After a 4am wake-up call from an idea, Shelly Ehler shares her journey on how she never gave up and carried her invention from a prototype to a feature on The Today Show and Shark Tank.
TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT YOURSELF.
I grew up in Orange County, California. I went to the University of Arizona and studied to be a schoolteacher. I married my high school sweetheart shortly thereafter and we have two sons who are now 12 and 9 years old.
I invented a product called ShowNo Towels, which are the perfect bath towel that kids can use to dry off on their own. It is a cover-up that keeps them warm and protected from the sun and it is a changing towel that kids can put on and change their clothes underneath in privacy. It is also the perfect beach towel, because it can lay flat on the sand.
SHARE WITH US YOUR JOURNEY THAT LED YOU TO YOUR INVENTION.
I got the idea when I was at the pool with my sons. When it was time to leave and they wanted to change into their dry clothes, my older son asked me to wrap a towel around him so that he could change in privacy. When I was holding his towel, my younger son started to get impatient because he wanted me to hold his towel.
As my younger son started to have a melt down, this situation got me thinking that there should be something that I could throw over both of them and they could change on their own without me having to hold anybody’s towel.
I always think of different ways for kids to be more independent, as well as ways to make my life easier. As I thought a little more about it, nothing really came to mind. So, I slept on it that night until 4 in the morning when I just shot out of bed.
I literally sat right up and thought, “why not just put a slit in the towel and make it like a poncho that would cover their front and back?” It was such a simple idea. So, I jumped on Google and searched for something like that. The only thing I found were little hooded towels for babies and nothing for kids after the age of 4 years. When kids are that young, they still don’t really know how to manipulate a towel to dry themselves off and wrap it around themselves.
Once I saw there was nothing available, I thought about it and immediately started to work on my idea. I got a towel and cut a hole in it. When I put it over me, I thought, “Oh my gosh… I think this can work!”
I couldn’t wait for my kids to wake up that morning. I already had my first prototype done by the time they were out of bed. I put it around both of them and told them to change their clothes. They thought I was crazy, but they did it anyway. And it worked!
When we went to the pool that day, I had at least 5 people come up to me and asked what my boys were wearing and where I got it from. From that moment, I knew that I was on to something. It was such a simple idea and when I looked around the pool, I saw that every kid needed it. All the kids were covering themselves with a towel or changing in public. I saw a need for this type of towel.
And that’s really how it all started.
WOW! YOU DIDN’T WASTE TIME!
I didn’t waste time with the idea, but then I sat on it for months and months, because I didn’t know what to do next. I felt the typical fear and didn’t really move forward because of the same reasons why so many people don’t start with their ideas. I just kept listening to the voice in my head that said it was going to be too hard; you won’t know how to do this; you don’t have any money.
However, when it finally came down to it, my heart just kept whispering louder and louder to me and it wouldn’t go away. Finally, I heard this voice in my heart say, ”Anything is possible and your “how” will appear when you take that leap of faith and go for it!” So, I just went for it and things started showing up exactly when I needed them to make this product a reality.
HOW DID YOU GET YOUR PRODUCT FEATURED ON TV SHOWS AND TO THE BIG MARKETS?
The first big step was getting on the Today Show. I got that by sending the Today Show some towels.
I think so many times people think that it’s too hard or they’re not important enough. But you will never know until you try. You’re going to get so many “no’s” as an entrepreneur. Sometimes you’ll send a dozen of emails each day and hear back from no one, but you have to keep sending them. It’s just the risk you take.
One of my goals on my list was to be on the Today Show. Every morning I would light a candle and just close my eyes and call for it in my mind. I envisioned it happening. Within a few months, my towel was on the Today Show.
I strongly believe that your intuition will guide you. So many times people will dismiss that small, little voice in their head, but I don’t. I listen to that voice. It is what guides me now. When I hear that little voice telling me to send the towel to someone, I follow in faith and do it. A lot of times it works out.
HOW DID YOU MAKE IT ON SHARK TANK?
We aired on the Today Show in the beginning of June 2011. It was funny because I didn’t know what to expect. I thought we were going to blow in sales and I was going to be swamped. I was the only person here making the towels and I only had 20 in stock. I was worried my website would crash and I was in panic.
When it aired, none of that happened. I sold about 20 towels that day. I remembered just feeling like such a failure. I had this huge opportunity and I turned it into just 20 towels in sales. It didn’t look like I thought it would be. I was really disappointed and upset.
I told everyone in the world that we were going to be on the Today Show. And now everyone was calling and emailing me and asking how it went after the show. I felt so unsuccessful.
But I got quiet and kept on asking WHY. Then I heard in my mind, “Look. Your product was viewed today by millions of people. Are you going to say… Is that all or will you say thank you? One of those thoughts will lead to a door where anything is possible and one of them will close it.” I gave myself 5 minutes to be mad. I set my timer and I cried. Then when I was done, I chose to be grateful for it.
The next day, I got a phone call from the operators of the largest water parks in the country, who kept on saying no to me after numerous emails and calls. They saw my towel on the Today Show and wanted to establish me as a vendor in their parks.
This is where I got my big aha moment. The results of being on the show can look so different. It can look so many different ways! Just because it didn’t turn out the way I expected it to be, doesn’t mean it was a failure.
On Facebook, I posted to all my friends to share with everyone that I was on the Today Show and to share the link. One of my good friends posted the link and it reached someone who did casting for Shark Tank.
I was invited to an open casting call the following week. Prior to this, everyone was telling me to get on the show, but I had no interest in being on Shark Tank. It gave me anxiety. I didn’t want to be on a national TV show and look like a loser. I had to really think about it.
However, one thing I learned is when something continually shows up in your life, it’s really the universe sending you a message. So, even though I was terrified, I said yes to being on Shark Tank.
It worked out better than I could have imagined. I heard within a week that they were casting me. I started working with the producers immediately and within 3 weeks I was pitching to “the sharks.”
HOW WAS YOUR EXPERIENCE BEING ON SHARK TANK?
It was crazy! The 3 weeks preparing for the show were the most nerve wracking of my life. I have never been that nervous. I couldn’t eat or sleep. I was sick to my stomach.
When the day arrived, as terrified as I was, the minute I walked in there, I felt peace. I can only attribute it to the fact that I just told myself that I’m letting go and I’m just going to let it work out the way it’s supposed to be. I just asked God to work through me, to speak for me and just to take over, which is exactly what happened. It felt like an out-of-body experience. I spoke every sentence beautifully. I didn’t stumble a word. I answered every single question clearly and I was precise. I got my point across.
I left there with a better deal than what I was asking for, which happens very rarely on the show. I was the first entrepreneur on the show that was given a check on the spot.
To me, that was just divine. It all worked out in such an incredible way. I felt so blessed. And I was in shock for several days. I couldn’t believe that it all happened.
Not only that, but I was seen by the largest towel manufacturer in the country who licenses towels. They approached me, because they wanted to take on ShowNo Towels and design them with licensed characters, such as Dora, Spiderman, Spongebob, etc. So, this spring we should be in Target, Walmart, Bed Bath & Beyond and other big stores.
WHAT TOP ADVICE WOULD YOU SHARE WITH A MOM WHO HAS AN IDEA AND WANTS TO TAKE IT TO THE NEXT LEVEL?
You have to find that still quiet voice. Get quiet, find silence and connect with that small, small voice inside of you. We don’t easily hear it, because our world is too loud. The TV is always on. We’re on our devices, the internet and all the social media channels. It’s all too noisy.
Find a quiet space and learn to listen and connect to your voice. It’s that voice that will guide you every step of the way towards your divine destiny. It’s not something I think. It’s something I know to be true, because it has guided me all along. And when I’m lost, I just quiet myself and I find it again. And almost instantly people start showing up to help you along your path.
Follow that voice in faith. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know what you’re doing or if you don’t have a dime or if everyone else thinks you’re crazy. Who cares! You put one foot in front of the next. Don’t try to figure it all out. It will overwhelm you and bog you down. Just figure out today. Pick one step to do today.
It’s not all going to happen overnight. I think a big mistake that people make is they don’t realize the challenge that goes into something like this. And that it does not happen overnight. It takes time and patience. If you don’t have the strength, the faith and the patience, you will get burned out very quickly.
WHAT IS THE BIGGEST LESSON YOU LEARNED AS AN ENTREPRENEUR?
One of the biggest lessons I learned from my journey is that when you follow in faith, it’s all going to work out. You have to believe it will all work out the way it’s supposed to.
Just because things don’t appear the way you think it’s supposed to doesn’t mean it’s wrong. I think one of the biggest mistakes we make is that we feel disappointed when things don’t go the way we think they’re supposed to go.
