UrbanSitter CEO

UrbanSitter: Word-of-Mouth for the Modern Parent

Suppose you’re new in town, and you’ve been invited to a “meet the neighbors” cocktail party. Or maybe your spouse is out of town on business, and you still have to pick up your regular shift. Or (gasp) your usual babysitter had to cancel.

What do you do?

Thanks to the miracle of modern parenting resources, a reliable sitter is just a click away. UrbanSitter coordinates full- and part-time nanny services, date-night sitters, and coverage for those last-minute appointments. Here to tell us more is the CEO and co-founder of UrbanSitter, Lynn Perkins.

  1. Convenience aside, what makes UrbanSitter a go-to resource for parents? How does it differ from neighborhood word-of-mouth? 

Trust. UrbanSitter leverages social networks (Facebook, LinkedIn) and parenting organizations like moms groups and schools to help parents easily find babysitters used by parents they trust. You can see how you’re connected to the sitter and read reviews from parents you know. It’s like the traditional word-of-mouth without the legwork. For busy parents, this means more options and less time wasted searching for a trustworthy sitter.

  1. UrbanSitter has gotten plenty of positive press; does it seem like people have been waiting for a service like this? Were they quick to take advantage of such an opportunity? 

Absolutely. I think the biggest compliment I get is when somebody says, “How is it that a service like this didn’t already exist,” or, “Why didn’t I think of that?” One of the areas where we saw immediate demand was from working moms when the nanny called in sick, and we have a lot of moms and dads who use UrbanSitter to cover when they have project-based work or doctor’s appointments. Many parents need flexibility in their lives to make it all work, and our service is nicely aligned to support that.

  1. In addition to offering background checks, what steps do you take to reassure parents?

What parents love about UrbanSitter is that we show a lot of data about a sitter’s reputation and performance, including their star rating, reviews, average response time and “repeat families,” meaning the number of families that have booked her/him more than once. If a sitter has twenty reviews and fifteen families have repeatedly hired her, you’re going to feel reassured.

  1. What is it about this job that gets you out of bed in the mornings? What would you say to a potential sitter or parent client right now? 

I love that we’re pioneering a service that helps busy parents—myself included. I’m inspired when a sitter tells me that UrbanSitter is helping her pay for college tuition or allowing her to start saving money. To the potential sitter or parent customer, I’d say, “Give UrbanSitter a try. I think you’ll find it useful. I was a babysitter throughout college and it was hard to find new families to sit for. I am now a full-time working parent and UrbanSitter comes to my rescue with quality sitters time and time again.”

Sounds like a sweet deal for both sides of the stroller! A digital support structure with real-time reassurance is just what the busy parent ordered. Have you ever been in need of an “instant sitter?” Tell us your story in the comment section.


ZippGo: A Better Way to Move

Dontcha love moving? Scrounging in alleys for boxes, running to the store two or three times for yet another roll of packing tape, trying to figure out what to do with a jillion pounds of cardboard once the unpacking’s done; I’ve moved cross country several times, and every time has left me wishing for a better way.

ZippGo is it.

Stackable, reusable boxes that magically appear and disappearas needed, with a green message that will appeal to eco-warriors everywhere? Read on to hear about this magnificently modern resource that helps take the mess out of moving. Please welcome Ash Sud!

  1. Moving can be a stressful experience. How does ZippGo take some of the hassle out of the packing process?

ZippGo was born out of my own frustrating moving experience just over five years ago. I was moving within San Francisco and had to find cardboard boxes, drag them back to my place, and then spend several frustrating hours on the floor getting tangled up in tape. I knew there had to be an easier way to pack, which led to me launching ZippGo. ZippGo has simplified the packing process by renting and delivering green plastic moving boxes directly to a customer’s home. Unlike cardboard boxes, ZippGo’s moving bins don’t need to be assembled and are ready to be packed the moment they arrive at your door, can hold up to 100 pounds so you don’t need to worry about the bottom falling out, and are waterproof so your valuables will be protected during inclement weather. We hand clean each of our boxes after every single use to ensure the cleanest possible box which beats a dirty and dusty cardboard box any day of the week. ZippGo boxes are stackable, nestable, and are up to 50% cheaper than using cardboard boxes. After the customer has moved to their new home and unpacked, we come by and pick up the boxes with a smile!

  1. As an eco-friendly company, you advertise green boxes and Greenwrap. What makes them green? 

I launched ZippGo to offer a convenient and simple way for people who were moving to pack their belongings, but having been a green entrepreneur for over a decade, making it a zero waste solution was near and dear to my heart. ZippGo’s plastic moving boxes are designed to be reused more than five hundred times each, which means every ZippGo box over its life replaces five hundred cardboard moving boxes. Since launching ZippGo, we’ve delivered nearly a half a million of our boxes in the San Francisco Bay Area, thereby eliminating a half million cardboard boxes from entering the landfill. ZippGo boxes are made from 100% recycled plastic and when they reach the end of their life, they will be ground up and recycled into new ZippGo boxes. Our customers are supporting a truly cradle to cradle product. We also offer eco-friendly packing materials like our Green Wrap, which is made from recycled paper and replaces environmentally harmful plastic bubble wrap.

  1. ZippGo has a lot of great reviews. How long did it take people to realize the benefits of your services? 

Once people use ZippGo’s boxes they immediately realize how much easier and convenient our boxes make the packing and moving process. Two phrases we hear quite often after a customer has moved with our plastic crates are “I love ZippGo” and “I’ll never move with cardboard boxes again!” We’re a small local company with a tiny marketing budget, so word of mouth is everything to us. Our customers are amazing people who have helped us grow organically by telling their friends, family, and colleagues about ZippGo in person and online.

  1. Saving resources, time, and money; ZippGo sounds like a big step forward in eco stewardship. What part of the job puts a smile on your face every day?

I’m proud of the fact that we’ve grown ZippGo to rent and deliver to homes all over the Bay Area including San Francisco, Oakland, Palo Alto, Marin, and San Jose and to some of the hottest Silicon Valley technology startups and companies. However having a young family myself, I get the most joy when I see families moving with our green boxes and their kids seeing first hand that convenience, saving money, and sustainability can go hand in hand. I love my job!

