Web Development for Small Businesses and Non-Profits

Over the last year, I’ve been working with two different local Squamish businesses to help with promotions and communications, including website design and social media strategies.  Mainly I started doing this work with the two businesses because the work that they do for the community is something that I believe in. I simply won’t do work for people I don’t admire and believe that they too are improving the world.

I’m happy to be able to share with you the two websites: Squamish Family Chiropractic and Tonya Motyka Massage Therapy.  For both of the websites I have developed, I used the same model that I use for my work in health promotions: show them how, encourage them to do it, help them do it and then let them do it.  In other words, I believe in empowering others and creating sustainability.  I believe in working myself out of a job, by creating communications pieces that actually allow people not to have dependency problems.

Listen up small business owners and non-profits:

Good communications people will not set up your website or social media to create a dependency on their skillsets.  If they do, then they ripping you off.

There are a few key areas that communications people need to do for you for your website. But beyond these two items, you should be able to “fly” without them (unless, of course, you’d like to simply employ a communications person part or full-time, which means your small business is really not small).

1.  Let Them Be Your Braggart 

Let me explain by talking about Tonya Motyka’s massage therapy. Tonya is a talented massage therapist.  In fact, she is my massage therapist and I’m rather particular about to whom I hand over my body to offer care.  While Tonya is a great massage therapist, she has a trait that makes her a poor communications person (no offense Tonya!).  It’s a trait for which I think is part of her personal charm: she is humble.

Humility is a wonderful quality.  But when you’re looking at writing content for a website or doing promotions, you cannot be humble. For promotional materials, including a website: you need to revel in the delight of telling who you are and what makes your services unique and wonderful.

So I’ve done up her website for her, but I had to write a lot of the initial content.  If you are anything like most small business owners, you simply can’t talk about how great your services are because you are too hard on yourself (and don’t realize you’re likely rather talented!).  Or  you might end up sounding like a cheesy sales pitch.  (And just to clarify: cheesy is bad, People only like cheesy on their pizza or if they’re in the mood for a sappy movie).  Instead, your communications person needs to hold a mirror up to show in your website who you are and what you do, initially, so that you can see where your skills are, and how to communicate those with authenticity.  But she’ll be able to use that content forever. Because she’s never going to want to no longer say she’s “talented” or that her studio is no longer “beautiful and peaceful.”

2. Let Them Paint The Canvas (but teach you how to paint)

I was impressed by a digital barn raising that happened in town for a local non-profit. It’s a brillant idea to see that they got this small non-profit an online presence.  I was thrilled.  But I was not so thrilled that it seemed that they did all the website in such a beautifully talented, highly skilled way that I’ll be certainly very surprised to see that website current in one year’s time.  This is something I see so very often happen to small businesses and non-profit organizations that hire a web designer to do their website.  It reminds me of a story I heard once (I’m not sure it’s true):

In the early 90’s there was a group of people from North America that heard about starvation in Africa.  They found out that it was because there wasn’t enough food being farmed.  So they raised money to fly over large, very expensive tractors to a small rural farming community in Africa.  About a year later, one of their members had raised enough money to go to Africa.  When he arrived in the small towns, he found the remnants of the tractors in various places throughout the rural town and starvation was still a major problem.  The visitor was shocked and angry, not understanding why these people had not used their generous gift.  That was when someone explained: while some of the people in the town knew how to drive a car (so a tractor wasn’t too difficult), there was no gas station in the area, no access to oil, extra parts or tools or mechanics for repairs.

The point is, communications people may need to send tractors, along with teaching their clients to fuel, repair, and where to find resources to deal with basic issues.  Sure, some additional consulting needs to be given sometimes for more complicated issues, but don’t let your communications person hold the paintbrush for life.

So while I launched Tonya’s website, I also developed it in a program that’s easy for her to use.  Then I taught her how to update the content because I’ve made it in a way that respects her current technical skills and respects her ability to update her own content for her own needs.

I have to say that I’m really rather proud of her new website.

Here’s the Before (just the front page, and there was only one other page beyond this one):

Click on the thumbnail to see Tonya’s old website- front page

Now go visit the new site: www.squamishrmt.com.

