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don’t trip before the start line
June 30th, 2010     |    Business AdviceLife

Over the past few months I have been getting more emails from women writing me about advice for their businesses or blogs. In talking with many of the women, I am noticing a pattern: people want to make things more complicated than they are. I am all for due diligence and research, please don’t get me wrong. I think that is an important part of being successful. But ultimately, I think the research and constant “what if-ing” will halt all progress which leads to the launch of the actual business.

Please don’t let your dream or purpose lie dormant in your heart (or in a business proposal binder) because of any uncertainty – all entrepreneurship will involve uncertainty. The key is to just begin, and then keep going. To cross the start line and then start tripping, then start falling, and after each tumble you get up and continue onward.

Another obstacle lurking before the start line to avoid is the “everyone else has it figured out” trap. When you look around at your competitors or even businesses that inspire you, please do not assume they all launched with perfect clarity, perfect graphics, and perfect products. They stumbled and fell many, many times on their way to success. And the key is that they learned and grew after each failure and honed their craft to the beauty you see today.

Take my business for example, though I’m pretty darn proud of what it has become, I make no bones about where it began: with ugly ankle bracelets. Not exactly a threat to Tiffany & Co. But at 15-years-old, I didn’t let that stop me. Some women bought them from me at a pool. And the first thought in my head was, “how can I sell more ankle bracelets?” I didn’t think about creating the perfect company, I thought about how to improve from where I began. I started with selling ankle bracelets made from seed beads. Then I taught myself to wire wrap. Then I bought crystals. Then I built a website. It was all done one step at a time. It’s that simple.

It’s always that simple.

Don’t let your ego talk you into thinking you need to be anything other than incrementally better than where you are now. This is not a race for anyone but yourself. As long as you are getting faster and moving forward, you are winning. And winning beats the heck out of spraining your ankle before the race.

Jeanee’s Makeunder
June 29th, 2010     |    Life
Today I’d like to hand the mic over to Jeanee of Dirty Laundry so she can share her experience making under her life over the past several months. I think it’s awesome to see how four steps can help someone so specifically with so many areas of her life. And I hope Jeanee’s story inspires others to try making under and see what they get out of the process as well.

Jeanee’s Makeunder

I’m so glad I found your blog and you sent me your Makeunder My March link. Since the holiday 2009 I’ve been making a plan of moving forward with my Dirty Laundry indie business. In January I released a new blog and a new on-line store. And I started with weekly features of too cute Tuesday and THE WASH, crafty girls come clean to share more of Dirty Laundry with others. I also started reading lots of books and ebooks on successful blogging, social networking and having a successful indie biz. So when I decided to makeunder my May it was the perfect point to reevaluate the 5-6 months of work that I had already done.

A few weeks prior to starting the process I had cleaned out my closest and went down in the number of Zumba fitness classes I teach. So I figured I was already well on my way to making-under my life and getting rid of things I didn’t need so I could be more productive in my Dirty Laundry biz. But I found that your steps would allow me to dig deeper.
I’d been working my tail off  with Dirty Laundry and I made some general goals for 2010, but I never wrote any accomplishments  down like my Etsy sales, new retailers, what I spent on supplies, etc. Also, since I didn’t write down my goals I cannot see my progress. Therefore, I was working in the dark. I couldn’t see anything (I’m a very visual person). I felt like I’d accomplished very little so far this year and was starting to feel like I did lots of work for nothing.
According to Jess first I need create a vision for what I want to accomplish for 2010. Part of that is writing a letter to myself of what I envision. This is very scary for me because I intended on making some very BIG changes moving into 2011. However I have no execution plan (oops!).


My vision was to spend more time on my indie biz, Dirty Laundry. I’d been keeping organized with my planners. So it took me little time to record my monthly accomplishments this year with Dirty Laundry. I was happy to see that I achieved lots more than I thought!

But where is my time going? Well… I decided to record my time in a little journal. It only takes a second to write down everything I do. So at the end of the month I’ll know how much time I spend on Google Reader, how much time I spend at my job actually working, how much time I spend crafting, with my husband, etc.

I REALLY wanted to use the makeunder exercise to see if I was heading in the right direction with my indie biz. Oprah talks a lot about living your best life and finding your purpose on this earth. I did the six exercises on how to uncover my purpose. Discovering your purpose is what helps you to be:

  • true to yourself
  • to remember what is real
  • to be creative
  • to be resilient and to live your best life.

A purpose-led life is a blessed life.

I also say The Prayer of Jabez every morning to help me achieve my bigger and better life. It’s amazing how many wonderful opportunities came to me during my makeunder May from saying that prayer.


I cleaned and reorganized my craft closet and created a shipping station for my Etsy sales.

I really didn’t think I was going to have the time to ACTUALLY clean. But as the week went on and I was thinking about my 2010 goals I felt a great desire to exfoliate my workspace! I felt like I couldn’t move on unless I cleaned my workspace and completed each makeunder step in order.

The BIG change to my closet is that my sewing machine now lives in the closet! I decided to makeunder my Dirty Laundry business and focus the rest of the year on my fizzie line.

