Sunday, January 18, 2015

Accountability Checklist

Accountability has to be one of the hardest parts of being an entrepreneur. Especially when life is happening all around you, children, husbands, friends, keeping yourself healthy.

You've so much on your plate! Which is why I've created a fun little accountability sheet so that you can enjoy keeping *tabs* on yourself :)

Who is this for?
Anyone who needs help remembering their purpose. Business owners, stay at home moms and everyone in between.

Find the 8.5 x 11 print here

Why PURPOSE & SUCCESS go hand in hand

  1. 1.
    the reason for which something is done or created or for which something exists.

When my fledgling organic foods company House Of J got it's start, my priorities were 100% focused on my family and my "brand"  was fun, incredibly easy and an inexpensive side "business". By business I mean, I gave lactation cookies to my mom friends. 

I soon realized I had a product that did not belong to a saturated market, and started to take things a little more seriously. At the time the only options nursing mom's had were lactation cookies made using basic, low quality ingredients & gmo sugars.

Nursing mommy's needed more choices and I wanted to give it to them.

My focus was on quality, health and taste. I wanted these cookies to be all inclusive. Organic, non-gmo, grain free, packed with nutrition for both mama & baby. That message must have resonated with nursing mothers because House of J grew into a budding local foods company almost over night. I had orders going from NY to Australia, and it was awesome. 

I hit the ground running and started mailing free cookies to bloggers to get the word out and worked hard to give plenty of samples to new mothers with the age old, bait and hook method of local marketing.

While rebuilding a local presence through events and farmers markets after moving to a new city, I had decided that I wanted to expand. Along came granola bars, granola, brownies and other confections all with the same goal, proving that organic and healthy can also mean delicious. 

I went wholesale and started dealing in invoicing and all the ups and downs of pitching to retail. On came new, more professional packaging design and intricate details that were both exciting and extremely consuming of time and money.

The costs associated with bringing a small, niche foods business to market is almost unconscionable. You've got:

#1. Licensing
#2. Commercial Kitchen Rental Fees
#3. Ingredients ( and ORGANIC!)
#4. Packaging & Labels
#5. Display boxes
#6. Credit Card processing
#7. Shipping and/or self delivery
#8. No-sell buyback 
This list is the cost just for doing it all on your own, and NOT including the options of hiring employees or paying a distributor to package for you. This of course is also before you factor in cost of business like office supplies, advertising, PR, and everything else that goes into any small business.

Before I knew it, I was burnt out. I had too many product variations for any one single person to handle, retail stores with long overdue invoices and minimal working capital to keep investing. I knew a change had to be made, I put House of J's wholesale accounts on hiatus and took a few months to reconsider my passions. I was not a professionally trained chef by any means, my background is in marketing & sales (which was my favorite part of the business). The baking was and is my least favorite part. 

When I asked myself the purpose of my business, my short answer was all marketing and sales related and not about the baking. It became obvious that I was forcing a business model that I wasn't passionate about on every level. While I will always  LOVE the breastfeeding community, and care deeply about maintaining a healthy, nutritious and gmo- free lifestyle, I do not need to be the one providing this on a bulk distribution level. For me, the baking allowed me to market and sell my brand, which was why I kept it going at such an intense level.

 Maintaining passion for your business is incredibly hard work. When you realize what your passions and purpose are, your business has a better chance of long term survival. 

The lesson learned? 
Just because you do something great doesn't mean you'll be happy doing it as a business. 

By finding your business' purpose, you will be able to create a clear and concise plan of action to take your business to its growing potential.

Here's a great article from Forbes, explaining why success and finding your purpose go hand in hand.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Work-Life Balance Does Not Exist

At least not for the entrepreneur.

This mysterious concept is posted everywhere and I'm guilty of using the term often. But I'm calling an end to the fascination with "work-life balance" for 2015. Who's ready to join me?

