2017 Holiday Gift Guide for Business Owners

With the holidays quickly approaching I updated the gift guide I created last year with ideas for what to get the entrepreneurs in your life - because business owners are special!

Help them plan

2017 Holiday Gift Guide for Business Owners

If there's one thing business owners are always looking for, it's more time. The more organized they can be - the better. There are a lot of really fabulous planners out there, and here are a few I've used or know are really popular and people find a lot of success with them:

Planner Pad - This is a planner I've purchased several times over the years and works on a funnel down approach. You list everything you have to do at the top of the week and funnel it down to when it will actually get done. 

Passion Planner is a planner I haven't personally used, but know a lot of people who really love it. They like that it balances the personal side of what needs to be done with the business side, It also includes sections that help you figure out what you want to do and how to break down the steps to achieve them.

Self Journal is a planner that's also a journal. There is a lot of room every day to map out your day but also to map out how you're meeting your goals, your wins, your lessons and your gratitude. Each journal lasts for three months (I also haven't used this one, but it looks fantastic!).

Bullet Journal is a great concept because you can turn any notebook into a planner, and it's also great for non-linear thinkers (though I couldn't get it to work for me...). You can mix your brainstorms, your monthly plans, your weekly plans, your daily plans, and you can also buy one that is pre-setup for you. 

Productive! This planner is designed by my business coach, Shelagh Cummins, and is all about figuring out what your power moves are and working towards them. Check them out.

Pretty paper and pens

Entrepreneurs like me, like pretty stationary and fancy pens. Like, we really love them. Whether it's a gift card or a pretty journal, these are almost always a great gift idea (with the exception of a few people who have fully embraced the paperless way of life. :) 

I love my Moo business cards!

I love my Moo business cards!

Scribe Delivery - My husband got me this for my birthday and I literally squeal when I get my package every month. So many fun notebooks and pens!

A gift certificate for the things they are regularly ordering - Vista Print, Moo, Staples, etc. - search gift cards if it doesn't seem obvious how to find them! 

Pens! Lots of pens! (I think I could get 365 new pens every year for Christmas and still have days where I can't find one). ;) 

These vinyl stickers from Sticker Mule are super durable

These vinyl stickers from Sticker Mule are super durable

Stickers - I love stickers and you can get so many fun ones, including custom ones of your logo! Sticker Mule is one I've used a couple of times (you can get branded mailers and packing tape from them too. (Use that link to get $10 off your first order) iArtisans is run by a member of the Biz Studio Community and she has all kinds of fun and custom stickers that are perfect for using in our planners. Use code MAMBI5 for 15% off.


Entrepreneurs use tech a lot, and if you're anything like me, it wears out way faster than you'd like. I'm going to admit to my Apple bias here, but I'm sure there are great equivalents in Android and whatever the other tech is that I pretend doesn't exist.

A new computer - this year I'm ready to move away from my all-laptop-all-the-time computer ways and get an iMac for my desk and start using my Macbook Air just for traveling. It's going to be such an exciting change and improvement when it comes to the power of my machine to deal with all the video I now deal with in my business.

A smart watch - I always notice when people are wearing these and they just seem tech forward. I'm SO ready for my first Apple watch. :)

Noise-cancelling headphones - I had no idea until this past fall what the magic of noise-canceling headphones is all about. I work at home and I'm all alone most days so I didn't think there would be any value in them for me. It turns out that the noise-canceling feature is incredibly calming for my ADHD brain and helps me be more productive, so you'll often find me wearing huge headphones with nothing more than a light whooshing noise being broadcast through them while I'm sitting at my desk getting work done!

No more cleaning, no more cooking

Magic Fridge.png

A huge theme that comes up is having someone else take care of the cooking and cleaning (a lot of my examples for these are local, but I'm sure you can find something similar close to where you live).

There are all kinds of great local services for cleaning that you can look in to and you can also check out personal chef services (The Magic Fridge is a local one run by a friend of mine) that take the stress out of shopping, cooking and cleaning up after you cook.

There are also lots of services like Hello Fresh (that link will give you $50 off your first order) and Chef's Plate that will mail you all the ingredients for a set amount of meals per week, taking the stress of planning and shopping out of your weekly schedule and also making the recipes really easy to follow with relatively little prep required. There's also Supperworks where you can go and assemble everything you need for your own meals or pay a bit extra and they'll assemble everything you need.

