, 2009

From Monica with Health-e lunch: "hi again, I just heard back from Bank of Amer. they said I have to be 2 years positive cash flow to qualify for any loan... GRR! I'm not, are you 2 years positive CF? Thanks so much, sorry for all the q's!" Yes, I have been in the black, but barely. Forget B of A. I tried to get a line of credit with Wells and they completely blew me off and I have been banking with them over 20 years. Find a SBA certified business bank. A community bank. Someone who will listen to your mission and your story. My experience before ONE CAL BANK in Oakland was an ambitious young suited graduate anxious to sign me up for whatever promotion Wells is running (I think they get paid by the sign up). I went for the okie doke only to find my credit dinged by their review and a "no go" on the loan. No one ever even asked to see business plan or assumptions. It seems to me it is all about the programs they are running ... that and sending them my merchant business. Plus all their money is going toward absorbing other banks. Find a bank that is truly invested in community development.


March 23, 2009

My pre-qual letter arrived and now I have new language to learn. UCC1 on business assets required= A lien on my business. No personal collateral required. Principal Payments Only- acceptable to pay extra on principal not interest. No pre-payment penalty so if I sold the business or when I have a ROCKIN good year I can pay off the loan without 10 years of interest. On the personal level I decided to review my plan again to quiet my nervous nellies. Everything looks doable. Tomorrow I drop of my good faith payment of $500 and signed pre-qual letter and will be looking for funding next week.


March 25, 2009

Headed over to ONE CAL bank this morning for an 11AM appointment with my new best friend, Robert, to sign submission documents for my SBA 7a loan. It even has a name, catchy if you hum it while driving. SBA 7A, SBA 7A, SBA 7A, can't you feel the rhythm? Once again smiles at the door before we entered the conference room. Robert was informative and very patient with all my questions. He is definitely my ally in this process. He reassured me that many people were nervous when signing their name to 300K in debt. We discussed the best way of securing this money for cash flow purposes. My present plan is to pay down all my high interest debt, pay my vendors and then park the balance in a savings account to use as my own lending tree. This way rather than hitting cards during the slow season I can create my own business line of credit to draw down and pay back. Brilliant. I have looked closely at my hinge factors (another new concept) so we know exactly what we have to accomplish here at Mugshots to be successful. Hinge Factor was explained to me as "the two or three things that MUST come true for Mugshots to be successful". This process gives us something concrete like, "average new photographer sign-up is xxx/yyy" or "number of heads photographed x various buy rates", to hang our income door on. This exercise was brought to me by one of my more conservative (if the sky falls in) advisers, who suggest, "a bottom up P&L plan based on all the detailed items that go into it." He doesn't like, doesn't like at all, plans based on "we can grow by X percent" ideas. Luckily, we have numerous hinges in our projections so we can stay on top of our income to debt quickly if there is a change in our revenue assumptions. So after much signing (my signature getting messier and messier) I left with a handshake turned into a hug for Robert and a new date to look forward to: Commitment Letter Time-this coming Friday, 2 weeks from the beginning of this process. I believe there are probably conditions ahead... liability insurance, etc.


March 25, 2009

Oh, yes. I also left a $500 good faith deposit to cover the costs of drawing up docs. I also think it is worth noting that a businessperson, such as myself, can borrow a maximum of 2 million dollars, yes that is 2 millions of ones, on the SBA7a. That said this is one borrower's total revenue access. So, if I were a partner in another business that was interested in pursuing an SBA7a, my present debt (or soon to be present debt) would count against that loan potential. That would mean the partnership could only borrow 1.7 million from the SBA cause I already drew down 300K. I realize that most of us here at Make Mine A Million are not yet ready for the 2 million debt but I wanted to give you a peek at all the details. As I understand them, newbie that I am.


March 26, 2009

This morning I write empowered. Knowing that money is on its way is an amazing feeling. I am alive with the possibilities. Over the years I have had money in the bank, no money in the bank and really no money in the bank, with money on the way. This year I will have a reserve that is really a reserve. That is a powerful feeling. Now I can really work my plan without the fear of being flat broke. I can set attainable goals and have the capital to work those goals. While the risk is larger (the size of the loan) this is a "big girl pants" opportunity to grow Mugshots from a position of more financial strength. My mind has been spinning with ideas but I know that each idea must find it's way into the Mugshots business plan if it requires funding. I am a responsible steward of money and believe in fiscal responsiveness AND fiscal responsibility. But for today, my mind dances with a shopping list of Mugshots possibilities and the music is great!