What is work-life balance exactly? It's the concept that with proper prioritizing between your "work" and your "lifestyle" (health, pleasure, leisure, family and spiritual development). That one can maintain the zen harmony of fulfilling both of these "cups" equally.

I call bullshit.

Am I allowed to say that on a "mommy-blog"? I just did. Many parenting columns believe that by focusing solely on one or the other at a time is one way of achieving this. This may work for some, but not for me, and probably not for you. 

I've 2 small children, one who is still nursing (albeit infrequently) and one who is incredibly inquisitive, often times whiney and needs attention almost constantly. If I had to carve out time to focus on work alone, I'd have two very unhappy kids and a very guilty conscience waiting for me. 

Sometimes work is your lifestyle, and sometimes your lifestyle is only as satisfying as your business is successful. 2015's new concept: your work and your life are one in the same. An internal collaboration of vision, love, drive, success, encouragement, networking and support for all of the above.  

No more do we struggle to find time to work, or find time to snuggle. Women, especially mothers are categorized as being frazzled and easily overwhelmed "Oh My, you MUST be exhausted" or my favorite "How do you do it all?" My best work is when my kiddos are laying beside me while I finish up that financial summary, or as I plan my next ten social media marketing tactics. While on a conference call, I sometimes change a diaper! What??! I have meetings at coffee shops I know are kid friendly and during some of these meetings, the IPAD is my saving grace. 

My social circle consists of very understanding friends who love me even though I may be noncommittal and other entrepreneurs who understand the plight. This has happened organically, and through honesty I can still remain a friend, a mother and a multi-business owner.

I essentially hit the lottery when I met my husband, who also happens to be a serial entrepreneur. This comes in handy when the laundry piles up and when we need to we roll up those sleeve, unplug and focus. We focus on our business, raising two kind and well adjusted children to the best of our abilities and yes, focus on that damn laundry together. 

I've stopped during the writing of this blog post to fix my daughter two separate post lunch pre dinner snacks, kiss a booboo, talk to my husband about a prospective client and to take a vitamin, and that's ok. That is what it means to WORK and to LIVE, in harmony. 

Take a look at the synonyms for the word "WORK". Every one of them with a negative connotation. And then take a gander at the word "LIFE". ALL positive. This is the reason why the work-life balance concept was created, to deal with the "drudgery" of one, and the "zest" of another. They can both be zesty, you know.

The movement:   

1. Forget the guilt
You are a great person and your intentions are to be the best *fill in the blank* wife, mother, friend, brother, sister, father, business owner, marketing exec, corporate fat cat, whatever.

2. Write it down
All of it. Business goals, family goals, timelines, cleaning schedules, if you do it, write it.

3. Skip Around
You are writing a book and your editor needs a draft by Tuesday and you're only half way through. But Monday is your cleaning day and today is Sunday, and the kids have soccer practice.
BREATHE. Sorry laundry, dishes, vacuuming, you've been pushed to Tuesday, I've got business to do.

4. Be Honest
Being a business owner means getting down to business. Sometimes this means missing that girls night out or skipping the kiddie parade for St Patty's Day. Explain why you can't commit, be transparent in your aspirations and ask for understanding.

5. Give Love
Wether you're a mother, a wife, a brother, or a friend. Small acts of compassion go a long way. you'll always be "busy"with something. Take a second to renew your energy and your focus. Send a text to a sick friend, give your munchkin a big unexpected hug while they're playing patiently. Tell your husband how much you appreciate him.

It's a hard task to keep yourself accountable for follow-through. So many times we see our child as an excuse to postpone our business goals when they should be the driving force behind your ambition.

Join the PROJECT ZEST community on Facebook for support, advice and support in keeping ZEST in all you do.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Saturday Night *Take In* - "Half Homemade" Spanakopita

Lately, going out to eat is a rare occurrence.We're a family of 4 naturally but have 2 additional house guests.  With one of them being another child, it's better to be home for meals.

