Anybody can be somebody’s hero

Amber Smith has found success with her volunteer business, Activate Good, by filling a need in the community: she noticed that people seemed to want to get involved to help the community but were not sure how to get started.

She is also a winner of my 3 free blog posts contest!

I asked her a few questions about her hopes for our community, volunteers everywhere, and the causes that benefit from concerted collaboration—including a study that shows that those who don’t volunteer have the notion that volunteers are people with certain special characteristics that they just don’t have. Good to know, right?!

Continue reading “Anybody can be somebody’s hero”

Launch of GoTo Writer: Content marketing for small businesses

GoTo Writer is a new service I am offering that provides content to drive marketing and advertising goals for small businesses. I am excited to announce our launch and work on such a fun project!

Our goal is to provide the essential building blocks for businesses to quickly develop sustainable, effective communications tactics that have a real impact on business growth. As Raleigh natives, our entire team has a personal stake in the success of our community’s local businesses, and with our experience we understand what it takes to reach today’s consumers.

GoTo Writer offers a variety of competitively priced writing services including website content development, blog posts, press releases, case studies, and email newsletter strategy and copywriting. We also offer a “Good Start Social” program, a two-hour hands-on consultation that enables startups and small businesses to develop, launch, or improve their social media strategy across Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

If you’re interested or know someone who might be, I encourage you to pass along this information! I’d love to hear from you.

Plus! We recently held a giveaway to win 3 free blog posts! The contest was was held this past week and the winners were announced on Monday. We’ll be doing another giveaway soon. Join our mailing list to make sure you don’t miss out next time!

Happy Earth Day!

The City of Raleigh is the City of Oaks and has a robust Urban Forestry division.

One year I worked with the NeighborWoods Program (part of the Parks & Rec Department) to survey the city for areas where trees could be planted in “the right of way”—the area between the sidewalk and the street. I planted, cared for, and learned how to properly prune hundreds of trees! It was thrilling and hard work. Find out if your right of way is eligible!

Here are some Raleigh tree facts that blew me away:

  1. There are 17.7 million (± 7.4) trees in Raleigh’s urban forest
  2. The most common species are: Red maple, Loblolly pine, and Sweetgum
  3. Our “urban forest” removes 1,450 tons of pollution per year

What aspect of nature have you been enjoying most lately? Do you walk or bike the Greenway in Raleigh? Do you have a favorite park in the Triangle? Or, is your backyard the perfect place to start your day or unwind from a busy one?

Check out the Parks & Outdoors tab above for related posts.

Memorial run recap + contest winners

There are many things to celebrate today!

First, over the weekend Raleigh held a Boston Memorial Run that brought out over 2,000 supporters—runners, walkers, dogs, babies, and just lots of people wanting to show the love.

Set up in Moore Square was a donation table, raffle booth, and stage. A bag pipe performance introduced the singing of the National Anthem, and then a moment of silence. Soon after, we were all off to the races! At the starting line, a City of Raleigh firetruck raised an American flag and about a quarter of the way along the route (up Blount Street, right on Martin Luther King Boulevard, and back) hung a gigantic flag from a crane at half-mast. See over 200 pictures from Ben Dillion on his Google+ page.

Next up, I’m pleased to announce the two winners of the GoTo Writer 3 free blog post contest!

Activate Good connects volunteers with volunteer opportunities across the Triangle. Founded in 2005, recently Amber Smith’s company has begun partnering with heavy hitters like Red Hat. Through the website, you can browse opportunities and participating non-profits.


What sets Activate Good apart:


The process is simple and rewarding
Their actions speak louder than words
A curriculum for schools

Finder411 is a directory and platform for small, local businesses and their community. Founder Tonia Zamperlli says that hyper-local consumers will especially find value here. The launch date is set for very soon: Spring 2013.


What sets Finder411 apart:


Pictures, pictures, and more pictures
An online community
No advertising

Namaste Yall ~ Peace and love to BostonFinally, today is Earth Day ♥ See what Raleigh tree stats blew me away!

P.S. Shirt from House of Swank.

Heart to the pavement: a Boston Memorial Run in Raleigh

The Boston Marathon is an annual marathon hosted by several cities in Greater Boston in eastern Massachusetts. It is always held on Patriots’ Day, the third Monday of April. Begun in 1897, inspired by the success of the first modern-day marathon competition in the 1896 Summer Olympics, the Boston Marathon is the world’s oldest annual marathon, and ranks as one of the world’s best-known road racing events. It is one of six World Marathon Majors. —from Wikipedia

After the level of disregard for human life that occurred at the Boston Marathon this past Monday, April 15 we must respond with love.

