Taking The Leap

Taking The Leap! An Interview With Leesa Zelken of Send In The Clowns

"It is more than a business for me: it is my calling and my life’s work."

Leesa Zelken, CEO (as she says, Clever Entertainment Organizer TM) of Send In The Clowns, is no less than a force to be reckoned with. Speaking to her about her company, where she started, what her process has been and what she provides for each and every joyous 'kid-centric' event - that she amplifies to the nth degree with beautiful, creative, fresh, unique, enchanting and sensational touches, no less - is like speaking to Mr. Rogers and what he set forth to create for children and learning.

I was lucky enough to work for this incredible woman several years ago as a party performer, and to this day, I proclaim her as being at the top of the list of best bosses anyone could ever work for. Not only did I get to create magic for children all over Los Angeles in the most beautiful costumes with the most epic props and games bringing her imagination to life, but she was incredibly supportive of my path (and still is to this day), extremely generous and always had my back. Needless to say, I can guarantee you each of her employees and performers could say the same about her, and because of that, we had her back with every twist and turn of a balloon animal and shake of a magic wand.

From epic celebrity celebrations to having me perform for children at a homeless shelter, Leesa's heart and creativity knows no bounds - read on for this magical human beings rise to being the leader in her field for 27 years, thus far...

This is Leesa Zelken.. to a T

This is Leesa Zelken.. to a T

After having moved to Los Angeles in 1989 to pursue a career in acting (and landing very notable co-star TV roles on shows such as Friends, Seinfeld, and Curb Your Enthusiasm, to name a few), Leesa found herself performing for a friend's child's birthday party completely by chance and it landed her on what she calls the "party career trajectory." As the Universe always works, she was beginning to bubble on needing a career that could provide the 'rush' that she would get from acting and performance, as well as something that allowed for more control, not one of the highlight benefits of an acting career. "I donned a clown suit and performed a fun routine of activities I devised (...) I was the original “clowns are not scary" clown. It was a big hit, I was a natural, and extremely inspired and excited to find a perfect blend of performing and money making. I immediately saw this as an opportunity to start a business, came up with a catchy name, and learned the “tricks of the trade,” such as balloon making and face painting to get the ball rolling on these very basic beginnings of my business."

And so it began...

Jessie: What were the steps you took leading up to taking the leap into your business? How long was this period?

Leesa: In the beginning, I recognized that getting my name out there was the biggest goal. Keep in mind this was 1990/1991, long before social media existed. It was “old school” pound the pavement, pick up the phone approach. I knew I was onto something, but needed opportunities to create interest and word of mouth, which would lead to getting hired and getting paid…oh, yes, getting paid. So, along with my new balloon making and face painting skills (did I mention that I was a “natural” at those, too?) I reached out to local fair and festival coordinators, (was met with a few “no’s” but many welcoming “yes’s”) offering my services for free in exchange for being able to pass out my business card. Immediately, I booked jobs, created cash flow, and took the early steps to establishing my business.

J: When did you know it was time to take the leap full time into SITC? Had you set a specific date? Or did you follow a feeling?

L: Very quickly the interest in me, my business, and what I had to offer caught on. Clients were reaching out, along with their friends, and their friends. I was one of the few people offering services such as mine, and the demand was high. I was honing my “show” adding more services to it, and working non-stop weekend after weekend. I was good at what I did, but there was only one of me. It became very clear, very soon, that I needed to train and hire equally enthusiastic people to do what it was that I did, and this was probably the moment that my labor of love turned into a full time gig. (...) I didn’t follow a predictable path for starting a business. I had no business plan, no forethought into “starting something.” I just stumbled into what I did and learned literally everything I know and have expertise in by doing it day to day (...) Along the way, I learned some things about myself and life and others that added to my success: refrain from saying no to things that simply seem scary but say no to things that seem amiss (<--- Jumping in here to point out that Leesa has refrained from saying no when things seem simply scary because those are thoughts of her own making that are pointless to believe and could keep her frozen, as fearful thoughts do to so many! And saying no when things seem amiss? That's following her wisdom, her gut instinct, which is ALWAYS right. Carry on...), reach out to others for help and support, feast or famine is the way of business and both are necessary and good, have fun in whatever you do.

J: Did you ever have doubts or fears in the beginning?

