I met Sheila of NJ Playgrounds via Twitter (she’s njplaygrounds), and I enjoyed her posts on parks and playgrounds here in New Jersey. She also introduced me to the Atahualpa theme for WordPress, one that I recommend if you want a dynamic theme that will do a lot without creating your own. I admire her for starting a website business while raising small children. Enjoy the interview, and please click on the screenshot at the top of the post to visit her site.
1) How did you get the idea for NJ Playgrounds?
It was simmering for a while. I wanted to find a good meeting place for a bunch of moms from Union County that were posting about a playdate and was surprised to see that the internet didn’t have good information on playgrounds in general. I knew that playground information is helpful for me as a new mom, and thought why not share it when I get it?
2) What did you do before you had kids?
I had graduated from Stevens Institute of Technology with a B.E. in Chemical Engineering, but never practiced engineering per se. I began a career in explosives trace detection involved in everything from product support, training, sales, evaluations, and then right before 9-11, I took the position as the FAA Program Manager. The following years were incredibly active and had to travel quite a bit. I’m glad I was able to do this even though it was so busy, I missed my husband but I was able to work with such great people and it really helped me grow personally and professionally.
3) How would you like to see NJ Playgrounds grow? What ideas do you have for your site?
Ultimately I’d like to see NJ Playgrounds take on a life of its own, and be community driven. Making it easy for people to contribute, but also make sure that the information is what people are looking for. I think that there can be too much information, and filtering it, making it easy for the reader is one of the things I’m focusing on next. One of my pet projects for this fall/winter is getting a summary of all NJ Indoor Playgrounds, play areas, storytimes, children museums in one page but easily categorized. It has started, and we’ve got some great feedback already. Also, just started a Pioneer of the month to highlight the efforts of one person or organization that has transformed their community in NJ. Change isn’t easy and we support those who take it on.
I’m also in discussion with another playground maven who does the paper version of NJ playgrounds. She is an amazing person so I’m hoping our focus and goals line up so we can partner together. As most people can relate, doing everything yourself can limit you, especially when you have your own limits with time and money. I’m hoping to branch out a bit. Some advertising dollars wouldn’t hurt either.
4) Can you give advice to someone who wants to start a blog or website?
Ask yourself some questions first, like
- Who is the blog for?
- Who is your audience?
- What is your purpose?
- Are you passionate about it? If yes, write it down, focus, and then let it rip.
It helps to take on something that fills a void. There is nothing wrong with the tons of blogs out there already, but if you do want to stand out, you may want to find a void in a specific area, chances are other people feel that void too. I always think about how will my blog/website service others? And it can be anything, laughter, information, support, music, art, tips…
Once you get the idea, then you can start looking at the mechanics of a blog. Get dreamhost or Godaddy for hosting and domain name, check out wordpress.org, download it and then I just follow @leoraw for my wordpress tips. 😉
On a side note, I completely agree with Hannah’s assessment on WordPress, it truly has been a blessing. I get about 70% of my traffic via search engine. Can be a headache when you own your own site, but you have complete control. It’s been great.
5) Any comment on the slogan you sent to me:
“RaisingKids + Freelance/Website/Blogging = Sanity”
Although I’ve left my work identity behind, I do truly enjoy working with adults and freelancing/blogging has allowed me to kinda stay in touch with the working world. It has helped me stay sane, and as I take my kids to new places, it’s like a bonus that I can share it with others. Raising my kids comes first but offering something that is helpful to other moms makes me feel like I’m contributing to society.
6) What are some of your favorite posts/articles?
Although playground posts are pretty dry, I’ve enjoyed a few biggest and best- highlighting our favorites:
- Rockefeller Playground– experimenting w/ text on photos via picasa
- Land of Make Believe from Sue M, who guest-posted
- Indoor playgrounds featuring a map that is edited as people send me suggestions.
7) How has Twitter helped your blog/website?
It really has helped me branch out and although I don’t get much traffic from twitter per se I’ve been able to network and meet people who lead me to some solutions and advice. I met my playground twin in CA, OCPlayParks, who I still want to chat with soon. She’s done a similar thing with Orange County Parks, in CA and is quite an amazing person. I learned about the mapping program through her and her site.