Alison Gutterman is president of Jelmar, LLC.  She is very proud of the company and the products that carry the CLR brand.  Alison is dedicated to bringing the Jelmar quality to an ever-increasing audience.  It is not just the family business, it is truly a part of Alison Gutterman. more>>


On International Women’s Day and Empowerment

woman_ownedRecently the world celebrated International Women’s Day, the theme of which was “Make It Happen”. The day was created to celebrate the economic, political and social achievements of women past, present and future. More than that, I saw it become a platform to really honor the women in our lives and how we, as the one and only Beyoncé says it, “run the world.”


March is also Women’s History Month, which makes this even more fitting. We should be doing more to not only look back at all the trailblazing women who have helped create the ability to have the opportunities we have today, but also to contribute to future generations of women who aim to be 21st century trailblazers. Currently, women-owned businesses contribute more than $1.3 trillion to the U.S. economy and women make more than 80 percent of consumer decisions worldwide.


As the president of Jelmar, I take great pride in my work, not just here at the office, but also at home with my two children. Being able to juggle both work and family life truly has tested me from time to time, but I’ve also found it more rewarding than I ever expected to. That’s why I want to make sure that we as a company are participating in programs that continue to honor the hard work that women are doing every day to create success for their companies and also in their lives. I’m so passionate about this topic that I’ve written about it before on my blog (also quoting Beyoncé) and really have made it a priority in my career.


For example, we are participating in an initiative started by the Womens Business Enterprise National Council and supported by Walmart that commits to sourcing more from women-owned businesses. This program encourages companies to clearly state on their packaging that they are women-owned, making it easy for consumers to select products from women-owned businesses.


Also, I think it’s important to help inspire girls to grow up to be empowered women. One of the ways I do this is by participating in community organizations, such as Community of 200, an organization focused on empowering women and girls by developing women leaders. I’m a firm believer that no one’s circumstances will necessarily prevent them from becoming a great leader. If they have the will, they will find a way. And spending time with girls who want to grow up to become empowered leaders, is truly inspiring. I’m sure there are some girls I have met that will have a blog similar to this one day.


I urge others to look for opportunities to support women-owned businesses as well as help teach younger women that it’s ok to dream big. In my mind, every day should be International Women’s Day. What do you think?


A Valentine’s Day for Everyone

valentinesAnother Valentine’s Day is upon us, and as I watch my kids get ready for their annual Valentine’s Day party at school, filling out a festive card for each and every one of their classmates, I think about how maybe we could all benefit from this Valentine’s generosity regardless of our relationship status.


Valentine’s Day should be about so much more than just whoever you are in a relationship with. Yes, of course they are important, but also consider the other people you care about and relate with on a daily basis. Co-workers, bus drivers, gym attendants…the list goes on and on. I’m not saying you need to give all of these people a hug and a kiss, but showing a bit of appreciation and recognizing their presence in your life can go a long way.


For example, here at Jelmar, we are having an office-wide Valentine’s Party. No, people won’t have paper mailboxes outside of their offices waiting for personalized cards. Instead, we’ll celebrate each other and how we all impact each other’s lives with a casual get together filled with chocolate and laughter. We’ve even started to see a movement of larger, global companies recognizing the need for more love in the world and asking their customers to recognize this as well.


So this month, my ask of everyone is simple. Go out of your way to share a bit of love with those around you. Say thank you, take a minute to tell someone how much you appreciate them and just spread some love and positivity to those around you this Valentine’s Day. Remember how you felt in school growing up when you would receive Valentine’s from everyone in the class? Think about how a quick moment of recognition of others can make them feel. Make Valentine’s Day a holiday for everyone.


Resolving to Keep Your Resolutions

possibleIt’s mid-January, and by now, chances are you’ve already dropped the ball on your New Years resolutions. Every year, on January 1st, we seem to make these sweeping statements to change our lives and then by the middle of the month, we’re so caught up in the every day actions of our lives that the resolutions have fallen by the wayside.


I’m not sure that setting January 1st as THE time to overhaul your life is necessarily setting yourself up for success. For example, maybe you want to be healthier and exercise more. For most people in the country, it is the dead of winter. And for everyone, daylight is at a minimum. Not exactly the recipe for success. Winter naturally just makes us want to nest and be cozy, not be super active and productive.


That’s why this year, I made a resolution to make simple changes, and am calling on others to do the same. If your resolution has already slipped, just readjust your thinking and maybe come up with some simple goals that are easier to adhere to. Since I’m in the business of cleaning, I personally think that is one of the easiest resolutions to keep year round.