L: In the beginning I was quite fearless. The quick success, easy money, and—I’ll say it again—“the control” were all exhilarating. I always felt like a rock star, either as a performer or as a party planner. I provided a service for people for a happy occasion and the vibe around what I did and what I offered was pretty positive. I always had cash flow, because of the way in which the operations of my business run, and there was always a confidence in making money and securing clients. In the more recent years, there has been more competition, more changes with social media, and more skepticism on the part of clients, due to financial constraints and just the changing nature of the world, and these things have me more doubtful and fearful as a business owner, at times.

J: Did you have an investor?

L: Nope. Nada. Never. No investor. I only pay for what I can afford when I can afford it. That has always been my approach. If you are running a business at a deficit you are running a business in fear-mode and clients feel that. I run my business in abundance, and that infuses my interactions with clients and staff. (<-- I love this. When we are moving through life in fear-mode that others feel? That is believing our thinking that makes us feel desperate and I can tell you with all of me that the Universe does not respond to desperate energy... ever. She's right on the money).

J: Do you ever have fears to this day? What do they feel like and how do you manage them? What makes you peaceful in these moments?

L: I am very lucky that for the past 27 years I have flourished in my business. I have an 18 year old daughter, headed to Barnard College at Columbia University, and I have been fortunate to run and grown a successful business for all these years, while partaking thoroughly in my “mom-life.” My business has brought me great peace and balance, when the craziness of parenting sets in, and my parenting of a daughter has been more robust because of the role model I have been for her, as I have devoted myself to my work that I love and from which I attain great pride and joy. I think that for me, having one without the other (parenting/business owning) might feel empty, but having both fulfills me in ways that allay all fears and allow for more peace.

J: How do you mentally manage the waves of business that are inevitable?

L: I get pro-active when things seem out of control. I think it is important to not wallow in the dips and bumps in business, but find outlets for revamping, refreshing, and reinventing. Plus, exercise is a great right brain/left brain “workout” and very rejuvenating when I need to step away from “all things party” and give myself a brain break or a kick-start. Thank you, Spin Class, and Pilates for providing great outlets to my work detours and plateaus! (<-- Also, what happens when we work out? We're left feeling more peaceful. When we're peaceful, we naturally make room for fresh, creative thinking to solve a problem, move us forward, or give us fun new ideas!)

J: Any crazy stories to share?

L: In the kiddie party business there is no shortage of crazy stories: like the time we were asked to deliver elephants to an event with just 3 days notice (the elephants were all booked up, but we did manage 2 camels, a giraffe, and a zebra), or the time that our Dorothy character showed up to an event missing one ruby slipper, but managed to find a pair 2 sizes too small on the wicked witch prop for temporary use (her feet, oy—her poor feet!), or the times (yes times) some of our party princesses had to pull off to the side of the FREEWAY with a broken down car in full princess ATTIRE!, and on and on…. Bottom Line: we have a CAN-DO attitude no matter what the “crazy."

J: Any advice for people who are considering taking the leap into their own business?

L: Well, since I didn’t “leap” but “sashayed”, I would probably recommend the latter. Seriously, just love what you do and the rest really does seem to follow. Dive in because of a passion you have, and stay true to your goals. Honor those around you who help you grow and lend support to your business, monetarily and otherwise. Act with integrity and believe in the fact that there is plenty to go around.

J: Any final thoughts you’d like to share?

L: Yes. I most especially want to share this one aspect of my business that I never could have predicted, and something that specifically speaks to my relationship with you, Jessie. I have often said, over the years, “I am only as good as the people I have representing me”, and this adage has really been the cornerstone of my business success. I have been fortunate enough to gather and hire amazing staff, and colleagues to be a conduit to many of my clients. Business owners often talk about how “hiring” and “maintaining” great staff is the hardest part of managing a business. For me, this has never been the case. Not only have my staff over the years astounded me with their commitment, energy, and creativity, but many have become dear friends of mine, and of each other. I have seen these dear friends get married, have babies, and find other fulfilling businesses and careers, and many have remarked how SITC has influenced them in some way or another in these endeavors. Not only can I revel in the accomplishment of a great business with great clients, but moreover I can feel deep gratitude for the people of SITC who helped create this well-oiled party machine.

