Election Day is Near – What’s Your Coping Mechanism?


Confession: I have election anxiety.  True, it’s my own fault because I’m choosing to read election news and watch debates.  This refusal to opt out has forced me to come up with a coping mechanism: frying chicken.  It is soothing to coat the chicken with a mixture of flour, salt, pepper and whatever other spices inspire me in the moment.  Chervil, anyone? The talking points fade as I watch the peanut oil heat up.  A welcome peace calms me as the coating transforms into crispy brown goodness.  It doesn’t change anything about the world we live in, but it provides a few moments of calm.

Upcoming event picks
October 24 – Style Wars screening @ Roxy Cinema
Classic documentary on how graffiti art came to be

October 31 – Village Halloween Parade 
A night where the most creative and subversive dress up to play

November 9 – The Business of Comedy
A behind-the-scenes with comedic forces behind Funny or Die, IFC and more

Launching a new biz or project?  Let’s talk!
Happy Creating, Cultivating and Growing!


Carla Ashley, IamCarlashley.com



***The Thursday Interview is a showcase for creators, innovators, troublemakers, business owners to share news and insight about the creative impetus and inspirations behind their latest project, launch or business.

Does he like me?  What if she doesn’t want a second date?  Why didn’t she text me back?!!! 

These are a few of the questions that usually bedevil daters.  Very few of us have a dating life that isn’t romantic swooning coupled with bouts of doubt and anxiety.  So who amongst us couldn’t benefit from having a compassionate insightful sounding board? Carla Ashley is here to share how she became a  dating and relationship advisor that helps many love wisely.

Name:  Carla Ashley

Company:  Iamcarlashley.com

Launch Date: April 11, 2016

Motto: Love Wisely

Theme Song: Kelly Price –  It’s My Time

Describe your path to becoming a dating and relationship advisor.
I grew up knowing I wanted to find true love. I just had no clue how to go about finding it, the process of dating that is. I pretty much winged my early 20s assuming every guy I would come across was looking to marry based on my own upbringing. “Dating and courtship go hand in hand and you date only with the intent of marriage.” – My parents. Boy was I wrong! Everyone out here DOES NOT have that mindset, but to find love you have to find someone who IS on the same page as yourself.

It took a lot of trial and error which as you can guess led to much heartbreak due to my own hopeless romanticism. I had to change the game plan and start to date wisely. I’d been keeping a journal since my middle school days and noticed the trend that most of my entries were centered around my dating/love life and the lessons I’d learned from each experience. These entries became more elaborate into my adult dating life as you can imagine and with the birth of social media in the past decade I had begun sharing more of my personal life with my close friends.

Before I knew it, I was receiving texts or random inbox messages from friends that had either known me personally or friends I simply connected with through networking who were asking me to provide them with feedback on their own dating dilemmas. The advice requests would pour in in spurts. Sometimes a random person in public, once a lady in the post office and another time my neighbor in passing, would approach me saying that they need someone to ask advice about regarding the person they’re seeing and I looked like someone they could talk to. It was odd, but I welcomed their story and provided what help I could give.

My dating experiences have ranged greatly and one day I just decided to embrace why this was all happening to me. The lessons from each relationship, the random requests for advice, the heavy journaling…it was all a part of the bigger picture, my purpose…to use my lessons to help others.

How does blogging enhance the insight you provide to your clients?
Blogging has been the bridge connecting me to my audience’s hearts and emotions. I receive messages sporadically from readers who have let me know that they appreciate my openness to share my past and some of my current experiences and feelings. I focus on building a level of trust by showing both the pain and the strength of each dating experience I have conquered and how it has helped me get to where I am today…Able to help others from the lessons I’ve learned.

What are your go-to resources to building your business?
@Womeneur – I follow this page on Instagram for tons of business building support, tips, and encouragement.

Copromote.com – A true God-send! I was told about this app/website recently and it’s aided greatly in gaining exposure for my social media content.

