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Trusting the process

Abigail Diaz

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“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.”

 

 

-Mark Twain

“Trust the process” is a term that I’ve heard over and over again, especially as I’ve gotten older. It’s a saying that’s been shared with me (and probably with you) to help you get through some kind of professional or personal transition. And I’ve found it extremely annoying for one main reason: no one really ever explains what “the process” is! 

And it wasn’t until I reflected on a professional leap of faith that I truly understood what that process was for me. 

I also realized that there’s a much better saying for the process of control, patience, accountability, and faith that it takes to truly allow yourself to figure things out and dream big. 

I call it, “Give it a year.” 

Let me explain what I mean by telling you about my first big professional transition from a secure a job to the unknown with the promise that I would give myself a year to figure it out. 

L to R: 1. Pictured with Celine one of my seventh grade students. 2 Freddy was one of my favorite  students who I taught in my first year as an eight grade English Teacher. 3.&4.  The last week of me teaching, my students left me letters and notes all over the classroom. 


From Teacher to Sales:

I graduated from college the year the stock market crashed and no one was hiring for the marketing or creative job of my dreams so I decided to get my teaching certification. I was working as a middle school English teacher for two years before I got the urge to try something new. But I was conflicted, I liked teaching and my students, and I liked the security, but I also knew that I wanted more. So I started looking. And it wasn’t long before the job that I had wanted since I was in college – the one that would give me the chance to grow a strong network, sharpen my sales skill, and work in a field I was excited about finally came within reach.  It was a sales job in the spirits industry. 

So there I was – a pretty young person having to make a choice between leaving a job or not but also with the moral choice between doing good as an educator or selling out to sell booze. 

And it’s pretty funny because I went to two people who were authorities in the two different realms to kind of get their sign-offs/thoughts.  

On was my former co-worker, Kimberly Johnson. We worked in the same department and I let her know that I got the job offer, but that I was thinking of not taking it because I’d have to leave the school year early. Her response, "Worry about number one: Yourself," gave me the courage and confidence to leave. She reminded me that this was my life and that opportunities like this might not come around again. I thank Kimberly so much for the advice she gave me. The other was my mom. I remember how anxious I was when I had to break the news to her.  She’s a tad judgy (but whose mom isn’t?) so I was really worried about how she’d deal with the idea of me pushing liquor for a living. But she listened and understood. 

Throughout the decision-making process, I think that I had already made up my mind. I recognized that not only was I ready for a move but that my passion for the classroom wasn’t what it was before. And the longer that I kept putting off this move, the more likely it was that my frustrations would affect my performance and ability to be a great teacher. 

So after explaining myself to these two important people and doing some deep thinking, I was ready. And two weeks before spring break I submitted my letter of resignation and left. 

I started in my new job as a liquor sales rep with a pay cut. And while I knew that this wasn’t the ideal financial situation, I saw it as a short-term investment that was going to pay off. Within the first year, I was one of the top salespeople in the state and was even getting job offers from competitors. That's when I knew I had made the best choice for my future.  

And by the time I left my career to embark on entrepreneurship, my salary had nearly doubled and was making as much money as a teacher with 20 years on the job.  

L to R: 1. In San Antonio with Cointreau. 2. The Heart of Cognac event. 3. Platform it speaking series, where Remy Martin was the liquor sponsor. 4. In Chicago with my team members for our division meeting. 


Now, does my jump from one career to another say that I’m unreliable or that I lack the professionalism to stick it out? Or does it say that I’m curious and willing to bet on myself? 

I operate from the standpoint that it’s the latter. (Granted, I’ve always left my jobs on good terms, and learned and grown for the better because of them. And I recommend you do too). But the key to being successful in my transition and with my decision was agreeing to give it a year and creating a process to get me through the year. Often I felt emotionally overwhelmed by taking a chance on myself. And really overwhelmed by having to make the decision to leave a place where I might be a little unhappy but secure for the chance at what I really wanted. This is also true when it comes to relationships, friendships, and even our health. 

We make up excuses for why we don't go after what we really want. 

But the truth is if we are good enough, then will never know how good we are until we try. Which is why if I’m ever going to do anything big, I give it a year. I assess where I am and if there hasn't been any progress, then I work to figure out what’s next. 