But what you don’t realize is when you keep following in faith you’ll see how it all unfolds. You’ll see how all the twists and turns and the closed doors actually work to your advantage. But if you stop, like so many people do, they just get discouraged over the closed doors and think it’s never going to happen.
The truth is when a dream has taken root within you; it will always manifest the way it’s supposed to if you continue to follow it in faith. So, my biggest advice is to not get discouraged when things don’t look like they’re supposed to. That’s when you must keep going.
Say thank you for the things that happen the way you want and also to the things that don’t happen the way you want, because you’re being protected. The best thing you can do every single day is to say thank you.
WHAT DOES BALANCE MEAN TO YOU?
It’s not always easy for me to stay balanced a lot of times.
The things that keep me happy, at peace and feeling balanced is 10 minutes of meditation in the morning. This makes a huge difference for me. It’s the way I focus my day.
I also get some form of exercise each day. If I don’t make it to the gym, I just take my dog for a walk. I just get out in the fresh air and get some form of exercise, which always helps me get out all of my nervous energy, get centered and ground myself.
Creator of the Baby EinsteinTM phenomenon, Julie Aigner Clark candidly shares her journey to amazing success from her basement and how she courageously battled cancer twice.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I am a mom of two teenage girls, 18 and 16 years old. I think I’m so lucky, because they are such incredibly bright and great kids. My oldest starts college in the Fall and my younger daughter will be a Junior in high school. I’ve been married for a little over 20 years and currently live in Colorado.
I grew up in the Detroit area of Michigan. I went to Michigan State University and I studied English and Education. I knew from a pretty young age that I wanted to become a teacher in high school. I really loved literature and art.
In 1988, when I graduated from college, I went into teaching. After I got married and became pregnant with my first daughter, I left teaching and decided to stay home with her. I always knew that once I had kids, I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom.
About 6 months into her little life, I started thinking about the idea for Baby EinsteinTM, because I missed literature, art and what I had been doing in the classroom. However, I also knew that I didn’t want to go back to teaching, because I still wanted to stay home with my daughter.
During this time, it occurred to me that there was nothing available for babies. I wondered why kids were only given things like BarneyTM or “I’m a little tea cup”. Why do I constantly have to sing little kiddie songs to my baby instead of playing some of the timeless, classical music I enjoyed and appreciated? That was how the idea of Baby EinsteinTM began.
What was your journey to get Baby EinsteinTM as a household name?
I had the idea for one, but I didn’t really know how to start a company. I would have to say that it is real critical to always give credit to my husband. By nature, he really is an entrepreneurial guy. When I shared with him my idea, how it was unique and how I really wanted it, he was instrumental in being an amazing support, which is what we all need when we’re starting something. We need somebody who really believes in us and encourages us.
My first concept was to just make a video board book, which typically has images and not words. I would then add cool photographs on the screen with moving images that my daughter liked to look at. Then, I wanted to add an audio component of music that I loved and wanted my daughter to love as well. Since music is international, the video would reach families across the globe, which was a cool thing.
Next, I started purchasing things that my daughter liked looking at and toys she like playing with. At this time, she was about 1 years old and we would go to the mall and find things that would keep her attention. One thing she loved staring at was a lava lamp, which was incorporated into the video.
I would take photographs of outside nature, like flowers, and the things she ate, like a banana or peas and our pet cat.
I did all that with borrowed video equipment from a friend’s husband who was a videographer. He showed me how to set up light and I filmed everything on a table top from our basement.
After I had all the photos and video footage I wanted, I figured out how to edit everything from my home computer using a very old version of Adobe Premiere®.
I did all this while I was home with my baby and my husband was working elsewhere. I would do some work while she was taking naps and at night. In the end, this whole process took about a year to really get it all done. I knew what I wanted to do, but I wasn’t 100 percent sure that this was going to be anything more than a cool thing I was just making for my daughter.
So, when all the editing was done and I had a video, I really needed some audio to go with it. This was when the first really big investment came into play. I had to hire a musician to reproduce all of the music that I loved, but I wanted to do it in a different way. I didn’t want to just put a recording of the London Symphony Orchestra playing a Mozart Sonata. I wanted it to be baby friendly.
So, I called a friend of mine, who has since done all the music for Baby EinsteinTM. He is a great musician and produced the sound track, which cost us some money.
People often ask me what really made me go after my idea and make it into a reality. I always say, once you make a financial investment in it, then you kind of panic to make sure you at least make the money back. I drew the logo for Baby EinsteinTM myself and then we had to package it and create the content for the back cover. It was all a learning process.
After I got the first video done, I didn’t know how I was going to get it out into the marketplace, but I knew that I now had something that I invested in. And again I just wanted to make that money back.
In the end, that first video cost me about $15,000. Remember, I was a teacher making about $20,000 a year. So, that was a lot of money for us.
I knew I was my own customer and I thought of the places where I liked to shop. At the time, I mostly shopped at The Right Start©, which was mostly a catalog company. They didn’t have a retail store where I lived.
I was trying to figure out how to get into The Right Start. I sent them a copy of the video, but never heard back from anybody. I didn’t know how to market anything, but somebody suggested that I go to a tradeshow, because I was more likely to meet people who may want to see my video and I could easily hand it to them.
So, I decided to go to Toy Fair in New York. I just went as an attendee and walked the floor of the show literally looking for somebody with a Right Start nametag. It wasn’t the easiest thing to do, but it worked out in my favor. It was like one of those lucky, synchronicity moments.
I saw a group of ladies from The Right Start and was able to get a copy of my video in the hands of one of them. They had 10 retail locations across the country and they decided to try it in their stores. They bought 100 videos from me and I was so beyond excited!
I had two things in my favor in terms of just being on the shelf at their stores. One was that I had a great name. I always tell people that it is key to have a name that people will instantly be engaged with or attracted by.
The other thing that worked for us was that it was totally unique. There were no baby videos in the market at the time. In addition, the content was special, because it was classical music and beautiful real world images.
So, those two factors encouraged people to first of all pick it up from the store shelf. It wasn’t too expensive, so people bought it. And most importantly, when they played it on the television, their babies loved it. That was the most key thing, because babies never lie. Also, word of mouth really spread quickly. I had wonderful support from moms who trusted me, because I was just like them. I was just a mom who wanted this video for my own child and not this big corporation trying to make a buck.
How did you connect with The Disney Corporation?
I had a one-year exclusive with The Right Start. After our first year of success, I made another video called, Baby MozartTM and I had two little girls at home, because my second daughter was born. We just continued making more and more titles.
For the second year, we branched out to other stores, but remained in the specialty retail markets. The whole market has changed since then. In the late ‘90’s, there were these really beautiful specialty stores that you wanted to just hang out in with your baby, like Zany Brainy© and Imaginarium©.
We continued to see more and more success. Now, it was not just moms talking about it anymore. People magazine called and did a story about it. We started to get publicity and really nice reviews, which was pretty organic, because I didn’t have a PR person. I was still doing all of this from my basement.
In our third year, I got a call from Disney Publishing and they asked if we were interested in moving into books. I became so excited, because I had been an English teacher and for any writer, you always want to be published. So, they basically licensed the Baby Einstein name and I wrote the books.
In our fourth year, we moved into providing math content and were no longer just available in specialty stores. We were available in big stores like Costco, Target and WalMart. An interesting side note during the fourth and fifth year was we only had 5 full-time employees. We were such a tiny company and yet our sales were phenomenal. In 1997 when we first started, we had about $100,000 in sales and by the 5th year, we did over $20 million in sales.
During the 5th year, we sold the company to Disney. When we first started the company, we had no competition, because we were totally unique. As we became successful, more people started jumping on board making baby videos. Even though they were not as successful as we were, our feeling was if we continued to run Baby Einstein the way we had been, we would definitely see ourselves run over by one of the big companies. We felt like with our success, one of the big production companies, like Sony, Nickelodeon, Disney or Warner was going to take over this field. And we would no longer be able to sustain our company with just 5 employees.
So, my husband and I asked ourselves if we wanted to be playing in a game where we had to grow, start being cut-throat and do all of the things that large corporations typically do. Or did we want to excel and be so happy and amazed that we had even done all this and continue to be so proud at what we had created. Not only because it was a financial success, but also because we were exposing these little kids to this beautiful content. We really believed that these videos made a difference in the lives of a lot of families.
Ultimately, we decided to sell. Since we had that relationship with Disney already, it was very natural to approach them first. We called Disney and proposed an offer to sell the business to them and they ultimately accepted.
Throughout the success of Baby Einstein, what major challenge did you experience?
I’m not a business person. I’m more of a creative person. I don’t see myself as a person who likes to play the game of business. I feel like I operate from my heart and my gut. And I don’t like the stress that is caused in me by people who don’t always have the best motive.
