Secrets for Success from my Hollywood Comedy Writer H.S. B.F.F.

November 13, 2012

I had the privilege to interview my high school best friend Gloria yesterday for my forthcoming book, Road Rules for Leading Ladies.  Gloria Calderon Kellett is a comedy writer in Hollywood who has had enormous and ongoing success ever since she dipped her toe into Tinsel Town 11 years ago. She started out as an assistant for Academy Award winning Writer/Director Cameron Crowe and has gone on to sell original pilots to CBS, ABC, FOX & TVLAND.  She also wrote on successful shows such as “How I Met Your Mother,” “Rules of Engagement,” and is currently a writer and producer on the new show “Devious Maids.” The picture atop is Gloria and I on the day of my wedding in Atlanta getting ‘beautified’ for the ceremony. She was my matron of honor.

She observes themes in Hollywood that get in the way of more women having greater success in senior level writing and performing roles.  These are exactly the same themes that prevent women from consistently succeeding in many other professional industries at a senior level.

Gloria kicked off the call stating:

Katie the most important thing for women to understand is that they have to be their own warrior.  You have to fight for yourself and self promotion is critical.

I see a lot of women being uneasy in this realm. Particularly in Hollywood, you need to constantly ask people to read your scripts, come see you perform-and for women who find their work to be so personal—they can get really uncomfortable if they see it as setting themselves up for personal disappointment or even rejection if people don’t show up or worse don’t laugh at your jokes.

Speaking for myself, women have to get past taking their work so personally. Men seem to be less sensitive about their work…and thus more successful in a lot of ways.  You have to raise your masculinity in this regard.

For me, I recognize that I am a sensitive person, I do have thin skin but I think my sensitivity is part of what makes me a good writer, once I recognized that I was not ever going to be able to thicken my skin, I seriously considered if this was the business for me. I decided it was, so then I asked myself how am I going to weather the storm?

Once I realized it’s not personal, it’s a business—things really shifted for me for the better.

Secondly, in order to be consistently successful you can never get comfortable.  You have to constantly put yourself in a state of discomfort. Because in Hollywood, even if you get a writing or an acting gig, anything could get cancelled the next day.  You are never allowed to ‘sit back’, ever.  No matter who you are.

A third point Gloria wanted to stress was that she saw a stark difference between herself and her male counterparts because many of them had a wife;meaning someone at home supporting everything that they did and helping them keep their life in order so that these men can go and focus on their work.  For Gloria, and so many power house women I know like her, hiring an assistant changed her life for the better in this regard. Now, she says, “I have a wife,” in addition to a doting husband who has a busy career as a top cartoonist (SheldonComics.com).  This added support allows her to buy time so that when she gets home after her 12 hour days at the Disney studio she doesn’t have to schlep to the grocery store, etc, –rather she can be present with her young family (yes, she has a 3 month old son and a daughter in primary school).

Thank you Gloria for sharing your story with us and for being a part of this book—you are a hero to us all!

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my favorite *Most Influential People* (according to TIME Magazine)

April 26, 2011

Time Magazine has graced their latest May double edition with a synopsis of the world’s most current influential people.  Knowing how much my clients (and I) are always in need of daily inspiration, I thought I would share with you those who stand out the most for me in the hopes that they do the same for you:

“Economist: Esther Duflo“: (As founder of the MIT Poverty Action Lab, she has broken out of the ivory tower to gather real data and see what really works in alleviating poverty. She found that the highly acclaimed micro financing movement is not all it cracked up to be)

School Reformer:Geoffrey Canada” (Watch the documentary ‘Waiting for Superman’ to learn about Canada’s groundbreaking work with the Harlem Children’s Zone)

Law Enforcer: Maria Bashir”:(Afghanistan’s only female prosecutor general defies the odds and the death threats to battle corruption, crime and domestic abuse. On paper her country has robust laws protecting the rights of their women, however in reality they are ignored. Ms. Bashir is committed to closing this gap)

“Television Pioneer: Oprah Winfrey’: (Under Oprah, the OWN Channel is primed to combat the tabloid programming we’ve become accustomed to with smart, enlightened, informative content)

“Air Force Commander: Major General Margaret Woodward”: (Air Force Mjr General Woodward recently ran the opening 11 days of the war against Libya (a groundbreaking mission for a female commander)

Secretary of State: Hilllary Clinton“: (Ms. Clinton deployed her star power in direct contacts with the public overseas, speaking clearly about human rights and freedom of expression on the Internet)

Spokesman For A Revolution: Wael Ghonim” (This Google executive, instigated the call for a peaceful revolution in his native Egypt through social media channels)

“Newark’s Mayor: Cory Booker” (Booker is dedicated to reforming the schools in Newark, NJ and is living in a tiny inner city flat all the while to prove that he is a servant leader).