The Dirty Laundry aprons that I’ve made this year have been special requests for people I know or for people that knows somebody that I know. (Whew… did that make sense?) Anywho, I haven’t had aprons available to sell on-line since July 2009. And I’ve been struggling all year to make an apron line. It takes five hours for me to make a reversible apron. And 1 hour to press three dozen cupcake bath fizzies. Time is money and the fizzies are doing so well that I’d like to focus on new fun scents, new Dirty Laundry fizzie products, and getting into more retail stores.

I feel so relieved! The big dark cloud of having to make aprons is no longer hanging over my head. I can breathe.

Yes, I’m a little sad not to be making aprons. I was very excited and inspired to get some going and I had the fabric already laid out for them. But I look at it as a turning point for me and nothing is etched in stone. I can make aprons or another product later on. That’s the fun of having your own business!


Increase Dirty Laundry profits and save money.

I don’t really have a wish list of things that I want. I really don’t need anything. But I really want to spend my money smarter.

However, I took a BIG risk and decided to go part time at my job as a graphic designer for Hallmark. As of June I’m working 32 hours a week. I have a four day work week with a day to focus on Dirty Laundry. I’m taking a 20% pay cut.

But out of the blue a friend told me about a house to rent near where my husband I already live. We’re SO not a house couple and the thought of moving to a cheaper place to save money NEVER entered my mind.

We looked at the house the next day after finding out about it and it’s super cute and manageable. We just signed the lease and we move in later this summer! Our apartment lease just happens to end when the house will be ready to move in. We’re going to be saving $400 per month which is around the amount of money that’ll be taken out of my monthly check. How perfect is that?!?

Now there won’t be so much pressure to make up the money that I’m loosing out of my check with Dirty Laundry sales. That way I can grow at a comfortable pace and my indie biz will stay fun.

These are some of the highlights that occurred during my makeunder May experience.

All of these positive things that happened during my makeunder process it let me know that I was focused and moving in the right direction.

I will continue to evolve and move forward. I think it’ll be good to review my 2010 goals, exfoliate and reflect once a quarter.

I’ve kept up my daily time keeping journal and I found that I work on Dirty Laundry three times more than my full time job (hence going part time at Hallmark). I even found an iPhone app to make it easier to keep track of my daily tasks. I can see a cute little pie chart instead of spending hours trying to add up my time (see, I’m continuing my exfoliation makeunder process already).

I’m going to be keeping my intentions of SAVING money mind as we move into the house. Do we really need hanging plants? Do we really need a new coffee table? We have to be smart on our purchases and try not to fall into the pressures of having the cutest decorated place ever.

I’m sure I’ll have a new vision to create at the beginning of 2011 and I’ll be doing the four makeunder steps all over again.

I think the makeunder steps was VERY helpful for me. It helped me organize and write everything down that I had already started to work on at the beginning of the year. I think that a person will get out of it what they put into it. For me the steps helped me refine and confirm I was moving in the right direction with the ultimate decision of going part-time with my job to focus on my indie biz. I personally felt that I couldn’t move forward with my plan/goals if I didn’t complete the four steps.

Thanks Jess!

makeunder my week: June 28th, 2010
June 28th, 2010     |    Life

I hope you had a great weekend! On the way home from Kalamazoo, Michigan yesterday, I read a great article about Blake Mycoskie, the founder of Toms Shoes in Inc. Magazine. He mentioned that he writes letters to his employees telling them about his travels and what he is working on and thinking about. And I thought this might be a great idea to try here on MML. So for the next few weeks I’m going to do a “test pilot” like they do on television, seeing if there is interest in this kind of series on MML. I plan to write it as though it’s a letter to a good friend (because let’s face it, you are all good friends) about what’s going on in my life and what I’ve been thinking about lately.

As you may have noticed, I am playing with the format and content here on MML. I want to try new things; to see what is working and what can be even better. It’s kind of like throwing spaghetti at a wall and seeing what sticks. Based on feedback in comments, tweets, and emails, I will know what content is sticky. So chime in and let me know!

Makeunder My Week: June, 28th, 2010

Hey Guys,

Today I’m just getting back to work after a long weekend with good girlfriends from college. It was great to catch up with them and have some much needed girl time. We went to the beach (something I haven’t done in several years, despite living next to Chicago’s beaches), drank wine, and talked a lot about our futures. What became apparent to us all is that for the first time, we have absolutely no idea what the next year will be like. In fact, I personally have no idea what my life has in store past September 1st, when I move to my new apartment.

Well, that’s not completely true. I am excited to say that last week I was nominated to receive a Rising Star Award by the Fashion Group International in Chicago. And on September 16th, I will be at an event for this award. But other than that, I have no clue what my life will be like.

And as you all know, I like to plan. I faithfully submitted my Future Letter to Myself in January outlining my life for 2010– and I feel like Life took a big pink eraser and wiped the last four months clean. Given this change is coming so late in the year, I’ve decided to keep the slate blank. I’m not going to pencil in an impromptu future. I’m going to see what happens when I let Life fill in the pages. Then come January, 2011, I will reconnect and write a new future letter. In the meantime, I’m choosing to have faith that everything is working out to create an even bigger future than the one I imagined seven months ago.

