The Art of La Soirée

October 20, 2016

If there was ever a dream duo for entertaining, it would be Cointreau and lifestyle & entertaining expert Camille Styles. The other week I attended a seasonal soirée hosted by the two and was blown away by how they transformed the space at Oak in Dallas into a inspired setting that told the story of changing cool-weather seasons from fall, through winter, and into the new year. Each of the three seasons was represented by its own festive tablescape and included handmade décor, seasonal cuisine and cocktail recipes, and chic mementos...

You'd think that walking into a space with such amazing decor would be intimidating but I was immediately inspired. Nothing about the soirée said "home-made" but there was an approachable, almost effortless aspect to the elevated event that made me want to try hosting my own festive gathering. I've been telling everyone I know that the Cointreau Rickey is my new drink of choice and serving them up for some of my friends seemed like the perfect excuse to get in the entertaining spirit and apply a little of what I saw at the soirée in my own space. Because if there's one thing I learned from attending the event, it's that with Cointreau it's never just a party, it's always a soirée.

 

So what is a soirée? I know…it sounds fancy. And it can be! But my take away from the night with Cointreau and Camille was that a soirée can be fancy, but it’s mostly about creating a welcoming, festive, and comfortable atmosphere for guests. It doesn’t have to take a lot of time (or money) to design an inspired gathering. Just a little creativity, and an artful twist on environment, good friends, cuisine and fine cocktails.

To bring the spirit of La Soirée to my own home I invited friends over for cocktails and appetizers before a night out and took a nod from the “fall” tablescape and scent at the event. Some wood serving pieces, copper accents, colorful autumn-hued florals, and some pumpkins conveyed the look and warmth of the season without taking things over the top. I’m all about the “elevated casual” when it comes to dressing (think silk top and ripped jeans) and entertaining (fine china and guests sitting on the sofa) so I wanted the overall feel to be pretty but feel effortless and relaxed. I always want guests to feel appreciative but not guilty over the time I spend pulling things together!

Since I was hosting people for light bites and cocktails, I wanted the main focus to be about, well, the drinks! Normally I would be intimidated about playing mixologist but the Cointreau Rickey (the brand’s signature cocktail and my new favorite) is really easy to make & customize, and I have yet to serve it to someone who didn’t also love it. To take it one step further and play up the fall theme, I wanted to serve the Cointreau Apple Rosemary Rickey – same great taste as the original with some added seasonal flavors. I set up my bar cart to just hold the tools and ingredients I needed for the drink recipe.

If you’re not familiar with Cointreau, it’s the original orange liquor known that’s a key spirit in some of the most popular cocktails in the U.S. (including the Margarita, the Cosmopolitan and the Sidecar). At 80 proof, Cointreau is extremely versatile in that can be mixed with various spirits or stand on its own in a cocktail. Basically, it’s delicious and has a refreshing taste that’s free of any bite.

Here’s how to make the delish Cointreau Apple Rosemary Rickey:

.The Recipe:

  • 2 oz Cointreau
  • 1 oz fresh lime juice (the juice of one lime)
  • 3-4 oz club soda
  • 3 slices of tart apple
  • 7 leaves of fresh rosemary

.How to Create:

  1. Muddle fresh ingredients (apple slices and rosemary)
  2. Pour 2 oz Cointreau
  3. Squeeze 1 oz fresh lime juice
  4. Add ice and club soda and stir (I like to use crushed ice though be advised that it does melt faster than cubes)
  5. Garnish rosemary sprig and slice of apple

I also found this handy YouTube video for the Cointreau Apple Rosemary Rickey recipe (I wanted to make sure I was muddling correctly!) and it just proves how easy the cocktail is to make. Best part? No mess with a shaker!

To go along with the drink I served up what I feel to be the best crowd pleaser: a cheese board. Apples slices compliment the cocktail recipe and go great with creamy brie, dried cranberries tie into the seasonal mood (Thanksgiving ’tis coming, after all!), and toasted baguette slices with soft

Feeling inspired to host your own soirée? I hope so! You can find lots more inspiration – including decor ideas, party themes, and drink recipes for every season – from Cointreau and their “The Art of La Soirée” events right here.

You may also like

Caramel-Inspired for Fall

September 27, 2016

One of my favorite parts of having a big family - aside from the constant humor "never boring" aspect that comes when we are all together - is seeing the ways that my siblings and I are alike and different. Some of us have similar features (one of my sister's has strawberry blonde hair like mine), most of us all have spirited attitudes, there's a definite split between extroverts and introverts, a few are super athletic...And while we each have specific preferences when it comes to food, we all have a definite sweet tooth and share a love for the sugary, sweet and delicious. Even my brother who is 14 months younger than me who doesn't like cake still loves a fresh chocolate chip cookie and my mom's brownies.

Some of my earliest memories are of getting suckers from the doctor's office with Sally or reaching into bowls of caramels at the bank with my brother when we'd go there with our mom. The Werther's Original caramels we used to eat as little kids are still a favorite none of us can resist. But the classic Caramel Hard Candies we'd grab by the fistful are now one of several caramel candies offered by Werther's. There's something for everyone and Werther's newest survey helps you find which delicious caramel variety best fits your personality. After taking the Werther's Original Fall Quiz and shamelessly sampling five flavors myself, I can't help but wonder which caramel personality each of my eight siblings would have.