I felt it was very stressful for me to deal with companies that were coming on board and stealing some of our ideas. For example, we had to file a lawsuit against another person who had come into this game and had literally duplicated ninety or so scenes from our videos. That was just so awful for me.
I don’t like that feeling. I try to live my life from my heart and that was extremely hard for me. And I’ll tell you; I think that really contributed to the disease that I later developed. I think stress was a huge contributor to that.
In addition, another reason I wanted to sell is that it had been very important for me to stay home with my daughters. The busier we got and the more successful we became with Baby EinsteinTM, the less time I was able to spend with them. I felt too scattered and that was not for me.
What top advice would you share with a mom who has created a product and wants to get out to the marketplace?
First of all, presentation is key. If you really are behind what you’ve done, you need to package it in a way that looks super professional. For example, I put the first Baby EinsteinTM video in a lovely sleeve with a great design on the package. Don’t send or hand something out that doesn’t look really good.
Secondly, find a tradeshow that would be a place where a buyer would be interested in your product. Go online and look up tradeshows for what your product is all about and you’d be amazed on how many you find. You may even locate one in the state you’re in.
Finally, surround yourself with people who believe in your idea. People who are the pessimists and naysayers have no place in an entrepreneurial world. We are all keeping our fingers crossed and just saying our prayers that our idea is going to be the one. Unfortunately, a lot of wonderful ideas don’t make it and it’s not because they’re not incredible and amazing ideas that could be world changing.
For example, my older daughter has written her first novel and she is trying to find her first agent who will take it on. It’s a beautifully written piece of literature, but she’s really sad because
she sent out ten query letters and she hasn’t heard back from anybody yet.
I told her that it didn’t mean it’s not great. Look at JK Rowling, who went through a lot of rejections herself!
So, when you’re an entrepreneur, you need to recognize that it’s not easy and you have to pat yourself on the back all the time that you’re even doing it at all.
When did you find out you had cancer?
We sold Baby Einstein in 2001. And then for a year and a half, we just sort of did a jig. We were so happy and couldn’t believe what all had just happened to us.
Then I started thinking what my girls were now going through as they were in elementary school. Now, they were a little bit older and starting to go to friends’ houses, camp and playing outside more. I realized that the most important thing to me was that they were safe.
So, I started another company called, The Safe Side, which is a non- profit organization. I partnered with John Walsh from America’s Most Wanted and we produced two videos and a music CD. All of our proceeds went to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. It was a way to teach kids how to stay safe with family members, strangers or if they were in a situation that was uncomfortable for them online.
In 2004, I was in the midst of wrapping up that first video when I discovered a lump in my left breast. It was a miracle that I found it at all, because it was so small (under a centimeter).
I actually found it by accident. I had been exercising a lot and my arms were sore. When I was rubbing that muscle under my arm, I felt a teeny, tiny, little lump. I didn’t think it was really anything, but it nagged at me for a couple of days. I finally went to my doctor who didn’t think it was anything either, but she wanted to get it check out anyway.
After my mammogram, they found it to be Breast Cancer. Within 1-2 weeks, I had a double mastectomy, because I was so freaked out and I did not want this to ever happen to me again. I told them to take all of the breast tissue out. I didn’t do chemotherapy or radiation, but I went through this extreme, horrible surgery. However, I came out of it feeling confident. After my next PET Scan, everything came out clear and the doctors told me that the chance of it coming back was just 3%.
After my recovery, I went back and continued making The Safe Side videos. In 2008, my husband and I decided to take our kids out of school and travel around the world for a year. We home schooled the kids and spent the year together as a family traveling to Iceland, Scotland and England. After 5 weeks, we went home to repack for our trip to Asia.
On our flight home, I had a very strange sensation that I cannot explain, other than to tell you that I believe in a higher power. This sensation was in the same area that my tumor had been, but I couldn’t feel anything there. I just went to the doctor the next day and an ultrasound determined that it was cancer again. Even though I had a double mastectomy, they can never get it all out. They tried, because it looks like there’s nothing there, but there are always a couple of bits of tissues left. So, it turned out that I was one of the 3% where the cancer returned.
The most terrible news of all was that it was diagnosed as Stage 4 cancer. The primary tumor was in the same place, but it had moved into my lymph nodes and my liver. I ended up having 12 lymph nodes and my ovaries removed.. I went through 6 rounds of chemo and was put on another treatment called, Perceptin, which I still receive every 3 weeks. It’s a targeted therapy for a particular type of cancer called HER2+ Breast Cancer.
When I was diagnosed this second time, I decided to get another opinion. I went to the top hospitals in the nation that treat Cancer. The doctor told me that I had so many tumors in my liver; they will never all go away. He then told me that I really need to go home and get my affairs in order.
When I returned home, I decided that I wasn’t going to get my affairs in order. I was 42 years old and I was not ready to do that. I might end up there, but I was not going to start there. So, I just went to my oncologist in Colorado and told them I was going to fight it. Even though it was Stage 4, I wanted to see what we could do.
Finally in February 2009, after all the treatments and surgeries, I had a PET Scan that showed I had no evidence of cancer in my entire body, including my liver. My last PET Scan was literally 4 days ago and it still showed no evidence of cancer.
In October, it will be 5 years of being cancer free.
I am on cloud 9 every second of everyday, living in a state of gratitude. I have no idea why I got so lucky. I know it wasn’t because I prayed more, even though I prayed a lot and many people prayed for me.
If I could say anything good about all of this, it taught me a lot. I wrote a book that was published in 2010 called, You Are the Best Medicine. It’s a beautiful book that teaches children the importance of giving their mommy a lot of love when she’s going through treatment and what to expect. I wanted a way to explain to kids all the things to expect when someone goes through cancer treatment and to let them
know that we fight for them. Nothing made me fight harder to overcome this disease than my children.
In addition, 100% of the proceeds of this book go to Breast Cancer Research. It’s been a really great giveback in a way, because I’ve been able to do something good with it.
I truly believe that being under so much stress like I was caused the disease. Now, I meditate everyday and really try to take time to be outside in nature, even if it’s for 10 minutes. I take time to sit with my cat on my lap and be okay when I’m not checking my emails or Facebook every few minutes, not answering the phone at that moment or not be connected through technology for a short time each day.
What is your new venture, Baby Bytes all about?
When Disney acquired Baby Einstein, it was great for a couple of years. However, for whatever reason, the business of Baby Einstein started to fall off the radar screen as they focused on other things. So, we watched from the sidelines with great sadness that it didn’t have the kind of exposure that it had and we weren’t seeing as many children who were being positively affected by it.
Today is such a different world. People are so connected online with various devices and the Baby Einstein content was not being produced to work on those kinds of devices, such as iPads or other tablets.
So, we started thinking about how kids could not only see great content on an iPad, but also be able to interact with the screen in a way that they couldn’t before.
Baby Bytes is a company that is making really cool apps for babies and giving parents this really neat
feedback on how their child is progressing.
We just produced a video called, Show Bytes. It’s Beethoven music with gorgeous video and photography. It allows kids to not only watch it, but also play and interact with some of the visuals in the video.
We also have this beautiful product called, Lullabytes. It’s our very first app that you can download for free right now. It’s a collection of classical music that is meant for bedtime. You would download it on your phone or iPad, play the app as you get them ready for bed and it continues to play as your child falls asleep. The music gradually gets softer and softer until it stops after the 10th song. When the baby wakes up during the night and starts crying, the app detects your baby’s cries and it turns the music on again.
The other really neat thing on the back end is that the parent is also given a feature called, the Sleep Keeper, which basically lets you know through a graph how much your baby is sleeping. So, when you go to the pediatrician, you’ll know your baby’s sleep patterns.
In addition, I want to share something new that I’ve done on my own and feel really proud of. It’s an app called, Happy Appy. It will be available by the end of July 2013. It’s an app that sends you a funny video to make you happy everyday. It’s never rude or crude or nude. You could watch it with your 5 year old and with your grandma. It’s basically a whole giant collection of videos that I found on the internet where I redirect you everyday to a short, funny, sweet video that will make you smile.
There’s a free version and a 99-cent version, which has an alarm clock feature and allows you to easily share the videos with a friend, rate it and save to your favorites among other cool things.
Everyday we see so much bad garbage in the news and having gone through all that crap I went through with my health, there’s just nothing more powerful than being happy. With this app, I could make someone smile and happy everyday. How cool is that!
What does Balanced mean to you?
In every stage as a Mom, I’ve been searching for balance. Mostly to me it means being okay at the end of the day and feeling or remembering that I’ve done my best. A lot of times I think we beat ourselves up with all the things we should’ve done that day.
