The Funemployed: Michelle Breyer

DCF: Who Are You?
Michelle Breyer, co-founder of NaturallyCurly.com. Named one of the 50 Most Influential People in the Multicultural Market by Women’s Wear Daily in 2015, Michelle Breyer is a visionary entrepreneur who, in 1998, took a personal frustration over out-of-control curls and built it into the largest social media platform for hair. Today, TextureMedia – the parent company of NaturallyCurly – reaches 16 million people per month and influences more than $1 billion annually in hair product spend. What started as a hobby now includes two consumer digital sites, an ecommerce platform and a consumer Insights division. Michelle has consulted with such iconic brands and companies as Unilever, L’Oreal, and Paul Mitchell to help shape their textured-hair business plans, and also worked with dozens of entrepreneurs to launch their brands for the textured-hair market. She now is executive vice president of strategic partnerships. (DCF: Way to turn a “problem” into a passion!)

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DCF: Why do you love what you do? What makes you funemployment?
MB: Every day is completely different, and I get to wear many hats – from working with a brand on an advertising campaign to writing an article to appearing on the local news channel to discuss curly hair trends. (DCF: Ensures that things are always interesting!).

DCF: Who was your first mentor and how did you find them?
MB: I was so incredibly lucky to have Jimmy Treybig on our curly team. Jimmy is the founder of Tandem Computers (which was sold to Compaq) and he is a major venture capitalist in Austin. While working as a business reporter at the Austin newspaper, I often interviewed him about business trends, and he loved to mentor entrepreneurs in the community. For Jimmy, he loved to learn about industries he didn’t know about, and he felt NaturallyCurly was an ideal opportunity to learn about emerging social media industry.

We met with him early on at an IHOP to get some advice about NaturallyCurly. At the time, I think he was humoring us, but told us to stay in touch and update him on our progress. As our community grew and our revenues jumped, he started meeting with us more often.

One day, we sat in his home conference room for several hours brainstorming about growth strategies for NaturallyCurly. He encouraged us to think big. He regularly connected us with people he thought could help us with our business, from an e-commerce expert to John Paul DeJoria, the CEO of John Paul Mitchell Systems (he became one of our investors).

He was invaluable in helping us raise money, helping us with our business plan and connecting us with a new local angel network. We were the first company funded by the network, and Jimmy became our board chairman.  Jimmy was so helpful because he really pushed us, offering invaluable ideas and constructive criticism. He helped me gain confidence as an executive. (DCF: Mentor’s are a must).

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DCF: What’s your happy place?
MB: I love spending Sunday mornings at the barn where my daughter rides horses. Driving out into the barn, into the Hill Country outside Austin, is relaxing, and the farm is so tranquil and beautiful. Watching her ride is indescribable. I’ve grown to love horses. They are such calm, amazing animals.  (DCF: Horses are incredible wonderful animals). Through my daughter’s teen years, which haven’t always been smooth, Sundays at the barn have been a bonding experience.

DCF: Where do you get your energy?
MB: Other than coffee, I definitely feed off of the excitement and thrill of doing deals, whether it’s working on a new partnership with a publisher or helping to close an advertising deal. I love that when I walk in every day, I know that anything is possible.

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DCF: What does balance mean to you and how do find it?
MB: That’s a tough one for me, especially this year with all the travel to support my book tour. I think true balance means not letting any one part of your life dominate it. It’s about working hard, but being able to leave and spend time with friend and family and making team to exercise. And it’s about having down time when you can just read or take a nap.

I am setting aside time around the holidays to take time off work and spend time at home. I am hoping not to check my emails often – it actually stresses me out not to check them at all – and focus on my family and friends.

DCF: What sacrifices did you have to make to get here?
MB: The biggest sacrifice is the time I’ve spent traveling while my daughter has been growing up. She used to cry when I’d call from a business trip and threaten not to let me off the phone unless I promised her I’d come home the next day. It would leave me in knots. Now it’s hard because she’s so independent, and so used to me being gone that it’s created distance. I really have to work to create time for us to be together. I did take her on several college trips to different cities because I wanted that time with her.

