Heather Dolland: New York’s Finest Food Crawler

Heather DollandJob security isn’t everything, even in New York City, one of the world’s most competitive job markets. And sometimes you have to risk it all to figure that out. Just ask Heather Dolland who turned down a promotion from her environmental consulting firm, where she’d been for more than a decade, to start her own online company.

“There’s never a right time to leave. Usually we just need a little push out of the nest. No matter where this goes, I can say I gave it a 110%. My biggest regret would have been not trying,” Dolland says emphatically.

After 20 years in the US, Dolland’s Grenadian accent may have mellowed but it’s still music to the ears. She moved Stateside in 1995 to study architecture only to find while doing her thesis that her dream turned into a nightmare. So she switched gears and launched into environmental science, getting a Masters from the NY Institute of Technology.

She began her career with the NYC Department of Environmental Protection before moving to an environmental consultancy where she was a Business Development Manager for 11 years.

Halfway through her time at the firm, Dolland took on a side gig. “I bought a house in Long Island by myself, but I had no idea how expensive it would be. Three months into the purchase, a friend from Grenada who promoted wines and spirits asked me if I could help her with promotions in Long Island so I became a brand ambassador on nights and weekends, mostly as a means to supplement my income.”

“I really wanted to go for it, but I was so nervous to leave my job. It never seemed to be the perfect time. Then my manager offered me a promotion but made it very clear I would have to drop ‘my distraction’ and focus 150% on my work. I guess it was what I needed to hear because I said ‘Thanks, but no thanks,’ and I knew then I was turning down the money to do something I really loved. Hopefully the money will follow.”

Dolland was so good at brand evangelism, hosting events, spirit tastings and launches, she took on several brands in the Bacardi family. It wasn’t an issue with her employer because she was doing the promotions outside of working time and there was no conflict of interest. But increasingly she realized which work she was more passionate about.

“Even though I was making progress and moving up in the company, I knew I had topped out. I could Heather Dolland with her booksee what the rest of my life was going to look like. I liked what I did, but the idea of living this life for the rest of my life was frankly a little depressing. I was by no means reaching my potential,” she explains.

When the work day ended, Dolland looked forward to the evenings which were spent promoting her clients products. “No matter how long the day had been, I always had energy. I loved it. I had this gut sense that this is what I was meant to do.”

The inspiration for her shift came during a visit to South Beach, Florida, with her mother who lamented they didn’t have enough time to try all the great restaurants. “I remember saying to her, ‘Who says we have to eat the entire meal at one place? Why can’t we enjoy each course as we like?’ So we did just that and had a food tour of the restaurants.”

As a huge foodie herself, it occurred to Dolland that she could market a more formal experience to others. And so, while still working as an environmental consultant, she launched a website – All the Tastes of New York – offering a food crawl concept. Clients enjoy each course at  a different restaurant within a few blocks of each other in various neighborhoods like Hell’s Kitchen and the East Village. Dolland arranges everything directly with the restaurants.

“I feel like my brain is a portfolio of restaurants. I have eaten through the Zagat – from Afghanistan to Zaire so I know my stuff! I do a lot of bachelorette parties and themed events like dining at places where there are celebrity chefs or eating a specific cuisine such as Italian. I tailor the experience to what the clients want and everything is built in.”

Heather Dolland Book SigningInitially, the business was just an outlet, something that gave her joy but, as the demands on her time grew, Dolland knew she had to choose.

“I really wanted to go for it, but I was so nervous to leave my job. It never seemed to be the perfect time. Then my manager offered me a promotion but made it very clear I would have to drop ‘my distraction’ and focus 150% on my work. I guess it was what I needed to hear because I said ‘Thanks, but no thanks,’ and I knew then I was turning down the money to do something I really loved. Hopefully the money will follow,” she laughs.

Starting a small business is scary for anyone, but Dolland had now lost the salary that was funding All the Tastes of New York. Because she had seen the day coming, she had extended lines of credit for her business while still employed. But without the comfort of her paycheck to fall back on, she lived lean and got serious about money management.

