How to do small business marketing

Several friends have been asking for advice on how to do small business marketing. I have a friend who runs her own home-based pottery business and I have another friend who runs her own construction business, and another friend who runs his own home-based glass-blowing art business.

So, based on what I know from almost 2 full years of successful small business marketing, here’s what I think these friends should do. You can take this advice, or leave it. It’s free.

  1. Set up your own Website: Every small business needs its own website with its own hosted URL. (Not “” but your own URL – “”) The reason: if you own the URL and host it yourself, you totally own the site and aren’t bound by any “commercial” restrictions that some of the publicly hosted services like WordPress have. I know a guy who had his site shut down b/c they said he was “violating their Terms of Service” by trying to sell books through the site – even though that’s ridiculous, because everyone in the world uses websites to sell things. So the point is: get your own URL and host it yourself. Costs like $10 a year for the URL and $60 per year for hosting on Super cheap!
  2. Set up a blog on your website. I recommend using WordPress because it’s easy to use (relatively) and there are lots of cheap (or free) “themes” that you can use to build your site. You don’t need a super complicated site, just a Home Page (“landing page” with your business name, your name, location, short bio introduction, etc.) a Blog (where you can share news updates, articles and especially PHOTOS of your great work) and maybe a few other pages like Photos (to store photos in a permanent central location) and Videos (“behind the scenes tours” to show people how you work, the types of projects you’ve done, etc.?) Find some other people in your field whose websites you like, and copy theirs. You can probably even find the same basic (free) WordPress Theme and use it for your site. If you need help with WordPress, I can recommend a WordPress developer in India named Tamil who set up my business website for an affordable price, and he was very reliable and easy to work with. You can hire him here on Elance:
  3. Set up a Facebook Page for the business. This is different than your personal Facebook “Profile.” Your business page is a public Page that anyone can see and access, it’s a way to collect a list of fans on Facebook. I’m rather new to this myself, but you can also advertise on Facebook to build up your fan list. I’m doing pay-per-click Facebook ads and it’s helped me find like 3 new fans so far – maybe not worth it (paid over $10 for those 3 fans) but I’m still learning and you can quit the advertising at any time.
  4. Do Twitter. It’s pretty easy. Or if you want to focus on just Facebook for now, that’s fine.
  5. HootSuite. Whether you use “just” Facebook or both Facebook and Twitter, use HootSuite! It’s awesome. You can schedule your Facebook posts in advance. You can post the same blog article a few different times to catch people at different times of day. You can load a bunch of photos on your website and then send links to the photos via Facebook, and stagger them out over the course of a week or a month, etc.
  6. Build your own e-mail list. I just signed up for Emma and it is AWESOME. I’ve been blown away by the service and support. If you sign up soon (like, by end of April) they will give you a free HTML e-mail template design. They also have online classes so you can learn how to build up your own e-mail list. E-mail marketing still works – as long as you get people’s permission first, don’t spam them, etc. and the big advantage of e-mail over Facebook is YOU OWN THE E-MAIL LIST. Even if Facebook screws you over and changes their Terms of Service and shuts down your business Page for no reason (which has happened before to others – leaving the business suddenly bereft of thousands of valuable contact names), if you have your own e-mail list, you have a “permission asset” (as Seth Godin calls it) of dozens/hundreds/thousands of people who love your work and want to hear from you. Emma only costs $30 per month for up to 1,000 e-mails per month. I recommend looking into it. It will make your business look much more legit and “bigger than you actually are” – in a good way.
  7. Get Business cards: If you don’t have them already, get some done. You can get like 500 business cards for $75 (including Rush shipping) on They’re an old-fashioned way to market but they work – there’s no better way to quickly introduce yourself to people and give them something to carry home with them that reminds them to look you up later when they’re ready to buy. Put a special offer or special discount or something on the back of the business card – don’t leave it blank. Like, “Call for a free consultation or 10% discount” or whatever you want to offer. Lots of small businesses have less-than-impressive business cards, and there’s no reason for that in 2012 – you can have good looking premium business cards for very little extra expense and effort. (This one should be much higher on the priority list – like maybe even #2. Once you have a website, you need business cards.)
  8. Incorporate as an LLC or other business structure: This is a case of “do as I say, not as I do” because I haven’t incorporated yet, myself, but as a sole proprietor/independent contractor you are often better off incorporating your business as a corporate entity. There are liability protections (unlikely but always possible – if you get sued, someone can go after your personal assets – house, savings, etc. – whereas if your business is incorporated, creditors can only get the assets of the business). Sometimes there are tax benefits too, but the biggest benefit is peace of mind. Plus it makes you look more “official,” plus it gives you an “LLC” or “Inc.” to put after your business name when signing contracts, makes it easier to get a business bank account, etc. If you’re interested, one of my favorite clients is an online incorporation service called CorpNet. Nellie Akalp is the CEO and I’m sure she’d love to hear from a friend of Ben Gran. (I don’t get a commission or anything – but CorpNet are great people, they really know their stuff and they’ll give you a free consultation if you call.)
  9. Write a marketing plan: This doesn’t have to be too complicated. Ut doesn’t have to be written by an MBA or a dissertation, etc. But just take an hour sometime and give some thought to these questions:
    • Who are my biggest customers?
    • Who do I want to sell more to?
    • What is the ideal way for me to sell?
    • Who are my target markets (types of customers, types of projects)?
    • Why do people buy from me instead of a competitor?
    • Who are 5 people in my local area that I should introduce myself to and tell them about my work?
    • Who are in my “inner circle” of people that love my work and would be willing to spread the word to others?