Full disclosure, I tried the five Werther‘s flavors before I took the Fall Quiz. Being no stranger to the original caramel hard candies but a true caramel lover, I wanted to see how the Werther‘s recipe translated to their other candies. Here’s what I taste tested: the creamy filled caramels, the creamy apple filled caramels, the soft caramels, the chewy caramels, and the sugar-free caramel hard candies. I hard already determined which was my personal favorite before I took the personality survey and I was a little shocked when the quiz result told me that the caramel I’d identity with was already the one I liked best: the soft caramels. Kind of amazing!

All the caramel eating and start of the new season had me pulling out some of my caramel-inspired fall favorites. I’ve been dying to wear these new brown and black striped flats  and it finally feels appropriate to do so. Slipping on some of my other go-to fall shoes (hello leopard clogs and Golden Goose sneakers, I’ve missed you!) and mixing some of my brown and tan sweaters with white jeans is an easy way to ease into sweater weather while it’s still on the warmer side in Dallas.

Indulging in Werther’s Original caramel is as familiar as slipping on a favorite cozy sweater. And though I feel like I’ve known the flavor since I’ve been little, it’s fun to see how the candy company that established its roots in 1909 (candy-maker Gustav Nebel introduced his delicious, iconic caramel recipe in the small European village of Werther, Germany) can continue to introduce new flavors while staying true to quality ingredients many of us can identify back to our childhoods. I plan on sharing my caramel stash with Sally and a few of our friends so I can have then pick a favorite and take the fall caramel personality quiz…I’m so curious to see how many other people are able to align their tastes with the survey questions and results.

However, I’m pretty positive that any fellow caramel lover will love any of Werther’s offerings. The Soft Apple caramels are a limited edition that’s especially appropriate for the fall season (raise your hand if you ever got a caramel covered apple when trick-or-treating!) and very delicious. The caramel popcorn is another new Werther’s creation I am now dying to try. There’s even a caramel popcorn with sea salt and pretzels (um, yum) and I’m thinking it might be the perfect salty/sweet treat to indulge in!

All varieties of Werther’s Original creations are available in grocery stores and retailers nationwide. Take the Fall Quiz to discover your caramel personality before you decide which to try or just do what I did and get a few varieties that looks good then take the survey and see if it aligns with a taste-tested favorite…either way, be sure to share your results on Facebook and Twitter to show friends your true caramel identity and why you #FallForWerthers this season!

You may also like

Fall Rituals with Starbucks

September 16, 2016

I'm a believer there's never a perfect time to move - it's a grueling process no matter what - but I feel like I timed my switching of cities pretty well...the beginning of fall is such a great time to reestablish routines and reset life a little bit. The start of school, shift in seasons, kicking off of the holidays - the timing feels right to be setting up a new home and finding new rituals.

My days are hardly ever the same. My list of to-do's is always shifting based on priorities and deadlines. But because I work from home I start almost every day the same way: Blue and I wake up around 7am, I turn on my coffee maker while I walk to get him his food, I make myself a cup of coffee and turn on the news while I wait for it to brew, then I snuggle with Blue on the couch with my coffee and laptop to check emails and see what's on schedule for the day ahead. Even if the pup and I sleep in, coffee is still how I have to begin the day. It's not just a ritual, it's the ritual. But the thing about rituals is they become routine...sometimes I don't even register the taste of my coffee because I'm so accustomed to the flavor. In an effort to put some pep in my step and really embrace the fall season along with my fresh move, I've been enjoying seasonal fall flavors by Starbucks® at home.

 

When I say enjoying, I mean that I’m really taking steps to taste what I’m drinking. And when I say at home, it means I’m brewing my coffee and latte blends in my own kitchen with my Keurig maker and Starbucks K-cup pods. Some people relish going out for coffee but there’s something about making my own cups at home that has always given me a really cozy feeling. I’m sure it helps that I have Blue to give me puppy cuddles while I’m sipping but none the less, each cup of coffee feels like a familiar treat and my routine has been reinvigorated with the Sarbucks Fall flavors.

Lately I’ve been using the Starbucks Fall Blend K-Cup® pods and the Pumpkin Spice Caffé Latte K-Cup® pods. The Fall Blend is a medium roast that uses 100% Arabica beans from three regions (Sumatra, Africa, and Latin America) to create a flavorful hearty taste with a slight spice and subtle nuttiness. The Pumpkin Spice Caffé Latte is one of Starbucks’ most celebrated creations and it’s amazing that fans like me can now make them at home! The PSL K-Cup pods use real pumpkin, cinnamon and  nutmeg flavors and dairy, and is blended with Arabica coffee to make for a rich, velvety latte.

I generally always drink black coffee and opt for a latte once a week or on the weekends as a treat so it’s been fun to have savor these blends for my first week in my new Dallas home. Honestly, I feel like I could drink both varieties year round – they are that delicious – but they definitely have flavors that signify the start of the fall season.