Another thing I’ve been thinking about lately is life after my obsession with weight. In the past few weeks I have been thrilled at the freedom that life without focus on eating provides. I’ve also been shocked to find myself effortlessly within the weight range I so desperately tried to reach while letting my ego control my food consumption. But it hasn’t been so pleasant realizing that my life itself, devoid of negative thoughts about my thighs, is not otherwise any different than it was before. I get upset just as often, I still struggle with other aspects of my life just as much, I actually cry more often now that I’m not distracting myself with calorie or point counting. When I feel an emotion, it seems to hit me just a bit harder now that there is no weight obsession to distract me from the pain.

And I think this is an important realization for me. Life isn’t about reaching a Utopia which is devoid of ego or strife, it’s about letting each emotional storm come and go without holding on too long or avoiding the rain altogether. My life will never be perfect, but I am now capable of dealing with the imperfections face to face.

On the jewelry front, I’m excited to say that this week I am planning the lookbook for the fall paisley collection. I’m thinking about the theme being “The Best Fall Day Ever in Chicago” which will include the farmer’s market and possibly a caramel apple. You can’t go wrong with a caramel apple in September.

Have a great day,


checking in
June 25th, 2010     |    Life

Today I’m excited to say that I am far, far from the studio and any work related activities. I took a long weekend to visit my good college friends in Michigan. It’s going to be a great girls weekend full of catching up.

Speaking of catching up, I wanted to take a moment and do the same here on MML. First, I have to give a shout out about the two awesome giveaways going on this week in case you missed them. Comment on the following posts to enter Scared Panda’s cute and charitable t-shirt giveaway and the incredible Flor rug of your choice giveaway.

I also want to check in about the Jess LC Strategy Session video I did this week. A few months ago, several MML readers asked me to discuss my business strategy and day-to-day activities on the blog. I thought the Strategy Session videos might be a great way to do this, since video is not something I do often on MML. BUT, I’m not sure the video format is best; what do you think? Would you rather me write or post video with the updates? I can do either, I would like to know what is best for you all. : ) I want this blog to be as helpful as possible for you, that’s why I’m here.

And lastly, I’m going to extend the Summer (Home) Slim Down Challenge throughout July and August. I really want to give people time to get their “weight loss” submissions together and it will continue the theme of exfoliating throughout the summer. And please submit even if you’ve only got five pounds of “stuff” to lose!

Have a great weekend!

piper’s dream report: week eight
June 25th, 2010     |    Life

I can’t believe that I’ve been reporting for 2 months already.  Where did the time go?  (actually what I’m really saying is, should I be farther along??!)  It’s funny because when I first found out I would be doing the Dream Reports, I was so excited about the chance to be accountable.  Here it was…my opportunity to actually be accountable to someone other than myself for getting my store started.  And I was hopeful that maybe I could help others by just sharing my journey.

What I didn’t expect and what has really AMAZED me is the incredible advice and ideas you share with me, as well as, the support I feel from you…it’s humbling.  I had always dreamed of there being some sort of forum for those of us starting a business in a similar industry…a sharing of ideas, advice and support.  And I can’t believe that’s what has happened!  So for those of you reading, please make sure to read the comments.  The insight and advice shared by readers is amazing…I mean, you guys wrote my elevator pitch for me!!  Something that has been my nemesis for awhile now…you guys were able to actually do it (apparently we have some very talented people in the mix who should be copywriters!)

Thanks to you guys, I have the start to a wonderful elevator pitch:  (special thanks Leigh, Brigitte & Emma Jo!!)

photo credit

I’m thinking that’s pretty darn good…what do you think?  Of course, you know who – the perfectionist me – wants to keep tweaking this.  (should I use “home décor”?  should I use “fresh, stylish, playful”? or whimsical?)  I’m going to try fighting back by not making changes to it right now until I work more on the branding.  This, right now, is my pitch.  I need to get used to saying it – but, this is where it becomes troublesome.  Because I wouldn’t necessarily say the above pitch word for word…I need to make it sound more conversational.  I’m thinking that the more I keep saying it the easier it will be to make it conversational.  But I know that the more I keep tweaking it, the more I end up going back to stammering through my pitch!  This is another important “note to self”:  things are not written in stone, they can always be changed.  I seem to have this mindset that once I have my pitch, or logo or products, that these can never be altered.  And that’s just not true…as a store just starting out, I may find that my customers are flocking towards one type of product over another.  So, right there I need to be able to roll with the punches and change inventory as needed.  I guess it’s a good thing that I’m learning this now!!