A year and a half after she left her secure job as an environmental consultant, Dolland is seeing the Discovering the New York Craft Spirits Boom Book Coverpayoff of all her hard work. Match.com was an early client and, as the culinary experience she has created lends itself to movement and communication, she has many corporate clients doing team-building events. She has plans to replicate the concept in other cities like Las Vegas and South Beach and has written a book, Discovering the New York Craft Spirits Boom, promoting small distillers in the New York area as a way to spread word about her business but also to integrate locally produced beer, wine and spirits into her food crawls.

“If I think about the journey I’ve been on since I left my job, I know now that you can’t have one toe in. It’s all or nothing. You only really see all the aspects that you need to manage when you are fully in it. It’s not really possible to run a business effectively when you’re doing it on a part-time basis. I still feel like I’m still figuring it out but having so much fun doing it.”

Tips from Heather Dolland
  • When you start a business in a new space, be open to evolving. Don’t stray so far afield that you lose sight of who you are you. Try to build on your competencies.
  • The irony of having a small budget is that it keeps you very cautious. If I had a ton of money, I would have burned through it.
  • While it’s not sustainable in the long run, having another job enabled me to evolve slowly and cover big ticket items early on. My business wouldn’t have survived if I didn’t have that salary because I wouldn’t have been able to afford all the mistakes I made early on.

Watch this video to learn more about All the Tastes of New York.

 

How To Get Publicity By Thinking Like A Journalist

Marsha FriedmanMarsha Friedman is a PR expert with 25 years’ experience developing publicity strategies for celebrities, corporations, and media newcomers alike. In this feature, she shares tips for promoting your brand to the media.

Capturing the attention of the news media is a great way to promote your brand and get your name or your business’ name in front of the masses.

The trick, of course, is to convince print publications or radio and TV stations that they should pay you any mind.

Many small business owners have a hard time envisioning what they can offer the news media, beyond stories that are all about their business, practice, product – or themselves.

That kind of coverage is terrific, of course, but having owned a public relations firm for 25 years I can tell you it’s not easy to get and it’s impossible to sustain. And sustainability is crucial. To stand out in a crowded marketplace, you can’t be a one-hit wonder. You’ve got to stay in front of your audience.

So how do you get journalists and talk show hosts to tell people how incredibly awesome you, your business, your products and your brand are?

It’s simple. You don’t.

Publicity is about getting visibility, credibility and exposure – it’s not about selling. Don’t think in terms of what the news media can do for you. Figure out what you can do for them.

You gain publicity by looking for ways to provide useful, valuable content for the media that is, ideally, tied to something in the news. In other words, you need to think like a journalist, who has no interest in promoting your business or anyone else’s, but is looking for information that would be important, useful or interesting to readers.

That’s where you come in. Are you a financial advisor who can offer TV viewers tips for reducing the amount they pay the IRS? Are you a bakery owner who can provide newspaper readers with recipes for low-calorie desserts during the holidays?

See? In each of those cases, you aren’t selling something. You are offering something.

Let me give you some recent examples of how my public relations firm got publicity for some of our clients.

  • Nearly universal advice. A marriage counselor wanted to bring attention to her practice and Marsha Friedmanher new book. We intrigued the news media with topics such as “Why Are Many Marriages Built for Failure?” and “Why Communication Is the Oxygen that Keeps Relationships Alive,” with her as the expert ready with comments and advice. Since many of their readers, listeners, and viewers are married or planning to marry, she offered the media something they saw as worthwhile. Note that we did not promote her by saying things such as, “Marriage Counselor Wants to Expand Practice.”
  • Bad breath, good angle. A dentist who specializes in diagnosing and treating halitosis has developed a number of products to address that problem. We’ve helped him stay in front of audiences for years with radio and TV talk segment angles such as “How Those Weird Carnival Foods Lead to Foul Breath” and “Will Your Breath Make Cupid Faint this Valentine’s Day?” For all these segments, the dentist is named, his website publicized and occasionally, one of his products is mentioned.
  • Being there for breaking news. The CEO of a company that specializes in cybersecurity wanted exposure in all types of media – print, TV and radio. He turned out to be the right client at the right time. It seemed like every time we checked the news, a private company or government agency was being hacked and personal information about millions of ordinary citizens was being compromised. We scheduled numerous interviews where the CEO commented on why all the cyber information was vulnerable and what could be done about it. We also wrote articles picked up by print and online publications that featured his tips for protecting yourself from hackers. He racked up an amazing amount of exposure for his company.

