12 Days of Zen

It’s that time of year again… THE HOLIDAYS.

Yep. Cue: family craziness, crowded shopping malls, and overbooked schedules. I’m not a scrooge by any means. I love Christmas. As an entrepreneur, this is really the only time of year I have to relax & refresh for a brand new year of kicking butt.

The problem? The holidays can get really stressful. It’s easy to get caught up in the mania, and, before you know it, it’s time to get back to work.

12 days of Zen is a mini-series with daily tips stay mindful this holiday. Don’t let the holiday season whiz by you in a hectic blur. Use this time to rejuvenate, celebrate, and be happy.


Day 1: Let go of expectations

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Things turn out the best for people who make the best of the way things turn out.~John Wooden

Drop your expectations of what you think this holiday season should be like. We’re bombarded with ads, movies, and social media that our perspective of what the holidays are actually like is tainted.

The truth is, the holidays are… messy. There’s a reason why this is the only time of year you see some extended family of yours.

It’s not always going to be perfect (or even enjoyable) the whole time, but if you can adjust your expectations, you can still be happy. How? Change your thoughts, adjust your perception, and decide that this holiday season is great.

 


Day 2: Stop obsessing over outcomes

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Let go or be dragged.- Zen Proverb

Entrepreneurs are obsessed with outcomes. Our discipline constantly keeps us in check. Right now, we’re more focused on outcomes than ever as we plan for the next 12 months.

Our passion for defining what success looks like and making a plan to get there carries over into our personal lives, too. This time of year, it’s hard to get our heads out of that mindset. Self-criticism can dominate your thought process & perspective.

Here’s the truth: Things won’t go as you planned. That’s okay. Your family might not get along the whole time. That’s okay. Instead of spending this entire holiday season trying to make things perfect, take time to enjoy the experience, no matter how chaotic it might be.

Let it be.


Day 3: Cut your family some slack.

If someone isn’t what others want them to be, the others become angry. Everyone seems to have a clear idea of how other people should lead their lives, but none about his or her own. -Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

You know those dysfunctional family members of yours? It’s like they live in a completely different world (or universe, for that matter) than you.

From the outside looking in, it’s easy to judge them, as if you’ve suddenly become an expert in family psychiatry. It’s just as easy for them to judge you, too. In fact, they probably think your family is dysfunctional & weird, too.

Instead of judging them, embrace your differences. Let things slide, avoid taking sides, and try to be a peacemaker. You’ll have more mental energy to put into what you can control, your happiness.


Day 4: Giving Back

No-one has ever become poor by giving. – Anne Frank

As an entrepreneur, you’re in a constant battle to make it to the top. It can be hard not to always think about “what is in it for me?” when doing just about anything.

There is so much more to have in mind though, Others.

Think about the last time you were going through a difficult situation and how powerful it was to have someone offer you help. Putting people before profits leads to a life richer than you can ever imagine.

This holiday season remember how powerful it can be to give. This year I encourage you to ring a bell for the Salvation Army, donate to Toys-for-Tots, find a way to get involved and give back. Do it with the right intentions, of receiving nothing in return, and you will find a much-needed moment of peace.


Day 5: Enjoy Doing Nothing

Beware the barrenness of a busy life.- Socrates

There’s always a little part of me that feels guilty whenever I’m not being productive. I’ve found out, however, that always being busy can actually be counterproductive.  If you can never turn your brain off, you can never get some real rest.

Going through your mental to-do lists when you’re trying to get into a good movie is the opposite of relaxing.

Burn-out is real. The good news? It can be easily avoided. Take some time this season to shut that mind off. No family stress, no work, nothing. Take a walk and admire Christmas lights, make hot chocolate to sip by the fire, or curl up and watch your favorite holiday movie. Enjoy doing nothing, even if it’s for just 15 minutes a day.


Day 6: Realize It’s Okay to Say ‘No’

It’s only by saying ‘no’ that you can concentrate on the things that are really important. – Steve Jobs

In the age of FOMO and not wanting to miss any opportunity that comes your way we have all become ‘yes’ people. Sometimes you just have to say ‘no’.