I could only do my best. That’s all I can do. And if it’s not what everybody thinks I should’ve done… well sorry and that’s the way it is.
What do you do to live a balanced life?
I try to go to yoga everyday. I love yoga and meditation. I was not always good at meditation and sometimes I find myself really needing to make myself do it, but when I meditate I feel so much better.
If people have never meditated, there’s a really great program that I found on iTunes® called, Hemisync. It’s a type of meditation where I can just take my iPod and put my earbuds in and meditate for about half an hour to this particular guided meditation. I totally recommend it to people who have never meditated before.
Also I love yoga, because I think it’s a lot like meditation, because I’m so focused on maintaining a pose and it gets me out of my environment.
Like a lot of other entrepreneurs, I work from home which means you’re never really away from your work. So, getting out of your house is really important whether it’s to go to an exercise class or ride your bike or walk your dog. I walk my dog everyday and that’s like meditation for me.
Selfless courage describes Angela Schaefers, an amazing mom of three. With a diagnosis of a terminal illness, she has realized her purpose on this earth and has touched so many people around the world. Angela is the epitome of living life to the fullest and serves as a compassionate light for others to share their stories, heal from them and use them to make a difference in the lives of others.
Angela candidly shares her journey from diagnosis, family experiences and blessings to being a speaker and author who makes a big impact in the world.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I am a mom of three kids. I have 2 adult daughters in their twenties and a teenage son. I also have a beautiful granddaughter. Ten years ago, I was diagnosed with Stage IV Saliva Gland Cancer. This was when I wrote my first book, Grief to Grace. It is a book that I wrote for my kids and wanted to just share with them but I ended up sharing it publicly.
I also produce a radio show called, Your Story Matters, which evolved from writing my first book. When I found out that other people were inspired and encouraged by my story, I realized there was something to that. Not only do I share my story but I share other people’s stories as well. We all have stories that matter. When I write and speak, I encourage people to share their stories and learn from them. On my radio show, I interview people so that they can share what they’ve gone through, how they overcame it and what they’ve learned.
My most recent book, Your Story Matters, You Matter – A guide to healing, learning from and sharing your story is a platform for people to start looking at their story. Open-ended questions are placed throughout the book for readers to write about their story, the importance of it and finding the message in it. I encourage them to share their story publicly or just within their family. Many times we’re not sharing with our own neighbors or colleagues and if they knew more about us, they might have a better understanding of us, which can build compassion, connection and open communication with each other. That is the goal of the book. I am also doing workshops, book signings and discussions with the book for people to understand how they can use the book and how it can really benefit them. My mission is to change the world one story at a time.
To put it in layman’s terms, Stage IV is pretty much the end of the road. It’s where the cancer has evolved into something almost unmanageable and uncontrollable. In my case, it was diagnosed terminal and that was 10 years ago. I was told that I wouldn’t live long and that I needed to get my things in order. I had the option to do chemo and radiation, since it was Saliva Gland Cancer, I would’ve had to remove a tooth, my throat would be raw and I would be put on a liquid diet among many other things. I asked the doctors what it was going to do for me if I wasn’t going to live much longer. They didn’t have any solid evidence that it would give me a great deal of more time. So I declined it. I just continue to work on being healthy. I have an extreme amount of faith. I pray everyday. And I just keep a really positive attitude.
If this is my last day, I accept that. I’m at peace with that. But, in the meantime, if this isn’t my last day, I want to make the most of my time, which is what I do.
I still have cancer. I have two other slow growing tumors that have evolved which is pretty normal with the type of cancer I have. I never know how things will change and what will evolve. So, my focus is living for today. How can I be healthy? How can I feel good? Right now, there are so many things that people with cancer can do that help, such as alternative therapies. I have met people who are in Stage IV Cancer and have been for years. They’re still alive and trying alternative methods to help them feel better in their situation versus chemo, radiation or even some surgery.
I was just sick. I thought I had a cold. When I went to the doctors, they found that my glands were swollen and I was prescribed an antibiotic. When I wasn’t getting better, I kept going back to the doctor. I went through about 3 rounds of antibiotics including the highest intensity kind. Nothing worked.
So, they did a needle biopsy in my neck where the lump was located. They said it was a benign tumor and that it was no big deal. They were just going to make a little, tiny incision on the left side of my neck, take it out and everything would be just fine. So, I went in and had the procedure. And when I woke up there were a couple of doctors and nurses there, and they looked like they were going to die. I asked myself, “What’s wrong with everybody?”
They explained that when they went in and saw the bump, it was really leading into a whole tumor that was all up and down the left side of my neck. They took out as much as they could, but they knew in the operating room that it was cancer.
Two weeks later I had to go back to get my saliva glands taken out. I ended up getting double surgery instead of the tiny incision I initially went in for. My scar ended up being really large on my neck. It doesn’t look as bad now, but my neck looked really sunken in. I felt horrified and it was shocking and challenging all at once. It was something that I wasn’t prepared for, because there was no prepping and discussion that I was going to look so different after the surgery.
I don’t know if life works better when you have preparation or an indication of what’s going to happen and dealing with it as it comes. I’ve had both situations all my life and I haven’t figured that out yet.
When I was first diagnosed, I felt very suicidal and very desperate. I didn’t want to leave my kids. My kids were a lot younger then and I was just beside myself with the thought of leaving them behind. I was so overwhelmed with the stress and worry about what would happen to them when I’m gone.
After the first year, I literally woke up one day and thought, “I’m still here. There’s got to be a reason.” So, I decided that I wasn’t going to accept death and spend everyday feeling fear while waiting to die. I didn’t have a specific time indication of my life. So, I shifted my perspective and it has just grown and evolved into a lot of gratitude, peace, faith and hope. It’s not a cliché that life’s short. It’s the truth. I feel people need to be constantly reminded of that.
For me, that’s part of my purpose. I discovered my purpose when I was writing my first book, Grief to Grace and realizing that everything that I’ve been through was worth it, because it helps other people.
I can look at it as a victim and say that I’ve had a rough life or I can say that I went through all this and learned a lot of things. The more I share that with others the more I understand that my experiences are for other people just as much as they are for me and my family.
How do you communicat e with your kids, especially early on, about what ’s going on with you?
That was really, really hard. Of course, at that time my son was just a toddler and there was no discussion there. However, with my daughters, we tried to talk about it, but it was just too overwhelming for them. I was overwhelmed. I was certainly a different person than I am today. Back then, I really didn’t have the support I needed to sit down with them and nurture them. But later on, reading my first book was enough for them because I shared so much in it. And as they got older, we began to have open discussions about what the situation is and I’m honest with them now if I don’t feel good or if there are any new changes.
I think they’ve grown into their own appreciation for life and know very specifically that this situation with me is part of their journey as well. I could live until I’m 90 years old or the end could happen tomorrow. But when I pass, my hope for my children is that they take what they’ve learned from our journey as a family, go with that and share that with people. It’s not an area many people talk about – watching people die, death, suffering and how it affects the family. So, I encourage them to do something about their part of the story and inspire others with it. They’ve been a support already, because they’ve had friends who have lost their moms or have gone through cancer. They’ve shared some of their feelings and have been very supportive. Again, it’s another blessing in disguise that I can impact them in a positive way.
It’s not an easy place to be where you just don’t know. Some days I feel better and other days I feel really, really sick and think, “Is this it?” That’s a weird feeling for me. It’s hard for my kids to deal with and I understand that. So, I always roll it back to one day at a time.
I have hopes, dreams and goals. But I’m also in a place where today is enough. I’m not trying to do so much even though I have done a lot. I’ve left a legacy. I know that the book and the show will always be there. Hopefully, they continue to get into people’s hands and I’m at peace with that.
Many people, especially women, have so much power that is not being used. And that’s why I teach others to just do something! You don’t have to go public and write a book, but do something where you can say that you’ve contributed. Even if it is raising your kids, do it well. You’re leaving a legacy in your kids.
What top advice would you give a mom who was just diagnosed with a terminal illness?
The first 2 things I would say is stop where you are, allow support and start taking care of you. One of the things someone said to me early on in my diagnosis was that I ended up that sick with cancer at that point of no return because I was always taking care of everybody else.
That was a true statement for me and for most women. We tend to go out of our way to accommodate everybody, especially when we have kids, but we don’t take care of our own needs and our health.
I didn’t think about eating right and exercising, because I always felt exhausted from raising kids. I always thought about losing weight, but not feeding my body right.
So, take care of yourself. Find out what that is for you.
And the second thing is to find some support. I’ve always been extremely independent since my childhood. I had to decide to reach out to other people and allow them to help me. I didn’t even know what relying on someone else was like.