So how is one suppose to taste the differences in an every day coffee or latte versus a seasonal blend or custom flavor? There are some tasting steps you can use to really hone your skills:

  1. Smell: some people love the smell of coffee but not the taste – this is because your nose can pick up thousands of smells where your mouth distinguishes only four types of tastes (salty, sweet, bitter, and sour). Smelling coffee before you taste it helps you absorb the flavors to come.
  2. Slurp: it’s not impolite as this is a legitimate step in the tasting process but if it would make you feel better, don’t do it in a crowded public place. Slurping is important because it sprays the coffee across your palate and lets subtle flavors and aromas reach all the tasting zones of your mouth. So now you know!
  3. Locate: you can close your eyes for this one but it’s not a requirement. Sometimes I do because then I feel more like a pro. So, try to really feel and consider the weight of the coffee and where you are experiencing the most flavor.
  4. Describe: now your brain does the work of describing what the aroma and flavor of coffee is being consumed. Sometimes you’ll be able to pick up similar food aromas (ex: Pumpkin Spice Latte!) and hopefully you can distinguish some of the tasting characteristics.

Which brings me to….the four tasting characteristics of coffee!

  1. Aroma: yup, you guessed it – this is how the coffee smells. You may be able to pick up qualities that are earthy, nutty, floral, etc. and the smells directly relate to the taste of the coffee.
  2. Acidity: coffee has a tanginess or tartness (which is why some people don’t prefer it as a beverage) that can range between low, medium or high. Coffees with a high acidity are described as “bright, tangy, and crisp” and have a clean finish. Low acidity coffees will feel more smooth and linger in your mouth longer.
  3. Body: not how a coffee looks (hehe) but the weight of it on your tongue as you taste it. Body is described as light, medium, or full. Light bodies coffees feel light on the tongue (think of a non-fat milk) and full body blends feel heavier and have lingering flavor (think of a whole milk).
  4. Flavor: this is pretty simple – it’s how the coffee tastes. Sometimes the taste is obvious and other times it is less detectible. Go back to the above “tasting steps” and concentrate on the flavors you might be picking up (like citrus, cocoa, and berry).

What I love about coffee is that don’t have to be a coffee tasting pro or flavor guru to enjoy drinking it. And what I love about Starbucks is that they’ve made the delicious blends and flavors they’re famous for accessible and easy to make at home. You can get all three of Sarbucks’ fall flavors – the Fall Blend, Pumpkin Spice Caffé Latte (yum) and Salted Caramel Hot Cocoa (I’m dying to try this next!) – at Wal-Mart and, when you buy any three qualifying Starbucks (listed here!) from Wal-Mart you can get 75 Stars! Get all the details on the Starbucks Reward offer here.

And please, do share if you have any daily rituals you might be changing up with the start of the fall season…I’m definitely looking for more ways to subtly shift my routines to celebrate my very favorite time of year!

You may also like

Chocolate Fueling Female Entrepreneurs

August 2, 2016

Chocolate is one of the best stuff on this planet. I don't think I need to argue on the point that it's a fantastic vice and admit that it's one I often indulge in. Wild Ophelia makes delicious-tasting chocolate. And not just any chocolate, but Fair Trade, non-GMO chocolate that tastes fantastic and features flavors designed to embody the spirit and diverse, rich flavors of America. But Wild Ophelia is much more than just a chocolate brand.

Wild Ophelia chocolate was created by Vosges Haut-Chocolat founder, Katrina Markoff, with a distinct message in mind: to encourage, educate and propel American high school and college girls who have entrepreneurial dreams in food. "Ophelia" represents female entrepreneurs in America today. She is independently spirited, fiercely unconventional, and wildly ambitious. Ophelia is the muse for the chocolate line not only not because she believes in herself, but because she is passionate about innovation, authenticity, and empowerment. To help make the dream of helping future female entrepreneurs a reality, Wild Ophelia contributes a portion of sales from every chocolate sold to the Wild Ophelia Accelerator Program, which awards three grants each year to applicants.

Are you feeling inspired? And maybe experiencing a little chocolate craving? Good. Because that's exactly what I felt when I met Wild Ophelia. I got the itch to bring some of my favorite Houston-based friends - who also happen to be female entrepreneurs - together so that they could meet in the name of "Ophelia" and indulge in a little chocolate. Because I believe in the power of female friendship as much as I believe in the magical powers of chocolate. Keep reading to see what three of my favorites I brought together and check out the Q+A we all did about being entrepreneurial women.

Let me start off by saying that there are many wonderful female entrepreneurs in Houston – these ladies are just three that I know and love – and had I been more organized and had more time, I would have gotten a massive group together for chatting and chocolate. Le sigh. Goals for next time!

Meet:

  • Ailee Petrovic: my photographer extraordinaire! Much more than just a great talent for hire, Ailee is a wife, mother to sweet Isla (with another bebe on the way!), and creative junkie. She’s kind of one of the busiest people I know (how she makes time to keep up with her blog Snapshots & My Thoughts, I have no idea) and also one of the nicest and most thoughtful. I’m so grateful to have time with Ailee each week – her photos always blow me away but getting to spend time with her, chatting about everything and nothing, is the real reason I look forward to our sessions together.
  • Kathleen Jennings: founder and CEO of the app BeautyNow. It’s like OpenTable for booking beauty appointments and includes thousands of locations across the US. Kathleen is a former attorney, wife, and mother of two boys (with another baby on the way). She’s beautiful both inside and out – and is kind enough to share her secrets and favorite products and treatments on the BeautyNow blog – and I’ve loved getting to know her since moving to Houston.
  • Katie McClure: one part of the sister duo behind MIRTH Caftans. Katie and Erin both live in Houston and after attending their launch party at one of my favorite boutiques back in March, I knew I had to be friends with them. Not only is their line of caftans so dreamy yet wearable (I already own three and won’t stop till I have them all) but their journey from idea to inception is so inspiring. I love their authenticity and commitment to making the perfect caftan (which is harder than you think!).