I wish ZippGo had been around the last time I had to move; second to arguing over what to throw out, boxes were the biggest hassle. If you’ve used ZippGo, or if you have a carboard horror story to share, let us know about your experience in the comment section.

School lunches

School Lunches: Some Food for Thought

Depending on which side of the table you’re on, school lunches are either healthy and delicious or disgusting and tasteless. Then there’s the brown bag option, which can lead to the twin dramas of “This again?!” and “You left the crusts on!” Tired of catering to the patrons of Cranky Café? Let somebody else handle it! If your kids want to break away from the tray, there are some great new alternatives available.

First up, we have ChoiceLunch. Based on the belief that healthy futures begin with healthy school lunches, ChoiceLunch takes the guesswork out of nutrition by providing a whole slew of kid-friendly, balanced meals. Parents can sit down with their kids and plans menus in advance (there’s even a Last Minute Lunch option), with choices ranging from salads and sandwiches to sushi and pasta. There are even gluten-free and vegetarian options! ChoiceLunch offers an app for mobile ordering, a fleet of trucks to ensure prompt delivery at your child’s school, and a loyalty rewards program that can earn free lunches.

Looking for options that include snacks and three-course meals? Try Chefables. Made-from-scratch school lunches that keep negative nutrients to a minimum while packing in the flavor are what Chefables delivers. Parents can rest assured that their little ones are getting big nutrition without the big price tag. Click here to discuss enrollment options for your school.

If there’s one thing that Team Pickle members love, it’s a B Corp. Especially when food is involved. Revolution Foods fits the bill, delivering over one million school lunches every week across the country. A self-described “fresh food company,” Revolution Foods offers breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks; there are even grab-and-go meal kits available in select stores.

Yeah, so I’m totally hungry right now. Good thing there’s an apple and some cheese in the fridge, since I’m a few years past school lunch eligibility. What was your favorite noon offering when you were a kid? What would your kids order for their school lunches, if they could have anything their stomachs desired?

Common Sense Media

Common Sense Media: A Modern Parenting Resource

The smartest parents I know are the ones who seem to be into everything. They know a lot about a variety of subjects, their children are involved in programs and community activities that fit their needs, and they’re on top of modern gadgets and apps in a way that shows how involved they are in the ever-changing world of their children.

In short: they know how to find out what they don’t know.

There are several online resources (okay, there are a lot) and since it’s hard to delineate which ones place value on my values, I tend to stick with just a couple. One of those is Common Sense Media.


Common Sense Media has branched out since my first visit to the site; I was a mom who wanted movie reviews for my children. What I liked most about it was that they weren’t preachy or prudish in their opinions of movies because, quite frankly, I’ve permitted my children to see controversial films before some of their friends because I was offering guidance along with them.

Common Sense reviews more than just movies, however—they review books and games and apps as well, and their critiques are reliable and full of facts. I appreciate when reviews are factual and without condemnation for parents who still choose to let their children consume media.

For modern parents who would like more information about a media product, Common Sense is a go-to site. When reviewing, they offer categories on a Likert scale (a psychometric scale used in questionnaires) in some of these categories:

  • Educational Value
  • Positive Messages
  • Positive Role Models
  • Violence & Scariness
  • Sexy Stuff
  • Language
  • Consumerism
  • Drinking, Drugs, & Smoking

For example, check out this Common Sense Media review for The LEGO Movie. What’s great is that it offers information in each of these categories so you can make an informed decision for your child. One of my children was very scared of violence in movies so even the most benign movies would scare her. My youngest son, though, could handle all that when he was younger so I would have made different choices based on these recommendations.

Modern parenting needs all the help it can get and Common Sense Media is a Pickle Pick for just such a resource. Whether it’s for reviews or best apps & games or even their new Parent Concerns page, you’ll find something that helps you parent the way you want to parent.

Be sure to check out their Media and Technology for Educators as well.


Talking to Children about Ferguson and Social Justice

Social justice may seem very much like a buzzword lately, but that’s because it encompasses a great many ideas. The easiest definition presumes that everyone deserves equal economic, political, and social rights and opportunities. Teaching children that everyone is deserving of such things means teaching them to value diversity and all people. Instead of tackling all those things at once, however, it’s best to choose themes based on the questions that children are asking.

American students are plugged in more than ever, and modern parenting has become both a thing to use and a concept to understand. If I had a dime for every time a parent told me their child didn’t have a particular account or app (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc …), I’d be as wealthy as an app development executive. What I continue to impress upon parents is that kids have these apps, and that a great many of them are “underground.” All of that leads to kids being exposed to much more than they may be ready for and having a great many questions about the world around them.


When talking to children about major news events like Ferguson, Missouri and Mike Brown, it’s important to first ask them what they know. Teachers use this process prior to embarking on a new topic by using a KWL chart: tell what you Knowtell what you Want to know, and finally, upon completion, tell what you’ve Learned. Sometimes, as parents, we can tell our children too much when all they wanted was the basics.

It’s also important to figure out which concept they’re trying to understand when it comes to social justice. Is it the acceptance of others and their individuality? Or are they trying to come to grips with issues of gender inequality? Are they watching the news and seeing a conflict in which peace is elusive? With each of those specific examples, it would be silly to give a pat answer because those issues are very different and require special language.

Art teacher, Sarah Ryder, compiled a fantastic art resource for teaching the following themes of social justice:

Acceptance of Others/Individuality
Kindness to Others
Environmental Awareness
Understanding of Other Cultures
Developing Peace
Gender and Families
Economic Equality

With each specific topic, Sarah has also offered multiple book titles to accompany them for parents interested in taking the conversation to the next level, as well as art projects post-reading. My favorite thing about this idea is that she encourages her students to express themselves in an art form once they’re confronted with social injustice. It’s a great place to put energy. (This is also true for adults! Look how much art comes out of social injustice!)

