Three women to watch on International Women’s Day

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to be a woman. I recently realized that the past 18 months is the longest stretch of time I’ve spent single since I was a teenager. I’m OK with that. In fact, I’m kind of enjoying (re)creating my own life on my own terms, even if it can get complicated with a 12-year-old in tow.

As a woman, I know how lucky I am. I live in Canada, where my rights are well-protected. I managed to dig myself out from a suffocating common-law relationship with my dignity and bank account relatively intact. I’m surrounded by friends who check in to make sure I’m OK, make me laugh, and hold me accountable. I’m well-educated and have a job that I love.

International Women's Day

International Women’s Day got me thinking about all the fantastic women I’ve interviewed this year….

So, in honour of International Women’s Day 2018, I’d like to celebrate three women who I had the privilege of interviewing over the past year. Each left their mark on me for different reasons.

Phuong Pham – Owner, Fantastic Nails & Spa
I owe Phuong Pham an apology. I mis-spelled her first name throughout my story, and my editor didn’t catch the slip. Although I’m sure she noticed it, Phuong didn’t point out my mistake – even though it’s a cardinal sin for a journalist. (It was a first for me, but something that I am sure happens to everyone eventually!)

That’s just the kind of warm-hearted woman behind Fantastic Nails & Spa, one of London’s most successful nail salons.

Puong Pham - Fantastic Nails and Spa

Puong Pham (l), believes that every business can make a difference in the community. (Photo: Facebook)

If you think Puong is running a small business, think again. Without divulging any numbers, I can say that this well-run salon and spa is undoubtedly one of the most successful businesses I wrote about last year.

Phuong is also a Buddhist, and it was her attitude towards money that impressed me the most.

If you read my story, you’ll learn that she came from very humble beginnings and arrived in Canada as a refugee with no formal education. So it would be understandable if Phuong was driven to make money for money’s sake.

Instead, she is using her hard work and good fortune to help improve the lives of others.

In fact, Phuong didn’t want my story to focus on the success of her salon, but rather on how it has enabled her to support many charitable initiatives – both here in Canada and in her native Vietnam. She hoped it would inspire other independent business owners to consider the good they could do in the world.

Something to think about this month as women around the world #PressForProgress.

You can read my story about Puong Pham here.

Stephanie Ciccarelli – Founder & Chief Brand Officer,
As a former classical musician, how could I not love interviewing Stephanie Ciccarelli? She graduated with a Bachelor of Musical Arts from Western University in 2006, where she studied voice.

Stephanie Ciccarelli

Stephanie Ciccarelli is a music grad turned entrepreneur. (Photo: Facebook)

Today, she and her husband run – one of the world’s largest on-line marketplaces for voice-over talent. It’s a seriously big business, and only getting bigger.

I interviewed Stephanie about the launch of her new podcast, Sound Stories. Targeted towards the demand side of their business, Sound Stories features conversations with creative professionals speaking on a wide variety of topics. If you are in any kind of creative field, you should definitely check it out here.

Stephanie is also the mother of three young children. We did our interview at 7:30 in the morning at the head office in downtown London. She had to catch a flight to New York and was already dressed for business with her carry-on packed and read to go. She’s another smart and ambitious woman who somehow juggles the demands of working with her husband, motherhood, and a big career, with grace, humour, and style.

You can read my story about Stephanie Ciccarelli’s Sound Stories podcast here.

Jo-Ann Fisher – Founder, Hangar9
You wouldn’t think that women who call places like Toronto, Washington D.C. and New York City home would turn to a London, Ontario-based clothing boutique for fashion and styling advice. But that’s the kind of loyal clientele that Jo-Ann Fisher has built over 30 years at the helm of Hangar9.

Jo-Ann Fisher

Jo-Ann Fisher has been dressing women from Toronto to New York for more than 30 years. (Photo: Facebook)

While many independent retailers are crumbling under the weight of online shopping, Hangar9 is expanding, both in physical size and scope. What’s more, three out of Jo-Ann’s four daughters are actively involved in the company – and they’ll be taking over the reigns when Jo-Ann retires from the business side of her independent clothing store later this spring.