And you know what else is interesting to me about doing these posts?  I can tell on a weekly basis if it’s a good week (i.e., lots of action and moving forward) or a bad week (i.e., lots of worry, doubt and the occasional pity party!)  I think it’s something that I have to get used to as a fledgling entrepreneur.  (because honestly sometimes the switch from good to bad happens daily!)  But I think the more I get used to taking action NO MATTER WHAT, the more it leads to a good week or day.  Because really, even if it wasn’t perfect, it was still a step forward.  I can’t learn from my mistakes…if I never put myself out there to make any!  (of course, the perfectionist in me is screaming right now “just don’t make any mistakes”  sigh, isn’t there a button I can use to quiet her?)

photo credit

It’s hard to admit, but this week started with a bit of a meltdown – I let stress get the best of me until I hit my breaking point.  I was feeling overwhelmed by all the things that need to be done, not to mention, the constant wondering if I can actually do this – can I start an online store that people will enjoy and want to shop?  I started counting the days until my vacation next week (ever feel that need to runaway as if that will solve all your problems?!) when it dawned on me.

One year ago, I took my last vacation – we were in Australia when I decided to once and for all dive head first into opening my boutique.  One year ago, I was researching tea cafes because I wanted to open something I felt would be successful…but it wasn’t something I was passionate about.  One year ago, I hadn’t even started blogging yet.  One year ago, I didn’t have my LLC, my tax ID# or a good start on what the concept would be for my store.  And one year ago, I didn’t have my elevator pitch!!

photo credit

Usually vacation for me is a time to dream…I can dream about escaping my work and doing something I’m passionate about.  That every morning I could wake up and actually want to go to work.  And then as the vacation winds down, the dread starts creeping in.  The dread of going back to the “real world” and back to a job that makes me miserable.  This is the first time though that I feel like I won’t dread coming back…because I’m actually working towards my dream!  I think I’ll even be excited to come back and continue working on getting my store up and running…that’s a new feeling for me!  Which to me symbolizes that I must be passionate about this – because I’d take vacation any day : ).

So as I’ve been looking back, I realized that I made some huge strides in the past year and should give myself props for that.  I think it can be so hard to pat ourselves on the back – there’s always a feeling that it’s not good enough.  But it’s amazing how looking back really can show you all that you’ve accomplished.  I think I had forgotten that a year ago I was nowhere near ready to open a store…it was just a far off dream.  I didn’t even know the first thing about being online!

Phew, lots of thoughts in my head this week – especially since I’m on vacation next week (we’re heading to the Florida Keys!!)  I would love to know what you think about the elevator pitch.  Does it sound enticing enough?  Have you ever had to take your pitch and make it conversational?  Any tips?

Okay. So when I saw the notice in our elevator this week about a movie filming outside our building, I didn’t think much of it. Thought it was just some indie film or something local.

Then this 15 minutes ago I looked outside my window to see Vince Vaughn and Ron Howard.

Flashback! Today we have a good old fashioned DESIGN YOUR LIFE interview with a really cool guest: Anna Mitchael the witty author of Just Don’t Call Me Ma’am: How I Ditched the South, Forgot My Manners, and Managed to Survive My Twenties with (Most of) My Dignity Still Intact. After reading her honest and pretty hilarious story of how she survived her 20’s, I was shocked many times at the correlation between her life and my own- and I’m guessing many of you will see shades of your own experience in her story as well. In fact, if you are interested in winning a copy of her book, hop on over to the Summer (Home) Slim Down Challenge and enter to win.

After reading Anna’s story (you can read more of her work on her site as well), I was thrilled that I had the chance to interview her for the DYL series to find out what her intentions were post 20-something. It seems that she’s found a great outlook on life that I think we all can learn from. Not to mention that her (very) newborn looks adorable.


DESIGN YOUR LIFE: Anna Michael of Just Don’t Call Me Ma’am

Make eye contact.

‘Make eye contact’ sounds like something your mom told you before your first job interview, and there’s a damn good reason for that: Mothers know best. As a rather cynical person, I have a tendency to approach too many situations with my eyes ready to roll. This idea reminds me to be open to new thoughts, people and perspectives—and to keep from immediately rejecting what doesn’t easily fit into my view of the world. I also believe looking a person in the eye is a show of respect. It says ‘I hear you’ and ‘I realize you are worth my time.’ Even if the time is just a few quick seconds paying a few quarters at the toll booth or passing someone in a grocery store, imagine how much better this world would be if we all took the time to truly see and listen to one another, to treat everyone with just a tad more courtesy and care than is required in our everyday worlds.

Stay big picture.

I can’t tell you how many times a day I have to stop, drop and repeat this to myself. I’m chronically frustrated by the mundane. From doing laundry to paying bills—the little things can throw me for a big loop. It’s good for me to slow down and remember that the balance of my life only stays balanced when the small things stay small. And when it comes to one of the biggest things in my life—my writing—I find I can get off track for weeks (if not months) by getting too wrapped up in the nitty-gritty of publishing, focusing on a negative comment on my website or letting a few days of zero creativity throw me into a self-confidence crisis. Staying big picture reminds me that it isn’t about one review on Amazon, or a missed opportunity to write an article for a specific publication—it’s about the big picture of which words you put on the page, who those words reach and the difference you can make through the larger sum of your days and efforts.

Show me the honey.

Obviously money is necessary because (unfortunately) you can’t buy burritos with smiles (trust me, I’ve tried.) But beyond guacamole, living with money too high on the totem pole can get you into dangerous territory. I’d take the sweet truth of love, friendship or kindness any day of the week: Show me the honey, baby.

