Tag Archives: Entrepreneurship

What’s in a Cupcake?

I first heard about Gigi Butler when I was a music agent at a talent agency located on Nashville’s infamous Music Row.  Someone brought her cupcakes to the office one day. A couple of months; maybe it was only weeks later someone else brought some in for a meeting. After that, I began to hear even more people talking about them. I can’t say that I “loved” her cupcakes. I actually prefer a little less icing with mine so that I can better enjoy the cupcake itself. But after several months, I did know that there was a growing “buzz” about her new shop, Gigi’s Cupcakes.

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I switched jobs less than a year after she launched her company, and was no longer working at the same location, so as I continued to hear more about these cupcakes in other places, I realized it was no longer just another Music Row bakery shop.

Fast forward seven years to 2015, with several articles read about her company’s growth, and biographical information I’d come across, I was one of many who tuned in to the Undercover Boss TV show she was featured in to see how she would handle her own employees and franchisees’ feedback about the cupcakes, and the company as a whole. I found the episode very interesting, because she actually seemed more surprised by what she learned than many of other company CEOs and executives who I have seen on the show.

So when I learned she would be coming to the university where I teach, I made it a point of inviting myself to join the Business School students who were present during last year’s Entrepreneurship Week. I must say that I expected there would be more students in attendance. It still blows my mind that there are so many free opportunities for students to learn from people who are doing what they say they want to do; who they would never get a private meeting with, and yet so few, proportionately speaking, ever attend. I thought this was just an issue in my department. But that’s another story.

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As I sat in that auditorium listening to Gigi tell her story, I was taking mental notes, keying in on things that probably went right past others listening. I wasn’t interested in starting my own cupcake company, but I was interested in hearing about her entrepreneurial journey. And while I had read about much of it online and in various articles, I wanted to hear her tell the story of how as a teenager she started a small business to raise enough money to come to Nashville to pursue a music career. I wanted to hear from her how she built that first company into a success, made the move to Nashville, but struggled to make it in the music industry.

I listened intently about how she struggled financially, not making enough money playing the shows she was able to get (which is not that unusual for those seeking stardom in the music city), but still wanting to continue her pursuit of becoming an artist. And then she said it…

She talked about how she took on other jobs, and then decided to start up her former business again — a cleaning service. Gigi cleaned houses during the day, waited tables at night, and performed when she could.

Why did that interest me so much? Because I’m impressed with people who don’t allow their circumstances to consume them, but rather, will do what they can, what they need to do to keep moving forward. Gigi’s dream was to become a music artist. Her reality was that the years were passing by, and she had monthly bills to pay in order to survive.

She had to adjust her life to her new normal.

Too often we allow pride to get in the way of making the necessary adjustments in our lives when things aren’t going the we planned or things happen that we didn’t expect. Sometimes when our plans get altered, we get so bogged down in what we want to do, that we lose sight of what we need to do.

Of course, the rest of her story is obviously the bigger story that everyone focuses on. While coming to the realization that her original dreams were fading, she gave something else a try; something she had never anticipated being a part of her life, but it was the one thing that brought her the fame that perhaps she was seeking, and certainly more money than she could have imagined. Instead of building a singing career, she went on to build a cupcake empire.

If you’re curious for more information about Gigi Butler and Gigi’s Cupcakes, visit her website at: https://gigiscupcakesusa.com/about/gigis-story/

For now, I leave you with Gigi’s closing comments from that site, because they line up with words I would have shared with you as well.

“If I can convey just one idea to someone reading my story, it would be to believe in yourself, walk with integrity, work hard and trust in God. And maybe your life won’t turn out exactly how you were expecting or hoping it to be; but maybe, just maybe, it will be so much better than you could have ever imagined!

With God, all things are possible!

Blessings,

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The Cost of a Coffeehouse Office

You would think that someone who lived alone wouldn’t need to get away to get things done. But when it comes to creative writing, grading class assignments, or even prepping my courses, there’s nothing worst for me than being home alone.

Several years ago when I worked from home, it was a little easier. My house was one level, but I had a bonus room. I knew the day I decided to start my own company that I would have to put mechanisms in place to help me be disciplined enough to work from home (can I get an Amen for other entrepreneurs out there?). So for me, going upstairs into the bonus room was treated like going uptown to an office building. Each day, while taking the four steps up, I pretended to be getting into my car; the top opening of the room I imagined as the door into my company; and the entire upstairs was the various areas of my office.