Instead of feeling like you have to go out of your way to make others experiences great, try to put yourself and your experience first. You don’t have to go to every holiday party, get together, or gift exchange you’re invited to. It’s okay to sit it out and get some much needed R&R time to yourself.

Holidays are a time for rest and relaxation, running around like a chicken with your head cut off will just make you more insane.


Day 7: Schedule Time for Yourself

It’s not selfish to love yourself, take care of yourself, and to make your happiness a priority. It’s a necessity. – Mandy Hale

It’s just as important that you take time this holiday to attend to YOU. With only a few days left until Christmas and New Years, your calendar is probably full (if not overbooked).

Block out a few hours over the next few days for yourself. Catch up on to-do’s, get some last minute holiday shopping done, or simply watch a few episodes of your favorite Netflix show. Whatever will make you happy and ready to take on the rest of your festivities full-throttle.

If you don’t designate this time for yourself in advance, something will come up to take its place!


Day 8: Embrace Instability

Change is never painful, only resistance to change is painful- Buddha

We’re at a pivotal point in our lives where nothing seems to be stable. Friends graduate, move, & get real jobs. Families grow up. Traditions change. Chances are, the holidays aren’t the same as they were when you were a kid.

I’m all for nostalgia, but sometimes, dwelling on the past can backfire. It’s hard not to miss the carefree days of winter break when our biggest concerns were what made it on our Christmas lists.

Instead of letting change make you feel unsteady, embrace it.  Change opens the door to let something new into your life. It’s up to you to make the most of it. The holidays are a time to go with the flow, not get caught up in play-by-play plans or expectations (see day 1!).


Day 9: Adjust Your Perception

We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses- Abraham Lincoln

Your life is what you perceive it to be. Whether your life is good, bad, or in between is completely up to you.

For example, I made a lot of mistakes during my first year as an entrepreneur. The fact I’m still living at home is enough to show you I haven’t figured everything out quite yet. I can look back on this year and think about what I didn’t do right. I could look at this year as a failure.

Or, I can change my perception & make this year a success. I can choose to focus on the progress I’ve made. The fact I was able to launch my first beta test, make my first dollar on my own, and inspire other student entrepreneurs is worth celebrating.

It takes a lot of discipline to get control over your perception. You constantly have to play devil’s advocate to your own mind and opinions. Like everything, it takes practice. Meditation has done wonders for me, but simply being mindful of how you perceive something is enough to start getting control of it.  


Day 10: Take a Break From Social Media

Comparison is the thief of joy – Theodore Roosevelt

Social media alters our perception to see the world through a filtered lens. Right now, your social feeds are probably flooded with pictures depicting the perfect holiday season. As you scroll through, you might compare your holiday experience to theirs.

Just remember you’re seeing a filtered version of reality. You’re seeing what people want you to see, not how things really are.

This is a time for you to mentally prep for 2017. Taking a break from social media allows you to come back to the present moment and focus on you and your own happiness.

 


Day 11: Start Visualizing 2017

Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world. – Harriet Tubman

There are less than 48 hours (!) until Christmas. You’re knee deep in family & festivities by now, in dire need of a little TLC for yourself.

For an instant uplifter, start visualizing what your want 2017 to be. In the midst of the hustle & bustle, let your mind drift to your biggest hopes and dreams for the next year.

Tune out your bickering nephews, drunk uncle, or nagging grandma & use that time to conjure up your best year yet.


Day 12: Count Your Blessings

I cried because I had no shoes until I saw a man who had no feet. Life is full of blessings. Sometimes, we’re just too blind to see them. – Unknown

As entrepreneurs, we’re always looking for new opportunities. We’re always chasing the next best thing. We have to pause and remember what we have accomplished in both our work and personal lives. This time of year is truly about celebrating the good in our world.

Count the blessings that you have in our life; loved ones, friends, family, food, a roof over your head, even having internet to read this. Our culture makes this season about receiving new gifts, instead of remembering the ones you already have in your life.