Fight for what you love.

It isn’t enough to have passion for the things you love. Whether we’re talking about people, places, things, or maybe even a passion for a way of life, if you aren’t willing to stand up for what matters for you and defend that which moves you, then there is the chance that those things could disappear, or even worse, be taken away. If it’s worth loving, it’s worth protecting; if it’s worth having, it’s worth fighting for.

Find your own answers.

Much of my twenties went down to chasing lifestyles, cities and achievements that I thought I was supposed to want. But no matter where I lived, what cool bar I hung out at or how many stiletto heels I tried on, I was never fundamentally happier for the efforts. I thought I could adopt the life choices that worked for other people (choices our culture deemed cool and desirable) and have them work for me, but that was never going to happen. Ultimately, I had to find my own answers. Hell, in some cases I even had to write my own questions in order to create a life that would truly make me happy.

Check out past DESIGN YOUR LIFE interviews.

flor rug GIVEAWAY!
June 23rd, 2010     |    LifeStyle

Oh man! Today I have HUGE giveaway for you all! Are you familiar with the rug company, Flor? You might have seen their floor tiles online, in their catalog or stores, or even in the CB2 store like me. I’ve been scoping out these modern rugs since last year when I moved to my new apartment. Due to budget constraints and the inability to pick just one style, I’d been putting off the decision making process… Until they reached out and offered to gift me and one lucky MML giveaway winner the rugs of our choice!

Today the Flor team is here to help all of us in the process of making our spaces reflect our intentions. Scroll below to see a sample of their awesome variety, learn a bit more about the tiles themselves, and to see the giveaway details.

What a great way to add interest to a hallway.

What Flor Says About the Tiles:

At FLOR, we make design-inspired carpet squares that come in a range of vivid colors, rich textures, and modern styles that all coordinate together to create custom designs that are as original as you.

FLOR squares assemble together easily with patented FLORdotsâ„¢ – no nails, padding or glue – so they’re removable, washable and replaceable.

FLOR squares are made with varying degrees of renewable and recycled materials and are designed to be among the lowest VOC emitting products in the residential flooring industry.  And, when FLOR has lived its useful life, you can return the squares to us to be recycled through our Return & Recycle Program, ensuring that no FLOR products end up in a landfill.

How much fun would this be in a kids room?

What a great neutral. Not to mention that is an adorable Westie statue. (Leave it to me to notice the Westie.)

Thanks to the amazingly kind folks at Flor, this herringbone pattern (suspiciously similar to chevron…) is going to become my new office rug in my apartment this fall. Love.

Giveaway Details

Visit the FLOR website, shop around, and then come back to this post and leave a comment mentioning the FLOR tiles you would choose if you won the giveaway and where you will use them. 

To comment twice, submit photos as well of the space you’d like to use the tiles on the Flor Facebook fan page add the link to the photo on the second comment to get to chances to win the rug of your choice.

The winner will be chosen on June, 30th. The winner has 30 days to claim their prize.  Giveaway does NOT include the following products: Best of Both Worlds or Shaggy Sheep. Shipping to the Continental US residents only. All FLOR™ photographs courtesy of FLOR™.

Jess LC strategy session: june 2010
June 22nd, 2010     |    Business AdviceLife

Good morning! Today I’m adding something new to MML- a video series called the Jess LC Strategy Session. The goal of these videos will be to give you a behind the scenes look at what is going on at Jess LC right now and in the next few weeks to come. Rather than learn a lesson and share the experience in a blog post like the Designing a Business with Intention posts, this is a more minute-to-minute account of upcoming events.

Hopefully these peeks are helpful for other small business owners and for those who love Jess LC and want to learn more about how we’re growing.

After you watch the video, let me know what you think!


Good morning! I hope you all had a great weekend. I’d like to thank you all again for the incredible support you’ve given me last week regarding some of the most difficult things I’ve gone through in the past year. And knowing that you’ve all ‘got my back’ in such an incredible way is actually driving me to take more risks in my life – I’m emboldened by the freedom that comes with putting myself out there and feeling accepted as I am. The fact that my openness and honesty might help others also feels incredibly rewarding. So thank you.

This week I’m going to go back to more “regularly scheduled programming.” Today we have an awesome interview with the very cool Chicago t-shirt company Scared Panda (who has a giveaway at the bottom of this post). I’ll also be sharing a bit more of the day-to-day strategy I have for Jess LC this week as well. And I have the biggest giveaway I’ve ever done here on MML coming up on Wednesday. Trust me, you are gonna want to stick around for that one.


Interview with Katie of Scared Panda

Tell us about Scared Panda and how you came up with the name, Scared Panda.

We wanted to choose a name that was unusual, something that would stand out. Everyone loves pandas so we decided to go with Scared Panda. It made us laugh and we thought it would probably have the same effect on others.

Can you explain the Tamale Guys in Chicago and the Twitter app? Did this help spur on the t-shirt company?

