Embracing the Squiggly by Making Truffles

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In anticipation of Small Business Saturday, I had the opportunity to meet Jenny of J&G Chocolate and Tea. A self-taught chocolatier, she used Youtube and Pinterest to learn the delicate art of making chocolate. While working in a traditional job, Jenny learned that she was actually pretty good at making tiny moments of delight with her creations. One thing led to another and then she was able to leave her job to start building the business with her sister Gina.

Jenny and Gina

Pictured: Jenny (left) and Gina (right).

Having launched J&G at the beginning of the year, the startup chocolate shop has seen success pretty early on. With an ultimate goal of being a chocolate and tea cafe, the sisters have grown their reach by selling online and at farmer’s markets throughout the Central Florida area with new locations to be announced.

While many may pick up chocolate making as a hobby, Jenny’s commitment to building a business took timing and “growing a pair.” Not a natural risk taker, Jenny was encouraged to take the leap by her supportive husband and sister. With their backing starting a chocolate and tea company seemed completely doable.

Photo Credit: J&G Chocolate and Tea

Photo Credit: J&G Chocolate and Tea

At first, Jenny didn’t completely realize what kind of risk she was taking by leaving her stable job to start a chocolate company. That is, until people started to say, “Wow, you are so brave” and other things that made her take a second and question the path she had already taken. For example, challenges with figuring out the permitting rules, red tape with licensing, and the very steep costs when it comes to shipping chocolate. These constraints led the sisters to start doubting what they had already accomplished and the research they had done.

But then Jenny had a moment of clarity, “until you know what you are going to do, you can’t do the research.” It took making the mistakes to learn how to ask the right questions so she could get the right answers and get the business to where it is today.

Photo: Jenny at a Fall Pop Up Shop

Photo: Jenny at a Fall Pop Up Shop

In addition to being in a constant game of trail and error, Jenny noticed how at times she felt like the odd duck in her circle of friends. To have a work schedule where she may not get started until 10am but was working until midnight in the kitchen, sometimes did not come across to anyone else as work. That simple difference in schedule can be hard for others to understand. However, for Jenny, having that flexibility is one of the most rewarding parts of being an entrepreneur.

Another challenge that almost every female business owner has dealt with is the self imposed need for perfection. In Jenny’s case, she learned to overcome getting bogged down with the details through the valuable experience of planning her wedding. “As the planner you can get all wrapped up in the teeny tiny details, but no one else will know but you if it is missing. Now with J&G, time is what influences how things will get prioritized and accepting that has allowed me to keep getting our product out there and refining it as we go along” and it might come out even better than planned.

When asked about the greatest piece of advice she would give to anyone who would want to start something like J&G,”research and testing are the most important things for anyone developing a product, especially a food product. Get the feedback of your family, your friends, everyone you know so can be confident in your product.”

Photo Credit: Candace Dyer at http://bit.ly/12cYvU0

Photo Credit: Candace Dyer at http://bit.ly/12cYvU0

Now I had the chance to eat one of J&G’s Caramel Pretzel and Bacon Apples and I can honestly say it was one of the best things I ever ate. But don’t just take my word for it, check out Candace Dyer’s review on her dessert blog Dessert Geek. And if you are interested in purchasing any of their chocolates or teas go to their online shop here or visit them at these locations.

Healing the Community through Holistic Counseling

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Changing the world often comes in the form of improving foreign policy and informing how the United States interacts with other countries. As rewarding as that field can be, the results of that work could take years or even lifetimes to be seen. Navigating the governments, trade deals, and other institutions can hold up a project for years, so patience and trust in that process is crucial. But what if you doubt that process or want to directly help people?

Zac Dodson Meet Zac Dodson, serial entrepreneur and owner of HD Counseling, an Orlando based holistic mental health service provider. Zac initially went to graduate school in Geneva, Switzerland, the heart of international policy making, and within his first semester felt that he needed to make a switch. So, he went to the Counseling department and just asked if he could transfer into their school. Since it had never been done before, he met little resistance and within the year was studied his way to becoming a licensed mental health counselor.

Upon graduation, he set up his own practice and moved to Orlando, FL. Within months he learned that most of his patients were coming to him with “co-morbid” issues or environmental factors that kept them from living their happiest life. So, Zac began a holistic practice that brought in healers of all kinds to an affordable workspace and require that they are active in the community. What first started out as a 4 person practice flourished into a team of 18 practitioners in just 3 years. With offerings beyond counseling, such as meditation, acupuncture and art therapy workshops, HD Counseling provides less intimidating experiences to better one’s mental health.

HD Counseling Team
Inspired by his work with clients who live with PTSD, Zac noticed that workers who burnout are dealing with this trauma that goes on to turn these professionals towards private sector work and ultimately harming the whole non-profit sector. Now that HD Counseling has reached a level of stability, Zac has found his way into addressing this millennial issue: burnout. Most common in non-profit workers, Benefact is Zac’s next project in helping others. Non-profit managers tools and workshops to help their employees avoid burnout to remain engaged in the often grueling industry.

