I was fired in 2004.
I had no clue what I wanted to do but did know that I no longer wanted a boss and craved autonomy. I made a list of all the things I wished I could get paid for, no matter how “you can’t get paid for that!" they sounded — wear jeans and flip-flops, play board games, connect Person A to Person B, connect Person C to a job, connect Person D to a client, connect Person E to themselves, scrapbook, make music mixes, sit on my couch.
This list plus discovering that my personal frustration with adulthood, that areas I thought should be easy — finding friends, romance, opportunities for personal growth, fun ways to explore and “get out there” — were in fact sources of stress, discomfort and dissatisfaction, and my desire to solve these frustrations was where my passion lay and my skills shone, resulted in the birth of Mac & Cheese Productions℠.
I began curating experiences to help people, including myself, find joy through low-key, comfortably challenging, be yourself methods. Mac & Cheese provides creative solutions to common problems that encourage individuals and groups to embrace a Life of Yes℠ — positivity, self-efficacy, playfulness, & community.
Think adult summer camp, for the personal and professional space.
One day, I take your phone, pile you into a van with strangers, and kidnap you to an undisclosed location for Life of Yes℠ Sleepaway Camp. The next, I come into your workplace to lead interactive team-bonding and skills-building professional development sessions. Or I’ll lead you in a sales and self-promotion Bootcamp or teach you productivity tips or be your storytelling teacher or keynote a conference.
Or, or, or. Many hats, one goal: to help you create and lead a fulfilled life.
Do you have a fixed work routine? Is it important to have one? Any tips for our readers?
My tip is “You do you.” It’s important to have a fixed routine if you need a fixed routine. It’s important to fly by the seat of your pants if that’s how you prefer to exist.
No day looks the same for me, which I enjoy.
That said, there are a few constants I try to have as part of my regular routine --
I wake up slowly via the sun rather than an alarm.
I do deep-thinking work in the morning when my brain works best.
I do non-creative and/or physical work in the afternoon/evening when my brain is tired, like entering expenses, phone calls, organizing/cleaning my space, and going to the gym.
I turn off all notifications and hide disruptions like email and Facebook when I’m focusing on a project and really want to make progress.
When my body tells me to go to sleep, I go to sleep.
If I’m not feeling work, I stop working. And go to a matinée. Veg in front of the TV. Go for a walk. Conversely, if I’m feeling work, I’ll work, even if it’s Friday night or a holiday.
What are your short/long term goals?
1) More work travel. Bringing Mac & Cheese to other places. Would love corporate sponsors to make this happen. A Life of Yes℠ Subaru tour?!
2) More mini-lives. The idea of three months in Barcelona and two months on Caye Caulker and four months in New York is uber appealing. Upping my services that can be done anywhere (consulting, webinars, etc.).
3) Write and publish a book: "The Poor-Rich, Fat-Skinny, Ugly-Pretty, White-Black, Quiet-Loud Jew-Non-Jew Who’s Just Like You"
A memoir about how a sad abnormal girl grew up to be a blissful abnormal woman as she learned to embrace her literal and figurative stretch marks. Saya’s everydayness, transparency, and nonchalance at embarrassment make for a witty and inspiring reflection that’ll have you murmuring throughout, “Me too!,” even though you couldn’t be more different. Bonus: Saya weaves in business acumen gleaned from her twelve years of accidental and successful entrepreneurialism, which started with the words, “I need you to pack your stuff and go.”
Was it difficult to get capital/investors?
I’ve never gotten capital or investors because I haven’t tried. When I first started out and saw all my peers raising funds and talking VCs and ROI and seed funding and valuation and other terms that honestly I couldn’t define, I felt that I had to go that route as well. But it felt foreign, difficult, and wrong. I realized that while sure, gazillions of dollars, even thousands of dollars, would be nice, at what cost? I wasn’t on board with giving away part of Mac & Cheese nor having to answer to others. Part of quality of life for me is being able to do what I want when I want. Without having to check in with a board or worry about what investors will think.
