Pursuing your passions

Stephen Nawotniak set out in May of 2000 to prove that Millenials were not all apathetic and lazy. He had planned a twenty-seven month non-motorized trek around the United States, doing community service along the way. He called this Generation TreX and even designed a Master’s Degree program around it through Buffalo State College. He obtained partial funding through Americorps.


The canoe and the sloop

The canoe and the sloop




He canoed from Buffalo, NY to Albany, NY, then sailed down the Hudson River in a sloop to New York City. From there, he backpacked to Roanoke, VA and then bicycled to Key West, FL. At that point he learned his grandmother had passed away and he had to return home. That was in January of 2001. This forced him to revise his plans for the trip. He needed to raise additional money so he focused on updating his website, securing speaking engagements, and began developing a nonprofit agency.


hiking and biking

hiking and biking

Just when he was preparing to start on the next leg of his trek, September 11, 2001 struck. Stephen shifted his focus to addressing the wound this left by creating a violence prevention program through his nonprofit. It was called ACT on Violence Prevention and it focused on self-defense programs. He partnered with Americorps VISTA and the program was well received in Buffalo, NY communities.


Then in August of 2002 Stephen was hospitalized for acute depression and was given a diagnosis of bipolar disorder. This caused him to go through an incredible period of adjustment. It took years for him to come to terms with, understand and accept that this condition was a part of his reality that he must face every day.


He became trained and certified as an Occupational Therapist. Through his work as an Occupational Therapist he developed skills and techniques that he wanted to share with others facing a similar condition so he wrote and self-published a book called Handbook for Healthy Living with a Mood Disorder.


I met Stephen in my Clarence Toastmasters Club and when he gave a speech on his experience it blew me away. He is a natural storyteller and an excellent speaker. You can read his blog Sharing the Journey to learn more and keep tabs on his inspiring story.

If you can make it to one of his events and hear him speak, live, you will find his warmth, sincerity and gift for storytelling to be refreshing and uplifting. Here is a link to his upcoming events. Whether or not you or anyone you know struggles with mental health issues, you cannot help but be inspired by Stephen’s story.


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Crowd-funding can be a great way to finance a project–if you know how to do it right.  Janet Hinkel did her research. She put in the necessary effort, stayed organized, and is about to see her dream project completed. She raised nearly $12,000 in a thirty day campaign on Kickstarter to finance the publishing of her own curated Tarot deck which she calls the Tarot of Delphi.


profile winter 2014


She did it by taking a serious approach, she made up spreadsheets to help her organize information and she mapped out a strategy. She joined groups on Facebook where she thought she might gain supporters, and asked up front if it would be okay to promote her project in each group. She spent 9 months preparing to launch her campaign. She chose the 30 day campaign because her research indicated the shorter 30 day option resulted in more successful campaign outcomes.

In addition, she offered very appealing rewards at each level of support and a range of support levels. Check out her campaign here:

Kickstarter campaign

The cards themselves are exquisitely designed. Her idea came after exploring a number of ideas for online businesses, and then experimenting with Tarot and looking at Victorian art. She did not find any Tarot decks that were quite like what she had in mind.

She had been working with Tarot since 1997. She was raised in the New Thought tradition and found the Tarot to be an effective way to maintain some of the contemplation practices she had learned growing up.

Delphi-19_Sun            Delphi-Back-DS    Proofs1-set_cards


Hinkel has had a lot of help and support from her husband, Quinn Caya. She set up a DBA as Aello Publishing. The cards are due to be published in June 2014 but for those who pre-0rder the shipping is free until June 1

Tarot of Delphi web site

In addition to the Facebook groups she joined, she had spent months following blogs on related topics, reading them thoroughly so she would understand their focus, and she tracked how much traffic they received. She was tracking them on her spreadsheets, she had them categorized by theme, her aim was to gain a huge amount of traffic for her campaign by doing guest posts or having these bloggers write about her project.

She also wrote her own blog, using material she had been compiling for a book to go with the deck. She had share buttons for Facebook, Twitter and her Kickstarter page to make it as easy as possible for readers to share. She also put the share page in all her e-mails. She sent out e-mails to friends and family some of whom she expected to support the project, and others whom she wanted to know about it, though her expectation of support from them was not as high.

Facebook resulted in a very high number of sales conversions. She spent between ten and thirteen hours per day promoting her campaign across all the strategies she had chosen, including on Facebook, during the 30 day launch from November 12 to December 12, 2013. “People put the campaign up and just think people will find it,” she said. That is why many campaigns do not reach their goals. All of her preparation and dedication is finally paying off, however.

She also had spreadsheets for media contacts, freelance writers, and online forums and magazines on related topics. “You build a fan base, and Kickstarter helped me get feedback from many of these groups on our design. People feel they have an ownership stake in your project,” Hinkel said. Throughout the campaign she kept updating her backers and encouraging them to share.

The meanings for the cards are based in traditional Tarot interpretations of the Rider-Waite-Smith decks and there are the typical 78 cards found in such decks. When we spoke she was just getting the proofs from the printer and was giving them feedback to improve the quality of the final product. For the public launch of the deck in June she is also purchasing vintage and antique fabric and materials to make Tarot bags to hold the deck. The Tarot bags she had made for the Kickstarter campaign were completely sold out.

And for readers of this blog, Janet has a special offer! If you enter FreedomPowerJoy at checkout she will give you 10% off of your order through the month of June!

Have you or anyone you know thought about obtaining crowd-funding for a project? Share this article!



I am sitting in the fog and rain of a Buffalo spring at the Outer Harbor on Lake Erie waiting for Pierre Wallinder to arrive for our meeting. I am thinking of how little I have really enjoyed the waterfront in all my years living in Buffalo. Coming here from Sweden, Pierre has a passion for our natural resources that I think many of us have taken for granted. He started Sail Buffalo, and has joined forces with the Cazenovia Community Resource Center and Buffalo will soon be much the better for their efforts.

4. Sail Buffalo- A Community Boating Center PP Presentation-2013-2-12_43. Sail Buffalo- A Community Boating Center

Thanks to the Greenway Commission, more of us have a chance to fully enjoy the beauty of our waterways. Recent approval for grant funding will expand the Cazenovia Community Boating Center and Sailing School, allowing their Pavilion to be converted into a science lab, building of a greenhouse and an upgrade to the docking system to allow safe access for people with disabilities.


This is the second year the Cazenovia Community Boating Center will be operating out of the location they operate as licensees from the United States Coast Guard. It is the site where the lighthouse ship was docked over 100 years ago.


“My dream is everybody’s dream, to have a spot created for generations, that will provide community access under the safest possible conditions. The reality of Buffalo’s weather conditions cannot be underestimated, but with careful planning and the right team spirit, we wanted to show that it is possible,” Pierre said.

5. Sail Buffalo- A Community Boating Center PP Presentation-2013-2-12_5012013

The Cazenovia Community Boating Center (CCBC) offers a series of programs that combine to offer holistic wellness. Eventually, the components of the project will develop all the skills needed for a successful sea voyage. Nutrition is an important part of that equation, hence the greenhouse.


The project has brought together the efforts of a strong board and several community leaders to develop a shared vision of a brighter, more sustainable future for Buffalo’s Waterfront.

A Fork in the Road

Mark and baby2

In 2005 Mark Pogodzinski had several published short stories under his belt, so he was able to land an agent who helped him find a book publisher. But when they sent the copy of his book back, he found they had changed the ending, and he did not like it. He chose not to sign the contract.

A few years later, after researching the technologies and other aspects of the publishing business, he opened his own company, No Frills Buffalo/Amelia Press. That was in 2011 and since then, he has published thirty books. They have moved well over 10,000 copies.

Not Just a Business, A Way of Life

For Mark, this business grew out of principles and beliefs in what matters. He believes in Community over Corporations. “Everyone should have a chance to be published,” he says, “we’re going to work with you to produce the best book possible.”

To that end, he works with independent contractors to develop the design, cover, publicity, book trailers and everything your book needs to find its market. If you have a book written, he will produce proofs for you to see how your book would look in print, and if you like it you can buy it, if not, it costs you nothing.

He brought his son, who is five months old, with him to our meeting.

Mark and baby

His wife is an amateur photographer who can produce photos if you need them for your book, but essentially, Mark runs the business himself. As far as the books’ production, they are an on-demand press, so everything is on a thumb drive and you produce only as many, and pay for only as many, books as you need. This is far different than the “vanity presses” of the old days, where you had to buy 3500 to 5000 books and then hope you could sell them.

They sell through local independent book stores, as well as larger chains and online retailers, such as Amazon. They work with authors from anywhere and sell all over the world.

If you were to write a book, what would it be about? Post your comments below!



Recently I discovered a poet through a random post on facebook. This blog is not about poetry, but it is about pursuing your passions. Well, I actually have a passion for poetry, hidden behind my passion for writing, and small business.

I have tried to make a living writing, so I have deferred my passion for the arts and poetry until “someday.” This poet, Wild Irish Poet, did the opposite. He pursued his passion for the arts with full force. He left his home in Ireland to come to New York City in 2001, just after September 11th tragedies. He worked his way to achieving an Emmy for his film “Home: The Movie.”

He returned to Ireland several years later and had another film in the works called, “The Spirit of Ireland — An Odyssey Home.”

There are several reasons I find Alan Cooke, aka Wild Irish Poet, so captivating. One is the romance of Ireland, which I claim some heritage from. Another is his courage to pursue his vision. His work, itself, however, is what I most admire.

Wild Irish Poet displays a highly developed poetic sensibility and his voice is professionally trained to produce a most melodious effect when listening to him narrate his work, or that of others.

Solstice Moon by Emmy Winning Writer Alan Cooke

As a poet, myself, who prefers to perform my poems, I recently started taking lessons from Alan Cooke, to improve my voice expression. He describes what he does as “Teaching Soul Voice.”

Wild Irish Poet

What if we were all speaking from the depths of our Soul, all day, every day? How would the world change?

If you would like to learn to develop your Soul Voice, you can contact him at alanmcooke@gmail.com


For me, someday, is now.


From Steel to Chocolate?

Ingeri Eaton

Meet Ingeri Eaton. She worked for years in the steel business, at American Brass. She liked to bake cakes and cookies for people’s birthdays, and other special occasions and bring them to work to share. Then one day she got bored with the baked goods, and started making chocolates.

Word spread like through the plant and people started coming up to her and asking her to make chocolates for them. Eaton Chocolate opened on Hertel Avenue four years later.

Well, it wasn’t all that easy.

The Real Beginning

Ingeri was a single mother when she started working at American Brass sixteen years ago. With no college degree, the Steel business was a good opportunity to support her daughter, despite the heavy lifting involved. She met the man who would become her husband there a few years later.

Both Ingeri and her husband started working there about the same time. Over the years, even though they are part of a  union, they have both experienced layoffs several times, and sometimes both of them were laid off at the same time. They know the myth versus reality of job security in today’s economy.

The Big Shift

A few years ago, Ingeri was injured at work. She had to have surgery on her rotator cuff and was on restricted duty for seven months. At around the same time, she turned forty, and her daughter gave birth to her first grandchild.

She tried to take an unpaid leave, she needed to regroup and rethink her life, as she felt pulled in different directions. That was not in the cards. In the meantime, she and her husband found a location and opened Eaton Chocolate. They worked opposite shifts so they could cover the store hours.

Then Ingeri’s workman’s compensation claim came through for her.  They took the leap and she quit her job, investing part of the claim award into the business.

Eaton Chocolate 1                                                        Eaton Chocolate 2

She explains they offer customized orders. And yes, they do offer chocolate covered bacon! They also include Lake Effect Ice Cream on the menu.


Would you like to have your business featured on my blog? Contact me at freedompowerjoy@gmail.com



Financial Healing Anyone?

Christine head shot 2012

While Christine Mathieu is known as a True Wealth Strategist for Divorced Women, she strikes me as being a Financial Healer. She spent over 20 years as a traditional Financial Advisor. Then, when the financial crisis hit in 2008, she witnessed a profound shift in the focus of her work. Clients, who had been asking her about specific investment options, began talking to her about their emotional response to the events that were unfolding at that time.

Her own work with a Life Coach helped her make the shift necessary to be of service to her clients in their time of need. She became trained and licensed inFinancial Life Planning® to help transition her skills as she plugged in her own personal experiences to develop her signature program, “Financial First Aid for Divorced for Women.”

Thatmoneygirl image

Christine went to work setting up her blog www.thatmoneygirl.com, writing her book, “From Wisdom to Wealth” and positioning herself to launch her own business, which she did in 2011. The Mathieu Center for Financial Wholeness in East Aurora NY also has a web site, www.mathieucenter.com


If you would like to find out what she does and how she does it, she offers free of charge, True Wealth Consultations and talks to groups and organizations! The talk can be adapted to a 30 to 45 minute schedule, depending on the group, and promises to deliver transformational value to everyone who attends.

And who doesn’t need financial healing?

Do you know other business owners who have made similarly powerful shifts? Do you have a story of personal transformation that you would like to share? Are you looking to make a similar shift in your own life? Contact me!

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