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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.
Enjoy!

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!).

1. CREATE A VISION

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.

2. EXFOLIATE STUFF

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!

3. IDENTIFY INTENTIONS

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,

Jess!

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.

Enjoy!

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™.

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!

DETAILS ABOUT THE GIVEAWAY BELOW.

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.

Enjoy!

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.

GIVEAWAY INFO

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:
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.
II:
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.
III:
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.
IV:
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.

my struggle with weight: part one

June 16th, 2010   |   Life

I was going to wait and post this tomorrow but I’ve decided to split it into two parts instead. This post outlines my history with weight and tomorrow I’ll explain my breakthroughs.

The fact that I’m able to talk about this here on MML is in and of itself a minor miracle. This makes talking about the break up earlier this week seem like a cake walk. For the last nine years the most dominate topic on my mind has been my weight. And for the last eight and a half years, no one had a clue about this internal battle. I never discussed it, felt ashamed, and quite frankly: I was obsessive.

Writing this, I feel like I’m shining a huge spot light on the one area of my life I’ve kept cloaked in darkness for almost a decade. But the time has come to let this out in the open and move forward.

Since going through the lessons I mentioned on Tuesday with the “relationship evolution” over the course of 2010, I am thrilled to say I have made remarkable headway in understanding my obsession with eating and weight. And I know I am meant to share this story because I am sure there are many, many women out there, just like me. Hopefully others will be able to relate to what I’m about to share. And more importantly, anyone else struggling with this obsession right now can know that if I’m able to shake this habit; given time, reflection, and patience they can as well.

I’d like to start by saying that my struggle with weight has never been diagnosed as an eating disorder. I never threw up food, I never spit. At no point did I receive any medical treatment. But regardless of the lack of anorexia or bulimia, I have made what I ate and weighed the most dominate topic in my life for almost 10 years.

What began as an innocent way to stay in shape between basketball seasons in high school between my freshman and sophomore year evolved into a daily obsession. By manically counting calories and logging my running miles, I lost 20 pounds that year. Looking back on this time in my life, I realize that I never intentionally decided to become obsessed about my weight. However I did eventually start monitoring my food intake in order to avoid dealing with difficult situations in my life. Rather than face difficulties head on, I unconsciously decided to think about something I could control: what went in my mouth.

Eventually a routine physical resulted in my doctor telling me that I was underweight. Everyone assumed that by just adding a few extra pieces of food on my plate or chocolate sauce on my ice cream would resolve the whole issue. And in time, I did just that: I ate a bit more and everyone thought things were back to normal.

But the reality was this: I learned weighing so little was bad– so I simply raised the bar on my weight goal and maintained the same frantic obsession, just at a new, “healthier” level. The purpose of the calorie counting and running was still the same: to distract myself from difficult situations. And whether I was 103 pounds or 123 pounds, I could maintain the same frantic focus as before. I just looked healthier while I was doing it.

While in college, I had many points where I was at a healthy weight, but I continued to manically monitor calories and exercise. I continued to think about the weight as a project that constantly needed attention. If I felt out of control in this area of my life, it seemed as if everything could crumble.

Until I hit a breaking point. During my junior year (right before my purpose, MML), I faced one of the most difficult challenges in my life. And rather than manically obsess about eating and working out, I did the following:

I manically obsessed about eating and working out WHILE binge eating.

This terrible combination of trying to restrict and permit at the same time was incredibly devastating and I gained 20 pounds above my naturally ideal weight for my size/frame in about six months. During the day I would do my best to eat the same restrictive calorie count I did for years before, but when feeling upset at night, I would eat candy bars from the dorm snack shop: three at a time. It was a terrible cycle. In the morning I would try to eat “perfectly” – only to find myself emotionally and physically ravenous at night. These binges again served the same purpose as the restricting did in high school: while binging I couldn’t think about my problems. And for this reason, it served the same purpose and goal, just in a very different form.

Fortunately there is a positive ending to this story, I’ll explain more tomorrow.

a quick thank you

June 16th, 2010   |   Life

Today I’m going to take a breather and prepare a post that is going up tomorrow which bares another huge lesson I’ve learned over the past eight months. I’m also going to take the time to respond in email to all of the wonderful comments from Monday and Tuesday. I cannot thank you enough for your support.

My hope is that by baring one of the biggest challenges in my life tomorrow, I can help others facing the same struggle. In the course of this week I’ll have then laid out all the cards on the table for you all. I’m finding that the more I am transparent here on MML and share the good that has come out of my hardships, the more I might actually be able to help others. And that’s the whole point.

soc chic all week giveaway winner

June 15th, 2010   |   Style

Congrats to Natalie and all other eight Soc Chic All Week Giveaway winners! Your necklaces are going out in the mail later this week.  : )

insights from the break up

June 15th, 2010   |   Life

First, I’d like to thank you all for your incredibly kind, supportive comments yesterday about my break up. I felt like I got a huge hug from you all and I cannot explain how appreciative I am of your kind words.