Hope you enjoy our group Q+A below!

Q: How did you take the leap to becoming an entrepreneur?

Ailee: As cliche as it may sound, the thought of leaving my 6 month old to go back into the grind of Corporate America, to a job that required 7am-6pm hours, motivated me to take the leap to becoming an entrepreneur. I have always had a passion for photography, and after my daughter, Isla, was born, I began taking lots of online classes (I highly recommend Nicole’s Classes!) to improve my skills. I kept pushing my maternity leave out further and further, and finally decided to quit and venture out on my own. It was very scary, but the rewards of following your passion and getting to do what you love every day are so work the risk!

Kathleen: I had recently retired from my litigation practice at a big law firm in Houston, but I was very happy being a stay-at-home mom with two little boys (my youngest was just 6 months old when I started BeautyNow). I wondered aloud to my husband, “Why don’t they have OpenTable for beauty appointments?” After a lot of researching the competitive landscape and interviewing salon owners and others in the industry, I decided to move forward. My husband and I made the strategic decision that, someone is going to do this, and it might as well be us. Given my passion about beauty products and services (which you can read about on the BeautyNow Blog), I thought I was an ideal person to pursue this concept.

KatieIt was a long and slow process for me. I was going through a hard time in life and everything was thrown up in the air all of a sudden. Sometimes “bad” things that happen is the very spark you need for amazing things in your life, and this is proof. I never would have had the courage to take the leap if I wasn’t halfway off the cliff already. I would still be going through the motions of life, most likely in a career that isn’t inspiring. My mind was open and I was already in that zone of discomfort, so it was almost less scary to switch gears and go all in. Getting over the fear is the hardest part. So my advice is to turn around life’s downs and believe it is the springboard to get you to the top of your mountain. Another way to get to that place is through travel. Not vacationing, but travel. Prefereably alone, something I’m a huge proponent of.

More specifically, I was wandering around Ubud, Bali by myself, shopping for caftans (because they are THE perfect piece of clothing– more on that later), frustrated I couldn’t find any good ones, and admiring local handmade batik textiles. But really that whole trip was to figure out what in the world I was going to do with my life. I was at a turning point and was starting to understand, my life isn’t over, it’s just starting and it can be whatever I want. The world is my oyster. Why fall back into a life, a place, a job that isn’t fulfilling? I was determined to figure out what makes me happy, no matter how ridiculous or far fetched it seemed. I was all over the map trying to come up with ideas but each one eventually stressed me out more than excited me when thinking about it. 

I knew I had a creative spirit I wasn’t using, and was afraid to use because of all the competition thrown into my face daily (thank you, social media). I knew I loved travel and everything it brings to a person, and I knew I wanted to do something with a purpose behind it, maybe a charitable component. So that day it hit me– why not just make caftans? Just that! It’s simple. I can wrap my head around it. I’m not trying to be a fashion designer, just make one great product. It’s been done before, but I’ll put my own spin on it and check some boxes that I feel are missing with the current market. And make them out of these beautiful and unique fabrics. Make things you want to wear all the time, that make you feel good, that you keep forever. Give back in some way, although I didn’t know how at that point. Concious consumerism. Social entrepreneurship. This is it! 

I felt like a weight was lifted as soon as I had the thought. It slapped me in the face. Maybe it was all the yoga I was doing on that retreat, or maybe it was just letting my mind wander, feeling a bit uncomfortable in this foreign country by myself. No Instagram, no discussion of the latest episode of the Bachelor, just being a small part of a big world and taking in every single thing I saw around me in a mindful way. I felt my true reaction and response to my surroundings without outside influence or worrying about judgement. Creativity and progressive thought needs blank space. It needs breathing room. I had plenty of that hiking through a rice paddy and exploring temples, and it worked.

And then I did nothing for years. I went to career counselors, I traveled, I moved from Switzerland to Singapore and back to the US, and I pondered this caftan company. I collected ideas. I collected fabrics. I took other jobs. But I always came back to the caftan idea. It wouldn’t go away. I got excited thinking about it. It was me in a nutshell. But I still wasn’t getting to that place in life I was searching for and I knew existed. A couple of years later, I took 2 months to travel in Europe & volunteer in Nepal. I loved volunteering with kids in Nepal and met an adorable family of tailors who I shyly asked to make a simple caftan for me. They did, and it was not good. But that didn’t matter — it was the first step. I convinced my sister to join me in India after Nepal. She has just closed a business of hers, a clinic for kids with Autism, and was struggling with what to do next, too. She was defeated. I suspected there was no better place for us than India, and I was right.

We fell into India and let it work its magic. The people we met, the places we visited, the nature that surrounded us– the whole thing completely turned us inside out. It opened us up and handed to us what we needed on a platter. We started “pretending” we were starting this caftan line. And it just all started happening. We had an extraordinary day in Jaipur that ended in an elephant ride in the desert and we looked at each other with the most genuine and rich happiness and decided to do it together. The idea was not going to leave me, as it hadn’t for years, and I wouldn’t rest unless I started. Even if my life savings was gone and it failed, I would be happy I at least tried it. If it turned into a real and sustainable business, that was just icing on the cake. Jumping into it with my sister was way less scary and was the final push I needed.