Suits & Roots Community (Facebook group)- A network of other entrepreneurs who support you, share advice, events, and open discussion on various ways to grow your business. Entrepreneurs of all phases of the success scale are there to ask and offer assistance where needed.

Best life advice you’ve received from an unlikely source?
“If you put as much effort into building a business as you put into finding a boyfriend you’d be a millionaire.”

This was a funny but relevant piece of advice given to me by my mentor when I was 20 years old. Love and relationships are my passion, learning about them, how each individual plays a part in the unit and how decisions affect each party involved. I didn’t understand her words of advice until I started my business of helping others through my content and direct advising and it helped me realize that my business would not be what it is today had I not put the years in to learn through every relationship. I just had to now begin balancing dating experiences with turning them into productive volume for the world to follow. I’ve made mistakes in love and learned so much from them. Now I’m teaching others to “Love wisely”!

While I’m not quite a millionaire yet, but I’d like to offer fee-based services in the future. For now, all of my direct advice is provided in exchange for word of mouth.


Fast forward to 2017 and what news would you love to be sharing?
I currently have my E-book for sale on my site, “You’re online dating profile- 6 Tips to attract quality potential candidates”. (Free for all blog subscribers upon email request to Carlashley@Iamcarlashley.com) In 2017, I’d love to be able to say I’ve delivered 100+ copies!

I’d like to do more guest writing for digital magazines, bloggers, and other markets within my niche. I’m working on content to be featured within The Urban Dater soon, so be on the look-out for updates and notifications by following me on my social platforms!

In early 2017, I’d love to welcome my 100th Blog Subscriber as well as my 200th Blog Subscriber this time next year and I believe it can happen.

A bigger audience and more advice requests!!! Advice requests help me gauge what my audience needs to hear most from me. I would like to begin work on my first paperback book in 2017 and partner with a publishing company and with so many great and triumphant experiences to share, my audience requests can definitely help me narrow down which points to reference most!

Shout-out time! This is your chance to spotlight your collaborators and community.
So far I’ve collaborated with Lacy Colson on a piece, “A letter to my strong single black women”. Lacy currently writes for Urban Image Magazine.

My biggest supporter has been Kendra Marshall, Singer, Songwriter, Music Producer, and Blogger of Modern Diversity. Both are entrepreneurs within their niches and I owe a huge thanks to them for their work, support, and exposure of my content and my vision.”

If you want a taste of Carla’s dating wisdom, connect  via Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.



Launching a new biz or project?  Let’s talk!
Happy Creating, Cultivating and Growing!

Denequa Williams & Akenea Dillon, LIT Brooklyn

thursday interview lit brooklyn candles

***The Thursday Interview is a showcase for creators, innovators, troublemakers, business owners to share news and insight about the creative impetus and inspirations behind their latest project, launch or business.

Happy September, Thursday Interview faithful and newcomers!  Although summer brain lingers, I am happy to kick off the fall season with Denequa Williams & Akenea Dillon, founders of LIT Brooklyn.  Their Interview gave me motivation on a day when I needed it.   I hope you find common ground and inspiration in their story of how LIT came to be.  Enjoy!

Name: Denequa Williams & Akenea Dillon, Founders

Company:  LIT Brooklyn

Launch Date: December 5, 2015

Motto: Keep it lit!

Theme Song: Jay Z- Forever Young

Describe the moment that LIT Brooklyn was born
Akenea Dillon: It was a random Monday morning in October (2014) and Denequa had called me really early. We were having regular conversation about how we can’t wait to be like the women who inspire us. We wanted the freedom and happiness that these women possessed while following their dreams. In mid conversation Denequa was like “Let’s start a business!” I laughed because it was really random but I wasn’t opposed to it. I said what would our business be? She said “Let’s make candles!” It made sense because we both love smell goods and have invested in many different candle brands in the past. I replied “That would be lit!” She asked what would we call it?  My reply: “LIT”.  The rest is history.