Why being a freelance writer is NOT preparing me for the zombie apocalypse

"The Road"

Scene from "The Road" (2009) starring Viggo Mortensen

As a freelance writer, I often feel like my skills are kind of, well, silly.

I get paid to write stuff. I think of things, I write them down and post them on the Internet, and people send me money for this.

Isn’t this kind of a ridiculous way to earn a living? I mean, don’t get me wrong, I love what I do and I’m grateful to be able to make a living at it, but I often feel inferior compared to people who really know how to “do” stuff, fix stuff, build stuff, grow stuff.

For example, my brother and his wife run Table Top Farm, an organic vegetable farm in rural Nevada, Iowa. Now that is REAL work. Farming is INTENSE. Farming is HARD. They make things GROW out of the GROUND. They raise food to feed hungry people. I can barely buy groceries.

Our friend Jessica Fisher runs a “handy woman” business where she helps people fix things around the house. She helped us install a new door and we’re going to hire her again to replace our bathroom fan and perhaps our kitchen faucet. I couldn’t handle doing any of these things.

Whenever I have to try to fix something around the house, it’s always a disaster. I always have to make 3 or 4 trips to the hardware store, I drop heavy things on my feet and/or hit my thumb with a hammer and/or break something. The work always takes 5 hours longer than I had estimated and I don’t enjoy a minute of it. I’m helpless. Instead of trying to fix things in my house, I might as well just curl up in a ball and cry.

So someday when civilization inevitably collapses into a hellish, dystopian part-Mad Max/part-Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road” future, I will be at the mercy of others.

I hope the people who have actual useful skills to survive in our post-Apocalyptic hellscape will give me food in exchange for telling humorous stories around the campfire.

How being a dog owner taught me to hate dogs

Several years ago, before we had kids, my wife and I made a terrible mistake and decided to adopt a dog.

It was a Labrador retriever, big and yellow, over 100 pounds. We adopted the dog sight-unseen from some friends of friends who were looking to find him a new home. His name was “Bo.” We drove 2 hours to Southwest Iowa to meet Bo’s soon-to-be-former owners, picked up Bo and drove him back to our house.

We don't have any pictures of Bo. This is not the actual dog.

We don't have any pictures of Bo. This is not the actual dog.

I really don’t know what we were thinking. This was back in the days before we had kids and we had no other responsibilities or worries in life. We thought we wanted a Lab. They were the most popular breed in America – known for intelligence, loyalty and athleticism. We had visions of jogging with our dog, walking with our dog, playing fetch off a dock while the dog happily plunged into the frigid lake, again and again.

Unfortunately, we quickly realized that Bo was going to present a bit of a change to our otherwise orderly, happy lifestyle, starting on the first night at our house when he compulsively chewed through all of his toys.

“That’s strange,” I said as Bo chowed down on another stuffed animal. “He sure seems to like chewing!” Little did we realize, until it was too late, that Bo was expressing stress and anxiety by gnawing everything he could get his paws around. Pillows, ropes, frisbees, and stuffed animals all got shredded into an indistinguishable mass.

Bo was a very anxious dog. He was constantly chewing and licking and smacking. I don’t blame him, really. After all, the only owners he’d ever known had just given him away to a couple of strangers. This is one of the things that annoys me about dogs – their neuroses.