Another resource for kids wanting to understand a current social justice issue is the #FergusonSyllabus created by Dr. Marcia Chatelain, author of South Side Girls: Growing Up in the Great Migration. This great resource is from the librarian/review site called Stacked and is titled Ferguson, Race, Civil Rights, Social Activism, and YA Fiction: A Round-Up of Reading. If your teen or pre-teen is asking questions that you feel inadequate answering fully or if you feel as though teaching them requires more than you’re comfortable with, any of these resources is a good place to start.

Kids care about fairness and social justice, and their brains are busy doing the work of categorizing and understanding it all. Whatever you do, just talk and listen. There will be no shortage of conversation on this topic.

Fondazione Cariplo [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

ABC Library

Featured Library of the Month:

Albuquerque Bernalillo County Library

Albuquerque is a dynamic, surprising city. Home to the ABQ BioPark and just a hop from the stunning White Sands National Monument, Albuquerque is full of history and opportunities for learning. Many of those opportunities can be found in the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Library.

Actually a system of libraries, the ABC Library boasts sixteen locations in addition to the main branch. Each branch offers computer access to the Internet, Microsoft Office, and numerous electronic databases as well as the library catalog. You can take advantage of the Interlibrary Loan program, or research the genealogy section and other special collections.

The ABC Library is up-to-date with the latest technology, offering personal assistance with eReaders and downloads during their Gizmo Garage tech sessions. They also offer storytimes, Music & Movement classes, and a wide variety of special events. Steampunk perpetual calendar-making, anyone? There’s even an event just for teens, the shelfie contest! Entrants are encouraged to take pictures of their bookshelf and share them with the library staff for a chance to win a prize.

It’s a pretty safe bet that Albuquerque parents know exactly where to go when they hear the mournful cry of, “We’re bored!” With numerous locations and hundreds of events, the ABC Library is a sure cure for cabin fever.

What are you reading today?


Munchery: Things That Make You Go “Mmm!”

The word busy doesn’t begin to describe the lifestyle of most modern parents; a packed schedule has almost become a badge of honor. Unfortunately, it’s all too easy to sacrifice good nutrition when a million appointments are pulling you throught the drive-thru night after night.

If you live in Seattle or the San Francisco Bay Area, you have an alternative. Munchery, a service that brings restaurant-style meals to your door, knows that convenient fare doesn’t have to mean cardboard flavor. With the freshest ingredients, sustainable packaging, and a donation program that can’t be beat, you’ll be too busy saying “Mmm!” to get out the whole name: Munchery.

Since Team Pickle is all about learning, we decided to ask Rei-Ling Dulebohn, Munchery’s Senior Marketing Manager, to give us a peek behind the scenes.

1. Most people equate take-away food with Styrofoam boxes and greasy napkins. How long did it take your customer base to realize that you were “cooking outside the box?”

Our customers are able to tell right off the bat that we’re not a traditional delivery service. We’ve created a way to enjoy healthy and high-quality dishes wherever you feel like dining: around the kitchen table, watching your favorite movie, or having dinner at your desk.

We also work to embody this new dining experience through every customer touch point—from including the ingredients and health information of every item on our menu to delivering our food in sustainable, compostable packaging.

2. In addition to great meals, you also offer carbon-neutral delivery. Tell us how that works. 

Since the beginning, it’s always been a priority of ours to always give back to the communities we serve.

For the carbon-neutral delivery, we track the mileage of our drivers and carbon offset the total each month with a monetary donation to the Conservation Fund. We also have a give a meal, get a meal program where we donate a meal to charity for every order placed on our site.

3. Who comprises most of your customer base? Do you see a lot of office staff, or more of a variety? 

We’ve actually seen a variety. As we expand our on-demand offering, there has been a substantial increase in young professionals and office staff. However, our product has always resonated really well with families who want to put a traditional, high quality dinner on the table, but don’t always have the time to do so.

4. Munchery sounds like it would be an asset to any city. Are there any plans to expand? 

Funny you ask; we’re actually launching in New York in February 2015. The team is very excited to bring Munchery to the East Coast. If you know anyone out there, tell him or her to sign up for our wait list and we’ll send them a free meal when we launch!

Thank you, Rei-Ling! If I lived in the area, I know where my next meal would be coming from. In the meantime, I’m signing up for that wait list. Readers, if you’re tired of take-out, try dining in with Munchery. First-timers can take a test bite by using the promo code littlepicklepress for $15 and free delivery on your first Munchery meal, valid through July 31, 2015.

Shuddle logo

Shuddle: A Resource for the Family on the Go

When it comes to modern parenting, one thing that a lot of us wish for is a way to be in two places at once. Dinner’s in thirty minutes and your kid has a basketball game across town? Poof! Your double handles the driving while you fix the food. 

Although we can’t yet bend time and space to our will, there are some great parenting resources available that can help you to juggle a hectic schedule. One of these is Shuddle, a driving service that not only gets your family members where they need to go, but lets you track the whole trip in real time every step of the way.

SFGate contributor Amy Graff tried the Shuddle service shortly after it was launched; you can read about it hereNina Thompson is another Actual Mom who regularly uses Shuddle; we asked her a few questions about her experience.

1. How did you find out about Shuddle, and what prompted you to give the service a try? 

I’m pretty sure I first saw Shuddle in a Facebook ad, but I definitely heard about Shuddle through friends. It could not have come at a better time for the family as we are going through the high school application process for our son, which means drop-offs and pickups from and to schools, open houses, etc. We went through this process last year for our daughter, who is now a freshman, and it was quite a juggling act as my husband and I are at full-time jobs and have only one car for the family.

2. Short of cloning yourself, having extra driving help sounds like a great way to maximize your time. What’s the biggest way in which Shuddle has helped you? 

Our daughter, Erica, is probably the happiest member of the family because of Shuddle. She has to commute from our home in the city to Stanford every weekend for diving practice, and most of time has had to take BART + CalTrain + Stanford shuttle to get back and forth. Shuddle saves her a LOT of time.

3. What was your child’s first Shuddle trip like? Nerve-wracking, exciting, or a total breeze? What did you do to prepare? 