As Leesa said, Send In The Clowns has absolutely influenced me in braving the world of entrepreneurship, but not in the way you might think. Like the rest of my work and what I share with you all, the feeling Leesa left with me after graduating from her company is what stays with me to this day. Having a boss I admired and respected, standing in her purpose and seeing the strength and joy that came from that is what will always provide a touchstone example for me for the rest of my days. My dear colleagues Molly and Heather wholeheartedly agree and jumped at the opportunity to share their love for Leesa...

From Heather: "What I've always appreciated about Leesa, and found so inspiring, is how she puts her whole heart into each event we do. Whether it's a new client or a repeat, she puts all of herself into the creative effort to make sure each party is fun, flawless and unique for that family. There is never any question about how much she cares about her business and the care and effort that goes into each party."

From Molly: "One of my favorite things about working for Leesa was how appreciative she was about a job well done. You could tell she meant every word and it was incredibly motivating to feel so valued as a team member. I've worked in many industries and it has always stuck out to me how much Leesa recognized and made you feel appreciated for your work. I also loved/love how Leesa really enjoys creating and imagining party concepts from thin air. You can tell it brings her true creative joy and isn't just a job or career or company to her. It's genuine fulfillment and it's such a beautiful thing to see."

Finally, a true testament to what it is like to stand in your purpose and allow wisdom to continue to guide you and allow life to unfold in front of you. Leesa's final sentiment when talking about her beloved company: "I have nurtured it, cared for it, struggled with it, and honored it, much as a parent does with a child. Moreover, I have trusted Send In The Clowns to lead the way, growing and developing at just the right times, maturing and leading when called upon to do so, pausing and re-inventing when necessary."

Thank you, Leesa, for being one of my, and so many others, greatest teachers by standing in your purpose, following your wisdom, and letting life pull you forward. What a gift to us all!

All my love and see you next week,

Jessie

Curious about all that Send In The Clowns has to offer? Check out their WEBSITE or INSTAGRAM

Taking The Leap! An Interview With Valerie Mya Of On The Go Glow

"My decisions didn’t come from business textbooks, they fully came from my gut. The feeling was freeing, I just knew when things felt right."

This coming from the woman who has found herself CEO of an incredibly successful spray tanning business making everyday women and men feel like their most confidant selves, as well as A-list celebrities like Courtney Cox, Kristen Bell or best friend and Agents of Shield star Elizabeth Henstridge, get red carpet ready.

I met with Valerie Mya over lunch on a beautiful sunny day in Los Angeles, where it seemed the flowers and breeze knew we were getting to know each other for the first time. The patio was filled with a beautiful energy that most certainly reflected the light inside both of us that couldn't be more excited to share our histories. At the time, Valerie and I had met in a class and she had casually mentioned what she did for work. Little did I know till we had our lunch that this pixie-sized beauty was a badass boss. When she went on to share with me more about how she got to where she did, without any hesitation my wisdom jumped out of me and asked for this interview because she is an inspiration through and through. If you have ever had ANY hesitation to take the leap into a career, whether starting your own business or shifting gears into a new industry or company, and the only thing that holds you back is the idea that you don't have all your ducks in a row or know-how, read on for proof that passion, purpose and gut instinct is all you need.

Valerie Mya/Dana Patrick photography

Valerie Mya/Dana Patrick photography

Jessie: Did you know while you were growing up that you wanted to run your own business one day? If not, what did you have dreams of doing?
Valerie: As a kid/young adult I was never great at school. I had more of the creative brain - I was into dancing and acting. But the way schooling was set up didn’t really fit me, I almost failed high school. So no, I didn’t think owning my own business was a possibility. That was until I realized I was smart, I just had another way of learning (LOVE that!) Having this business has definitely helped me see myself in another light, and made me realize there are all different kinds of “smart.”
J: What was the moment that it hit you to start this business? What was the first insight and where were you?
V: As I mentioned earlier, I was into the performing arts, so when I moved from New York City to LA I needed a part time job in between the acting struggles. I worked at a few tanning salons as the main spray tan technician. I realized people requested me all the time; I didn’t really know then, but I believe I had a “thing” for making people feel comfortable - I loved making people feel good about themselves. Being a very independent type of person (I moved to NYC at age 14 on my own), I knew working for myself would be ideal. The idea of bringing this service to people just came to me (<--- WISDOM!), and I knew LA people love convenience, so I started it casually on the side not knowing if it was going to take off.
J: What did it FEEL like when you had that first gut pull?
V: People always say it’s so impressive to start a company but in a way, it always felt easy. I didn’t over think things and I just went with my gut with every decision I made. Listening to my gut made it feel as easy as brushing your teeth. Don’t get me wrong, the manual labor was hard and I had a lot of very long days/nights but when it came to making decisions, at the beginning and through out, it always felt easy.