Seriously, what’s the point of having a neurotic dog? I thought dogs were supposed to provide emotional comfort to their owners? I thought dogs were supposed to help you feel more peaceful and centered, since they have no awareness of mortality and all that. But most dogs I’ve known have just introduced me to new levels of anxiety.

Bo needed a lot of attention. He needed daily walks. He needed lots of things that we couldn’t give him because we were too busy and self-absorbed. We worked long hours and left him in the house alone all day. We’d let him out to go pee and poop in our tiny urban backyard, but then he’d chase squirrels across the street and get lost and run onto the neighbors’ front porches. We were constantly chasing him around the neighborhood and cursing the fact that our small lot didn’t have a fully-fenced backyard.

We would have given him more attention, but our personalities just weren’t the right fit. He was a friendly dog, but he was overbearing and off-putting, like a guy at a party that you can’t wait to stop talking with. Even though his constantly wagging tail was as powerful and painful as a baseball bat, he was kind of a wuss, really. Whenever we gave a command to “come inside” or “stop destroying the neighbor kid’s toys,” he would slump his shoulders and skulk around and defy us, quietly, in a passive aggressive fashion.

I was so disappointed. I figure, as long as you’re going to have a dog that’s destructive, messy and painful, he might as well be a stronger personality, more of an Alpha Dog, you know? Take my parents’ dog, Milo, for example. He’s a total jerk, but we love him for it. He’s the dog you love to hate.

And he shed EVERYWHERE. All of our clothes, furniture and rugs were soon coated with dog hair. Dog hair blew threw our house like tumbleweeds. We were idiots. We never should have gotten a dog that shed so much. My wife quickly noticed that she was sniffling, sneezing and having sore throats all the time, and we realized that she was allergic to the dog.

Bo was too neurotic to eat dinner in the basement, so we had to move his (HUGE) food and water dish up to our tiny 1920s-era kitchen, where it took up precious floor space. He was too neurotic to eat by himself, so we had to be near him while he ate, or else he wouldn’t eat at all and would later vomit all over the floor. He vomited all over our living room rug and ruined it. We ended up donating it to the animal shelter.

As you might imagine, a 100 pound dog creates a lot of poop. Our yard was soon covered with little piles, scattered about like monuments. I scooped poop as often as the winter weather would permit, but I still couldn’t keep up with the supply. We couldn’t walk him as often as he needed because we were too lazy and couldn’t wake up early enough to walk him before we left for work. (Again – we were idiots. I don’t know what we were thinking. We never should have gotten this dog. Or any dog.)

And whenever we did take him for a walk, it was no fun because he was constantly straining on the leash, wouldn’t listen to instructions, and wouldn’t do what we needed him to do. (My mom has to have rotator cuff surgery because her dog Milo pulled her to the ground during a walk. That’s right – she has a “dog-related injury.” Why do people put themselves through all this dog crap? How desperate are we for companionship?)

It all would have been worth it if we really loved this dog and wanted him in our lives. But the truth was, we just weren’t that into Bo. Eventually we realized that the personal chemistry wasn’t there. So 4 months after we brought Bo home, we decided to take him to the pound and had him euthanized.

No, just kidding – ha ha! We were lousy dog owners, but we’re not monsters.

No seriously – I know that dogs getting put to sleep due to lack of shelter space is a big tragedy, and I don’t mean to make light of it. I was just trying to see if you were still paying attention.

We didn’t have him euthanized. Seriously, I swear. Instead, we found him a new home. With a family in the country that had a pond in the backyard. The father of the family loved to go fishing and hunting, and wanted a dog to go fishing and hunting with. They had 2 young kids who wanted a pet. The whole thing worked out perfectly in the end. Bo happily climbed into the car with his new owner and rode out of our lives, and we were all better off as a result.

My four months of abortive dog ownership taught me several valuable lessons:

  1. I’m not very patient.
  2. I’m too self-absorbed.
  3. I’m not really that interested in or fascinated by dogs. They’re not people, they’re not children, and they don’t deserve the lofty status that American culture has assigned to them. In some ways I’d feel more at home in Muslim countries where dogs are seen as filthy rat-like creatures. I know people love their dogs, and I sometimes enjoy visiting other people’s dogs, and I don’t wish any harm to come to dogs, and I hate cruelty to animals just like any other form of cruelty, but the bottom line is, I don’t love dogs and I don’t want to own a dog ever again.