But if they do need to cook, they might love some cooking classes!


A gift certificate to their favourite spa or for a massage was high on the list for many of the entrepreneurs in my group.

A day away at a spot like Le Nordik or Scandinave Spa for example. A massage from a local clinic is also always appreciated, such as Byward Massage Therapy Clinic or the Massage and Treatment Clinic in Orleans.

Bring on the drinks!

Beer, wine, coffee, tea - we like a variety of drinks as entrepreneurs, whether it be for during the day or for when we put our feet up at the end of the day. Here are a few ideas when it comes to the drinks department. I'm a big fan of subscription services in this category. :) 

Beer subscription service - we have Brew Box here in Ontario but there are many great ones. 

Nespresso is a popular coffee machine with lots of varieties of coffees - even better if more comes to your door every month. 

Citrus Silver.jpg

How about a box of wine delivered to you every three months? If only I liked red wine this would be perfect for me. 

Meaningful bling

A piece of jewelry that speaks to our goals and dreams is a thoughtful way to commemorate all the hard work business women do.

I know for one I would love a bracelet like this from Citrus Silver with my word for 2017 stamped on it (my word for 2016 was Thrive, my word for 2017 is Open).

Health, fitness, and wellness

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For the business owner who wants to stay fit but doesn't have the time to make it to the gym a lot, a one-year membership to the 15 Minute Workout Club is one way to easily in sneak those effective workouts.

Help one of your favourite business owners celebrate their creative side and send them off to this weekend women's retreat (I'll be there!) in February where she can play and connect and create in the peaceful country air. 

I had fun thinking of all the ways we could celebrate the entrepreneurs in our lives - maybe this sparked a few ideas for you. Leave me a comment letting me know if you'll be adding any of these to your shopping list!

To note: A few of these are affiliate links, most are not, but all are things I truly believe in and nothing is included just to make a buck :) 

What if I ....

Every August I go to summer camp for entrepreneurs. It's a trip I cherish because it's a chance for me to not only learn new business things, but be around people who run businesses the way I want to run my business - from the heart and to do good. The people who go to camp inspire something in me; they allow me to crack open my heart and my mind and let new ideas and feelings flow in, and I never know just what that's going to look like from year to year, but it's always powerful.

This year the mantra we were asked to repeat to ourselves throughout the weekend was "what if I..." (if you want to see more about what camp is like and hear Jonathan Fields' challenge to use "what if I" check out this amazing video). 

Today I am sharing MY "what if I..." story from camp.


Camp for entrepreneurs has a lot of the same nostalgic pieces as camp for kids - arts and crafts, swimming in a lake, and of course, a talent show.

My first year at camp I sat in the talent show crowd and watched incredibly brave campers showcase an amazing number and variety of talents (there was poetry, singing, improv, and more) and I thought, "Now there is something I would never do!" My anxiety crept up my throat and had me covering my eyes with my hands. I couldn't fathom dealing with the potential embarrassment of "messing up" - I didn't even make it through the whole show and decided the talent show just wasn't for me.

In year two of camp, I watched in awe through a show that broke open every emotion I knew how to feel. Through the tears that wouldn't stop streaming down my face I thought, "I am so impressed with everyone going up and sharing pieces of themselves. Their hearts and their bravery are so appreciated and I'm glad someone else has the courage to do it because I will never be that person." I was there until the very end that year, so much more comfortable just being in the audience than I had the year before.

This year at camp I thought…what if I take a baby step and offer to just help out with someone else's talent show number. The idea terrified me, but it seemed like step one to possibly doing something myself in a future year.

The voices in my head tried to talk me out of it: "You don't have a talent to share in a future year anyways!" "There are more than enough people who want to participate in the talent show, you don't need to be one of them." So I did nothing…

Right before dinner on the night of the talent show I casually mentioned to my friend Marsha that I had thought about doing this but chickened out, but realized it needed to be my goal for next year. 

And then she said, "Actually… I could really use your help today."


I almost panicked. But instead I brought myself back around... 

What if I said yes even though I thought I was free and clear for this year?