The new site, I think, better represents the look and feel that clients will experience when they visit Tonya’s studio. Bright and warm and welcoming. Not imposing or demanding. Clear, concise and peaceful.

Here’s to developing better communications for health practitioners so that they can improve the world!

Best Practice in Workplace Health: The HOW

About halfway through last year, I joined the Benefits Canada Magazine Advisory Board, after talking extensively with their editors in regards to the article they did on my work at UBC.  Last Friday, we had an advisory meeting, which included a number of professionals from across Canada.

I cannot talk in detail about what we discussed (read the Magazine in upcoming months and you’ll see a lot of interesting articles), but I wanted to say what a privilege it is to join a group of thoughtful, dedicated people who understand that workplace health doesn’t just make sense as “good organizations” but it also makes sense financially.  Unfortunately though, everyone seems to be getting on the wellness bandwagon and I see a lot of this work done in ways that waste a lot of time, energy and money.  This gives my field a bad name and ends up making a lot of workplace health cynics in the business world.

It is inspiring to meet people who do my work who understand how to do it well, how it matters to individuals and organizations, and how to keep companies from wasting their resources on yet another “You Should Eat More Veggies” workshop.  We all know what we SHOULD be doing and WHY it matters (so “we don’t get fat or die”) so I look forward to talking with folks like those on the Benefits Canada Advisory Board who talk about the How of Health.  That’s what we’re all trying to get to- how to eat more veggies in our busy lives, when we’re surrounded by fast food joints and rushing to another meeting.

Here’s to new opportunities in 2012!

Staying Healthy for Women Engineers: Workshop

Last Saturday, I spent a great hour with the women engineers at Connections 2.0, a conference run by WWEST (Westcoast Women in Science, Engineering and Technology).  Exploring practical ideas to take on the fact that health can be seen as a culturally deviant concept in the field of Engineering was exciting!

I was so thrilled by the numerous participants, particularly the two students from BCIT and SFU who are interested in perhaps engaging in similar discussions with their colleagues at their respective institutions.

Thanks to all the participants for attending and being such willing, active participants.  I learned from you as well!

Click here to get the presentation notes.

Sometimes You Need A Change

For a few years now I have focused a lot of my spare energy, outside of my fulltime work, focusing on helping parents and teens. I love that work, but to be honest, I realized that I am limited myself in terms of how I am able to better the world.

Recently the world, and a number of dynamic business owners have pointed out that they want me to help them with their work.  In doing so, they also helped me to more clearly see what I have to offer the world.  Like most people, I was holding myself back from a variety of opportunities by simply boxing myself into the category of “teen and parent consultant/coach.”  That box was cutting off major parts of who I am and what I have to offer.

Out with living in little boxes! I’m moving into a whole big world instead!

So I have revamped my website to better reflect all that I have to offer businesses and individuals (including parents and teens).  It doesn’t take away from my ability to help parents and teens, under my Risky Parenting brand, but instead, allows me to also help organizations who need help in finding success too.

I hope you’ll find what you need here. If you don’t, ask me and I likely can find it in my arsenal of tools or I can point you in the direction of someone else I admire.

“Life is a gift, and it offers us the privilege, opportunity and responsiblity to give something back by becoming more.” Tony Robbins

Rewiring Your Brain to Understand The Teen Brain

I was sitting with my accountant the other day, and instead of talking about my taxes, we talked about teens obviously.  Teens are far more interesting, that is for certain!  After he realized what my work was all about, he started talking to me about some recent information he had discovered about the brain.  He used to be a coach in Squamish, and he told me how his new understanding about the way brains work really would have helped him when he was a coach.

When I worked with teens and tweens in Vermont, I was introduced to the PBS series, “Inside the Teenage Brain.”  It’s a great introduction to more recent research about brain development and how it can influence behavior.  I went on to study more about brain development, since it is the root of all of our physical, emotional, social ways of being, and there’s insights that I have learned that drastically change the way I work with families and youth, such as:

