Working for Myself

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Traveling (for work and pleasure) to Pittsburgh –> Boston –> NYC over the past two weeks means:

  • Fewer blog posts
  • More adventures
  • Fewer car rides
  • More subway rides
  • Fewer dinners before 8pm
  • More New York bagels
  • Fewer meetings
  • More coffee-shop work sessions
  • Fewer voicemails returned
  • More catching up with best friends
  • Fewer clean clothes (actually, no clean clothes, unless you count brief hotel-sink spot-cleans
  • More long city walks
  • Fewer routines
  • More inspiration

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I always love getting the chance to travel, see friends, change up my routine, imagine life in a new city, eat new foods and get my brain whirring with new thoughts.

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Also so grateful to have a job that doesn’t have a countdown on “vacation days” and allows me to work from a coffee shop, hotel room, or friends’ tiny Brooklyn apartment. This working-for-myself thing really isn’t too bad.

My Keri-Smith-Inspired Mission: Follow Up

Last Monday I pledged to do something unexpected and fun every day for other people.

Each day I woke up with grandiose plans to leave notes on trees and hand out free jars of peanut butter to unexpected strangers.

Instead, each day Erika and I returned to our hotel room after a long exhausting day of sampling and my little spark was mostly gone.

So, (perhaps inspired by the many Jimmy Fallon Tonight Show episodes we’ve watched each night while catching up on computer work in our pajamas) I did the simplest magical act of all: I wrote Thank You notes.

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Three emails:

One to my favorite teacher in high school, telling her how much she inspired me.

One to a good friend who I don’t see enough (but who is always there for me).

One to my mom… because can you ever say “Thank You” to your mom too much?

It feels really great to compose a good thank-you note — to put happy thoughts out into the world, to send an email without any expectation of finished tasks or answered questions.

It’s all about the simple things.

Thanks Keri, for the inspiration (maybe next time I will put notes in trees!).

BA 101 | #3: Let’s Lawyer

I’ll make this one short and sweet: You’re never too small to be “real”.

Part of building your business (big or small) means finding a lawyer. Sure, the $300+ per hour price tag isn’t too appealing, but for a little investment up front you can avoid pitfalls down the road.

Find a lawyer who knows your space.
Ask other companies who do what you do (for us it was other natural food companies in Portland) and find out who their lawyer is. Pretty quickly you’ll get an idea of which lawyers have experience in your arena. Every industry has different quirks and roadblocks — your lawyer should be prepared for anything you’ll come across.

Make sure your lawyers know your future business plans.
Our first lawyers had the wrong impression about our plans to grow the company and the right trademark precautions weren’t taken. Had we stayed a farmers market business, we wouldn’t have faced the trademark and naming issues we did once we hit the national stage.

Spend an hour or two of time setting up the basics.
Register your company in your state, file a trademark on your name, and get a nice fat binder worth of documents. It feels good to have your house in order (and do your best to avoid a lawsuit down the line).

Sure: start now and start small. But when it comes to getting your legal affairs in order, think big, plan big.

Inspirational Lady Monday + My Next Mission

6a00d83518cb2b53ef01156fc0d218970c-500wiThe inspirational lady on this rainy Monday is artist and author Keri Smith.

Author of several amazing books and collections of thoughts (as well as creator of unique challenges and illustrations), Keri has inspired people all over the world to approach the world in a new way.

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I followed Keri’s blog obsessively back in high school and only recently-rediscovered it. The little quotes she drops into her blog are so thought-provoking.

Keri has inspired me to seek a little more unexpected, irrational magic in my life this week! Reading her blog last night made me feel excited to leave a note in a public place, wrap a gift for a neighbor I haven’t met, give strangers kind compliments… What could be better inspiration than that?

tumblr_mudr7kFaVJ1qau7j6o1_1280So, my mission for the week (I’ll be traveling, but so much the better!): Do something unexpected and fun for other people every day. I’ll report back on Sunday with the little acts of magic I have done!

Inspirational Lady Monday (on a Tuesday)

I love food blogs. Looking at photos, reading posts, cooking from them… It’s how I procrastinate (and probably why this is being posted on a Tuesday rather than a Monday…).

One of my favorite food bloggers (and one of the internet’s most popular) is Joy Wilson, of Joy the Baker.