What if I was brave and did a thing that pushed me out of comfort zones (and to be clear, it's not being up on stage that I was afraid of, it's being up on stage doing something I don't feel like an expert in or that I feel confident people want to learn from me)?

What if I let myself be open to possibilities?

I decided to say yes to Marsha - she was going to be doing a call and repeat song from her days at summer camp as a child and my role was to be the person the rest of the crowd would follow. I wouldn't have a mic and I wouldn't be in charge of anything, and I wouldn't be dancing or singing. 

I spent the next two hours fretting, trying to memorize the complicated lines of the song and thinking, "What have I done? What have I done?"

I got up on stage and I clapped and repeated my little heart out. It was not only 'not terrible', it was actually fun. 

When I was off stage (and even into the next morning) people came up to me and told me I'd done a great job; that I was charming up there. I fought every inclination to diminish my role and try to make my being up there more insignificant than it was - because it WAS significant.


Every time I look at this photo of Marsha and I from that night, I tear up, because I see a light in my eyes that I know is rarely there. One that only shows up when I've truly just let go.

Growth. Connection. Bravery. Fun. <- That's what I see in my face in this photo.

Camp in that first year helped me be true to myself and share that with the world. This year camp helped me remember there's even more of me that I don't even know, and I'm determined to dig her out and meet her.

This experience was yet another reminder to me that I need to be surrounded by the kind of people that I feel truly safe and supported with so that I can push out of comfort zones and really grow as a person.

It's why I will be going back to camp again next year (I'm already signed up!) and it's why I'm so passionate about creating safe spaces for other business owners to find that support and safety to be challenged out of comfort zones so they can grow as business people.

What if I own my true power.

What if I believe I can go really big.

What if I can be that safe space for others.

I'm going to keep practicing my what if Is...  join me and comment and tell me one of yours.

Has your vacation become a source of stress?

As summer comes to a close I've been thinking a lot about taking time away from your business.

Vacation is supposed to be a time away from work. It should be a time of relaxation and rejuvenation. As an entrepreneur relaxing on a vacation can be difficult to do—especially if you don’t have the right systems and supports in place.

What my summers/holidays used to look like

Has your vacation become a source of stress?

Historically, summer has been a stressful time for me.

I would plan to take a lot of time off with the kids, but never really planned for being away (even though I knew I should have). I didn't plan out my finances (how will I make money when I'm not working? What will I do if I'm not making money during that time?) or content for my time off.

So, while I knew I was going to be off, I couldn't always enjoy being off because I felt like I should be getting things done in my business.

On the other side of the coin, if I was working during this time, I wished I wasn't, because it was summer and I wanted to enjoy it! Summer was not what I dreamed it would be. 

How things changed

I was determined to change all that because taking 4-5 weeks off every summer was part of my life plan.

I put systems in place, I created models of recurring income, and plans for the fall that are ready to roll out. It's meant so much less stress.

But it means even more than that.

It means I've had time to think.

I've had time to evaluate. I've had time to realize that I was working too much and I couldn't keep up the level of one-to-one coaching I was doing and still be happy.

And so more planning keeps happening to make sure that I can focus on business development, supporting my clients in the best ways I know how, and still be there for my family and making the money I need to make.

Running a business isn't always simple. In fact, it often isn't. The four most common words that came up in a recent survey I did about how people feel about their business were: excited, overwhelmed, optimistic and stuck.

Feeling overwhelmed and stuck can be paralyzing and overpowers the excited and optimistic on a regular basis.

If you're feeling this way, here are a few tips:

1) Give yourself a break: When you book time off don't feel guilty about work. It will be waiting for you when you get back. Do your very best to spend some time enjoying the summer, your family and whatever activities you choose to do. Some of the best ideas and revelations come when you truly start to let go and relax.

I know that's easier said than done, but some of the work is in the mindset around your expectations of yourself. Setting realistic expectations of what you will be doing is the best first step.

2) Ask for support: Find a business accountability partner to help you plan and/or hire a virtual assistant to help you make sure your content stays consistent and goes out on time. There are lots of people in the Biz Studio Community who would make great accountability partners, and lots of great VAs as well - and hiring someone doesn't need to cost a fortune.