If you want valuable publicity for your business or product, remember, you need to offer something valuable in return. For TV and radio talk shows, that’s an informative and entertaining interview that will engage the audience. If you do a great job as a guest, the host will have no problem promoting your company and product or service in return. And you can casually work in some mention during your interview as well.

In print, experts are usually identified by their claim to fame, so you may be quoted as Gertrude Smith, owner of Aunt Gertrude’s Pet Sitting Service, and there may even be a reference to your website. Write an article for a publication and it will likely include a bio about you.

All of this will provide more visibility and credibility for you and your product or service while building a brand consumers can fall in love with.

About Marsha Friedman

Marsha Friedman is a public relations expert with 25 years’ experience developing publicity strategies for celebrities, corporations and media newcomers alike. Using the proprietary system she created as founder and CEO of EMSI Public Relations, an award-winning national agency, she secures thousands of top-tier media placements annually for her clients. The former senior vice president for marketing at the American Economic Council, Marsha is a sought-after advisor on PR issues and strategies. She shares her knowledge in her Amazon best-selling book, Celebritize Yourself, and as a popular speaker at organizations around the country.

 

 

Mary Lou Bradley: Painting the Picture-Perfect Life

Mary Lou Bradley

Mary Lou Bradley worked for the man who created Three’s Company, a TV show those of us of a certain age will remember. She also worked for Bill DeBlasio before he was the mayor of New York City. She went to culinary school and learned to make pastries. And then, at age 55, she became an entrepreneur.
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Tina Ambrogi: Setting Up Shop Her Way

Tina AmbrogiThere are two things that Tina Ambrogi dreamed about as a child growing up in Massachusetts: living in the San Francisco area, and building a tunnel between her home and the house where family members lived next door. She envisioned this tunnel as a place where artists could hang out, where people would barter and trade goods. “That never happened,” she says wryly.

But it’s a funny thing about childhood dreams; maybe they don’t ever really go away. (more…)

Finding the Sweet Spot for Your Next Career

SNeilsen HeadshotHow can you be sure that the new direction you are considering for your career will work out well for you? Read on to learn a clear and simple method you can use to predict career success in your next act. (more…)

Melanie Werner: See a Gap and Fill It!

Melanie WernerAlways on the lookout for new opportunities, be it moving overseas, opening an art gallery or two, or importing fine art from Europe, Pennsylvania native Melanie Werner is no stranger to adventure and risk. But when her 25-year marriage ended and Werner found herself without a financial safety net, her decision to launch an innovative product design firm from scratch was truly gutsy.

“For someone in her early 50s who needed to establish financial security, starting this venture was really risky. I had no safety net but I kept moving forward because of the market validation. Nobody wishes for divorce, but at the end of the day, it’s okay. I’m self-sufficient and building a business; there’s no better position for a women to be in.” (more…)

Aurora Anaya-Cerda: Moving her Community Forward, One Book at a Time

Courtesy of Johnny Ramos
Courtesy of Johnny Ramos

Opening an independent bookstore at time when most were shuttering their doors against the Amazon giant might seem like a risky and even foolish venture to some. But not for Aurora Anaya-Cerda. The determined California native spent six years working multiple jobs before she realized her dream of opening a literary hub in the heart of East Harlem, New York.

“I wish every neighborhood had an independent bookstore. There are stories at Casa Azul that are not told anywhere else in the city; that’s what’s magical.  Customers realize how important La Casa Azul Bookstore is for our community, how our buying power can ensure our stories remain in El Barrio. My dream of opening a bookstore has become my community’s dream.” (more…)

LaShanna Alfred: Turning Adversity into a Strength

2014112795161105Often at Career 2.0, we write of women who have left one successful career to start a new one or perhaps launch a creative enterprise midway through a career.

This story is a little different.

LaShanna Alfred’s first “career” involved running and selling drugs and time spent in jail. She didn’t leave a successful career in order to find fulfillment, she left a life filled with tragedy and hardship, a life that many of us would have been unable to find a way out of. But Alfred did find a way.