It wasn’t perfect or easy after that– the contacts we made our first trip didn’t pan out, but it allowed us to realize we could do it. And eventually, 2 years later, we have MIRTH Caftans and are now up and running as a business.

Molly: Sally and I started A Piece of Toast in November 2010 as a total hobby project. We wanted to do something together and our friend Fallon suggested we start a blog as a way to catalog our taste and stuff we like. I don’t think we thought we were anything special – it was just “oh, other people are doing this we should give it a go, too!”  Truth: we had no idea what we were doing and we had no idea people could make money off blogs. Sure we heard that people were often gifted things but we never thought that would happen to us. I did my best to “brand” our site but back then we were borrowing all our imagery and the only original content were a few collaged graphics here and there.

In the first two years we took baby steps toward growing…I bought a camera and slowly (very slowly started taking photos and posting them). We went to blog conferences. We learned that there was money to be made but our focus was defining our point of view and generating more original content. A few amazing brands bought side-bar ad space from us (remember those days!?) and we even started to do a few giveaways. Slowly, very slowly, we began connecting with brands and finding ways to work together. I’ll never forget the day when I was asked for our Tax ID number and realizing, “Ohhh man, I think this is turning into a business.” Becoming an LLC, getting that Tax ID number, establishing a bank account in the blog’s name – that was when I knew things were happening.

From there the ball was is motion. More projects came our way, our content got better, we connected with amazing people and brands, and we felt like the blog was more of a second job than a hobby. By our third birthday I was beginning to feel like I didn’t have the bandwidth to work a full-time corporate job and manage the blog at the level it was demanding. Working two full-time jobs wasn’t making me feel happy – it was making me feel like a crazy, manic person on the brink of a breakdown. My gut was telling me that if I was going to pour time, energy, and creativity into something it might as well be my own brand but I was scared of leaving the security of the corporate world. Before I made up my mind someone told me something to the effect of, “You’ve always been an entrepreneur – it’s time you started acting like it.” I debated for a while about all the pros and cons before devoting my time fully to the blog in October 2013. It was a very surreal experience…but the numbers made sense of paper so I figured I would give it a go. Leaving co-workers I loved was hard and leaving health insurance was even harder.

Now that I’ve been managing the blog full time for almost three years, I can say that I very much feel like an entrepreneur but still can’t believe that this is my job.

Q: What are the best and worst parts about being your own boss?

Ailee: The best parts are flexible hours, not having to report status to anyone, making executive decisions with little to no input from others, being able to take pride in your own work, amongst other things. The worst parts are also having flexible hours (this normally means working until midnight!), missing the camaraderie of co-workers in an office setting, and the pressure of doing it all yourself!

Kathleen: The best part is the flexibility to a certain extent— I can be with my kids more than I would be had I stayed on the partner track at a major law firm. That said, you still have to keep pretty regular hours or it will send a bad message to your partners, customers and employees. The trade off is that the weight of the world is on your shoulders—the pressure, stress and emotional rollercoaster of being an entrepreneur are unparalleled. I don’t think you can fully appreciate how stressful it is until you experience it yourself.

Katie: I wish I had a boss! I never thought I’d say that. But it is a luxury– to have someone to go to for help, to ask questions, to lead you in the right direction… if only. This is the hardest part. Making decisions when you don’t know what to do is anxiety inducing. But to have the ability to make decisions and go with your gut is also empowering.

Molly: The best part is definitely being in control of my time and having the flexibility to re-arange my schedule, travel, work with my dog from home, etc. I love that no day is the same but I kind of hate that also. It’s very hard for me to establish a routine because I’m always shifting my list of priorities and jumping from business development to content creation to accounting and everything in between. Other best part: I get to do this with my best friend and sister. Though we split responsibilities differently, it’s so nice that at the end of the day we are partners and in this together. The worst part is that I don’t know what the future holds – the nature of blogging as a business makes it nearly impossible to project earnings or set a growth plan. It’s forced me to seek a lot of professional financial planning advice and to have a “go with the flow” mentality, making the most of now and not fixating on the future.

Q: Do you think there are stereotypes about women entrepreneurs? Or truths that exists as a women running a small business or just running a small business in general?

Ailee: Yes! When I was working in consulting, I felt like my friends understood why I couldn’t meet them for lunch at 11am on a Tuesday. But now that I have a more flexible schedule, I feel like people expect me to be available at the drop of a hat. Although my schedule is more fluid, owning your own business takes a lot of hard work, I’m staying very busy photographing or shooting or being a mom, so I feel like I have less time for friends now more than ever (which isn’t a good thing!).

Kathleen: I think society has made great strides toward accepting women as entrepreneurs, but they expect them to fit into a certain “box” to be acceptable. If you are a single woman in San Fran or New York, pursuing a startup with one of your buddies straight out of Harvard Business School, that’s acceptable. It is quite another thing to be a pregnant mom in Houston with a tech startup— I have no doubt that it affects how seriously we are taken as a company. I was told by one potential investor that I would never be taken seriously because I look more like one of the venture capitalist’s wives than the CEO of a company they would invest in.

