Six ways to save money

OK, you’ve finally decided to create/update your website/brochure/business card/sales sheet/whatever. Maybe you’ve already contacted someone like me – or even me – to help you.

You can save a lot of time – and therefore money – by answering the following initial questions before your next meeting/phone call/Skype session/email exchange with your copywriter.

1. What do you need and why?
2. Who do you want to reach and why?
3. What do you want people to do?
4. What do they need to know to do it?
5. How soon do you need it?
6. What’s your budget?

There will be more questions, believe me. But start with these.

It’s OK to start a sentence with And, But or So

I remember Mrs. Bishop, my third grade teacher, telling the class that we could not, under any circumstance, ever start a sentence with “and,” “but” or “so.”

Mrs. Bishop was a good teacher, but she was wrong about this. And so was everyone else’s third grade teacher.

No one seems to know how this prohibition against conjunctions began. But it’s completely incorrect.

If you need a more accepted source, check the Chicago Manual of Style. But if your boss insists that her or his third grade teacher was right no matter how much proof you provide, don’t push it.

Worried about ending a sentence with a preposition?

There are 150 prepositions in the English language and my fifth grade teacher, Miss Tryon, made us memorize most of them.

For those who didn’t have a Miss Tryon in school, some of the more familiar prepositions are with, on, in, at, to, about, of, under, below, above, against, before, after, behind and across.

Back in the day — the 17th and 18th centuries — some scholars tried to make English conform to the rules of Latin. It didn’t work and was abandoned. However, the bogus idea that sentences must never end with any of the prepositions lived on.

Winston Churchill said something like this on the subject — “This is the sort of bloody nonsense up with which I will not put.”

Here are some examples from the Oxford Dictionary:
• This is the restaurant I told you about. vs. This is the restaurant about which I told you.
• Martin persuaded Lucy that there was nothing to be frightened of. vs. Martin persuaded Lucy that there was nothing of which to be frightened.
• Who were you talking to? vs. To whom were you talking?
• He wondered where she had come from. vs. He wondered from where she had come.

And here’s a story credited to reddit:

A woman was sitting in an Atlanta airport coffee shop as she waited for her flight back to Connecticut when a friendly Southern belle sat down next to her.

‘Where y’all goin’ to?’ asked the Southern belle.

The first woman sniffed and said, “I don’t answer people who end their sentences with prepositions.”

The Southern belle replied, ‘Where y’all goin’ to, bitch?”

Should you establish a medical marijuana dispensary?

December 13, 2013
Joseph Friedman. Published in Drug Topics and Modern Medicine}

I know the exact moment my inner entrepreneur roared into life. It was Sunday evening, Oct. 21, 2012. I was watching a segment on 60 Minutes about the medical marijuana industry in Colorado.

I’ve been interested in the medicinal benefits of botanicals since learning about them in pharmacy school. So I paid attention when California became the first state to legalize the medical use of cannabis in 1996. I continued to take notice as more states passed medical marijuana legislation.

However, the 60 Minutes segment inspired me to turn my interest into a business. I decided to apply for one of 60 licenses to open and operate a medical marijuana dispensary in my home state of Illinois as soon as they become available in 2014.

That was my first step into an exciting new industry.

Many other steps had preceded it. I’m a registered pharmacist with an MBA and more than 15 years of pharmacy and business experience. I’ve held senior director of pharmacy positions with major procurement and distribution companies. I have a passion for sales, marketing, negotiations, business development, and relationship management, and have used my entrepreneurial spirit to create new business lines, call centers, retail outlets, and services — all for other people.

I decided those days were over.