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DCF: What struggles have you faced as a women in your industry?
MB: We’re often not taken seriously, and relegated to lower-level positions even if we’re coming up with the ideas and basically running the business. When I go to the beauty trade shows, it’s shocking how many companies are run by menOne of the things I love about the curl/natural hair segment is that it’s dominated by female entrepreneurs – people who created products, blogs and cutting techniques rather than waiting for someone else to do it. They have been inspired by their own passion, and it’s been an amazing segment to be a part of.  (DCF: I love to see how the industry has grown and thrived).

DCF: What is the early advice you didn’t listen to that you wish you had?
MB: If you can’t something nice about someone, don’t say anything at all.  I have seen how negativity can be toxic, and can create a negative culture for a company. On the flip side, positive, encouraging people can have a huge positive effect on corporate culture.

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DCF: What was your greatest failure and what did you learn from it?
MB: There have been little failures throughout the 19-year-old history of NaturallyCurly. Sometimes a business idea that I fought for hasn’t succeeded. We tried a Groupon-like concept that never took off. It can be hard to admit you were wrong about something, or that you didn’t do it right. It can be humbling. 

But you should always look at it as an opportunity to learn something. Why did it fail? What could you have done better? How do you make better decisions in the future?

DCF: What was your proudest moment to date?
MB: Writing “The Curl Revolution: Inspiring Stories and Practical Advice from the NaturallyCurly Community” was an amazing achievement. I spent a year working on it and interviewed more than a hundred community members, influencers and experts.

The response to it has been incredible. It is Amazon’s No. 1 new release in Grooming & Style and has been in the Top 75 Beauty books on Amazon since it launched Oct. 3rd. Curl salons around the country are stocking it, and it’s now in over 100 libraries.

It’s been amazing to see all the people who have shown up at the book tour stops, and to hear them tell me how NaturallyCurly changed their lives.

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DCF: What are you currently conquering? 
MB: Other than the book tour, I’m working on some major events around our 20th anniversary next year. It’s too soon to release the details, but I’m really excited about them.

What’s Your Social Media!!
IG: curlymichelle62
Twitter: curlymichelle62
Facebook: Michelle Breyer

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The Funemployed: Rachel Rosenthal

DCF: Who Are You?
Rachel Rosenthal, Founder/Owner of Rachel and Company. I’m a Bethesda-native, wife, and mom to identical twin girls. My business – Rachel and Company – is a professional organizing firm in the DC-metro area specializing in home organization, closet design, and home moves. Since launching Rachel and Company nearly 10 years ago, we’ve helped over 1,700 families get organized! I’m also creator of The Playbook, an organizing how-to guide for every area of your home.

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DCF: Why do you love what you do? What makes you funemployment?
RR: Prior to entering into the world of organizing, I went to law school and received a JD. It became apparent to me pretty early on that practicing law was not something I wanted to pursue in the long-term. Instead, I wanted to channel an outlet that moved my needle in a different direction. I’ve always had a passion for making spaces more functional and organized, and I wanted to translate this to a broader audience. When you’re legitimately invested in what you do – beyond a purely financial stake – it doesn’t feel so much like work, but rather an opportunity to share a part of yourself to make life a little better for someone else. (DCF: Love this and it is sooo true!!) Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot of hard work that goes into every project, but it’s so worth it. I’ve had clients jump for joy and even cry when they see the transformation in their homes. How wonderful is it knowing that I could make that happen?!

DCF: Who was your first mentor and how did you find them?
RR: I don’t really have a first mentor, per se, but I do credit a lot of other women-owned businesses with my success. I learned all that I know from other women in business on what it takes to run your own business; how to keep motivated and how to treat others in business. (DCF: I’ve learned a lot from awesome women in business and couldn’t agree more, a happy businesswoman is a wonderful sight and can teach a lot!)