In this way, I try to create a roadmap to measure if I’m reaching success. 

This is the process. 

 

 

You have a business idea... now what?

Abigail Diaz

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“If you can dream it, you can do it.” – Walt Disney

I have been coming up with business ideas and products since I was a kid and a lot of it has to do with my childhood neighborhood. It was an entrepreneurial place where families made extra money by selling different products - candy, snacks, clothes, car parts - from their homes to their neighbors. So as kids, instead of going to the corner store to by candies, ice cream, and snow cones, we'd go to our neighbors' houses. Weird? Maybe. But this D.I.Y. neighborhood marketplace was my entry point into the business world. 

At seven-years-old, I realized that this informal system of buying candy, ice cream, snow cones, and snacks from my neighbors was flawed. For one, I didn't know what everyone was offering so I had no idea where to go for a particular item quickly. And while walking to my neighbor's house was more convenient than getting a ride to the corner store, a lack of signage or set hours meant that I would often go to the wrong house or an empty one. 

I knew there was a need: kids wanted candy. But the way that my neighbors were going about selling candy was not really meeting my need to get that candy or snack quickly and conveniently. I knew I could do a better job.

So I gathered up a hundred dollars from my birthday and I asked my mom if she would buy me candy from Sam's Club to re-sell. She wasn't a fan of the idea of having our house double as a candy storefront, open to any customer at any time. But with enough begging and persistence, my mom agreed to let me do it with one condition: if there was one complaint, the shop had to close. No discussion. I agreed to the terms and purchased my first batch of candies and ice cream to sell. 

To set myself apart from the competition and to make things easier for my customers I created flyers to hang to light posts. They let people know where to find me, the types of snacks and candies I was selling, my pricing, and my hours. As silly and simple as this sounds, this one factor separated me from the competition and it led to some success. 

My little business stayed open for a couple of months until I received what I still believe is a baseless complaint about "an ant in an ice cream." (Baseless, is a very nice way of describing this.) Either way, the shop closed immediately and without discussion. And while my business was shuttered, I took a couple of important lessons from my first jump into business: 

1. A good business idea should address a need for your consumer. 2. In order for a good idea to become a really successful business, you've got to make it convenient, quick and easy for your customer to buy what you're selling. When it came to candy,  I sold a similar product and had competition on the same street as myself, but no one was providing information to his or her customer. 

These lessons applied to one of my most recent jumps back into the world of candy and business - Lush Puff! 

Pictured: When I started researching cotton candy services, these two brands were the ones that set the bar for doing the business right. Fluffe & Bon Puf started before I did, and they are doing amazing things. So happy to see how far they have come! 


Before I launched Lush Puff, I researched and discovered only one other person in Texas was providing a cotton candy service and she was in Dallas. I also found that in Houston, someone could rent a cotton candy machine, but there wasn't a business to provide the cotton candy making service nor the cotton candy experience. I also found two cotton candy businesses from California & Australia that were executing their cotton candy making businesses successfully and studied their success.  

L-R: 1. On Valentines Day 2015 in Guadalajara, Mexico this is where I got the idea for Lush Puff. 2. Months later I would go to a hardware store to find a frame for the cart, as I wanted it to fold and fit in my car. 3. The bones of the cart. 4. Working with Fredis on the logo for Lush Puff. 5. What the cart looked like prior to powder coating. 6. The cart today, this was taken at an event with Williams Sonoma


I took all of this - the need I knew existed in the market, the research, the best practices and then made it my own with unique branding, standards for service, and strategies for getting it to customers - then launched operations. 

This is the level of development and preparation that should go into a business idea way before it's ever launched. You have to make sure it's rooted in a market gap and need; you've got to do your research and then develop a good operation and model for reaching your customer. And remember to find ways to make it easier, quicker, or more convenient for people.  

My neighborhood inculcated in me the idea that there is enough business to go around for everyone. And seven-year-old Abby taught me that in order for you to be the best in the business, you've got to put in work, find solutions, make things better and leave a personal touch on everything you do. 

 

What exactly is a #sidehustle

Abigail Diaz

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“The dream is free.

The hustle is sold separate."