Chicago is full of late night eating spots – you can find nearly anything from tacos to pizza to sandwiches. My favorite late night snack, however, are tamales from Claudio, one of Chicago’s two tamale guys. He goes around from bar-to-bar delivering fresh, delicious tamales. He doesn’t have a set schedule, so you never know when or where he’s going to show up. When he does, though, he’s usually greeted with cheers from excited and hungry patrons.

About a year and a half ago, my boyfriend Clint and I were out with our friends and a few of us had a craving for tamales. Our friend Matty mentioned that it would be nice if there was a way to track the tamale guy so people would know where to find these delicious late-night snacks when they got hungry.

That same weekend, Clint (who is a software engineer) spent a few hours developing the Tamale Tracker and it took off from there. About a month or two later, Clint did some interviews for the Chicago Tribune and Outside the Loop Radio and then it really blew up. Last fall, one of our friends mentioned that we should create a shirt about the tamale guy, so we did. Clint and I put our heads together and decided we wanted to do something more than just create one shirt. We both love to travel and learn about local cultures and so we thought, why not share other unique perspectives of Chicago?

Why did you decide to incorporate local causes in the t-shirt profits?

I’ve always been very passionate about giving back to the community – it’s important to me that the work I do does good for others. Clint has the same philosophy so it was natural that we both agreed to give back to local nonprofits. Our main goal with Scared Panda isn’t to make a lot of money selling t-shirts, it’s to share perspectives of different cities and give back to those local communities. We want to translate the love for Chicago (and eventually other cities) that so many people have into support for nonprofits who have an impact in the city.

What has been the most important thing you’ve done for the business’ success thus far?

Being genuine. Scared Panda reflects who I am on an incredibly deep level and I’m very open about that. We love to connect with people and to build relationships and I think our excitement and passion comes through when we talk about Scared Panda and connect with local artists, nonprofits and the business community. Like everything I do in life, I’ve just jumped in head first with optimism, passion and love for life. I think that comes through in everything we do.

Where to you envision Scared Panda in one year?

We are working on some exciting new designs and ideas for Scared Panda right now. One year from now, we’d like to have a presence in multiple cities – starting with the ones we are more familiar with – New York, Minneapolis, San Francisco and a few others. Of course we are planning on building more relationships with nonprofits that are close to our hearts. We hope to inspire others to use their creativity to give back to their communities, to embrace other cultures and to always seek out perspectives other than their own. Some of the best things I’ve discovered in life have been a result of changing the way I see things. One of my favorite quotes is from Wayne Dyer and it says: “When you change the way you see things, the things you see change.” To me, that’s what life is all about, changing, learning, discovering. I hope, with these t-shirts, to spread a little bit of that around.


To enter to win the Scared Panda t-shirt of your choice, simply hop on over to the Scared Panda site and leave a comment here mentioning the t-shirt you like the most. The winner will be randomly chosen on Monday, June 28th.

piper’s dream report: week seven
June 18th, 2010     |    Life

I’m so glad to hear that I’m not alone in sometimes feeling like the grass is greener on the other side.  And as so many of you pointed out – it especially feels that way when we’re online.  Because honestly we can all put our best foot forward  online and so I think it can feel as if people who we admire or we feel are living out their dreams never have any struggles or challenges.  Which is so not true.  And I think it’s something important to remember.  I definitely need to stop thinking that the people I admire for living their dream somehow have it easy or have all the magical answers.  I think that just ends up stopping me in my tracks and thinking “why bother”!

So with this new thinking in place, here’s how my week went.  I was determined this weekend to combat my giant and now ever-growing to-do list.  Note to self:  going out the Friday evening before and getting up at 10am doesn’t start the day off on the right foot.  Once I had some coffee in me though, I got to work.  Sat myself down at the computer…and just stared.  Where to even start?  I’ve been working on this for so long…yet I don’t feel like I have much to show for it.  Everyone keeps asking me things like “do you have your logo yet?”  Nope.  “Is your website being built?”  Nope.  Which is so frustrating…because I’ve been running myself ragged working on this…it’s just that it’s nothing tangible yet.  It’s still a lot of brainstorming and compiling products and images and trying to answer questions.

Like the questions the consultant had for me after I sent off my catalog of product images.  I think there was a part of me that felt like I worked darn hard compiling this catalog of artists and designers.  And you know what I wanted in return?  Have you ever taken one of those online quizzes where you pick a color you’re drawn to and it spits out what your personality is and what career you should follow?  Well, that’s what I wanted!  Here are my ideas of products I would like to carry…now spit out my business plan, tell me which products will sell and oh, while you’re at it, tell me what my branding should be.  But sadly it doesn’t work that way.  And if it does…it costs money and it’s more than I can afford to spend right now!

So we’re back to the questions.  Like the one that has become my absolute nemesis.  “So what kind of business are you starting?” Oh, I can’t tell you how much I hate that question.  Why?  Because for some reason I have a difficult time answering it.  I stammer my way through it “oh, um, it’s going to be an online store that will sell homewares, oh, and personal accessories like jewelry and handbags.  Oh, and it’ll be things that are by indie designers, so not mass produced items.  Oh and it’ll be a great place to shop for gifts.”  Not very exciting, is it?