Industry challenges

Opening any new business, even in a mature industry, is complicated. However, opening a medical marijuana dispensary in a brand-new industry with significant challenges goes beyond complicated. Here are a few reasons:

  • Even in states that have legalized medical marijuana, licensed and registered medical marijuana growers, distributors, and patients are breaking federal laws under the Controlled Substances Act every day.
  • Because of warnings from the U.S. Justice Department, banks are reluctant to open bank accounts for or lend money to legal medical marijuana businesses.
  • By enforcing section 280E of the tax code, the IRS denies legal medical marijuana companies the ability to take standard business deductions on their federal taxes. It’s difficult to find investors for companies that can be audited and taxed out of existence.
  • There are no consistent standards, rules, or regulations for any aspect of the medical marijuana business. The conditions it can be used for, the amount of drug a patient can possess, where it can be cultivated – these considerations and more vary wildly from state to state.
  • Beginners should expect to go to more meetings and hearings than they could ever imagine with people and agencies they never heard of before. This business requires networking on steroids.
  • Many of the cultivators (i.e., suppliers) are less than reliable.
  • There are legions of people who claim to know how to help business owners and who are more than happy to take their money. Very few people actually know anything and are able to provide good counsel. Finding them is a bear.

A growing industry

In spite of substantial roadblocks, state legislatures continue to pass laws legalizing medical marijuana. They want — and need — the tax revenue and jobs.

Forbes estimates that the medical marijuana market was worth $1.7 billion in 2011 and expects it to be a $9 billion industry. That doesn’t count revenue from recreational use.

There may be more than 2.4 million medical marijuana patients currently registered in the United States. Forbes suggests that there may be 24.8 million potential patients.


Obvious candidates

The more I learn about the circumstances and challenges connected with dispensing medical marijuana, the more convinced I am that pharmacists are the best candidates to own and operate dispensaries.

We have the training, skills, experience, and patient-focused mindset. We are accustomed to adhering to regulations. We already know how to protect children, create a safe and secure environment, deal with difficult suppliers, maintain quality and inventory controls, educate patients, comply with rules and laws, and more.

In Connecticut, patients can obtain medical marijuana legally only from dispensaries licensed by the state, and only licensed pharmacists can apply for and obtain a dispensary license. The Connecticut statute also reclassified marijuana as a schedule II substance.

Whether other states and their regulatory agencies use Connecticut as a guide or not, they should at least enlist pharmacists to help them develop rules, standards, and practices.

The National Association of Specialty Pharmacy, NASP, has established a task force to explore — and help its members capitalize on — the opportunities offered by medical marijuana. Certification and insurance reimbursement are two of the items on the task force’s extensive agenda.

Some history

Marijuana in various forms has been used for medicinal, religious, and ceremonial purposes — and probably for recreational purposes as well — for thousands of years.

Marijuana is thought to have been cultivated since the dawn of agriculture 10,000 years ago. The pharmacopeia of Chinese Emperor Shen Nung, who lived circa 2,700 B.C., recommends marijuana use to treat more than 100 ailments.

Colonial Americans were ordered by the king of England to raise marijuana for export. George Washington grew marijuana at Mount Vernon.

In the United States, the criminalization of marijuana began in the 1930s. Recreational use had skyrocketed during Prohibition, during the years 1920 to 1933. Although opposed by the American Medical Association, Congress passed the Marijuana Tax Act in 1937. Possession of marijuana for recreational use became illegal for the first time, and an excise tax was imposed on cannabis for medical and industrial uses.

The U.S. Supreme Court declared the 1937 law unconstitutional in 1969. The government countered by passing the Controlled Substances Act in 1970, claiming that marijuana has no medicinal applications, is unsafe, and has a high potential for abuse.

Marijuana was thereby declared a schedule I substance. Doctors are not allowed to prescribe marijuana; they can only “suggest” it. Pharmacists endanger their licenses if they have marijuana on site.

However, as of October 2013, medical marijuana is legal in 20 states and Washington D.C., and more states are considering legalization. Washington and Colorado have already legalized its recreational use.

Classification challenges

People have been challenging the classification of marijuana for years. In August 2013, Sanjay Gupta, a respected neurosurgeon, chief medical correspondent for the CNN media network, and 60 Minutes correspondent, joined their ranks.

In an essay for CNN, Dr. Gupta publicly apologized for his previous opposition to medical marijuana. He explained that his research has proved to him that there never had been any scientific basis for the government’s claims. He went on to say that he was sorry for his part in helping the government mislead the American people for decades.

