Thanksgiving Assumptions

I believe that in order to change, we must first know what is wrong or needs changing… so I write these stories to help recognize these very ingrained actions that are archaic and no longer serve us, in fact keep others down.

My husband is one of 7 children and they are truly wonderful people. Because he and I have the largest house, it is easy for us to host Thanksgiving. This year I really didn’t have the energy to host a large gathering that would involve a lot of planning, cleaning, cooking and cleaning again. I had been dealing with my father’s extreme health issues and trying to support my mom through it all. The family asked if we could please have Thanksgiving at our house… I reluctantly said yes with the caveat that I would need it to be minimal work… we would eat on plastic plates and they all had to do the planning with my husband.

A few weeks later my phone started ringing with Mike’s sisters and mother calling me to find out what they should bring, what everyone else is bringing, what time, etc… I didn’t even return the calls, I simply told my husband and he took care of it. My husband is great at planning and coordinating get togethers, parties, events. Etc…

It became very evident to me that we are programmed to assume that the woman of the house would be taking care of all of the issues around a family dinner. Mike kept telling me about how he took care of it and how he was helping keep it off my proverbial plate… I explained to him that he doesn’t and shouldn’t need to keep telling me that… that it should be normal that he would handle his families thanksgiving planning and that I didn’t need to be in charge.

Set your boundaries and push against the old assumptions, teach others to do it different.  Sadly sometimes it takes a desperate situation (my exhaustion from dealing with my own families needs) to recognize how one sided things can be..

No wonder women have a hard time getting ahead in the workforce, they are expected to do all these other things too!

Are there any assumptions you have to deal with around the holidays?

Creative Marketing on a Startup Budget

If you are like most startups you have virtually no cash to spend on Marketing and Advertising. Having a tight budget pushes entrepreneurs to get creative (fortunately that is usually an inherent trait). Here are a couple of ideas that I have used and shared with others.

One way is to auction your services off. No matter what city you are in, there are bound to be local non-profits that are holding fund raising events. It might be a fundraising dinner or brunch or school bazaar, but almost all non-profits hold silent auctions and are always looking for unique items to sell. Put together a nice package of your goods or services and provide it to the non-profit to auction off. If you are a photographer you could put together a package for “3 hour photo shoot and 100 proofs” or a “discount on a wedding package”, etc… If you are a personal chef, you could offer “a custom dinner for you and 6 of your friends.”

This ends up being a win, win, win. The organization get the money, the person who wins the bid gets a great product or service and (most importantly for you), you get exposure to a new group of people for only the cost of your time or your product.

Another approach I encourage business owners to try is to attend events that are outside of their industry norms. For example, if you are a graphic designer attend a convention for Dentists. Dentists often need graphic designer for brochures, websites, business cards, etc… and you probably won’t be competing with many other graphic designers at the conference.

My final suggestion is to try to do some cross promoting with people that are servicing the same audience you are going after, but who’s business is different than yours. Take this scenario for example; let’s say a company is throwing a party for its employees and their families. Here are a few examples of companies that could be cross promoting: Bar tending services, bounce house rentals, inflatable movie screen rental companies, DJ’s, Photographers, caterers, cleaning companies, landscape companies… you get the idea. When I was consulting entrepreneurs, I had a list of trusted resources that I recommended to my clients: web designers, insurance reps, lawyers, graphic designers, accountants, PR firms and software developers. These same folks also recommended me (and sometimes we offered our services together as a package).

I hope these tips help you come up with additional creative ways to market on a budget. Feel free to comment and share ideas that have worked for you.

I couldn’t believe my own father said that…

I almost couldn’t believe what I was hearing… my dad and mom and I were watching the news the other day and there was a segment on Dr. Ford, the first woman to come forward and share her story of how Judge Brett Kavanaugh assaulted her when they were in high school (she was 15, he was 17). My dad says to us, “I don’t know what that ladies problem is… stuff like that happens at every school across the country on prom night.” I was floored… a man with 2 daughters would say (and think) such a thing!!! My response to him was swift and without much thought, I asked him, “what if that had happened to me?” He was silent and stumped for a moment. He then tried to make light of it by saying, “Well I would have expected you to poke his eyes out.” To which I replied, “well that is a nice thought dad, but boys are almost always much stronger than girls at that age and it isn’t always possible to fight them off.” His answer was, “that’s true.” I followed up by saying that if that had happened to me, I might not have said anything at the time either, but that if that guy was later in line to become a supreme court judge, I would absolutely come forward.