After re-reading yesterday’s post, I realized that it might appear as if I’ve glided through the last eight months on a cloud of understanding and ease; maintaining a sense of well-being and big picture perspective every step of the way. But in fact, the opposite was often true. I struggled with this. A lot. Privately. I never expected this to happen.  And though the pain and hurt was overwhelming at times, I characteristically did (eventually) start asking myself, what am I meant to learn from all of this?

So basically what I am trying to say is that I’ve felt the whole range of possible emotions about this mutual decision – just like everyone would. But what is deeper than all of my pain was the faith that has served me in growing Jess LC and MML: I deeply believe that everything serves a purpose in my life. And over time, I started to seek out wisdom and grow as much as possible in this situation. And boy, did I have a lot to learn! Take a look.

Though I tip-toe around the idea of God here on MML, I cannot honestly explain what I’ve learned from this experience without touching on this subject. I think each person has their own evolving view on God which is entirely personal. My understanding of God is primarily spiritual, and I expose myself to teachings from a variety of sources including college courses and books on Confucianism and Buddhism, Anthony DeMello‘s teachings, A Course In Miracles, Joyce Meyer, my Catholic childhood, and the local Lutheran church I go to on Sundays. I find that the universal truths inherit in all of these teachings create a broad base for my personal beliefs. Throughout these past eight months, I’ve exposed myself to some form of spiritual teaching everyday – whether it be in the form of a book, podcast, or tv show. This habit helped me to keep a bigger picture perspective even on the toughest of days.

I also began to pray. Though I have always been very philosophical about spirituality, my prayers have now become very active – I need help in each moment to remember the greater purpose this is serving in my life. And though it’s not always easy, prayer has helped me realize that I don’t need to have all the answers. But I can have faith that things are working out in my favor and that God is going to make this happen for the best. I’ve learned to give God control of my life and learn to follow his lead.

I touched on my evolving understanding of my ego and spirit a few weeks ago. What I began to realize through this break up is that I had two thought sources. One seemed to come from just inside my ear and the other came from my gut. The ear/ego thoughts were generally painful and emotional and started with “I think” and the gut/spirit thoughts were calm and started with “I know.” Since my ego had expectations and attachments to what it thought our future was going to be, it was incredibly upset that life was not going according to it’s plan. But my gut at the same time knew that what was best for one of us was best for us both.

This distinction between the ego and spirit has since been incredibly transformational in all areas of my life.  After eight months of observation, I can now distinguish when a thought is coming from my ego or my spirit. Then I do my best to choose the course of action that is aligned with the spirit. If I’m having trouble shaking an ego urge, then I pray to my spirit for help. I’m nowhere close to perfect at this but I am improving day by day.

At this point in time (remember, it’s been an eight month process), I’ve come to feel very optimistic about the future for us both. When the ego has the urge to get upset, angry, hurt, or bitter, I can’t take it very seriously. Because beyond that pain I trust that my future is bright whether we are together or not. The relationship itself was never the source of the good in my life, but rather an extension or by-product of doing my best and pursuing my purpose. And though my vision of my life included this relationship, I now feel like I’m off-roading on the path I’ve laid out for myself. I still have the same goal in mind: to help people design a life with intention. But how I will get there seems to be a different course than the one I imagined. And I submit my vision to God for his own revisions. I have faith that God’s plan for my life is much greater than I can imagine, so I’m not trying to fill in all the blanks anymore.

I also have an innate knowledge that I’m also not “losing” anything with this break up. Since we both still love one another, we are incredibly close and after some time apart to acclimate to living on our own, I’m confident that we will remain friends. Though the relationship is no longer going to be boyfriend/girlfriend, it itself will not vanish. The friendship will endure. And I also see there is an even greater opportunity for me to go out there and pursue my goals for Jess LC and MML.

Granted, there will probably be a period of grieving, but the long-term outlook is positive.

Given that we still have a healthy, loving relationship and will live with one another for the next two and a half months, this situation seems surreal. In fact, my ego doesn’t understand it at all. If I think too much about how wonderful we are together, I become sad about the split in September. If I think too much about the exciting things in store in the future (decorating a new apartment!), the next two and a half months feel like an eternity. So what I’ve learned to do is embrace the paradox. I don’t need to be “logical” about this and choose one sentiment or the other. I can be simultaneously happy about the relationship now, and happy about the future being on my own. Though my ego rails against this inconsistency, my spirit embraces it. The trick is to be present in each moment. My life is positive now and it will be positive then. No need to make things any more complicated than that in this moment.

Phew. As you can see, I’ve done a whole lot of work on this. But as they say, hard work pays off and little by little I’ve done the best I can and prayed when I can’t.

Good morning! First, I’d like to thank you so much for all of your tremendous support last week with the Soc Chic giveaway. Across all nine giveaways we had over 2,116 comments submitted to win the necklaces. Incredible!