Gupta stated that many clinical studies have established that marijuana has “very legitimate medical applications” and “doesn’t have a high potential for abuse. In fact, sometimes marijuana is the only thing that works.”

Medical benefits

Reliable scientific studies by reputable organizations and universities have proven over and over again that marijuana can:

  • Alleviate chronic pain, especially nerve pain caused by diabetes, amputation, HIV, AIDS, multiple sclerosis, and hepatitis.
  • Lower intra-ocular eye pressure caused by glaucoma.
  • Relax muscle tension, decreasing muscle spasms and reducing shaking caused by multiple sclerosis and other neuromuscular disorders.
  • Act as an anti-nausea and anti-vomiting agent, especially for people receiving chemotherapy.
  • Stimulate the appetites of people with AIDS, cancer, and eating disorders.
  • Relieve acute anxiety, insomnia, and other sleep disorders.

Researchers continue to discover and confirm additional medicinal uses for marijuana. For example, marijuana may have properties that enable it to starve cancer tumors.

Catch-up needed

A recent Gallup poll showed that 58% of Americans believe that marijuana use should be legal. The federal government’s resistance to public sentiment and scientific proof is crumbling slowly.

On August 29, 2013, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the Department of Justice would no longer enforce federal marijuana laws in states where marijuana use by adults is legal. Although he directed this statement to Washington and Colorado, it is seen as a major policy shift.

At the same time, Holder warned that states must have — and enforce — “robust controls and procedures” or face the risk of renewed federal enforcement. For example, states must prevent marijuana distribution to minors, ensure that criminals and gangs do not receive revenue from marijuana sales, and prevent marijuana from being sent to other states where it is not legal.

A 2010 memo sent by the IRS reminded the members of Congress that section 280E makes no exception for “medically necessary marijuana.” Congress needs to amend the code and exempt medical marijuana – at least in states that have legalized it. That action would finally allow legal and licensed medical marijuana companies to deduct standard business expenses on their federal taxes.

So far, all such bills submitted to Congress have died in committee.

The vision

I have no idea whether I will be granted a license to open a medical marijuana dispensary in Illinois. But that doesn’t stop me from imagining my one-of-a-kind, state-of-the-art dispensary.

My dispensary will be welcoming, patient-focused, and safe, and will be in strict compliance with all rules and regulations. It will offer various forms of medical cannabis, along with ancillary services and homeopathic remedies. There will be a comfortable seating area dedicated to patient and community education. There will be written material and touch screens to help patients access the latest information.

If your inner entrepreneur is clamoring to be set free, consider establishing a medical marijuana dispensary. It’s a challenging and exhilarating new field — and a perfect choice for pharmacists.



Hype Inc.

RESULTS: As a creator of beautiful and effective websites, trade show materials and many other communications, hype finally has its own website. It’s pretty old, but it still works.

PROBLEM: Daniel Stein, the art director and founder of Denver-based hype, and I worked together for years. His business is so successful that he never had time to create a website for his company. But then, Dan had an unlisted phone number when we first met, too.

SOLUTION: Dan and I forced ourselves to create this website. I wrote the content and set the tone. I also wrote and edited many of the pieces featured in the “work” section.

Healing Foundations

RESULTS: Healing Foundations has been able to add new content to its website as its business has expanded, just as we planned. The owners have maintained the welcoming and straightforward tone I established.

PROBLEM: A brand-new acutherapy center, Healing Foundations needed a website that would launch at the same time as it opened for business. The content needed to appeal to an educated 20 to 45 demographic in Roscoe Village, one of Chicago’s up and coming neighborhoods. The target market is curious about Oriental medicine but turned off by anything too woo-woo.

SOLUTION: I worked closely with the owners to plan the website, set the tone and make sure it could expand as needed. I wrote the content to be straight forward, informative, friendly and professional.


Other websites

A lot of my content and tone is still present in many other websites that I wrote originally and that have been updated since by the companies’ internal teams. These include Sysmex USA, Miner Enterprises, Gayety’s Chocolates, Fidelitone, MyFinancialAdvice, Griffith Laboratories, Advent Oil and Gas, PursePower, PDI Medical, Purple Monkey Studios and Evans Food Products.


new-trier-cover-1New Trier Performing Arts
RESULTS: This brochure helped increased participation in New Trier High School’s extracurricular performing arts programs and and set a new graphic standard for communications with students and their parents.