This Christmas, remember the reason for the season. Find some peace in the blessings you already have in your life & prepare yourself to receive new blessings, no matter how big or small, in 2017.


Happy Holidays!

Startup Nightmares

We asked 17 students what their biggest startup fears were.

1. Failing miserably.

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2. Someone copying your idea, and doing it better than you.


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3. Manufacturing…. Anything.


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4. FINANCIAL PROJECTIONS.


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5. Realizing your financial projections are utter bull-shit.


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6. The University claiming they own your idea.


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7. Being so engulf/dedicated that I lose touch with loved ones.


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8. Leaving my old job to pursue [my startup] full-time.


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9. Stuck with a bad partner or having to fire someone you care about.


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10. Getting into a bad deal.


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11. I don’t know how to do x, y, or z about a business (website building, marketing, pitching).


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12. Moving forward without having a solid plan.


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13. No safety net (monetary).


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14. Not being happy in the end, after investing and pursuing.


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15. Not being good enough/having what it takes.


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16. Being rejected/having idea rejected by a lot of people at once.


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17. Never actually giving my idea (or myself) a real chance.


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Wondering, “what if?” Don’t let fear of launching your idea hold you back. Find support in our FREE student startup community here.

3 things you should know about fear of launching a startup

Halloween is a time to enjoy being scared. From scary movie marathons, to haunted houses, we seek the feeling of suspense and surprise.

But what happens when fear isn’t just fantasy anymore? Since I launched SPURstartup, anxiety, fear of the unknown, and suspense are emotions I’ve come to accept as normal.

I used to think I was going through something that most entrepreneurs don’t. After all, startup teams are always portrayed as optimistic, fearless risk-takers. Before I launched SPUR, I felt like I was at a disadvantage because I had all of this self-doubt.

I couldn’t of been more wrong. I asked student entrepreneurs to anonymously share their startup fears (if they had them!) and was surprised how many responded. Being afraid to go down a risky path is 100% normal, it’s just not talked about very much because it doesn’t go with the gutsy & bold startup narratives of famous entrepreneurs.

Entrepreneurs are humans, too. We have fear, hesitations, and self-doubt. But we overcome these weaknesses, and you can, too. Here are three things you should know to overcome your fear of launching your startup.

1. Don’t confuse perseverance with fearlessness.
Our culture idolizes successful entrepreneurs. We expect them to be fearless risk-takers that radiate confidence 24/7. I think our culture has confused fearlessness with relentless perseverance. Entrepreneurs have to be more resilient, but that doesn’t mean fearless. It just means they face their fears head-on and overcome them.

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Entrepreneurs use bad experiences to grow stronger each day. Perseverance through the scariest of times is what will ultimately be the difference between success and failure.

2. Know things will get less scary overtime.
Think back to your first semester in college when figured out everything the hard way- by screwing up, getting lost, or making a mistake. After one semester, you got your bearings and were able to navigate everything on a slightly smoother path. The only reason it was so hard that first semester is because it was something new.

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This is like working on your first startup. You know less than you think you do, and, most of the time, you find out you’re wrong the hard way. But as you get more experience, you get more confidence. You do start to figure things out and things take on a different perspective overtime. What seems terrifying and overwhelming to you right now will feel like a breeze a few months from now.

3. Avoiding your fears makes matters worse.
We try to push fear in the back of our minds because we think that fear is related to weakness. This couldn’t be further from the truth. How you deal with your fears will determine if you’re strong. If you hide from your fears and stay away from all of the things that make you uncomfortable, you’ll never reach your full potential. Fear will define you if you avoid it. The moment you admit to yourself, “I’m afraid of ‘xyz’ happening” the moment you can start liberating yourself from your fears.

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I know launching a startup can be scary, but you don’t have to do it on your own! Join our community HERE and find support, guidance, and mentorship.

3 Ways Building my First Prototype Turned me into a Real Entrepreneur

3 reason to build a prototype

This previous March I finished out my very first crowdfunding campaign! It was a daunting task, having had no experience with building and managing one whatsoever, but I exceeded my goal thanks to SPURstartup’s team. I knew the newly acquired funds would be perfect for building a prototype. After a break over the summer I cranked out a couple prototypes and my eyes were opened. Running a crowdfunding campaign was a huge learning experience in and of itself, but building a prototype brought light onto so much more for me, as well and I’m here to share it with you!