3) Have a plan: Figure out what realistic goals should be prioritized for the summer months and make sure that you keep those top of mind. Keep it simple.

4) Be prepared to change: I am realizing that taking big blocks of time off in my business is more stressful than relaxing. I enjoy my work and like to do it, and let's be honest, spending time with 3 kids isn't generally all the 'relaxing.'

That means that next year, I'll do things differently. Instead of 3 weeks off in a row, perhaps I'll split it up into smaller sections. Be ok with changing your mind. Plans are not carved in stone, they can be changed.

5) Book a call: If you want to take the next step and see if joining one of my programs makes sense, book a free 40-minute consultation.

What systems and supports do you have in place so that when you take time away from your business, you can do so without having to feel overwhelmed or guilty about being away? Leave a comment and let me know.

My Favourite Business Books

I have a list of business books that keeps getting longer and I wanted to share a bit about some of my favourite business books with you. For each I’ve explained what the book is and who I think might benefit from it and why. As I find more books that I love I will add them to this list. 


A couple of quick notes:

1)   I don’t read business books; I listen to them as audio books. I learned a few years ago to stop forcing myself to read business books (because that’s what all other successful business owners seemed to be doing!) since I just couldn’t get myself to focus on them. Instead I listen to audio books when I’m driving, cleaning and exercising. It’s a great way for me to truly focus on the content. So, always pick the way to ingest content that works best for YOU.

2)   Where possible I’ve included affiliate links. Feel free to grab the books elsewhere, but I figured if I’m sharing the links and it’s just as easy for you to grab the books from those, I’ll make them affiliate links. :)

3)   I don’t always finish a business book right away, but there are still a lot of great lessons and I come back to them and slowly work my way through them. Don’t beat yourself up if you need to do the same thing. Make sure you have a sense for why you’re reading a book and investing time into it before you start reading it – it will really help you stay on track.

It Starts with Why

Book description:

 START WITH WHY shows that the leaders who've had the greatest influence in the world all think, act, and communicate the same way -- and it's the opposite of what everyone else does. Sinek calls this powerful idea The Golden Circle, and it provides a framework upon which organizations can be built, movements can be led, and people can be inspired. And it all starts with WHY.

Why I like it

As a coach, I’m regularly asking people WHY they do what they do. It’s a question my coach asks me many times, and to be honest, one I struggle with.

This book goes into figuring out the why in you that helps you stay interested and motivated; the why in you that ties your life together. The why that helps you understand what opportunities you should take and which ones you should skip in your business.

Simon Sinek has a great TedX talk that is a good primer for the book.

Who is this for:

If you haven’t gotten clarity on what your purpose is, who your ideal client is, or how you’re going to decide what comes next in your business, this book can help you start to figure that out.

Amazon link: http://amzn.to/2hCGSu8

Audible (you get your first book free) http://amzn.to/2znItYE


About the book:

According to studies, 92 percent of New Year’s resolutions fail. You’ve practically got a better shot at getting into Juilliard to become a ballerina than you do at finishing your goals. 

For years, I thought my problem was that I didn’t try hard enough. So I started getting up earlier. I drank enough energy drinks to kill a horse. I hired a life coach and ate more superfoods. Nothing worked, although I did develop a pretty nice eyelid tremor from all the caffeine. It was like my eye was waving at you, very, very quickly. 

Then, while leading a thirty-day online course to help people work on their goals, I learned something surprising: The most effective exercises were not those that pushed people to work harder. The ones that got people to the finish line did just the opposite— they took the pressure off. 

Why? Because the sneakiest obstacle to meeting your goals is not laziness, but perfectionism. We’re our own worst critics, and if it looks like we’re not going to do something right, we prefer not to do it at all. That’s why we’re most likely to quit on day two, “the day after perfect”—when our results almost always underper­form our aspirations. 

Why I like the book

If you've ever beaten yourself up about not finishing something you started....

If you've ever created all kinds of reasons to put off starting something until you've done a long list of other important things...

If you've ever given up on something because you can see how you're never going to get it right anyways...

Then you might also want to read a book I just finished :)

First, let me tell you that while I try to read a lot of business books, I have a hard time with them. I don't have a lot of extra time to listen to audio books and I don't have the capacity to sit down and read them on paper.