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DCF: What’s your happy place?
RR: So I have to admit, I am a total introvert. I’m also a business-owner and busy mom, which means I engage with a lot of people. Life can be pretty frenetic for my family with work, school, and social commitments. At the end of the day, I love nothing more than being at home, curled up on the couch in my comfy clothes, spending time with my husband and girls. It’s a moment for us to decompress, take a breath, and just enjoy each other’s company. But let’s be real, I’d be totally happy on a Hawaiian beach, too(DCF: Amen to that girl!!)

DCF: Where do you get your energy?
RR: To the surprise of no one, I have a type-A personality. I’m also a business-owner, which means that my name is intrinsically linked to what I do. I have and always will strive to do my very best. I’m not happy until the final product is something that I would endorse for my own home. My batteries are charged when I walk away from a project, and I know deep inside that I’ve knocked it out of the park; when an owner’s eyes get wide and all they can say is “wow.” This kind of reaction inspires me to do what I do every day.

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DCF: What does balance mean to you and how do find it?
RR: Balance? What’s that? (DCF: Ain’t that the truth sometimes!!) To be honest, this is something that I’m taking a hard look at right now. To me, balance is ability to make the most of your life without letting one part of it take over more than the other. It’s when you can close your eyes, exhale fully, and feel contented with who you are and what you’ve accomplished.

I was recently diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Disease, an autoimmune condition in which your immune system attacks your thyroid. I’ve had to make a lot of changes in my life related to my physical and emotional wellbeing as a means of managing the disease, and finding balance has been key. It’s easy to get pulled into too many directions when you wear as many hats as I do, and often times your health is something that gets neglected in the process(DCF: I’m learning to make my mental and physical health a priority but it is easy). My attempts to be all things to everybody – wife, mom, business owner, friend, daughter – were taking a legitimate toll on my body. I needed to slow things down and take stock of how I could be my best self. I’m not 100 percent there, but it’s a goal that I’m working toward every day.

DCF: What sacrifices did you have to make to get here?
RR: My journey towards achieving balance is still a work in progress. I was operating a million miles a minute, and something had to give. I’m trying in earnest to not over-schedule myself. I’ve learned that sometimes it’s okay to say no if that means you can say your best yes to something else. For someone with a type-A personality, it’s been tough to let go of some of the day-to day responsibilities of running a business, so that I could make room for self-care. (DCF: Yes, Yes, Yes to all of this!) Living with Hashimoto’s, however, has forced me to rethink how I operate as a mom, wife, and business owner. It’s even inspired me to think about how I could translate the lessons I’ve learned along the way to help others – whether that be setting up a Hashimoto-friendly kitchen or finding the right the right products for your morning routine.

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DCF: What struggles have you faced as a women in your industry?
RR: Regardless of being a woman, it’s really tough to be a business-owner. In the early days of Rachel and Company, I was running a business with small infants at home. And then I was a single mom. Launching a business from scratch and trying to master motherhood was no small feat. Talk about a character building opportunity! At the same time, I was inspired even more to make my business work. It had to for the sake of my two girls. (DCF: Inspiration is always motivation!)

DCF: What is the early advice you didn’t listen to that you wish you had?
RR: I’ve always been told that you should do what you love and love what you do. I have to admit, when I was younger, I didn’t appreciate the value of this sage advice. I was preoccupied with chasing a high-profile job and making other people happy. I wish I had listened to my heart a little earlier and not been so afraid to take a risk. Talk about hindsight being 20/20! Still, I don’t regret my life’s journey because I’ve amassed some considerable lessons along the way that have shaped who I am.

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DCF: What was your greatest failure and what did you learn from it?
RR: I’m a firm believer that failures are life’s best learning opportunities, and let me tell you, starting a business from scratch comes with many learning opportunities! (DCF: That is exactly why I ask this question, couldn’t agree more!) 