Side note! Because Valerie didn't have pressure-filled thinking around needing to make this venture successful, she stayed out of her own way and was much more peaceful in allowing the steps to unfold in front of her and tap into her wisdom. This is absolutely possible for YOU, it just takes the simple understanding that your thoughts are the only thing getting in your way and making you believe you can't be successful. Carry on...

J: What were the first steps you took?
V: Because I started this business as kind of a side hobby at first, I started very basic. I got equipment, an email account and started spreading the word through word of mouth. After getting some routine clients under my belt I signed up for Yelp, and because I was the only company open 24/7, we were the only spray tan company to come up during late night searches. Yes, we really are open 24/7, you can get a spray tan at 2 in the morning (and yes, it happens). That really is what helped make On The Go Glow different than others and get the name out.
V (cont'd): I put in the blood sweat and tears at the beginning. From designing the website, to managing the phone calls, to spraying etc, I did it all. Being open 24/7 there was no “we are closed,” so whenever a spray came in, I stopped what I was doing and I showed up - I did that for about 3-4 years. I remember spraying from 8am to 9pm, sitting down to eat dinner and the phone ringing for another spray at 10pm. By that point I knew I needed to start hiring. (9 employees later, I think that was good idea!)
J: Did you ever have doubts at the beginning and do you ever have doubts or fears now? What makes you peaceful in those moments?

V: Honestly, at the beginning I didn’t have doubts, because it felt kind of like a small hobby. Don’t get me wrong though, once it took off and I realized “Wow, okay, this is a full blown business,” I had a moment of “Can I do this?” Like I mentioned before, school wasn’t my thing and I didn’t go to business school. But when the doubts hit me, I realized I was already doing it, I already owned a business, I just had to keep trusting myself and not over think anything. As for now? Sure! Doubts and fears always creep in. As the business grows, so many things have to change within the business, and the thought can creep up “Do I know what I am doing?” When I do have doubts and fears I always remember all the clients that keep coming back, all my employees that feel like family and who express loving working for OTGG. Everyone involved calms me and the proof of succeeding is all around me, within them and in what I have built. As scary as it can be, it’s also very exciting to see OTGG grow.

J: What do you feel your company does for people and what do you offer?

V: Whenever I hire someone I say the most important thing I care about (besides epic spray tans) is that the client feels 100% comfortable. I believe OTGG gives people a safe place to “bare it all” and look and feel amazing after. We see all walks of life and I really think we make sure everyone feels comfortable in their own skin. It's a boost of confidence that we spray - we love spreading self-love. We offer long lasting incredible spray tans that don't smell, we believe in using only healthy products on your body, so we have our own organic solution - and all in the comfort of someone’s home or hotel room (or anywhere really) 24/7. 

J: Have any crazy stories to share?

V: We have a lot of crazy stories! From those very late 2am calls, to getting so close with clients that we go through marriages, divorces, and deaths with them; Spray tanning someone with cancer and having her cry after because she said she hadn’t felt so good in a long time. I have a huge list of stories, that honestly has changed my life. I am currently writing a book that will have a bunch of funny and heart touching stories and explaining the amazing connection strangers can have while "baring it all."

What is becoming a theme of my interviews with these superstar Taking The Leap entrepreneurs, is that they didn't allow any momentary doubtful or fearful thinking get in the way of them and their unfolding reality. That's it. So if you're sensing a flicker of curiosity within you to explore something new whether in work, career or relationships, I encourage you to follow it, because your thoughts (and your feelings coming from those thoughts) are the only thing getting in your way.

To close, I'll leave you with two pieces of solid advice from Valerie...

I have noticed, this year, once I took the fear of “not having money" or “will the appointments keep getting booked” away, the company really took off again. Taking away the fear (Ahem... not believing those thoughts!) has allowed the business to really flourish. Just like at the beginning when I wasn’t over thinking it.