Alfred was only two years old when her mother was murdered. Her mother was, as Alfred puts it, “basically in the wrong place with the wrong people.” About four years later, when she was in second grade, her father was in a fight and stabbed to death. An only child, Alfred went to live with her grandmother and uncles. When she was 12 or 13 her grandmother moved out, leaving Alfred with her uncles. “They turned the house into a drug house,” she recalls matter-of-factly. “They began selling drugs out of the house, having house parties. Even as a young girl I knew that I didn’t want to live like that. But most of the time I didn’t see anyone around me that I wanted to be like.” (more…)

Susan Lander: The Lawyer Who Channels the Famous and Infamous

1421227_219711334874164_531552474_o“Steve Jobs was really fascinating,” says Susan Lander of her tête-à-tête with the tech icon detailed in her book, Conversations with History: Inspiration, Reflections and Advice from Celebrities and History-Makers on the Other Side.

“He really blew my mind, crackling with brilliance and innovation,” she says, still in awe of the conversation.  “And Kurt Vonnegut, he was brilliant too, but believe it or not, Notorious B.I.G. was my favorite. I didn’t want to interview him at first, but he pushed for it, and he became one of my favorites. And of course, Betsy Ross came out as gay when I spoke to her, which was the big revelation in that interview.” (more…)

Barbara Werner: Music to Make your Mediocre Meatloaf Sing

BarbaraWerner-with-dogUpdate March 2014: Barbara Werner’s musical pairing app is now free to download from iTunes and GooglePlay.

Airlines offer music on planes to help panicky flyers relax. Music is piped through the metro or subway system to reduce crime. And supermarkets have been known to play loud music to push customers more quickly through the aisles without reducing sales. So why not play just the right mix of music to your dinner guests to make them feel they’re dining at a Michelin-star eatery?

Absurd? Well no, not really according to professionally-trained chef Barbara Werner, “With an open heart, an open mind, and a simple mathematical formula, you can elevate a good dish to great and a great dish to near perfection.”

Werner collects degrees and certifications like most of us collect lost socks from the laundry. On top of an associate’s degree in culinary art, she’s certified in reflexology, payroll and HR and is trained as a beverage specialist, bartender, and equissageur (dog and horse masseuse in case you’re wondering). In addition, she’s taken sommelier classes and is a licensed manicurist and tattoo artist.

“I am always studying something and telling myself, someday this will come in handy, I don’t know where or how but it usually does,” says Werner who prefers the moniker of Renaissance Woman. (more…)

Marcia Reynolds: Whose Life are You Living?

Reynolds lightThe day the doctors told my father he could no longer work was the day he accepted his death sentence. He was only 59. He had gone deaf due to a growing brain tumor. Yet the doctors said the tumor was operable. There was even a possibility that he could hear again, but they insisted he stop working. No matter how I tried to convince him that he still had a good life left to live, I failed to convince him. Two weeks later, he passed away.

The crazy thing is that I missed the lesson in my father’s passing. My father could not free himself from the identity of being a successful businessman. When he could no longer hold on to that identity, he quit living. All he knew about life was working hard and being the best. He packed his free time with tasks. When he had to give up his addiction to achievement, he gave up his will to survive.

I didn’t see how much I was like him. The obsession I inherited helped me to be successful and almost killed me too. I worked the night after his funeral, thinking that was what he would have wanted me to do. He wanted me to thrive through my achievements at work. I proceeded to be successful partly for myself and partly in honor of his dreams for me. (more…)

Alice Shepherd: When the Need to Create Triumphs

Head Shot

“When the horse dies, get off.” Strange as it seems, those six words may have changed the course of Alice Shepherd’s life.

At the tender age of 19, Shepherd began her career in bookkeeping in Nashville, TN, where she was born and raised. It wasn’t long before she had worked her way up to a position in public accounting and also became a certified QuickBooks Pro advisor, leading classes and instructing others in the use of the accounting software. When asked why she chose accounting, Shepherd replies in her lilting Southern accent, “I was good at accounting, plain and simple. It didn’t have much to do with liking it or not liking it; it served me well.” (more…)