While we love going out for some delicious BBQ or a burger, we often choose more ethnic cuisine when dining out. Tapas, Italian and of course Greek. 

My favorite of all is the "Spanakopita" or spinach pie. Spinach, Feta, Pastry, what more could you ask for!

With a tighter than usual grocery budget, I planned my Spanakopita to comfortably feed 6 as a side dish during dinner and also be easy lunches for the munchkins and I during the week.

Not only was it delicious, but it was organic and GMO free unlike the average Greek restaurant.

Price Comparison & Breakdown:

Organic Pre-made Fillo - $5.99 (their website has it cheaper if you're not in a rush here
1lb Organic Spinach- $3.99
10 ounces Feta (Used 3/4 container) $5.64
Organic cream cheese $.99
Organic onion $.79
Grass Fed Butter $1.40 worth ( 2 pack @ costco for $6.60)

Total Tray $18.80
16 squares = $1.18 Per Person!
Compared to $6 per appetizer portion at our local eatery.

Without further adieu- Half Homemade Spanakopita

You Need:
1lb organic spinach
1 package organic fillo dough- 16 sheets (you'll have left overs)
2 cups feta cheese
1 cup cream cheese (room temp)
half of 1 medium onion, minced
1 clove fresh garlic, minced
about 6 tablespoons of butter, preferably grass fed pasture butter.
Salt & Pepper to taste.

*important step* 
your fillo will be frozen if purchased at the grocery store, allow to thaw on the counter for 1-2 hours.

1.  Sautee onion on medium heat in 1 TBL spoon butter until translucent
2. Add your spinach and cook until wilted
3. Add garlic, cooking 1 minute additional and turn off heat. Salt and Pepper to taste
5. Melt 5 tablespoons butter in a microwave safe bowl for 30 seconds
6. Brush a small coat of butter on the bottom of your baking dish
7.When fillo is thawed, Carefully separate one sheet and lay in an oven safe baking dish. 
(Fillo is 14x8, - I used a 12x12 dish and overlapped) brush top of fillo with melted butter
8. Repeat step 7 until 8 layers of fillo are buttered and ready.
9. Add Feta and cream cheese to spinach mixture and mix well until fully combined

10. Spread spinach mixture on a layer about your fillo

11. Add 8 more fillo sheets, buttering each one separately, same as before.
12. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze for 20 minutes, preheat your oven to 350*
13. Once out of the freezer, precut your pieces and bake for 35 minutes or until golden brown.

For Freezing-

Wrap each piece individually with plastic wrap and freeze immediately- ENJOY!

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Celebrating the little things and an easy recipe for roasting pumpkins!

My favorite season, Fall. Leaves of gold, red and brown adorn our yard and tree lined streets of our town. Our house cozy with the fire place glowing and lots of under the blanket snuggles with my family.

But alas, Fall is also the time of year when stores showcase their home decor for the holidays, their new products and the material goods that they swear you cannot live without. I'd like to live without it, and be happy doing so. The second part is the hardest.

My husband and I have always been moderately minimalists in general but being aware of the constant demand of BUY BUY BUY has got me in a bit of a funk lately.

 I love shopping just as much as the next mama but the internal need to do so more ethically and consciously is stronger than ever. In my last post I mentioned buying local clothing from local makers and the importance of keeping your dollars in your community.

While this will always be my intention, doing so within our budget can some times raise a challenge. While my husband and I build up our 4th and (hopefully) final business venture, my goals will be the following:

 1. Try to make it first. While I am nowhere near a world class crafter, the internet is full of tutorials and giving us the ability to learn. I will be trying to use this resource to our advantage.

 2. Use Cash. The best money management books and articles say that our society is so quick to get their credit cards that we forget the value of actual paper money.