March 26, 2009

Just received a call from Robert at ONE CAL BANK (! Hurrah! The bank’s committee has signed off the loan. Robert asked to verify some debt on my balance sheet which was easy because my twice monthly balance sheets, P&Ls and Financial Quick Checks are in a notebook right next the phone. Thank you Cheryl! Your bookkeeping records are up to date, clean and impressive. A Financial Quick Check (FQC) is Ellen Rohr of Bare Bones Biz's (monthly snapshot form that allows me to see at a glance my Income, COS, COGS, GROSS PROFITS, OPERATING EXPENSES, NET PROFIT, CASH FLOW AND QUICK RATIO. I have been trained to look at these to make sure numbers look good. I am not proud to admit sometimes I don't want to look at them, I would rather pretend, but ultimately reality is better than denial. And if I was soul searchingly honest, sometimes I feel broker than I really am. One of the great things about the FQC is that it also shows me how the money compares to last year, to the budget, YTD numbers and how much money is available in the bank. So now my financial future is headed to the Small Business Administration for approval. Luckily One California Bank is a SBA preferred lender so things are looking really good. Once the money is approved the funds will go into a checking account at the bank for use toward my expansion plans. Look out schools, photographers, kids and parents there are "school portraits worth framing" headed your way!!! is humming grow, grow, grow!


April 1, 2009

Now it is all in the government’s hands. The SBA has my paperwork and all I can do is wait. This morning I emailed Robert to check in. He emailed back he hoped to hear something by Friday but rumor has it Sacramento has been over-run with people like me scrambling for capital. Capital from the capitol. Ever intuitive he emailed me again with his support: (thanks M3 for teaching me to reach for the top). “Linda, I am very confident with your loan application. As I stated when I spoke with you last, you are the ideal candidate for this program. Minority based (woman owned), business savvy and an unquestionable entrepreneurial drive to be the best informed person you can be...If the SBA does not see that from my recommendation then there is something wrong with their faculties and I did not do my job to best market your skills. Until then, I will wait till they respond. I will reply as soon as I get word from SBA. Thank you for your patience.”

Funding Next Week

April 17, 2009

I am delighted to share that loan approval from the SBA has come!! Patience once again became a cornerstone of this process, as I have had to wait an extra week for funding due to a previously planned trip to DC to visit my daughter. Evidence of Insurance language became a multi-phone call challenge. I had not updated my business to reflect my LLC status (never even occurred to me) but these details are important to the loan process so it is good to make sure there is consistency in all your business documentations when entering into this process. I am excited about all the possibilities this funding offers. Clearing the credit card debt, knowing I have the capital to finish my technology projects and marketing plans is exhilarating. Yesterday as I biked thru the national mall from the Jefferson to the FDR memorial I was taken by the power of vision matched with commitment and timing. Still these intentions must be met with access and I am grateful for access to these monies to help make my business flourish.

Signing Final Loan Docs- 2 days until "money in the bank"

April 20, 2009

I am back from DC. Completely inspired by the chest forward atmosphere of our nation's capital. I had never been to Washington DC before Make Mine A Million, the "district" always seemed to represent someone other than me. But that has changed. As I stood at the fence before the White House I was amazed at the completely different vibe than my first visit in October of 2007. This time the sidewalk was lined with a rainbow of families instead of protesters. In so many accents the word Obama rang. This visit reflected not fur coats and Brooks Brothers but colorful dashikis, red, white and blue trucker caps, and every manner of Obamawear. Groups, as well as individuals, all with cameras witnessing their visit to the “house of Obama”. Hundreds of eyes scanning the yard for a bouncing dog named Bo or 2 happy children returning from school. Later when the presidential helicopter flew across the sky, thousands of arms raised throughout downtown DC in waves to our new leader in change. This time I am a member of the tribe! Change has come to me! Monetary Resources offered and opportunities expanded. 2009 is my year! I have turned off the bad news and responded to the good. For the last 8 years I have built a business in the shadow of an economy that invested in the few while the many scurried to keep up. I built a business brick by brick while the government undermined my foundation with war, greed and unchecked power. Tossed me a $600 tax recovery rebate while asking my future to assume a massive debt. Now in a few short months I have seen my hard work and due diligence rewarded. Access to funding provides a concrete tool to grow. Scary? Yes. Powerful? Intoxicating. Practical? Absolutely. Investment in my business has always proven profitable. I know it has as I have been doing it for years. So here I am 100 days into 2009, with stabilized sales AND increased potential. No television news screaming failure is playing in my house, we are too busy planning how to hire and train more photographers and the best way to share with more schools our revolutionary "school portraits worth framing"!

Practical considerations here:
Needed DL to verify identity, a blank check to cover loan fees. Lots of papers to assure bank, SBA etc. that I understood my legal rights and obligations. Wasn’t surprised to find out that this money was NOT to be used for investing in Ponzi schemes, marijuana farms or a long desired vacation. This money is for MUGSHOTS growth only. (If I was really honest, there have been times during the last month that I fantasized this money as “genie wish”). I also verified a willingness to keep the bank up to date with my yearly taxes and financial statements. I clarified that the bank would send reminders regarding their desired paperwork. Good to know.