As for taking the leap?

Do it, take the leap. Know that it may be hard work and very scary at first, but it will be well worth it. Trust your gut. If something feels wrong, don’t do it (even if the business textbooks say to). I really didn’t follow any business plan I just went with what felt right. I had a lot of people telling me “you should do this - you should do that,” but most of the time I didn’t listen. Tune into yourself, listen and trust.

TUNE INTO YOURSELF, LISTEN AND TRUST. Amen, sister.

All my love, see you next week~

Jessie

An On The Go Glow technician can be booked in the Los Angeles or Las Vegas areas via their website at www.onthegoglowmobile.com

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Taking The Leap! An Interview With Aida Bernal Of Spellbound Entertainment

"What I do isn't just help people get jobs, I'm helping people's dreams come true. That's something that I honor and take very seriously."

This from the mouth of the woman who my best friend and client of Aida, Natalia Cordova-Buckley, calls Mama Shark. The woman knows the entertainment business like the back of her hand (her experience in the industry is mind blowing), she's incredibly passionate about her work and her clients, and has a heart bigger than the size of Texas.

I first met Aida a few years back through Natalia when she joined Natalia's efforts to spearhead the industry in Hollywood. Natalia's intention was to eclipse the overtly sexualized stereotypical roles that the industry so quickly throws Mexican women in, which in regards to the culture of Hollywood, can unfortunately be no small feat. I remember being in awe of the team they had created; They were on a mission, hand-in-hand, to find roles that represented a strong and empowered Latina. With pitch after pitch, Aida was getting Natalia in rooms that took her talent and intention seriously. Cut to Natalia most recently wrapping season 5 as the first Latina superhero on television (or any other medium, for that matter) on Marvel's Agents of Shield, I would say this team has broken through a glass ceiling.

This is Aida. This is her mission for each and every one of her clients.

Photography by Cammy Kinney

Photography by Cammy Kinney

So how did Aida get to the point of Taking The Leap into becoming manager extraordinaire? "Since I was young, working at the cash register at my parents store, I knew I would have my own thing. I didn't know what exactly, but I had the feeling." I can detect a deep sense of appreciation she has towards her parents for modeling what it looked like to be an entrepreneur, having their own store on the historic Olvera Street in Los Angeles. The love they shared between each other and for their business started the fire, and as she grew older, she knew she wanted to work in entertainment and work with artists.

When her first entertainment job as a stylist's assistant got her to music video sets, her fire grew bigger and the vision started to narrow. Every single job that followed, she says, led her to where she is today (be prepared for this killer resume): Queen Latifah's music management company Flavor Unit/West Coast (this wet her taste buds for management), MCA Records (where she heard the advice of a lifetime from an A&R executive, "Look at this like college - you're getting paid to learn. When you leave here you'll know what you want and what you don't want"), then finally, several years at the production company for one of the superstars of our generation, Jennifer Lopez.

As I experienced myself, taking the leap from a regular job to work for yourself is a spiritual experience. After collecting information and insights, the wisdom bubbles up out of no where that it's time to leap, and for Aida, though she considered herself a linear person who would have things more planned out (SAME HERE), the insight smacked her upside the head in the shower one day that it was time to go and she had to listen. It was time for her to step two feet into her own company...

Aida: I had friends and acquaintances tell me I was crazy, but when you know, you know! If I can share one thing with the world that I learned from that process: We need to be better supporters of each other. If someone is telling you their ideas for a big move in their life, whether it be writing a cook book or going out on their own in business, it is your job as the listener to empower them instead of fueling the embers of fear. You don't know where they are in their process - you don't know where on the ladder they are. If they're further down the line and are grounded, then it may not matter, but if they're a baby chick beginning to hatch and you come at them with your 'logical' fearful thoughts, you've just crushed their spirit.

AMEN, sister! Speaking to Aida about her work now, you can feel every bit is coming from her guts. Her passion is immense and so inspiring.

Aida: I feel very blessed to be able to run my own company, work from my gut, my intuition, and though I've always done that in every entertainment job I've had, being on my own, there's no politics or bureaucracy between me and the client or potential client.

Jessie: You're able to run your business from your wisdom, no holds barred! The core of your business, the ground that you stand on, because you choose people from that heart connection, from that gut instinct, it's inevitable for everything to blossom - from your clients careers to your career as a manager/producer. I feel like you can see the potential in your clients before they can see it for themselves.

A: Yes! It's all about listening to their story, listening to their history. When they demonstrate their drive and passion for whatever it is they want to do, that's what makes me engage. Those are the kind of people I look to work with, the ones that inspire me. Not just because they're great actors, but because they're good people going after their dreams. It's really not that complicated, it's really quite simple.

J: Do you find yourself getting emotionally invested in your clients since you're so involved in the day to day of their dreams?

A: I can't manage at a distance. I've been told by industry and non-industry people that you shouldn't become too attached to your clients because this business is brutal, this business is ruthless - I didn't get into this business to have that mentality. I came into this business for the love of what I do and the passion for seeing something through from beginning to end.

J: I can see the connection here to your music days.

A: Yes, very similar to A&R (Artists and Repertoire) in the music business. They sign the band then see them all the way through. The recording, the marketing, the release of the album, the music video - there's all this process that happens before that act becomes what they become. For me with talent management, because I've done some developing (which a lot of reps don't want to do), I will meet with someone and when there's that spark on a human to human basis, and the cherry on top is that they happen to be brilliant artists, to me, that's what matters. You sign the human being behind the actor. For me, it's not just about these really talented people, it's about having a real, personal connection.

A: (cont'd) When it comes to the relationship, I'm the one that has to process the 'no' before I speak to my client. It can be difficult especially when it has nothing to do with my client. I have to make sure I'm in a place where I can deliver that info so it can be received well. There are times where I've had to deliver three 'no's' in one day, and that's just a fragment of my day (due to meetings, submissions, pitches, etc), but then there's times I get to deliver three 'yes's' - I have to be ready for all of it. I deal with the highest of the highs and the lowest of the lows. Learning how to manage the lows is the real key because being an artist is one of the most vulnerable things you can be. I'm known to be protective of my clients because when you're putting your artistry out there, everyone is going to judge (especially in the age of social media), there's no way of getting around that. So it's so important that those of us who work with talent whether it's agents, managers, publicists, even attorneys - to have that in the back of our brain. Knowing when you need more heart and less business.

Whew! What an incredible human, and what an advocate to have on your side as an artist on this roller coaster of an industry. What I love most about Aida's story is that she has literally followed her wisdom her entire career. Through each endeavor, without hesitation, she did the work, managed the ups and downs and moved on to the next step when her insides prompted her to. Now, I'm sure she would agree that she's human and every twist and turn felt overwhelming at times, but in hindsight, she was being guided from the inside-out. As she said, she is very blessed to be able to run her own company. From my perspective, because of her bravery and surrender to the process, even if she wasn't fully aware of the magic at the time, is why she is where she is. And guess what? Whether you're in the industry or just trying to figure out your next step in life, know that you can have a journey like Aida's the moment you choose to. The answer is inside, just allow it to bubble and it'll smack you upside the head in the shower one day too, I guarantee it.

Aida wanted to share some parting advice for incoming artists:

Do everything you can to be the best artist you can be, {hone your craft} as a musician, painter, actor, etc because that is all YOU. {And YOU are who the world needs!} As SNL's Michael Che says (not verbatim), "Don't put your goals into something or someone (in my actors cases an example would be a hiring 'body' like a Network or studio), because it can be taken away. Make your goals ABILITY based." Tune out the noise, and keep going.

And finally, the gem she left me with in all of her Mama Shark glory...

"I color outside the lines, and so do all the people I work with. We are the disruptors, we have something to give to the world. I already know how talented my clients are, the rest of the world just needs to catch up."

May we all have an Aida in our corner.

All my love to you and see you next week,

Jessie

Spellbound Entertainment is a management and production company. You can see Aida's clients in Agents of Shield, Mayans MC (Sons of Anarchy spin-off), Narcos, Sense8 and more. The first film produced by Spellboud Entertainment called STARFISH is in post production. It's written/directed & produced by UK client Al White and also produced by Aldo Jovan.

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Taking The Leap! An Interview with Adrienne Borlongan of Wanderlust Creamery

Back when I was grinding away at my career as a professional dancer, I was working at a snazzy sushi restaurant in Brentwood, California, a posh suburb of Los Angeles that was home to every A-list actor and influential film producer in town. Tom Hanks called me Jess, I knew Leslie Mann & Judd Apatow's order by heart, Lupita Nyong'o was so stunning I could hardly look at her and Jim Carrey showed me hilarious home videos on his cell phone.. just to name (drop) a few. However, what had stuck with me the most after leaving that job was this lovely human being who was a genius behind the bar: she kept her cool when she needed ten more hands, would make up recipes for unique cocktails that would jet-set me to a beach in Mexico or a high rise in Hong Kong, and of course, was as kind as they come.

One day while working a slow lunch shift, we got to talking over these DELICIOUS macaroons that she had made and brought in to share. I'm telling you, when I get the chance to visit Paris, I guarantee you after my first bite into a Parisian macaroon I'll say to myself "Nope, Adrienne's are better!" Every taste took me to a different experience in my mind because her flavors, like her cocktails, were inspired by her travels and love for different cultures. The texture was perfect, like puffy clouds with a tender crunch as I took each bite, and the love she poured into them was palatable. She shared that she was a food science graduate from the same University I went to for Psychology (California State University, Northridge) and how she was inspired (she says obsessed) with the recipes of pastry chef Pierre Hermé, which is why I was snacking on these to-die-for treats. I was grateful I got to experience her macaroons and talent for mixology first hand but I had a sense the Universe had bigger plans for her.

Cut to a few years later where I've kept up with Adrienne via social media, and to my elated surprise, I witnessed her progressively share photos and updates of her opening her own artisanal ice cream shop. With flavors inspired by none other then the places she's traveled to, destinations she longs to visit and childhood memories, THIS (in my humble opinion) is where she's been headed and guided to her entire life. Alongside her partner JP, a former litigation attorney turned entrepreneur who would take the role of operations for the company, came Wanderlust Creamery (can we take a moment of silence for how apropos the name is?! Nailed it.) I now have words for the feeling I got while watching her life unfold for her. She had followed her wisdom, her gut instinct, her resolve to follow that instinct was so strong she didn't believe the opinions of her thoughts, and had taken the leap. What a risk, what bravery. But when you know, you know... and she surrendered to the feeling. And because of her surrender, I could feel where she was creating from, I could feel that this business was coming straight from her gut.

It was she who inspired this series that will unfold intermittently throughout my Monday Musings, being a spearhead for the spotlights of all the incredible women in my life whose stories will no doubt be of inspiration to you and an opportunity to see your reflection in these change makers that I'm so lucky to be witness to. So without further ado, with an unheralded three stores in three years in the LA area, as well as a permanent spot in the hip Downtown LA food market Smorgasburg LA, I introduce Adrienne and her experience of what it was like to Take The Leap...

Jessie: What was your first instinct/insight about Wanderlust Creamery? The very first thought that bubbled up from your gut that made you think, "I could do that, in fact, I SHOULD do that!"?

Adrienne: I was on an ice cream kick in late 2014. I’d eat at a lot of artisanal ice cream places and while I loved the quality of the products, I thought the flavors were so boring. On the other hand, I’d frequent more exotic places, where I’d love the flavors, but find the ice cream quality really bad. In November of 2014 I was shopping for a home ice cream maker to make my own “exotic, but good quality” ice cream. I did a lot of researching and found the Cadillac of home ice cream makers: a Lelo Musso Pola gelato machine. It was $1300 because it qualified as commercial kitchen equipment. To justify the purchase, I kind of told people it was “an investment because I planned to open a ice cream shop”. I never really had an intention of doing that really- I just wanted to spend $1300 on a hobby and not feel guilty about it. After a week with my new obsession, I made my 2015 New Year’s Resolution to take the leap and finally open a food business.

J: Did you have any doubts? How did you continue to march forward with your vision while having those doubts?

A: I’ve always had doubts. To this very day, I still have them. I remember the moment I signed the lease for our first store- just 5 months after buying that gelato machine. It was time to put my feet to the fire. During the business planning in the months leading up to that moment, there was always a chance to chicken out. But in signing the lease, I was making myself financially liable if the business failed. There was no turning back. I thought to myself, “Whether or not it works out, I NEED to know how this all ends. If it doesn’t work out, then I need to find out sooner than later so I can get on with my life, and do something else.” I was terrified, yet I also had this burning curiosity to see what would happen next- good or bad. I also remember feeling a sense of surrender as if I had pre-accepted any failure that would come. It hasn’t come yet. (<-- Can we get an AMEN!?!)

