Life Lessons from Coffee: You Get What you Pay For

After nine years of trusty service, my coffee maker broke. Its inevitable demise was so anti-climatic. I filled it up with water, lined the basket with a paper filter, scooped in the grounds, pressed the button, and waited…and waited. Nothing. I tried unplugging and replugging it in another outlet, pressed the button, and more nothing. Since I’m kind of addicted to my morning fix and frugal, I both wanted my coffee and didn’t want to let good, locally roasted ground coffee (not freshly ground that morning) to go to waste. Being an avid tea drinker as well, I decided to let my coffee steep like so.

mama O making coffee when her coffee maker broke.

Boiling water over coffee filter that’s chip-clipped to a measuring cup. Genius, right?!

This was effective, but not the same experience as my regular old coffee maker. One friend suggested the “pour over” method. I was once served coffee this way in a nice, local coffee shop, though they used specific equipment for this method, instead of my plastic funnel. This video from America’s Test Kitchen breaks it down:

The results: amazing! It takes some time, but the quality and taste was excellent. I compared this with a cup of coffee from the grocery store that I bought on an early A.M. run to the store for a few things. The results were telling, in more ways that one. Here’s what I found in the bottom of the cup:

Grounds in my grocery store coffee

Not “clouds in my coffee” but grounds. Yuck.

It’s no surprise that grocery store coffee is lacking in quality and taste compared to the carefully brewed at home pour-over method, Starbucks, or any local coffee shop. This was a great reminder that you truly do get what you pay for. Be it money, time, convenience, or the overall experience, there is a definite price / value relationship.

Lesson Learned – don’t buy cheap coffee! I also just replaced my defunct coffee maker with a beautiful new Cuisinart one. My first cup this morning was delicious! I’ll stick with my new machine and from time to time the “pour-over” method in my house.

My Venture into Direct Sales

As I had mentioned way back in September in my Fly on the Wall post, I started my own business as an independent representative of an all-natural foods company.  This is a direct selling gig – something that I thought I wouldn’t ever do! You never know what twists & turns life will take, so the old adage, “never say never” certainly holds true.

According to the Direct Selling Association (of which my company is a member), more than 16 million independent reps in the U.S. alone are part of a $30 billion dollar industry!  That’s a lot of home parties and individuals selling to their own networks! Wow!

How I Decided to Sell

I was first introduced to Wildtree through my sister, who invited me to attend a friend’s freezer meal workshop. At first I wasn’t sure what I was in for – it can be intimidating to buy groceries for 10 meals, do the prep, and haul your cooler to a friend’s house.  For the cost of the workshop, I had 7 Wildtree products waiting for me at the workshop to measure & add to each individual bag, according to the recipe instructions.  I stood next to my sister, had some wine, and chatted away with the other guest while we prepped our meals.  It was a lot of fun, not to mention productive.

Wildtree Freezer Meal Workshop

This is what a freezer meal workshop looks like!

After enjoying the 10 Wildtree Freezer Meals I had prepped the night of the workshop, I would do another workshop a few weeks later. It was a grilling workshop that included a Hickory Smoke Grapeseed oil and a Rancher Steak Rub seasoning blend.  I think it was these two ingredients that made me fall in love with Wildtree!  I’ve never had such delicious steaks before!!  Each meal felt like restaurant quality foods, making me feel like such a rockstar in the kitchen!

Plus, being the main cook in our house, I was tired of making the same things over and over again and wanted quick, easy dinners after my days at work or fun-filled summer days at home with my kids. The freezer meals were the ideal solution for my family!

When faced with attending another freezer meal workshop, or becoming a rep myself, I ultimately decided to pay for the $49.95 for the starter kit (plus shipping), and go for it back in August!