Unfortunately, now we have kids, and both of our kids love dogs. So it’s probably just a matter of time before we have to get one. It won’t be another Lab, or any other dog that sheds. It would have to be something hypoallergenic, housebroken and easy to live with, that requires no outdoor exercise and minimal involvement on my part.

Ideally, my next dog will be a really smart, hairless cat.

25 Irresistible Reasons to come to Ben Gran’s stand-up comedy show

  1. All jokes will be 100% gluten-free.
  2. You’ll laugh. At least a couple of times. I promise.
  3. Get out of the house and away from your children. (Parents, am I right?)
  4. It’s a cheap night out – only $10, plus ticket fees that support the local cultural community.
  5. There’s a bar on-site. Drink up!
  6. Ben Gran and Zach Peterson are a couple of handsome dudes.
  7. Carrot Top will NOT be performing.
  8. Hear smart, incisive commentary on the vital issues of the day. And also: profanity.
  9. Ben Gran has an unhealthy need for attention, external validation and acclaim. So please give him what he needs.
  10. Catharsis.
  11. Rage.
  12. Revenge.
  13. Reuniting with lost loves.
  14. Laughter is sexy. (“If you can make a woman laugh, you’re already halfway up her leg.” – The Hardy Boys)
  15. If you don’t spend the money on tickets, you’re just going to blow it on something stupid.
  16. Even if the show is a total disaster, at least you’ll be able to say, “I was there the night Ben Gran disgraced himself in public and had to sell his house and move away from Des Moines forever in shame.”
  17. Rekindle your love for your spouse by reminding each other, “You’re not always the easiest person to live with, but at least you never made me watch you perform stand-up comedy in public.”
  18. Did I mention that the venue does, in fact, serve alcohol?
  19. It will be funnier than Saturday Night Live, latter-day Simpsons or the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
  20. Ben Gran’s stand-up comedy routine is very, shall we say, “lesbian-friendly.”
  21. Uncomfortable moments.
  22. Inconvenient truths.
  23. Salacious details.
  24. Warmongering.
  25. 50% of ticket sales go to the Des Moines Social Club. All other proceeds go to a good cause: Ben Gran’s personal profit.

How many more reasons do you need?

BUY TICKETS NOW for Ben Gran’s stand-up comedy show on March 9.

Volunteer for Ben Gran’s stand-up comedy show

I need a few volunteers for my stand-up comedy show on March 9.

Volunteers, to arms!

We’ll need a few people to…

  1. Sell tickets at the Box Office/hand out Will Call tickets at the door (1 or 2 people)
  2. Check IDs and issue wristbands for the 21-and-over crowd (there will be booze!) (2 people)
  3. Make a video of the show (using a camera I supply – or your own camera if you’ve got a good one and know how to use it) (1 person)

All volunteers get a free ticket to the show ($10 value!) plus my undying gratitude.

Please let me know if you’re interested by dropping me a line at

Ben Gran’s Top 6 Comedy Heroes

So unless you’ve been living in a cave and don’t have Internet access, you probably have heard about my stand-up comedy show on March 9 at the Des Moines Social Club. Maybe you are wondering what kind of style of comedy to expect.

Here are a few comedians whose style and delivery I really admire and identify with. I don’t claim to be as good as these guys, but they’re the ones I’d most like to emulate. These are my heroes of stand-up comedy:

George Carlin: George Carlin made comedy into an art form in a way that no other comedian can touch. He was so smart, so tough, and so rigorous in the way he thought out every joke.

George Carlin - Image credit:

You can see the craft that George Carlin put into every joke and every delivery. I saw George Carlin live a couple times at the Des Moines Civic Center and I loved that even in his last few years of life, when his health was suffering and a lot of other people might have retired, George was still going strong with as high energy of a show as ever. He’s been dead for over 3 years but I still miss him and I watch his old routines on YouTube quite often.

Henry Rollins: Henry Rollins doesn’t describe himself as a comedian, but his style of spoken word performance has a lot of humor and it comes with a great intensity and precision to every thing he says. He’s an autodidact and a world traveler and is

Henry Rollins - Image credit:

relentlessly seeking knowledge and experience, and I respect his politics and his life perspectives. I’ve seen Henry Rollins speak a couple times at Iowa State University, and it’s always a great time. He  makes you laugh, he makes you think, and he makes you feel what he feels about whatever he’s talking about.