The First Lady: Michelle Obama”: (Dubbing herself ‘First Mom”, First Lady Obama is primarily focused on combating childhood obesity and improving the health of America’s Kids through her ‘Let’s Move’ exercise program and initiative to improve the quality of food served in schools.)

“Brazil’s President:Dilma Rouseff“: (President Rouseff has stood up to the former military dictatorship of Brazil and is dedicated to building a democratic alternative for development, social equality and women’s rights.)

“Advocate: Cecile Richards“: (Daughter of Ann Richards, Cecile Richards is leading the charge against a comprehensive and radical attack on women’s health and reproductive freedom as the Director of Planned Parenthood)

“Champion of Students: Michelle Rhee”: (Ms. Rhee is singlehandedly going up against the teacher’s union with her Students First advocacy group in the name of improving the lot of the nation’s students. You have my vote Ms. Rhee).

Check out the rest of “The Time 100” profiles and let me know who sticks out the most for you and why. Thank you!


Maria Ross: Chief Marketing Diva

June 2, 2010

This is my second interview in my ‘Profiles of Inspiration” interview series. This fabulous interview is with Maria Ross, Chief Marketing Diva of Red Slice based in Seattle.  Maria’s first book, Branding Basics for Small Business, was released today! NOW FOR SALE at www.brandingbasics.info.

1) What is your ultimate vision for Red Slice and do you consider this vision part of your ultimate legacy?

 I didn’t start Red Slice intending to build a big global branding agency or anything. I just wanted to do work I like with people I like who are passionate, friendly, smart and respectful. I was jaded by some past experiences in high tech marketing where executives were making the wrong decisions, not thinking about the long term, and who were just plain disrespectful or arrogant about people’s time and efforts. I was sick of it, so I decided to be my own boss and only work with people I selected. In this way, I can constantly build my legacy of going the extra mile, delivering quality work, and helping others build a strong company and offer value. When you come from that place of mutual respect and passion, you can climb mountains for people and know the effort will be appreciated and rewarded. I also wanted to help “clean up the marketing and brand pollution” that is out there, and help people realize that they need to be smarter about their branding. Now I’m on a mission to make entrepreneurs realize that a brand is more than a logo – and I think I’m really succeeding in that mission. My official mission is to help companies “engage, inform and delight” their customers and that is my personal missions as well.

2) What are the core values of Red Slice and do those values correlate with you personally?

Red Slice is me and I am Red Slice, so everything from my Guiding Principles to my Mission are my personal ones as well. My mission is to Engage, Inform and Delight. Whether I help a business do this for their customers – or I personally do this when speaking, teaching, writing, or even acting (another passion of mine), it’s about making a connection and evoking an emotion. If more companies did business from this brand perspective, you might have more Apple’s and Nike’s in the world. In addition my Guiding Principles are: Work Hard, Play Hard; Do what you say you will do; Treat everyone with respect and honesty; The devil is in the details; Be prepared; With blessings come responsibility. Especially with that last one, I try to use my good fortune to benefit causes I care about, like animal welfare, child welfare, and getting medical help to war-torn countries. If I can use entrepreneurial success to support the causes close to my heart, then that is an amazing gift.

3) How much thought/planning/designing went into differentiating Red Slice from your competitors?

Quite a bit. I could have gone the route of calling myself “Maria Ross Consulting” but coming from an ad agency background, that just seemed so boring to me. I wanted to create a business that was memorable, fresh, fun and innovative. If I’m going to help companies stand out, then I need to walk my talk, right?! Everyone and their mother seems to be a consultant these days so I wanted to find a way to package up my unique skills and experiences in a way many people were not. I also tout specific differentiators all the time, like the fact that I’ve worked on both the client and agency sides and have worked on both B2B and B2C brands – which gives me a more holistic perspective. Finally, I do not shy away from talking about my writing and acting passions: that creative edge is another differentiator for me. How many people are creative Type A personalities?! Many people told me not to do this, but I figured that again, I could attract the people I wanted to work with if I represented myself authentically. It’s a nice Litmus test!

4) Congratulations on the recent publication of your book, Branding Basics!  What was the best part about the experience thus far?