What are the most surprising lessons you’ve learned as a new business owner?
AD: Having a business is still relatively fresh as we launched a little under a year ago and since then so much has changed from our initial packaging to our social media content to the scents we come up with. There is always a lesson to be learned.  One lesson that I can think of is that it took trial and error to learn is that simplicity is key. Another one is that sometimes you have to take a step back and take yourself out of the equation. We make candles and while we are making something we love, we want to make sure that our customer loves it too. So I may hate a particular scent but that might be the very scent that our customers are obsessed with. Also don’t doubt your influence. It’s been really humbling to hear people say “I love your candles, I saw it here…” or “such and such gifted it to me.” It never fails to surprise me.

Denaqua Williams: Some of the most surprising lessons that I’ve learned as a new business owner is that you really have to prove yourself for people to either want to work with you, or even support your product. It’s also a common misconception that a lot of new business owners feel that you don’t have to put in the work to see the results. You have to eat, sleep, and breathe your business if you want it to flourish. The passion has to be there.  We live in a time where everyone wants instant gratification without completely and thoroughly understanding the amount of work and time and effort and loss of sleep that goes into running a successful and effective business. Another surprising lesson that I’ve learned is that your relationships with people are going to change. Having a business is like having a baby, and just like a baby, you nurture this business, you give this business your undivided attention, and the people around you who don’t get your vision, won’t understand, and that may cause your relationship to wither. Everyone around you is not going to get your vision and that’s okay because it’s not for them to understand.

candles LIT Brooklyn thursday interview business


Tell us the LIT Brooklyn process for creating the kind of scent combinations that make me wish my computer screen was scratch and sniff.
DW: When it comes to creating the scents for LIT, that might be the most tedious but fun part of it all. It’s a lot of trial and error. We spend a lot of time experimenting. These scents are intoxicating, they are all reminiscent of something that we love. I love all of the scents that we created, but my ultimate favorite scent thus far is “HOME”, we named it “HOME” because that’s what it reminded us of. The lemony scent with notes of vanilla is to die for.

How did LIT get involved with Curl Fest 2016?
DW: We’ve always been fans of CurlFest, since it launched. We keep up with their events through social media, and when we saw that they were looking for vendors, we reached out and were able to be a part of the epic event. The feedback that we received from everyone who came up to our booth was spectacular. We would definitely do CurlFest again.

candles brooklyn thursday interview love

Will LIT candles be available at any pop ups for the upcoming holiday season?
AD: Ideally, we will be a part of a few pop-ups or events for the holidays. We have some things in store for fall and the holiday that we are finalizing right now. (Stay tuned to our social media) I can tell you that you will definitely see us in a few beauty subscription boxes and hopefully a few holiday gift guides. The best part about the holidays is that we get to celebrate LIT’s birthday (December 5th) so an event for that is in the works.

Fast forward a year from now, what news would you like to be sharing with your fans and collaborators?
DW: A year from now, I hope we have become an international brand. I hope to share that LIT has its own store front. I hope to share that we are being carried in major department stores. I hope for us to be featured in magazines that we read. I hope to share that LIT has expanded carrying more than candles.

Shout out time!  This is your opportunity to celebrate the people who have made the LIT launch and journey a joy.  Don’t be shy.
DW: I am happy to celebrate those close to us that keep us going, and that push us to exercise our complete potential. My boyfriend Khiry is stellar, he helps keep me motivated. Every business owner needs that one person in their corner that is there to remind them why they started in the first place. Things are going to get rough, but the most beautiful moments start to unfold right after you cross over that rough patch. Another person in particular is Evanka W., our brand manager, she came on board a few months ago. A close friend to us both, she plays a significant role in our growth as a company. I would also like to thank our customers who have remained loyal to us from the very beginning, we are very gracious to them for supporting us and believing in the product that we created. And overall, just thankful for everyone who supports us in any way possible. Being a new small business, people are often hesitant, but words can’t express my gratitude for the amount of support and love that we receive on a daily.