I've recently attempted this with my children with much success. Both my 2 year old and my 4 year old earned $1 for various chores and exceptional behavior. We then went to our local dollar tree and each child was allowed to pick 1 item of their choice. My 4 yr old of course asked for a candy as well, it was the perfect opportunity to explain that all things cost money and not always can we purchase every item we would like. Not only did they leave the store feeling proud and grateful, They had a better understanding that the little square piece of plastic is actually MONEY and not mommy and daddy's magic toy/candy buying wand. So many of our children see excess on a daily basis. Bringing them back to reality may be difficult but incredibly worth it long term.

3.Work for it  I'll be honest. Before moving to Colorado, the term *Barter* was never in my vocabulary. I never considered earning a need or want without paying for it monetarily. After doing local vendor fairs and farmers market I learned the beauty of trade. I'll never forget the day a cherry juice maker asked me if I'd like some delicious cherry cider in exchange for my granola bar. What a brilliant encounter, 2 makers with different products coming together to enjoy one another's offerings without making a purchase.

 4. When in doubt- Buy Local Harvest season is perfect for stocking up at local farmers markets and artisan fairs. Combine this with #1 and make yourself a winter supply of Apple butter or tomato sauce by learning to can. Ask for a deal if you're buying multiple goods and always leave feedback to promote a local business you love.

 5. Give yourself a break. We cannot always afford a hand painted masterpiece or a winter coat made by hand from an alpaca farm and that's ok. This is where our corporate frenemies come in handy. Cut yourself some slack and understand that you are always doing your best and your best is most often enough if not more than worthy of praise. Keep on keepin' on mama ;)

And Finally...

6. Use the internet. Google FREE and low cost EXPERIENCES for your children and your family. I'll take a new adventure over a new "thing" any day of the week and so will our children. Paint a pumpkin, collect some acorns and build a nature scene. Spending time is much more valuable than spending money.

 I'll be setting up our House Of J goodies tent at a few upcoming events this season, while our new studio sets up. My favorite of all of course my daughters farm school fair. If you are a Colorado local, come and support our amazing community of Artisans, makers and community leaders.

Last Fall a good friend had asked me to create a recipe for her motherhood community magazine Birth.Play.Love

Here it is :)- Enjoy!

Roasting your fresh pumpkin
into puree
  1. Cut the top stem portion of your pumpkin and then cut in half length wise.
  2. Scrape all of the seeds and stringy parts out with a spoon.
  3. Lay your pumpkin half on a tin foil lined baking sheet and bake for 1
    hour at 350 degrees.
  4. Once slightly cooled enough to handle, scrap the pumpkin fruit away
    from the shell..
  5. Using a food processor or emersion blender pulse your pumpkin along
    with 1 table spoon of organic cane sugar until smooth and creamy.
  6. For this recipe you only need 3⁄4 cup pumpkin but a medium pumpkin
    will yield roughly 2.5 cups.
  7. Freeze your left over puree in a mason jar or air tight plastic bag and
enjoy long after pumpkin season is over! 

Friday, August 8, 2014

Why I buy handmade...A review

With our hands in 100543234234 things this summer and the attention of mom and dad split a few more ways than usual, it is SO important to us to set time aside for fun.

We play with friends, we go to the splash pad and we most definitely have our afternoons of wild and crazy play time.

Balancing family, entrepreneurship and community outreach has been one of the biggest challenges I've ever faced. It helps so greatly that I am a part of an amazing community of mom-owned businesses who also walk the tightrope of business-owner and mama. As a multi-business owning mama I can truly vouch for those little memes that say things like "buying local means paying for a little girls ballet classes" Every dollar earned from House of J goes towards our children and back into our community- supporting local as much as we possibly can.

With new articles out there everyday on corruption from big name stores, child labor and unfair wages for workers, it seems like the only safe bet is to purchase clothing from small batch, local artisans who produce their clothing by hand or in US garment facilities only. While this can sometimes be pricier, the reward is so much greater.

