goingplaceslivinglife

Travel, Food, and Slices of Life


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Getting in Deeper and Understanding I am a Part of the Problem

The personal tour angle will understandably not appeal to everyone, but consider the option when you next travel. The benefit of hiring a personal guide is that the day can be very much responsive to your likes and desires. If we had asked to see Indian art in Agra or listen to Indian music or take in a Bollywood movie, I know that is what they would have shown us.  But we wanted to see how people live…that’s our “thing.”

Bilal asked if we wanted to see a leather factory where they make shoes. He happens to know the owner, although he was unable to reach him on his phone. We had a discussion about the leather. Since cows hold a special status in Hindu culture (more on that in another blog), we wondered if they used cowhide, and yes, they do. Also, goatskin and camel leather.

Up to this point our SmartTour visits to factories were showrooms of high quality where we were served tea or something cold to drink, offered the use of the clean toilets and had the craft explained, the better to appreciate the workmanship. For some reason I expected something similar. Instead, we visited a sweatshop.

I don’t know if you remember but it seems that we hear about factory collapses or fires in India or Bangladesh or Pakistan at least once or twice a year, so it did cross my mind. The place was not large, built of concrete and about 4 stories high.

DSCF6174Workers on the ground floor were seated around two large tables putting finishing touches on Bata women’s shoes and sandals.  Each man had a repetitive task which would be automated in a western factory. Benefit here: these men have work.DSCF6175On the upper levels the workers were putting the shoes together in the earlier stages, many sitting on the floor. DSCF6179

I noticed the ceiling fans were keeping the inside temperature about what the outside was-about 90 degrees. I also noticed no heating source for the winter.DSCF6185

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Although I thought I recognized the Bata name, the website indicates no stores in the US. Perhaps some shoes make it into outlets. The company has world wide distribution and this sweatshop is only one of many that have contracts to supply finished shoes.  Bilal made a comment that his friend, the factory owner, had a beautiful house as nice as the hotel lobby where he picked us up. I questioned him about the wages earned by the workers and was assured they made enough.  There is no pension plan, no insurance options, no vacation package.

In our desire to purchase clothes and other goods at the “best” price, we have long overlooked the need to support our own economy by purchasing American made goods. Here our workers make more money because we have laws to provide safe working environments, and other protections.  Our products cost more because of it.

I often read comments on Facebook about how people don’t like the way some of the big box stores limit their workers to less than full time work to avoid paying benefits and thereby cause them to require participation in public assistance programs to live. But I still see lots and lots of cars in those WalMart parking lots. People complain that they are on tight budgets and Walmart prices offers them a chance to buy the latest doodad advertised on tv.  but until each one of us curbs our own consumerism to purchase only quality American made products, we are culpable in the decline of jobs in this country as the factory owners take their work to the lowest paid people elsewhere in the world. Greed on their part to make huge profits and yes, greed on our part to buy buy buy within our budgets instead of looking at the bigger picture.


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Toe in the Water

My past work experience causes Human Resource department personnel to cross their eyes: I am not a square peg to fit into a square hole. And so, most large companies toss my resume into the circular file and I never hear from them.Confused-Look2-225x300

And yet, any job where the person deciding on hiring recognized I brought a diversity of exposure to a wide variety of industries, regions of the country, and responsibilities understood they were not getting just the “XYZ” they are looking to hire but a personality with experience and a brain.

butterfly-fly-away-freedom--large-msg-12663724094I have best enjoyed the jobs I had where some attention was given to training and then the freedom to fly was granted. I have also liked being the boss.

I have owned my own businesses over much of my working life. For twelve years I was co-owner of a residential real estate appraisal service. My partner and I had to make a decision to expand or to stay small. We grew to a staff of twelve, and then decided quality and service were more important than the potential profitability of a huge endeavor.

Moving to McMinnville  also moved me back up into the world of “looking for work.”  Graham and I thought if I could find a job with benefits the whole health insurance issue probably would be a lesser concern. But two factors helped us rule out that lifestyle: 1. The State of Oregon is one that has gotten its act together with the offers under the Afforable Healthcare Act and 2. We like me to have a flexible schedule.corporate-vs-freelance-cartoon

I really like working from home. When we looked for housing we knew we would dedicate one of the bedrooms to be my office where I could do my writing, my books and my sewing. It is my space and only occasionally do I have to nudge the cat out of my chair.Tiny Bug Oct 25 2013

When I was researching where to live I was intrigued by what I read about McMinnville. Its downtown merchants had formed an association in the 1980s to help turn around the downtown shopping district. When we walked the street in July we noticed only three vacancies and two were undergoing renovation. It looked pretty healthy.