AD: Thank you to all my family, friends, believers, and yay-sayers for all the support and well wishes. Before the launch, they were the ones to encourage us in the ways we needed and for them, LIT is grateful. For our launch in particular, it wouldn’t have been the dream it was without our friends Marva & Miriam from the space, Ode to Babel where we had our launch party, Eshama John who has blessed us with visuals of our product from time to time, Deasia Rumble, Endeshia Bryan, Gigi Gray, and every amazing person that helped make our launch extra special. Most importantly thank you to all the people that invest in our candles, our customers. Thank you for believing in our product and spreading the love with your friends and family. We couldn’t keep it LIT if it wasn’t for you all.

Want to keep your world LIT?  Stay connected with Denaqua and Akenea on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

Launching a new biz or project?  Let’s talk!
Happy Creating, Cultivating and Growing!

Parisa Pan Wang, Love Affair Handbag by ParisaNYC

parisa wang thursday interview

***The Thursday Interview is a showcase for creators, innovators, troublemakers,  business owners to share news and insight about the creative impetus and inspirations behind their latest project, launch or business.

Name: Parisa Pan Wang, Founder

Company: Love Affair Handbag by ParisaNYC

Launch Date: 5/18/2016

Motto: “Onward ever; backward never.”

What made you decide that owning and running a business was the right choice for you?
Passion and the urge to live a creative life. Artistic expression was not a warmly accepted ideal during my childhood because the arts were seen as a waste of time and as an impediment to academic success in China. I didn’t openly pursue art until I attended college in U.S. However, I always found opportunities to immerse myself in drawing, designing and creating things growing up. My desire to become a fashion designer never fades entering college and pursuing a business degree. Instead, it grows even stronger and deeper. I could have followed my parents’ insistence and a traditional career path. However, at the end of the day, I could not help but feel empty and lost. I asked myself, is this the path that would make me happy? Will I wake up every morning excited to go to work? Will my work have any lasting value in the world? I imagined what I would tell my grandchildren one day when they asked about my life. I could tell them that I chose a safe and responsible career choice for me at the time. But I would much rather tell them that when I was young, I decided to take a risk to follow my dream and have never looked back since. I chose to stay true to myself, therefore I chose to pursuing the things I truly love and make it a lifelong pursuit. After work experiences with 3.1 Phillip Lim, J Crew and Pologeorgis Furs, I started my business venture in 2015.

Describe a day in the life of ParisaNYC
A day in the life of ParisaNYC starts with morning yoga or workout at 7am. I finish up exercising and breakfast in around an hour and be at my desk around8am answering and writing emails. I usually draft out the day’s tasks the night before so that I can follow my calendar to tackle each task one by one that day.

The current stage of the business involves a lot of logistic and inventory management, store and market fairs research, social media marketing and etc. I will start two of my interns this week and slowly assign them some responsibilities to get them familiar with the brand and operation.

Depending on the day, I meet with potential collaborators, go to speaker and networking events, and do store researches.


Why did you create the #LoveAffairCollection?
Disappointed in a love affair, I found consolation and empowerment among my group of friends. Overwhelmed by their graciousness and the emotional support I received from these amazing women, I was compelled to spread an equally encouraging and supportive message of hope to others. That’s why I created the Love Affair line, a collection of high quality leather handbags that encourage all women to truly love their independence and to never shirk in when the going gets tough.

I created the Love Affair Handbag to further inspire women to seek relentless inner courage in the face of adversity, and to regale in the throes of loving relationships that bring out the best in each and every one of them, one handbag at a time.

Love Affair Collection is a line of handbags capturing 5 stages of a relationship to inspire courage and confidence. Find out more at: www.parisanyc.com

Congratulations on your successful Kickstarter campaign.  What insight can you share for anyone considering a Kickstarter campaign?
First and foremost, you got to have a good product and a video that catches people’s attention. The video could be funny, sarcastic or short and sweet. Here is where your creativity comes in.