I have been struggling with my elevator pitch for awhile now (again reading and reading everything I can get my hands on)  I’m not a writer – I’m not great at conveying my thoughts through words.  I’m a visual person.  Too bad I can’t just have flashcards of images at the ready when people ask that question!  But it is something that I need to work on so that I can confidently and excitedly describe my store.  I think I realized why I can’t quite describe it…because I have so many ideas and haven’t confidently decided – this is EXACTLY what I’m doing..  So how do I take all these ideas and images and products and figure out what that equals?  Because these days it’s all about branding.  What’s your brand?  What’s your aesthetic?  This is the part that makes me want to pull my hair out.  It’s all in my head and in images I’ve collected and in the ideas I have…now how do I get it to become my brand?  That’s a bit where I am right now.  I feel like my next steps, like working with a logo & web designer, can’t happen until I can explain what I’m doing.

Since I tend in my thinking to go the “glass half-empty” route and tell you all the things that I don’t know or have ready yet…I thought I’d flip this around and think of the things that I do know!

I know that it will be an actual online store rather than a curated gallery.  I thought this through and realized that since my dream was to have a brick & mortar store, I would like to continue this feel online and actually carry the products and be able to package them in my own personal way.

I have a fun concept for my online store that I’m really excited about.  (I can’t share too much about it yet – but I will as the time comes closer!).  The question now is figuring out how to accomplish it!

I have a large selection of artists and designers that I love and would like to carry in the store.  I just need to narrow this down!!

I have a definite aesthetic to the products I like and have chosen…I just don’t know how to describe it yet!  Is “cozy, fun modern” a term??

In order to answer the other questions, I’ve started to think that maybe I need some time to breathe and relax.  I’ve been going non-stop for 6 months now…and that doesn’t leave time for creative thinking and just having fun with all these ideas.  My life has been lived via my to-do list for a long time now…”what’s next on my list” has become my mantra.  I’m starting to think I need a day (or 2 or 3) of not starting at the computer or working on my to-do list and letting myself have a chance to just develop these ideas. Maybe journal or do something creative – something that will allow all these thoughts in my head to have a chance to develop, so that I can confidently say “this is exactly the type of store I’m opening and what my brand is!”

And I just have to say THANKS – I can’t even begin to tell you how much your comments/advice/ideas each week mean to me and how they keep me going!

(images above were taken by me from the Made in the 216 event)

my struggle with weight: part two
June 17th, 2010     |    Life

As I mentioned yesterday in the Part One of this post, I have spent the last nine years of my life thinking about my weight and food more than anything else. I split the time almost equally going in both extremes of eating too little and too much. What was once a restrictive diet evolved into a emotional eating habit. Both were terrible in different ways, but at the same time, each led to the same result: I was miserable, and I was trying to escape bigger issues in my life by focusing on something more manageable. I distracted myself from heartbreaking events by creating a “designated problem” – my weight.

Luckily, I have gradually taken steps to get myself out of this mess I made for myself. None of these realizations came easily. And every step was necessary for me to finally reach the point I’m at currently: free from the bondage of weight. Below I’ll explain the steps leading from binge eating in college (there was a period of time where I couldn’t sleep with chocolate in my room – it had to be eaten that day) to eating naturally.

I Curbed the Emotional Eating

This step was incredibly tough, in fact, it took a few years. In the beginning, when difficult or uncomfortable thoughts came to mind, I would “feel” hungry and would begin to eat. Often, I would eat until I was incredibly uncomfortably full. I didn’t have a grasp on what satiated really meant for me. After a binge like this, whether it be privately in my dorm room or after eating with friends at Olive Garden, I would double my pain: not only did I still have the same uncomfortable feelings I had before, but I then felt guilty about eating too much food.

Slowly, I began to recognize when I was binging while I was eating. And eventually that step led to identifying the urge to binge before eating. And ever so gradually I started to find ways to distract myself from the urge to binge. After that, I came to a point where binge eating didn’t come to mind when facing something difficult.

Here’s a poem I read back in college that helped me see this process clearly:

I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in.
I am lost…
I am helpless.
It is not my fault.
It takes forever to find my way out.
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don’t see it.
I fall in.
I can’t believe I am in the same place.
But it isn’t my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it there.
I still fall in…It’s a habit.
My eyes are open.
I know where I am.
It is my fault.
I get out immediately.
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.
I walk down another street.

– Portia Nelson

I Tried to “Healthfully” Lose the Last 10 Pounds

Once I had a more normal view on the emotionally eating and restricting calories, I admittedly did drop 10 of the extra 20 pounds I had gained in college. But I was still quietly determined to get back to my “goal” weight range (which I asked my doctor to tell me, I didn’t trust my own judgment with something like that anymore). During this period I tried eating smaller portion sizes, using a nutritionist’s chart checking off each carb and protein I consumed, running two marathons, and setting moderate calorie ranges for myself. But the needle on the scale barely moved.

Though the emotional toll of these measures were more gentle than the extremes of my past, they didn’t free me of the obsession with weight. And because I had a healthy BMI, there was a part of me that was ashamed that I still wanted to lose the extra weight. Almost selfish. I thought that if my friends and family knew what I was trying to do they would disapprove. Or worse, that I might eventually actually get to my goal weight and plummet back down to 103 pounds again – without anyone stopping me.