PROBLEM: The Performing Arts Department needed a good looking brochure to attract students to join its programs. There wasn’t much money or time. We would have to repurpose whatever we could find.

SOLUTION: With the help of the Performing Arts Coordinator, I collected existing photographs, selected quotes from students and rewrote program descriptions.


colorado-brochure-interiorColorado Association of School-Based Health Care
RESULTS: A successful campaign that included brochures, e-newsletters, news releases and lobbying convinced the Colorado legislature to fund school-based health clinics for the very first time.

PROBLEM: School-based health clinics provide low-cost and good medical and mental health services for economically struggling families. Most school districts are strapped for cash and need additional funding to support these clinics. Although hospitals often help set up the clinics, they usually don’t stay around as a funding source. The logical place to turn to is the state government. However, most state legislatures resist funding school-based health clinics. Many legislators represent rural areas and tend to think the clinics only serve the urban poor.

SOLUTION: We set up a campaign to let the legislature know that clinics are cheaper than emergency rooms and fill a healthcare void for poor children and their parents in underserved rural communities. I specifically included a chart to show the counties that currently had school-based health clinics and the services they provided. The chart showed that the counties served were overwhelmingly rural — and white.


Other brochures
I write a variety of brochures from one pagers that fold down into self mailers to multipage corporate extravaganzas. Clients include KN Energy, Murrayhill Company, Braddock Financial, KN Power Company, US West and others.



RESULTS: TopNews, a full-color email newsletter, went beyond increasing sales, which was its original purpose. It also generated positive media coverage, solidified relationships with the members’ executives, and increased employee participation. It was a major factor in Topco’s Retailer of the Year Award from Private Label magazine.

PROBLEM: Topco Associates is an multibillion dollar food industry cooperative. It provides private label food, merchandise and equipment to regional supermarkets, food service companies and wholesalers. The operating committee, Topco’s governing group, wanted the company to create and distribute an electronic newsletter to promote and expand sales.

SOLUTION: Topco hired me. I interviewed the members of the operating committee to make sure I included their expectations. I developed, named, directed the design and created ever-expanding distribution lists. I managed the project from start to email  distribution every week, including gathering news and images and writing the newsletter. The distribution lists included the members’ senior executives and their employees, industry media and Topco employees.  

See a sample newsletter

Other newsletters
I’m an old hand at creating, writing, editing and distributing online and print newsletters. My clients include KN Energy, Mountain Bell, Colorado Association of School-Based Health Care, ICOM, Chaparral Energy and many others. In a half-day class I developed and taught, each adult student created an individual electronic newsletter using Constant Contact.  I won an award from the Advertising Federation for The Noodle, the employee newsletter my colleague Karen Valliant and I created for NDL/Polk.

news releases

Walmart Canada and Wholesome Goodness

Midwest Agricultural Museum
midwest-agOther releases
I write, distribute and generate media coverage for many of my clients. Recent Chicagoland media relations and publicity clients include TheatreBAM Chicago, Cook County Clerk David Orr and Topco Associates, which was featured in trade journals and The Wall Street Journal.




Rose Medical Center: Hospital to Home


AAEP: Celebrating 50 Years: It’s All About the Horse


Mar-Tek Industries


direct mail and email marketing

email-1Here’s the content for the LC 200 email:

(Email subject line)
We go the distance. Up to 28 meters.

(body copy)
Now it’s even easier to measure lengths up to 92 feet.

HEIDENHAIN offers the new LC 200 long-length linear scale. As good as the popular LB 382 long-length incremental linear is — the LC 200 is even better.

It’s better for – most especially – for gantry-style machines and linear motor applications. The majority interface is Fanuc.

Download FREE product information today. Find out if the LC 200 from HEIDENHAIN is the best encoder for your application.