  • A brain is still growing.  It finishes full development in the mid-twenties.  (I always like to mention that I’m very proud to have acquired a full brain now- someone should have given me a medal when I graduated into my full brain growth!).  Sometimes when a teen/tween doesn’t “get it”- it’s not their fault. It’s that their brain isn’t working in the same way as mine (and that is not meant as a backhanded insult to teens/tweens!).
  • The part of the brain that allows tweens/teens to understand long term goals and long term consequences is not developed until the mid-twenties.  So consequences to actions and thinking about the future, needs to think about the next 6 months, not the next year (or the next ten years).  This makes sense- their entire lifetime is so short that 6 months is a  very long time to them.
  •  Some of their choices (such as being influenced by their peers, choosing high sugar foods or sleeping in until noon) is more about their brains than about whether or not they want to “choose healthy behaviors.”  So why blame them for their brains?  A teen’s internal clock is meant to be active later in the day, not first thing in the morning.  High sugar foods are a teenage brain’s way of becoming high functioning and alert in the quickest way possible.  Being influenced by their peers is actually hardwired into their dopamine system in their brains.

I hope this helps you re-think how you’re interacting with the teens around you.  Sometimes, what we roll our eyes about, is that they aren’t grown up (internally or externally), and if you think about it, that’s the nature of being a teen! They’re not quite adults yet. They’re adults-in-training, with brains-in-training too.

Best & Worst Practices for Anti-Bullying Messages

I just wanted to quickly share this really well written article on best (and worst) practices in messages about bullying.  It’s a great resource for educators, activists, parents, teens and allies, and it outlines how I often feel about some of the substance abuse/violence prevention campaigns that I see people using.

Pemberton Parents are Incredible!

I offered my Keeping Teens and Tweens Out of Trouble workshop at the Pemberton Library on Tuesday night and I was just so tremendously impressed with the parents of Pemberton.  We had about twenty-five participants for 2 hours, and everyone was so interested.  We even had a lot of fun (shocking, I know!).

In the workshop, we spent a lot of time talking about the Developmental Assets.  It’s a well recognized list of “building blocks” for tweens and teens that promote healthy development (and the avoidance of high risk behaviors [eg. substance abuse, risky sex, violence etc]).  As part of the exercise, each parent wrote on a Post-It note one asset they wanted to work on building for their child.  Then we switched Post-It’s so that each parent could share their own idea of how to build that asset in a child.  At the end of the workshop, we left the Post-It notes on the side, so folks could pick up their own (without having to admit which asset they wanted to work on building in their child).  A few parents left theirs behind, so let me share some of these ideas! I’ve added a couple of my own ideas (in italics).

Ideas on How to Build Positive Peer Influence (#15)

  • Ask your child to tell you the positive attributes about their peer
  • Find out positive activities that your child’s peer does
  • Suggest/introduce positive activities/things your child can do with their peer
  • Convince another parent to bring along their teen (who you think will be a positive influence) to an activity your teen wants to do with you (eg. host a cooking class- all four of you cook together).
  • Encourage your teen to be involved in some new club/group

Ideas on Building One Hour/Week with a Religious Community (#19)

  • Go with your teen to church and see if they like it. (You don’t have to like it!)
  • Find out about youth programs through Pemberton Christian Fellowship
  • Church at the Community Centre is fun and welcoming for teens
  • (Suzanne’s idea) Once/month visit a religious community gathering to explore religious difference & understanding

Ideas on Building Achievement Motivation (#21)

  • Know what is coming so that you can help to avoid procrastination
  • Get involved with homework
  • Allocate the time for him/her to get their work done, followed up with rewarding time after the work is done
  • Celebrate successes
  • Work on weak points
  • Parent/teacher involvement (being in discussion with teachers, helps your child better understand that school really matters)
  • Reward their hard work! Think if you didn’t get paid for (or were inspired by) your work, would you still do it? Figure out what real rewards would be for your teen- ask him/her.
  • Get them to a university campus, to meet with students in topics they’re interested in.


Thanks again to all the positive Pemberton parents!


Cyberbullying Presentation Tomorrow in Squamish

I’ve finished my cyberbullying presentation for tomorrow night at the Squamish Family Chiropractic Office, so I thought I’d share it on here first.  You’ll notice on my presentations online that I really use it as a guide when I speak, so I feel as though I’m just sharing with you a sneak peak of what the workshop really entails. 

I’m really excited about it, since I used to focus on teaching parents about social media and the reasons why the internet matters so much to teens.  I feel as though I could expand this presentation, but I’m just doing an hour introduction to the topic.  So if anyone asks for more, then I’ll flesh out a number of areas!

Getting Social: Teens & Social Media

I’m on Twitter (as you might know), and I follow a wonderful man (whom I have never had the privilege to meet in person) named David Hood.   He lives in Australia, and I follow him on Twitter because I like what he has to say, and I like what he is asking of the world, and I like where he seems to want the world to go to.  We’re just tweeps to one another, and I learn alot about the world through his eyes.

Last night, David tweeted about how his friend’s daughter (a 16 year old) was actively engaged in conversations on her Facebook profile with her friends in ways that could negatively impact her reputation and future.  He asked the folks who follow him on Twitter to share some resources about teaching teens about the importance of maintaining a good online identity. Since I’m working away on my presentation for Monday on cyberbullying, I’ve been looking up a lot about teens being online, so I thought I’d share this information with you all too.  Thanks to David for openly asking the question, which has spurred me to share this information!

I remember in the small town in Vermont that I worked in, that the local police were using Facebook and MySpace to track the location of underage drinking parties (often happening in the woods).  I also remember the local high school scandal: when a number of student athletes were featured drunk in a video after they had won a major game, and faced the consequences sicne some of them were all a part of a club that focused on abstinence from drugs and alcohol.  So I understand first hand about how teens can cause a lot of trouble for themselves through their online identities.

For Parents

Learn more about how teens/tweens are using social media from Education.com

A quick comparison between tweens/teens use versus moms. A great tool for starting a dialogue between yourself and your child!

Also, a comprehensive study about teens and social media.

The Anti-Drug has some great information.

America’s Most Wanted offers their own tips.

Federal Trade Commission offers tips about protection for teens/tweens on social networking sites. 

This toolkit was developed for Libraries, but has some interesting information about educational benefits of social networking.

This blog, The Barking Robot, offers a number of really great resources as well.

For Tweens & Teens

Quick Tips from Connect Safely

Teen Health (Kidshealth.org)


OnGuardOnline (from the Federal Trade Commission)- includes a bunch of games like “ID Theft Faceoff” and “Spam Scam Slam”

Cyberbullying Workshop: Feb 28 at 6:30 in Squamish

Have I mentioned that I love my chiropractor, Lori Broker?  No, she doesn’t pay me to promote her.  She did, however, fix my migraine on Monday, so that I was able to finish working on my keynote speech for Tuesday morning’s Northwest Association of College and Housing Officers Annual Conference.  It was really important to me, and I love her for helping me get to feeling good enough to take care of it.

I also love Lori beyond her chiropractic skills. I love her because she cares about the Squamish community, so she hosts people to offer free workshops.  When she found out what I do (in my “spare time” outside of my full-time work at UBC), she was excited and she asked me to host a workshop.  A few weeks later, she asked me, specifically, to look at the topic of cyberbullying.

In the past, when I worked in Vermont, I used to run a workshop for parents to reduce the fear (and increase the love!) for social media.  After all, I do have my BA in Communications, and I tweet, facebook and use Linked In (and I used to even have a myspace, but I didn’t have enough time for all, so I got rid of that).  I also have a great relationship with a number of teens via Facebook, and I value being able to give them some perspective on their lives, quickly, via their Facebook status updates, pictures, etc. 

After all, today’s teens and tweens have a whole world on the internet (whether we want them to or not).  So I am an advocate for parents: it’s time to become at least minorly tech-savvy.

So my workshop in Vermont focused on how to blog, Facebook, and text.

On February 28th, though, because of Lori’s request (and insight into the needs of parents), I am focusing on cyberbullying and bringing some perspective to parents on questions like:

  • How can you prevent your teen from being a bully (online or off)?
  • Who’s responsibility is it to intervene when teens bully others online?
  • How can you tell if your teen is being bullied (online or off)?

So if you’re worried about a tween (10-12 yr old) or teen (13-19 year old) you like or love, then join us for this free workshop at Squamish Chiropractic on Monday, February 28 from 6:30-7:30 pm at 37971 Third Ave, Squamish, BC.  It’s free, but we’re also taking donations in support of the Squamish Breakfast Program (for the Squamish Elementary Schools).

Many thanks to Lori for caring about our community and being the impetus for this.