Molly: I think there are stereotypes about women in business period. In the blogging profession the stereotypes are: you take pictures of yourself looking pretty, get paid for it, buy handbags, wash, rinse, repeat. The problem with that stereotype is that we bloggers are doing it to ourselves! We make this “job” look easy because that’s kind of the whole point…we want to be approachable and relatable and that can translate to “she’s just like me, I could do what she’s doing!” Which is true – anyone can do it! And I encourage people to start a blog if they feel passionate about it. But blogging and being an entrepreneur are different. A blogger might make money, buy a handbag and call it a day – but an entrepreneur carefully cultivated the relationship that led to a paid collaboration, which made them money that they then invested (after paying taxes), and they spent more time back and forth on emails and doing accounting work than they did standing and shooting the pretty pictures that were posted online. It’s hard to take myself seriously sometimes when I know that a lot of what I do is made to look like elevated narcissism – but I try really hard not to think about stereotypes and give my best elevator speech possible when I’m asked what I do. Small business women have to take themselves seriously in order for others to do the same!

Q: What have been your biggest challenges and biggest celebrations?

Kathleen: The biggest challenge has been starting a tech company when I’m not technical. My best advice would be don’t start an app if you can’t code it yourself, or at least have enough of a technical background to be able to oversee the coders yourself. There have been lots of celebrations along the way, but the biggest brake would be landing John Paul DeJoria (chairman of Paul Mitchell Products) as a major investor.

KatieAlmost every aspect has been difficult, but that’s part of the fulfillment. This is what makes accomplishments that much better. You have the highest highs and the lowest lows because there’s so much emotion involved and you’ve put so much of yourself into the business. We’ve had surreal moments for a lot of our firsts: getting picked up by our first store– Saint Cloud— was a big moment of shock celebration, as was our first major retailer, Anthropologie. The first bulk order shipment arriving in from customs (I cried), and the first stranger to order from our site (and she reordered a 2nd one!) were both big moments. I need to remind myself to stop and celebrate. My sister is so good about this. She’s the MIRTH cheerleader– so positive and always reminding me how far we’ve come.

We have a very organic approach– we don’t try to force things and we go with our gut a lot. The challenge of forging your own path without a map or the ideal resources is difficult. Funding and cash flow is also a big challenge, so we are very DIY and try to only spend where we have to.  My stress level would probably be lower if I could hire pros– an accountant, a graphic designer, a textile designer, a production manager, an importer, a PR person, a copywriter, a stylist. But I understand every nook and cranny of the business and being forced to learn new things every day only makes our core stronger as we grow.

Molly: My biggest challenge is managing my time. I’m very Type-A and organized but I’m also a true creative in the fact that I am the biggest procrastinator you will ever meet. So when it comes to producing a blog post (editing images, building a collage, writing copy, etc.) I am always doing it the night before and morning of posting. The 11th hour is my favorite and it’s all but impossible for me to get something done in advance. Usually this is fine but not when I have clients and brands who want to see drafts in advance. I know I bring the stress on myself and I could easily change my ways if I really tried…but I think I love the surge of inspiration and ideas I get when the clock is ticking and there’s a fire under my ass.

Sally and I have had a lot to celebrate over the past five plus years…and while there are lots of great perks that have come with having the blog (yes we are lucky to be gifted product and yes we’ve gotten to do a lot of cool things) the relationships and friendships we’ve built and maintained give me the greatest sense of accomplishment. That and being able to 100% financially support myself.

Q: Is there anything you wish you had known before you decided to become an entrepreneur that you know now? Would you have done anything differently?

Ailee: I wish I had known about the number of emails you would receive, with nobody to field them or reply on your behalf! My poor husband hears me complain about the black hole that is my inbox on a regular basis! I’m not sure I would have done anything differently though.

Kathleen: See above— don’t launch an app if you aren’t technical. 99% of the frustrations and stress I faced during the initial years of BeautyNow were caused by the fact that I’m not technical.

KatieI highly recommend some industry experience and education. I wish I spend more free time in my 20s exploring things like photography, web design, coding, sewing. As you ponder a business, start inspiration files… examples of photoshoot ideas and styles, resources you find, inspirations for color palettes, content ideas, websites you like, etc. It takes time to gather these kinds of things. That way when you start, you have a lot of pull from already.I would also start searching for mentors. Interview anyone in the industry, and try to find a mentor or two. These people are invaluable and 100% necessary.

Molly: Because the blog represents so much of who we are, it has been hard for Sally and I to understand how to be both passionate and pragmatic about the business aspect. There’s a lot of fun that comes with the job (fueling our creativity passion) but a lot of grown-up responsibility (and the need to be pragmatic), too. And in addition to knowing how to paddle the boat we have to be kind to one another as partners and sisters. It wasn’t always the smoothest of sailing (are you loving all my nautical references?) but years of learning as we go and putting our relationship first has made us really strong. I wish I knew that working with family isn’t always easy – and that we were given advice on possible pitfalls and potential issues – but it’s definitely worth it.

Q: Do you think you would have done anything differently or started your business earlier had you felt validated by your ideas, ambitions, goals, etc. at a younger age?