DCF: What was your proudest moment to date?
RR: Ten years and over 1,700 client projects later, I have to pinch myself sometimes just to remind myself how lucky I am. I still can’t believe it when I have folks reach out to me for organizing tips, whether that be in-person, in print, or on TV. I’ve been fortunate to have been featured in some incredible publications like the Wall Street Journal, Real Simple, Better Homes and Gardens, and Good Housekeeping. I recently became a Today Show contributor, and I’ve even formed partnerships with great companies like The Container Store, West Elm, WayFair, Kit & Ace, Mabel’s Labels, and others. I love that people are interested in organization and want to learn from my tried-and-true experience. When you’re as passionate about what you do as I am, it’s not hard to get me talking about the benefits of incorporating organization into your life. What an honor that people are willing to listen!

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DCF: What are you Currently Conquering? 
RR: When I’m not busy onsite coordinating a client project, I’m working on ways to spread the word about the merits of getting and staying organized. I’m expanding my online course roster and pursuing speaking engagements. For example, on November 30, I’ll be hosting a workshop in collaboration with Paper Source in Bethesda on creative journaling – a way to combine your to-do list, planner, and notes into one functional format. I’m also exploring what the next phase of Rachel and Company will look like, so stay tuned….

DCF: What’s Your Social Media!!
You can learn more about Rachel and Company by visiting rachel-company.com or following us on InstagramFacebook and Twitter.

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The Funemployed: Kate Matsudaira

DCF: Who Are You?

Kate Matsudaira, creator at Ink+Volt. Kate Matsudaira (@katemats) has spent her entire career leading brilliant teams, and is currently the founder of the company Ink+Volt. Previously, Kate was the founder and CEO of Popforms (acquired by Safari Books Online in 2015). She has also worked as the VP Engineering/CTO at Decide (acquired by Ebay), Moz, and Delve Networks (acquired by Limelight), and as a software engineer, tech lead, and manager at Amazon and Microsoft. (DCF: Impressive, I like it!!) Kate is a keynote speaker at conferences around the world, and teaches a highly sought after workshop for teams on the elements of successful leadership. She also maintains a popular blog on management, productivity, and creating an amazing career at katemats.com.

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DCF: Why do you love what you do? What makes you funemployment?
KM: I love solving problems. And I love helping people. I like to think Ink+Volt combines those two things – we are focused on creating products that will help people reach their dreams. We try to design everything to make people more successful (DCF: And it’s WORKING!!).

I started my career in big companies – where the majority of problems are so big and abstract. Then I worked in startups where everything was about the customer. And you would look at the competition and ask – how can we make things better? After years of that you just learn to see the world that way.

I wanted a planner and notebook in one – so I created it (the Ink+Volt Planner that started the company). Our new thing is a laptop bag we are launching in a couple of months. (DCF: That’s exciting!! This sounds like just what I need!) It is made like a high end luxury handbag, but has tons of pockets and all the functionality of a great laptop bag.

Creating things is fun, and creating things I want to use, and that other people love and rave about — well that is my ideal career.

DCF: Who was your first mentor and how did you find them?
KM: I have had so many honestly – I don’t know how to pick one. I would say the earliest person in my career was a computer science professor who took me under her wing. She believed in me. And that is one of the most amazing gifts someone can give another person – hope that they can do anything.

I know it sounds crazy but there are only 3-4 people who have believed in me enough that I could do anything. And those are the ones that stand out – because without them I don’t think I ever would have tried to accomplish some of the things under my belt. (DCF: This is so true, having someone in your corner rooting for you is priceless!) 

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DCF: What’s your happy place?
KM: My bed! Seriously. I don’t get enough sleep (I have a one year old baby). Also Hawaii. I love, love, love the beach. (DCF: Water is life, I’m realizing that more and more as I get older) My lifetime goal is to retire and have a house there and spend half my years there and somewhere else.

DCF: Where do you get your energy?
KM: I love to do cardio. I love to run and do the elliptical. It recharges and gives me energy. I also try to be diligent about taking vitamins everyday (because I don’t eat healthy consistently and I swear it impacts my mood and energy levels).
Otherwise I would say I get inspired by everything. Reading the experiences of other people, listening to podcasts or audiobooks, talking with my super smart team — or even just taking a walk. Inspiration is everywhere, you just have to open your eyes wider and introduce a little wonder and curiosity. (DCF: We take the beauty of the world around us for granted too often but you are right, inspiration is all around!)