Jo-Ann doesn’t have a business degree, a diploma in fashion merchandising, or a family connection to the industry. She grew up on a farm and stumbled into the business through Mary Kay Cosmetics when she was approached to become a consultant at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair in Toronto.

What she does have is a strong work ethic, an engaging personality, a keen eye for fashion, and a genuine desire to help her clients look and feel their best. Her nine grandchildren are blessed to have a granny with so much style, energy, and zest for life. They may even have a hard time keeping up with her!

She’s setting a great example for the next generation of women who dare to dream big and want to  succeed in life and business without compromising their vision and integrity.

You can read my cover story on Jo-Ann Fisher and the next chapter for Hangar9 here.

Happy International Women’s Day 2018 to all the fabulous women I know, and to the men who love and support them….and I wonder who I’ll be writing about next year?

Nicole Laidler is a freelance journalist, copywriter and word strategist based in London, Ontario. She loves helping people grow their success, one word at a time. See what else she’s been writing at 



My top 3 stories of 2017

The last 12 months have been a whirlwind. I’ve been fortunate to have enjoyed a steady stream of work, which has given me the opportunity to write about everything from the Canadian fin tech sector to dairy farming in Oxford County.

Along the way, I’ve had the privilege of interviewing some amazing individuals doing some amazing things. That’s made it difficult to pick my favourite stories of 2017 – but after much consideration, here are the three that made a lasting impression:

Roads to reconciliation
(United Church Observer magazine, November 2017)

I don’t remember when I first learned about Canada’s residential school system, but I know it wasn’t at school. And I’ve written stories on First Nations issues in the past where my sources were wary about sharing their stories with a reporter.

geraldine robertson - photo Dwayne Cloes

Geraldine Robertson shares her experiences as a survivor of Canada’s residential school system. Photo: Dwayne Cloes

Geraldine Robertson had no such hesitation. A survivor of the residential school system, she has worked tirelessly to educate her own community and Canadians in general about the abuses suffered by generations of First Nations children.

(In case you think she must live ‘way up North’ – Geraldine is a member of Aamjiwnaang First Nation in Sarnia. That’s less than an hour from my front door.)

This year, Robertson and two fellow survivors shared their residential school experiences in a documentary film called “We Are Still Here,” which led to my assignment for The United Church Observer magazine.

It can be difficult to interview people about traumatic events, but Geraldine answered my questions thoroughly and thoughtfully. She also posed a few questions of her own, which made me see the legacy of the residential school system in a new light.

You can read my story here  and view the documentary ‘We Are Still Here.’   It should be screened in every Canadian school.

The Peacemaker
(Ivey In Touch, September 2017)

I was excited – and a bit nervous – when Ivey Business School asked me to write a profile of Frank Pearl for their alumni magazine.

Frank Pearl

Frank Pearl studied at Ivey Business School before returning to Colombia. (Photo: Facebook)

After all, it’s not every day that I get to interview a peace negotiator.  And like most Canadians, I have a limited understanding of Colombia’s long-standing civil war.

Luckily, it took a few weeks to arrange the interview so I had plenty of time to research and prepare my questions – which I hoped would provide readers with some insight into Pearl as a person, Ivey grad, and peace broker.

Often people who are in high profile positions have received tons of media training, which doesn’t always make for the most interesting quotes. So when I finally reached Pearl at his home I was relieved and delighted that he spoke with such candor about both his role in the Colombian peace process and his time in Canada.

I even had to ask my editor if she could stretch the original word-count. (Which she did!)

You can read my story here.

The Art in a Deal
(London Inc., June 2017)

I first met Marla Marnoch at an event at The ARTS Project in downtown London sometime during the summer of 2016. I think we may have been the only people in the room without visible tattoos, so of course we got to talking.

Marla mentioned her concept of marrying social enterprise, real estate transactions and community building – and I immediately thought “That’s something I need to keep an eye on.”

Almost 12 months later, Marla launched, I pitched and wrote a story, and as an added bonus I made a new friend!

Marla Marnoch earmark

Marla Marnoch (far right) building our community through her social enterprise real estate initiative, (Photo: Facebook)

Marla’s enthusiasm for London and her ability to bring her vision to life make this story one of my top 3 picks of the year.