    1. Just finish SOMETHING
      As I had mentioned, I took a break from my idea over the summer so I could continue school and begin internships. In all honesty, I also put it off because I had all these funds, I didn’t know HOW to use it on building a prototype. I didn’t want to disappoint all the people who supported my idea. I got advice from Jeremy Vickers, the Innovation and Entrepreneurship director at my University, to just go to Home Depot, get some materials and slap it together. I still put it off for a while, but this September we finally got around to it and I was amazed! Not by our roughly made prototype but by how many ideas and approaches came to mind for our next one.

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      When you have been apart of the process of putting it together, you are forced to think about things you couldn’t have predicted when you were just speculating. When you have something real in front of you, the idea fireworks WILL go off. No matter how scared you are of how something will turn out, remember it’s better to have something bad to work with than nothing at all.

 

    1. Resources are all around
      By having a physical prototype, we were able to show people! A fellow classmate took a look and kindly informed us that a vacuum form would be the perfect tool for making our product faster and look cleaner. He told us about a tools lab on campus with power tools, a 3D printer, and, what we needed, a vacuum form. We were thrilled and tried it out the next week!Stencil FR (2)Definitely ask around your school or area for any tools and spaces that are open for you to use. If you pay for tuition you might as well get what you can out of it! That same week were building prototype two, we went to 1 Million Cups, a coworking space in Dallas. The collaborative entrepreneurship hub offers free-coworking-Wednesdays! I discovered a great space to take advantage of all the startups working there, get advice, and potentially gain resources. Dallas has proven to be a very nurturing place for entrepreneurs. It only makes me more excited to plug-in and utilize all the lovely things Dallas has to help us succeed.

 

  1. It opens doors
    Building a prototype has allowed my team to progress so much more than when it was just a concept. I used Prototype Two to take nicer pictures, which became the center of our official website IcingAid.com. Having a real site that depicted our concept well gave us leverage to share it with potential customers and companies we wanted to connect with. We are now able to collect emails and begin analyzing feedback. We also feel more comfortable to enter business idea competitions–three to be exact– which may also bring us closer to success!
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I hope this inspires you to go out and starting finishing those baby steps! Start with what you know, and before long the right things will come into your life to bring you closer to a running business.

 

7 things holding you back

We are all guilty of not maximizing our potential in some way. Take a look at the list below and think about how you can make yourself more productive in your startup/job and in your everyday life. Remember to keep winning and staying competitive in whatever you do. Do not let anything hold you back.

7 Things Holding You Back (and how to reach your full potential)

  1. Using simple words in emails

    When emailing people, it is important to be direct and to the point. Using filler words does not add value to the message, rather, it is viewed as clutter. Using “but” invalidates everything you said in the statement before and the word “just” is seen as validating your statement to yourself. Take a look at the next email you write and be conscious of where you use these words. This is a great start to writing more succinctly.

  2. Too responsive to email

    Most emails are not time critical. If you cannot answer an email in less than 2 minutes, and you are busy, come back to it. A key thing I have learned is if it truly is important you will receive a follow up.

  3. Doing what is required

    There are base things you have to do in order to get the job done. Do those. However, there is so much more you can expand on. The best ideas come out of digging a little deeper into something. You will impress yourself with how much you can accomplish and learn.


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  4. Not valuing your time or others

    Make it a point to be on time and start things at exact times (a 2:30 meeting means 2:30 NOT 2:32 or 2:35), no more waiting on others that are late without anything said. If you make it a point to be on time, others will follow. This will create a sense of leadership.

  5. Overanalyzing situations

    This is inefficient and limits the amount of work that can get done. If you have all the information in front of you and you understand it, do not walk away without making a decision. The material will never be fresher on your mind than it is in that moment.