So when I finished this entire audio book in 3 days the irony that it was a book on Finishing didn't escape me :)

Finish by Jon Acuff hits you right in your perfectionist tendencies and makes you realize that you may need to let go of your desire to do it all, so that you can actually start accomplishing more.

Plus he does it while being funny, which is my favourite.

So if you've been struggling with getting started on projects, or finishing them, I highly recommend this book.

And if you, like me, struggle with reading paper versions of self help books, check out Audible. It's made me the biggest difference for me, and Acuff touches on why that might even feel like cheating in this book, when it really isn't :)

Book: http://amzn.to/2xSPVKd

Audible (you get your first book free) http://amzn.to/2znItYE

Confidence Code

Book description:

Working women today are better educated and more well qualified than ever before. Yet men still predominate in the corporate world. In The Confidence Code, Claire Shipman and Katty Kay argue that the key reason is confidence.

Combining cutting-edge research in genetics, gender, behavior, and cognition—with examples from their own lives and those of other successful women in politics, media, and business—Kay and Shipman go beyond admonishing women to "lean in."Instead, they offer the inspiration and practical advice women need to close the gap and achieve the careers they want and deserve. 

Why I like it

Whether you realize it or not, as a woman you may approach decisions and your life differently then men when it comes to confidence. I really enjoyed this book because it made me understand how women deal with confidence and gave me tips and ideas on how I can make changes to increase my confidence.

Who is this for?

If you struggle with sales, with negotiations, with making yourself heard, with reaching out to new people or any of the main things I hear small business owners struggle with, I encourage you to read this book and see where you can start making small changes that can have a big impact in your business.

Amazon link: http://amzn.to/2vxD2rY

Audible (you get your first book free) http://amzn.to/2znItYE

The E-myth Revisited

Book description:

An instant classic, this revised and updated edition of the phenomenal bestseller dispels the myths about starting your own business. Small business consultant and author Michael E. Gerber, with sharp insight gained from years of experience, points out how common assumptions, expectations, and even technical expertise can get in the way of running a successful business.

Why I like it

Most of us start our business because we’re good at a thing, as opposed to ‘good at business’. The thing is, we need to be good at business and not just the “thing” if we’re going to grow a successful business. This book helps you understand how to shift your mindset from one of doing the work, to one of running the business. One of the most important actions to take after that mindset shift is the creation of systems. 

I fought against creating systems for a long time – mostly because my personality type isn’t one to refer back to systems, but for other clients I work with I see them resist because they feel like it’s silly to write down systems just for themselves when they know what and how to do things without one.

Systematizing your business is one of the best ways to make sure that your business stays on track and is set to grow.

Who is this for?

If you have visions of growing your business beyond just you, if you have visions of selling your business, if you know you’re going to be ready to start outsourcing soon or if you feel like you’re always overwhelmed and never have time to get all that you want to get done (or need to get done) done, then this book is great at explaining why you may need to shift your thinking and what steps to take to be poised for the next steps.

Amazon link: http://amzn.to/2hDqjOO

The Big Leap

Book description:

Why I like it

The Big Leap was a game changer for me. It helped to identify where and how I was getting stuck in my business. There are times that I self-sabotage when things are going well and there are times that I self-sabotage before things are going well. Understanding that I’m doing this and looking for the solutions to stop myself from doing it was THE most important first step I took in seeing my business go from just okay to really taking off.

Who is this for?

Do you ever find yourself in a place where you feel stuck? You want more, but you never seem to be able to get it?

Or do you ever feel like things are going really well, but then they start to fall apart?

This book will help you identify where you’re getting stuck and why – and awareness is the first step to making changes.

Amazon link: http://amzn.to/2wmKW56

Queen of Distraction

This is not a business book so I’m sneaking it in because it spoke to me personally.

Book description:

Do you rule the realm of disorganization, clutter, and chaos? Are you constantly battling to get things done? Are you ready to give up and toss your day planner into the dungeon (otherwise known as your closet)? If so, you might just be The Queen of Distraction . And whether or not you've been formally diagnosed with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), you probably already know that something's got to give. The Queen of Distraction presents practical skills to help women with ADHD achieve focus and balance in all areas of life, whether it's at home, at work, or in relationships.