You can read my story here.

So, what’s up for 2018?

I’ve already got a few new assignments lined up for January, as well as a small speaking engagement – so I’m looking forward to the year ahead. I’ll also be starting work on a book that I’ve been thinking about for several years now…stay tuned!

If you’d like to keep up with what I’m writing, follow my Facebook page or visit my website.  And if you’ve got a story idea, or need a freelance writer – please drop me a line!

In the meantime, thanks for reading my blog – and Best Wishes for 2018!






12 Months of Transition

I dubbed 2017 my “Year of Transition.” And as I mark 12 months since my separation, I can honestly say that life as I know it is almost completely different from what it was a year ago. It hasn’t always been easy, but everything I’ve gone through has given me the opportunity to grow.


For me, 2017 was a year of incredible change….

So, since it’s the season of lists, here are 12 things that I’ve learned during my first year as a single mom:

  1. I can make great decisions in high-stress situations.
  2. I can use a snake to unplug a sink.
  3. I can rise above negative situations. (If you’re surrounded by drama, try it sometime!)
  4. I can choose my mood. (see #3)
  5. Mom was right. Your reputation counts.
  6. I can assemble a hockey net – even if it takes three days!
  7. I can write more words in a month than I previously believed possible.
  8. I have a great poker face. (see #3 & #4)
  9. Simple things can make me very happy.
  10. I may be middle-aged, but I can still learn new things.
  11. Not everyone who is friendly is your friend. (But don’t take it personally!)
  12. Girlfriends (and male friends) who make you laugh are the best.

It’s full steam ahead for 2018….

I have dubbed 2018 my “Year of Momentum.” After the free-fall of 2017, I feel like my feet are back on the ground and that I’m on the right path forward.

Who’s coming along for the ride?



5 tips on how to make working from home a success

A friend recently decided to streamline and simplify her professional life by relocating her business from a traditional storefront into the finished basement of her family home. Great move, I thought. She’s got a loyal clientèle, a strong social media presence to attract new customers, and an effective on line store.

She’s also got a partner and two young children, so the change makes sense for her family too.

I know a thing or two about running a home-based business and a household. Spilled Ink Writing & Wordsmithing has been based out of my home office since 2004.

Working for myself, and on my own, has given me a 10-second commute, autonomy, and the flexibility to walk my dog in the middle of a sunny day. But merging home and office can have its challenges, and definitely isn’t for everyone.


Being able to take this beauty on a mid-day walk is one of the many perks of working from home!

So here are five tips on how to make working from home a success.

Create a dedicated work space
I am fortunate to have a dedicated office. When my workday is done I close my office door – and it remains shut until I am ready to tackle the next day’s to-do list.

The biggest pitfall of running a home-based business is allowing your business to dominate your home. If you hope to achieve any sort of work-life balance it’s vital to create a space that separates the personal from the professional.

small home office

A home office doesn’t have to be large, but it does need to be a dedicated area separate from your personal living space.

Don’t work on the sofa. Don’t work in bed. Don’t work at the kitchen table. Even if you live in a bachelor apartment, set up a desk and chair and call it your office.

Don’t eat lunch at your office desk. Don’t watch Netflix on your office laptop. Your work space is for work. Your personal space is for family, friends, and relaxation.

(Still not convinced? Then ask your accountant about the benefits of claiming a home-office deduction on your tax returns.)

Create a work schedule
With your office only steps away, it’s easy to work at any time of the day and night. Having the flexibility to arrange your work schedule around your family schedule is great. Never taking time off work to spend with your family, not so much.

If you’re an entrepreneur, you’re busy. If you’re an entrepreneur and a parent, your schedule is probably in overdrive. If you’re an entrepreneur and parent with a home office, you may never sleep.

You need – and deserve – time off. Decide how much you want to work and when you want to do it, and then stick to your schedule.

Remember – if you answer client emails at 11 pm, that’s what they will come to expect. Unless it’s a real emergency your reply can wait until the morning. You’ll sleep better. They’ll probably email at a more reasonable hour the next time. If not, it’s time to find a new client.