The thing about love is that it’s strong, it requires us to dig deeper, making it powerful beyond measure.

Responding with love is not the passive thing to do. It’s the right thing to dofor all of  us who have journeyed through life and been through hard times ourselves and come to the conclusion that responding with love and being given love is what makes our lives worth pursuing and valuing. It’s a place of rest and wholeness. So, for those Boston runners who now need much rest and to feel whole again, we honor them this coming Sunday, April 21 with a Boston Memorial Run in Raleigh.

Supporting and participating run groups: RunRaleigh Races, Tobacco Road Marathon, nOg Run Club, Big Boss Run Club, Raleigh Galloway, Raleigh City of Oaks Marathon.

Meet: Moore Square at 3pm

Wear: Race bibs are available for free download here (print off and attach to shirt). Or, purchase a Memorial Run T-shirt from Capital RunWalk (in Cameron Village) on Saturday from 2-4pm, and in Moore Square on Sunday starting at 1:30pm.

Run: 3 miles through downtown Raleigh: Blount Street to Martin Luther King Boulevard and back (map).

Donations: Enter a raffle (prizes here). Or, eat at Tir na nOg (10% of all food sales go to non-profits supporting injured Boston runners and their families).


10 things to do in Miami

I just got back from Miami! A group of us took my sister to South Beach for a pre-wedding bachelorette trip for four days. We got a lot of advice from extended friends and relatives, and even a couple blogs, before we left on places to go and eat. Everyone raved about Miami’s beaches and nightlife, and of course the food! So, we cherry-picked from these recommendations and filled in the gaps by doing our own exploring.

Here are ten things we did and loved. There’s so much to do in a place like this, that’s centered around relaxation and fun, so leave me a comment if you’ve got something to add or want to know more about an activity we did.

1. Go to the beach

» the water is blue-green and so clear, plus the perfect temperature

» where we went: Near Collins Drive & 25th Street there is a sandbar that’s super beautiful and chill

2. Espanola Way

» great for happy hour or a meal, or just a leisurely walk
» where we went: Oh! Mexico

3. Rent a bike

» get around and explore in the sun with ease
» what we used: DecoBike

4. Ocean Drive

» between around 4th and 10th streets are the happening spots for nightlife
» where we went: Mangoes

5. Get a blow out

» special treats are fun on any trip, especially with a group of your female friends; after this one I felt like JLo for a few hours!
» what we tried: BDry (a blow dry bar)

6. Nikki Beach

» this area of the beach is great for lounging with the best of them, especially on Sundays for brunch
» where we went: The Clevelander

7. Go to the pool

» there are pools at every hotel and if you purchase a meal or even just one drink, you’re welcome to lounge at the cabanas and swim in most of them
» where we went: The Red Hotel, The Delano, The Catalina

8. Collins Drive

» staff and servers everywhere we went were incredibly accommodating and friendly, in general everyone was laid back and happy
» where we stayed: The Red Hotel

9. Go shopping

» outside shops and restaurants line many of the streets in South Beach, but not overwhelmingly so
» where we went: Lincoln Road

10. Downtown Miami

» we weren’t able to get over there on this trip, but I hope to go downtown next time I’m visiting Miami
» my hairdo-stylist at BDry told me (without being asked!) that him and his friends really dig it and there are some amazing restaurants and bars
» I got the impression it’s the next hip thing to do beyond being by the beach!

1775 Collins DriveThe Raleigh is located at 1775 Collins Drive. In this lavish 1930s style hotel bar, I had the Victoria, a cocktail made with: Hendricks gin, St. Germain, homemade syrup, lemon juice, and extracted cucumber juice!

10 things we learn from taking a vacation

10. The sun is a gift. Work, play, eat, and bathe in it.

9. Not checking in (email, Facebook, voicemail, etc.) gives us the same sense of freedom in our adult life as it did in our teens with our parents.

8. We deserve to wake up excited about what we’ll do today.

7. Time spent with true, good friends gives us energy instead of draining us of it.

6. Do what you need to do and the cosmos and everyone in it will benefit.

5. Less is more and returns us to center.

4. It’s important to make whatever adjustments necessary upon our return to regular life to reduce the frequency of check-ins we’ve been making in our online life.