My kids have taken Uber before so they are pretty comfortable with Shuddle. What I love most about Shuddle is that I get a notification for every step of the ride—really important for peace of mind.

I love Shuddle!

Shuddle ride

We also interviewed Ms. Leonda, one of Shuddle’s carefully screened and selected drivers. Here’s what she had to say about her job:

1. This is definitely not your typical taxi service. What part of the job makes you smile when you get up in the morning? 

This job is so rewarding. As a full time medical professional and a mom of an amazing fifteen-year-old, I am truly fulfilling my passion of catering to children! I am happy with providing a service and helping families all over the Bay Area meet their commuting needs in a timely fashion.

Plus, as an added bonus, while I drive other kiddos, one of my teammates picks up my daughter and takes her to school. It’s a win-win!

2. New riders might be nervous the first time they drive with you. What are some of your best tips for reassuring them? 

Oh yes! The best tip I have gathered from kiddo feedback is not to be quiet! I interact with the kids about school, sports, or college goals. We listen to cool music and I assure them to ALWAYS have an awesome day! More interaction (in moderation) is best for our drivers. We are also mindful not to OVER-communicate.

3. How much more have you learned about the city since driving for Shuddle? What have you learned about yourself? 

I’ve learned so much about the wonderful Bay Area! For example, where my next property purchase will be, restaurants to eat, and the locations of some of the most popular schools. Like myself, parents are particular about education and activities for their children.

I’ve learned that I love children. It’s my passion, and in another life I would love this as a full-time career! Gives me the low-key relaxed feeling I don’t get working my regular job.

When you can’t be everywhere, Shuddle is there. As a bonus, first-time registrants who sign up with Shuddle during the week of January 14th will enjoy $10 introductory pricing for any ride. How would YOU put them to work?

Shuddle ride in progress

Images courtesy of Shuddle.


Barnes & Noble

Featured Customer of the Month:

Barnes & Noble Antioch

I love the smell of books. The crisp, freshly printed pages, the sharp tang of ink; there are few things that appeal to my senses more.

Unless you throw in a gigantic mocha, that is.

At the Barnes & Noble in Antioch, California, you can enjoy both to your heart’s content. A big, bright landmark in the Slatten Ranch Shopping Center, the Antioch Barnes & Noble is a welcoming haven for the visiting bibliophile. If you’ve got little ones, you can bring them to one of several storytime events. For older kids and teens, consider one of their musical gatherings. Of course, patrons of all ages will enjoy book signings by featured authors, book club meetings, and the always-delightful treats at the B”arnes & Noble Cafe.

During the month of January, make a connection with our technology theme by attending one of the recurring Getting to Know Your NOOK seminars, or unleash your inner author at a creative writing workshop. So many great possibilities, and we haven’t even gotten to the bookshelves yet!

In print or online, there’s nothing like a good book. The next time you’re near Antioch, California, stop by Barnes & Noble to pick up a sackful; tell ‘em that Little Pickle Press sent you.

What features make you feel immediately “at home” in a bookstore? Do you find yourself drawn to the same kind of shops, or are you a fan of variety? Tell us in the comments!

Sarah Graham Technology

Is Technology Mother’s Little Helper?

It’s December 23rd and you haven’t started your Christmas shopping? Time to hit the Internet. Click. Add to cart. Done!

Your babysitter fell through 20 minutes before the dinner reservation that took you six months to book? Let’s hope they have a high chair, and whatever you do, don’t forget the iPad.

You are no longer willing to go on a vacation without a full kitchen because you can only have your kid watch the iPad through so many restaurant dinners? AirBnB to the rescue!

Parenting in the age of technology is a hot topic. Publicly, we talk a lot about the potential dangers of “screen time”—Cyber bullying! Obesity! Anti-socialism!—while privately we marvel at (and give thanks for!) the array of conveniences that technology affords us. I regard my parents with awe—not only did they raise children without the Internet, they raised twice as many!

The Internet earned its status as a trusted source of information during the earliest days of my pregnancy (Is this normal? This can’t be normal!), and has since saved me from making costly treks to the doctor’s office (I recently Googled  ‘fever, sore throat, spots’ and within seconds knew my son had Hand, Foot, and Mouth disease and, more importantly, that there was absolutely nothing a doctor could do about it). That the Internet can help me diagnose an illness is invaluable, but the access it gives me to information on virtually any other subject is downright empowering.

Technology provides me with information, helps me arrange transportation, affords me new business opportunities, and, in a pinch, prepares my dinner. I want this for my son. I want him to watch the toy reviews on YouTube that have helped him develop a vocabulary better than most of the kids in my high school speech class. When he’s older, I want him to know about every career opportunity that exists, even the ones his teachers and I have never heard of. I want technology to expand his world the way it has expanded mine.

Technology is not our generation’s “mommy’s little helper,” but a valid contributor to all we can accomplish as a family, and I take issue with the notion that a modern childhood is somehow defective for using this modern convenience. As a parent, you know when your kid has watched the iPad longer than you care to admit in public, and you know, deep in your heart, when too much really is too much. Ignore the first feeling, pay attention to the second.

Technology is here to stay, and it will transform our children’s minds and worlds in ways that we can only imagine.

Sarah Graham is the founder, co-owner, and chief designer at Sarah Graham Metalsmithing. She is well known in her industry for creating unusual and innovative jewelry designs that stand out, both for the materials she chooses and for the techniques she employs. Sarah is also mom to a rambunctious four-year-old with a very strong vocabulary.


Featured B Corp of the Month: ChangeIt

Don’t like the channel? Change it! Don’t like an unjust policy? Change it! Want to make a contribution to your favorite charity? ChangeIt!

Wait, what?

Yes, ChangeIt. One of my favorite grocery stores has a jar at the end of the bagging counter. Customers are invited to drop their spare change into the jar at each visit; the proceeds are used to benefit community gardens, underprivileged youth, adult learning services, and tons of other great programs.

Of course, in this age of plastic, not everybody carts around fistfuls of coins. This is where ChangeIt comes in.