Sweetpea Mcgee is a brand-new Facebook based children's clothing boutique that offers beautiful hand made pieces in very limited quantities. The quality and durability is immaculate and my 4 year old is just the preschooler to test it out! J is tough on her clothes and when she falls in love with a new dress, that's the dress she wears...and wears...and wears...and WEARS!

Photo Courtesy

Because buying local and preferably MOM made, is so important to me (and YOU!) I asked Kashara, owner of Sweetpea McGee a few questions about WHY she chooses to balance work and being a full time mama

House Of J:  I've seen you make your daughter beautiful dresses forever, what made you decide to start selling your creations?

Sweetpea McGee: I decided to start selling on facebook because my children are young and this way I can share my creative passion and creations with others while still enjoying their fast childhood years. I can control the flow of how many items I create per month and how many items I put up for sale. That way I can still do school volunteering, field trips, tiny tots classes and household necessities with a good balance for everything.

House Of J: why do you choose the fabric you choose

Sweetpea McGee: Why do I choose the fabric I do is such a tough question. I am drawn to so many fabrics because of their beautiful colors and composition. I see fabrics that I love and I try bring out their beauty as best as possible by pairing it with the best pattern to make it all shine. I have multiple nieces and a daughter and I truly try to put myself in their shoes. It really takes me into such a fun and creative mind frame..oh to be a child again.

House Of J: What is your design inspiration?

Sweetpea McGee: My inspiration or my driving force to continue doing what I love is basically the smiles and happy faces I see every time I receive a photo from a customer saying "Thank you!" I really have more creations in my head than I can ever create with my time but I truly am passionate about delivering a product that will send a little one over the moon with happiness.

And She's done just that! Sent my little one- Over the moon in twirling-whirling dress happiness!

Photo Courtesy

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Sprouted Fried Rice and Asian Chicken Skewers

We use the grill A LOT. So coming up with fun and interesting marinades and side dishes can sometimes be daunting.

We LOVE Asian inspired cuisine and while nothing will be as delicious as that greasy, New York City style Chinese food, this came pretty close to perfect. Oh, and actually healthy!

I grew up eating the packet seasonings, want Chinese food, no problem here is a packet! Mexican food? packet. Steak marinade? packet. When you eliminate processed foods, chemicals and additives form your families diet, those packets turn into poison. You don't need them, I promise!

I advocate using organic meat, produce and groceries as much as your families budget can allow, a great rule of thumb is the EWG's clean 15 if you have to pick and choose what to buy organic versus conventional. Also, the NON-GMO project verification seal is just as good if not better than a USDA organic seal.

Chicken Breast Skewers: (feeds 2 adults &2 very hungry kiddos)

2 organic chicken breasts, cut into cubes
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4cup organic rice vinegar
1/8 cup olive oil
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon saigon cracked black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon minced organic garlic
4-5 drops hot chili oil (or more if you love spicy!)

Assemble skewers and mix all ingredients together. Marinade can be mixed and stored overnight in a bag with your skewers, we marinated for 1.5 hours and it was tender, moist and delicious!

Grill for 10-15 minutes at medium heat (outside is nice and charred while inside remains juicy)

Sprouted Brown Rice:
Step 1
1/2 cup organic sprouted brown rice (rinsed and drained)
1 cup organic chicken broth
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil 
Directions: Cook rice according to package or Lundberg's family fool proof recipe of 45 minutes on low and 10 minutes with heat off "steaming".

Step 2
1/2 cup soy sauce
5 organic baby carrots
1 cup cooked organic green beans
1/4 organic white onion
1 organic egg
4 tablespoons Ghee
chop green beans, carrots and onions into tiny bite size pieces (roughly double the size of the grain of rice) and saute in your melted ghee using a heavy bottom or cast iron pan.

once your veggies are tender add in cooked rice and soy sauce and simmer for 6-8 minutes on medium heat until your rice has absorbed the excess moisture. Add in your egg and saute until egg is cooked through and rice is fluffy.


What's your favorite take out to make at home?  I'd love to hear about it!