I was on the phone comforting other people as they cried over my diagnosis. I lived in Florida at the time and I was telling people who wanted to fly over and offer help to stay where they were, not to worry and that I was fine.
In the past, I felt that I never deserved support or felt that was an option. So this really has taught me a lot about self-healing and self-love. The support of people taking care of me, comforting me and helping me with the kids is the same as loving and taking care of myself.
How did your radio show start?
My friend read my first book, Grief to Grace and said that I needed to share it with the world. Originally, I wrote the book only for my kids. I wasn’t planning on sharing it publicly. I didn’t think anyone would really care about my personal story, because I felt that it didn’t really matter.
When I was ready to get the book printed, my plan was to order just 50 copies so my kids and family members can have a few once I’m gone. In my mind, this was the ending part. However, my friend suggested that I order 500 copies, which I thought was a ridiculous idea. At the same time, I also believed that I needed to take heed of messages I received in my life. There had to be a reason why she said that. So, I went ahead and ordered 500 books and ended up selling every one of them by word of mouth. This is when I really realized the importance of sharing your story.
Along this journey, a lady approached me and suggested that I do a show about my story. I couldn’t just talk about myself. So, that’s when I started thinking that I could talk to other people about their stories and experiences.
I created Your Story Matters Radio Show. It has been an amazing experience of meeting and interacting with people who have inspiring and encouraging life stories and lessons. Everybody has a part of their story that they can share and make a difference in the lives of others.
I receive messages from all over the world about people being encouraged and inspired from my show. One lady from India contacted me and said that she finally realized what her husband was doing to her was called domestic violence. We discuss different topics on the show from addiction, suicide to cancer and other illnesses. It’s about ordinary people who went through extraordinary circumstances and found a way to get out of that to heal, learn from it and to move forward.
Share with us your journey that led you to write your 2nd book.
A lot of people started to approach me to help them write their story and help them figure out their message. So, I decided to write a book to answer the questions that I was frequently asked. The book is like a workbook. It has open-ended questions to get people thinking about their story.
It’s a guide to healing by sharing your own story, and why it matters. I share tips in the book on how to condense the story and get down to the message. Which I believe, is the whole point, when we go back and learn things from our stories, we’ll see the patterns and the message. You’ll see what characteristics and strengths you have developed personally from your own story that are unique to you.
What’s next for you?
I have another book coming out in the next couple of months called, Cancer Doesn’t Come Wrapped in a Pretty Ribbon. It’s about my story from the beginning of my diagnosis to now. I wrote it to be really authentic and true, not sugar coated at all. Some people may be offended by what I say or the feelings I felt throughout my experiences, but they are mine. The point of the book is to give people a voice and to help them know that it’s ok to feel whatever they feel, such as feeling anger and/ or feeling suicidal. These are all the feelings we are traditionally taught not to share or talk about.
What do you do to stay balanced?
I eat right and exercise regularly 5 to 6 days a week. I don’t skip that at all because I can feel the difference if I do. My intention is that when I do my best each day, I’ll continue to live and feel better. Since I’ve been on a journey of improving my health, I feel better physically and emotionally.
I definitely take time for myself. I do different activities that I find healing such as yoga, meditation and prayer. Whatever things I find that can feed my soul is what I do regularly.
I appreciate and love that I can inspire others, but I also found that I need space to take care of me. It’s still a constant learning journey to always be mindful of what I do, what I need and what am I f eeling. I check in and ask if I’m feeling overwhelmed by my schedule.
Especially as an entrepreneur, I don’t have scheduled breaks or a 9 to 5 day. Since I’m so passionate about what I do, I can work 7 days a week and/or 12 hours a day. However, that’s not a good lifestyle for me. So, I need to constantly find that balance.
What are the things in life you enjoy doing?
I love the outdoors and being active. I love to bike ride, kayak and I’m into running now. I just did a 5k, which shocked me. I love live music and tea time. And of course, I love a day at the spa. It’s about living my life to its fullest. I think people get confused by thinking they need to be rich, go shopping or go on big traveling trips to get away or have a good time. Although those things aren’t bad at all, it’s really about the everyday.
It’s about doing something that’s purposeful and meaningful to you. Take care of yourself physically, emotionally and spiritually. I love spending time with my kids. Sometimes we’ll just walk the pier or the park. We go on a lot of walks. Those are the things that fulfill my life and make it the best it can be.
Share something that would surprise people that know you.
My kids know this, but most people wouldn’t know that I’m definitely silly and kid-like to the point where my son tells me that I’m embarrassing to him. Before we go out in public, my son will sometimes tell me not to talk to other people’s kids and dogs.
I just love kids and dogs and for some reason, they’re attracted to me. So, we end up talking and I end up buying them ice cream or something.
As a mom of 2 beautiful girls, one with Down Syndrome and in remission from Leukemia, Jocelyn Joiner doesn’t skip a beat. With the foundation she started, she inspires inclusion and acceptance for children with special needs in schools.
Jocelyn candidly shares her journey that led her to launch her foundation, how she discovered that her younger daughter has Down Syndrome and how her experiences helped her live a more fulfilled and purposeful life.
Tell us about yourself and what you do.
First, I am a mom of my two girls. Alyssa is 3 and Kendall is 9 years old. I run my volunteer-based nonprofit foundation called SNAP, which stands for Special Needs and Abilities Project. I started SNAP in 2009 after Alyssa was born. She has Down Syndrome and was diagnosed with Leukemia. She inspired me to start this foundation.
We mostly work in the Long Beach Unified School District (LBUSD) to facilitate the Best Buddies and the Best Friends Programs in as many schools as possible. We work for children with a wide range of special needs. I named it special needs and abilities so it will have a very broad range to include children who are experiencing medical, physical and mental issues.
I knew there was a need for programs that inspire people to be more accepting of children with special needs and to bring awareness to the belief of inclusion which brings them together in school classrooms instead of sending them to a different school or to the other side of the campus.
How do the Best Friends and Best Buddies Programs work?
The Best Friends Program takes the class of special needs children and they bring them into the class with the typical children. They have their buddies or partners and it is a one-onone program. They play games and do crafts together, build friendships, sing songs and/or go outside to the obstacle course. It’s mainly for the kids to get to know each other and reduce the fear that children feel about people with special needs. The program really develops their friendships and from their friendships, they become more accepting of each other. They discover they have more in common than different.
The Best Buddies Program was started by the Shriver family, Maria and her brother, Anthony Shriver. They do the same thing, but at the college level and it’s now in the high schools in LBUSD. However, they have their own counselors and programs. We just try to facilitate with them and bring more awareness to the program.
Share your journey to what led you to start your non profit.
When I was pregnant with Alyssa, I did not know she had Down Syndrome. I didn’t want to take any of the tests because of my age. I was over 35 years old. I knew about the risks, but I didn’t believe any diagnosis would change my mind. So I just thought I would wait and see. When Alyssa was born, I honestly didn’t know she had Down Syndrome. I couldn’t see it in her physically, probably because I was so exhausted from labor or just because I was filled with love for my newborn baby. The next morning, her pediatrition came in and she noticed certain physical characteristics. In addition, Alyssa had some issues with feeding and they ran some tests. After the results, she was diagnosed with Down Syndrome.
After her diagnosis, the responses I received from people were interesting. Instead of congratulating me, they felt bad for me and kept saying they were sorry. I thought to myself, that she was healthy and so beautiful and meant to be in our loving family. There’s no need to be sorry. I was confused by that. I see it as more of a gift for myself, my family and my older daughter. So then I started pondering on the reasons why people have this attitude, because I didn’t really see it as a problem.
Since I had past experience as a teacher for children with special needs, I was exposed to that world. That made me really think that I needed to do something to change people’s perception. There was so much in the special needs world to focus on, but I wanted to focus on acceptance and inclusion. Since the world of elementary school was the environment I knew, I contacted LBUSD and told them about SNAP. Once they were on board, I worked with the Best Buddies program to spread the word out to schools and parents.
The schools are so overwhelmed right now and class sizes have gone up along with the teacher caseloads. They love the idea of the programs, but it’s the workload involved that scares them. However, my vision is to help the teachers and facilitate the programs in the classroom and not make it a big ordeal like field trips and parties. It is a very simple philosophy. One-on-one during lunch period, playing games, making crafts, listening to music, etc. Simple.
We need volunteers that want to do projects or help at events, such as the silent auctions, security, selling tickets, helping the bands get on and off the stage. I love volunteers. I welcome anyone who wants to come and help.
What top advice would you give a mom who just found out they have a child with special needs ?
I think accepting help would be the first bit of advice. Also, to educate yourself on what the child’s rights are as far as getting them services and early intervention. Get in touch with their local Harbor Regional Centers as soon as possible to get their child evaluated. A lot of people want to get the tests done and the paperwork started for the necessary services such as occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech therapy and respite care starting from birth to three years old.