When you register your debit or credit card (or even your mobile payment device), you are given the ability to round up your purchase amount and donate the difference to the worthy cause of your choice. You choose the charity, you set your monthly limits, and you have the satisfaction of literally being the “change” you seek in the world.

A dollar doesn’t go as far as it used to, but now your spare change can make a world of difference. Check out ChangeIt today, and cash in on the good feelings.

The Owner's Manual for Driving Your Adolescent Brain

The Owner’s Manual for Driving Your Adolescent Brain:

Industry Awards and Accolades

A mind is a terrible thing to waste, so here at Little Pickle Press, we’re putting our best brain forward for the new year. If you haven’t yet picked up your copy of The Owner’s Manual for Driving Your Adolescent Brain, here are a few good reasons to, ahem, think about it.

This absorbing book by Drs. JoAnn Deak and Terrence Deak continues the lessons from Your Fantastic Elastic Brain, offering helpful insights into the brain as it enters its second decade. Available in beautiful hardback and e-book formats, The Owner’s Manual has garnered industry praise right out of the box.

2014 Mom’s Choice Gold Award

2014 Silver Nautilus Award

2014 Academics’ Choice Smart Book Award

2014 Benjamin Franklin Silver Award

2014 Gold Medal Winner – eLit Award

2014 Moonbeam Children’s Book Silver Award

In addition, quite a few news and parenting resources have enthusiastically endorsed The Owner’s Manual, including MagicBlox, Relatemag.com, ForeWord Reviews, Today’s Parent, Huffington Post, Midwest Book Review, and LRP Publications.

If you’ve got a teen (or soon-to-be-teen) in your life, you’ll want to snag a copy of The Owner’s Manual for Driving Your Adolescent Brain. It won’t derail the drama, but it WILL give you an idea of how to help your kid stay on course.


Conscious Mindfulness in the New 2015 Year

First of all, we’d like to thank our readers for being with us this year as we’ve explored a number of topics, as we’ve shared new authors and books, and as we’ve continued to celebrate customers, libraries, and B Corporations. Thank you for engaging with us!

As we sign off on 2014 and look forward to 2015, we do so with a conscious mindfulness of our own shopping behaviors and business practices. Here, some of our team members weigh in about how we’re going to carry that into the new year:


Aligning my purchasing power with my values has become increasingly important to me. I don’t want to support companies that take human lives or the environment for granted. So instead, I make a conscious effort to support businesses that have a positive impact on the world. Each and every B Corporation does this, for example. As an entrepreneur, I further make decisions to shop small. It delights me to buy handmade goods from artisans on Etsy, which often arrive with a hand-written thank you note penned by the artist. This holiday season, I am pleased that I bought the vast majority of the gifts I am giving from conscious capitalists and/or small, local business owners. I intend to continue this practice into the New Year and beyond, and to raise the awareness of others with the hope of encouraging them to do the same. I want to be the change I seek in the world and a catalyst for others to join me.

This year I found myself more mindful of where I was spending my money as a consumer. As I left with my holiday purchases from various local stores, it felt good knowing that my little contribution perhaps helped in some way to employ a local high school kid that worked there part time. To be honest, sometimes it took a bit more effort whenever I had to search for parking but it was worth it because I received very warm customer service shopping locally.
Shopping small and supporting brands that have responsible business values reminded me that it is a good thing to do year round not just during the holiday season.
 I’ve DEFINITELY changed my shopping habits since I started working at Little Pickle Press. Being faced regularly with how my shopping habits reverberate across the globe seems to have immunized me against GAP 40% off deals and Old Navy BOGO offers. Seriously. I can’t stomach them.


Working with people who are terribly conscious about shopping and who pick out gifts for others only if the purchase makes a difference in the world has changed how I do business when I’m buying something. There was a time when the cheap crap was attractive to me just so I could have stuff, but I’d rather get quality over quantity now especially since I’ve gotten to see firsthand what conscious capitalism looks like. Once you start shopping this way, you can’t go back to the BOGO offers. Going forward, all my shopping is a deliberate conscious choice.


I am not much of a shopper, unless it comes to haunting yarn stores. With two spinning wheels, two dozen spindles, three looms, and a billion knitting needles, I tend to make most of the things on our holiday gift list.

Possibly because of my “handmade” history, I feel very strongly about Fair Trade and independent businesses. The one-of-a-kind pieces and ethical promise provided by that kind of production can never be balanced by saving a few dollars at a chain store. Buy local, buy fair, or buy a train ticket. I’ll be happy to give you a knitting lesson.


 Happy New Year, everyone! We’re so glad you joined us and we’re looking forward to sharing more with you in 2015.
Conscious capitalism during the holidays

My “Bah! Humbug!” Christmas or,

How Conscious Capitalism Helped Me Take Back the Holidays

The holidays have always been a special time for me. When I was younger, I looked forward to the relaxed holiday atmosphere at school (later work). I loved seeing family and friends who had returned from far away places. I enjoyed (and enjoyed!) seasonal treats like eggnog (later hot buttered rum), homemade fudge, and ravioli from my favorite deli. And the gifts! The anticipation of seeing the look on someone’s face when they received something they weren’t expecting, or an item they needed but couldn’t get themselves, was the best feeling I could imagine.

But then something shifted.

I found myself spending my holiday free time trying to find that “special thing” for that “special someone.” My out-of-town family and friends were tough to track down, stuck in “holiday traffic” at the mall, or preoccupied with how behind they were on their shopping. The rum was hot-buttered and the fudge was fluffy, but the festive feasting I once enjoyed (and enjoyed!) seemed rote. There were presents to open, but the gifts I cherished were few and far between.

To paraphrase Charles Dickens, I had been put out of humor with the season.

And so I announced to my friends and family that I wouldn’t be buying them Christmas gifts anymore. I further admonished that they should return the favor. I had enough, I told them. They had enough. Something had to give and it wasn’t going to be us! But it was an empty threat. The season of giving runs deep in me and the thought of not giving anything to anyone left me feeling just as hollow as the mad rush to consume had.