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DCF: What does balance mean to you and how do find it?
KM: Balance is interesting. I don’t have work/life balance. I just have life. When I am wrestling with a challenge I can’t just turn off – so I don’t force myself. I do always try to be present and in the moment – especially when playing with my children. I want to be there for them.

That being said, I probably do work too much (compared to most people). And I am sure we eat too much take out food. But I think you just have to find what works for you and your family, and then if that makes you happy, and you live a rich life – does balance really matter? (DCF: Interesting question, I think balance does matter but it isn’t one size fits all, happiness might be your balance and there’s nothing wrong with that)

DCF: What sacrifices did you have to make to get here?
KM: Vacations and travel. I never took a day off from work (except when I was too sick) until I was 27. I was super dedicated to my career and I worked lots of nights and weekends. My first real vacation where I took a whole 3 days off was an extra long weekend with my now-husband. 🙂 (DCF: Hopefully you are getting to see some more world now!)

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DCF: What struggles have you faced as a women in your industry?
KM: Gosh, this is so hard to answer. I have faced a ton of struggles but I would say most of them weren’t because of my gender.

Growing up I couldn’t get into the colleges I wanted to attend, or I didn’t have enough financial aid to attend. I had a bad manager for a few years and that was really difficult – and I felt stifled and miserable.

I think it is those struggles and difficult times that we learn the most. So when life makes things challenging I just focus on powering through, making the most of it and learning as much as I can. (DCF: Always learning means always growing)

DCF: What is the early advice you didn’t listen to that you wish you had?
KM: I wish I hadn’t opened a bunch of credit cards and put myself into debt. (DCF: Agreed!!) When I got my first job I was so spendy! I would just buy anything, even if I didn’t have the money in my account. I ended up spending years paying off stupid stuff instead of saving for retirement or vacations even.

Now I am super good with my money, but it took making some big mistakes. It is the first thing I tell college students when they ask for advice – never spend money you don’t have and try to save a little bit of every bit you make. Just put it away automatically and never look at it.

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DCF: What was your greatest failure and what did you learn from it?
KM: My greatest failure? I sold my company Popforms before I was ready. I wished I had known what I know now. I didn’t know how to sell and market things and I sucked at enterprise sales. I was pregnant and ready to sell. In retrospect, things were going so well. I should have held on and grown it further. Of course hindsight is always 20/20.

DCF: What was your proudest moment to date?
KM: I am super proud of Ink+Volt. The brand is still evolving and next year we are going to be launching lots of new products. It is exciting to see how one little Kickstarter as evolved into a company with 4 employees, and is still growing! (DCF: Just ordered my 2018 planner!!)

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DCF: What are you Currently Conquering?
KM: Check out Ink+Volt! We have an amazing 2018 planner (the one that started the whole company) and we will be launching a fabulous laptop bag in early 2018.

DCF: Let’s get Social (Media)!!
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Katemats.com
katemats on twitter
instagram.com/katemats

Most importantly – ORDER YOUR 2018 PLANNERS – This will be my third one and I couldn’t recommend it more highly!! –  Order the Original or the Limited Edition Series.

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The Funemployed: Alice Bergen Phillips

DCF: Who Are You?
Alice Bergen Phillips, Cheesemonster, Owner/Head Cheesemonger. Originally hailing from Chicago, I grew up in a food-loving home (DCF: Totally know what that’s like!!). After earning a degree in International Politics and graduating Cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa (DCF: woot woot!!) from Bates College, I moved to D.C. to pursue a career in international politics. However, I quickly found my side jobs working in the world of specialty foods to be far more compelling. I found real my calling in cheese, and have never looked back.

