networking karma

Recently I attended a big charity event I’ve gone to for a long time. I look forward to it every year both because of the importance of supporting such a great cause and because it is a fun and inspirational evening. As someone who helps people improve their networking for a living I am all for taking advantage of any networking opportunities that come your way. I take business cards to the casino, the hair salon, the supermarket and everything in between. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not one of those people that blindly throw cards in people’s faces but if I have a great conversation with someone and there’s a reason to follow up I will give out my card. For example: I’ve told them about an organization or an event and they have expressed interest in more information. Under those circumstances I would give out my card and encourage them to email me and I will forward the info to them.

So anyway, I’m at this big charity event and someone approaches my husband and I to say hello. We had apparently met this person/been in the same room as them at a seminar about a month ago. It started off as small talk and this person was friendly enough. Though the conversation was going on way too long and all of my usual methods of trying to gracefully exit the conversation were not working. We were attending with my sister and brother in law who have a 10 month old and don’t get many nights out these days so I definitely would have rather spent more time talking to them as well as exploring other networking opportunities in the room during the 90 minute cocktail hour.

This person then launched into a discussion about their direct sales business. First we were asked about our interest and as I’ve learned over the years it is not a good idea to be wishy-washy. So I advised politely that I was not interested and explained why. That did not deter them though. They launched into a success story about a customer and then the benefits, costs etc. It seemed like we were standing there for an hour but it was probably more like 15-20 minutes total. As this pitch went on I became more and more irritated. Let me preface this by saying I have a lot of friends who do direct sales well and are true relationship builders. Not the case here. I was irritated because while I embrace every networking opportunity there was a time and place for this and the charity gala was not it.

This person could have engaged in short small talk, advised of the business and provided us with a card (or not). They could have advised we could follow up with them or they would love the opportunity to sit down at a later time to talk to us about the business. But they didn’t. Another friend of ours actually came by in the midst of this as well as my sister who tried to “save” us but this person was undeterred.

I learned afterwards to make matters worse, this person was actually a volunteer at the event and had a task and a role they were supposed to be doing while they were trying to convince us to buy into their business. That was also extremely poor judgment in my mind.

To be successful in relationship building you need to assess the appropriateness of a pitch and also monopolizing people’s time whether it is at a business or social event. As you can see, it can be a real turn off not to do so. It is bad networking karma!

Has this ever happened to you? Please share your experience below. I’d also love to hear about suggestions for extricating yourself from such situations. I have great tips I provide in my networking talks and seminars for exiting conversations but none of them worked here!!!!!



Not all social media is equal but Facebook can still be a powerful tool to grow your brand and your business if you use it well. If you don’t use it well, it is like making a bad first impression and can be very tough to undo. Here are the top 5 things to avoid doing on Facebook:

  1. Don’t post your business offers and events on someone else’s page without their permission. You should either post these items on your own page or privately ask people if it is ok to post the information on their pages first. You can also ask people to share the information for you. But don’t abuse this and ask people constantly. Do it selectively.
  2. Make sure you separate your personal and business lives on Facebook with separate pages. This can be an area of “blurred lines” as a solopreneur or small business owner because you are your brand and people are buying into you. It is important to make sure you put out helpful content that shows your expertise and builds credibility on your business page and save the opinions and photos of your kids/pets for your personal page. But also keep in mind that it can hurt your business to be polarizing with your comments/opinions on Facebook even on your personal page.
  3. Don’t use Facebook solely to post your latest event or promotion on multiple pages and never use Facebook for anything else. Social media is about being social. Let people get to know you. Comment on people’s posts. Help other people promote what they have going on by sharing their information. Join groups and communities and ENGAGE.
  4. Don’t message people on Facebook for business purposes and assume they will get the message and respond in a timely manner. If you need an immediate response, email people directly or call them. Not everyone is on Facebook regularly and some people only use it for personal use.
  5. Make sure you re-read and edit your posts. Posting an item that contains incorrect grammar and spelling makes you look very unprofessional.



