Monday, August 3, 2015

From Mama To Marketing: 7 Steps To Balancing Family and Business

Some days I feel like superwoman. Meetings with clients, CHECK. Kids are fed, happy and laundry is in the dryer, CHECK. Project finished ahead of deadline DOUBLE CHECK!

Then there are days like today. Days when, no matter what you do, your sweet mama voice is just not getting through to those two little devils  sweet peas. While I don't always bring along my 3 & 5 year old to business functions, occasionally it's unavoidable.

These are the days where that little bug of self doubt creeps up inside me. Did I do the right thing by my kiddos today, my clients, my husband? If every obligation gets only 10% focus, are you really getting things done?

Yes, probably. Efficiently, probably not. Does efficiency always mean success, and furthermore does inefficiency always mean failure. Working parents struggle with this dilemma on a daily basis and for our family, day care just wasn't a fit. So how do you juggle making sure you are raising two grounded, patient (sometimes) and happy children while growing your brand as effectively as possible.

1. Build Relationships

During consultations I often talk a little about my background, my qualifications and how I ended up working for myself. This very summarized version of my life story also eludes to the present reality that A. I have my hands in many projects B. My children are young, and C. My husband and I balance our family and our businesses simultaneously. This builds trust between myself and my client as well as gives enough background that makes the rare reschedule or child-assistant-in-tow a little less unexpected.

2. Be Honest

Life happens. This is when you let your client/boss/collaborator/fill-in-the-blank be the decision maker. Try something similar to this:
YOU: " A small hiccup appeared in my schedule for our meeting, I'd love to give you undivided attention so if there is another time in the next few days you are available I'd love to reschedule. If this is the only time that works for you though, would you be comfortable if my daughter/son/etc accompanied us during our appointment?

3. You Aren't Above Bribery
Good old fashioned bribery is highly debated topic in today's crunchy parenting universe. But a momma (or daddy) occasionally has to use the tools that are available to them. Always have a small stash of Target clearance bin finds ready to rock and roll. Coloring books, activity sheets, small puzzles, whatever works. Just make sure it's something interesting that they usually don't get to play with at home.

4. Say NO
You don't have to take on every client and every project that comes your way. Saying no is a skill that some of the most successful people have nailed down. Try this: " While I love your business model, and feel like working with you would be beneficial for us both, I don't think this is the right fit for me at this time. I'd love to keep in contact and check in with one another in the next few weeks/month/quarter and see if there is something we could work out/collaborate on". This emphasizes that you value their time and their project enough to understand it may not be in THEIR best interest to sandwich in-between your other obligations, without eliminating the possibility of a future opportunity.

Often times those working hours away feel like a break, but they aren't. Your mind and your body are working and the pressure is still there, only in place of motherhood (or fatherhood) responsibilities, its work related tasks at hand. Find time to do NOTHING or something that you find enjoyable OUTSIDE of family and career.

6. Communicate
Without my husband and business partner's support, the balancing act would be much more difficult. We share all the highs and lows of entrepreneurship, parenthood, life, oh and google calendars. Our schedules are mapped out and color coded. And when that pressure is looming, I let him know exactly whats going on and how he can help. If you don't ask, you definitely won't receive.

7. Your Kids Love You
They are watching you kick ass right now. You're taking names during the day(and night) and cooking organic veggies for dinner. Remember that, children work best around a routine, and being a business owner can be random. Use that randomness in your favor by making it normal. Give lots of hugs, kisses and reassurance. Treasure the time you can devote to only them, and maybe, just maybe, they'll thank you in speech one day for inspiring them to start that multimillion dollar start up ;)

Saturday, May 23, 2015

6 Steps to becoming an IMPACTFUL brand.

The modern consumer demands more from brands than ever before. The days of captive media audiences are over. Social media has become the premiere method of information exchange and with that, the buying behaviors have changed. Success is based on developing strategies that address the modern consumer's expanding expectations. The Modern buyer appreciates the history and significance of what they are buying.

1. Create an experience that exceeds brand standards and expectations:
Try adopting a social media persona that relinquishes control to the consumer by providing them a sense of brand ownership. This could be as simple as offering a controlled contest in which popular vote chooses the next color of your new design. Or the ever popular "name our new flavor" campaign.

2.Devote resources to expand social media marketing:
Modern consumers appreciate two-way conversations, with platforms such as Facebook & Twitter. Consumers can feel closer and more involved with the brands they purchase from.

3. Engage and influence the conversation:
Brands must deliver an experience to their audience by proving equity, quality and functionality by identifying the qualities that define your brand and showcasing why the consumer may be "missing out".

4. Stand behind your ideals:
Every brand should have a mission statement that becomes the cornerstone of the customer experience. Ranging anywhere from out of this world customer service, or a commitment to sustainability- show your customer you live by this method and why they should to.

5. Offer exclusivity:
Creating marketing opportunities to small groups of a target audience can be much more beneficial over spreading a thin campaign to a large number of unmotivated consumers. Identifying small groups with large buying power interested in your brand will be a better, more targeted use of efforts.

6. Empower Consumers:
Deepen your relationship with consumers by allowing them to become a part of brand identity. Encourage consumers to upload content, images and comments about your brand. Humanize the goods or services provided by replying to individual consumers by name.

This graph represents consumer purchases based on necessities, basic needs, wants and luxury items. Categorizing where your product or service falls within this graph will help you in targeting your niche. <3 Power on entrepreneurs <3 Power ON!

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!