Louis C.K.: Louis C.K. is probably the biggest name in stand-up comedy right now, and it’s well deserved. I love how even when he’s doing a joke about something dirty/inappropriate/misanthropic or mean-spirited, the joke is always ultimately on him. “I have lots of beliefs, and I live by none of them,” is one of my favorite bits from the Louis C.K. “Live at Beacon Theater” special, which you should totally pay $5 for and watch.

Mitch Hedberg: No one ever wrote jokes quite like Mitch Hedberg. They’re like riddles wrapped in enigmas. And his delivery was so…cute. Even if he was telling a joke about drugs or sex or something awful, he had this way of telling it that made him sound lovable and impish. One of my favorite Mitch Hedberg jokes was the one about, “My fan moves side to side and it always seems to be shaking its head ‘no’ at me. So when I talk to my fan, I ask it questions that a fan would say ‘No’ to. Do you keep my papers in order? (shakes head ‘no’) Do you keep my hairstyle straight?”

Bill Hicks: My brother John (who is hilarious, by the way – all of my siblings are smarter than me) introduced me to Bill Hicks because he thought I’d like Bill’s combination of intellect and rage. He was right! Bill died tragically young (age 32) from pancreatic cancer, and I wish he was still alive because I can only imagine how funny he’d be as he got older. I would have loved to see Bill Hicks’ take on the George W. Bush years.

Rob Delaney: I am obsessed with Rob Delaney. I have read the man’s entire Twitter feed. Back in January, I drove my family to Omaha, stayed in a hotel overnight and had my mother-in-law watch our kids just so my wife and I could go see Rob Delaney’s show

Rob Delaney

at the Slowdown. Rob Delaney is so, so smart and he’s so, so dirty. I’m not sure I want to re-print any of Rob’s jokes on this blog, because I’m not sure how inappropriate-for-work I want my blog to get, but if you go to Rob Delaney’s Twitter feed you’ll quickly see what I mean. Reading Rob Delaney jokes is like getting an unfiltered glimpse into the male id, but in a good way. But he doesn’t just tell dirty jokes, he’s also really smart and focused and a very good writer, not only of Twitter jokes but longer-form material and articles. I think Rob Delaney could have been a political speechwriter or policy analyst, if not for his comedy career – but I’m glad he became a comedian instead.

There are a lot of other comedians I like, but these are the big ones. I like smart, irreverent, dangerous humor that makes people re-think their assumptions and look at life in a new light. I like comedy that is dark and unsettling and makes people uncomfortable, in a good way – good comedy should make you squirm and writhe and sit at the edge of your seat.

The best comedians know how to get a physical and emotional and intellectual response out of the audience. I hope to do the same on March 9.

PLEASE BUY TICKETS to Ben Gran’s stand-up comedy show. (No pressure.)

5 reasons why Ben Gran is doing stand-up comedy

As you may know, with all the “buzz” going on in the “blogosphere” and the “Twitterverse” and “FacebookLand,” I’m going to be doing a stand-up comedy show on March 9 at the Des Moines Social Club. Along with Omaha comedian Zach Peterson. Tickets are ON SALE NOW.

Ever since I announced this comedy show, I’ve been getting a lot of questions from people. Questions like:

“Are you sure you want to do this?”


“Why are you doing this to yourself?”


“You should probably see someone about your emotional issues.” (OK, that last one isn’t a question.)

So I gave it some thought. Here are the top 5 reasons why I’m doing stand-up comedy:

Because I probably need therapy, but my insurance won’t cover it:

I’m prone to melancholia, anxiety and curmudgeon-hood, but nothing makes me happier than making people laugh. Some of my favorite memories in life are the times where I got to be part of a room full of people laughing. There’s nothing else like it. It’s such a rush. It gives me endorphins like no legal drugs possibly could.

Because I’m socially isolated and emotionally needy:

As a freelance writer, I spend a lot of time sitting at home by myself wearing pajamas (some days I go the extra mile and wear pants) and I don’t get to talk to other people very often. So rather than take the smaller step of joining a co-working space or hanging out at a coffee shop, I’d rather go all-in and tell jokes to over 100 people. (Right? There will be at least 100 people at this show, right everybody? Please come to my show. I need this. You have no idea how much I need this.)

Because I must:

It’s just something I need to do. The idea came into my head like a miniature meteorite plummeting out of the sky and bonking me in the brain: “You should do stand-up comedy.” I want to do stand-up comedy for the same reason Sir Edmund Hillary wanted to climb Mount Everest: “Because it’s there – and because I need to get out of the house and spend some time away from my wife and kids.”