I love the start of the New Year with all the possibilities it holds! Now that the champagne toasts are over and resolutions are made, what are you going to do? Do you have a networking plan for 2015? Take stock of what worked and what didn’t in 2014. Resolve to attend an event for a group/organization you have never attended before. Think about where your potential client/customer base and strategic partners network and make sure you are aligning your own networking activities towards being in the room with those folks.

Independently of your business, write down at least 1 thing you want to experience/do in 2015 such as travel to a new place, skydive, run a marathon etc.

Resolve to get out of your comfort zone and challenge yourself in 2015!

“What the New Year brings to you will depend a great deal on what you bring to the New Year.” — Vern McLellan




For a lot of us these last few weeks of the year are slower for our businesses. Use the time to reconnect with people and to set up one on ones you have not had time to schedule. Most people have more time on their calendar to get together. Happy Holidays!



Many of us will be attending an office Holiday party over the next few weeks. This could be at your own place of work, an event for the workplace of your spouse, or a get-together given by one of your clients. These events can be great ways to network and showcase your talents but they can also be riddled with opportunities for missteps. Here are some tips to help you navigate any workplace gathering:

  1. Go. Simple enough. A lot of times workplace events are not mandatory the way a meeting would be. It may be easy to decline the invitation because you would rather do anything than hang out with people at work in your “spare time.” But people are watching. If you don’t have an actual conflict on that date that you can’t move, accept the invitation and attend the event.
  2. Beware of Festive attire. Much like casual Friday, it can be tempting to go all out for a Holiday party. It’s a party after all. And it’s the Holidays. Anything goes right? Not so. If your outfit would work at the Club it is probably not appropriate for the workplace party. Definitely mind the dress code and also note the venue. It may be fun to wear reindeer ears and an ugly sweater to a party at your workplace but that may not go over so well at a Country Club (or for those in Philly somewhere like the Union League).
  3. The alcohol is not really free. An open bar means you should drink enough to compensate for that bonus you didn’t get right? Not really. If you drink too much at your office Holiday party you may act inappropriately or say things you shouldn’t. This could impact your future at your workplace or your relationship with an important client long term. Have one glass of wine or another beverage and leave it at that. And no shots!
  4. Seize the day. Prepare for the event. Note who will be there. Use the time to talk to a higher up, people in other departments, or just to get to know others. In some companies it is not easy to get in front of certain people so here is your chance. Research points of commonality. Have some talking points about the projects you are working on. And obviously avoid controversial topics such as religion or politics. Finally, avoid spreading office gossip at the Holiday party.
  5. Don’t be a Business Bore. While it is a good idea to have some talking points if asked about what you are working on or to showcase a project, this is a rare opportunity to get to know people on a personal level so don’t miss out by “talking shop” the whole time. That is NOT the way to build relationships with others.

Please feel free to comment with questions about your own holiday workplace/networking events. Or maybe share a story of something that happened at an office holiday party (good or bad)?

Caveat: I “met” my husband at an office holiday party. We had worked together for almost a year but it was not until the office Holiday party I really started to get to know him and look at him differently and see him as not so “buttoned-up.” I know certain workplaces have rules about dating in the workplace (it was permissible at ours as long as we were at the same level i.e. not a boss/employee situation) and I am not saying it is the best idea but in the interest of being genuine and honest, that is my story. I was much younger. . . .


It’s that time of year! Lots of entrepreneurs and businesses are sending our Holiday cards or customer appreciation gifts.  This can be great for networking purposes. But you want to make sure that the cards you send out are well-received. Here are some tips:

  1. Don’t include a business card or promotional special with your Holiday card. A Holiday greeting should not be a masked solicitation. DO include your business name though.
  2. If you are a non-profit, send a Holiday card that does NOT include a solicitation for an end of the year donation. Or at a minimum, if someone has already given this year, don’t send them a Holiday card asking for another donation before the year’s end.
  3. Select a small group of folks from your large list and personalize/handwrite their cards rather than simply having the card and/or business name printed. This could be your “best” clients during the year, your “VIP” clients, your “top prospects” for the following year, or simply the clients you are closest to/have worked with the longest.  Consider also sending a card to your client’s assistant.
  4. Send Holiday neutral cards. Never make assumptions.
  5. Pick a card that is memorable and will stand out
  6. Consider sending a card at another time of year when your message won’t get lost in the 50-100 Holidays cards people receive in December.