Looking back on these fears, I see that they aren’t logical or even probable. But then again this fascination on my weight was not logical either. This period of my life lasted up until February of this year.

I Tried Weight Watchers and Asked for Support

In February of this year I read two stories about how bloggers lost weight using Weight Watchers online. I was inspired by the fact that both ladies had healthy BMIs and were not severely overweight, but still wanted to be at their personal best. I decided to try it myself to see if I could get the same results. And at the same time, I came out about my struggles with weight to friends. I told them my story and told them my goal was to be 5-10 pounds lighter and that if I ever reached a certain point, that they needed to say something. Setting a boundary on the weight loss goal helped me eradicate that lingering fear that I might someday be underweight again.

The Weight Watchers program itself was great. I do strongly support it for those who don’t know the basics of healthy eating or for those who do not use weight to distract themselves from bigger issues in their lives. In fact, of all the things I’ve tried in the past nine years, this is the most sound program I’ve ever done. I even lost some weight while doing it myself. But over the months I noticed that I would fluctuate between the same five pounds, no matter how many times I counted my points. And to be honest, most weeks I didn’t meet the plan’s point restrictions. When I was good, I was good. When I was bad, I was bad.

Besides the healthy habits that WW helped me form (I started eating salads again!), I think the most important outcome from this period was that my friends knew about this goal and supported me. What I thought would lead to criticism and shame actually was accepted. They didn’t care nearly as much as I thought they would. And that’s when it hit me:

Maybe this whole weight thing isn’t such a big deal after all.

Oh man, that was a huge revelation. It started to click at this point.

I Dealt With a Difficult Situation Without Using Weight to Distract Myself

At this point you might be able to connect that while I was going through this whole journey I was also processing the (impending) break up. The personal growth I made dealing with the break up was life-altering, profound, and it all happened because I didn’t use my struggle with weight to distract myself from the pain. That’s right. I learned how to cope with a heart-breaking situation head on – face to face. I cried about it, I talked to friends about it, I prayed about it.

The only thing I didn’t do was eat about it.

Once I realized that I was handling this huge challenge without using food, I realized this invisible friend of mine, “Mr. Eat This Not That,” no longer served a purpose in my life. Sure the weight obsession distracted me from difficult things in high school, but I am stronger now, I am capable of dealing with things directly. I had grown up, and forgot to exfoliate my security blanket.

Two books also helped these realizations click for me: Marianne Williamson’s A Return to Love and Geneen Roth’s Women, Food, and God.

I Fired My Ego

After I finally realized it was time to let go of this obsession with weight my ego had plenty of ammunition:

  • You could get really fat if you stop paying attention to what you eat. Fatter than ever.
  • Why do you think your body knows what to eat after nine years? Thinking about what you eat is the only way to stay in control.
  • What if you just eat candy and ice cream all day?
  • Blah, blah, blah.

Basically, it was like my ego was filibustering, stalling for time. And though I didn’t heed my ego’s fears, I did assume I needed to gracefully reach a point where I would be ready to hand my eating back to my gut/spirit/core.

But that didn’t happen.

One day last month I felt so miserable, bloated, fat, and disgusting while on Weight Watchers that I FIRED MY EGO!

I could no longer accept the crap lies it was telling me about how my “body wasn’t ready to control itself.” Given the miserable decade my ego had to “fix all my problems” by focusing on weight, and the recent failure to succeed at a tried and true method like WW, it was clear: MY EGO SUCKS AT CONTROLLING MY WEIGHT.

So at that moment, quite terrified, I prayed that my body take control of my eating. I prayed that I might eat when my body tells me I need food. And I prayed for the strength to stop eating when I was satisfied. I prayed that if I did gain weight from eating normally that I would be happy anyways. I prayed that the volume on my gut/spirit was turned up louder to drown out all the angry buzzing that was coming from my ego.

And you know what? I haven’t looked back.

What I’ve Learned While Eating Naturally

Okay, so I’m still relatively new at eating what my body tells me to – and this is why I’ve been waiting for the “right time” to talk about this here on MML. But you know what? The truth is, I am going to have to make the decision not to become obsessed or addicted to food every day of my life. And though my ego still whispers and criticizes me from time to time, trying to pull me back into the trap, I haven’t once decided “my ego knows how to eat better than my body.”

Nope. Not once.

In fact, looking at this objectively, the results are fascinating:

  • I don’t think about eating nearly as much.
  • I stop eating when I’m full.
  • I am lighter now than at anytime since the binge eating began.
  • I feel free.
  • I still workout, but I’m not obsessed about it.
  • I run to clear my head and heart.
  • I look at my body as a whole and I like what I see.
  • I face problems by praying, not eating.

So I can’t promise you all that I won’t struggle with this da*n ego/weight thing in the future. As I mentioned, it’s a daily choice. But at this point, I haven’t found an reason to put myself back in the prison cell of weight.

It’s time for me to be free and move on with my life.













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