My intention here on MML this week is to share the “tough stuff” I’ve been alluding to the past few months. I’m ready to get everything out in the open so I can move on feeling understood and completely authentic. Over the past few weeks, I’ve felt the time has come to update you all in the most non “Live Journal” or emo way possible. The goal is to share the lessons I’ve learned so that I might help others in similar situations.

The Evolution of My Relationship

Though Erwin and I have a healthy, loving relationship, we have decided that we are going to get separate apartments at the end of our lease in September – and evolve the relationship to friendship. Until that point, we are continuing to stay in the relationship and enjoy the time we have together.

As you may know, Erwin and I have been together since the last semester of college, which was three and a half years ago. We both graduated from the University of Michigan in 2007 and moved to Chicago that fall. We have lived together for our entire post-college lives. His humor, laid-back nature, and kind spirit have been incredibly powerful in my life. During the most difficult parts of growing my business full-time after graduation, he was a constant support. And at the core of our relationship, we have a deep love and friendship that has helped us navigate the many transitions from school to career.

This conclusion to split up has come to us slowly over the past eight months. And I’ve grown immensely during the process both spiritually and emotionally. (Remember the No Complaint String, Happy For No Reason, and ego vs. spirit? Yep, they are all lessons I’ve learned from this experience.) We are finding ourselves at different points in our lives and feel it is best to take time to be on our own, to grow independently, and to see what life has in store for us around the corner.

I feel incredibly blessed, excited, and thankful that I have been able to create such a personally fulfilling balance between the Jess LC and my mission: helping people design a life with intention. In fact, your support and encouragement here on MML has given me courage and a sense of purposeful satisfaction that I feel lucky to have at this point in my life. So though I don’t know what my life will be like after September, I know great opportunities will come and I have nothing to fear.

And though it initially broke my heart to imagine a life without Erwin as my boyfriend, I know, deep in my spirit, that this evolution is best for us both. Since we are parting on such peaceful terms, we intend to stay friends and support one another in the future. Admittedly my ego has fears that this might not be possible. However I also remember that given time, and how well we’ve navigated this decision to this point, it seems completely within our grasp. We are not parting for any short-term satisfaction, but rather for our long-term best interests.

Tomorrow I’ll be back to share the life lessons I’ve learned from this relationship evolution. In the meantime, thanks for listening.

piper’s dream report: week six

June 11th, 2010   |   Life

Where to start, there’s so many things I want to talk about and share.  I wanted to tell you all about my week and what I worked on (and the ups and downs associated with that!!).  But then I realized that I also want to share with you some thoughts I’ve been having because I wonder if you’ve had them too.


I spent the week and weekend working hard to narrow down all the artists and designers I had compiled.  I printed out images of products from all the artists and designers I would like to carry in the store and then spread them out across our dining room table.  In theory this seems like it would be fun (which it was!)…but the reality is that I spent days and days trying to figure out which products should stay and which need to go…and after all that time I only ended up narrowing it down to 50 artists!  What am I opening, a mini West Elm?!   (well, I’d certainly like too…but I don’t think it’s in my budget to do so!!)

So I was stuck and this made me doubt myself.  So instead of mustering through, I started distracting myself by reading articles about people who have achieved their dreams.  Which led me to say something I’ve said for years but never realized how truly powerful it is (and not in a good way!).  It’s a simple statement but powerful.  “I wish I could be them”

Wow, right?  I’ve done it for years (and even my husband and friends have called me out on it)  And honestly, it’s not something I truly mean – I love my life.  But I’ve always had that thought that the grass is way greener over in the successful entrepreneur’s yard.  Like they all got some special fertilizer that us normal folks didn’t.  And this special fertilizer gave them all the tools they needed to live out their dreams.


So for years I have poured over any magazine article that even remotely talks about people who are living their dreams or who have done something with their passion.  I’ve ripped these articles out and have kept them in a file for inspiration.  I’ve even managed to read through an impressive number of books by people who are living their dream or encouraging others to do the same.  I’ve collected these articles and instead of really focusing on what they were saying, I would just think to my self “Wouldn’t it be great to be them?”

I even started an interview series on my blog called “Taking the Leap” where I interview entrepreneurs, artists, bloggers, you name it, to find out how they started and what advice they can share.  And I’ve looked to all these people and again felt like if I could just get a hold of this special thing they all have, then I could finally live out my dream.

But through blogging and telling my story here and hearing from Jess (who constantly inspires me!) and the people I’ve interviewed, something clicked this week for me.  I actually was hearing what they were saying.  And guess what I was finally hearing?  They’re all human and have worries and challenges just like the rest of us!  The only difference is that they don’t let those things stop them.  That’s the amazing part!  And what I should have been focusing on all these years!


There’s nothing magical that they’ve been given…they just keep taking action and moving forward NO MATTER WHAT.  Even if it’s not perfect or it’s just a small little step or they’re trying something new…they take action.  They don’t let things get in the way of pursuing their dream.  And you know what’s even more interesting to me?  They don’t have all the answers!  I’ve always assumed that successful entrepreneurs magically know how to do things and know everything about their business.  But the more I’m learning from them, the more I’m finding out that they don’t necessarily know the answers…but that doesn’t stop them from moving forward.  While I find if I don’t know the answer, I feel stuck and doubt myself.  But they seem to know what their strengths and weaknesses are and they accept that at face value and move on.

And so this week I did something uncharacteristic of me…without it being perfect by any means and with all 50 artists on there, I sent the “pseudo catalog” I created of all the product lines I’m thinking of carrying to the consultant.  Basically I admitted I need some help and guidance.  And maybe that’s part of what it takes to be an entrepreneur.  Even though I feel kind of disappointed in myself for not having all the answers, I got myself unstuck.  The consultant emailed back with some questions for me and some thoughts for me to consider and that helped to get me moving again.  Of course the questions and thoughts she had for me are still unanswered things for me to figure out…so it feels a bit like climbing a mountain, getting to the top and then finding out it’s just the first hill.  Things like branding and the feeling and aesthetic I’m trying to convey through my store…and still getting my artists narrowed down!  So I’m still feeling overwhelmed.  But I’m trying to remember what clicked for me this week…I have to at least act like an entrepreneur and keep taking action no matter what!  And the best part…I met last week’s goal!  This week’s goals are:

● Continue narrowing down product lines

● Start working on answering questions regarding what I want my store to look & feel like, the overall aesthetic and who my customer may be.

I would love to know your thoughts – do you ever find yourself thinking the grass is greener?

featured on the “it” list!

June 11th, 2010   |   Life

Thanks to Jill from The Good Life For Less for featuring the Soc Chic All Week Giveaway. FYI today’s your last day to enter :).

theitlist

We have a SUPER fab line-up this week gals… as I was compiling the “it” list I kept saying, “…that is my favorite… no, no, this one has got to be the best… wait, wait, I just love this one!” Take some time today or this weekend to visit each of these brillz blogs – you won’t be sorry!
  • Jess of jesslc and makeundermylife is hosting one (or NINE!) hot giveaways this week (it ends today so scoot on over bunnies!)… Five Days, Nine Blogs, Nine Giveaways. The best part – there is a great cause behind these fun necklaces!
  • the pretty bee has me *buzzing* over this doily wall art! I even had to get the behind the scenes details on pricing (you know me!) – the objects of my affection cost less than $2.00 at the fabric store. Don’t miss this!
  • the good life for less reminds you that the Summer looks:book is up and ripe for the picking! It’s all the wardrobe inspiration that you will need to get you to fall.
  • where is the me in mommy rounds up Father’s Day gift ideas (which reminds me…. I need to get on that.)
  • do. think. wear. see. love. dream. is inspired by Sundance… so she shops her own closet to achieve the look. LOVE THIS. Also, she offers new readers a re-cap on what’s up at her blog… what a good idea! She’s a doll, just a doll…
  • a spot of whimsy is inspired to throw a beach themed party… and after reading that post, I am too. She has captured the essence of “beach” perfectly.
  • karina, ink in all her craftiness takes dollar bin finds and makes them into a memento display. She makes it looks so easy… always.
  • one hundred inspirations brings us January Jones’ simple & chic summer look for less than $70. Nice. Very nice.
  • sweetie pie pumpkin noodle whips up an outfit inspired by this sunset and it’s drop.dead.
  • merci, blah, blah rounds up, hands down, the most glamorous selection of chandeliers I have ever seen. I’ll take one, or a million, of each.
  • one sweet find has me dreaming of champagne hot air balloon rides. Swoon….

Interested in being featured on the “it” list? Small businesses, retailers and bloggers alike are welcome to join this weekly publication! email goodlifeforless (at) gmail.com for info!

Phew! It’s been quite the whirlwind for me in the last 36 hours. Seeing the Nate Berkus Show pre-taping yesterday was amazing with Alaina and Crystal. We had such a great time that we decided to continue the day by getting Mexican food (I’m currently obsessed with fish tacos) and then drinking wine and brainstorming for an upcoming project. By the time I got home, I’d been gone a total of 12 hours from 9:30a to 9:30p. I hung out with Erwin for twenty or so minutes, and promptly went to bed.

Upcoming Collection: Franklin (intentional message necklaces)

This morning I’ve been playing catch up on yesterday’s emails (some amazing opportunities are popping up more and more!) and Susie and I just decided which color combinations are being photographed for the new intentional necklaces you all helped me create. I can’t wait to share the necklace images with you all. From the reaction I’ve gotten so far from people who have seen the necklaces in person, I have a feeling this will be my biggest collection ever. Though I can’t show the actual necklace design online yet (we have a super exciting retailer thinking about ordering them first), I can tell you which phrases you all commented and voted upon. Each necklace will incorporate one of the five phrases in a non-obvious way:

  • Be Brave
  • Dream Bigger
  • Be Present
  • Be Thankful
  • Breathe

I personally can’t stop wearing my Be Present necklace and find that it’s gentle reminder is even more helpful than I had anticipated.

Soc Chic All Week Giveaway

I also want give a quick reminder that there is one more day left for the Soc Chic All Week Giveaway! Comment on the participating blogs for your chance to win one of a each of the Soc Chic necklaces.

Okay, I’m usually a pretty predictable blogger (in my opinion) with the DESIGN YOUR LIFE interviews faithfully airing each Thursday. But lately I’ve been thinking about lessening the regularity of this series until the fall. Blame it on the nice weather, the stuff on my very full plate, or just a bit of a pause for new growth here on MML. Not that I know specifically what the new growth will look like… just leaving the options open.

Designing a Business with Intention: Time Off and Field Trips

Today I’d like to talk about my intentions towards business and taking time off. When I first moved to Chicago and started Jess LC full-time, I found creating a work schedule incredibly perplexing. How many days off should I take while unpacking before working everyday? When should I start work each morning? When should I stop working? If Erwin or my other friends with “real jobs” have X number of vacation days, should I have the same number myself?

I know that my younger self wasn’t alone in these organizational debates because as each of my friends begin their own businesses, they ask me the same questions.

Over the years I’ve learned to trust the rhythm of my work flow and to take days off when needed (and not needed). A few vacation periods are obvious for me: Christmas, New Years, Thanksgiving, and most weekends. But there are other times that I also recognize that I need to relax and step back. And I’m even getting pretty good at mixing some “vacations” with business. Take this summer for example: I’m heading out sometime in July to see my parents and youngest brother in Pennsylvania. These four days will be all about relaxing, shopping at an awesome J.Crew outlet, and doing a Jess LC trunk show for my mom’s bunco group. Then I’ll take a train into New York City to stay with a friend and try to schedule a few “desk sides” (showing my new line to magazine editors in their offices, at their desks) as well as meet my new PR team in person. Heck, I’m even going to meet up with as many of my blog friends in NYC as possible. This hybrid business-personal trip is perfect for me because it allows me to take time off without really “abandoning” my shop.

Another form of relaxation comes in the form of “field trips.” Yep, similar to the trips we had when we were back in grade school. I’ve decided that I need to take advantage of my self-employment and recognize the power that comes with creating my own schedule. I hold myself liable to enjoy the flexibility I’ve afforded through entrepreneurship. I can’t blame “my boss” for my lousy attitude, burnt out brain, or unhealthy workload. I am therefore responsible for making sure I enjoy this life and company I have to the fullest. No guilt required.

And so every few months, I take field trips. In the past I’ve taken the day off to go to a museum with a friend, go to Six Flags with Erwin, or even to go shopping. In fact, the inspiration for this post comes from the field trip I’m taking today: watching an early taping of the upcoming Nate Berkus Show at Harpo Studios with Crystal of Plush Palate and Alaina of Live Creating Yourself. It’s going to be a great day away from my desk enjoying two of my favorite things; good friends and good design.

The work will still be there tomorrow, and I’ll be more refreshed when I’m doing it.

First, I’d like to say that I’m sorry that I seem to have bowed out a bit in the last few weeks on the blog in terms of personal updates and so forth. Though I haven’t done it intentionally, I’ve been going through a lot of personal changes lately and I have been working through some tough stuff, which I’ll be discussing in the weeks and months to come. As I have been going through these shifts, I’ve kept it to myself. Once I’ve learned the lessons, I will report back. And I have to say, though things haven’t been easy, they have been incredibly powerful and ultimately, will bring positive change to my life.

Anyways, my intention is to now to inject a bit more of my day to day activities into blog post intros so that if you’re even mildly interested on what I’m working on, you’ll be a bit more in the know (though I already do a pretty good job with personal updates on Twitter, @JessConstable).

Designing a Business with Intention: Soc Chic

Okay, so now, let’s get down to business. Literally.

Given that this week is the huge Soc Chic All Week Giveaway, it’s the perfect time to discuss how Soc Chic started and why I have created this necklace line to benefit social causes. Below I’ll break down how things got started and why it works.

The Genesis of Soc Chic

Believe it or not, this social cause line of necklaces began by accident. While I was in college, I created a fortune cookie necklace with a red stone and nicknamed it the “Lucky In Bed Necklace” since it combined the lucky Chinese color, red, with the longstanding tradition of adding “in bed” to the end of fortune cookie messages. Given my target audience at the time, college women, it was a huge success and by far my best-seller for several years.

In November of 2007 I decided to train for a marathon with Team In Training. In order to participate, I needed to raise a considerable amount of money (about $3,000) for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Since a close family member survived Lymphoma several years earlier, I had a personal connection to the cause which propelled me past the fear of raising the substantial sum during a very lean time in my business.

I immediately decided to create a necklace that would benefit my fundraising and the cause. At that point, the Silver Lining necklace was born. It was an instant hit.

After running my first marathon in Nashville(!), I decided to help other runners fundraise by letting them sell the necklaces to their supporters. Soon after, Bright Pink, a local non-profit, heard about the Silver Lining necklace and asked to have their own design made to support their cause in a similar manner. We named Bright Pink’s necklace the Pink Lemonade necklace. It too, was a success.