Did you send a Holiday card out? Let’s see it! Attach a photo here. Or tell us about the most memorable card you have received and why it was memorable to you. Season’s Greetings!!!!


I wanted to share the link to my very personal guest blog post on The Graff Standard that was published this week. It describes my journey from being a litigator to becoming an entrepreneur following a life changing accident:

paconfimdonna decarolis headshot

As a lawyer turned entrepreneur I was intrigued when I heard about Donna and her position as the founding dean of Drexel University’s Close School of Entrepreneurship.  The Close School is the first degree-granting school of entrepreneurship in the country. De Carolis states the program “provides pathways to entrepreneurs” and that her hope is that whether it is through simply taking a class or getting a full degree, all students will get exposed to and experience some degree of entrepreneurship.

I spoke to Donna about the importance of networking for entrepreneurs since networking is my career path. Donna discussed the “myth of the solopreneur.” She stated that networking is extremely important but it is also very important for entrepreneurs to have their own network or informal board they can rely on and turn to for advice. Since I was interviewing Donna in connection with her involvement with the Pennsylvania Conference for Women this year, I had to ask her about the value of women networking with other women. Donna stressed the idea of figuring out your networking goals. She said while there is a commonality and support networking with other women, it may make sense to diversify your networking. I mentioned to Donna that as an entrepreneur I find it helpful to surround myself with other entrepreneurs, because they “get it.”  Donna stressed the value of having diversity in the people you talk to outside the entrepreneurial space and keeping your contacts open.  She mentioned having people in your network who are older, retired and in the corporate world as well.  You “get different things from different groups,” she said.  Donna also indicated it is helpful to stay involved in trade associations in your industry and schedule coffee meet-ups with colleagues to build relationships.

With regard to innovation in corporate America, Donna states that innovation is a process and that the people likely to be hired and move up are the ones who know how to get things done beyond just a good idea. Companies need employees with people skills, negotiation skills, planning skills, networking skills and business skills to innovate within a corporate environment. Donna’s vision is to teach those involved with the Close School to be resilient, and to “pivot.”

Entrepreneurship is a “habit of mind,” De Carolis says.

Of course, near the end I had to ask Donna about “Shark Tank.” As it turns out, a student from the Close School will be appearing on the show promoting an app called “Scholly.”

Donna recommended three books for Entrepreneurs:

The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution by Walter Isaacson

Worthless, Impossible and Stupid: How Contrarian Entrepreneurs Create and Capture Extraordinary Value by Daniel Isenberg

The Icarus Deception: How High Will You Fly? by Seth Godin

In an October 6th, 2014 Philadelphia Business Journal article titled “How one Woman is changing the world of entrepreneurship education,” writer Stan Silverman stated “De Carolis and her team are driven by a cause, by the belief that entrepreneurship education will change the course of their students’ lives.”

I thought this was a fitting way to close my interview.



Were you able to pre-pay for your college education at age 17? This young entrepreneur just might.

In 2011 after working 12 years as a litigator I decided to launch my own business and become an entrepreneur. It is fun, all-consuming, and challenging. Many days you second guess your decisions and worry about failure. It would never occur to me as a teenager to attempt this path. But that is just what Emma Johnson, founder of Em John jewelry did. In this interview, we learn the key to her positivity and success on the heels of her upcoming presentation at the October 16th Pennsylvania Conference for Women. She is one impressive young woman.

How did you come up with the concept for Em John Jewelry?

My mom is on Good Morning America every week for a segment where she promotes five different products for sale. I love shopping and I follow trends in magazines and social media, so I often recommend brands and product ideas to her. Of course once she puts them on TV, I always ask how they did. Jewelry seemed to be very, very popular. So I’d say, “Boy, I wish I had a jewelry line.” And she said, “You absolutely can. Just start one today.” And I did. That was back in June 2013!

Was your purpose in starting the business to pay for college or did you decide that after you had already started the business? Tell me more about the Em John College Challenge!