Then start early. Ideas are only ideas without execution. Get out there and tell people about your ideas. Craft a landing page and create an email signup list to acquire your early adaptors. Identify your target customers and build your social media around them. Whether it is Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, create a business account and start to get followers. I went to many pitch nights, social networking events and speaker events during my campaign to spread the word. Any opportunity I could stand up and pitch my idea for couple minutes whether it is Q&A for guest speakers or talk to people one-on-one, I would do it.

Last but not least, plan to hit your target early. Whether it is to set your target low but practical or to persuade your friends and family to back early on, give yourself a deadline and plan to hit your target in the first week of your campaign. Then the party really starts after you hit your target. I also realized that the amount of your backers and sales orders really pick up after you hit your target.

My Kickstarter campaign can be accessed through here: www.parisanyc.net

What are your go-to resources for managing your business?
The SCORE network is my go-to resources for managing my business. SCORE has an impactful and resourceful board of business mentors who provide free advices and answers to my business questions and concerns. All the mentors on the board offer genuine, insightful and truthful suggestions to your business hoping that you would succeed. It is the best and free resources I found in the city. I couldn’t be more thankful and grateful for their time and support and highly recommend it to you. You can find out more about it here: https://www.score.org

Fast forward to July 2017, what would you like to be sharing about ParisaNYC?
Fast forward to July 2017, I will be designing for Love Affair 2018 Spring/Summer Collection. The design and development go from July to September and selling period goes from September to October. November to January will be production period and delivery to stores/customers afterwards.

I am also looking into opportunities to bring the Love Affair to Asia market and introduce a jewelry line in the near future.

Shout out time — this is your chance to highlight colleagues, collaborators and supporters.
First of all, big shout out to Tom Greenbaum from SCORE network for his genuine support and insightful suggestions to both the long-term and short-term planning for my business.

Secondly, I’d like to give a shout out to my incredible filmmaker Caleb Suttles for helping me with my film planning and making. Without his help and support, I wouldn’t be able to tell my story in the most vivid and effective way.

Last but not least, I’d like to thank all my backers and supporters to believe in my project and the mission of Love Affair to inspire courage and confidence. At ParisaNYC, we don’t believe in making handbags for mere functionality sake. We make them so that you can hold and showcase a tangible object of strength and beauty. With your support, we can continue to spread its message to support and uplift women of the world.

Thank you, Parisa.

You can stay connected with Parisa on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.

Launching a new biz or project?  Let’s talk!  
Happy Creating, Cultivating and Growing!


Julie Reif, Founder of The Blog Bar & Cardrella and Daville

the blog bar thursday interview

***The Thursday Interview is a showcase for creators, innovators, troublemakers,  business owners to share news and insight about the creative impetus and inspirations behind their latest project, launch or business.


Name: Julie Reif

Companies: The Blog Bar, Cardrella and Daville

Launch Date: August 19, 2015

Website:  The Blog Bar

Blog: 8Balloons.com

Motto: Hustle Beats Talent, Hustle Isn’t Defined By My Environment

I love all things digital but still take the time to send letters and cards just because so I can appreciate your love of all things paper.  Can you share the eureka moment (or moments) that inspired Cardrella and Daville and 8Balloons.com?
I was preparing to write a book at the time and I had writer’s block and needed to exercise my writing skills with something I loved. During 2009, blogs were becoming large and I had such an appreciation for them and wanted to have my own. So I started exercising my writing skills by writing about paper daily on my blog, 8Balloons.com. I then realized quickly this was very niche and I may be onto something. My blog continued to become larger and only a year ago did I decide to share my own designs. It was a small but yet successful project and fun!

What are three life lessons you’ve learned (so far) as a creative entrepreneur?
This is difficult to put into three lessons as I feel this a 24/7 way of life.

1)    There is no such thing as failure. I know this is cliche but really there is not. You should feel gratitude for the fact you are following your passions and having the opportunity to see the ups and downs of your passion projects. Most people don’t get to that level.

2) Gratitude. Always have gratitude. It changes the energy around you always.

3) My hustle isn’t defined by my environment. No matter if I am in New York City or the smallest suburb, I don’t let it hinder me or make or break me. There’s something called the internet and I work with as much as I have at my fingertips. Always have. Everyone can. So no matter if you’re waiting to make your dream come true by “getting out of wherever you are” There is always something you can be doing from where you are.

4) Hustle Universe Enterprise. These are the three words I live by. I find every avenue at my fingertips I can use to make what I am working on get one step farther. I always put it in the universe because positive vibes attract positive reactions and I always think enterprise (business) with everything I do. If anything that day does not fall into those three aspects, I don’t  do it.

Your motto is Hustle Beats Talent.  There’s gotta be a story behind that. Spill.
I don’t know if there is a story behind it, it’s just how I have always felt. In actuality, my motto is H.U.E. Hustle Universe Enterprise. I keep the hustle mentality for everything I do, I place it in the universe, and I always think enterprise. How can I make something bigger than myself, How can I make a product helpful to others. Talent is great, but you can’t rely on just that.

Share why you had to launch The Blog Bar.
I realized bloggers were missing so many online resources. We didn’t have a digital planner at our own fingertips and ironically most bloggers were still using pen and paper. As much as I am a fan of pen and paper, I wanted to give all bloggers access to the opportunity to have a planner that was dedicated to their needs. From there, I quickly learned we needed an online community to connect with other bloggers to not just collaborate with but to have a bigger network of like-minded individuals, and to share our content for others to discover and grow our influence.

What are your go-to resources for managing your businesses?
My needs right now are very technical and all about project management, so I have been using Asana, Google Documents, and Basecamp.

What’s on your weekly must read blog list?
I am a huge fan of Product Hunt and always find new products that not only help me but inspire me. I read the NY Times, Huffington Post, CNN. And throughout the day check out my TED app to learn as much as I can.

What’s next for The Blog Bar, Cardrella and Daville and 8Balloons.com?
The Blog Bar’s new launch is around the corner and I am as excited as Jessie Spano from Saved By The Bell for it! It will seriously change how we blog! Cardrella and Daville is finding its way into a few shops in NYC and Florida and can be found online. No new designs until the fall. As for 8Balloons.com, it is in full force with many amazing interviews with designers throughout the next few months with my fellow blog partner Andrea.

Shout-out time! This is your chance to spotlight your collaborators and community. Don’t be shy.
My network I collaborate with is extremely tight and also have become my best friends and family. They don’t all know each other as some work within greeting cards and others within the tech aspect, but they are familiar with each other and connected.

Diamond Donatello is one of the best greeting card designers there is and more importantly all around amazing artist. Her cards are pop culture and hip hop inspired and you may have seen them in stores like Urban Outfitters.

Andrea is my co-blogger on 8Balloons.com and she is well known for her 365 Days project, where she writes a beautiful card a day and shares her curation on Instagram, @dreyray. She has also created a stationery subscription company called qandaletterbox.com. Everyone I work with has created their own passion projects.

Andrea Grbavac is a close friend, great copy writer and my co-author on our book Blog Boss.

Britney of seamsandsprinkles.com She is a contributor to The Blog Bar and her blog is one of my favorite reads because of her positivity and did I mention all her baking recipes!

Ray of afewhungrygirls.com This girl has been a contributor to The Blog Bar since day 1 and I have loved seeing how far she has grown with her food and fitness blog and her business.

Stay connected with Julie on Instagram and The Blog Bar on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Photo via.

National Ice Cream Day is Sunday – Are you ready?


No? As an ice cream fanatic, I’m here to help.  Here are a few recommends to celebrate this most delightful occasion:

Wishing you much ice cream deliciousness!

*Sorbet is ice cream’s second cousin, right?

Launching a new biz or project?  Let’s talk!  
Happy Creating, Cultivating and Growing!


Jackie Summers, JackFromBrooklyn, Inc.

jack from brooklyn sorel

***The Thursday Interview is a showcase for creators, innovators, troublemakers,  business owners to share news and insight about the creative impetus and inspirations behind their latest project, launch or business.

At a casual Memorial Day bbq (thanks for hosting Sung!), longtime friend and baketender Kimberly Wetherell introduced me to Jackie ‘I make booze’ Summers.  That night, I discovered Jackie’s Sorel liqueur (I call it hibiscus heaven) and that he is a wonderful storyteller.  Keep reading to discover why he does what he does with wit, laughter and many libations.

Name: Jackie Summers

Occupation: I make booze

Company:  JackFromBrooklyn Inc.

Launch Date: May 14, 2012

Motto: Eendraght Maeckt Maght (Unity Makes Strength, the Brooklyn motto)

Theme Song: “Trouble Man”  by Marvin Gaye

How did Jackie Summers become Jack From Brooklyn?
Jack From Brooklyn predates my launching a liquor brand.

In the spring of 2010, I had a cancer scare. After months of suffering crippling sciatic pain, my doctor sent me for an MRI. “We think you have an ependymoma” he said. “Mmm…that can’t be right. That sounds like cancer” I replied. “It’s only cancer 95% of the time” he reassured me. When I asked why he phrased his statement “we think,” he confessed: because of the tumor’s location—inside my spine—biopsy wasn’t an option. All the MRI did was confirm that 85% of my nerve sheath was blocked—thus the searing sciatic pain.

“If you can’t do a biopsy, how do you remove it?” I asked. “Simple” he said. “We’re going to drill a hole in your spine. We’re going to slip your nerve sheath out through the hole, slice it open, and expose your spinal cord. Then we’re going to perform neurosurgery on your spinal cord—that’s what your tumor is tangled up in.” “This sounds pretty… invasive. What are my odds?” I asked. “You’ve got a 50% chance of partial paralysis” he said bluntly. “If it turns out you’ve got a malignant tumor in your lymphatic system… you’re looking at six months, tops. You should probably get your ‘paperwork’ in order.”

Faced with this scenario, I took the only steps that made any sense at the time. I consented to surgery, and then immediately made plans to go on vacation: nine friends, a beach house in Cancun, and shopping carts full of alcohol. One morning, before the sun had made its ascent over the Gulf of Mexico, and before any of my companions had risen from the booze-induced stupor of the night before, I grabbed a bottle of tequila, and treated myself to a sunrise walk along the beach–as I figured it might be my last–and a leisurely talk with Death. I don’t recall much of what Death had to say that morning. I do clearly remember looking into the lifeless hood of The Reaper, scythe in hand, and hearing him say the following: “Truthfully Jack, I don’t understand why this has you so shaken up. This is not the first time I’ve come for you. It’s just the first time you’re paying attention.”

As I stood in the operating room making small talk with the anesthesiologist, I recall being completely at peace. My time was done. My life had run its course, and whatever happened next was completely out of my control. As I prepared for my very talented team of doctors to splay me like a fish—expose my spinal cord and all of my nerves, like strings from the bow of a violin come undone—I recall feeling an uncanny sense of calm.

Six hours later, they wheeled my gurney into the recovery room, as I sang “Material Girl” at the top of my lungs. In an attempt to determine my level of cognizance, the recovery room nurse asked me if I knew my own name. “Lady GaGa” I shouted, without hesitation. When she patiently repeated the question, I corrected myself and calmly told her “I realize I’m not really Lady GaGa; I’m Madonna.” She asked me how I felt, and I burst out into a rousting chorus of “Like a Virgin.” With all the professionalism she could muster, she asked me if I had any weaknesses—a reasonable query to someone just coming out of spinal surgery. As I’d just had a bone removed from my spine, I actually had no feeling below my rib cage; I didn’t even know if I had feet. Without pause I responded “Chocolate, whiskey, and raven haired women.” And then I realized she was cute, so I composed myself, and put my hand on her arm. With tubes still up my nose and needles stuck into both arms, I made the dreamiest bedroom eyes a man still mostly under the influence of general anesthesia can make. “Just because I came out of surgery claiming to be Madonna and singing ‘Material Girl’” I declared with a wink “doesn’t mean I’m gay.”

The operation was a complete success. And the tumor (schwannoma) was benign.

I call what happened to me “the gift” because I was forced to confront the question most people spend their whole lives avoiding: if you knew for a fact that today was your last day on earth, what would you do? Would you call your mom? Go home and make love to your partner one last time? Play with your kids; toss a frisbee with your dog? Call up an old friend and settle an old feud? Punch someone in the face who really deserved it?

For me, the answer was clear: on my last day on earth, I want to sharing great conversation with interesting people, over delicious food and scrumptious libations. This led me to take a concoction I’d been brewing in my kitchen for almost two decades–sorrel–perfect a shelf stable version–Sorel–write a business plan, raise capital, and launch a distillery.

jack from brooklyn sorel bottle

When it came time to promote this new venture, I realized I didn’t have anywhere near the kind of capital required to solicit a decent PR agency. What I did have was a blog I was writing about my dating life, called F*cking in Brooklyn, under the name Jack From Brooklyn. At the time, the blog was receiving 500,000+ views a year, and not making a dime. It seemed to me that, people who liked reading about fucking, might like drinking as well. So I decided to capitalize on my significant social media following, and name my company after my blog.

And THAT is how JackFromBrooklyn Inc. was born.

How important is being a people person crucial to launching and building a liquor brand?
People skills are the most crucial skill in launching and building ANY brand. You may have a terrific concept for a product or service. You might have keen analytic skills, or a talent for logistics. Maybe you’re a ruthless negotiator. This is all very useful. And ultimately irrelevant. No matter how determined you believe yourself to be, success in entrepreneurship is dependent on your ability to form and cultivate quality relationships.

You will need help. Behind every successful startup are visionaries with the volition to turn dreams into reality. Behind them are the people who believe in them: their investors, their advisors, their vendors, their spouses, family, and friends. Without their support, their guidance, their faith in you, you cannot succeed.

It doesn’t matter how great your product is, or how well conceived your business plan. Yes, your financial projections have to be solid, and you must be able to demonstrate the ability to execute your grand designs, but at the end of the day, people do not invest their time, money, and access to their social networks in grandiose ideas.

People invest in people. People need to believe in you. People must want to help you. People have to want you to succeed as badly as you want to succeed.

jack from brooklyn hibiscus

How do you juggle making sorel, managing the business of making sorel and consulting without going a little bonkers?
This is the part where I’m supposed to say: if you love what you do, it isn’t work. That’s bullshit, and anyone who tells you different is lying. I’ve kept 16 hour days, 7 days a week, for months on end. I work harder now than I ever did when I was working for someone else. What keeps you going isn’t love, it’s choice. You can fall deeply in love with someone, but you still have to wake up every morning and choose that person. This is why I say: going crazy is easy; staying there takes real commitment. Once you accept this, juggling everything required of entrepreneurship is still far saner than sitting in a cubicle.  

jack from brooklyn product line

What news would you like to be sharing about Jack From Brooklyn next year?
No spoilers! You have to wait for the after-credits scene to find out. Stick around, I guarantee it will be entertaining.

This is your chance to shout out to mentors, colleagues and supporters who helped Jack From Brooklyn make it to year four.  Go.
Arthur Shapiro, my Booze-Business Bookend. Lori Edelman, my Social Media Director. Summer Lee, my VP, and the most ethical person in the entire liquor industry. Too many bartenders, distillers, writers to name.

If you are Sorel fan, good.  If you have not indulged, change that.  It is delicious. I cannot wait to make a Strawberry Sorel milkshake.  You can follow Jack From Brooklyn on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

This post has been lightly edited with love.

Launching a new biz or project?  Let’s talk!  
Happy Creating, Cultivating and Growing!