Why I like it

I was diagnosed with ADHD close to the age of 40 and listening to this book really helped me to realize a couple of things.

1)   A lot of the shame I feel around my inability to do certain things is self-created and really normal.

2)   My brain works differently than other people’s brains – that doesn’t make it wrong, it just makes it different. Embracing other ways of doing things, the best way for YOUR brain, is key to decreasing frustration and finding success. Also, you just need to cut yourself some slack. 

Who is this for?

If you find yourself feeling perpetually disorganized or suspect you might be a woman with ADHD, this book is great at helping you accept your differences and move forward to solutions. This book can help you move out of “this is how I SHOULD be doing things” to “this is the way I can do things.”

Amazon link: http://a.co/cN0m9Au


What you need to know about Facebook recommendations

I'm a member of many Facebook groups and something that seems to be happening a lot lately is that people are feeling really frustrated that people they've hired based on suggestions from Facebook groups have turned out to not be good hires at all. 

People are understandably annoyed and want to talk about the bad service they've received. Today I don't want to talk about what to do once you're unhappy, I want to talk about how you need to view online recommendations and what I believe you need to keep in mind when you're looking to hire someone new so that you aren't put in that position on the first place!

Asking for recommendations on social media

One of the reasons I love social media is because it's an amazing place to go and find information from people you know. It's how we recently started getting quotes for a new roof, it's how we found a plumber when our shower started leaking, it's how I find guests for my podcast, and so on and so forth.

Having the ability to go and ask people who you should talk to is AMAZING and takes out a lot of the research that I don't want to do.

But here's the thing - sometimes people just tag (when they put a person's name down and it links to their account or their Facebook page) someone they know who does the thing you're asking about and they have no personal experience with that person. They aren't saying "I've used this person, I had a great experience, here's why!" They're saying "I know a person!! This is who it is!" sometimes they're even saying "I know a person and I really like them - this is who it is!!"

It is your responsibility to then take those recommendations and decide how much more information you need to make a decision.

What do I do with the information I get?

A few years ago there were a lot of people getting really frustrated with the new LinkedIn system of endorsements. They felt that they were meaningless and that people were misusing them. It inspired me to write a blog post about them, to explain why I thought they were great. 

Here is a direct quote from the other blog post and I think, word for word, it applies here as well:

It is important not to think that these are testimonials.  Most of the people who endorse you haven’t even worked with you.  Instead it is a way to know if what you’re putting out into the world is what you want.  

What does that mean? It means that people are saying they know a person does a thing. 

If someone tags me as a business coach but has never worked with me, what they're saying is "Hey, I know Lara Wellman is a business coach!" not "I've worked with Lara and she was great because xyz."

It means I've done a good job at getting my name out there for what I do (yay!)

So when people start tagging names when you ask for a recommendation, don't think those tags are worthless - they're a great place for you to start digging in deeper!

Sometimes people HAVE worked with those people. Sometimes you know based on the volume of tags that someone clearly has a pretty good reputation (or has done a great job at getting their name out there about what they do - that's what you need to make sure you distinguish).

Use the tags to make a list of who to find out more information about. Make sure you then talk to people who have actually worked with those people to get references.

Someone getting lots of tags in a Facebook group is NOT enough information to go on to feel like you did your due diligence. 

The sad truth

The reason this post is being written is because I hear a lot of stories about people who hired someone based on a lot of Facebook tags and then they got really bad service. I get private messages from frustrated clients and friends who have hired people without getting actual references, and it turns out that there are many people out there who have great cheerleaders without the follow through of great work to go with it.

When you're hiring someone new, make sure you know

1) What you want to have delivered.

2) What information will make you feel comfortable about working with the person (is it expertise and knowledge? is it quality? is it meeting timelines? is it customer service?)

3) How much risk you're willing to take (you may decide to hire someone based just on a few name tags and a conversation with them - that's ok too, but know that digging further will give you more assurances.)

Using Facebook to get recommendations is something I'm always going to continue doing, but understanding the difference between a straight tag, even if lots of people tagged a person and an actual story of experience is really important - make sure you take that next step to protect yourself!

Have you ever asked for recommendations on Facebook? How did it go?