The IDEAL Job (especially for Busy Moms)

I’m excited to share the freezer meal planning concept and amazing, all-natural Wildtree products with my network on a schedule that I set on my own. The flexibility of my Wildtree business fits in so nicely with my current part-time job, while still giving me time at home with my 3 year old and older daughter who is in 4K half-days. It’s a perfect job where I’m completely in control! I think this is why so many moms are attracted to direct sales.  You can determine when you work, booking parties, or in my case tastings or freezer meal workshops when it’s convenient.  As with any job, you get out what you put in, so I do need to be disciplined to keep my business going. Ideally, I am targeting to have three to four parties a month to give me enough time to balance our family’s activities.  It’s been a lot of fun promoting and selling products I love!

Wildtree 8 Pack of Seasonings

Here’s an 8 Pack Sampler that was included in the Starter Kit.

More about Wildtree 

Wildtree is an all-natural food company that focuses on quick, easy, healthy dinners. Their all-natural products do not contain preservatives, dyes, fillers, GMO, MSG or high fructose corn syrup. Many products are organic certified too.  Most important of all in my book is the amazing taste! For more about the company & its history, click here.

Hosting Parties

In addition to helping my contacts host parties, I have been a recent host for my friend’s new Stella & Dot venture (also a mom looking for a flexible work arrangement). As with any direct sales business, it pays off to be a host because you can earn free products!  I also like the added benefit of motivation to clean up my house when people come over.  I’m definitely a people person, and I love a reason to bring friends and family together. It IS a lot of fun combining friends from all different areas of your life!

I had never really done a jewelry/accessory party before, but it was a huge hit! I loved being able to try on the items and the chance to catch up with friends over drinks & food. I’m excited to choose my accessories and do some holiday shopping with my host credit!

What are your favorite direct sales or home party-type businesses? Have you heard of Wildtree before?

If you want more info about my Wildtree business, please email me at gomamao AT gmail (dot) com.

Three Cheers for Small Business!

In honor of National Small Business Week, I wanted to acknowledge and share what working at a small business means to me.  According to U.S. Small Business Administration:

“More than half of Americans either own or work for a small business, and they create about two out of every three new jobs in the U.S. each year.”

Chances are YOU are impacted by small businesses in your own life too.  Without further ado, here are three cheers for my small business employer:

Cheer #1 – My small business offers FLEXIBILITY!

This is so important for me, as I juggle raising my 2 and 4 year old children, while still being able to work part-time at a fulfilling and interesting marketing job.  It took some time to find this job, as I wrote about last year, but I am so pleased that it has been such a good fit.  I write more about my search and journey in this post.

Cheer #2 – My small business Lacks Red Tape!

I talked about having to adjust my full-time and larger, corporate mindset to fit my part-time role and small business in transition back to work. With a lot of careful prioritization and planning (and fewer approvals), I am amazed at how much that can be accomplished in a limited amount of time. It feels good to go into work and really tackle my “must-do-today” list.  I feel a sense of accomplishment checking things off that list each day.

In terms of “red tape,” one story best sums up the larger corporate experience vs. a small business (and when I say small, I mean five total employees – full and part-time – small):

I was planning our big annual customer event and required a check for down payment on our event space.  I asked my boss about the check request procedure. He replied,”Okay, how much to you need, and how should I write it out?”  In less than 5 minutes, the completed check was on my desk.  Done and Done! Love that!

Cheers #3 – My small business provides OPPORTUNITY!

In previous marketing roles I have always been a member of the marketing department.  Sometimes my title included the term manager, but I was never in charge of the big picture.  In my current role, I am a solo marketer. I am in charge of coming up with overall strategy and plans and implementing them down to the very last detail.  I do it all – wearing many hats – as all small business employees must do!

When I started this job over a year ago, I often shared my concern with my boss that I was accustomed to bouncing ideas off of other people much more (instead of just my boss and the two-person sales team).  He admitted that when he first started the business nine years ago, when it was just him, that he struggled with that aspect too. In time he learned to simply do his research, trust his gut, and forge ahead.  This attitude has given me more confidence to trust my instincts and efficiently move projects forward. It’s rewarding to see your work in action and measure results more easily (at times) when compared to larger organizations.