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DCF: Why do you love what you do? What makes you funemployment?
ABP: Oh man, so many reasons! Working in the cheese industry lets me do so many different things that I love. First and foremost, I love that I get to provide a platform for amazing producers who work hard and take great pride in what they do. It gives me immense joy to introduce my clients to cheeses and accompaniments made by people who are passionate about their life’s work and who are making a difference in their communities.

Secondly, I get to make people happy! The world can be such a dark and disturbing place, especially these days – particularly in a place like DC – so bringing a little light and joy to people’s lives makes me exceedingly happy. (DCF: We need all the light and joy we can get!) There’s nothing like watching your guests’ faces light up when they see a big ol’ cheese display, or seeing a lightbulb go off over someone’s head during one of my classes. Moments like that are really priceless.

Third, there are so many different aspects from which to approach the world of cheese that it’s never ever boring. A lot of people don’t realize how much science is involved in the making of cheese, or how most cheeses have a long and fascinating cultural history. It’s my job to dive into each aspect and bring that knowledge to my customers. Art plays a big piece too – my cheese displays are definitely art pieces(DCF: I’ve seen them, they are indeed edible art!) I have a little bit of an art background, so the fact that those skills play into my day job is really fun and exciting.

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DCF:  Who was your first mentor and how did you find them?
ABP: Honestly, I would say my parents are my biggest supporters and my mentors. They’ve always encouraged me to be great in every possible way, and shown me through their own accomplishments how to achieve. I credit them with the fact that I’ve never felt less-than, or like I couldn’t go for something that I really wanted. They’ve taught me to take calculated risks, to think things through, and how to pick yourself up when you misstep. They have always been there to give advice, listen to me vent, and celebrate my achievements. I count myself very lucky to have such a great support system.

DCF: What’s your happy place?
ABP: Professionally, my happy place is geeking out over tasting new cheeses and figuring out pairings. I love thoughtfully tasting products and trying to figure out exactly what is happening to my senses – getting beyond the cheese flavor and diving into what else is going on in that flavor profile. Is it lemony and herbaceous? Is toasty and caramelized? Is that a hint of fennel, I detect? Once I get a profile down, I can start playing with adding wine, beer, a cocktail, or whatever would bring those flavors to the next level. It’s an exercise that requires a lot of time, effort, and thoughtfulness, but it’s so much fun. (DCF: and so much talent!)

Personally, my happy place is home with my husband and our yellow lab, Sarge. Spending lazy days with the two of them is the absolute best.

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DCF: Where do you get your energy?
ABP: Oh goodness, that’s a good question. To be quite literal, I come from a family of people who need a serious amount of sleep. If I don’t get enough sleep – I’m talking seven hours minimum – I am basically garbage and no good to anyone. Sleep is a major component to keeping me functioning. (DCF: As I finish tweaking this at 2am, I am totally the opposite lol).

On a more abstract note, I’d say that there are two things that keep me motivated and moving forward. The first is definitely my husband. He’s one of the best people I know, and has a truly enviable amount of self confidence and energy. He’s not one to take short cuts and is definitely the most honest person I’ve ever met. Watching how he approaches the world and the choices that he makes definitely inspires me to be a better person and to keep working hard.

The second thing is the cheese community itself. I love working in this industry for lots of reasons, but the people are definitely a huge piece of that pie. Cheese people really are some of the kindest, best people you can find, and being around them reminds me why I do what I do and inspires me to keep improving.

DCF: What does balance mean to you and how do find it?
ABP: The biggest lesson for me, when it comes to balance, is realizing that it is not a static thing. As days, weeks, and priorities change, so does the meaning of balance. Being someone who likes to be in control of things, this hasn’t been the easiest lesson for me to learn. (DCF: What a great way to look at it! Balance is definitely a moving target.)