Because I want to make memories:

As a father of two small children, I spend a lot of time contemplating my own eventual death. Time just keeps speeding up on me, and before long I’m going to start rapidly aging and deteriorating and collapsing into dust like the guy at the end of “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” who chose the wrong chalice to drink from.

The guy who "chose poorly" at the end of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

Remember that scene? The guy who thought he was drinking from the Holy Grail and would be rewarded with Eternal Life, but then it turns out he quickly disintegrated into a pile of bones?

I’ve never seen such an accurate onscreen depiction of the aging process.

"He chose poorly"

So before long, that’s going to be me. And before I die, I want to make some more memories from doing the things I love best. Someday when I’m on my deathbed, some of my fondest memories will be the times when I got to perform, make people laugh, make people think, and bask in the adulation of an audience.

Is this attitude entirely emotionally healthy? No. But that’s who I am.

Because I just don’t give a damn anymore:

Being a stand-up comedian can be tough. People might not laugh. They might heckle me. They might be offended by my jokes, throw garbage at me or threaten me with bodily harm. At this point, I don’t care. I’m 32 years old, I’m a grown man, and I don’t have, need or want a regular job anymore so I don’t have to worry about the Corporate Thought Police judging me for the things I say onstage.

So if you’re reading this, and you’re going to be within driving distance of the Des Moines Social Club on March 9, please BUY TICKETS and come to my stand-up comedy show. I promise not to collapse into dust until after the show is over.

Ben Gran stand-up comedy: Tickets On Sale Now!

Ben Gran is performing stand-up comedy on Friday, March 9 at 7:30 p.m. The brilliant Zach Peterson of Omaha’s OK Party Comedy will also perform.

Want to buy tickets? Now you can:


Ben Gran stand-up comedy FAQs:

You’ve got questions? We’ve got answers:

Where’s the show going to be? Des Moines Social Club, 400 Walnut Street, Des Moines, IA

How much do tickets cost? Only $10! It’s a cheap night out! And much more fun than your typical overrated Hollywood blockbuster. Plus there’s a small processing fee that goes to benefit the Social Club (a goodhearted non-profit that supports the local cultural scene, NOT an evil corporation like Ticketmaster). Only 150 tickets are available. Get ’em before the show sells out!


How do I pick up my tickets? There are two options: the tickets can be sent to you via U.S. mail for a small additional postage fee, or you can pick up your tickets at the Des Moines Social Club Will Call window. Sorry, but there is no “print at home” option.

Can we bring our kids to the show? Probably not. The show is officially designated as age 18+ and there will be frank discussions of adult topics. And probably some use of profanity. It’s going to be kind of like a really profane R-rated movie, like Harold & Kumar but without the nudity. If parents have questions about whether the show is appropriate for your high-school age kids, please contact Ben Gran at


Where’s the booze? Alcoholic beverages can be purchased in the Kirkwood Lounge bar. We will be checking IDs. 21 and over only, please.

What makes Ben Gran think he has any right to do stand-up comedy? Ben Gran is an experienced comedy performer, script and sketch writer. He has performed sketch and improv comedy and acted in plays, but decided to do stand-up because he was tired of other people getting to say all the lines. (Ben is what psychologists refer to as a “pathological narcissist.”)


Why should we trust Ben Gran to make us laugh? What if he sucks? Friend me on Facebook to see my best material. Many people tell me that my Facebook jokes are the sole reason they log into Facebook each day. (Not to brag.)

Who is Zach Peterson? Zach Peterson is hilarious! I saw him open for the great Rob Delaney at a comedy show in Omaha, and I was like, “This guy is good. Now I need to con him into performing at my stand-up show in Des Moines!” Here’s a video of Zach Peterson opening for Rob Delaney in Omaha:

Do you have any other questions? Send them to me:

Please come to the show. Otherwise it will just be me, talking to myself in an empty bar. In other words: a typical Friday night.


Ben Gran Stand-up Comedy: Des Moines Social Club

Want to laugh at Ben Gran in public?

Here’s your chance:

Friday, March 9 at 7:30 p.m.

Ben Gran, dangerous stand-up comedian

Drawing by David Anderson, Houston, TX

WHAT: Ben Gran! (Performing stand-up comedy)

WHERE: The Des Moines Social Club!