Ailee: Yes! Absolutely. Growing up, my parents were very supportive of my education, so going to college was a non-negotiable. Deciding to attend the Communications School at The University of Texas was slightly less desirable in their eyes than the Business School, but they were happy for me. As it came time to decide on a career upon graduation, my dad (whom I love dearly and highly respect for his advice) encouraged me to apply for a job in Management Consulting versus a PR, journalism, advertising, etc. job that would be more creative. I took this path, worked for five years, then decided that I wasn’t cut out for a corporate desk job. I definitely think I learned a lot about being a business owner while working at Accenture, but I do wish I had felt empowered to take photography in college, as it has always been a passion of mine, given that I would have learned way more there than I have in online classes!

Kathleen: I doubt I would have had the gumption or resources to leave my high-paying law job and start the app earlier. I had loans to pay off! But I owe a lot to my husband in terms of supporting and encouraging me in my entrepreneurial efforts.

Molly: Both our mom and dad are entrepreneurs so I feel like even if we weren’t directly encouraged to become small business women, we knew that it was possible. I feel like we’re living in a time where everyone and their dog either wants to launch a startup, start a blog, or have a solo business. My generation wants to be their own boss from day one. But working for others – both in big and small companies gave me a lot of tools and skills that I apply to the blog. Being an entrepreneur is much more than having a great idea or taking a risk – it’s also about knowing you’ll put in the time/energy/money/creativity to make something work. Transitioning to working on the blog full time is a bit unique because it started out as a hobby…but I guess the same can be said for photographers, artists, and a lot of other people in creative industries. I don’t think I would have jumped in with both feet any earlier than when I did (mostly because of my financial anxiety) but I would have felt more secure in my gut feeling had there been people encouraging me to view the blog as a potential business from day one.

Q: What advice do you have for young women (high school and college aged) who have an interest in being an entrepreneur?

Kathleen: I think the best advice is to pick something you are passionate about and good at, and try to make a business out of it. Pick something within your skill set (i.e. don’t start an app if you can’t build it!) and don’t invest too much money at the outset until you see there is a real market for it.

Katie: It will be the headrest thing you’ve ever done and it will take over your life. You will lose sleep. You will miss out on things your peers are doing. You will be in hysterics on the floor on a regular basis. But don’t let it discourage you!  It will be the best thing you’ve ever done, even if it doesn’t make it. Closing a business isn’t failure. It’s a step onto the next thing. Find mentors and cheerleaders, seek out others in a smiler boat and this will help immensely. Get all the advice you can, and take some of it. Don’t worry about not giving up– I think that’s a bit harsh and unrealistic. Do your best, work your butt off, but you just might have to change course and that’s OK.  It is an exhilarating roller coaster and I wouldn’t give it up for anything.

Molly: Have big ideas but then have the courage to act on them. Do research (and then more research) – asking questions is great but every pro out there started out at square one and probably isn’t going to hand over a notebook full of secret recipes for jumping from A to Z (even if they wanted to). No one is going to hold your hand and do the hard work for you (it’s sad but true) and only you can take the risks that might yield the rewards. Half the fun and glory is in the struggle, right?! Also, be your own worst critic but also know when to give yourself a break. Most entrepreneurs I know would rather kill themselves trying rather than ask for help (myself included) and usually don’t take the time to celebrate the good things because they’re too busy comparing or focusing on small details that didn’t go right.

Q: One of the hardest parts of being an entrepreneur is trusting other people with your vision/adding employees/delegating – what do you think makes this such a struggle and how have you been able to work through it in your own business?

Ailee: This seriously is so difficult! I hired an intern, and she is so amazing and killing it with the tasks I’ve given her, but I initially wanted her to take over the initial client response and booking. After she came onboard, I quickly realized I could not give up control of my inbox, because that was such a personal thing! As a business owner, your client contact is one of the most important things, and I wanted to make sure that when people reached out to Snapshots by Ailee Petrovic, that they heard back from me, not from an intern.

Kathleen: I think delegating is a struggle because the type of person who becomes an entrepreneur is by nature a “doer.” From a young age, I was the kid who would tell classmates for a group project, oh don’t worry about it, I will do it all myself this weekend. I’m still very much like that. I think the only way I “work through it” is that there is just too much to do to possibly get done yourself, so I just have to let some things go.

Molly: Overhead. I dug in my heels for a long time before wanting to pay other people besides myself and Sally but it had to be done. The trick is to hire people to do the things you can’t do (like complicated taxes), the things you might not have the time for (like business development and contract negotiation), and the things that you’re not better off doing yourself (like photography – thanks, Ailee!). Once I came to terms with knowing that I can’t do everything myself, my biggest struggle was 1) trusting others to “be me” and operate at my same level of commitment and 2) believing that I had the resources to pay them.

Q: Are there any female entrepreneurs you admire, aspire to, or credit as influential?

Ailee: There are so many female entrepreneurs that I admire. I love the fun, colorful styles of @aww.sam, @cakeandconfetti, @clairecollected, and @sugarandcloth, the neutral lifestyle photos like @lee_kristine, @kristygirl, @livvka, @samantha.m.hawes and @helloerinv and talented female photographers like @janawilliamsphotos_, @emthegem, @courtney_leigh_photo, @michelleable (too many others to list!).

Kathleen: Janet Gurwitch, founder of Laura Mercier cosmetics. She is very inspirational and has been a great mentor right here in Houston.