Thanks! I’m so excited to package up all my advice and unique experiences to help people build their own strong brands and looks at branding in a more fundamental way. This was actually an unexpected opportunity but when it knocks, you really just have to answer. And I’m so proud of myself for taking advantage of the unexpected turn and publishing this book, which has been a dream since I started writing stories at 6 years old. It also feels good to pass on all these examples, good and bad, from my own work experiences and use them for the benefit of others. I really believe small business owners have such a unique opportunity to build a strong brand but they just go about it the wrong way. They think it stops at the visual design, or they cut corners, or they don’t think bigger about how every single, solitary interaction with a customer is a chance to seal your brand onto their hearts. Amazing things happen when you build a business based on passion and value – the profits soon follow when it’s done right. The book can be ordered at http://www.brandingbasics.com and is also available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble.com , Borders.com and even in Kindle format!

5) What are you most proud of as it relates to your work at Red Slice?

Helping businesses “clean up” their messages or visual branding to properly tell the story they had in mind all along. That “A Ha!” moment is always a thrill for me. I work with fabulous designers and writers who can bring a vision to life: they just needed me to translate the vision in a way that could be understood. I love when clients say, “Yes! That’s exactly what I wanted to communicate!” or when they see how they have not been doing themselves any favors with selfish messaging: talking about what THEY do, rather than what CUSTOMERS want to hear. And I love the gems that form when we’re brainstorming. Business owners have the power to create their brand – they just don’t always know how to approach it or where to start. I feel like a guide in that respect and I love it.

6) How are you reaching your target market? 

Amazingly, all of my clients have been referrals, but I started heavily using my blog and social media to influence people. I’m a writer by nature, so the blog was a great way for me to reach my audience and deliver value. I also had to build my business from scratch, as I had just moved to Seattle and was only here 3 months before hanging my shingle. So I had to try a lot of networking groups (some fit, some didn’t), connect online, leverage Linked In, etc. My business is a referral business, so I don’t believe blind mailers will net me new clients – but that’s a brand choice I have made. I also have some dream companies in mind I’d like to work with that are in my radar – when I have time to pursue them!

With referrals, initially, I was getting a lot of “Can we have coffee so I can pick your brain?” I did this a lot at first and realized I was giving away something for nothing. My product is my brain! It’s my experiences and advice and I learned early on you can’t just always give that away. So going back to the “pick the clients I want to work with” if someone can commit to a paid initial meeting, then a) I know they are serious and have budget (if they don’t have budget, you can’t waste your precious time!) and b) I could feel good about putting a little extra research and work into that meeting so it really was valuable for them. Often, these initial meetings do convert to sales because you are putting your best foot forward and they see the value of why they need you.

To be honest, this still morphs and grows for me. I tested different things at first. I initially meant to pursue companies like the ones I’d worked for, but then got into the vibrant entrepreneurial small business community. Now I’ve righted the ship a bit, so to speak and balance the two.  Small businesses are so much fun, but they can’t always spend in a way where you can be super successful for them.

7) What do you most dislike about being a business owner and how do you deal with that aspect of business?

I’m an extrovert, so being alone is awful: no one to bounce ideas, catch you if you fall, stay up to date on Quick Books! So I network a lot and meet people out for coffee. My partners that I work with are amazing and I love to brainstorm with them. I’d say the hardest part is dealing with taxes and the books – I’m not a numbers person and the tax laws are so damn confusing, it kills me. I spend so much time trying to make sure I’m not breaking any rules!

8) What do you most enjoy about being a business owner and how much time do you get to spend doing that part of your job?

Flexibility and freedom! Being able to go get a coffee in the middle of the day, or hang out with my dog or set my own schedule. It’s hard because you have to, well, “set your own schedule” and its easy to get distracted (especially with Social Media!) but I am someone who needs a bit of structure so I make it for myself. I set days of the week for client time when I can, hours for networking, try to only go to 1 or 2 events a week, etc. I need to make time to remember I’m working for myself for a reason and not let my own business consume too much of me. I set strict boundaries on weekend time (don’t log in if I can avoid it or unless there is a deadline) and try to leave my home office for the night when my husband comes home. If you don’t set those boundaries, you will lose yourself in all the freedom!

9) Where do you find inspiration as a business owner?

Everywhere! From individual entrepreneurs who come to speak at networking events, to those I am just lucky enough to meet in at such groups. I get inspired by reading stories in the press of people who are following their passion and turning it into profit. I get inspiration from the big companies who do branding “the right way” and I know my efforts are not in vain. I have also tapped into some great women locally who are super sounding boards, who do really cool things, and who are blazing trails and making things happen. I get inspired by activity, progress and creativity – as well as by those who are Zen about their career, take time to breathe and enjoy life’s simple pleasures. It can be easy for small business owners to get caught up in a competitive Rat Race of their own if they are not too careful – I had to step away from some people and groups because of that. So surround yourself with people that are doing things the way you want to be doing them – not just those who are selling out, selling their soul, or working themselves to death to be successful!