WHO: Ben Gran! Also: A funny guy from Omaha named Zach Peterson will be on hand to deliver devastating witticisms! (You might say Zach puts the “Ha!” in “Omaha!”)

HOW: Ticket Info and Juicy, Scandalous Details are here – BUY TICKETS NOW! (no pressure)

WHY: Because we need something special to get through the gray slog of our daily lives, but drugs are illegal.


Ben Gran
(Amateur Comedian, Professional Assassin, Certified Life Coach)

P.S. Are you wondering, “Who is this guy? How dare he perform stand-up comedy?” Connect with me on Facebook:

Why we’re hosting a foreign exchange student

My wife and I recently decided to host a foreign exchange student from Brazil. He’ll be living at our house for the spring semester of 2012 – January through June.

We had talked before about wanting to host an exchange student, but we always thought it would be on our “someday” list – someday when our kids are older, when we have more money, when we have more time, etc. We’re very busy right now taking care of two young children under the age of 4, and we live on one income, so we weren’t 100% sure if we were “ready” to take in an exchange student for a whole semester.

But we decided to go for it. Here’s why:

  • I know how important the exchange student experience can be. 16 years ago, when I was a junior in high school, I met a young man from Germany named Fabrice Witzke who was an exchange student at my school. We went on to become lifelong friends. I went to visit Fabrice in Europe in 2000, 2003 and 2004. He came to stay with us at our house in 2008. I’d like to help make it possible for someone else to make a lifelong friendship with someone from another country. Perhaps our student from Brazil will meet friends in Des Moines that he will stay in touch with for many years to come.
  • Fabrice Witzke, Ben Gran and baby boy Gran (Aug. 2008)

  • I love meeting people from other cultures. I lived in Japan from 2001-2002, teaching English on the JET Program. It was one of the most memorable and influential years of my life – I would recommend it to anyone who’s trying to decide what to do with their first year out of college. I traveled in Europe during the last summer of my college years, in July of 2000. I saw Germany, France, Spain and London. I lived out of a backpack and traveled by train. I stayed with Fabrice in Cologne, we traveled together to Paris and stayed at a hostel where they served us a breakfast of baguette and hot chocolate. Then we took the overnight train to the lovely seaside resort area of Seignosse, along the Atlantic coast of France, where the World War II concrete bunkers still stand watch over the shimmering sea. It was one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. Then I found my way to San Sebastian, Spain (my wife and I named our firstborn son in honor of this charming city of the Basque region), took an 8-hour train to Madrid, went to Barcelona and then back to Paris again. I met new people all along the way. You never learn more about yourself than when you’re travelling in another country.
  • I want to be a good host to other world travelers. During my travels in Europe and my time living in Japan, so many people opened their homes to me. Fabrice’s aunt helped us find a place to stay near the Atlantic Ocean in Seignosse, France. Fabrice’s college classmates in Paris hosted wonderful impromptu dinner parties with lots of wine. My friends Hiro and Satoru in Japan hosted me at their family homes in Tokyo and Chiba. Hiro’s friend Shoichi let my wife and I stay at his apartment on our first night in Japan in Feb. 2007, and poured us many cups of delicious tea. I am sorry to say that I cannot even remember all of the names of the people who have shown me such wonderful hospitality, but all of them in their own small way were serving as ambassadors for their home countries and cultures. In my own small way, I’d like to do the same. I want to be known as someone who is generous, welcoming, and willing to create connections with people. We’ve hosted other international visitors before – from Kosovo, Spain, Chile, Ethiopia, Sweden and Japan. We hosted two Japanese high school students for a week last October. So we wanted to take the next step and host an exchange student to be part of our family for a full semester.

Our Japanese exchange students with our son

Being a work-at-home freelancer can be tough sometimes – I sometimes feel a bit isolated and shut off from the outside world. By hosting an exchange student, in this one small way I think we will be a bit more involved in the world. My favorite learning experiences in life have come from travelling, living abroad and meeting people from other countries and cultures. These are the experiences from my life that I would most strongly recommend to my own children. I hope we can provide a happy home and a rich learning environment for our student from Brazil.

Would you like to host a foreign exchange student? The program we’re involved with is the American Institute for Foreign Study.

I can’t think of anything more important, or more meaningful, than helping a young person achieve the dream of living and studying in the U.S. I’ve seen the power of this experience in my own life, and I’m proud to open up my home to help make it possible for someone else.