Of course people make mistakes and use bad judgment when they’ve been drinking… this whole incident might have played out differently if Kavanaugh would have admitted it, apologized and learned how wrong it was. Instead, it now looks like there are more incidents showing the same predatory behavior.

The entire conversation was a sobering realization of how indoctrinated my parents still are in the archaic way of thinking that it is “ok” for men/boys to behave this way and that it is wrong for women to speak up about it. I now have a little better understanding of what it must have been like for women/girls to come forward after an attack and have their parents either not believe them, or blame them for it. My hope is that my own father will now pause and think about his own daughters is a scenario before spouting off with misogynistic comments.

I was recently chatting….

I was recently chatting with a friend and fellow entrepreneur whose business (that he built for 10 years) didn’t succeed.  We were discussing some of the things that helped us deal with the fact that our businesses had failed and one of the interesting experiences we both had was that we found solace in doing things that used our creativity.  His was cooking and rebuilding an old car and mine was refurbishing/repurposing furniture.  We dug into why this was so cathartic for both of us and here is what we found:

  • We were the only ones working on our respective projects so we didn’t have to ask anyone else for their input or wait for their decision. That was empowering.
  • Being able to complete something felt amazing.
  • The dramatic before and after was really gratifying… businesses often take years to build and we often forget how much we have done, how far we have come, etc…
  • Doing something for ourselves, not for business was a welcome change… when you have a startup, you spend almost all of your time and energy on your business – you have to.
  • Taking something ugly and making it beautiful again gave us a sense of pride.
  • Learning something new was really energizing. This, I believe, is good for anyone… never stop learning, never stop trying new things.
  • Lastly (and hugely important), being really good at something really helped our confidence.

So if you find yourself in a rut, are recovering from a setback or failure, or just feel that there is a void in your life, find something creative you can do.

After-all, creativity is at the core of all entrepreneurs… we are business artists.

Two incidents that really helped rebuild my confidence.

There were two distinct incidents that really helped me pull my head out of my backside and gave my confidence a jumpstart.  The first was a conversation I had with my friend Travis Rhoten.  I was sharing with him how I was struggling with the failure of my business when he told me about a box he had that was full of pieces of paper, each one with a different business idea that he had had.  He pointed out that the difference was that he put his ideas in a box and never did anything with them, while I actually took an idea to fruition, invented a product, had it made and took it to market.  He said most people never do more than write ideas on a piece of paper and stick them away.   It was a turning point in how I viewed my situation and helped me tremendously!

The second incident happened recently when I had emailed a bunch of friends and colleagues to let them know that I had started this group and why.  It was the first time I had admitted to many of these folks that the lipstick applicator company had failed (being able to tell people that was a big step in itself).  One of my friends responded with an incredible email that reminded me once again, that most people don’t even have the guts to try something new.

Here is a portion of his email: “You talk about all the struggles you had with the failure, but keep in mind the majority of folks never even give it a shot.  Most should be more embarrassed that they sit around a coffee pot bitching about work every day and talk about “living the dream” but never actually have the balls to go for it.   For what it’s worth, you should be proud and will always have my respect for trying to make the dream happen.  Sure you know many very successful people have failed many times before they actually made it.  Don’t let this failure define you. “

Perspective is EVERYTHING.  If you are thinking about taking on an entrepreneurial adventure, DO IT!

There is a great community of folks like the ones in this group that will help you along the way… and if it doesn’t work out, at least you TRIED.

6 reasons women should own their own business

  1. No pay gap due to gender.  Whether you own a data center, a scuba diving school or a retail store… as the owner, you and you alone decide how much you get paid.  Some may argue that some patrons won’t want to work with a landscape company or medical transport company that is owned by a woman, but how and why would they even know?
  2. There is no glass ceiling. You can go as high, as wide, as diverse as you want.
  3. You have self directed maternity leave.   When your kids have a baseball game or doctors appt, you and you alone decide if you are going to take the time to attend.
  4. If there is sexual harassment, you can fire them
  5. You get to create the culture that you want and run the company the way you want.
  6. You are a good role model for other women and girls.