There’s a heated debate today about the value of higher education: Is College really worth it? Assuming an average cost of $200,000 to earn a degree, I wondered how else that money could be spent.
Would I be successful if I used it to start a business out of high school? If I incurred student loan debt, would my chosen profession enable me to pay it off in a reasonable amount of time? Or what if I could earn enough money through Em John Jewelry to pre-pay for college before even applying?
It’d make an amazing application essay if it clicked, and would save my family a ton of money if I worked before college instead of during and after to cover the mounting costs of tuition, room and board.
Every Em John purchase not only brings a burst of sunshine to your day, but it also supports the Em John College Challenge.

How do you balance school and running your business?

Before school, during school and after school! I respond to emails during science (ha) and free periods. After homework, it’s all Em John — responding to more emails and packaging daily orders. Saturdays are spent at a college course in the morning and then running trunks shows at local stores in Manhattan in the afternoon. Sundays are for homework and planning the week ahead!

I’ve attended a few of your mother’s “Spark & Hustle” conferences and have so much respect for her. What is the best advice she has given you since you started the business?

She tells me all the time that it’s up to me. Yes, I can ask for help, and I often do. She’s been the best resource for help and she’s introduced me to so many brilliant business people. But she always comes back to saying the same thing — that is it up to me. Nobody is going to make my business a success. Nobody is going to do the work for me. If I want this to work, it’s up to me.

I help people with networking for a living. How has networking helped to grow your business? This includes online networking. I see you encourage people to post Instagram photos with your jewelry for example. And all social media is not equal. What specific social media outlets have been best for your business?

Social media is hugely powerful. Anyone can promote a product through the right sites. For me it’s definitely Twitter and Instagram–mainly Instagram. I only have 2,500 followers — we aren’t talking Kardashian numbers here! — yet through my posts I’ve gotten dozens of stores to place wholesale orders and tons of daily orders on my site. Instagram is an awesome way to reach my audience. The response has been a very pleasant surprise.

You first pitched “dot” to propel your jewelry into retail. What is the best advice you can give someone about pitching their brand? How did you make the initial connection with dot to get the opportunity to pitch them in the first place?

Do your research and then just ask. It’s that simple. You can’t tell a store owner that her shop is perfect for your products if you’ve never been there and you don’t know the merchandise, the customers and the vibe. I shopped in the store. I had a good feeling for the customers. So when I emailed the owner to introduce myself and to ask for an appointment, it was very genuine. She had only recently opened the store. I had just started my line. We were taking a plunge together. Nothing beats authenticity. Project confidence, but don’t pretend to be something you’re not.

You will be speaking at the PA Conference for Women on October 16, 2014 in Philadelphia. What is one takeaway you want the women to gain from your presentation?

Don’t overthink it because that can lead to fear. You’re so worried about dotting every I and crossing every T that you never take the plunge. That’s not good. And, most of all, make sure you can make money. You will never know if something works till you try it so that means “less thinking, more doing.” Get it out there for people to see and try. Know what everything costs so you can price for profit while knowing what your value is to your market. I realized I’d get wholesale and retail orders so each bracelet is $14, which allows me to profit at both while delivering good value to my customers.

How would you describe your brand in 3 words?

Fun. Happy. Fresh.

Tell me about “Every wrist carries a wish.” Is that your tagline? How did you come up with it?

When I look at my wrist and I think of the charms, I wind up dreaming about all sorts of things. Jewelry — and charms, especially — have a way of doing that to us. We touch them and we dream. We look at them and we dream. It may not be intentional, but it happens. That’s a great thing!

In the Huffington Post article from September 9, 2014 about your business you mentioned the importance of soliciting customer feedback. Can you give an example of how some feedback has helped you grow your brand?

I started with fabric bracelets and then moved to rubber beads. That’s because my customers had trouble tying the bracelets themselves. They also had to remove it for the shower, gym or pool. Jewelry shouldn’t be that difficult. So even though I loved the fabric ties, I listened to that feedback and I quickly shifted to beads. Sticking with what you love, even when customers are saying they want something else, can kill your business. It doesn’t mean you have to change every single time someone makes a suggestion, but you want to be open to hearing feedback and evaluating it honestly. Our sales have soared since making that change and the manufacturing is so much more efficient too.