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: