Anne Sage: Lifestyle Writer and Social Media Consultant

UNLOCKEDSTORIES

Ellen Fondiler | Unlocked Stories: Anne Sage

To do the work you love, you’ve got to unlock a few doors. UNLOCKED Stories are honest conversations with 20 and 30-somethings who chose a path + made it happen.

A note from Ellen: I’m thrilled to spotlight Anne Sage, a lifestyle writer, creative director and social media consultant based in Los Angeles.

Anne’s blog, The City Sage, was named a must-read blog by Martha Stewart Living, and she was featured in The New York Times for co-founding Rue Magazine, an online publication on fashion, design and decor. She recently completed her first book, which will be released by a major publisher in 2015.

Her road has not been a smooth one, and she has faced some excruciatingly tough decisions along the way.

Through it all, Anne has learned that being a success — in any field — means putting your health, your wellbeing, and your relationships first… not last.

I am moved by Anne’s story, and I know that for Anne… the best is yet to come.

Read on, and don’t miss the reflection questions at the very end of this interview.

Ellen Fondiler | Unlocked Stories: Anne Sage

What do you do?

[Anne]: I am a lifestyle writer, creative director and social media consultant based in Los Angeles.

For the past six years, I have written a blog called The City Sage. It focuses on interior design and fashion, and it’s also a space for my personal writing on topics like travel and what it means to be kind to yourself.

For the past year, I have also been working on a book that will be published by Chronicle in the fall of 2015. I’m not able to share too many details about that project yet, but I can say that the book explores the intersection of interior design and personal growth.

Your blog, The City Sage, was named a must-read blog by Martha Stewart Living, and you were featured in The New York Times for co-founding Rue Magazine. Those are truly impressive accolades! How did you get started in the writing and publishing world?

[Anne]: After graduating from Stanford University, I moved to New York City to pursue a Masters in Interior Design.

I’d always been obsessed with Martha Stewart magazine, so I assumed I would love doing interior design.

I lasted six weeks in the program before I realized that — even though I love thinking, talking and writing about design — I was NOT destined to be a professional interior designer!

I dropped out, but I decided to stay in NYC… which meant I had to get a job.

I got a position as an intern at an ad agency with clients in the fashion industry.
It was an amazing experience. I got to work closely with fashion designers and I learned a ton about what it takes to promote yourself and build a name for your brand.

While the ad agency taught me a lot, I had a gut feeling that I wasn’t meant to work in advertising forever. In fact, I had a burning desire to work for a magazine. But despite months of job-hunting for a position in the magazine industry, I couldn’t lock down a position.

A mentor suggested that I start a blog as a way to develop a portfolio of writing and get my voice out there.

I took her advice, launched my blog — The City Sage — and started writing as often as I could. Blogging felt like a natural fit. I loved it.

Eventually, I started doing photo shoots to create original photos for my blog. This was an intentional decision, because I didn’t want to just re-publish other people’s images, like many bloggers were doing. I wanted to feature original content and make my blog truly stand out.

A few years down the road, a fellow blogger approached me and asked if I wanted to co-found an online magazine. I said “yes.” And so… Rue was born.

Being a professional writer is not a cakewalk. I’m guessing you faced plenty of challenges along the way. What was your biggest “locked door” moment — when you felt like all hope was lost? How did you get through it?

After two years of working on the magazine, almost 24/7, I realized that running it was no longer sustainable for me.

My health, my finances, and my marriage had all been affected by my single-minded focus on the project. It was the biggest creative project of my life. I loved it. I was my “baby.” I desperately wanted it to be a success.

But running the magazine was taking a terrible toll on my marriage.

I realized that I either needed to leave my marriage to make my business work, or leave my business to make my marriage work. At that time, it felt like I couldn’t do both.

I was paralyzed and didn’t know which way to turn.

After wrestling with the decision for quite a while, I came across a powerful quote:

“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” —Albert Einstein

I realized that I was being insane — struggling to balance the magazine with the rest of my life, pushing, depleting myself, and expecting the situation to somehow “get better.”

So I made the decision to walk away from the project.

Walking away from the magazine, after the years of hard work I had poured into it, was the most difficult decision I have ever made. But it wasn’t making me happy anymore… and I wanted to see if I could save my marriage.

Ultimately, my marriage did not survive despite our best efforts to make it work.

By the end of that year, I packed all of my belongings in the back of my car and drove to Los Angeles to start my life over.

It was bittersweet, but also freeing.

Finally, I could begin a new chapter.

Ellen Fondiler | Unlocked Stories: Anne Sage

You’ve had to make some tough choices — and brave moves. What happened after walking away from the magazine?

[Anne]: After leaving the magazine, I turned inward and took a lot of time to look at why things went so wrong. I did a lot of growing up that year.

The biggest lesson I learned is that it’s impossible to be a successful writer — or a successful anything, really — if you neglect your health, your well-being, and your most important relationships. Those things have got to come first, not last.

After a great deal of soul-searching and reinvention, an amazing opportunity came into my life: a book deal!

Working on my first book has rekindled my creative spark.

I am so excited to watch it take form.

I can’t wait to see it out in the world.

What is the next door you would like to unlock? (And what’s the plan?)

[Anne]: Once I finish the book, I am not sure what’s next.

I have some thoughts about what I would like my life and career to look like, but I don’t know how all of the details will shake out.

What I do know… is that I do NOT want to be on the computer all day. I would love to find a way to be more physically active.

I also know that the realm of personal growth is really exciting to me, right now. For the past 10 years, I have blogged and written almost exclusively about fashion, style, decor, shopping… things like that.

Beauty is important, but there is so much more to life than pretty things to buy.

I want to find a way to weave personal growth and style / design together, because I believe that you can use design to enhance and amplify your personal development goals. That’s the message that I’m trying to express with my book. I’d like to continue exploring that theme… in whatever shape it takes, next.

What’s your biggest piece of advice for anyone who wants to stay motivated, do amazing work and unlock major doors?

[Anne]: Here’s my biggest piece of advice:

Opportunities come and go, but at the end of the day… treating yourself and others with respect and integrity is what matters most.

Don’t be tempted by the “shiny objects” of the world.

Know your values.

Know what matters to you.

Put those things first.

Ellen Fondiler | Unlocked Stories: Anne Sage

UNLOCK yourself

Three questions to think about, write about — or talk about with a friend.

1. After getting her undergraduate degree, Anne moved to NYC and enrolled in an interior design program. But after six weeks, she realized that becoming an interior designer wasn’t her dream, after all.

: Have you ever started a program, a big project, or a job, only to realize — quickly — that it’s not your cup of tea, after all? When did that happen? What did you do?

2. Anne started her blog after a mentor encouraged her to start getting her voice out there, online. It was the first big step in her writing career… one that eventually led to a book deal!

: What’s one thing you could do to put yourself “out there” a bit more, this week? (Here’s a list of 49 ideas to inspire you.)

3. At this point in her career, Anne is much clearer about what she wants (opportunities to write about the intersection of personal growth and design) and what she doesn’t want (spending all day on a computer).

: Right now, when it comes to your career… what is one thing you definitely want, and one thing you definitely don’t want?


For more UNLOCKED interviews, click over here.

Know somebody that ought to be spotlighted? Write to me here.

See you next time for another inspiring conversation!

UNLOCKED Links: November 14, 2014

Ellen Fondiler | UNLOCKED Links

Once a month, I curate the best links on how to find work that you love, be excellent at what you do, and unlock any door that stands in your way. Here’s your list for today!

THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK

Ellen Fondiler | UNLOCKED Links

FIND WORK YOU LOVE

Now, here’s a college commencement speech with a different kind of message: “Don’t follow your dreams!”

Calling all introverts! Networking to find the perfect job doesn’t have to be agonizing. Here’s how to overcome the fear of “putting yourself out there.”

Feel like your cover letter is guaranteed to induce…a nice, long nap? Snoring included? Here’s a fresh + unique approach.

BE YOUR OWN BOSS

So, you’re leaving your job at a start-up? Read this before you go.

Trying to raise money online through Kickstarter or Indie GoGo? Check out the do’s + don’t’s of a successful crowd-funding campaign.

Feel like your blogging is soggy and sad? Here’s a 4-step system for writing a great blog post.

NEAT TOOLS + INVENTIONS

Tech trends come + go, but there’s a lot to be learned from this collection of great software that has stood the test of time.

100 time, energy and attention hacks to make your life easier and more productive. (One of my favorites: “Remember that perfect is the enemy of good.”)

“Did I send my resume to her already, or not?” If you’re struggling to keep all of your ducks in a row, here’s an awesome tool to keep your job-hunt on track.

LIFE LESSONS

From the always-brilliant Seth Godin: “Saying no is the foundation that we can build our yes on.”

You like writing light, sexy chick lit. So you go to graduate school to learn how to be a “real” writer. You can guess the moral of this story …

GET OUT OF THE HOUSE

What’s it like to talk to strangers — like, really talk — when you’re riding the subway or taking the bus? The answer will surprise you.

Planning a trip around the world — or just a road trip back home? Here are 40 genius travel tips that will change your life for the better.

36 hours. A brand new city. What to do, first?! Find out how to squeeze the most out of a lightning-fast trip with the 36 Hours columns from The NY Times.
Find great work. Do great work. And have a great weekend!

—Ellen


Images: Willie Franklin

How Can I Avoid The Comparison Trap?

Ellen Fondiler | Advice

Dear Ellen,

I landed an internship in the acquisitions department of a museum — which is awesome, because I’m a painter and photographer, so it feels like a great fit.

I was feeling really proud of myself… until I went out for coffee to catch up with a friend from art school.

My friend has done SO much in the year since we graduated. She’s had her own gallery exhibition… got featured in a magazine… and somehow, she’s making enough money selling her artwork to get by (she doesn’t have a “regular job” on the side.)

I’m happy for her, but honestly… now I’m feeling pretty bad about myself.

It feels like she’s so much farther along than me, even though we received the exact same training, and arguably, had the same opportunities.

Now I’m questioning everything — my talent as an artist, my career choices, even this internship that I thought was a good move.

I don’t know if I need “advice” or just a pep talk.

But I could definitely use some help.

Signed,

Not So Proud Anymore

Ellen Fondiler | Ask Ellen: How Can I Avoid The Comparison Trap?

Dear Not So Proud:

Mark Twain once said that “comparison is the death of joy.”

It’s true.

There will always be someone who is farther along than you, and there will always be someone who is lagging behind you.

Obsessing about how you ”measure up” to others is never healthy… and ultimately, totally pointless!

Instead of feeling depressed and doubtful, try to get inspired by people you admire. Study what your friends, peers and heroes have done successfully, so that you can choose your next move more effectively.

The following practices can help you turn those negative feelings around, and help you to stay focused on your path — not somebody else’s.

: Look at “jealousy” as a positive emotion, not a negative one.

If you look at the history of the word “jealousy,” it actually stems from a word that means “enthusiastic longing.” How beautiful!

Try to reframe “jealousy” as a positive emotion — like desire, excitement or enthusiasm. (My friend Alex has some terrific insights on how to do this.)

For starters, you can say to yourself:

“It’s incredible that so-and-so has achieved such-and-such. If I’m being honest with myself, I want what they have, too. And now? I’ve seen first hand that it’s possible. I’m going to figure out how to create it for myself.”

When you say these kinds of words to yourself, then “jealousy” can become a source of fuel that moves you forward… instead of a heavy, unpleasant weight that holds you back.

: Operate from a place of sufficiency, not scarcity.

If you are constantly telling yourself, “I don’t have enough time, money, prestige, love, etc…” then it’s pretty difficult to stay motivated or do anything productive!

You’ve got to change the conversation inside your mind from one of “scarcity” into one of “sufficiency.”

Lynne Twist, a philanthropist and money expert, talks about the notion of “enough-ness” in her book The Soul of Money. Lynne believes that when you replace feelings of “lack” with feelings of “sufficiency,” it frees up huge amounts of time and energy to generate everything you want and need.

: Count your blessings. Be grateful.

One of the biggest reasons why we envy other people’s lives is because we tend to take our own blessings for granted. Count them again.

You are talented. You are gifted. You are cared for. You are unique. You are blessed with an internship in a museum, which allows you to contribute to your community in a meaningful way. You want to be an artist — you are very much on your path!

As Friar Lawrence says in Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet, “There art thou happy: A pack of blessings light upon thy back!”

You have countless reasons to be grateful for the life you have been given — and for the life you are creating. Remind yourself again.

: Concentrate on your strengths. Celebrate your progress.

If you are going to compare yourself to anyone, it should be yourself.

What are you doing today that you couldn’t have done five, three or even one year ago?

What are your “wins” this year, compared to last year at this time?

How has your life improved? How have you improved?

What have you done recently that you never thought you could do?

In other words: how have you continued to become a new and improved version of yourself?

If you focus on your own progress, rather than comparing yourself to other people, it’s much easier to stay positive and keep taking strides forward.

: Be generous. Every day.

If you want to be successful in any field, you must create a reputation as someone with a generous spirit. Make generosity an essential habit in your life.

Give your time. Share your ideas. Contribute your abilities, talents and skills. Volunteer in your community. Support a cause that you believe in. Reach out to someone just to say “hello” and offer a resource or a piece of advice, with no “hidden agenda” or “strings attached.”

You do not have to give “everything” away. You still need to earn a living, of course. But every day, look for opportunities to be just a little bit more generous than is strictly necessary.

People will take notice. They will start to perceive you as someone exceptional — someone with tremendous value to offer. This will transform your career, leading to invitations and opportunities that you never expected…

Being generous isn’t just a good way to build a positive reputation amongst your peers and colleagues, though. It’s also good for the soul.

As John Holmes writes: “There is no exercise better for the heart than reaching down and lifting people up.”

We all slip into a state of envy now and then…

… but instead of letting negative feelings suck up your energy, reframe the story. Change the conversation inside your mind. Practice gratitude. Practice generosity. Use “jealousy” as a positive tool to fuel you towards your dreams.

Now, get out there and be the best intern that museum has ever seen.

Celebrate your friend’s success, celebrate yourself and trust that both of you are moving down your unique paths… living your unique stories.

I can’t wait to hear about the next chapter of your story.

The only person who gets to write it… is you.

Yours,

Ellen


Image: Willie Franklin

Mason Robinson: Content Guru For Chubbies Shorts

UNLOCKEDSTORIES

Ellen Fondiler: UNLOCKED stories: Mason Robinson

To do the work you love, you’ve got to unlock a few doors. UNLOCKED Stories are honest conversations with 20 and 30-somethings who chose a path + made it happen.

A note from Ellen: I’m thrilled to spotlight Mason Robinson, Content Guru for Chubbies Shorts. Mason’s story is seriously bold — he walked away from a high-paying job in the health field and completely reinvented his life + career, all before age 30.

Today, he’s a professional video producer! (Check out some of his amazing videos, here!)

Mason took big risks and unlocked some mighty big doors along the way.

I’m proud of him and inspired by him. I know you will be, too!

Read on, and don’t miss the reflection questions at the very end of this interview.

What do you do?

[Mason]: I am the Content Guru for Chubbies Shorts. We make radical shorts for men who enjoy relaxing, looking cool and being awesome.

In other words: men of discerning taste… who hate the confines of pants and all that they stand for.

Chubbies is a super fun company to work for, because nobody here takes themselves too seriously. We like to laugh, crack jokes and have fun and we know our customers do, too!

We definitely make high-quality, American-made clothing — but there’s nothing uptight and formal about Chubbies.

As the Content Guru, my job is to produce videos for our website and social media channels. I write the scripts, oversee the shooting of each video, do the editing, packaging and sometimes even post the videos online. Basically, everything!

What’s your favorite part about your job?

[Mason]: I love my job because I get to take every video concept from “idea” to “finished product.” I like being part of the entire process, start to finish.

I also love knowing that I’m contributing to the growth of the company — building a fanbase and reaching new audiences. with every video we release.

Our fanbase continues to grow, which is so exciting to watch. Right now, we have almost a million followers on Facebook, 98,000 on Twitter, 92,000 on Instagram and 5,000 on YouTube.

To sum it up: I get to make awesome videos for an audience of awesome poeple. For me, it doesn’t get better than that.

ELLEN_UNLOCKED_STORIES_MASON_ROBINSON_1

How did you discover that you love making videos?

[Mason]: It’s something that I have always loved. My buddies and I have been making videos since we were 12 years old. As we got older, I continued making videos of all of us on snowboarding and surfing trips.

I guess it’s always been always been a passion of mine… but for a long time, I didn’t really believe that it could be my career.

And for a long time… it wasn’t! Tell us what you were doing before you started working at Chubbies.

After I graduated from Stanford in 2008, I thought my career choices were limited to banking, law or consulting. It never occurred to me that I could branch out and do anything I wanted. So I applied for a “safe” job and wound up working for a healthcare consulting firm. I was there for 4 ½ years.

But my job didn’t really have anything to do with “healthcare” or “helping people.”

Basically: I was a glorified bill collector.

My last 6 months on the job were literally painful. I hated going to work. I was making a great salary and only working 35 hours a week. But I was really unhappy.

Finally, I just had no choice but to leave. I couldn’t do it anymore, and I realized that I needed to be doing something more creative.

People thought I was crazy to leave my “solid” job, but my mom was totally understanding and supportive and told me to go for it. So I did.

Wow! A bold move. What was it like after you quit your job? And how did you transition from “bill collector” to “videographer”?

[Mason]: After quitting my job at the healthcare company, I was scraping by on unemployment and minimum wage — doing part-time work.

But even with a lot less money, I was so much happier in my life.

I started working with a startup company called The Getaway Club — a travel agency for people in their twenties. I also did freelance writing for a PR company and some modeling. I tested out lots of different things and tried to stay curious and open-minded. I definitely didn’t want to rush into another job… that I hated.

I got involved with Chubbies after I saw a Facebook post from one of the founders who was an old friend from school. It said: “Anyone out there good at creative writing?”

I had always liked creative writing, so I figured, “Why not?”

I contacted him, and that was how I landed my first gig with Chubbies.

You started working for Chubbies, but it was tough for you to turn that part-time gig into a full-time position. What happened next?

[Mason]: It was a twisting turn of events. Unfortunately while I was working part-time, Chubbies instituted a hiring freeze — which meant that nobody could get hired for a full-time position, period.

I didn’t want to give up because I Ioved the company and I loved making videos. I wanted to prove to them that I was worth hiring — freeze or no freeze!

I started working 60+ hours a week, even though I was told not to work over 30. I was working an insane amount and making substantially less than I’d grown accustomed to. But I kept going.

Finally, after many months, I had a tough conversation with my boss and said, “I love it here… but if you can’t offer me full-time employment, and a full-time salary, I’ve got to find another job somewhere else.”

Thankfully, my hard work paid off. They were able to offer me a fulltime job, and it has been everything I’d hoped for and more.

Hooray! Your perserverance and grit really paid off.

[Mason]: Since unlocking that door, lots of exciting things have been happening for you. Your video footage has attracted a huge following online, with many of your videos getting over 100,000 views, each. And your footage has been featured on major TV networks like ABC and CNBC!

Ellen Fondiler: UNLOCKED stories: Mason Robinson
What’s the absolute BEST thing that’s happened to you, since you wrangled your dream job at Chubbies?

The best thing that has happened to me is that I have absolutely fallen in love with visual storytelling.

I am learning an immense amount about a fascinating art form, working with people I really like, and getting free reign to be as creative as I can be.

The office culture is amazing. We spend hours each day brainstorming and coming up with creative ways to engage and impress Chubster Nation!

Back in my bill collector days, I had to drag myself to work and I felt like I was wasting away. But now, I cannot wait to go to work. I often work late into the night or happily on the weekends… not because I have to, but because I want to!

This career path has opened my world in ways I could not have imagined.

What’s the next big door that you need to unlock? (And what’s the plan?)

[Mason]: I would like to continue to evolve as a videographer.

Eventually, I may want to go to film school or write a screenplay.

But for now, I am committed to doing my part to attract an amazing (and amazingly big) audience for Chubbies shorts.

Last but not least: What’s your biggest piece of advice for anyone who wants to stay motivated, do amazing work and unlock major doors?

[Mason]: I hate to seem cliché, but the usual advice that we all hear is so true:

Do what drives you.

Stay optimistic and avoid negative energy.

There are always trade-offs in life, but don’t settle for a job that just provides you with money or comfort. It’s not enough. At least it wasn’t enough for me.

There may be opportunities in the future that you are not seeing… yet.

Be open to possibilities.

And when you find something that you love to do… don’t give up!

ELLEN_UNLOCKED_STORIES_MASON_ROBINSON_3


UNLOCK yourself

Three questions to think about, write about — or talk about with a friend.

1. After college, Mason took a “safe” job that paid the bills and stuck with it for years, even though the work was miserable.. Finally, he found the courage to walk away.

: Have you ever walked away from something that “seemed” like a good idea? How did you find the courage to do it?

2. Mason loves working at Chubbies Shorts because the workplace culture is laid back, offbeat and seriously fun — just like the products they create!

: What are three words that might sum up the “workplace culture” of your dream company?

3. Mason had to work double-time — literally — to prove to his employers that he was dedicated, passionate and highly valuable to the company. Finally, he landed the job of his dreams.

: Is there a task that you’d be willing to do for 60 hours a week… for several months… if it meant getting the job of your dreams? What would that “task” be?

 


For more UNLOCKED interviews, click over here.

Know somebody that ought to be spotlighted? Write to me here.

See you next time for another inspiring conversation!

UNLOCKED Links: October 17, 2014

Ellen Fondiler | UNLOCKED Links

Once a month, I curate the best links on how to find work that you love, be excellent at what you do, and unlock any door that stands in your way. Here’s your list for today!

THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK

Ellen Fondiler | UNLOCKED LINKS

FIND WORK YOU LOVE

Allergic to small talk? Tired of asking — and answering — the same old questions at every networking event? Here are 100 alternatives to, “So, what do you do?”

Fantasizing about moving to a new city — but only if you can line up a job, first? Here are some brilliant tips on how to look for jobs remotely.

You finally lined up an interview for your dream job (hooray!) and now, you need to do your homework. Start here: The ultimate guide to researching a company pre-interview.

BE YOUR OWN BOSS

Want to ditch your boss and go out on your own? You’re not alone. More + more Millennials are becoming their own bosses than ever before.

Making the shift from “employee” to “self-employed” requires a new way of thinking. Check out these smart ideas from the recent 99U conference on re-imagining the way we work.

How does creativity…happen? Is it possible to accelerate your creativity and generate better ideas…faster? James Altucher breaks it down with the ultimate guide to becoming an idea machine.

NEAT TOOLS + INVENTIONS

Got the travel bug? Here’s one of my favorite new hotel booking apps.

Venture capital funding isn’t just for tech gizmos + apps anymore. This woman is writing a VC-backed novel (and changing the way that book publishers generate revenue, too).

At long last! How to win at rock-paper-scissors. (Life will never be the same!)

LIFE LESSONS

“I know I need to do things differently … but I just can’t seem to do it!” The problem? It’s called The Backfire Effect. Love this fascinating piece on the psychology behind why it’s so hard to change your mind.

Underwhelmed by the keynote speaker at your college graduation ceremony? Do it over. Here’s a compilation of some of the best graduation speeches. Ever.

Do you live your life based on what will make “other people” feel happy and proud? Writer Anne Lamott talks about the perils of trying to be a people pleaser.

GET OUT OF THE HOUSE

Need a break from ramen soup + cold cereal…again? This makes me want to eat at Chipotle every night!

Plan a “movie night” date for two…or just you! Visit one of these historic Art Deco cinemas. (So gorgeous.)

Got writer’s block? When you need to reboot your creativity and get the juices flowing, here’s a simple solution: go take a walk.
Find great work. Do great work. And have a great weekend!

—Ellen


Images: Paul Strand and Carolyn Allen Photography.

Myra Goodman: Co-Founder of Earthbound Farm Organic

Ellen Fondiler | Pick My Brain

Ellen Fondiler | Pick My Brain: Susan Hyatt

Ever wish you could sit down with a super-accomplished person and ask, “What does it take to break into your industry? What’s it like to be you? And when you’re looking to hire someone, what does it take to impress you?”

With Pick My Brain, that’s exactly what we do. Enjoy this week’s installment featuring organic food producer and advisor Myra Goodman.

Question:

You’re the co-founder of a highly successful food company called Earthbound Farm Organic, with products sold in stores, worldwide. But it all started on a small farm… right in your backyard! What made you decide to go bigger? And how did it all happen?

Ellen Fondiler | Pick My Brain: Susan Hyatt

[Myra]: My husband Drew and I knew virtually nothing about producing food when we moved onto our little raspberry farm in Carmel Valley, thirty years ago.

I was just twenty years old and Drew was twenty-four, and we had both grown up in New York City. Our time on the farm was just supposed to be a short stopover while I prepared to apply to graduate school for international relations.

Pretty soon, though, we both fell in love with living on the farm and we started growing greens and baby lettuces for local chefs — as well as for ourselves!

To save time, we started washing and bagging salad in individual zip-lock bags, so that making dinner each night could happen much faster.

Pre-washed salad in a bag…what a concept!

Ellen Fondiler | Pick My Brain: Susan Hyatt

It may seem hard to believe, but back then, when you walked into a grocery store, grabbing a quick “salad in a bag” simply wasn’t an option. You could buy a big head of iceberg lettuce, and… that’s about it.

We were convinced that “salad in a bag” could be a revolutionary product, so off we went — innocently confident that we could tackle the huge challenges of bringing a whole new product to the marketplace. We never, ever guessed that packaged organic salads would eventually become a multi-billion dollar industry.

So, what made us decide to “go bigger?” Well, basically, we didn’t have a choice! We quickly outgrew our little backyard garden. The demand for packaged salads was bigger than we could handle all by ourselves, so we started to buy lettuces from nearby farmers to get the supply that we needed.

We took out no loans for a very long time and grew slowly, by investing our earnings.

Ellen Fondiler | Pick My Brain: Susan Hyatt

Many years — and many salads — later, we grew to the next level by selling Earthbound Farm to an amazing organic food company called WhiteWave Foods, which also owns Silk (best known for their non-dairy milks) and Horizon Organic (a full line of organic dairy).

Drew and I are currently advisors to WhiteWave, and it feels like the company we started in our backyard has the perfect home to grow, while preserving its original values — beautiful food, grown by people who care.


Images: Myra Goodman.