  6. Staying silent in a meeting

    I know that when you are in a room with older and “wiser” people you may feel intimidated, forget about that. You need to make an impact and staying silent will not help your cause. Have ideas and share them, it is your job to get noticed by the more experienced and ultimately your fault if you are not.


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  7. Ignoring others

    I see this every day in the hall or in meetings. Some people feel like they are better than others. And you know what, that is ok. Do not let that be you. You can learn so much from small interactions with people. I mentioned this before in a previous post, a simple Good Morning can really go a long way. New relationships cannot form unless you interact with others.

 

-Jeff B.

5 Ways to Work Smarter This Semester

With school getting back into gear, we realize just how valuable every minute of the day can be, especially when you have to sit in on classes that can be a total time-suck.

Good time management is the difference between smooth sailing and total chaos. Below are five ways to help you save time and accomplish more in the day. I want you to try at least one of these today!

1. The Morning Workout

This is a no brainer in my mind, but sometimes very hard to do. Wake up early and go for a run or a nice workout. By the time you get to your desk you are ready to go. I am well aware that sleep is much needed in the world of being an entrepreneur (and student!), but even if it comes to waking up 30 minutes earlier you will see a direct impact on the quality and quantity of the work you’ll produce from it.

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2. Time Boxing

I learned this one from something I read in school. It is a simple but powerful way to get a lot done in a compressed amount of time. Essentially once you start your day, plan out what you need to accomplish and then prioritize it. Associate a time period in which you want to accomplish each task (try to limit yourself to a one hour maximum or you’ll lose focus) and jump to the next. This allows you to accomplish more in your day, faster. If you do not finish a task then you can go back to it after you finish your list.

3. Ergo Breaks

This has saved me from losing my mind at my desk many times. Take a break after working for a few hours. You need to relax and focus on something that requires very little brain power from time to time. Maybe it’s taking a walk around the office (or your dog) or reading up on the news of the day. Those few minutes you spend on something other than work will pay off later in your day.

4. The 80/20 Rule

We have all heard of this, but how many of us actually put it into action? Things will never be perfect, but if you are able to get 80% there in half the time it’ll take you to get to that full 100% perfection, then you need to move on. It is ok if something is “good enough”. Many times if you are 100% on something it is too late and the opportunity is no longer there. Always do good work and know when its time to shift your focus.

5. Daily, Weekly, and Monthly Task List

This is something you will have to continuously update but can help keep track of your accomplishments. Simply knowing what you have done and what you have left to do will force you to be efficient with your time. It can be as simple as a sticky note on your desk to be a constant reminder.

There’s tons of tricks you can use to make time management this semester a breeze. What are your favorite time saving hacks? Share yours and find tricks from other SPUR students in our community HERE

Why asking for help makes you a startup rockstar

Image: you’re on a stage, with the spotlight shining on your super suave outfit and a crowd of hungry eyes laser-focused on you. You’re getting recognized for your booming business that has the whole world buzzing. You are a startup rock star.

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Most of us have had this daydream before. Want in on a something not-so-secret? You have what it takes to get there with the help of the right people.

Okay, truth time. Have you ever discouraged help from others?  Sometimes the internal bragging rights to feel like the next Chance The Rapper makes too many entrepreneurs too proud to ask for help.

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Reality check! There is not ONE successful business person that has never openly searched for criticism. They all asked questions and utilized their networks to get as much feedback as possible. The very process of refining your idea and making progress is based solely on the input and help of others. So not only is it totally okay to ask for help, it is ESSENTIAL to do if you ever want to make progress on your business.

The badass musicians we see on our screens today have all, at some point, gotten input from friends on songs, had a team produce their music, and another team to prepare their press and concerts. So what looks like a one-man band killin’ the show, is actually more like this:

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Sometimes it’s a little intimidating, but everyone gets stage fright… Getting better takes practice, and every rocker knows that. The best way to get help is to simply speak up and ask around for what you need. Be forward and you’ll find you get put in touch with the right people. You will be surprised what resources are right under your nose if you opened up and got a little out of your comfort zone.

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Still need help with something? Join our free mentorship community HERE and tell us what you need. We’ll help you navigate the best way forward.  