My solution? Conscious capitalism. I didn’t need to stop giving; I needed to give in a way that elevated my existence and the existence of those around me. I needed to support businesses that were lifting people out of poverty; businesses that had caring cultures; businesses that were committed to creating a world in which we can all prosper.

Today, I have set an intention to give well. When I buy from To The Market, I know my dollars are well spent, empowering abuse survivors. When I donate to Heifer International, I know I have helped a family to become self-reliant.

These are the real gifts, significant to the maker, gratifying to the giver, and meaningful to the recipient.

To paraphrase Dickens once again, I honor this intention in my heart and try to keep it all the year.

Fair trade foods

Fair Trade Feasting:

Blueberry Energy Cake

What comes to mind when you hear the phrase “fair trade?” Coffee or chocolate, if you’re like the typical consumer. Chocolate coffee, if you think like I do. Heh, heh, heh.

The concept of fair trade is essentially the quest to provide fair prices to producers in developing countries, with a triple goal of reducing poverty, increasing ethical treatment of workers, and promoting environmentally sustainable practices.

To power up your fair trade resolve as we head into the new year, I’d like to offer the following cake recipe. Originally published in the October 25th, 2012 issue of the Lawrence Journal-World, Blueberry Energy Cake is quick, yummy enough to please palates of all ages, and can be made almost entirely with Fair Trade and locally-sourced ingredients.

Crank up your oven to 350 degrees and grease an 8-inch square pan.

Whenever I make this cake, I use my two-cup glass measuring cup and a medium bowl. It’s not quite an all-in-one process, but it definitely cuts down on the dishes. However you go about it, measure two cups of whole wheat flour into your bowl. Add three quarters of a cup of sugar, and a generous tablespoon of baking powder.

A confession: I rarely mess with measuring spoons in a lot of recipes. With a little practice, you can get pretty good at “eyeballing”, and a simple coffee cake won’t suffer from a tiny variance in ingredients. Use a fork to measure out your tablespoon, if you’re so inclined.

Stir the dry ingredients together, and then cut in four tablespoons of butter. Rub the butter into the flour mixture until it’s close to the consistency of cornmeal. Yes, with your hands. It’s a lot easier than using two knives or a pastry blender. Just squeeze and stir the butter around in the flour until the lumps are gone.

Zap half a cup of milk along with a quarter-cup of honey in the microwave; one minute is plenty. This is where the glass measuring cup comes in handy. Whisk in one large egg, and then stir this mixture into your flour mix until just combined. Add three ounces of frozen blueberries and stir to distribute.

Spread the batter in your prepared pan and sprinkle the top with a little sugar. Bake it for half an hour and enjoy the smells that fill your kitchen. Unlike most baked desserts, you can eat this one almost straight out of the oven. Serve it as is, or with fresh whipped cream. Don’t forget to include a good book and your favorite hot beverage.

If you’re having trouble finding Fair Trade suppliers, here are some good places to start:

Find a B Corp

Fair Trade USA

Fair Trade Federation

Enjoy the cake, and be sure to tell us about your favorite Fair Trade recipes and suppliers in the comment section.

Denver Public Library

Featured Library of the Month:

Denver Public Library

I remember spending long hours in the local branch Denver Public Library when we lived in Colorado years ago. At the time I was learning about quilting; I probably read every book they had on the subject, and the children all found companions in Winnie the Pooh and the Hardy Boys. Since then, the library has grown and thrived, offering not only books on just about any subject one could want, but also hosting events for the members of all ages.

Regular programs at various branch libraries are varied and designed to bring people together based on a love of books. Stitchers, knitters, embroiderers, and crocheters can the company of other crafters while sharing their most intriguing read of the month, from novels to poetry to magazine or newspaper articles at the Virginia Village Branch. The Eugene Field Branch offers Engage Fridays, when resident wordsmiths may gather for a game of world-class Scrabble, or budding photographers might learn about preserving digital photos, among other things. Pauline Robinson Branch Library even offers a program for grandparents raising grandchildren. Different branches host book clubs for various ages as well as get-togethers featuring food, drink, and, of course, books.

The library also offers many online services, including downloads, Volume: A Local Music Project, and of Fresh City Life Events. One neat thing is that members can request a personalized reading list. I bet that at certain times of the year, high school and college students are flooding them with requests for these!

The Denver Public Library can cater to almost any mood. If you are feeling quiet, hunker down in a corner with a good book. Nostalgic? Listen to music from bygone eras. Socializing your thing? Join a book or craft club, or stop by for any of the many events offered throughout the year. Whatever you are looking for, you just may find it at the Denver Public Library!


Vivienne Harr: Selling Lemonade to Free Child Slaves

Back in March I got to view the trailer for Stillmotion’s first feature length documentary, Stand With Me. It premiered February 1st of this year and was about a little girl in California, Vivienne Harr, who was selling lemonade on the sidewalk to free child slaves. I got to sit down with one of the co-producers, Grant Peelle, and the social media campaign director, Emily Thomas and we talked about what made this documentary so special. Here’s the summary of Stand With Me:

Only a 9-year-old would dream a lemonade stand could change the world. After seeing a photo of two enslaved boys in Nepal, Vivienne Harr is moved to help in the only way she knows how: by setting up her lemonade stand. With the goal of freeing 500 children from slavery, she sets up her stand every day, rain or shine. In telling Vivienne’s story, #standwithme examines the realities of modern-day slavery, the role we play in it as consumers, and the importance of knowing the story behind what we buy.

What is the The Power of One?

Even while I’m in the business of educating students and helping them aim high academically, the larger work at play is in developing contributing citizens. “Do you know what we all have in common? Someday we’re all going to get jobs in this world. We all get there differently.” I ask this question of every incoming and outgoing student in my building as I speak to them about their progress in school, but ultimately I learn that so many of them want what many children want: they want to change the world.

But, they think they’re just one person and how can they possibly make a difference?