3. Unknowns are a gift. Let them bless you with less work and more excitement.

2. Coffee is a mini-vacation wherever we are.

1. Take more vacations. No excuses.

Biking by the beach

We rented bikes from stations that were scattered throughout South Beach. Let’s bring this idea to Raleigh!

Win three free blog posts ~ a giveaway!

Have you had a thought that made you jump and want to tell everyone about it? Did it relate to your business or customer base?

If so, that thought can be turned into an idea that we expand upon in a blog post that generates links back to your site. This gets people excited about you and your business and promotes sales.

I do it everyday here at Downtown Dame. And my professional writing and marketing services team at GoTo Writer can do it for your business.

To win three free blog posts…

1. Jot down three thoughts that you think potential clients would find interesting. It can be anything.

2. Send to me at [email protected]

3. The best submission gets three FREE blog posts from those ideas.

Let’s see what ya got!

Deadline: Friday, April 19th.

Get Around: Biking (+ interview)

The bicycle is next up in this series on public transit in Raleigh and the Triangle. To me, the biggest question (and concern) that comes to mind when considering biking as a reliable source of transportation here is: Can a city that has historically not had to look out for bikers successfully learn to share the road with them?

I asked David Zell, owner with Ken Metzger of Oak City Cycling, to tell us where he thinks Raleigh is headed on the subject. Because Oak City Cycling is a local, independent cycling shop in downtown focused on increasing bicycle ridership through sales, service, outreach, and community—I uncovered some interesting answers to questions otherwise only whispered in eyebrow-raising conversations between neighbors and passionately debated at private dinner parties. Zell makes up words, talks sharrows and secrets, and shares his wishlist for 2013 (if only Santa rode a bike). Let’s dive in.

Read the first post in the series here, Get Around: The Bus + an interview with Rachel, a local bus rider.

Do you hope for biking to be practiced as a means of transportation in Raleigh? How is it different than riding a bus or train? How can it be similar?

Cycling as a means of transportation is one of the inherent ideas on which Oak City Cycling Project was founded. Both Ken and I were commuters to our office jobs before starting the shop. We’re both pretty big autophobes as well (yes, I just made that up). Ken makes his own biodiesel and I don’t own a car.


People have a choice everyday.


More than anything, we hope to influence folks to get on their bike instead of in their car for a commute, a trip to the store, to a dinner or bar downtown, or to visit a friend. It pays in many ways to choose to bike instead of drive. We want to make that choice easier and more accessible for folks here in the Triangle.

What are the main threats to biker safety?

There are a number of threats to cyclist safety but the number one thing is the relationship between cyclists and automobile drivers. As cyclists, we need to be predictable. This means following the rules of the road:

  1. Ride on the right shoulder (take the lane if necessary).
  2. Use hand signals when stopping or turning.
  3. Use front and rear lights if riding at night.
  4. Wear your helmet too.

Automobile drivers sometimes don’t understand the rights that cyclists do have and get nervous and/or perturbed about cyclists being on the road. Cycling in and around downtown is generally safe and most drivers seem to be on the lookout. Making eye contact with drivers who are about to enter a roadway is always a good idea. Be visible and you should be just fine.

How can an app like BikeRaleigh help?

I use the R Greenway app to go for long rides and to discover Greenway routes that I wouldn’t have been confident navigating without this new technology. We’ve particularly enjoyed the soon to be complete, Neuse River Greenway. Think: farmlands along the river, some gentle rollers, wide paved greenway and not overly used… yet. Eek. I may have just given away a secret! We’re excited to be helping out with the Neuse River Greenway grand opening and dedication ceremony on Thursday, April 25th from 5-7pm at Anderson Point Park.

In a city where there are many active people, including those who enjoying biking, but where there are also many drivers and less use of public transit than in other big cities, do you feel we will be able to overcome the challenges to biker safety and infrastructure?

There’s no question, we will be able to improve conditions for cyclists in every year moving forward from here on out. We have passionate, talented planners and leadership in Raleigh who are committed to progressive forms of success. It’s great to see plans moving forward for mass transit in the Triangle and throughout the Eastern Seaboard. There can never be enough awareness for cyclists, but I’m confident we won’t see a year where improvements are lacking any time soon.

Is Oak City Cycling involved with City of Raleigh’s initiatives to increase and improve our biking infrastructure?

Oak City Cycling participates in the Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Commission (BPAC) monthly meetings. The BPAC is responsible for making recommendations on programs, policies, regulations and funding priorities concerning walking and bicycling in Raleigh. The meetings are generally held in the City Council chambers downtown and are open to the public. It’s a great opportunity to voice opinions about cycling-centric issues we face in the city and to make direct contributions to the direction the city is heading regarding facilities for bicyclers.