 

 

- Unknown

In the last few years the term #sidehustle has taken a life of its own. What once was a term used to make a little extra cash on the side, is now a prevalent  topic in many industries. From podcasts, books, to blogs, vlogs and even merchandise, this term is growing into helping people generate strong profitable businesses. 

So what exactly is it? If you google the term, a slew of websites pop up from books on how to start a side hustle, to articles on ideas for your first side hustle. However, the most basic definition of what a side hustle is; something that brings in cash other than your main job. If you were to ask me when I started side hustling, it was probably around the age of 16. My first real job was at 15 working in a coffee shop. All the money I made went straight to my mom and so I never really saw any of it or spent it myself. So my mom and I essentially made a deal. Whatever extra cash I would make I could use that for myself. So the babysitting and cleaning peoples’ houses was the start of my side hustle. By the time I was a senior in high school, I had three homes I would clean weekly to pay for my first trip to Europe, in addition to my coffee shop job. I just knew at a young age I loved to work and I loved being able to pay for what I wanted. 

1. In college I worked as a Red Bull wiiings girl where I met my best friend Chandni pictured. 2. Working alongside my friend Danielle, who happened to be a single mom and going to school. 3. Even when I had professional career, I would work events to help promote the product I was selling. 4. Pictured is Ahrif, business partner and friend, Claire, and me at a Better Together speaking event hosted by Kit & Ace. 


So how do you know you have what it takes to start a side hustle? First be honest with yourself if you even want to work the extra hours. If you love your free time and weekends then the answer is probably no, which is totally okay.  The side hustle lifestyle is not for everyone. But, if you are at a place where you want to make extra cash and you have the drive to do it, then you should probably do it. The beautiful thing about a side hustle is, that you have the flexibility to do it on your own terms. 

Pictures 1-3: Pictured are a few shots from the first Aces of Taste. We rented out our friends Air BnB & worked along side Chef Mike Potowski from Benjy's. It was a very hectic day, but that dinner sparked a level of self confidence I never knew I had. Pictures 4-6: A little over a year later, we partnered with Sugar & Cloth to host our first blogger / influencer pop-up dinner. The level of execution and our partnerships were growing as we had hoped. 


How do I decide what side hustle I want to do? Are you good at something, do you have a passion for something or do you have experience in a certain area that’s a good start. In college I was the side hustle queen. I had two main jobs, in the morning I would work at a high-end retail store, go to school during the day and at night go work for Red Bull as a wiiings girl. I repeated this for two years and never took a break. But during the holidays and weekends I would coach summer league, private swimming lessons, bartend events and work at the school. I would take advantage of any opportunity if I could make some money. 

When do you decide if your side hustle could be something more? If you are at a point that you may want to leave the security of your job, then this is the time to assess if your side hustle is something you want to dive into for a long period of time. Most of the time, when people decide to start a side hustle, it is in a field or hobby they love. This makes the transition even easier, especially when the money is matching your professional income. But you have to remember to plan, I can not stress this enough. 

1. My first cotton candy machine was purchased from Amazon from China, the level of excitement was a little unreal. 2. Before I launched Lush Puff I tested it out with close friends. Pictured is me at Myth & Symbol, where I made cotton candy on a fold up table and an hour later, the machine over heated & I had a mini breakdown. 3. My first social media client was a nail salon, I created a vision board for her first nail shoot. 4. When you can't afford models, you volunteer to be one, hence the start of my hand model career. 


Finally, remember to have fun. The part I love about a good side hustle are the people I get to meet. Many of my opportunities have been based on engaging with others and someone remembers to tell someone about me. My expectations are set low in the beginning and I take it as a learning process. This is a marathon not a sprint and no one gets it right the first time. Trust me, I have a slew of stories about that. However, I am like a sponge and I am always learning and trying to get better. That should always be one of your goals, to do better the next time. 

The beautiful thing about living in a time like this is that #sidehustle is a term people are embracing and there are so many opportunities out there to start somewhere. Freelance writing, photography, blogging, fitness, dog walking, being an uber driver etc. The list goes on and on. The opportunities are endless, you literally just have to start somewhere. I would encourage you to try it if you are curious, you never know where it could take you.