Figuring out how to balance all that life throws my way has really come down to two different components: First, I’ve had to learn how to be more flexible and forgiving with myself. Just because I feel somewhat out of whack right now doesn’t mean that that feeling is going to last forever or that I’ve screwed up in an unforgivable way. It just means that I have to adjust a little bit here, or recalibrate a little bit there, and move on with my life. Secondly, balance for me all comes down to priorities. What does my gut say is most important for me in this moment? Is it work related? Is it personal? Is it more important for me to answer those last few emails, or to go for a long walk with my dog? Figuring out what activity in the present is going to serve me best in the future has been an exceptionally important part of feeling like my life is balanced.

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DCF: What sacrifices did you have to make to get here?
ABP: Let me just say right off the bat, I feel pretty darn lucky to be in the position that I am currently in. Whatever sacrifices I have made along the way to get where I am are minuscule in comparison to the feeling of being where I am today. That being said, it hasn’t always been the easiest route. I’d say that one of the biggest sacrifices that any entrepreneur makes is eschewing the security of an “actual” job. No one is writing me a paycheck every two weeks. There is no guarantee that my business will be successful. No one is around to tell me what to do next, or what the right decision is for my business. Sacrificing security is absolutely terrifying, but it’s the only way to realize your vision.

DCF: What struggles have you faced as a women in your industry?
ABP: Geez louise, the mansplaining that I have to deal with is just incredible. It doesn’t happen all the time, but when it does… hoo boy. Male customers challenging my answers to their questions like they’re the experts so that they can impress their friends or partner, repeating things back to me that I’ve just told them as if it’s new information, talking over me when I try to answer questions… it’s super fun. There was one time, in my last job as a head cheesemonger, that a male customer cut me off mid sentence and said that he wanted to hear what my male subordinate had to say about a question he had instead of me. (DCF: Wow you’ve got to love the blatant sexism.) Cool, dude. Keeping my customer service face on and not eye-rolling my eyeballs out of their sockets can be pretty challenging sometimes.

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DCF: What is the early advice you didn’t listen to that you wish you had?
ABP: I can’t attribute this to any one particular person, but various family members and friends have repeatedly encouraged me to trust myself and my own capabilities. I wouldn’t say that my younger self didn’t do that at all, but I wish I didn’t second-guess myself quite so much. I am someone who tends to look to others for validation, and learning how to trust myself and my own judgement is something that I’ve had to work at over the years.

DCF: What was your greatest failure and what did you learn from it?
ABP: Hmm… I don’t really respond to the word “failure”. I don’t mean that to sound big-headed or like I’ve never made a mistake (lord knows, that’s not true). But, honestly, in my book, if I’ve tried your best at something and it doesn’t work out, I don’t really count that as a failure. Dwelling on hiccups and calling them “failures” just has never really served me. It’s the same reason why I don’t really believe in regretting things either. When I look back at my life, the major decisions that I’ve made have always been based upon thoughtfulness and what made sense at the time. There’s no sense in regretting something like that – you do the best with the information that you’re given at any particular time, and then move on. (DCF: This is one of my favorite questions because everyone “fails” sometimes, it’s a part of life! But I love learning how each person responds to it because it varies!)

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DCF: What was your proudest moment to date?
ABP: Aside from opening Cheesemonster, I’d say that the my proudest professional moment was being a finalist at the 2016 Cheesemonger Invitational. For those of you who don’t know, the Cheesemonger Invitational is a cheesemonger competition held twice a year, once in New York and once in San Francisco. Competitors from all over the country compete in a two day event comprised of fourteen different challenges, ranging from a written test focused on science and history, to blind taste and aroma tests, to salesmanship, to creating the perfect beverage pairing and bite. I entered the competition for the first time, not really knowing what I was getting myself into, and ended up coming in sixth out of almost fifty cheesemongers. That accomplishment proved to me that I could actually do this and be somebody in this industry. (DCF: ROCKSTAR!!)

DCF:  What are you Currently Conquering?
ABP: For the most part, I’m still just trying to get the word out about Cheesemonster! Making a name for yourself is definitely the most challenging part of starting a business! I also just started this little thing called Cheese Club by Cheesemonster (Next one is Nov 15th) which is super fun. Once a month, I host a cheese party where we deep-dive into one particular cheese. We taste the cheese of the month, learn about it, pair it with a few beverages, eat some dishes cooked with it – essentially we eat, drink, and have a good time. It’s a lot of fun!