At this point, I recognized that I was easily able to help causes raise money doing something that I knew best; designing cute necklaces with positive messages. So I decided to open the line up to a variety of causes helping them raise money and awareness through the Soc Chic collection whose tag-line is “chic necklaces benefiting social causes.”

How Soc Chic Works

The structure of the Soc Chic necklace collection is pretty simple. They are sold through stores, jesslc.com, and the non-profits themselves. Here’s how it works:

Wholesale (boutique) Orders – 10% of the wholesale price is donated to the cause.

Retail (jesslc.com) Orders – 10% of the retail price ($4) is donated to the cause.

Non-Profit Orders – 40% of the retail price ($16) is donated to the cause.

The causes who work with us are not required to pay any fees for the creation of their custom necklace. We do however request that the non-profits order 50 of the necklaces in the beginning to help cover our initial expenses. Once the causes sell those necklaces to their supporters, with the 40% donation they each raise a total of $800 for their missions. Which is a win-win for everyone. After that point, all the necklaces sold continue to support the cause.

As you can see, though this wasn’t something I had a grand plan for in the beginning, it’s evolved into an amazing way to collaborate with non-profits across the country. If you are involved with a non-profit who might be interested in Soc Chic, email me at jess@jesslc.com and let me know!

Good morning! Today I’m announcing the Second Annual Soc Chic All Week Giveaway! Last year we did a massive giveaway for all the Soc Chic necklaces on a variety of blogs and this year we’ve decided to do the same!

Soc Chic All Week Rules

Between now and this Friday, June 11th, hop around to the blogs linked to the necklaces below. Each blog is giving away a different Soc Chic necklace. Which means you have nine chances to comment and win Soc Chic necklaces.

MakeunderMyLife Giveaway Necklace

Here on MML, I’m hosting the Lucky In Bed Necklace giveaway. Comment on this post mentioning your favorite Jess LC piece to enter to win this adorable fortune cookie necklace. The Lucky In Bed necklace combines the lucky Chinese color, red, with the longtime tradition of adding “in bed” to the end of fortune cookie messages. Proceeds of this necklace are currently going to our newest Soc Chic cause, paws4people.

Participating Bloggers: Thank You!

I’d also like to give a huge thank you to the wonderful bloggers participating in this year’s Soc Chic All Week. They are some of my favorite bloggers around and I hope you take a moment to see their amazing sites. Best of luck!

To enter their giveaways, click the images below to hop between their blogs and leave comments on their Soc Chic All Week Giveaways.

Giveaway Necklaces & Blog Links

piper’s dream report: week five

June 4th, 2010   |   Life

Thanks everyone for sticking with me on this journey.  It’s funny but when I get ready to write these posts I think to myself:  What should I write about this week?  What will people like to read about? (I’m a chronic people pleaser!)  And then after a few minutes, I realize that all I need to write about is what I’m experiencing – whether good or bad, exciting or dull, this is what my journey looks like and I want to make sure I’m honest about it.


So this week has been the culmination, I think, of the past 6 months or so.  Like I said last week, trying to reach my dream of having my own store has been such a roller coaster of emotions for me.  Not to mention that it takes up a lot of time.  As in A. LOT. OF. TIME!  Of course I knew going in that starting my own business would take a lot of extra time…but I don’t think I realized how tiring it could be especially while working full time at a job I dislike tremendously!  And really how little time that I have for myself and my family now.

The past 6 months have been the same routine:  alarm goes off, I play the mental “should I call off today” game, finally drag my complaining self out of bed, go to work and try desperately to get some work done on my store wishing I was anywhere but at work, come home and spend hours working on my blog and store, repeat as needed – which has become everyday and on the weekends!  And this hasn’t left much time for my husband, my dogs, my friends, my house…or myself.  And I think I’m angering the stress monster that lives inside of me!

This week has been a great example.  I could tell that the stress of working non-stop was starting to get to me.  So with the long weekend ahead of me, I thought I’d make it even longer by taking Friday off….ahh, a 4 day weekend! Think of all the things I can accomplish!  I, of course, set superwoman sized goals for myself and then finally crashed from exhaustion and stress by Sunday as I realized I’d hardly accomplished anything and I felt like I’d never get caught up.  Cue the stress monster!  It all boiled up and with tears in my eyes, I wondered if I should just give up.  Were all the doubts in my head trying to tell me something?  Am I going to fail miserably at this?  How am I going to have the time to do this?


This is when it took all the strength I had to put those thoughts aside and let myself take a much needed break.  So I took Sunday & Monday off and got a chance to relax, read, hang out with my husband and friends.  But then of course the other monster came out…guilt.

Guilt is so useless – I know this.  But it’s there.  Especially now that I’ve committed myself to starting this store.  Any moment or second that I have, I feel like I should be working on the business.  So this only leaves time for 2 things:  working on the business or stressing over and feeling guilty about the fact that I’m not working on the business.  And can I just tell you guys how tiring that is!  I know I deserve some time off or breaks now and then.  But I’m not sure how to actually take them without feeling stressed or guilty.  Especially when taking those 2 days off put me behind my schedule and now I feel like a crazy woman trying to do the impossible!