Profiles of Inspiration: Lovin’ 2010love

May 18, 2010

Welcome to the LBC ‘Profiles of Inspiration’ Interview Series.  This project was created to provide insight and exposure to some incredibly innovative and inspired men and women who are making things happen in their corner of the world in 2010.  It is with sheer delight and complete humility; I am able to shine the spotlight on these remarkable individuals so that you can in turn be fueled with their creativity, diligence and vision.

The first honorees for our ‘Profiles of Inspiration’ series are sisters Tiffany Bachman and Leslie Suter of 2010love-a sustainable, charitable lifestyle brand including apparel, home goods, art +literature, and food-related products. Ultimately, 2010love was created to inspire people to make a positive change in their own lives and the lives of others, starting now.

What is your ultimate vision for 2010love?

The message we are spreading through our business could be considered what we’d like our kids (and ultimately, humanity as a whole) to aspire to and embrace. There is so much potential for well-designed products to be useful, responsible, and helpful to others in need either by functionality, positive messaging or charity … so why isn’t everyone doing it?

What are the core values of 2010love?

Loving what matters, Sustainability, Well-Being, Philanthropy, Family, Design with Purpose.

How did you develop your business model?

Our bread and butter company, Handshoe Design Collaborative (HDC), is our brand strategy and design business that developed 2010love as a ‘side project’ to use design as a philanthropic mechanism… so HDC is really the model we are working from. The thought and planning that went into differentiating HDC from our competitors basically came from the combination of common sense and our unique passions: we have big-city, award-winning, agency experience that can be offered at a lower price because we have little overhead.  Secondly, we are passionate about working with companies who are focused on sustainability, education, responsible growth and food because these are the values very important to us and increasingly more important, to the world.

Business planning for 2010love evolved in a two week time frame.  We had always had dreams and plans to develop a project to give back, but the mark was originally sketched out for something entirely different. When we saw the mark, we instantly saw its potential for something greater. I asked Leslie if she thought people would wear it on a t-shirt, she said  ‘YES!’, so we printed shirts, did a photo shoot, started a blog, got a face book and twitter page, opened an Etsy shop-and we were in business. Thus far, the positive response we’ve had from customers and press has now made it apparent that 2010love does have the legs to grow. So, we are currently developing the concept into a separate business and we are very excited about it. Everything happened a little organically and serendipitously, which maybe is how it’s supposed to be when good things are happening…

Why do you think 2010love is having so much success today?

Well, I’m not sure how you measure ‘success’, but we certainly have received a lot of positive feedback, sold a nice amount of shirts and are piquing the interest of some good folks who know how to make things happen. We think this is occurring because the design of the mark is simple, interesting and powerful, and can be translated by most everyone despite their language. Furthermore, its meaning (and I’ll quote from a post we did on the blog): “… resonates with them (people) somewhere personally. Some place… deep down, this important, essential truth (love) that has been around since the beginning of time, has begun to inspire action because it’s being seen in a new way on a new day. Love crosses partisan lines, religious boundaries and beliefs, socio-economic levels, language and geography. Positive action is the result of love. A simple, positive message CAN gain enough traction to create a chain of individually inspired positive actions around the world… if people can understand they hold the power to make it happen. ”

How are you reaching your target market and then converting to sales?

Right now we are reaching our target through social media, word of mouth, and of course… t-shirt advertising (which are all incredible forms of advertising and visibility). Conversion to sales?: People see the shirt, hear about the message and the charitable contribution, and want to buy one. It also helps because the mark is a highly interpretive design… many individuals want to commemorate something special to them whether it’s a change in their life, a wedding, a birth, or become part of a movement or group, that is trying to make a difference in the world. We’d like 2010love to become that group…

What do you most dislike about being a business owner & how do you deal with that part of business?

I think our least favorite part of being business owners is the back end organizational stuff… bookkeeping, IT, backup, etc.  We prefer the creative, strategic, business development side of things.  However, being a small business means we handle most everything right now and to deal with that, we just try to take one day at a time: we work a lot of nights and weekends, but balance it all out with good music, good food, friends and family and of course, good wine. We also have an amazing network of friends and professionals who help us when things reach too far beyond our expertise.

What do you most enjoy about being a business owner & how much time do you get to spend doing it?