Just do the work
With the kitchen just steps away from your office, it may be tempting to take a break and empty the dishwasher. Or fold the laundry. Or pick up your son’s dirty socks.

And with no boss looking over your shoulder, it’s easy to lose a morning to Facebook.

Doing dishes

Your dirty dishes can wait until your workday is finished….

If you don’t have the self-discipline to focus on your work without the threat of being fired, then having a home office may not be the best choice for you. Getting up from your desk for a quick break or having a proper lunch at your kitchen table (or out with friends) is fine – but losing your day to housework or social media is no way to grow a business.

Dress for success
Working from home means you can roll out of bed and hit your desk in your pajamas. Right?


You may not need to wear a button-down suit to work from home, but you should still dress in a manner that makes you look and feel like a professional.

Find your tribe
Working from home means you don’t have to face the creep in the next cubicle or deal with a narcissistic boss. But it also means you miss out on the camaraderie of a traditional work environment.

If you’re a social person, a home-based business may not be for you. The truth is, working from home can be lonely and isolating, and you may find yourself having long conversations with the family pet.

It’s important to make an effort to get out of your home-based office. And this means more than just going for coffee with your friends. You need professional colleagues who can offer advice and support. You need new customers, who won’t find you if they don’t know you exist.


Make time to get out and meet new people!

Set aside a few days each month to attend meaningful networking events, or join a professional organization.

There are also plenty of virtual groups on Facebook – and they can be a wonderful resource – but nothing beats meeting people face-to-face.

Maintaining social interactions is good for your mental health, will keep you motivated, and will help forge the connections you need to enjoy long-term  business success.

If you work from a home office, share your biggest challenges and helpful hints in the comments below! 

Nicole Laidler is passionate about helping people grow their business, one word at a time. She is a story-based copywriter, marketing & website copywriter, blogger, and content consultant based in London, Ontario, and the owner of Spilled Ink Writing & Wordsmithing. 


The Fur-Bearing Trout, and the power of patience

This summer, I got to add the words ‘contributing author’ to my resume.

My story, The Secret That Won The War, was selected for inclusion in The Fur-Bearing Trout…and Other True Tales of Canadian Life.

The book is a collection of non-fiction pieces by 16 local writers, and was published by the London & Southwestern Ontario chapter of the Professional Writers Association of Canada to mark the Canada 150 celebrations.

TFBT Cover

I am grateful to be a contributing author….

This was a thrill for me for two reasons: I can now say that I’ve been published in a book, and more importantly – I had been sitting on this story for 13 years.

The Secret That Won The War was written in 2004 when I was still in journalism school at The University of Western Ontario.

As a student, my goal was to publish every assignment I wrote for J-school.  I did – with the exception of this one.

Perhaps it was the subject matter, telling the story of Canada’s top-secret radar program through the eyes of Word War II radar veteran Fred Bates. A storekeeper from Wingham, Ontario, Bates had been trained at RAF Station Clinton – located 85 km north of London – before serving on Canada’s West Coast and in Europe.

Perhaps it was the length.  Bates’ personal recollection was interspersed with plenty of historical and technical information – necessary, I felt – to properly tell the tale. But at more than 4,000 words, the draft I handed in was certainly far too long for most traditional publications.

Perhaps my student writing skills just weren’t strong enough to pull off such an ambitious project. I received a mediocre grade and some unenthusiastic feedback.

But Fred Bates had passed away less than two weeks after our interview, and I felt that I couldn’t simply throw away his words.

The story was filed away on my computer. And then on another computer. And another.

Filed away, but not quite forgotten.

When the call for submissions for non-fiction stories about any facet of Canadian life dropped into my in-box last November, I knew that The Secret That Won The War had finally found a home.

It’s now 2,500 words shorter than the original, with a new beginning and ending, but each one of Bates’ words remain.

As for the fur-bearing trout, that’s another slice of Canadian history worth reading about.

The Fur-Bearing Trout…and Other True Tales of Canadian Life was launched at Anderson Craft Ales on June 25. Copies are available at Attic Books and Chapters / Indigo in London, Ontario and it will soon be available on Amazon.

Learn more about Canada’s secret WWII radar program. 