Now, my Saturday morning or early afternoon office for what’s now become my “side” job (having taken my career in another different direction) is at the same table in the corner at the Panera just two miles from my house. If it’s in the evenings, I usually opt for the Starbucks two blocks further. Panera is brighter during the day, with lots of windows where the sunshine streams in. Starbucks is a little darker, which is perfect for late evenings. Don’t get me wrong, those places certainly come with their own distractions. Panera is usually teeming with families with young children in the morning and youth sports teams in the afternoon. And Starbucks tends to play host to groups of college students, wanna-be authors, and awkwardly paired couples, perhaps meeting up for the first time. But those distractions seem different in one of these places than what surrounds me at home these days.

After choosing to move closer to my full-time job in a suburban town just outside the city I used to live in, I thought distractions would be the least of my worries. But with a rental house that’s just the second one off the busy main street through the neighborhood; coupled with homes that are way too close together for my comfort (something I won’t be looking for when the time comes to buy again), and dealing with what often sounds like the loud echoing sounds of everything from garage door openings to lawn mowers going, and dogs barking at anything that moves; even the sound of birds chirping outside my window can become an irritant at certain times; especially when I’m trying to concentrate.

And then there’s the television. When it’s off, it taunts me to turn it on “just for a little while.” It lies to me, and tells me I have the power to turn it back off just as easily as I turned it on. But when it’s on, it drains my energy and sucks any semblance of time from the air, with each passing 30-minute show, especially the weekend marathon of home & garden shows, and 24-hour news channels.

So that brings me back to getting out of the house and hanging out at Panera.

With all of those embedded cameras in the ceiling, that most visitors to a place like this would probably never take note of, it becomes impossible; and quite honestly, probably rude, to take up real estate for hours at a time, without contributing financially to the business…if for no other reason than the fact that I frequently take advantage of the convenience of using their wifi to update all my phone apps!

So how do I maintain a reasonable budget during my frequent visits? Well, first of all, I became a member of their Rewards program many years ago — the same day I realized I had taken several meetings at the same Panera one month when I first launched my company. I knew that was just the beginning. There’s always a reward at the end of a certain number of visits. Saving even just two dollars for a free cup of coffee or bagel is worth it! Second, fortunately my sisters are wise to me, and often give me Panera (or Starbucks) gift cards for my birthday and Christmas. One of the biggest challenges of hanging out at Panera is the fact that they are NOT the cheapest food option in town. I have to be mindful of what I order and have learned how to make the most of it.

Here are a few of the things I do.

If you’re a coffee drinker, then Panera is a better option than Starbucks because you get free refills; and can even switch to decaf when you’ve energized enough for one day. Starbucks charges, even if it’s at a discounted price. The same goes with their tea and soft drinks. There’s nothing wrong with drinking water and forgo the additional cost of adding a drink to your order. If you love their bagels, don’t ask for the cream cheese. The butter is free, and the cost of that small cream cheese container is almost as much as buying an entire tub of it at your local grocery store. With the side items, I always ask for the bag of chips. They’re perfect to throw into your purse or leave in the car for times when you’re running around doing errands, and your stomach starts growling. Keeps you from taking that trip through a drive-thru and spending more money.

When I do order a meal, I ask for the free additions; things that help to fill you up. Most people aren’t aware that you can ask for extra lettuce on your sandwich at no additional cost. The same goes for your salad. I never order a whole salad. Instead, I choose the much cheaper half salad, and then I ask for extra lettuce. They don’t mind giving you (most) extra veggies, but the protein (meat, cheese, egg) will cost you a little more. When I started using the kiosk, I discovered there are several other items you can add — kale, apple chips, cabbage, corn — that don’t cost you any more. The end result is a fuller salad that is more in line with the high price you pay. And equally important, you won’t be hungry an hour later while you’re still working on your latest novel!

From Zero to Hope: Part One

Yesterday I had to go for my three-times a year follow up to check my thyroid levels. My doctor and I are actually the same age, so it’s funny to watch him struggle through some of life’s unfair assaults on our aging bodies like I do. He had just returned to work after having surgery on both wrists for carpal tunnel. We certainly aren’t 20-something any more. But I swear, there are days when I feel a good decade older than the calendar says I am!