How do you root for small businesses?

Related Posts:

Shop Small. Buy Local. Do Good. – This post is from The Do Gooder Mama, who is recently back from a blogging-break. Do check out her blog for inspiration and awesomeness!

Social Media, You Confound Me!

Is anyone else a little frustrated by social media?

In the age of social media, we’re supposed to be more connected to acquaintances, friends, family, and other virtual friends, not to mention projects, recipes, brands, and companies.  A simple LIKE, PIN, or TWEET can easily be shared across your network and bring people together, right?

My most frequent social media notification on my phone is from Pinterest.  More often than not, I am notified that someone has repinned my pin pictured below:

Most re-pinned pin of mine

Most re-pinned pin of mine

It’s from a site I found when I first joined Pinterest (see my boards here).  I pinned it to my board called: Cool, but not sure when I will do this.  Based on this board, it’s no surprise that I HAVEN’T DONE THIS PROJECT.  I have not taken the time to save tin cans, cover them in cute scrapbook paper, and build a game for ANY party or just a rainy day.  Sorry pinners, I cannot attest to the ease or functionality of this project.

As for other social media networks, the Facebook newsfeed changes have affected what we see and how businesses are seen.  I came across the April 10th article Facebook Frustration by Katie McKissick shared by a friend on Facebook.  She writes:

“Facebook will start to roll out a new algorithm that will stifle Pages’ organic reach to a mere 1-2% of its established audience unless, of course, you pay to reach the rest of them.”

Since I also have responsibility for social media at my part-time job, I also notice limited engagement from our business posts.  We currently do not “pay to play,” thus limiting our reach to only a small percentage of our followers.  As a result, with such small numbers, it’s difficult to tell with any confidence what content is more effective than others. Certainly pictures perform better than just text only updates; this much I know is true. However, it brings me back to my original image of tin cans. HOW is that so popular? Was I just an early adopter of Pinterest who originated that pin? What makes one post so popular and others just so-so?

Whether professionally or personally, you want SOME response from the content you share. It is a form of validation. I don’t want to feel like I’m shouting to followers or having a one-way conversation.

Like, comment if you so desire…anything…Bueller? Bueller?  Anyone?

Shopping Victory – One Awesome Pricing Strategy

I have been saving a receipt for almost ONE entire year. Being the bargain shopper that I am, this Kohl’s receipt is a sign of my finest shopping victory. Just look at the Total Saved below:

Receipt from Kohl's from saving a LOT of money in one trip

Super Shopping Savings!

That’s right – I spent $50.45 and SAVED $253.98! I mostly purchased winter clearance girls’ clothing with some pieces costing around $1.00 after using my 30% off coupon and Kohl’s charge. I even earned $10 Kohl’s cash to spend on another visit to the store, only adding to my savings.

This pricing strategy is genius.

It feeds into my own thrill of saving and bargain hunting and encourages me to return to the store with additional offers (Kohl’s Cash) and other savings events throughout the year for Kohl’s credit cardholders. I had another receipt where I also surpassed the $200 level in total amount saved – also from around this same time last year.

I enjoy receiving the coupons every two months or so, when I have to peel of the sticker to reveal my savings.  It’s like a lottery ticket, except my cash is going to Kohl’s when I shop there!  This plays nicely into their tagline, “It’s like getting paid to shop.”

Their marketing strategy is a bulls-eye with me, and it’s no surprise, as Kohl’s caters to the middle of the market (it is not an upscale department store nor a mass merchandiser), making money-savvy moms a main target market.  I’ve remained a loyal customer for many years and am planning a return trip with my newly received 20% off savings coupon.

Disclaimer: these views are purely my own and no cash was received to write this post.  To clarify, no monies have EVER been received for writing Go Mama O.

Do you have a favorite store that really does a great job on promotion?  Are you a coupon-cutter, bargain hunter too?  Nothing beats the winter blahs for me like bargain hunting every so often.  Stay warm & shop online as needed!  Cheers!