Tami inspired Biz Divas at our April meeting. Here are the top questions the Diva Tami gets asked:

How do you balance having a family and kids, while working as a designer/entrepreneur in your new business?

Very carefully!  It is not easy in the least.  In fact the 18 months were very challenging, we sat down and had a family counsel at the very beginning and agreed that it would be hard.  Anyone who wasn’t for it, we didn’t have to do the adventure.  Exactly as planned it was very difficult, I was gone a lot, working hard, tired, sometime’s grumpy, my children missed me greatly.  At times they would express their frustration at how much I worked and I would offer to them, guilt free, “Mommy doesn’t have to do this, I can quit at anytime time, if you would like the old Mommy back, I will stop”.  But the children had a lot of associated pride with seeing the business grow, now three years into the adventure, pressure is easing, time is more manageable, and there is more family time.

How did you transition from being a student in design to a real life designer?

The moment I decided to be a designer there was no turning back.  I wanted it as much as I want RubySnap right now.  I tried a residential internship and hated it, I knew immediately I didn’t want to work with personal individuals spending personal monies.  I chose commercial design because it felt more professional in decision making process.  I entered the work force eager to listen and learn and solve puzzles.  I studied, chose mentors and peers I admired and tried to emulate them.

In starting your own business, what are the first crucial steps you took to making your idea come to life?

I knew how to write a business plan.  I knew how to dream big, and dreaming is free.  I spent probably 20 years dreaming about a bakery.  You have to decide what your motivations are, is it money, or a dream, a passion?  If it is only money you will probably fail.  Is your idea or widget needed or lacking in your market?  Do you truly think you have the better product, or can you provide a better service?  Are you prepared to fail?????  If you are you willing to fail, how much money are you willing to lose if you fail?  Keep in mind most businesses do fail.  If you don’t believe in what you are about to sell, or believe in yourself, you will fail.  Success starts in the mind, before paper and buildings.

What have you done to balance your career and your personal life, and feel good about it?

It’s important to feel happy and assured of your choices and move forward with confidence.  It will be hard, even when it working and succeeding better than your wildest imaginations, it will be a very hard journey.  Make sure no matter what you choose to endeavor, that you are so passionate that you will still love it even when you feel like the journey will kill you!

Balancing the career and personal life have been very hard.  I have a supportive husband who accepted the journey before it started, my children have been patient.  I have been busy and gone a lot.  There are many hidden requirements that are difficult to foresee when starting a business, there are many hats one has to wear.  I also have religion, when I feel like self imploding, I have prayer, and church is the one thing that has buoyed me up during the most difficult times.  I know when I am at church that I am in a place where know one judges me, where I am at home, where I can feel peace and enrichment that carries me through the following week.  Without a strong family and spiritual foundation prior to starting a business I probably would have crumbled.

Was it hard to break into the design world once you graduated? And how long did it take you (do you feel) to make a name for yourself?

I had worked in investment banking prior to going back to college to get a degree in design.  I made very good money at that time.  I left my career, spent 4 years in college, round the clock, built up debt and when I graduated there were no design jobs.  My first job offer and the only available opening I could find was for $19,000 a year.  It was discouraging.  I worked with a great firm, great co-workers and I was happy to be doing what I chose.  The happy word!  I was happy so the money didn’t matter.  Again, I tried to glean tips and tricks from people I considered the best, Miles Hunsaker was one of those individuals.  I came into my own comfort zone very quickly and stayed there for the next 15 years until I decided I was no longer happy, or no longer feeling challenged or growing in that industry.  Making a name for yourself comes with honesty and commitment.

Did you always want to be a designer/entrepreneur, and how did you get to where you are now?

I’ve always been hyper driven and always enjoyed being antonymous.  I never quite felt that my energies and efforts  given towards my careers and employers were acknowledged to my expectations.  I hadn’t set out to be an entrepreneur; I am quite the accidental entrepreneur in fact.  But I knew that when you work for yourself “the dirt hits the pavement”, either you succeed by hard work, or fail.  “Making it” would be reward enough to take the leap, through success as an individual I could find a reward that would feel complete.  In truth my best asset was not being afraid to fail, I was more afraid of succeeding…..then what?  Failure is an automatic answer, success means living on a perpetual learning curve, always growing, always chasing to be a step ahead.  Notice I never mentioned money, money does not equal success, meeting goals and milestones does.