We did a survey last year that found 1 in 5 Americans clean their bathroom only once a month. How easy would it be to resolve to clean your bathroom every week, or even every other week? Anything would be better than once a month, really. We also found that six in ten Americans are triggered to clean their homes when friends, family or significant others visit. Why not try to keep your home “10 minutes ready”? In other words, keep your home in a state where if someone calls and says they will be there in 10 minutes, you can quickly tidy up and be ready to welcome visitors.


These are just two examples of simple cleaning resolutions that you can keep this year and beyond. By making resolutions that are easier to keep, and require low investment from a time (and thinking) perspective, you’ll be setting yourself up for success this year. Sure, I think you can go ahead and still try to make those larger changes that we’re known for at the start of every year, but at least with these smaller resolutions you’ll rest assured that you’ll be meeting at least one of your goals this year.


Advice for Myself As a Young Girl

whatiwouldtellI recently had the pleasure appearing on a show called “8th and Walton” as part of the “Retail Her” segment. The host and I chatted about how I came into the business, key lessons I have learned and then concluded with an important question – “What advice would I give myself as a young girl?”


There’s so much I would tell myself. Knowing all of the success I’ve been lucky to have over the years, and how hard I’ve worked to help make this company what it is today, here is what I would tell myself to keep in mind when I was younger:

  1. Find Mentors – My father and grandfather both were huge mentors for me, and taught me about the importance of success through failure. You don’t necessarily learn about success until you fail. And that may not be failure of an entire business – it could be an idea, a product, a packaging concept, but failure teaches us so much about ourselves, our resilience and the importance of taking chances.
  2. Be curious and ask questions – If you don’t have a sense of curiosity and ask questions, how will you learn? Soak in all of the information you can. You never know when you will be applied it to your business and ideas.
  3. Ask for advice – Reach out to your family, your parents, grandparents, and ask them for advice and insight. I still reach out to my father this day and he serves as a huge source of information. I’m confident that I don’t have all of the answers all of the time, and by reaching out to my family and other mentors, I know that I will get solid advice that can better inform my decision making.
  4. Be careful of your online presence – Things you post online when you are 15 will be there forever. This is something I never had to worry about when I was a teenager, but in a different world where images, comments, opinions and jokes can be posted on the Internet without a second thought, it’s good to take a step back and consider “will I really want a future business partner to come across this 20 years from now?”
  5. Have more fun – While I had my fair share of fun growing up, I definitely had a serious side as well. I think it’s so important to spend time as a kid being an actual kid. Find joyfulness. Be exuberant. Find fun in everything you do. That is something that will carry over into adulthood and is something to be admired.


Overall, I think this advice funnels up into one larger message, which is to be entrepreneurial. If there is an idea you have, or something you want to do, do it. Pound the pavement. Make connections. Don’t be afraid to fail. There are lessons in all of this that you can take with you well into your professional years.


Is there any advice you would give yourself as a younger person that you think could impact your professional career? Please share!


The Importance of Giving Back

giving_backThis time of year, we are constantly reminded of the importance of giving back. As soon as November 1st hits, we see messages about food and clothing drives, fundraisers, charity events, and more. I love that giving back is a theme that is front and center as we come to the end of another year. And ultimately, I think that giving back is not just something that is one-sided. You too can grow and learn from your generosity.


Recently, I participated in an event with the Committee of 200 (C200), a woman’s organization which is focused on empowering women and girls by developing women leaders. The organization does this both at the university and high school levels and has a strong commitment to raising scholarship funds. As part of this event, we spoke with girls from five inner city Chicago area high schools about their skillsets and what they wanted to be once they left school. It was fascinating to hear about what their dreams and goals were, and their different perspectives on life.


For me, I learn just as much about myself by spending the day with these young women as I hope they learn from me. There is nothing more important than gaining wisdom by hearing others’ triumphs and struggles, what they are faced with on a daily basis and what they aspire to do in their lives. Many of these young adults grew up in vastly different circumstances than my own and may not have had the same access to the many positive role models I have had in my life. Taking the time to learn about these young women as they maneuver through life and make choices that may be very different than what was automatically expected of me, teaches me that I can have a positive influence on their lives. Whether it’s talking about the importance of education, or helping them see that their dreams are not insurmountable, despite whatever situation they are in, my hope is that in some way, my experiences inspire them.


Because I have a multi-cultural family, I know that in order to enrich my children’s lives, I have to look at things from a world perspective. The added benefit (and by no means a secondary one), is realizing that as big as the world is, it is getting smaller every day. In business and personal relationships, it’s all about finding that common thread with others – just because you haven’t walked in someone’s shoes doesn’t mean you can’t relate, and help them achieve their goals.


So in the spirit of the season (and throughout the year), I urge you to engage with others that may be less fortunate than you are, may have a different path in life or may have a different perspective. Learn about what makes them tick and what you may have in common. I guarantee that you will be a better person for it, and it’s my hope that they will be a better person as well.