Zac’s work is impacting an aspect of our society that often is overlooked or stigmatized, as evidenced by the shooting this week at Florida State University. By going out into the community and offering workshops, seminars, and other services, HD Counseling is creating safer places for people to get help.

If you want to learn more about the incredible work that HD Counseling does click here or post in the comments below if you have any questions.

Changing the World Shouldn’t Come Cheap

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Image Credit: http://bit.ly/1GY4e0q

Image Credit: http://bit.ly/1GY4e0q

If there were no obstacles, how would you change the world? I, like many others, want to build a career on making the world a better place. Traditionally, building a career of service has meant working within the public and non-profit sector. In those types of jobs you are able to directly address the problems that companies simply aren’t interested in solving. Though admirable, with rising education and living costs, being a professional do-gooder has become an increasingly challenging career choice.

A few years ago, I had the chance to watch the TED talk above featuring Dan Pallotta. The fundraising genius introduced the world to multi-day human experiences that raised millions of dollars and propelled issues into the spotlight. Now a writer and advocate for the non-profit sector, Pallotta’s TED talk makes the case for why those choosing to pursue this career path shouldn’t be expected to earn and be valued significantly less than their private sector counterparts.

I raise this issue today in response to Kim Kardashian and Paper Magazine’s attempt to “break the internet.” While both entities are encouraged to push the envelope to gain attention, which turn into profits, non-profits are routinely capped by what society thinks they should be doing. Restraining non-profits in this way only stifles innovation in an era where this year’s technology is obsolete in a matter of years, not decades or even centuries. As described in Adam Davidson’s recent New York Times’ piece, for every successful tech startup there are many more that have failed. To investors, it is an accepted risk to starting a business. Why does it have to be any different for non-profits? Donations to a non-profit are just an older version of crowd funding. Why the uproar when one has an incredibly successful fundraising campaign? They did great work and should be rewarded, like a Facebook, Twitter, Uber, etc.

Do you think a non-profit CEO should earn a six figure salary? Personally, as long as the community that is being served is seeing the benefits, non-profit workers should be financially rewarded. They work just as hard, sometimes harder, and shouldn’t be worrying about their finances because they chose to help make the world a better place. What do you think?

Federal Employment and Why Millennials Want More From Their Work

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Photo Credit: Ingrid Taylar from San Francisco Bay Area - California, USA

Photo Credit: Ingrid Taylar from San Francisco Bay Area – California, USA

As the dust settles from the midterm elections, citizens far and wide return to their regularly scheduled programming. However, according to the Office of Personnel Management, for 4.312 million people these changes impact who are their coworkers and how their work is accomplished. Working for the red tape laden federal government, as one millennial working at the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) has learned, can actually be the most rewarding job.

What is the FMC? Well. You know the screen you are looking at? It’s safe passage, like almost everything else we interact with daily, are regulated by the Federal Maritime Commission. Established in 1961 by President Kennedy, the commission handles tariffs, ports, and trade regulations to help businesses with the actual importation and exportation of their goods. But how does one get a job working with such an organization? Just ask my friend Jewel Jennings – Wright. Originally from Baltimore, Maryland, Jewel is currently a Counsel at the Commission, meaning she supports and advises a commissioner.

Jewel Jennings Wright

Prior to landing this dream of a job, Jewel received her B.A. in Political Science at Carnegie Mellon, then her Master’s and J.D. from the University of Pittsburgh. With an ongoing interest in the strategic aspects of international security, Jewel first became interested in port security during her graduate studies in International Security and Intelligence. “We have ports leading to almost every major city, and almost anyone can ship anything” therefore creating a very murky security challenge. By interning for the Commission she was able to bring together her love for ports and law.

Upon graduation, however, a position was not available. Instead, she went to work with a private equity firm in Detroit. But, after about a year was able to return to D.C. to work with the Commission. “It’s rewarding, yet demanding work” as Jewel isn’t just pushing paper, but is actually making a difference.

Photo credit: Carnegie Mellon University

Photo credit: Carnegie Mellon University

Along the way Jewel has been able to learn some important life lessons. The primary among them being,

“Actually listen to your gut. If you are absolutely unhappy and upset where you are change your situation or make steps to change it that may mean changing jobs, it may mean moving (usually both), it may mean taking a leap of faith of some kind but actually try. If you feel it ‘in your bones’ that something is bad, it most likely is.”

When asked about millennials in the workforce,

“I think millennials often get a bad rep because people think that it’s a soft generation. We’ve seen the baby boomers and our parents work lives that didn’t necessarily lead to a good home life. There are a lot of people asking millennials to ignore that and do it anyway. For baby boomers, a hard days work sometimes was at a factory and it was actually hard. Now we’ve seen baby boomers come down with things like asbestosis, unions being busted, pensions going bust and our parents going through bubble after bubble. Are we supposed to do exactly the same thing?” 

Although early in her career, Jewel has found herself as one of the youngest counsels at the commission. With that experience she has identified the key issue that drives millennials. During our childhoods, we’ve witnessed the damaging side effects of our current systems and how our families have coped with them. Is it entitlement to demand for more from our professional lives, or simply a desire to avoid the terrifying challenges our families have had to weather? Post your thoughts in the comments below or tweet @themtakeover.