Originally I wanted to be a structural engineer, but I was always pulled to the creative side, photography, graphics, sculpting, and the like.  I have a very methodical mindset, which lends itself well to also being creative and managing a business.  I’m very structured in my thinking, very compartmentalized, yet free with creative thinking.  Which probably explains why I’m not creative 24/7 but in bursts.

What have your biggest challenges been in starting/running your own business?

So many!  The most well known was our recent challenge with General Mills/Pillsbury, although we owned the trademark to our name, the mega-mogul corporation came to us with a voice of $23 billion dollars and said they did not like us using or having our name.  We had owned it for almost two years, grew our brand around it, invested funds in all our packaging, and built a name behind My Dough Girl.  My Dough Girl was intended to celebrate the past, simpler times, to honor the greatest generation who ever served our country, to glean back when food was food, made from real ingredients, when beauty was simple and wonderful and not naughty,  WWII era.  General Mills/Pillsbury felt we tarnished and diluted their icon the Doughboy.  We spent the past 11 months coming to a resolution through lawyers, re-branding, and “starting” over.  This has been our biggest challenge, taxing, burdensome, yet liberating, a learning opportunity.  Every challenge is a learning opportunity.  When faced with adversity one can learn to pick battles wisely, we chose to freely relinquish our name in pursuit of what we intended from the beginning “The Happiness Project”, we intended to be happy and make people happy.  Fighting would only canker the soul and take away from the original goal.

Becoming a name and a face has taken away from private time and life.  This wasn’t in the business plan, I didn’t ask, want, or chase the desire to become a common name.  I rather enjoy my private life, there have been many times I’ve felt hostage in my office to reporters, and fan seekers.  The public will artificially praise you simply because you own a business, are you prepared to give up a piece of your privacy?

What are the most rewarding/your favorite part about being a designer/owner of RubySnap?

Most rewarding is always people.  Giving helps others and helps and heals your inner self.  We donate to breast cancer and cancer awareness, Shriners Hospital, Road Home, Ballet, Opera, Symphony, Youth Services, Utah Food Bank.  Giving to communities and causes heals hearts and minds.  I become very attached to customers who become friends.  Many have passed on from illnesses, cancer, and otherwise.  Knowing them blesses me and fills me up.  We always try to give wherever possible, while remaining prudent and not compromising our financial welfare by over giving.

As an entrepreneur, do you spend more time working in your business or trying to improve it?

Both, these go hand in hand, chicken and egg, you can’t have one without the other or something will grow musty.  Another lesson in balance, you have to be willing to multi-task, be willing to shift on a dime.  Rethink, re-organize.  One thing that is constant is change, it took awhile to learn and accept this.  Changing game or plan is okay, most often good.  Also be open to hearing others ideas, you don’t have to like them, want them, but there will almost always be a growth opportunity to see another’s view and cultivate new ideas.

How much of your time is spent actually baking cookies or coming up with new recipes?

In the beginning most of the time, many recipes I had created over the years, but they weren’t enough to keep a business fresh and offer a wide enough variety of choices.  In the beginning I was it, the employee.  We have now grown to 12.  Now I spend more time managing business and opportunities, which is why I left design in the first place, to chase more creativity.  However, I still dream and have ideas all the time.  I have to designate time to create, allot time to spend in the kitchen.  This becomes increasingly difficult but it is important because creating is what we do, it is who we are.  People enjoy our ingenuity of the palate.

What was your process for taking your idea from the possibility-stage to reality?  Where did you begin and what important steps did you take?

First I chose not to be afraid to fail, that trying was better than not trying.  I didn’t want to get another 10 years down the road wishing I had tried, or believing it was too late.  I wasn’t willing to live with the “could’a, should’a, would’a” syndrome.  Second, I decided how much money I was willing to lose if I failed.  I didn’t have a very high threshold, and I didn’t want to have loans or borrow from family.  It is easier to sleep at night when you don’t have to worry about how to repay a loan.  You just sleep.  I decided $10K was my tolerance for monetary loss.  RubySnap has been built from $10K and lots of resourcefulness and sweat equity.  Still today we have no loans or debt, if we don’t have money, we can’t afford it.  We have operated at break even from day one.  Break even is the point at which you are self sustainable, most businesses reach break even around year 5 in business.