Another issue I ran across was that while I am successful, I’m successful non-traditionally. I have oodles of testimonials from Cheese-Its on how I positively impacted their lives and brought them life-changing experiences — careers, clients, spouses, friends, travel, personal growth! I get to live how I want to live every day. Potential investors don’t want to see testimonials or hear about how I wear yoga pants most days; they want to see numbers. And while I’ve never been in debt and have been able to live a comfortable lifestyle via Mac & Cheese earnings over the years, I’m by no means a millionaire. When I create, I don’t think about “scale” and world domination. I think, “Can I do this with what I already possess? Will it bring me joy? Will it bring others joy? Will it allow me to pay my bills?"
What is one thing you find to be true that most people would disagree with?
Ha, just one?!? How about five?
“The customer is always right.”
“You should get coffee with anyone who asks.”
“You have to be accessible at all times.”
“Feedback is always good. Always ask for feedback."
“You have to ‘get dressed’ every day. You can’t work in your pajamas."
These are all more “You do you” scenarios. I’m not right. You’re not right. You need to choose what’s right for you and ignore what others tell you is right for you.
"You have to ‘get dressed’ every day. You can’t work in your pajamas.” --
I love that I don’t have to get dressed most days. They say you’re more focused and that you elevate your work when you get dressed. Who is “they”?! There is no set recipie to be an entrepreneur, no group of people we need to mimic. I have thirteen years of looking like a hot mess at work and I’m doing well.
“The customer is always right” and “You have to be accessible at all times” --
I hate talking on the phone and when people add me to their e-list without permission. So I don’t have my phone or email on my website or business card. Someone said to me early on “Have your clients interact with you in the ways you want to interact with them. Why give them options that make you break out in hives?”
“But, but what if a potential client wants to call you?”
(Shrug) Initially, they can’t. Initially, they have to email me via the contact form on my website. If they ask for a phone call at a later point, maybe.
Just because I work from home and am accessible most of the time via being connected most of the time doesn’t mean that any hour is an appropriate hour for you to expect a response from me. Nor is it on me to get back to you “ASAP”; it’s ok if I don’t respond within an hour, a day.
“You should get coffee with anyone who asks” —
I get asked to “get coffee” all the time. Mostly in a very flattering “I love what you do and would love to hear your story/pick your brain!” vein. Flattering but time-consuming and doesn’t pay the bills and quiet honestly, there are a million other things I’d usually rather do. It has been a constant internal struggle since day one of wanting to be helpful and a nice person but also wanting to spend my time doing things that I want to do. Plus, how many people have said yes to mycoffee asks over the years? Tons.
So I’ve found ways to say “no, but…”
I’ll connect the asker to someone who can help them with whatever ask they’re making. I’ll share upcoming opportunities for them to face to face with me, events that I’m already going to so that I don’t have to add anything new to my plate and we can interact. I’ll suggest resources, from books to groups.
I’ve become more and more protective of my time, and less and less apologetic about saying no, over the years. To the irk of some. (Shrug) Can’t please everyone so I work to please myself and luckily, when I’m happy and fulfilled and replenished, I’m better able to please others in ways that create win-win scenarios. Which are the types of scenarios that drive me and for which I strive.
“Feedback is always good. Always ask for feedback.” --
There are times when I made something better because of feedback. There are times when feedback did nothing but bring me stress, annoyance, and/or pain.
I don’t usually ask for feedback because I’m the type of person who can hear 99 positive things about an offering of mine and 1 negative thing and that negative thing will be all I remember. I put tons of thought and time into what I offer and have confidence that my services are high-quality and for many, perfect as is. For those with whom my services and/or my personality don’t resonate, that’s ok. We don’t have to be in each other’s worlds.
I appreciate when people ask “Would you like feedback?” as has happened over the years. Sometimes I’ll say yes, sometimes no. Less appreciated? The unrequested, dump on you feedback.
It all comes back to figuring out your pain points and your sources of joy, figuring out how to have more/less of XYZ, and being ok with not being everyone’s cup of tea. Additionally, realizing that your way isn’t that right way but the way that works for you. And it’s ok if others do it differently.