Carolyn Browne Tamler

has helped hundreds of businesses and organizations with her thoughtful facilitation and research services. She also writes colorful and compelling articles about new business initiatives! Would this help you? Call Carolyn today!

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    2055 Pheasant Farm Lane
    Freeland, WA 98249

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    7-5-12 Local Farmers are contributing to a new business model

    One of the most noticeable elements of living on Whidbey Island is the abundance of locally grown fresh, healthy food.  I’ve enjoyed shopping in the farmers markets ever since I experienced my first summer of food abundance here.  I had simply thought this was a charming quality of life on Whidbey Island.

    Then I read this amazing article in a recent NY Times:

    Small Farmers Creating a New Business Model as Agriculture Goes Local

    The article was published on July 2, and even though it is in the New York Times, the dateline is Seattle.

    This was the first quote that grabbed me:

    “The movement toward local food is creating a vibrant new economic laboratory for American agriculture. The result, with its growing army of small-scale local farmers, is as much about dollars as dinner: a reworking of old models about how food gets sold and farms get financed, and who gets dirt under their fingernails doing the work.”

    …and this:

    “A study last fall by the Department of Agriculture said that local (farm) revenues had been radically undercounted in previous analyses that mainly focused on road stands and markets. When sales to restaurants and stores were factored in, the study said, the local food industry was four times bigger than in any previous count, upward of $4.8 billion.”

    So, when we visit our local farmers markets, purchase local foods in our Whidbey Island grocery stores, buy foods from stands, or eat in restaurants that tout local produce, besides reaping the benefits of delicious, organic produce, meats and other healthy foods, we can feel good that we are supporting a burgeoning new business model right in our own backyard. 

    Here are the current Farmers Markets that we can support (heading from south to north):

    • Clinton, Thursday, 4:00 – 7:30 PM
    • Bayview, Saturday, 10:00 AM – 2:00 PM
    • Langley, Friday, 3:00 – 7:00 PM
    • South Whidbey (Tilth), Sunday, 11:00 AM – 2:00 PM
    • Greenbank Farm, Sunday, 11:00 AM – 3:00 PM
    • Coupeville, Saturday, 10:00 AM – 2:00 PM
    • Oak Harbor, Thursday, 4:00  – 7:00 PM



    6-28-12 Polling: How can there be such wide ranges of differences?

    Now that election season is ramping up, it seems we hear about new polling results every couple of days….and the results appear to be all over the place.  Since random sample surveys are based upon math principles, what accounts for the variations?

    How a sample is chosen and how a question is asked determine if a survey result will truly be providing projectable statistically valid data.

     A random sample means that everyone in a given population has an equal chance of being selected.  Anything that alters this concept biases the results.  Right now, we’re hearing a lot about polls relating to the November election.  Here are some factors that will affect the accuracy (i.e., the likelihood that the sample results will match the total election results):

    • Sampling everyone who is registered to vote, rather than only those who are likely to vote, will include a lot of people who will not vote. 
    • Sampling likely voters in a way that excludes certain elements of the population (such as neighborhoods with a lot of low-income or minority populations) will bias the sample.
    • Sampling using a self-select method (such as Survey Monkey) will exclude people who simply have no interest in responding.

    As part of the survey methodology, the survey company will want to have a screening question, (assuming they are using a list of registered voters) such as: “Are you planning to vote in the November election?”

    And, surveys are a snapshot of the moment.  If a major event happens that is widely reported in the news a few days before the polling is done, that will likely affect the results.



    6-21-12 Commitment: an essential quality for a successful business

    There are lots of marketing tools that can help build a business, but, in my opinion, nothing is as important as having a true commitment to the value of what you’re offering.  It also helps if a business owner maintains a passion about the business to which they are committed.

    One of the best local examples of commitment is Moonraker Books in Langley.  Josh Hauser, and her recently deceased husband, Glenn opened Moonraker Books at 209 First Street 40 years ago.

    I asked Josh what created the commitment to this business and she quickly responded, “I love people and I love books, and when I can have them together in one spot, I’m in heaven.”

    Patricia Duff, a wonderful writer, did a great story, “40 and still fabulous at Moonraker,” that was published in the South Whidbey Record on June 13, 2012.   

    The story is a great read about someone who had the courage to start a business, and also had the commitment to keep it going,  Check out Patricia's story in the South Whidbey Record.




    6-14-12 The Value of a Focus Group Discussion

    What do people think about the services or products they receive from a business?  Often, those running a business get most of their information from direct feedback from comments and phone calls and other anecdotal information.  These self-selected methods generally draw input from people who have strong feelings, usually negative.

    My favorite, most effective and most reliable marketing research tool for learning what people think about a business or service is a focus group discussion. 

    I have heard this term used in many ways that are not truly focus groups, so here are some guidelines for better understanding the methodology:

    Basically, 10 to 12 people participate in a 90-minute discussion about a specific topic.  A professional moderator leads the conversation, following a prepared outline (“Discussion Guide”).  The ground rules: all opinions and responses are valid, and only one person speaks at a time.

    Focus group participants should be representative of the total population from which they are drawn. 

    A good moderator will attempt to encourage all participants to share and will discretely steer the discussion away from someone who begins to dominate.  The goal is to empower people to feel safe about contributing their own ideas.

    The result of a good focus group discussion is a surprising wealth of information that can be utilized for gaining new ideas and fresh perspectives, making planning decisions and/or developing an effective survey questionnaire for a random sample survey. 


    6-7-12 Creating key messages for your business

    Once you have gotten clear on what is special or unique about your business (from the 5-31-12 Blog), it becomes easy to create some key messages that you can use in all of your promotion to identify what you are selling.  Remember, you are not just selling a particular product or service; you are selling customer service that accompanies the transaction.

    A key message needs to be simple and easily understood.  The concept is that at every opportunity when you are interacting with customers, or potential customers, you reinforce your message.  Key messages not only appear in your advertisements, they also are repeated by you, and any employees you may have, whenever you are talking about your business.

    I was going to pull out some key messages I saw in ads in the newspaper, but then I thought it might be fun to suggest to Blog readers that you send me some key messages that really resonated with you.  If you see a good key message from some business here on the Island, send it to me:

     I’ll be sharing these with you in a future Blog.

    (Once I wrote this Blog entry, I realized I didn’t have a key message for my business since I moved to Whidbey.  What came to me was “Whidbey’s business storyteller.”  Let me know what you think.)