Recently adopted by the City is the Capital Streetscape Program. What can you tell us about this plan?

It’s great to see Raleigh tackling streetscape issues in and around downtown. It was awesome to see Hillsborough Street receive bike lanes and to see the newly installed pedestrian cross walk near the YMCA. We participated in an advocacy ride last summer to encourage city council implement this plan. We’re excited to see more bike lanes and sharrows (or shared-lane markings) pop up around town; it makes for safer shared roads. We’re hyped about the addition of bicycle racks in downtown too, particularly the creative ones that were part of the Raleigh Racks competition. We donated frames to this project and the rack will be installed in the Warehouse district later this year.

Have you seen business and community interest increase as the City has moved forward with efforts to improve biking in Raleigh?

Our business has experienced an incredible amount of growth since we moved to our current location last June. We’re talking exponents here. We’re excited to see what the next year will bring. For us to succeed as a business we need more folks patronizing our shop in the next year. We haven’t spent any money on advertising, so most of our business comes from referrals, word of mouth, and the Internets. We have high hopes for the remainder of 2013 and need the continued support of the community to help us realize our dreams of owning a successful bike shop.

Are you or the shop part of any community groups focused on cycling as exercise or cycling to generate awareness?

Yes, a few things.


The Benelux Café social ride takes place weekly, on Tuesday evenings at 6:30pm. This is a great 10 mile social ride where folks of all abilities to gather to ride together for an hour or so. There’s three routes that we typically follow and have had as many as 80 folks participate. It’s a fun way to get to know other cyclists, to exercise safely as a group, and to relax with a beer afterwards at the café.


The Oaks and Spokes festival in March is an event we helped plan and sponsor recently. It’s a multi-day cycling festival in Raleigh. 2013 was the inaugural year and was a great success. The Triangle Tweed Ride, the Wesa Cat, FrankenBike Parts Swap, the Raleigh Bikes Art Show, Kidical Mass, and the Oak City Open bike polo tournament were some of the events that took place this year. Fun times!


The Oak City Cycling Project accepts donations of used bikes and bike parts. We’re a drop off point for the Durham Bike Co-Op who come to the shop monthly to pickup used bikes, parts, and tires. We hope to help 1304 Bikes, Raleigh’s bike co-op, in the future with their operations if they are able to secure funding to rent their new space.


We are part of the Bicycle Benefits Program. Folks who have a Bicycle Benefits sticker on their helmet receive 20% off service on their bike when they ride to the shop. It’s a great way to encourage cycling to local businesses instead of driving.

Tell us what’s on your wishlist for Oak City Cycling in 2013.

Well, we all want to own about 6 more bikes!


For 2013, we’d like to see the City continue to stripe more bike paths and sharrows throughout town. We’re really excited for the Greenway expansion and the downtown connections to the Neuse River Greenway, and the North American Handmade Bike Show coming to NC next year as well. We’ll definitely be closing shop to attend this event in Charlotte.


Shop-wise, we love seeing new faces in our shop and our passion is to continue to put more folks on bikes. We’d like to continue selling many bikes and accessories to folks, to continue improving our space and to be the most friendly, open, and talented mechanics so all of your bikes will be riding smoothly around town.

Thanks David!

P.S. See breathtaking photos from their rides around Raleigh (and on their Instagram account).

P.P.S. Find out more about bike share programs from the Raleigh Urban Design Center, via the Raleigh Connoisseur.

A trip to Miami before a downtown wedding

Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah. Miami, uh, uh. South Beach, bringin the heat.

Before my sister, Kim, marries a wonderful guy, Matt, in June, we’re headed with a few other close friends to South Beach for four days of salsa dancing, amazing food, and beaches!

Kim and Matt’s wedding will be held at The Stockroom on Fayetteville Street, and the cocktail hour (during which they will transform the room from ceremony to reception) will be at The Mahler art gallery below. It’s such a beautiful, sunlit spot in the heart of downtown—I can’t wait for the festivities to begin! Plus, the staff and professional planners have been wonderful, fun, and friendly.

Have you been to Miami? Any tips or advice on things to do or places to eat? We’ve got a pretty good idea but would love to hear where you’ve been.

Here’s a list of the best blogs to check out for travel in Miami + the photo of the strip at South Beach makes me giddy!

Party in the city where the heat is on, all night on the beach till the break of dawn.