After our usual time together, I followed my routine of heading around the corner to get my blood drawn. Sitting down chatting with the woman who had been drawing tubes of blood from me for almost two years, the conversation somehow ended up on the topic of the importance of living within your means, and planning for the unexpected. We’d been talking about the recent gas shortage in Nashville, and the impact it had on some people. I began explaining to her about why I’d topped off the gas in my car — because I knew I had several appointments coming up that week; and running out of gas was not going to be an option. She admitted that did not. “My sister called and told me to fill up my tank on that Friday,” she said. “But I figured I’d get around to it later in the weekend, and went about my day.”

By Saturday afternoon, she found herself driving around town to four different gas stations before finding one that hadn’t run out of fuel. “And then I paid much more for it than it was the day before,” she said. We continued our conversation, so that I could pretend the needle prick didn’t hurt, and I shared with her how it’s become a passion of mine to try to help women to not put off nor feel guilty about taking care of themselves. I told her that it needed to start with proper planning. She was lucky because she found an open gas station, and paying more for fuel is better than not having it at all. But I asked her if there was any particular reason why she didn’t go ahead and get it on Friday after she heard the news, and her sister’s advice. She admitted there wasn’t, which lead me to talk about the importance of planning, and finances in general. I told her in the big picture, this was something minor, but it could have turned into a bigger deal. “You spent more money paying for gas, after spending a lot of time being worried that you might not find any, all because you wouldn’t heed the advice and take the time to get some earlier, when you could.” When I was done, she said, “You know, you should write a book.” I laughed a little, and then shared with her that I had already begun working on one. But in the meantime, I told her, I was sharing my story and other people’s stories, advice, and encouragement through this blog. So I gave her my card, told her to check it out, and then said I’d see her again in four months.

Sharing the stories of female friends and associates who have been through different trials, and how they were able to make it through, is important to me. I don’t have all the answers…I just have my story. My friends don’t have all the answers, but they can share what worked and didn’t work for them. It’s their story. And most of you reading this right now…you have your own story. What connects the stories I choose to share, is not just what people do to plan and prepare for the unexpected things that can happen in their life; but also what they did to survive when those unexpected things happened. There are those who live in denial — after a job loss, a divorce, the death of a loved one — who will continue to do things as they always have. Then there are others who acknowledge the changes in their life, how it has impacted them — on personal, social, and oftentimes, financial level — and then they make an adjustment for their different lifestyle. They adjust to their new normal, so that they can move on in the life they now have.

Below is part one of the story a single mom, entrepreneur, and friend shared with me. It’s about the curve ball that life threw her; inconvenient timing and all; and the journey that followed. Remember to come back for part two of her story, next week. Perhaps something she shares might help you or someone you know as well.

From Zero to Hope

I cannot really put my finger on when I took a wrong turn off my life journey toward hope. It could have been the aftermath of drama in high school, the blurry and illogical moments in college, or the sudden and tragic end of my marriage of 12 years. Regardless of how I got to my lowest point, I can recall the emotions affecting my daily life beginning around Christmas of 2006. It was at that time I discovered the reality of a pending divorce, I was 34 weeks pregnant with my second child and the mother of a four and a half year old son. It has been 10 years since I began my journey from zero to hope. I can proclaim two things about this type of journey.  The journey is messy and it takes a village!

There is no Hallmark Channel story here. My tragedy transformed how I viewed myself, shattered my confidence and caused misplaced views of my value. I do not know about you, but trying to “dream” for yourself is hard enough. Yet, I needed to look past myself and begin a new life for the joy of my two young sons. There is no magic formula to regaining purpose after tragedy. In the beginning, every decision was painstaking. I found myself overwhelmed every five minutes, either dealing with my emotional struggles, the emotional and physical needs of my children, or just battling loneliness. This was my “zero” point. As much as I wanted to move forward, I often lost strength or ran out of resources, time and/or money.

Today, 10 years later, I own my own business, work from home and am able to play an active role in my children’s lives. I must admit it is not easy to look back. I have not arrived, but I know I am so much further than I was when I started out. The process for me is like a winding road with rest stops, exits to amazing or scary places (all distractions, I might add), and the homes and hearts of friends and family. At the surface, the process seems simple enough.

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What this little graphic does not show you are many nights I cried for one reason or another.

  • The struggle of overcoming stereotypes as a black woman with two kids; some assuming I was never married and the boys had different dads.
  • Endless nights trying to find strength to take every necessary “next step” for my children and me.
  • Another night having to turn down companionship or relationships because my new life demanded transformed priorities.
  • Struggles to believe I had worth and value.