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Being a successful food blogger in the blogosphere today is hard work: posting frequent posts, with well-tested recipes and amazing photographs, on a beautifully designed blog, all while keeping up with emails, comments and Social Media. Also, you probably want to make some money out of all of this hard work, so you’re hustling to manage your advertisers and write sponsored posts… while maintaining your blog’s integrity and keeping your reader engaged. Whewthis is why I’m not a food blogger.

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Joy makes all of this look effortless in her beautiful photos and unique recipes — but she is also simultaneously transparent and real about the hard work she puts into her job. She’s a baker, but she’s also a business lady.

I love her recipes (of course) but the written posts are also total gems.

A few posts by Joy that are well worth the read:

10 Real Talk Blog Tips and 10 Real Talk Blog Tips Part II:
A hilarious (and totally real) look at the world of food blogging. As someone who has a (non-professional) food blog, I can vouch this is all 100% true.

How to Read a Recipe
A great lesson for first-time cooks and a worthwhile reminder to anyone who has been cooking/baking for a long time… “read the dang recipe!”

Unsolicited Advice for 21 Year Old Girls
Hey… that’s me!

Pistachio, Orange and Dark Chocolate Cinnamon Rolls
Put these in your oven this weekend! Brunch victory.

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You all should definitely listen to the podcast Joy does with fellow food blogger Tracy of Shutterbean. If you want to listen to one particularly great episode (in which Erika and I ask Joy and Tracy a question via phone!) click here.

For more Joy: Her cookbook (another one coming out at the end of this year!) and a great interview on The EveryGirl.

Alright, I’m off to skip work and look at photos of cookies. Happy Tuesday everyone!

[Photos: 1) Leela Cyd 2) Joy the Baker 3) HomeFries]

BA 101 | #2 Finding an (Awesome) Business Partner

Another BA 101 lesson! I think Sundays are a good day for dubious education from college dropouts — don’t you?

Today’s post is a subject near and dear to my heart: Business Partners.

First of all, humblebrag: I have the best business partner in the world.

This is a combination of luck, hard work, and good communication… it’s like a good marriage. (I could extend that into a company = baby metaphor, but I won’t).

Also, like marriage, the “perfect” business partner is different for every person and every business. Even though what works for us might not work for everyone, I’ve learned a lot from being one half of a successful partnership.

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A good business partner… really believes in the company.

Right from the beginning, Erika has been the spirit and driving force of Wild Friends. As soon as we made a jar of peanut butter, there was no doubt in her mind that we had made something delicious and worthy of customer dollars. Her belief has always given me confidence that the company was worth pursuing… even when it was just a couple of mason jars.

This might seem like a small thing, but it’s really not! Nothing has been more important to the growth of this company than strong belief from both of us that the company is worth the dedication. There will be times when you are feeling disenfranchised with everything about your company… when everything just sucks. A good business partner will be there for you to lift your spirits and remind you why your business is worth working for.

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A good business partner… has an opposite skill set.

Looking back at that first day again, it was clear right from the start that Erika and I had very different skills. We made the peanut butter together — that was a total group effort. Then:

Erika told everyone she knew about our new company. She started posting on Facebook, interacting with all our friends, and getting excited about sending product to food bloggers.

I made a website, spent several hours on the phone with PayPal support, designed our labels, and started the hunt for a commercial kitchen.

There was very little discussion about this division of roles… it happened naturally as my logical side took over and Erika’s social butterfly self took flight.

In hindsight, we got lucky. This is an important conversation to have with any potential business partner: What roles do you see yourselves taking on immediately within the company? A year down the road? How about five years?

These are conversations Erika and I have constantly to make sure we’re never stepping on eachothers toes or leaving eachother out.

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A good business partner… knows that if it’s business, it’s also personal.

Can’t stress this enough: EVERYTHING IS PERSONAL. Everything. (Especially when you’re working with your best friend and your roommate… but we are probably in extra-special circumstances over here.)

It’s important to be able to have conversations that make you feel vulnerable, share struggles within or outside of the business that are causing you stress, discuss personal relationship woes, etc.

Really, your business partner is the only other person going through exactly what you are, living the exact same entrepreneurial life, fighting the same fight. Being able to support you personally as well as professionally is going to be really important during those frantic problem-solving nights.

Plus, you’re definitely going to be stuck on a long car ride and flights with your business partner… No iPhones or work laptops allowed. So you better have lots of things to talk about. (Also, similar taste in podcasts/music… but that’s another story).