April 24, 2009

Hi Linda, Congratulations we have funded your loan. Would you like me to send out the cashier checks or would you like to come to pick it up and put it in the mail yourself? Also, please send me the original settlement sheet back to you via mail. Thank you Pauline Nguyen AVP, SBA Closing Officer One California Bank, FSB1438 Webster Street, Suite 100Oakland, CA 94612Ph: 510.550.8427

Money In the Bank Options

May 23, 2009

So the SBA money went into my new money market account early in the month and I sprung immediately into...inaction. Partial paralysis, it felt so good having money in the bank my inner Scrooge wanted to visit the vault just to stack it and roll about in it's essence. Forget the economy, forget growing a business, just let me stretch out on the couch and feel secure. Well, that phase, like the rest of this borrowing money experience, came and then departed like the morning fog in San Francisco. The winking sun came when I realized every month I paid my loan payment out of borrowed capitol was not only money not invested in my business, it was decreasing access to my cherished options. In case that isn't clear... if I have 300K in capital and I pay $3000 a month to use that capital from the 300K I have banked I now only have 297K left to work with. Probably obvious to everyone but me from the beginning but when my inner insecurity runs from my inner ambitious I sometimes lose sight of the obvious. Next visit I will share all the wonderful things my ambitious creative self is energizing with capital.

Marketing 101

May 26, 2009

I love marketing. I love conceptualizing programs, energizing ideas and creating campaigns. I am frequently amused at the wit of my fingers on keyboards. Over the years marketing has always been my favorite part of owning my business. I have actually been pretty darn successful at it so it is probably a bit surprising that the second thing I did since my loan funding, after consolidating debt, was outsource my e-mail marketing. By hiring an email-marketing consultant I was able to leverage my strengths with follow thru. Since I am strong at marketing I felt that outsourcing the conception and implementation was an area that I would be able to easily monitor and direct. Since marketing makes my heart sing it was simpler to quickly assess what skills and qualities were in agreement with my vision. I feel blessed to now have the revenue to work with a marketing expert that will help take our product to an even higher level as well as assure that we don't fall behind because "I" am the only one who handles email marketing. Mitch Tarr of Zin Marketing has met my expectations at our every meeting and I can't wait to see the next evolution of vision and follow thru!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Are You IN?

Hello fellow women business owners,
Over the last 3 years many of you have watched my business grow and flourish. Much of my success was due to what I have learned since winning the Make Mine A Million $ (M3)Business competition. This group has provided education and support in accessing me to not only the tools for growing but also the fellowship of other women moving beyond the known. Since becoming part of this organization I have more than doubled my revenue and have created income for more than 10 people. The hardest part of this experience was that all my business owner sisters were not a part of this process due to the competition aspect of the group. Now that has changed.

Count Me In (M3 Parent Organization) has launched a new more inclusive competition- A Race to your revenue goal- complete with business tools, training, and political clout. I would like to personally invite you to become a part of this amazing experience. I actually guarantee that joining this organization will be of value. If you join the race and participate in process and do not feel it was of value I will personally refund the $100 registration fee. I feel this strongly about the vision of this Count Me In and the potential of your businesses.

The timing of your signing up is very important to our quest for women’s economic independence through business growth, personal growth and job creation in our communities. Nell Merlino is headed to Congress next week to advocate for women-owned business' access to markets, experts, technology, and financing. There is going to be a lot of future debt allocated to rebuilding the economy and it is important that woman owned businesses be included in this plan. We all know who benefits first when women grow their businesses- women's priorities are family, education and healthcare- even before shopping :0).

Please join with us and grow your businesses. We are optimistic in spite of the terrible economic news. I know that my fellow women business owners will find a way to support their families no matter what the odds and Count Me In is dedicated to helping us to do so. Not only personally but as a group. By joining the race today you are standing with Nell as she speaks to the congressional decision makers as well as press with a passionate belief in our success. I can tell you from personal experience, this makes a difference. Here is a little nugget to chew on..women did not get access to equal credit until 1974, yes 1974- that was when the Equal Credit Opportunity Act was passed. And it took another few years for it to take full effect. Thank goodness for people like Nell who are willing to fight for women's equality at the economic table. We have come a long way but there are still inequities to balance. We are certainly smart enough, ambitious enough and dedicated enough.

So check out M3. Join Us. You will find answers and access to the information and tools you need to understand your business growth. Profit and Loss Statements, Balance Sheets, Marketing Plans, Business Plan writing, coaches, mentors, loans, SBA, operations manuals, etc. We have a network of women who are seeing success in businesses as diverse as hand colored buttons to drug testing assurances.

Together we can support each other's success and bring attention to our value to this country's future.
With love and faith in your vision,

Register at