This then brings up something that’s been on my mind for a long time…what comes first, the chicken or the egg?  Okay, that’s not really what’s on my mind but it’s similar…how do I start a business while working fulltime?  Yet working fulltime provides income that I won’t have until I start the business and possibly after.  So what comes first?!


I remember reading a post of Jess’ awhile ago – and it has stuck with me ever since.  It was her post titled ‘No Plan B‘ and it has made me wonder, ever since, what it would be like to not have a Plan B.  To not have the safety of a paycheck.  To have the chance to throw myself 100%, full-force into my business, my passion, day in and day out.  Not having to split my time between work I dread, that saps my energy and work that I have passion but no time for.  Would this be the push I need – I can imagine how freeing it would feel!  But would the reality of not having a paycheck be too hard?  I have to say there’s a HUGE part of me that wants to take that leap and just quit.  Yet the practical side of me (along with our budget!) shouts “No, don’t do it”!   And that brings me back full circle – how do I start my store while working full time?

Here’s what I’ve decided to do.  It’s not a perfect plan, but it’s a step in the right direction.  I think it helps take care of both the practical side and the “let’s just quit” side of me.  I’ve set my store grand opening date.  I figure it would be best to at least have the possibility of income coming in before I quit my job, right? Having an actual online store would probably help with that!  Once I set that date, I started working backwards with what needs to be done and how long each step will take to make sure the opening date works.

And then, here’s the best part – I set my “quit date”!!  Although this is a bit of a mental game, I can’t tell you how fun it is to look at a calendar and see in big letters “PUT MY NOTICE IN AT WORK” – it’s like a dream (almost) come true!


So now instead of being a vague statement “I’m opening an online store sometime”, I can say “I’m launching the store in 3 months”!!  It feels completely scary (yet freeing and exciting at the same time) to announce this…but here’s hoping that on October 4th I can say….”My store’s opening today”!!  (I’m shooting for September 1st, but that’s coming up faster than I thought!!)

Which means I have a lot to do before October!  And honestly I’m still overwhelmed (I have yet to quiet the stress monster!) with all that needs to be done.  But I’m hoping that having a deadline and a goal will keep me focused.  And by sharing them with you guys, it’s keeping me accountable.  So, here are my goals for the next week:

● Narrow down product lines and send “catalog” to consultant (this feels impossible, btw.  I love all the products!!)

● Set up next appointment with consultant to get her opinion on product mix

I would love to know your thoughts – how do you manage working full time, starting a business & family time?

Bikini season is upon us!

Scared yet?

No need to worry. Though I’m not itching to jump into my two piece and strut my stuff on the beach, I have a way we all can feel lighter, freer, and (maybe) even sexier.

And it doesn’t involve skipping one glass of pinot grigio or ice cream cone during the hot summer months to come.

As one MML reader mentioned a few months ago, exfoliating the stuff in our homes that we no longer need, use, or love is remarkably freeing and is rather close to the feeling of losing excess weight on our bodies. So though we might not see a budge on our scales this month, we can lighten the load in our homes and make a sizable difference in the weight of our psyche.

In honor of this steamy season, I’m hosting a new challenge to replace the End of the Week Exfoliation this June. Here’s the deal: I’m looking for us all to do our best to lose some house weight. Whether you just have that “pesky last 10 pounds” or need a massive Biggest Loser-style overhaul, we all can reach our goals without breaking a sweat (pun intended).

The Guidelines

Send in photo(s) of your Summer Slim Down with a description of what you are exfoliating and why. To keep with the Summer Slim Down theme, please weigh (or guesstimate) the total “weight loss” of the items exfoliated. We’ll keep this simple and use Scouts Honor on the weight and trust that everyone will do their best to be fair and square.

The entries can emailed with the subject line “Summer Slim Down” and sent to me at jess@jesslc.com. I’ll compile all of the entries and post the submissions at the beginning of July. The winner will be the entrant who has the largest total “weight loss.” (But remember, we all can improve from where we are, and everyone will gain a sexier space.)

The Goodies

Besides a beach body abode, the winner will get a $60 Jess LC gift certificate and a great beach read, Just Don’t Call Me Ma’am by Anna Mitchael.

Let’s go forth and shed some lbs!

Today I have a real gem for all you web business owners out there! I’m sure many of you are familiar (especially if you read fashion blogs) with the awesome web clothing and lifestyle site, Modcloth.com. I have been in awe of what the founders Susan and Eric have accomplished in such a short period of time! Their company has over 100 employees and they are just 25 years-old! It literally blows my mind and expands what I think is possible for all of our web shops.

I recently had the (amazingly) good fortune of chatting with Susan by phone about how she has grown her company and gotten some realistic insights on what we can do to make our businesses successful. Since we chatted for quite a while, I wasn’t able to write down what she said word for word. Instead, I took copious notes and I have summarized her thoughts below.