As a story-based copywriter, marketing & website copywriter, content consultant, and blogger, I am passionate about helping people grow their success by sharing their stories with the world. Read what I’ve been up to at Spilled Ink Writing & Wordsmithing.

Take 5 with Kelsey Ramsden

This week started with a smashed cell phone, which put me behind the eight ball work wise. But I decided to honour my commitment to attend a breakfast meeting with Mompreneurs London on Thursday – and it was well worth the effort.

This month’s speaker was Canadian businesswoman Kelsey Ramsden.

Kelsey Ramsden

Canadian business maven Kelsey Ramsden was this month’s featured speaker.

This mother of three was named Canada’s Top Female Entrepreneur by Profit and Chatelaine magazines in 2012 & 2013. She has founded and run everything from a construction company to a monthly play subscription service, holds an MBA from the Ivey School of Business, and is an in-demand business coach and speaker. And that’s the extreme Coles Notes version of her resumé.

See why I went?

Instead of simply presenting a prepared talk, Kelsey took questions from the audience. She answered with a refreshing mix of candor, humour and no BS honesty.

My journalism ears pricked up. Instead of taking conventional notes, I began to jot down newsworthy quotes.

In no particular order, here are my top five takeaways from Kelsey Ramsden:

On the biggest lesson learned as a business woman:
“Check your ego”

On developing a marketing strategy: 
“Move the closest people closer to the line.”

On selecting an online marketing platform:
“Human interaction converts best.”

On launching a speaking career:
“Learning how to speak is a different skill set from having something to say.”

On time management:
“To find time, steal it from somewhere else. The world will not end if your laundry does not get done.”

Words of wisdom for the week ahead!

What is the best business advice you’ve ever received? 

Nicole Laidler is passionate about helping people achieve success by helping them share their stories with the world. See what she’s been up to at Spilled Ink Writing & Wordsmithing. 

The six numbers you need to know about social media

One of the things I love most about being a copywriter and content consultant is getting to work with fantastic people – like the team at Elm Hurst Inn & Spa and Idlewyld Inn & Spa.

We’ve worked hard over the years to boost the Inns’ social media profiles, with active accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram, in addition to a monthly blog.


So much social media…so little time!

But I confess – it’s been a bit of a learn-as-you-go process! I’m not a big believer in growing an on-line audience through boosted posts, paid advertising, or ‘like and share’ contests. My philosophy has always been that it’s better to speak to a smaller group who are actually interested in what you have to say than to shout to a crowd who couldn’t care less.

So, I was delighted to hear London Social Media Coach Geoff Evans say practically the same thing at a recent seminar I attended with Elm Hurst front desk manager (and fellow social media administrator) Michael Willemsen.

I’m not going to share Geoff’s insights and tips to get your social media rocking, because that’s his job…but I will reveal six numbers he shared that you must know if you’re running a business with a social media profile.


Knowing these numbers will help you stay on target with your social media.

When it comes to social media, Facebook still rules the roost. Canadian users spend an average of 15 hours a month reading, posting, and sharing their stories.

That compares to the 15 minutes a month most people spend on LinkedIn.

If your business is in London Ontario, there are 51 million Facebook users within driving distance of your front door.

Facebook is getting middle-aged spread, with most users now aged between 30 and 49. If you’re going after the kids, you’ll find them on Instagram or Snapchat – until the next big thing launches.

Facebook is also going gray. The fastest growing demographic on Facebook is people aged 65 or older. Think retirees with lots of spare time, and grandparents wanting to stay in touch with family and friends.

Congratulations! You’ve got a lot of fans! But if you think they’re all tuned in to every post, think again. Thanks to the Facebook news feed algorithm, only 20% will actually see what you’ve got to share. (So don’t worry too much about repeating yourself.)

Most people on Facebook follow 50 pages. That’s a lot of posts, which is why Facebook does its best to edit your news feed based on previous interactions. Hence the rise of click-bait. But that’s a blog for another day.

What is your biggest social media challenge? 

Nicole Laidler is a story-based copywriter, marketing & website copywriter, content consultant and blogger based in London, Ontario. See what she’s been up to at Spilled Ink Writing & Wordsmithing.