Connected Storytelling

The film opens with photographer, Lisa Kristine, and how she captures stories through photography. She’s the first connection in the story that leads us, eventually, to Vivienne Harr. It was Lisa who put a face on slavery with her pictures to portray the community of humanity, but it was the burden of showing their dignity that she took on as her life work. For me, the most powerful part of the film is when she, humbly, explains that she missed seeing the obvious numerous times when she previously visited these developing countries. She hadn’t even noticed the child slaves right before her eyes.

Know+your+products_NepalYouth Source: Lisa Kristine

From there, the film shows Lisa’s work in a gallery that Vivienne’s parents visited and they shared that experience with her. Almost immediately, she wanted to do something to help. After viewing the movie, my initial reaction about dreaming big was renewed because, as Grant said to me on the phone, “If we ask the right questions as consumers, then we can end slavery.”

Let me repeat that: we can end slavery. We can make purchasing decisions that affect the conscious capitalism we’re supporting here at Little Pickle this month.

The Journey

When a 9-year old learned about the 29.8 million people enslaved in the world today, she decided to take action. When Lisa Kristine took a photograph it ended up in a film that took filmmakers from Vivienne’s home in Fairfax, CA to Namibia, Nepal, Ghana, and the Dominican Republic. When Vivienne sold lemonade for free and asked people to give what was in their heart, it brought awareness to an audience about really knowing where our products come from. And while it’s not enough to just support the anti-slavery movement, the message of this movie is that if you want to make a difference you have to know that the products don’t come from slaves. The more we buy these products the more we actually support slavery.

The Impact

Now, the Make a Stand company is on a new journey. They decided to continue raising money for anti-slavery and the company is neither a not-for-profit nor a non-profit; it’s a social purpose company. Proceeds from it go to International Justice Mission, Free the Slaves, and Fair Trade USA. Make a Stand became simply Stand and it is the first mobile crowd-funding for friction-free philanthropy. They’re coming out with an app where people can donate to make it easier to directly support.

Building the Future

Perhaps my favorite part of Stand With Me is that it explores modern day child slavery through the eyes of a 9 year old who decided to take a stand, a concept from a true-to-life story that takes conscious capitalism to children in an accessible way. It’s a film I want all of my students to view.

Take just a moment to watch the trailer and, if you rent the film directly from the site for $5.99, you can rest assured knowing that a portion of that goes to the anti-slavery movement.

Sourcephoto credits to Lisa Kristine


Consumer Toolbox

New Gadgets for Your Responsible Consumer Toolbox

American consumers are becoming increasingly aware of corporate behavior, both good and bad. Only a few years ago, events in remote corners of the world involving transnational corporations and local communities and the environment were largely unknown. Today, consumers in the developed world can observe the impacts of corporate behavior almost in real time. This volume of information has put companies both large and small on notice that their conduct in remote parts of the world will be noticed, often in a big way. As an example, a Canadian mining company, Barrick Gold has found itself in the midst of a public relations crisis for the way it has compensated women in a remote part of Papua New Guinea for harms done to them by security forces protecting the mining operation. Similar examples abound where companies find themselves in situations that create reputational risk with investors and consumers every day.

In response to corporate misconduct, consumers are turning away from products and services that in one way or another harm the environment or negatively impact local communities from Siberia to South Africa. Activists urge boycotts of products and services by consumers but with varying results. This “negative consumerism” may make socially conscious consumers feel engaged on issues of social importance. However, I would argue that such tactics have limited impact on future corporate behavior. On occasion, consumer boycotts of products work, most notably the boycotts of California table grapes and Coors beer. But the vast majority of boycotts and certainly conscientious consumer habits have little impact on corporate behavior and almost no impact on sales.  On the plus side are the more amorphous reputational impacts caused by well-publicized consumer campaigns. However, these sorts of consumer actions are not going away because of their effectiveness or lack thereof, but will remain a means for many consumers wanting to make a difference.

So this leaves us with the following:

A popular approach to changing corporate behavior is through the use of shareholder engagement. This is an approach using shareholder proposals calling on companies to take some action or refrain from conduct deemed socially irresponsible. A provision contained in the Security & Exchange Act of 1940 allows investors owning at least $2,000 of company stock at the time of submitting a proposal to a company to place on the ballot of the annual meeting, a resolution calling on the company to act in some manner. The company must include the proposal, if properly filed, in its proxy statement that is then voted on by all shareholders in the company in question. As a practical matter, most proposals are filed by institutional investors—pension funds, socially responsible investment funds, and religious organizations—and are then voted on by all shareholders using a proxy, which in simplest terms is a mail-in ballot that is then tabulated by a voting agent for the company. These shareholder proposals generally do not get a majority of shareholder votes but often send a strong message to company executives that changes must be made. As an example, shareholder concerns arising out of supply chain problems at major apparel companies has resulted in a marked improvement by many companies to monitor the human rights behavior of their garment suppliers. By way of example, the uproar by both investors and consumers arising out of the Rana Plaza garment factory collapse in Bangladesh that killed 1,129 people and injured an additional 2,515 workers resulted in new standards for the major apparel retailers.

For socially responsible consumers, opportunities for action arise for changing corporate behavior as well.

First, for individuals and families who purchase shares of stock in individual companies, they can vote their proxies, particularly where other investors have submitted socially responsible shareholder proposals. This requires people to open the large envelopes that come in the mail that contain the red and white proxy ballot, the company’s annual report, and the proxy statement, which is a rather hyper-technical document that often scares off the most informed investors. But don’t despair, all proxies are formatted the same way, with a discussion about the company executives and how much they get paid taking up the bulk of these documents, and toward the back of the proxy statement a description of proposals put to a vote and arguments pro and con about the substance of the proposals. Read this part of the proxy statement and you will have a better understanding of the issues presented for a vote. Then vote your proxies and mail them in to the vote tabulator. A postage paid envelope will be included and you can also vote by phone or on the Internet.