Why I changed my name

People thought I was running from my identity, wanted to be someone new, entering college, etc…
None of that was true.  By the time I was 18 years old I was painfully aware that opportunities for me would be different because I was a woman.
My paternal grandmother who remained in Germany pronounced my name differently.  “Carrre-sten”.  I loved they way she pronounced my name, but americans couldn’t roll their “r’s”… so after about a year of trying to teach my friends and colleagues I settled on Kasten.
It ended up being a great decision.  For one, I loved having a unique name, everyone remembered it.  But second and more importantly, when people heard or saw the name, they didn’t know if it was a man or a woman.  (One time I even heard someone say, “What is a Kasten?”, to which I answered, it’s a name… it’s my name).
With a non gender specific name, there were no preconceived when they took my calls, read my emails, my letters, etc…
I didn’t want someone to work with me or not work with me because of my gender.  I always wanted it to be because of my experience, knowledge and capabilities.
In 2007 an attorney friend of mine invited me to be part of a group of American business people that would go to Kosovo to teach western style business practices for 6-8 weeks.  It sounded like an incredible opportunity that would be very rewarding and the pay was excellent.  I put together my C.V. and sent it off to the evaluation committee.  Within days I got a letter stating that had been accepted and that they were very excited about my experience not only in business, but that I had experience in front of a classroom and that I spoke several languages.
A week later I got a phone call that I in fact, would not be accepted because I was a female.  It read, “We are terribly sorry, we didn’t realize you were a woman” (ah -yeah, cuz my name didn’t give it away).
The reason that they couldn’t have women teaching was 2 fold.  The biggest reason was because Kosovo was mostly Muslim and the men would not attend a class taught by a woman.  Yes, it is pretty f* -ed up, but that is how their culture is.
The second reason was that it would be quite dangerous for me to be there as a woman and that they did not have enough security detail to be able to ensure my safety.
I was disappointed, but not really that mad.  They had judged me by my credentials, not my gender and that was what was important.  The fact that the muslim culture thinks of women as second class citizens was sad, but I also know that we cannot exact change by forcing it down their throat.
My name makes people stop and think about why they are making a decision… for instance, if my name on a list and someone is making seating arrangements, they have to stop and think “I don’t know if this is a man or a woman… where would I seat them”.
It is sad that we still live in a world where gender plays such a big role, especially in the workplace and usually negatively for women… perhaps by me changing my name it will get people to realize the prejudgements they are making.

How I became a Sophisticated Rebel

It was the summer of 1989, I was about to enter my junior year of high school in Portland Or. and I was dreading it!  I was so bored of high school… I had gotten good grades, but I hated being there and all I wanted to do was surf (yes, surf)… I spent my days that summer plotting my rebellion.

Once I felt I had a good plan, I went to my parents (both of whom immigrated to the US from Germany) and told them I was done with school and that I was planning to move to Southern California so I could surf every day.  When my father asked how I had planned to make a living and support myself, I was able to quickly answer (due to what I thought was great planning), “I am going to have a bbq and bento stand and sell lunch at the beach!”  Almost in unison my parents replied with a resounding, “We immigrated to this country so you could have a better life… you WILL finish high school and you WILL finish college!!”

There is absolutely nothing good that comes from arguing with German parents, so I went back to plotting other alternatives for getting out of school (two other very German traits are stubbornness and rebelliousness – and I have both).   I realized that if I wanted to accomplish my goal, I had to find a smart, productive, positive way to rebel… a “sophisticated” way.

I ended up doubling up on classes (going in early, staying late, etc) and testing out of other classes.  Halfway through my junior year I had enough credits to graduate AND I had a 4.0 grade point average.  There wasn’t much my parents could say against that.  I got what I wanted – out of high school – and they got what they wanted, graduate with honors.  It was that experience that sparked the Sophisticated Rebel in me and I’ve been breaking rules and doing things my own way ever since!