• The new LC 200 is an absolute linear encoder. It knows exactly where it is – ON STARTUP — without a reference run.
• The flat surface makes the LC 200 scratch resistant.
• The LC 200’s bearings ride on an even surface, eliminating position errors.
• The LC 200’s super fast acceleration is perfect for linear motor applications – the latest trend in the industry. It’s ideal for waterjet machining, large machine tools, aerospace, windmill blade milling and large five-axis machining applications.
• The LC 200’s advanced sealing technology provides extra protection against contamination and defends against damage from corrosive agents.
• The LB 382 and the LC 200 are both assembled on the machine from components. And both are easy to install.

Download the FREE product information.

LC 200 Product Brochure
LB 382 Product Brochure

Questions? Want more information? Ready to order? Contact HEIDENHAIN at 800-559-6307.

RESULTS: This 6×9, double-sided and inexpensive postcard successfully launched a brand new company.

PROBLEM: A brand new company, Rocky Mountain Shutters, had limited marketing money, no logo and rather drab but free product images.

SOLUTION: I featured the benefits — an unusually fast turn-around for a good product at a low price — on both sides of an oversized postcard. The graphic designer I selected created the company logo and photoshopped in all that glorious sunlight. The postcard was inexpensive to produce, offered a free estimate and has an elegant look and feel. Best of all, it worked. The card was reprinted many, many times and mailed to lists of new home owners in specific ZIP Codes.


speeches and presentations

speech-1Executive speeches
RESULTS: Three of the many speeches I wrote for Sol Trujillo, president of US West, were reprinted in the prestigious Vital Speeches of the Day. They helped build and reinforce his reputation as a major international business leader. The speeches also attracted extensive media attention.

PROBLEM: Sol Trujillo was the president and CEO of US West, one of the seven Baby Bells created from the breakup of AT&T. He had begun his career as a forecaster for AT&T, moved through the ranks and, although extremely talented and smart, was relatively unknown in the industry.

SOLUTION: Sandra Sanchez spearheaded the executive communications campaign that greatly expanded Sol Trujillo’s standing within the business and Hispanic communities. I freelanced for Sandy. I conducted thorough audience audits, massaged the message points and wrote speeches that resonated with their audiences.

Other speeches and presentations
I’ve been writing speeches and presentations for executives and subject matter experts for a long time. The audiences range from employees and conference attendees to the media, legislators and major influencers. I know my training and experience as an educator, theater professional and public speaker help me create speeches and presentations that keep listeners engaged and encourage them to take action.

human resources projects

AT&T Broadband
hr-1RESULT: AT&T’s call centers continued to operate without interruption while 200 call centers were closed and 20 ramped up.

PROBLEM: AT&T needed to close 200 call centers nationwide and open 20 regional centers. Some people would lose their jobs. Others would be offered jobs in the new centers. New people would be hired. Under the law, there are stringent reporting requirements and timelines. The call centers needed to continue to function productively in the midst of turbulent change. This was a massive undertaking and the human resources staff needed as much help as it could get — and to buy into using it.

SOLUTION: Donna Miller was the director of organizational design and effectiveness for AT&T Broadband. She hired me as the writer and editor for a small team of other freelancers. Our task was to create a comprehensive toolkit for AT&T Broadband’s human resources staff to use. The resulting 277-page toolkit lived online, could be customized and was downloadable. It provided the company’s national human resources staff with information and assistance based on best practices and experience. We conducted weekly conference calls with up to 35 HR professionals to make sure we were on the right track and to ensure their participation. The toolkit was easy to understand. It included the business rationale, worksheets, samples of letters, legal guidelines, scripts for group and individual employee meetings, retention ideas, etc.

US West
quick-startRESULT: The orientation program significantly improved retention.

PROBLEM: US West, the Baby Bell for 14 states, hired 6,000 new management (i.e. nonunion) employees a year. Many left after six months. Donna Miller was a director of human resources at US West. She determined that a lack-luster orientation program was a major culprit.