Lastly, maintain a positive attitude by speaking to other moms who can share with you their ideas and journeys or reading other people’s blogs or starting your own. There are a lot of great books out there. I read a book called Babies with Down Syndrome. It goes through the type of medical issues they may have, what to look for, what to monitor, doctors, physicians and centers you can go to for help.
What do you say to your older daughter or family members on how to handle other people’s perception of Alyssa?
I talk to Kendall a lot about other people’s perspections of Alyssa, because she has only seen the positive reactions. I tell her that some people might be afraid of Down Syndrome, because they really don’t understand it. Other people may act in a mean way towards Alyssa and that is when she will need to protect her in some ways. I also tell her that she may need to educate her friends and tell them that Alyssa has Down Syndrome, which means she is just like them except that she may look and talk different, but inside she is the same.
I have friends of mine with typical children who have told me they’re really happy that their child gets to grow up with Alyssa, because they won’t grow up being afraid or have that negative attitude when they see someone that may be different than themselves.
I think now it is better than when we were growing up, but I think in the special needs community there are still some fears or prejudices that people have. They don’t see with education, people with special needs can become so much more than what they have been labeled with. With Down Syndrome, just like Autism, the spectrum range is so huge. I have friends with children that have Down Syndrome who are not verbal and I also have others with children who are reading and writing and functioning just like a typical child.
One thing about Alyssa. She doesn’t have a problem having Down Syndrome, but a lot of other people have a problem. Alyssa has no issues with who she is. She is a very happy, confident and out going girl who is friendly to everyone.
When was Alyssa diagnosed with Leukemia?
When she was 18 months old. People with Down Syndrome have a higher probability of being diagnosed with Leukemia. Fortunately now with all the funding for research, people who have been diagnosed with Leukemia can live a lot longer. One of the doctors told me that when people were first treated with chemotherapy, they were afraid to try it with people who have Down Syndrome because they already had low immunity to begin with. They thought treating them with chemotherapy would kill them, because it is so hard on the body and it basically just wipes out any immunity that you have. Interestingly with the type of Leukemia Alyssia had, which is called AML, people with Down Syndrome do better during treatment, not necessarily with the outcome of survival, but during treatment they don’t’ have as many side effects. So when Alyssa was treated, she did lose her hair, but she was not nauseous, she had a good appetite and she was not physically wiped out. She was up at 6:30 in the morning until 6:30 at night with no nap. At that time, she was not interested in TV in the hospital. So it was 12 hours of providing continuous entertainment for her. She had a lot of energy.
Alyssa lived in Millers Children Hospital in Long Beach, CA for 6 months when she was treated for Leukemia and she had a great time there. She was surrounded by nurses, doctors, therapists and staff who were so positive and loving towards her. They were all phenomenal. Currently, Alyssa is in remission.
What is your biggest challenge as a mom of a child with special needs?
Time management is hard to balance with my older daughter’s activities which are swim team, dance and homework and the daily routine of preparing meals and the activities with Alyssa throughout the day and evening.
Another big challenge for me is keeping myself organized and not overbooking. I tend to take on too much. I do PTA for my older daughter’s school. Once a month I go to Miller Children’s Hospital to meet with a social worker for a foundation called, Parents Against Cancer where we meet with newly diagnosed families and talk to them about the experiences, because when your child is newly diagnosed your world as a parent changes in an instant. You are forced to make medical decisions and change your home life. A lot of times, a parent will come and live at the hospital with their child and if there is a second parent, that parent will need to run the household on their own.
So how has your perception on life changed because of Alyssa?
Huge. I think probably the biggest change for me was to not be so hard on myself as far as setting goals, achieving everything and trying to being the best at it all. I was so overwhelmed and lived in a state of hyperactivity by being constantly on the go. I have learned so much more from Alyssa than she could ever learn from me.
I have learned to be much more patient, kind, forgiving, honest, strong, sympathetic, apathetic, loving, affectionate and she has also given me the determination and confidence to start my foundation. She has opened my eyes to a new world and to see life from a different perspective. I am able to be more accepting of other people and see where they are coming from. I listen more and don’t judge people. I am so very lucky to have her and if I had a magic wand I wouldn’t use it because I wouldn’t want to change anything about her!
Talking with friends and family helps alot. I pray. I accept help. I try and find the little things in life that help me be more organized. I eat healthy and maintain a healthy lifestyle by going to the gym, walking to the park with Alyssa and getting a good night sleep. I have to have my sleep! I mostly like to read about health or education and to find the best ways my children can learn.
One of the most important things you can have to maintain your life is your faith, whatever that may be. Having faith in a higher power, something that is bigger than you that has good energy or vibrations can help tremendously.
When I went through my journey with Alyssa, I really felt that God gave her as a gift to me because he saw me heading in a path that was a little more egocentric and I was missing out on things that counted more.
by Stefanie Ryan
Give us a little snapshot about yourself.
As an entrepreneur, I wear many hats. I’m the Market Director and Franchise Owner of Ladies Who Launch in Los Angeles and Orange County, California. I’m also a CRAVE Los Angeles partner and a co-owner of Back 2 Our Roots, a business development and consulting company. I’m a TV host, a professor at FIDM, an author, a budding artist, a wife and mother to two adult daughters.
How did you get involved with Ladies who Launch?
I’ve been involved in entrepreneurial pursuits all my life. I grew up with an entrepreneur and then married one. As an entrepreneur, I was always thinking of ideas. I had my own company with my husband and several other businesses. I was really involved in interior design.
At the time, I lived in Boulder, Colorado. I read about Ladies Who Launch and it sounded so great that you had the opportunity to be with other women to share ideas and resources, get inspiration and find that support. I’ve always worked on my own and even though it worked okay, I liked having my girlfriends around. But even when I had girlfriends, they didn’t necessarily always understand what I was doing. After reading about this group where you can flush out ideas, get support and resources, I signed up to take the workshop. I also signed up my oldest daughter who had a couple of ideas of her own. We took it together and it was amazing to have that kind of environment, an incubator to work through your ideas and to get clarity.
At this time as I was working on my idea, my younger daughter lived in Los Angeles, California to pursue acting and I wanted to find women in LA that are like the Ladies Who Launch group in CO. About three years ago, I found an opportunity to get involved in a much bigger way. Since I had started a business with my sister providing consulting, sales and marketing services, I thought this Ladies Who Launch opportunity in Los Angeles and Orange County would be the perfect fit. And it worked out really well.
When you go out and speak, what is the top question women ask you?
Where do I start to get my business going? How do I get the money? How do I find out what it is that I need to do?
The best place to start is with an idea. The next step is to flush out that idea to make sure it is solving a problem and/or filling a need. T his is something very important because their idea must be marketable.
Once they get clear on their vision and ideas, the most important thing is to take action. There’s a lot of talk and dreaming at this point. But the next important step is to take action. To put one foot in front of the other and do one small thing so that the y can actually accomplish this goal at some point. I also help them find resources to get them what they need. My workshops are reciprocity based where people help each other because you never know who knows someone that can help with what you’re doing.
Is it difficult to find time for home and work life?
That is the age-old question. I think recognizing that all those things are super important and if one isn’t working then it’s going to be the domino effect. It’s all going to eventually fall. So it’s important to take time and carve out that time whether it’s for yourself, your family, husband, friends and work. Whenever you put everything into just one thing, it burns out .
I have my hands in a lot of different things and I enjoy all of them. But I also make sure that I take the time to focus on me as well as the other people in my life. Even if it means that I take a walk for 30 minutes every morning, which gives me a chance to clear my head and really be by myself. I take time to be with friends and have fun. I also watch mindless TV sometimes and I go out with my husband on a date. I also spend a great deal of time with my children even though they’re all grown up.
What advice would you have for moms who are struggling to stay balanced?
Many times we just feel like our children are everything. Growing up, my mom made her children her priority and I loved having that attention but it also made me r ealize that she didn’t put herself first at all. And sometimes it’s a burden for children to have all of that attention on them. When that’s all you’re focused on, that doesn’t make you a very interesting person or as interesting of a person. In the end, when you make yourself a priority and do things for yourself, that will continue to replenish you and help you be a better mom, entrepreneur, wife and friend.
Balance to me doesn’t mean giving everything equal time because some things take more time than others. But recognizing that it’s so important to carve time out for all those things in your life and assign them the necessary time for you to get what you need. If not, essentially you’ll burn out, get resentful and feel like you want to jump off a bridge or something.
Set a time for yourself, whether it’s a date night or every night, no matter what, you’re going to have dinner with your family and every Saturday you’ll go to your son or daughter’s soccer games. When you make those priority-type things, then you’ll learn to schedule around it with your work and family.