The list goes on and on. This is the “messy” of the journey. Did I always make the right choice? No, probably not. So finding courage and strength to forgive myself made it even more “messy.”

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More from Kathy Phillips in Part Two…

Along Comes a Baby and More

Two weeks ago I spent Saturday afternoon at the baby shower of a long time friend. Sometimes, it’s really hard for me to believe just how long I’ve known this young lady, because she was only 13 years old when we first met. I’ve watched her grow up; become successful in not one, but several careers in her young life; fall in love, get married, and now…prepare to have her first baby!

In spite of how long it’s been since I first met her, I was still truly honored to be remembered and invited to her baby shower; as well being at her wedding, and the weddings and baby showers of her sisters. And after 23 years of having the pleasure of our professional relationship, what matters more is the lasting personal friendship.

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In addition to hanging out with her though, I ran into some other ladies who I’ve met in the same circles over the years. What is so cool about that? I realized at some point in the afternoon that we were all talking about our business, ministries, and professional activities we were engaged in.

Since starting Catching Raindrops in Water Buckets, I’m always on the look out for finding young teens, college students, and women who are taking control of their financial futures by creating, developing, designing, and running their own businesses now, and not waiting for some magical moment to descend. So whether it’s service-oriented, consulting, talent-driven, beauty and fitness, health care, or even the entertainment industry that I myself am a part of, when my friends and former associates start branching out on their own, I want to be a major cheerleader, to help spread the word, as well as sharing any knowledge and suggestions I might have in any given area.

As I sat there listening as we caught up with one another, I took note of one young lady who said she’d been really busy lately working, but primarily for other people. She had been a Work for Hire with another company, but the content was totally hers. She said she was ready to take control over her brand. I knew she was right. She DID need to take over her own brand.

Another lady chimed in moments later, and said she’d been running her own company for almost a year, but was having financial challenges due to her lack of discipline with her money. I was impressed at her honesty. Since she was a single mother, she knew how important it was to get control over that area of her life, not just for the sake of growing her business, but for her family. I asked a few direct questions and uncovered at least a large part of the problem. For her, she was spending way more money picking up meals on the way home, rather than going shopping and preparing them at home.

It can be very tempting to take the safe way out — like working for someone else and picking up a pay check. Or the easy way out — like running through the drive-thru on the way home. But in the end, it almost always costs you more money. Being a Work for Hire, might be a way in to getting business, but it should be just that — a way to get in, not a means to stay in. Otherwise, your talent, and hard work is building someone else’s company and bank account. And at the end of each month, stopping by restaurants and fast food chains might seem economical, and definitely convenient, but the money adds up. Where you see only spending $10.00 on dinner tonight, it becomes $50.00 by the end of the week, which quickly adds up to $200.00 or more by the end of the month. And that doesn’t include the groceries that you DO buy for the other meals of the day. The reality is that smart shopping and creative meal planning will cost you a lot less than pizza, a bucket of chicken, or four kids’ meals a few times a week.

As I’ve said many times before, planning is the key. Whether you’re planning how to branch out on your own, build your own business, create a secondary source of income; or planning how best to save money for your family on meals and other household items, the main part of the process is the Plan.

When’s the last time you’ve asked yourself about your Life Plan? Do you have one? Where do you want to be this time next year? What about five years from now? Ten? Have you even given thought to what your financial situation will be when you’re ready to retire? What happens if you lose your job years before that retirement time?

There are a lot of questions we prefer not to think about; after all, we’re young, or perhaps already well off; or we think our job will last forever. But the truth is that we can’t control what the future holds. Things happen. Life happens. But we can begin to plan for various outcomes so that we are better prepared, should something unexpected come our way.

Why not grab a journal, and take a few moments to ask yourself some of these questions. Then step away, and come back to your answers later. Are they what you think they should be, or what you want them to be?

Think about that, and let’s talk more about it later.

Watching Other People’s Raindrops Fill Water Buckets

This morning I spent a few hours at a women’s event called Morning Brew here in Nashville.  It was sponsored by the Chix Chat Clubs of Nashville (an in-home women’s Bible Study group started by Stephanie Huffman).

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The exhibitors were all women who owned their own small business, and it ranged from visual artists, soap makers, handcrafted cards, a spice company (who we’ll be featuring in coming weeks), cup cakes, cookies, skin care, and our very own, recently featured jewelry maker, Diana Stancil of 2Dangle.