We learned that another section near downtown, the Granary District, is undergoing revitalization from an “ag-industrial” center to one with small shops, many with specialty foods.

And one other thing I noticed was that most of the marketing I could find was wine related. Lots and lots of wineries here. Some of the best wine in the world. And many tasting rooms, which bring people to McMinnville and other nearby towns.  But little coordinated marketing for the shop and restaurants and lodging here to get those wine tasters to stay a bit longer, shop, eat some wonderful local food here, and spend the night.

I want to help. But I know that no one likes the new kid on the block saying “This needs to be done.” So, I really really really tried not to say too much too soon.

If you know me personally, you are not surprised that I only lasted a few weeks. But I went back and visited with the Director of the McMinnville Downtown Association and she appreciated my concept.  She also had no money to pay me.  She did offer support in letting me introduce myself to the membership and offer assistance.MDA logo

Today I posted my first blog about the Chaplain’s Pantry Caterering both in my CreationsByBG blog as well as the MDA blog. I have appointments with two other MDA members as well as an organization which is farm related and I am very excited about the potential for helping them grow there.

Good things….slowly slowly slowly…..send me words of patience please!!!


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Marketing the Markets

When Graham and I researched where we wanted to live when he retired, McMinnville, Oregon stood out. Not only was it in the middle of Pinot Noir wine country, which appealed to Graham, but the growing season and small farm practices in the area would provide us healthy local food options, which appealed to me. Yamhill co farmland

With my background in urban planning, I also looked at how the city had evolved over time and what its economic health appeared to be now, following years of a stressed national recession.  I was pleased to see that a group of residents and business owners had recognized the need to do something in the 1980s, when the downtown business district was, like so many other towns across the country, losing business.

The McMinnville Downtown Association was formed and took a few steps that started to set the tone. First, they worked on getting the area designated a National Historic District.  Then, using available grants and private donations, they planted trees, added attractive lighting, made sure there was plenty of free parking,  provided benches, and installed mid-block cross walks, all helping to present the downtown area as accessible and attractive. McMinnville sculpture

Meanwhile, wineries got the great idea that having tasting rooms in a town center would help attract people who may not drive the back roads of the wine growing areas.  The chance that a tourist would chose the right road was small. Heading into a town like McMinnville increased the chances that tourists would visit the tasting rooms and purchase wines.r stuart

The McMinnville Downtown Association does a tremendous job marketing the town with its website, Facebook page, and a number of brochures.  There are a good number of festivals  and activities, like the monthly Art and Wine Walk that draw people into downtown.

There is more marketing from the Chamber of Commerce with its website, its Facebook page, and many brochures, pamphlets and newspaper inserts that share a lot of what businesses operate in McMinnville.  Additional marketing is handled by Grow Yamhill County, with its website and its Facebook Page sharing information about businesses throughout the county.

These websites have a lot in common:  great info about existing opportunities to enjoy coming to McMinnville and, unfortunately, a very slow or inactive presence in social media..

logog SMALLAnd that’s where CreationsByBG comes in. Having just spent the last two years marketing the markets for fresh local food in the  Huntington, West Virginia-Kentucky-Ohio tristate region and throughout the State of West Virginia, I have some good experience bringing the business to the public’s attention. Even more importantly, I can bring the public into the business to spend money.

Some shops and other businesses in McMinnville have blogs and Facebook pages, but few are active. Why? Well, time if the most frequent issue–when you are doing everything you need to do to run a business, taking 30 minutes a day to market is hard to do. Secondly, some people just feel they can not write; that it is just too difficult to put words to “paper”.

I can help. I can come visit your business, take lots of photos and listen to your story. I will ask lots of questions and then, I can write about you.better-blogger-557x362

If you have a blog, I can become your writer. If you have a Facebook page, I can add to the content there on a more regular basis.  If you don;t have a blog, we can easily establish one for your business which would provide a marketing tool for residents and visitors. The more they notice, the more business will enter into your shop.  We can set up your Facebook page that all blog entries will load automatically, spreading the news. We can also  add your content on to the MDA  Blog and Facebook page if you are a member, spreading the news to all their readers.

brokeSpending money to make money may be a truism , but it sounds like an oxymoron. How can you spend money when the cash flow on your business is strained?  Keep the costs low by using social media and hiring me to take care of its management.

Call me at 304-654-5634 or email me at CreationsByBG@gmail.com to set up a time when we can meet to explore how low cost marketing like this can boost how many people walk into your shop.