SOLUTION: Donna originally hired me to create a booklet that would introduce the company to new hires. She had seen a presentation for European investors I had developed for Sol Trujillo, the company’s president. I found a prospectus developed by one of the brokerages that underwrote US West stock to develop the overview. Within a few weeks, I became the sole copywriter for just about every part of the $100,000 on-boarding program, which included:
* Welcoming videos by each senior executive
* Brochures with tear-out checklists for managers and new hires
* Intranet resources, instruction video and booklet
* Benefits manual
* A mentoring program
* Inserts for mouse pads
* PowerPoint presentations and scripts
* A diversity video
* An innovative take a boss, peer and subordinate to lunch program

I also trained senior executives to deliver the presentations at the orientations. The executives practiced with their staff – many of whom said they wished the program had been available when they first joined the company.

The day-and-a-half orientation program was held twice a month in Denver and simulcast to the company’s other locations. The material was adapted for new union hires. I updated the program quarterly for four years — until US WEST was purchased by Qwest.

Other human resources projects

I really like HR and employee relations projects. I’ve researched and written succession planning bios, hundreds of job descriptions, interface copy to make PeopleSoft coherent, employee communications about benefits, management changes, how to avoid expensive and brand destroying lawsuits, and more.


Sandra Sanchez, Director, Office of the Undersecretary, US Department of Transportation

Nancy’s personality and broad knowledge set her apart. She’s reliable and professional and helped me create a first-rate executive communications organization. I recommend her in a heartbeat. She’s enthusiastic, brilliant, funny and honest.

Barbara Ford, Family Therapist

You will spend whatever time it takes to make a project as perfect as you can without cutting corners. You study a situation until you understand what the client really wants, and then you figure out the best way to make that possible. I always end up with the best damn product I could afford – and that takes my organization up many professional notches.

Linda Watson, Principal, Watson Interior Design

I have gotten jobs from the website and printed materials Nancy wrote for me. Because of her copy, clients know what to expect from me and how we will work together. I hire Nancy whenever I’m faced with a new marketing challenge. Her ideas are fresh. Her approach is unexpected and effective. She simplifies concepts so easily that you want to say, “Why didn’t I think of that?” But, of course, her ability to do that is one of the reasons you hired her.

Don Eastburn, Principal, Don Eastburn & Associates

You are a killer writer, very creative with a talent to communicate. You’re able to put highly technical information into laymen’s language. Your copy is engaging and to the point. You always work within my budgets and you make me look good.

Karen Valliant, Marketing Communications Professional

I’ve never found another person who has your ability to distill an idea to its simplest form and then describe it as elegantly as you do. Your writing is easy to understand and always beautiful. I also enjoy the collaborative process with you, and I think you are a great creative partner. I would hire you again in a heartbeat.

Donna Miller, President, Executive Resource Center

I trust you. I know I can absolutely count on you. You always deliver a high quality job, and I get more than I paid for. I ask for A and you give me A, B and C. You’re willing to work long hours and do whatever it takes to get the job done. You partner with me so I can meet my deadline. You’re a good writer, highly capable, highly talented. You have excellent project management skills, so you can run the project. You don’t need a lot of direction. You’re off and running with basic information.

Rebecca Christy, Co-founder, Healing Foundations

Nancy is incredibly patient and focused. I felt safe saying anything to her. She digs in her heels until she figures out everything she needs to know. She’s not afraid to talk to anyone, has a kind and gracious manner and makes everything sound positive. With Nancy’s help, our message is presented eloquently and clearly.

Gary Carpenter, Executive Director, National Reining Horse Association

I hired you and kept hiring and recommending you because you have a very flexible writing style that you tailor to create just the right voice for any piece. You are not only very talented but also very adaptable. I mostly used your writing services, which is only the tip of the Solomon iceberg.

Lisa Alzarez, Co-founder, Healing Foundations

You helped me clarify my business objectives and presented my work professionally. You’re smart, energetic, warm, enthusiastic, savvy, funny and easy to talk to.

Beth Cohen, Patient Advocate

Nancy listened to me and asked the right questions. She created exactly what I was looking for. The quality of her work made me look smart and very professional. Nancy’s a great writer, extremely creative, intelligent and outspoken. She’s dedicated to meeting her client’s needs and becomes a partner in the process.