Morning Brew programI had the chance to connect with some ladies I already knew, like Diana and Stacy, who’s in full swing with her new company Camp Stacy; as well as meet some new ladies out there doing what we’ve talked about here many times — creating secondary sources of income for their families; mostly doing things they’ve loved as a hobby, and have turned into a revenue producing business.

Stacy of camp stacyChristi S.diana at morning brew

In talking with some of these women, I learned that the majority of them were already doing something as a hobby; creating things for their own families and gifts for friends. What turned different for them was an opportunity to help make additional income, while sharing their service, art, craft, talent, and even baked goodies with others. And why not?

So for all those who I met today; even if I didn’t get a chance to personally talk to you, I tip my water bucket to you for learning how to catch those raindrops! Keep encouraging one another to keep moving forward with your dreams and passions to grow a business.

 

Creating a Revenue Stream for Your Life

I teach in the Recording Industry department at a local university. One of the classes I teach is called Music Survey. It explores the three main revenue streams of the music industry. The first time I taught the class was as an Adjunct Professor. I was working full-time with my own company, and teaching three courses. As I read through the book to prep for class each week, I was reminded of something I’d promised myself almost three years earlier. When I left my former job, I told myself I would never again work for just one company unless it was my own. And at the point that I decided to launch Gloria Green Entertainment, I also decided then that I would seek out multiple means of earning an income, so that no one thing could ever be pulled out from underneath me again.

As I was teaching students about the various ways to generate revenue, and stressing the importance of creativity and diversity in those streams, I continued to seek out multiple sources of income earnings myself. And while my age may put me on the forgotten line for those of us born in the 1960s, frequently left out of true marketing, psychological, or social demographic studies – other than being referred to as the Me Generation, thanks in part to the success of the Michael J Fox Pepsi campaign, and a series of Brat Pack movies from the 1980s, my mindset and lifestyle plants me firmly on a different line – that of the entrepreneurial-minded Gen Xer and tech-loving world of the Millennials.

So as a woman; especially a single woman, I have made it a point to try to encourage my friends to seek out opportunities to turn their hobbies and passions into a means of financial reward, while keeping their day-jobs. It is the spirit of Catching Raindrops in Water Buckets; and it is becoming the necessity of adjusting to your new normal. In the wake of five years of financial instability, where job security is a phrase of the past, seeking entrepreneurial opportunities just makes sense. And no, you don’t have to put together a 10-page business plan; you don’t have to have an MBA; you don’t even have to know how to run a business, although understanding how to balance a checkbook would definitely come in handy. What you do need is passion, a drive for hard work, and to surround yourself with good friends who will help you realize your dream, and maybe even come along side you in it.

I know talented women who have various abilities and skills that they could monetized, but they’re afraid of the idea of running their own business. That’s not to say that starting a company is easy and everyone should do it. Quite the contrary. Way too many first-year companies never make it past a few years. My challenge to my female friends isn’t about quitting their day jobs and giving up their profit share, 401-k, and retirements to chase a dream. It’s more about extending your ability to realize your dream by starting something more – like those incredible cookies you bake and give away as Christmas gifts every year that no one can stop talking about; those birthday cakes you decorate for your family, and every year more friends ask you to make some for theirs; the homemade cards you make from recycled paper; or the soaps you make using your own garden herbs. You love giving them away, but there are people out there who wouldn’t mind paying to have them.

I have friends who offer services ranging from copyediting to house sitting; and those who taught themselves new skills, like web design and photography. Even the ability to help others get organized can be turned into a nice side business.

So over the next few weeks, I’m going to share some stories of women; average, everyday women I know, who for various reasons, have taken a talent, a passion, or just a desire to do something else, and created a secondary stream of income; some out of need, some out of want, but all are growing a new business for themselves.

Perhaps you’re one of those people; someone who has created something more than the 9 to 5 job that pays the mortgage. Maybe you’ve gone from a two-income family to a one and you had to find another means of support for the family; perhaps you’re one of thousands of people who are currently underemployed, working at a job earning much less money than you were 3, 4, or 5 years ago. Creating another income source helps to close the financial gap. Maybe you’ve had several unexpected bills – after all, life happens – and the salary you have barely covers the bills you’ve created. Or maybe, like me, you’ve been burnt before, and never want to rely on only one income source. Whatever drove you to the desire to start something new, I’d love to hear from you here, or follow us and share the link to your website on our Twitter page @CatchingtheRain.