Katie: Love what the sisters of Block Shop Textiles have done, especially their positive impact on healthcare in Bagru, India.  I also admire Clare Vivier: the organic growth of her line and her approachable content. She has a good head on her shoulders, that one. And Jenni Kayne, for her real style and beautiful simplicity. Her blog, Rip & Tan, is fantastic.

Molly: I’m such a girl boss nerd, I love pretty much every lady entrepreneur I meet. My friend Cristina – who runs Mi Golondrina – is like a spirit sister and we look to each other as trusted advisors in a lot of ways. I’d say that the team at The Coveteur has the biggest impact on me in terms of how they’ve consistently projected their brand and grown over the years while still maintaining the same look and feel.

We met, we ate Wild Ophelia chocolate, we chatted all things life and work, and we vowed to do it again soon. Snacking on the Maine Sea Salt Peanut Butter Cups, Caramelized Crispy Rice Bars and Almond Sea Salt Bars made the meet up all the more sweet!

Wearing: Mirth Corfu Caftan  •  Photos taken at The Kitchen at The Dunlavey

You may also like

Lemonade Cocktails with Evolution Fresh

July 28, 2016

When it comes to making cocktails at home, I prefer simple, straightforward recipes that yield delicious, fresh flavor. I faced the fact that I'm not a mixologist wizard a long time ago - anything with more than four steps or hard-to-find ingredients (dried lavender? candied sugar? sage leaves?) usually leaves me feeling defeated. Summer is not about feeling stressed...especially over cocktails. Summer is the familiar taste of lemonade, crisp and icy drinks, easy and satisfying flavors. Squeezing lemons and limes to get juice for cocktails is a time-honored tradition but I've been skipping the hand squeezing and jumping to pre-made lemonade or limeade when making drinks and it's made life a lot easier and super delicious.

What I've been using isn't just lemonade or limeade, but cold-pressed, high-pressure processed lemonade and limeade by Evolution Fresh. By cold-pressing their lemonades, limeades and other fruit and vegetable juices and using high-pressure processing (HPP) instead of heat pasteurization, the end result is more of the flavors, vitamins and nutrients of raw fruits and vegetables. So, so, so yum. Any variety of Evolution Freshwould be great for incorporating in summer or year-round cocktails but I've been using and loving their four organic lemonade and limeade flavors: Spicy LemonadeStrawberry LemonadeGreen Lemonade, and Ginger Limeade, .

 

Feeling thirsty? Good! Because  I have four simple recipes each using a different Evolution Fresh lemonade variety. I did the hard work of taste-testing all of them so hopefully you’ll be inspired to try one (or two, or all four) and enjoy boozy lemonade as much as I do!

Spicy Lemonade Margarita // makes 2 drinks

  • 8 parts/12 ounces of Evolution Fresh Organic Spicy Lemonade
  • 1 part/1.5 ounces of tequila (I like Casamigos)
  • 1 part/1.5 ounces Cointreau
  • Chile salt to rim glasses (I mix equal parts sea salt and chile powder)
  • About the lemonade: A hint of ginger juice and a pinch of cayenne pepper turn up the heat on this zesty organic lemonade.

Vodka Strawberry Lemonade // makes 2 drinks

  • 8 parts/12 ounces of Evolution Fresh Organic Strawberry Lemonade
  • 2 part/3 ounces of vodka (I like Titos)
  • A generous splash of sparking water (Topo Chicco is delicious!)
  • Garnish with small strawberries
  • About the lemonade: Sweet strawberries and tangy lemons are soul mates in this Evolution Fresh favorite.

Boozy Green Lemonade // makes 2 drinks

  • 8 parts/12 ounces of Evolution Fresh Organic Green Lemonade
  • 2 parts/3 ounces of gin (I like Hendricks)
  • Garnish with lemon slices
  • About the lemonade: Lemonade got a leafy green makeover with this newest addition to Evolution Fresh’s suite of limeades and lemonades.

Lime-y Moscow Mule // makes 1 drink

  • 4 parts/6 ounces of Evolution Fresh Organic Ginger Limeade
  • 1 part/1.5 ounces of vodka (I like Titos)
  • Fill rest of cup with Ginger Beer (I used Reed’s)
  • Garnish with lime wedges
  • About the limeade: Combines the divine tartness of organic limes, picked at their peak, with the pep of spicy-sweet organic ginger. A concoction with a kick.
  • Notes: you don’t need a shaker for this one! Using crushed ice and a copper cup or mug is standard Moscow Mule practice but not a must.

More notes: You can use a shot glass to measure 1 part, which is technically 1.5 ounces, but as long as you maintain the right ratios of juice to alcohol, your drinks will taste just fine! I use this jigger (the small size is 1.5 ounces and the larger is 3 ounces) for measuring and this cocktail shaker for the obvious required shaking. For more fun, you can use ice molds – I used this tray to make big square cubes and these sphere molds to give some of the drinks a good chill without diluting them too quickly.

So what do you think? The lemonade recipes are a little like childhood nostalgia, meets unique flavors, gets turned into a grown-up refreshment. Evolution Fresh always uses the most flavorful fruits and vegetables so your lemonade cocktails will taste just as fresh as if you had squeezed the juice yourself!

You may also like