Enjoy!

I love that you started your company at 17 years-old with your husband (then boyfriend), Eric. What was the vision for the company when you started?

Susan said that the site started out of her dorm room and she spent most of her time selling vintage clothing online. During one of Eric’s junior year marketing classes (they were both business majors), they did a survey of Modcloth.com customers and found that there was a large demand for vintage and new vintage inspired clothing. That later became the direction they headed in when they started to buy from current clothing companies and saw tremendous growth.

Eric handles most of the finance and business related tasks like HR and planning, while Susan stays in control of the branding, buying, and design aspects. They focused on Google rankings in the beginning, but she doesn’t see it as important today as she used to a few years ago, now that customers are looking for more “trusted resources” like review sites and blogs.

Though the company has seen outstanding growth year to year (400%-600% year to year!), they also had some tight months during their expansion in 2006/2007.

A lot of companies (myself included!) want to have a thriving online shop. What three things do you think most shop owners do wrong?

Susan said one of the main mistakes a small company can make is pretending to be bigger. Having a flashy site that appears like it has tons of employees confuses the customer when that is really not the case. She recommends making it clear on the site that the company is young or small and use it to their advantage. For example, if we are the ones filling the orders and packaging the goods, it should say that on the website. Susan feels that customers are looking for the story and aren’t afraid to buy from a young entrepreneur or a small business.

She also mentioned that companies shouldn’t try to market towards everyone and that they should know who their target customer is and really cater to that psycho-graphic. From talking to Susan during the interview, she mentioned the personality and interests of her target customer as if she was describing her a good friend. I really felt by the end of our talk that I needed to hone in on who is a “Jess LC customer” and make sure that what I did with the business really speaks to that person. For much of my own marketing is based on what I think I’d personally like and want to see as a customer, Susan seemed to have a broader perspective of who her target shopper is apart from her own personal preferences. One example of an upcoming marketing task is to create a Modcloth.com profile on Good Reads. After discussing with her marketing team, they feel strongly that their customers are interested in exchanging book recommendations and so they want to be there participating in the conversation.

The other piece of advice she had was to use social media differently for each platform. She cautioned not to use Facebook, Twitter, or blogging in the same ways but to be true to each one’s unique style of sharing and not repeat the same information on all sites. She also doesn’t feel that you can really compute a ROI (return on investment) from social media methods like blogging. To her, it’s not about blogging to get more sales it’s about investing in the community and benefiting the customer.

Along the same lines of social media, I found it fascinating that Susan talked about having a plethora of things for customers to do every day on their site, regardless of whether they have money to spend on any given day. Their initiatives like online contests and their Be the Buyer program allow customers regardless of shopping habits to interact, build their selection, and get involved. In fact, the Be the Buyer program has been such a success they are looking to expand this aspect in the future.

Now that your company is so large, what does your nomral day look like? What things do you delegate?

Susan said that she spends much of her time traveling for trade shows, visiting vendors, and buying new products for their site. When she is in the office in Pittsburgh, she spends her time going to meetings and giving final approval to marketing efforts. From time to time she also stops in to see photo shoots in progress and her evenings often involve answering emails. The thing she was most looking forward to delegating in the beginning was the writing and how they have a team of about eight writers which handle product descriptions, product naming, and blogging.

****

In summary, here’s what I took away from my conversation with Susan and how I hope to infuse some of her advice into Jess LC:

  • Continue to make sure I keep each social media platform (FB, Twitter, blogging) differently and to consider expanding my social media activities to other sites I feel Jess LC customers might be active within.
  • Define who a Jess LC customer is beyond my own personal interests and perspectives to better serve them.
  • Don’t be afraid to delegate important aspects of the business to those who are more skilled.
  • Dream bigger!

be still and giveaway giveaway winners

June 1st, 2010   |   Life

Congrats to Katherine and Kelly P. for winning last week’s Be Still and Giveaway Giveaway contests!

off the chain: may jess lc ambassadors

June 1st, 2010   |   LifeStyle

Happy June! I want to take a moment and thank all the wonderful bloggers who have asked to become Jess LC Ambassadors. I have to admit, I was surprised by the amazing response that we had right away to this idea. If you’d like to learn more about the link swap and 15% Ambassador thank you discount, read on.

As promised, here is the first batch of Ambassadors. Please check out their sites by clicking on the buttons, I’m thrilled to have so many talented, passionate woman supporting Jess LC and sharing the “designing a life with intention” mindset. Each month I plan to do a little shout out to the new Ambassadors, so email me at jess@jesslc.com if you want to become an Ambassador and also have your button up on this round-up post at the end of June.

And… I’ve got a really exciting way to thank everyone for being a part of this new Jess LC outreach when we reach 100 Ambassadors. Regardless of whether you are an ambassador or not, I have a great plan up my sleeve. Until then, I’m keeping it on the down low, but I can say it’s going to be cool.

New Jess LC Ambassadors

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