Every woman can be what they want to be and I don’t look at it as being a “Super Mom.” We are able to have it all. It’s like someone saying she wants to have chocolate while doing all these other things. The thing is you don’t have to have the whole chocolate bar at one time. You can have a bite everyday and you’ll still doing great. Just don’t overindulge in one thing. If you don’t overindulge in any of it, then you are able to have it all and that’s the way you maintain that balance.
Supporting and inspiring others to be the best they can be is what drives Doreen Matsumoto. An ultra-successful MonaVie distributor and the founder of Women In Networking, the fast-growing women’s networking group in Southern California, Doreen’s passionate energy keeps her busy by being involved with many community fundraising events, various charities and local groups
Doreen’s positive disposition, passion for life and compassion for others spans globally as she is a strong supporter and advocate for The MORE Project, a non-profit organization that fights poverty and helps feed children in Brazil.
Doreen shares with us her journey to success, what she does with it and the lifestyle she lives to balance it all.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Tell us about MonaVie and what it’s all about.
On June 29, 2006, I started with MonaVie, a nutritional product line. The year prior, a friend who was working with the company approached me and asked if I was interested in being part of MonaVie. At that time, I was in the restaurant and bar business and worked 10 hours a day, 6 days a week. I asked him how many girl scout cookies I needed to sell for this business and told him that I wasn’t really interested in selling anything or had no clue what network marketing was all about. So, my friend then asked me to just introduce people to him and he’ll talk to them for me. From there, I introduced him to quite a few people and we just kept building a business. We are now 40,000 strong. We’re international and the fastest moving network marketing company out there. It is debt free. We’ve created a millionaire every 25 days since its conception. The company has good morals and I just love it. I am continuously growing with it every day.
What do you love about the MonaVie business?
MonaVie is a 5 star opportunity. I get to share a great product with people and help with their health and nutritional needs. It’s the right time, because baby boomers are aging. MonaVie is convenient, because the products are available online and shipped directly to the consumer. I also like the binary effect in that they care about the distributors. MonaVie is led by the top leaders in this industry. So, we know we have the right people at the front of the ship.
What I’m also passionate about is MonaVie’s charity, The MORE Project, which began in 2006. They wanted to give back because that is where they harvest the Acaî berries. Initially, it was just about feeding the children in Brazil. Now we have an orphanage that house 2,500 children. My team supports the mom’s house with 60 moms and kids. The economy there is the same as the US but their welfare is $60-$80 a month. So, it’s so much different. They give their children up for drug trafficking and prostitution, because that’s how they think they can survive. Here in the US, we wouldn’t even stand for that.
MonaVie helps children in Brazil and teaches them how to use their resources, provides them education, teaches them some life-skills, shows them computers and demonstrates to them that they can have a better life. They might not reach every person but 100% of the donations go to The More Project. It’s a positive way for a company to help humanity. A lot of people look at what we’re doing and say, “Well, what about our own country?” But these are children and they don’t know what country they’re in and we need to help everybody.
I raise a lot of money for different organizations in the US and in our school district. I remember when someone asked me, “Well, what about here?” I stood up and said “I don’t have any children that go to this high school. I live in the area and I could turn my back away, but I want to help you and your school programs. If I only thought about helping my own people, I wouldn’t be here today.”
MonaVie has given me the freedom to help more people. We’ve blessed so many people’s lives. When you’re successful you have to know how to handle that success, how to give back and teach others to do that which is the most important thing for me. Giving and helping others is my passion.
I have two kids and a grandchild. It’s such a blessing to be able to spend time with them and be part of their lives.
MonaVie has given me that freedom and even my son the freedom to bring his wife home to take care of their baby and be a stay-at-home mom. In general, I think with network marketing that’s important. We need to teach people plan B so they can have a more quality life, have more time with family and pick and choose who they want to do business with. Network marketing has become something much bigger than just MonaVie to me.
In my Women In Networking (WIN) meetings, I always say MonaVie is my vehicle but I think it’s so important for us to help people along their route. It doesn’t matter the organization, or what product you’re selling or sharing, if someone needs help or ideas, we should be able to share our knowledge as leaders. If we do that, a lot more people will be great leaders in our community and change the dynamics of what’s happening in our economy.
A woman who was part of the MonaVie business got a bunch of us gals together one day and it was more of a Christian-based group. Everyone who attended thought it was a MonaVie leadership meeting, but it was really about faith. I sat back and thought it was a great idea to get women together. I started on Facebook, talking to women and sharing ideas. I had my first meeting at The Courtyard by Marriott and there were probably about 15 people there. Now, WIN has 450 people as part of our group. We have an Irvine, CA chapter, led by Jennifer Griner, a Long Beach, CA chapter and a men’s chapter, called Men that Win. We are an association. The money we collect is used for various charities, fundraisers and scholarships. It’s just been a blessing and people come to me about mentoring and ask opinions about generating a lead or approaching someone or how to deal with the “no’s”. That’s what’s great is we can come together to educate and inspire people. That’s how WIN got started. It was really about educating and inspiring. We have all different kinds of women, from various races and backgrounds, older, younger, moms, retirees, grandmas running different businesses. We’re sponsored by organizations, such as Chase, State Farm, and SoCal Curves. So, we’re backed by some really great businesses because they see what we’re doing. We’re about helping everyone around us – communities, children and the whole nine yards.
What challenges did you face while creating the WIN group?
It’s not about challenges. I don’t put that in my mind. It’s really power in numbers. When you get together with great people and great women, we can continuously do great things. It’s important as a networking/marketing woman, to go out and constantly network. In the WIN group, we’ve had people attend who can barely say their own name to introduce themselves in front of everyone. And now they have the confidence to say and talk about their business and feel comfortable in their own shoes. It’s just amazing to watch people grow.
What’s the top advice you would give women to help them effectively promote and network during your WIN meetings?
I always tell them to think of positive things and everything they’re grateful for. If someone comes to me and shares the trials in her life, I’ll ask her the one thing she’s grateful for. Even with these trials, what are you grateful for? You have a roof over your head. You have children. Always try to put things into perspective so you think positive all the time. Keep that good energy going. You can’t move forward if you’re carrying baggage.
I like to keep busy. Someone told me, give a busy person something to do and they’ll always get it done. The most wonderful things in life are my children. My daughter-in-law is very eco-friendly and she keeps me balanced by making sure I’m eating right and using the right [non-toxic] stuff around the house. She gave me a beautiful granddaughter named London. I just adore her. I didn’t have any clue that being a grandmother would fulfill me so much. My son and daughter-in-law will be married for 5 years in July 2012. As a mom, it’s really an amazing thing to watch your children grow. You always see them as these little kids with personalities and you remember when they played baseball or football or cheerleading. Then they become grownups that you’ve inspired all these years. Then they give you this sense of security that they’re okay and building a great life. I think that really balances me to think about that. I go to church and I’m very active in the evangelism team. I believe in buying in the USA and supporting our troops. I think we’re very blessed to be free in the US. We could be in another country where things are so much different. We’re so lucky to be able to do the things we do and the resources that are here in the US.
For me, to be balanced, you’ve got to have God, family and MonaVie. That’s how I live my lifestyle. God first, then family, and then business. Those are the most important things. You start mixing those things up and it could be a problem.
Do you have any advice for moms who are struggling to find balance in their lives?
God, family and business. It’s important because you need to be grounded. Everyone has his or her own needs and personalities. To find your center of what is important to you, you really need to think about how lucky you are. There’s a mom who has a son with Down Syndrome and he never ever cries. He’s so adorable and has a little smile on his face. I think that she’s so blessed to have this little one and the love they have together. A lot of people have beautiful children and they need to think about how lucky they are to have those children. They need to remind themselves. We’re in such a fastpaced world and we tend forget to stop and look around to appreciate what’s around us.
Could you share one thing about you that would surprise people who know you?
I’m pretty much an open book! Well, everyone knows I’m not a big eater. Most people know that I’m kind of a relaxed person. If I showed up in a fancy dress, people wouldn’t be used to that! It’s not my style. Most people know I took care of my in-laws until they passed away. I love dogs and I love cats. I think what surprises people is that they can call me and ask me something. And I never say that I don’t want to talk to them right now. The reason is that people are put in front of me for a reason. So, I need to stop and recognize people even if it’s asking how they are you doing, get to know them and shake their hand. They might be looking for something, not necessarily MonaVie, but a friendship, advice, or their heart hurts and they want someone to talk to. And I think everyone knows I’m a creature of habit – same church, same time, same bat channel.
Angela Chee is an award winning television host, journalist, motivational speaker and voiceover artist. Her career has taken her across the country and her work has been seen around the world.