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Let’s Get Social Media!!
Website: www.cheesemonsterdc.com
Instagram: @cheesemonsterdc
Facebook: Cheesemonster
Twitter: @cheesemonsterdc

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The Funemployed: Catherine Cason

DCF: So… Who Are You?
Catherine Cason, Founder/Creator of Gem Hunt and Gem Breakfast. Also a diamond addict!

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The Funemployed: Sarah Robinson

DCF : So… Who Are You?
Sarah Robinson, Author. Aside from being a Top 10 Barnes & Noble and Amazon Bestseller, Sarah Robinson is a native of the Washington, DC area (DCF: woot woot!! DMV) and has both her Bachelors and Masters Degrees in forensic and clinical psychology. She is newly married to a wonderful man who is just as much of an animal rescue enthusiasts as she is. Together, they own a zoo of rescues including everything from mammals to reptiles to marsupials, as well as volunteering and fostering for multiple animal shelters.

Author Photo - Sarah Robinson

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The Funemployed: Patrice Banks

DCF: Who Are You?
I’m Patrice Banks, Founder, CEO and head #sheCANic at Girls Auto Clinic!

DCF: For those of you who haven’t heard of this mecca, here’s some more info!!

Girls Auto Clinic (GAC) is a woman owned and operated business that caters to women. GAC offers automotive buying and repair resources, products, and services based on trust, education, inclusion, and empowerment.

It’s no secret most women hate their automotive buying and repair experiences because we feel misunderstood, taken advantage of, and/or mistreated. To make things worse, the automotive industry has not done much to ease concerns, anxiety, and fear despite the fact more than half their customers are women and spend $200 Billion (with a B) a year on buying and repairing their cars.

Patrice was once one of these women. A self-proclaimed “auto airhead,” Patrice created a business model that supports a need in the lives of millions. Girls Auto Clinic offers:
Automotive repair services
Educational resources in person and online through
Car Care Workshops
GAC blog
Facebook #sheCANic community

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The Funemployed: Lauren Taylor

DCF: Who Are You?
Lauren Taylor, Founder + Director, Defend Yourself and Safe Bars. We teach skills for stopping harassment, abuse, and assault. Our promise to you: Take our classes and you’ll have more safety, more confidence, more freedom, more fun! For my bio, let’s just say I’m a teacher, resistor, advocate and warrior princess. I’m passionate about a world free of gender-based violence and people becoming their full selves. I love chocolate, justice, cats, and DC (not necessarily in that order).

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The Funemployed: Meredith Forte

DCF: Who Are You?
Meredith Forte
Frame Avenue Design
Picture Framer, Design Consultant, Artist, Creative, Photographer, Lady Boss, Rockstar Mom, MacGyver of anything crafty. DC born and raised.

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Photo by Yellow Whale Portraits

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The Funemployed: Charese John

DCF: So Who Are You?
Charese John, Revive Events & Catering, Co-Owner/Creative Director- Charese John is more than a “chef” and way beyond the title of “designer.” John is a creative force with plenty of innovation, vision, and talent. She can see the horizon and she knows how to build it. John has roots in the soil of Corporate Hospitality via Fortune 500 companies like Safeway and Dean & Deluca. Those roots grew stronger as co-owner of Revive Events & Catering, a boutique catering business in Washington, DC. In just the past six years, John and her team have designed more than 3,000 events including private dinners, corporate receptions, and weddings with 1,000+ guests.

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Above ground, Charese has also learned to own the sky—and knows no limits. While studying with celebrity chef, Marcus Samuelsson, John mastered the art of international cuisine with a flair. Throughout this time she was gaining a deep understanding of the wants and the needs of the entire dining experience: the internal requirements of the host, the guests’ palettes, and the external environment to hold and enhance it all.

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