Second, even if you do not own stock in companies directly, you are likely to own shares in a mutual fund or two. You can find what companies a mutual fund invests in in the fund prospectus and if you spot a company of concern, you can engage the mutual fund by voting against its board of directors. Combined with an expression of your reasons, written on the proxy ballot, it will get their attention. On more than one occasion, executives have said to me that notes written on a ballot are flagged and people in the company take note of the information provided.  You can also demand that the mutual fund engage with the company in question on the issues of concern to you. As mutual funds are the largest investors in many public companies, this unwanted attention by a major investor could compel action.

By adding these tactics to your responsible consumer toolbox, you will have a few more tools that you can us to make the world a better place.

John Richardson

John Richardson is the Co-Director of the Business & Human Rights Program at the Center for Human Rights & Humanitarian Law at American University Washington College of Law and a professor at AU’s School of International Service.



Photo Credit (top of post): Tiaga Company http://blog.taigacompany.com/blog/sustainability-business-life-environment/growing-business-sustainability-expectations-among-eco-educated-consumers

Northshire Bookstore

Featured Customer of the Month:

Northshire Bookstore

Northshire Bookstore is a wonderful example of how a community bookstore can be at the center of any thriving community. They have two locations, one in Saratoga Springs, New York, and the other in Manchester Center, Vermont, and both have events scheduled throughout the year to bring booklovers together.

In addition to our own Coleen Paratore, Northshire has hosted Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul and Mary, Jeff Kinney of Diary of a Wimpy Kid fame, and Alan Benoit with his Sustainability Series—50 Shades of Green, among others. They also have story times for children, photographic displays, and artsy afternoons.

With the holidays coming up, the spirit of giving is in the air. The Northshire Bookstore’s Book Angel Program is celebrating its twentieth year this month.  Names of children who may not otherwise have access to books are collected from twenty-one local schools, and books are chosen by booksellers and customers for each child. The books are then handed out by the schools before holiday break. This program is made possible through public and private donations, as well as funds provided directly from the bookstore.

If you’re in the area, why not stop by? It’s a little slice of reader’s Heaven for the Book Angel in all of us.

Gift Guide Ideas

Holiday Accolades:

We Wish You a Merry Gift Guide!

On the first day of Christmas, my gift guide gave to me … some awesome deals from LPP!

Yes, folks, Team Pickle is pleased to see that we’ve gotten our presents early this year, in the form of some very kind shout-outs from some of the top names in conscious capitalism. If you’re still on the lookout for great gifts this holiday season, may we suggest that you have a look through the following gift guides?

  1. ForeWord Reviews: Geared toward young readers, this list of “10 Best Indie Picture Books of 2014” will even have Mom and Dad asking for just one more story at bedtime.
  2. The Jacke Wilson Blog: When a fellow author touts your stuff, it’s definitely a feel-good moment. In the post linked here, Jacke Wilson shines a spotlight on Little Pickle Press and its status as a Certified B Corp.
  3. B Corp Store: Speaking of certified, the B Corps Store has put together a list of certifiably fabulous items for the wee ones in your life, from books (cough, smile) to blocks to backpacks.
  4. Cool Mom Picks: We can’t talk about cool gift guides without mentioning Cool Mom Picks. A handy resource for cool parents of any gender, CMP has gift-giving suggestions for kids of every age and interest.
  5. Kristen Howerton: The mind behind rageagainsttheminivan.com, Kristen offers thoughtful (and surprisingly rage-free) advice and anecdotes. She also provides regular guides that feature “gifts that give back.”
  6. Family BookshelfThe family that reads together … well, it’s a safe bet that they do plenty of other cool stuff together. Terry Doherty’s Reading Tub is just the place to find family-friendly, share-worthy books.

Of course, we couldn’t call this gift guide list complete if we didn’t guide you to our own special promotions for the holiday season. To support our theme of conscious capitalism, we’re very excited to offer a free shipping promo from now through December 14th. During that same timeframe, you can make a special book bundle purchase—our award-winning What Does It Mean To Be …? series, signed by the author and packed in a reusable tote with a gift tag and a TerraSkin poster—for only $39.95!

Gift Guide: Free Shipping!


Reimagining Capitalism with a Consciousness

Today, we’re sharing a TED Talk video with our readers in the hopes that they’ll be as inspired as we are about what our world is evolving towards in consumerism.  Author and speaker Raj Sisodia shared a fascinating look at how we can reimagine Capitalism with Higher Consciousness and the way he discusses how humanity can and should use capitalism to pull people from poverty is rather astounding. It’s shifted my entire thinking about the way we can do capitalism when it’s connected to our higher consciousness.

A founding member of the Conscious Capitalism movement, Raj Sisodia is an FW Olin Distinguished Professor of Global Business and Whole Foods Market Research Scholar in Conscious Capitalism at Babson College. He is also co-founder and co-Chairman of Conscious Capitalism Inc.

From his TED Talk: To Reimagine America, we must reimagine capitalism. Capitalism has been extraordinarily successful over the past two centuries at raising human living standards, life expectancy and life satisfaction. But the old way is not working any more. The world has changed so much and people have evolved so rapidly that we need to bring a higher level of consciousness to the world of business. When we do so, the results can be astonishing.

About Raj Sisodia

Raj has published seven books and over 100 academic articles. His work has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Fortune, Financial Times, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, CNBC, etc.

His book Conscious Capitalism: Liberating the Heroic Spirit of Business (with John P. Mackey, co-founder and co-CEO of Whole Foods Market) was published by Harvard Business Review Press in 2013, and rose to #2 on the Wall Street Journal Business Bestseller list. Earlier books include Firms of Endearment: How World Class Companies Profit from Passion and Purpose (named one of the best business books of 2007 by Amazon.com) and The Rule of Three: How Competition Shapes Markets (a finalist for the 2004 Best Marketing Book Award from the American Marketing Association). Other books include The 4A’s of Marketing: Creating Value for Customers, Companies and Society (with Jagdish N. Sheth, Routledge, 2011), Tectonic Shift: The Geoeconomic Realignment of Globalizing Markets (with Jagdish N. Sheth, Sage Publications, 2006) and Does Marketing Need Reform? (co-edited with Jagdish N. Sheth, M.E. Sharpe, 2006).

kevin dooley via photopin cc