As a mother of 2, she is also the founder of TheZenMom.com, a resource to help moms find peace and balance in their journey because motherhood isn’t always so zen. Angela shares with us her experience in the television industry and how she handles those not-so-zen days as a mother.
Tell us about your blog – The Zen Mom
I basically started it when I was a reporter. When I had my son, I started using the Internet to access all the information I needed. I’m a reporter; so I’m all about information. Even though there was so much support and resources on the Internet, it was also so overwhelming. So, I started the blog as my journey to find the best information for me out there at each stage and it was a way to share what I learned. It really started as a resource for moms. And then it evolved into everything I believe in. The Zen Mom blog is now about who you are as a woman, how to stay balanced, how to stay inspired and empowered so that you can be good to yourself and then be good to your family. I also do Zen Mom TV on my blog, which I’d like to evolve into a show. Wisdom, Inspiration and Laughter is my overall theme and I write about interesting things that I’ve learned and what I feel people need to know. I love sharing quotes in the Monday Motivator. I write about women entrepreneurs, inspirational women and also whatever makes me laugh.
I grew up in Los Angeles, but I was never a showbiz or a Hollywoodtype person. I grew up as a normal teenager in Cerritos, California. I never really wanted to be a celebrity or in movies or anything, but I always wanted to go into news. I really enjoyed television just for the medium. As a young child, it was something I always wanted to do. It has been a long journey. After college, I started off in the corporate world in the entertainment industry. I helped launch Entertainment Tonight China. But I always wanted to be on air and create content and share stories as a news reporter. However, to do that, you initially have to go to a really small market and make little money. And so for me, I went about it a different way. I didn’t go right off from college to a small market. I worked for about 3 years in Hollywood at Paramount Pictures. I helped launch a show to see how things worked in movies, in television and production. In addition, I worked part-time on the weekends in Palm Springs to get the skills that I needed to feel comfortable on TV. I worked 7 days a week for about a year and a half. And then I worked my way up to the small news markets in different cities and eventually back to my hometown in Los Angeles, which was my dream.
What do you love about your roll as a news anchor?
In general, what I love about it the most is just the medium of television. It is the opportunity to take a story that someone doesn’t know about and bring light to it. And you hope that in your career you can shine light on stories that are positive. That’s why my blog is interesting to me. Now, I get to choose what I put out there, which are wisdom, inspiration and laughter. And not to say news is bad. It’s necessary. But it’s not the everyday, because news is whatever is newsworthy. I love my job in general as a storyteller and as someone that has an impact through a blog post or a video or through hosting a television show. When I see something either inspirational or interesting whether it comes from my brain or telling someone else’s story and think, “WOW other people need to know about it,” that is what drives me. It’s about sharing information to impact people’s lives. It’s something beyond just me.
First decide what you really want and why. Find the true meaning of why you want to do it. Don’t get into the industry just because you want to be on television or to be famous. Get to the true core of what drives you, because if you go into this with the wrong reason, you may end up falling flat. Also, know that there will be setbacks. But take those setbacks, never give up and just go for it. Know your limitations. Set your goals.
When you experienced setbacks, what kept you going for your goals?
I’ve always been a very driven person. I set a goal for myself and I just go for it. I always felt like I was meant to do something more and do something that was beyond myself. So, when I hit a setback I kept my focus on my intention and my goals, which was to be able to influence and impact people. However, I was also realistic. I didn’t believe in sacrificing everything. Working hard and giving your all is important, but I think sacrificing everything is not always necessary. You need to make your own decision of what works for you in your life at the time. I gave as much as I could as a single woman and it worked for me back then. When I became a mom, I reshifted my priorities. Although I may still have the same goals, my priorities have shifted and I made sure that it all fit. The overall picture is to reach your goals, be happy, be fulfilled, but if you just feel like you’re resenting whatever you’re doing just to make it to the top, whatever the top is, then it’s really not worth the journey.
Being able to see so much joy and love in my kids’ eyes. I love just being there for them, impacting them, shaping their minds and watching them grow into wonderful people. Right now, I’m not a full-time working mom. And the interesting part is the juggle. Being able to be there for them (and that’s why I left the news full-time at this point) and see the moments and do the everyday things. I do the drop-offs at school, I’ve had food covered all over me, I breastfed, I did all that. However, there’s a part of me that I don’t want to shut down. I still want to be able to have something that I can do with my own brain and thoughts and be able to share it with others aside from being a mom. I think that makes you a better mom.
What advice would you give to moms who are struggling to find the balance in their lives?
My top three things to stay zen and balanced is first, don’t judge and don’t compare. Judging is easy. We all do it. And on the flip side is that you also compare yourself with others, because everyone has a different way of doing things. Don’t always try to keep up with everyone else and don’t be the critic. That’s hard on other people because we’re all just trying to get through it. Second, appreciate the everyday. It is said that motherhood is when the days are long and the years are short. So, when you’re in that moment where you’re going crazy and trying to do it all, you really have to take a step back and know that this day is going to be different five years from now or a year from now. And third is to stay inspired. Don’t forget about yourself. Do whatever you need to stay inspired and do what you’re passionate about. It could be as simple as going for 5-minute walks or going on vacation or going back to work.
I struggle with the guilt. I mean, I’m Chinese… C’mon! But I think guilt is natural. I deal with it by remembering the time when it worked out. I let go of the guilt, did what I did and I was happy, the kids were happy and everything worked out fine. And I wondered why I didn’t do it before… why did I feel guilty? We spend time with the guilt, but it really doesn’t help anybody or make the situation any better. Again, the guilt is natural. If you feel it, know that it’s okay and try to do what’s best for you and your family.
Many moms say that balance in motherhood doesn’t exist.
Balance does exist for moments. You have to find those moments. It’s not going to be 100% of your life. That’s not realistic. It’s not about being so happy all the time and that everything is so wonderful every single minute. It’s about when everything is falling apart, when you don’t have time to work out or don’t have time to do the laundry and everything is just so crazy. And, well, you say this week sucks and then maybe next week I’ll get through some of it. And it’s a reminder that you’re a little behind this week and let’s even it out and get back to the other side. So, it’s always remembering how to get back to zen, how to get back to balance… not that it’s always zen and always balanced. I think that’s what’s important. It’s not real to have everything perfect. That’s the whole point. Some days my skin is shiny and I’m happy, life is great. And the next minute, I’ve got food on me and I’m so tired and then I just screamed at my child and then I feel bad. But then it’s taking breathes and remembering that you need to get back to that place of zen and not always getting stuck in a bad place of constantly feeling so overwhelmed, lonely and tired. It’s really easy to get stuck in the bad place.
I do yoga. I try to do yoga once or twice a week, but sometimes that just doesn’t happen. I also started meditating, which is a new venture for me. I am naturally a go-go, Type A person. I’m always doing stuff for my kids and also always thinking about the next thing in my head. I think that comes from my entrepreneurial spirit. I can never shut down my brain. So, I turned to a formal meditation just this past year and it has really helped. However, I have fallen off the bandwagon. I started off with half hour meditations in the morning and at night. Now, I’m down to half an hour in the morning. It’s all about having a quiet space whether it’s through yoga or meditation to really quiet down my brain and just focus for a little bit, because I’m going all day. I think it’s important to start off the beginning of your day with some sort of quiet time and/or the end of the day where you can just unwind. And if it sometimes doesn’t happen then it doesn’t happen because the kids wake up early. So, give yourself that space but know that sometimes you’re going to have some setbacks and not be able to get it done. Just try again tomorrow. That’s just reality.
Tell us more about your background.
My parents immigrated from China to the East Coast in the 70’s and then had me. Shortly thereafter, we moved straight to California. So, I’m very much a Southern California girl, but also very Chinese. I speak Mandarin and I teach my kids Mandarin at home. I really appreciate the traditional values and everything that my parents did for me. It was always about working hard and they were just very grounded people. And I think that’s what kept me going; remembering how hard they worked to make everything happen. For me, it’s so important to have that grounded family and those traditional values. And I’m trying to pass those on to my children. I met my husband in high school at a leadership camp. We weren’t high school sweethearts or anything, but we dated for the summer and then kept our friendship going long distance. We stayed in touch throughout the years as friends. We always had our separate lives. And about 8 years ago, we started dating as adults and the rest is history. And now we have 2 children, a 4-year- old son and a 2-year-old daughter.
Share one thing that would surprise someone that knows you.
I am actually kind of shy. Even though I’ve been on TV and I’m a speaker and I do all these things in the limelight, I necessarily don’t need to be the center of attention in my personal life. I grew up in a traditional Asian household and I think I still have that little girl inside of me that’s a little shy, which has helped me stay grounded.