Being Best Self Keeley

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It occurred to me recently that during these long weekends spent sampling that my success (and survival) depend much more on being an excellent actress than they do on my sampling technique.

No matter how authentic basic sentiments sound at the beginning of the day (“Thank You”, “Have a Great Day”, “What do you think of the Vanilla Espresso?”) they often feel so hollow by the hundredth time they are said. I truly do mean “Thank You!” when a customer buys a jar – but I can’t feel it in my soul every time.

 When the authenticity starts to fade, I switch over to imitating Best Self Keeley – because acting like that self is ultimately so much more sustainable in the long term than being that self.

Best Self Keeley happily responds to every passing Shark Tank fan, each who asks urgently and excitedly how the show went for us, I can’t believe we missed that episode, we love that show, it’s our very favorite, what was it like to be on the show, which Shark did you make a deal with? They are interested in the company and super supportive. Best Self Keeley notices and appreciates this.

 As always when free food is being given out, there are crowds of well meaning shoppers (whose pantries are already over-stocked with nut butter). They try our samples, chit-chat with us and depart without a jar — though usually after offering their very best wishes for our success.

Each of these customers receives a departing smile from Best Self Keeley, as my inner self collects energy to talk to the next approaching customer — hoping for a sale this time so I can make a little tally on the “Jars Sold” board. (Best Self Keeley knows that a sale is not the only end-goal of a conversation).

Occasionally I’ll mix it up by doing my favorite impression (even better than Best Self Keeley): Best Self Erika.

Best Self Erika is ten times nicer and more gracious than Best Self Keeley. She greets people with a jaunty, “How’s it going?!”, and waits eagerly for the response before diving into making a sale. While I am playing Best Self Erika, I entertain myself with the challenge of how friendly I can be. Sometimes my “Erika” can out-friendly the real thing!

When described, this actress game can sound cold and inauthentic – but I promise you it’s not. My hours behind a sampling table being Best Self Keeley have taught me to tap into a stronger side of myself – “acting” authentic is the best way for me to give the best service to our customers.

Sampling has also made me a much more empathetic person day-to-day. I can relate so much more with the customer service personnel I interact with outside of Costco – from the gas station, to a grocery store, to a representative on a help desk phone call.

Instead of asking my grocery store clerk how they’re doing (“Great!” is probably pre-programmed answer) — I instead just tell them their hair looks great, or they’re doing a good job today. All these people, out in the world being their Best Selves. It’s so amazing, and it’s so hard. Costco is a reminder to be my best self, even (especially) when I am on the other side of the sampling table.

“I Hope You’re Writing All This Down!”

I tell a LOT of stories about Wild Friends.

In professional settings and more personal ones, being the “Peanut Butter Girl” comes with a pre-programmed question: “So, how’s the business?”

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. There are so many aspects of the business to talk about that I don’t ever seem to run out of material.

This frequent storytelling often results in the comment: “I hope you’re writing this all down!”

“Uhhh…. Yeah. About that….”

Writing it all down is hard! It doesn’t feel exciting in the moment, or else it does and every fiber of your being is just trying to keep up with it. Usually the last thing I want to do is end my night with “Dear Diary” (I’d rather keep up with my strict routine of Friday Night Lights reruns and an early bedtime).

So, here’s all the Stuff I Should Be Writing Down right now (accompanied by terrible-quality iPhone photos for visual interest):

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We are in Texas! Basically living inside of Costco warehouses (which, considering how hot it is here, isn’t necessarily a bad thing).

Texans have been so nice to us — when they hear we are from Portland, they usually apologize for the hot weather!

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Sampling in Costco looks like this: Standing behind a table from open to close, handing out tiny little spoons of almond and sunflower butter. It’s both ridiculously easy and very difficult — it’s all proportionate to how many hours one does it. We’re there from open to close (10am – 8:30pm on weekdays), so let’s just say after four straight days, it eventually makes you go a little crazy.

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Case in point. Craziness level = high.

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To combat complete brain fog, we trade off taking 10 minute breaks and reading cookbooks while testing out the Costco chairs (FYI, if you need a new chair, Costco has some very comfortable options…). We also frequently eat lunch or dinner beneath the canopies and at the outdoor tables, while reading magazines. Quiet, restful bliss.

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We have a laminated sign that we keep track of sales on. It keeps us motivated to keep adding tally marks when we sell jars — SO satisfying. (In case you are wondering about that little alien in the corner, I drew a French Bulldog and Erika gave it crazy eyes).

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Also, this is how Erika thinks Texas is shaped…

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Just so you all feel confident taking samples from me, I re-took (and passed with flying colors!) my Food Safety Test at Costco. Hadn’t taken a test since college (years ago now) and got a strange sort of satisfaction out of it… (NERD).

Last day of Costco in Texas tomorrow before returning to home sweet home on Monday — Now returning to my pre-planned evening of answering emails/Friday Night Lights.

Overwhelmed

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I am feeling overwhelmed.

It’s normal… But it’s still scary!

There’s nothing “comfortable” about running your own company. It’s lots of confusion, second-guessing, gut-trusting, and rushed decision making. There’s a lot of emails and a lot of voicemails. 

Peppered in there is spurts of euphoria, feeling so-glad-I-work-for-myself-so-I-can-just-work-in-my-pajamas-all-day, and so, so many emoji’s exchanged via text with my business partner who is also my best friend.

I guess I’m bringing this up because it’s a Wednesday on a busy week, and I wanted to write a blog post on my long-neglected blog, and the only thing I can think about right now is how overwhelming it all is sometimes.