J: How long did you have a side hustle before going all in?

A: I kept my part time bartending gig at a nightclub because it was a really lucrative side hustle and the hours were really flexible. It wasn’t until the first Spring after Wanderlust opened that the volume really picked up and I devoted all my time to my business.

J: Did you encounter any issues?

A: So many! Our walk-in freezer broke the week after we opened our first location. We spent half a day pouring our entire stock of ice cream (melted) down the drain.

J: How did things begin to unfold for you? Did you set goals for yourself and the business? Or did things unfold without your even thinking about it?

A: While I do set goals for the business, a lot of the most amazing things have happened without me even thinking about it.

J: What was your first "Oh shit, it's happening & working!" moment?

A: Everyone (bankers, other restaurateurs & entrepreneurs) told us we wouldn’t see a single cent of profit within our first year, and most likely wouldn’t even break even for the first six months. After the very first month of being open, we did our financials and we surprisingly were able to pay all the bills and labor with a teeny amount to roll over for the next month. It wasn’t a huge success, but it definitely was not the failure we braced for. It was a definite “Oh shit” moment for us.

J: What does your gut instinct feel like to you? What does your body and mind feel like when making decisions from this place?

A: I feel like I get my “gut instinct” in moments of defeat or tiredness where I throw my hands up in the air and say “eh whatever”. At the end of a struggle in a stressful situation, I’ll just kind of resign myself to not caring as much, and then I’ll have an epiphany. (<-- What I always talk about, guys! The moment you stop trying to figure out a solution and you look the other way, the calm that comes with that surrender allows for the fresh, creative thinking to support your wisdom to come through!)

J: Do you have any visions of Wanderlust's next move or expansion? Any further dreams or are you going to continue to let it unfold?

A: I tell myself everyday that it could all go away, so I have zero expectations of what will come next. I do however have one tiny wish: to have a Wanderlust Creamery at LAX airport. (<-- Uh, yes please! A delicious and fresh treat after a long day of travel? Additionally reminding you of where you just came from or inspiring you for your next vacation?! No brainer!)

J: Any other comments you think people should know about you, your experience, or taking the leap?

A: Aren’t you eager to find out if the “hunch” you had all your life was true or not? Wouldn’t you like to know now so you can stop wasting your time?

Yes, Adrienne, YES!

Dear reader, it is my hope that you have taken in Adrienne's story and can see yourself in her reflection. Female or male, teen or retired - each and every one of you are meant for something great, your VOICE is meant to be heard. No matter the field, career or service that may be of interest to you. No time is ever lost - if you have a feeling within you to start something new or try something new; To go after that idea you had years ago or want to explore a part of yourself your thoughts made you believe you couldn't before, go for it. Start to have an imagination around it in your mind, buy some tools, take a class, or start with a conversation about it with someone you trust. Just putting it in your ether allows the Universe to recognize that you're going for it, and life will begin to open up for you. I know this to be true - from personal experience as well as what you've heard here from Adrienne and the many women I'll be sharing to come. This series is to show you what's possible - that you don't have to be a millionaire to make it happen, that you don't have to wait til "things line up" to take the leap; That when something feels right, then it is right. You just have to take the steps to raise your vibrations and get things in motion - the rest is surrender and trust.

Finally, I'll leave you with a piece of Adrienne's story that made my jaw drop, gave me chills all over and brought tears to my eyes, even though things like this shouldn't surprise me anymore. After Adrienne was receiving press over the success of her first location, a distant family member got in touch to congratulate her on following in her grandfather's footsteps. Having not known her grandfather because he passed away many years before she was born, she didn't know what he was referring to...

...Turns out he was a flavor chemist for Magnolia Ice Cream, and she had no idea.

The Universe works in mysterious ways - when you get out of your own way and follow the feeling within you - magic happens.

See you next week,

Jessie

PS - For more info on Wanderlust Creamery locations and more, you can check out their website >HERE< and follow them on Instagram >HERE<.

PPS - Their ice cream is of course, DELICIOUS.

Adrienne and I at the opening of Wanderlust Creamery's third location in Venice, CA.

Adrienne and I at the opening of Wanderlust Creamery's third location in Venice, CA.