The best part of being a business owner is that we have the opportunity to do what we love. Certainly there are aspects of being a business owner that are not as fun as others, but generally speaking we can take our passions and put them out there for the world to like… or not like…. but at least they’re out there. It also allows us, as women and mothers, to have flexibility for our families. Sure, we may work nights and weekends, but we can also arrange to be there to pick our kids up from school or put them down for a nap. Technology has certainly helped this as well, where we can work almost anywhere at anytime to keep up with the flow of our business. So I guess we get to spend a lot of time doing that part of our job… being creative, ideation, evolution, dreaming… from the time we wake up to the time we go to bed (and even as we sleep) we are coming up with ideas.

Where do you find inspiration as a business owner?

We are inspired by good people who do good things, and make it their livelihood. We are inspired by beauty, wit and really good design. We are inspired by simplicity. We are inspired by powerful, successful female business owners… (you know who I’m talking about.) We are inspired by what the world truly needs today, and I’m not talking the next ipod or other means of convenience… I’m talking the in-your-face truth of where we stand as a human race, the consequences we and our children must face in the future, and the actions we must take, now, to make a difference.

Thank you Tiffany Bachman and Leslie Suter.  We LOVE 2010love!!  For more information about the 2010love project, please go to 2010love.com.


Profiles of Inspiration: Briana Borten, Spa Goddess

April 19, 2010

Briana Borten, the founder and owner of DragonTree Day Spa located in NW Portland and a brand new location at PDX airport was my guest speaker at yesterday’s Ladies Who Launch Oregon event. She imparted frank and infinite entrepreneurial wisdom on how she went from being fired at a spa to her recent expansion of her wildly successful holistic day spa in the heart of the Pacific Northwest.  Here were some of the key takeaways:

  • Don’t go into business purely to make money. The reality is that you probably won’t make too much money for quite some time, and even if you do-you very well may end up out of business because your priorities were misaligned.
  • If you like what you do and think that starting your own business is a path towards greater happiness and wealth-you are misinformed. By becoming a business owner, the time that you will actually spend practicing your trade will become less and less as you will spend the majority of your time in management and business growth.
  • Go into business navigated by a mission statement that espouses your authentic intention for your product or services. For example, the DragonTree’s mission statement is based around restoring health and making people feel like they belong, it was never about selling a luxury service.
  • The buck stops here! Once you as a business owner understand that everything that occurs in and around your business is managed and determined by you, decision-making should become much more clear.
  • Do not take ‘no’s’ personally, they are simply ‘no’s’. For every roadblock there are endless other opportunities to get to a ‘yes’. Simply keep asking and do not let one ‘no’ prevent you from reaching your goal.
  • In regards to employees-hire slow, fire quickly.  If an employee has issues with matters that they should have learned from their mother (like not getting to work on time), fire them.  However, if there is a training opportunity for a loyal and committed staff member and you have the time to teach, then teach.
  • Know your financial goals precisely.  Understand down to a daily basis exactly how many sales you need to make every day to reach your growth plans.
  • Define your vision as specifically as you can-otherwise you will never get there. Then, proceed without a flinch of hesitation and arrive at your intended vision as if there was no other way to grow.
  • Be as explicit as possible and then put everything in writing in all of your business relationships-especially when you are working with friends.

Thank you Briana-you are a fountain of inspiration to myself and to all that you touch in our community.


The Most Creative People in Business Today

June 26, 2009
Red Bull has pushed the boundaries between retailing, sports marketing and entertainment.

Red Bull has pushed the boundaries between retailing, sports marketing and entertainment.

Fast Company Magazine (June 2009) has captured the essence of the top 100 most creative people in business today.

Here are some of the trends:

– Ability to foresee future consumer needs and improve the effiency of delivering service products. (CIO John Garing, Defense Information Systems Agency ; Chief Economist Susan Athey, Microsoft; and Co-Chair/Trustee Melinda Gates, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation)

– Openness to constantly improve and update the useability of a product.  (Sr. V.P. of Industrial Design Jonathan Ive, Apple)

– Make your content accessible and sharable. (President Michele Ganeless, Comedy Central)

– Environmental leadership (self-imposed is most impressive) and sustainable business design. (Fashion Designer Stella McCartney and Sustainable Design Program Manager Dawn Danby, Autodesk)

– Hybrid various industries. (CEO Dietrich Mateschitz, Red Bull)

– Cut out the middle man and create your own distribution channels. (Artist Damien Hirst)

– Ignore the rules…push the boundaries. (Global Director of Media Arts Lee Clow, TBWA/Worldwide)

– Build an alternative business model that allows access to the otherwise disenfranchised.  (Founder Shai Reshef, University of the People)