 

An open letter to my mentor

Dear Mentor,

Thanks for saving my ass. For the late night phone calls. For the tough love, pep talks, and guidance. Although I’m naive, inexperienced, and stumble along to accomplish things you can do walking backwards with your eyes closed in high heels, you saw my potential. You taught me I can’t change the world alone. I know I can ask you for help with anything (like editing this letter before I post it online) and you won’t judge me.

I want you to know the hours on the phone, afternoon meet-ups for coffee, and the occasional wine night have brought tremendous value into my life. Your guidance goes beyond career advice. You’ve helped me navigate through the chaos of being in my twenties. I don’t know where I would be without you, but I sure as hell know I wouldn’t be running my own company.

Because of you, I’m fearless. You have given me the ability to spread my wings and unleash my soul knowing that when I crash (not if, but when)you will be there to help me get back up. Your words of wisdom help me navigate through the never-ending chaos of starting a company. I’m convinced you have the powers of a master jedi. While you’re mentoring me through the crisis of sending out the wrong email on MailChimp, you’re managing your boss lady career at the same time.

I can’t help but compare myself to all that you have been able to do. I’ve learned more by watching you than I did my entire undergrad. While you stress the value of my 4.0, you and I both know the secret to success lies in mastering uncharted territory, territory you are willing to let me explore with you. Why? Because you see parts of yourself in me. And that is the biggest compliment of all time.

Thanks for everything that you do. Together, we will change the world.

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Turning your passions into profits: How being creative landed this designer her own TV show

See how Kayln did it in this candid Q&A.

Entrepreneurship is totally a family thing, at least it is more me. From my intrapreneur sister, Lila, to my designer-turned-TV host cousin, Kalyn. Kalyn Rothaus, the host of Office Spaces, knows what it takes to work hard and break through even the hardest of industries. I can remember back to the days when she was in college bringing home her designs, my Aunt Kit looking at them and asking my 14-year-old self what I thought about it all. (Aunt Kit is the person I credit with kicking off my career- but that’s a story for another day). Kalyn has come a loooong way since college. She has her own TV show, just tied the knot, and is kicking some serious butt. I picked her brain for the quick-and-dirty about what it took to get here and how to brand yourself. Get the deets below!

 


What inspires you to work so hard?!

I am a goal setter and always have been. When I have measurable goals it is easy to work hard to get there faster and enjoy the hard work with perspective on the outcome!

 


How do you stay motivated to break through in such a difficult industry and always believe in yourself?

I truly believe I have always worked hard, but I have also had some luck! I think the combination of being at the right place at the right time in conjunction with hard work creates this magical formula in my life for opportunity.

 


You think outside of the box with your designs- how do you apply your creativity and innovation to everything in your work life?

I apply my creativity to everything in my life. I try my best to be silly, and not take myself too seriously which helps my creativity flow more freely. I find that when I was afraid of what people thought, I couldn’t be as expressive in my work and in my life. I am constantly reminding myself to trust “me” the most. Although, I do have to make clients happy too, so there is a fine line.

 


What is the number one piece of advice to you have for someone who wants to make a name for themselves and be successful?

Say yes. When I was asked to be the on camera Host for Office Spaces, I said yes, even though I was terrified (to say the least). I began to soak up everything around me and learned from everyone I could- from the camera operator to the production assistants, constantly asking what I could do better. I also watched myself on the monitor after shoots to understand how I could improve. The bottom line is, I said yes, in spite of not knowing what yes meant. The truth is, I believe I am smart enough to figure anything out AND ask for help when I need it!

 


Do you think having a personal brand is important? What advice do you have for branding yourself?

Well, before I knew I would have a TV show, I thought about this question a lot. I had no idea how to start. Then, I was thrown into an on camera role, and the most important thing I can do for my “brand” is be me. I am constantly being told what to say on camera, but I always pause and think about how to say things in my own words and express what I believe.  If you are your own brand (especially in a creative industry where we sell ideas and dreams that are not tangible at first) be your unique self and believe in what you create.