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.