Where do you find inspiration from as a designer?

I lived the life of a gypsy, I moved 21 times in my life by the time I was 18 years old.  I was fortunate to spend many of those years scattered all over the world.  Knowing, learning, discovering other cultures gave me a fortunate depth of experience to draw from, weather in interior design or from the palate designing food.

How do you stay motivated?

I have an artificial drive, I’m always dreaming (my favorite quote to my children is “dreaming is free”), I’m always full of adrenalin.  I like to call it a “personality flaw”.  I’m uneasy at rest; my mind is always working, especially when I am asleep.  Most of my ideas come to me when I am relaxed; therefore I keep a journal by my bedside always.  It is common for me to spring from bed to write down ideas.  Ideas usually come to me in explosive spurts.  I can be “stale” for months then have 12 ideas in a burst and I frantically shuffle to write them down as quickly as possible.  You can’t force creativity, but you can leave yourself available to inspiration by minimizing stress and distraction.  I also think creativity is inherent, I believe typically you are naturally that way or not.  It’s hard to teach creativity.

What skills have you found helpful in being an entrepreneur?

Having previous work experience in a professional environment, this is important!, to take the time to mature, learn from others, learn from your own mistakes.  Learn that conflicts always exist and this is okay.  Learn to manage personalities and co-habitate in teams of people.  Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.  Always treat others with utmost respect even if they secretly grind on you from inside.  Everyone IS someone and you never know what someone will step forward to be an ally in your goals.  These things come through experience and time.  Learning how to keep goals, promises and open communication.  Being forthright is everything!  If and when deadlines are missed, through open communication and honesty most “speedbumps” can be managed quite comfortably.  Learning to have ownership for your goals and responsibility, wearing your own badge, right or wrong, good or bad, it’s your badge; will you be proud to wear it?  These things come through time and often through employment with an established company.   You need these skills to be an entrepreneur!  You don’t have to be an expert at all things; you just have to be smart enough to know when to call on others for help.

What is the biggest obstacle you have overcome in opening her own business?

Ah!  Well!  Getting the ball rolling.  Cities and governments don’t make starting a business easy, they in fact will act like they can care less about having your tax dollars contribute to the economy.  No one will guide you in what to do next, you will have to ask, look, learn, study, repeat!  When someone says “no”, the answer could be yes, when someone says “not possible” you have to believe it is possible.  Where there is a will there is a way, but!, you have to look for it hard and find it.  Hopefully you have mentors, maybe you won’t, you go and find them and keep asking questions, no question is a dumb question, its okay to not know, just keep asking, someone will finally have an answer and point you in the right direction.  Dead ends come, and dead end go.  Don’t get discouraged, starting can feel like the hardest part.

What does she enjoy the most about being an entrepreneur?

Freedom!  Freedom to work harder than I ever dreamed possible, freedom to call my decisions my own, freedom to lead the way, freedom to fail, freedom to succeed.  Do be careful what you wish for because you might get it, then what?  Are you ready for your dreams to come true?  It will be the most wonderful and difficult journey, painfully fantastic.  It’s not a dance in the sun, it’s hard, hard work and extremely gratifying.  There are many moments I’d like to stop, not quit, but take a breather, there are no breather’s.  How will you learn to keep a balance with all that freedom?

How do you manage to balance both sides of your life – the side that designs and runs a business and the side in which you are a wife/mother/friend?

Tough question!  One has to decide to choose balance. Hold onto humor for dear life, without humor you’re a gonner!  Often I do this creatively, not ideally, but creatively.  I spend many waking hours working in early mornings and late nights.  I miss many workouts, which are very important to me.  I have sacrificed much of myself to choose family over work or myself.  I skip sleep, I forgo private “detox” time.  I have felt often that I have lost a piece of me.  I try to stay focused on my spiritual side; this can get depleted quickly when you work in the world.  This too has not been easy, but so far it is working, I can thank a good husband and kind, patient, loving children for much of my success and balance.  Friends have suffered the most, sometimes I feel I’m not even a friend to myself, but friends have come to my rescue many times.  Friends suffer because if I have to choose anything, I always choose my family first.