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How This Seemingly Simple Household Activity Helped Me Take Back Control of My Life (Part 1)

December is a busy time of year for catering in Australia. Parties, get-togethers and events all require delicious food to feed hungry party-goers with this past December being no different, which meant that You Chews was also pretty busy, even more so than normal.

One would think that after a particularly busy time of year for a business, the owner might decide they are in need of a well-deserved break once the craziness has died down. But not this owner. No – I saw the slow period after Christmas as an opportunity to cram even more work in. You Chews is re-designing our website, and my plans were to work through Christmas in order to push the project to completion faster. Sure, I was tired, but this is startups, people! You need to go fast, fast, fast. Take advantage of the slow time, my brain told me, and get even more work done!

So I did, for awhile. Then on the 29th of December, a dear friend called and asked if I wanted to meet up. I met her for an afternoon in the park. While catching up, she told me about her recent experience: a ten-day silent meditation retreat in the Blue Mountains. If you know me, you know I love me some talking, so I actually anticipated my own reaction being that I could never spend ten whole days not speaking to anyone. But the first thing I thought of when she told me about her trip was: “I would love to do that.”

You see, dear friends, 2015 was a pretty full on year. My startup graduated from Australia’s premier startup accelerator. I organised Australia’s first ever food tech hackathon. I became the co-Catalyst in Residence at the Michael Crouch Innovation Centre at the University of New South Wales. I joined the most prestigious collective of female CEOs in Sydney – Heads over Heels. These things are of course incredible achievements of which I am very proud and grateful. But between being the face of a company and everything else entrepreneurial, these achievements entail endless conversations. Even I, the great talker, found myself actually tired of talking.

I left the park and went home to do what I always do – immediately open my computer to scan my Trello board / email inbox to get down to work. I ignored the clean laundry that had been hanging up to dry for the last 6 days and was yet to be put away; I settled myself onto the couch to work because my desk at home was covered in clutter; I worked until 9pm and then, hungry, I called out to my partner to ask if he wanted food delivery for dinner since I was too busy / tired to cook.

As I was mindlessly trolling through online delivery menus looking at the same old stodgy, unhealthy garbage that is the cheap takeaway food selection in our suburb, whilst reading a CEO article on my phone simultaneously, I suddenly stopped myself.

I looked at my disorganised flat, my couch strewn with papers, my computer with a million tabs open, the screen which listed restaurant after restaurant of generic Thai food and sub-standard pizza.

And I thought – “Liz – what are you doing?”

One of the hardest things to do as an entrepreneur is to maintain the balance between being proactive and reactive. Here’s what I mean – in my line of work, the only thing that matters is well-executed catering orders which lead to happy repeat customers. Luckily, I’ve now got a great team who look after the majority of the enquiries, but there’s still always lots of “stuff” that comes up on any given day that can distract you from the actual work that you’ve planned. (It’s often referred to as working “in” the business rather than working “on” the business.) I found myself being so reactive, I couldn’t really be proactive (or so I thought). And I knew that, in order for the business to thrive, I needed to step back and reflect upon the year, then spend time thinking about what we really wanted to achieve and how we were going to achieve it. Over the Christmas break, I wanted to spend some time simply thinking, focused on the year ahead and putting plans in place to be the proactive leader I wanted to be, rather than the reactive, far-too-busy-whilst-not-being-as-productive-as-I-could-be leader.

Then I thought – “Liz – what about you?”

I realised that for the first time pretty much all year, I had actually thought about myself  as me, rather than as the extension of me that is “Liz from You Chews“. And when I took stock of myself, I wasn’t happy with the results. I felt unhealthy and lethargic. I couldn’t remember the last time I cooked a proper meal or planned some healthy packed lunches. And I’m a dietitian! My to-do list, both personal and professional, was out-of-control with literally hundreds of neglected tasks on each. I was burned out to the point where not talking to anyone for ten days seemed like paradise!

I felt like other things had controlled me. And not unlike other entrepreneurs, I let my business take priority over my health, and thought (wrongly) that I couldn’t make the time for things like healthly meal planning and regular exercise. Completely the wrong attitude.

So at that moment I made the decision – for my New Year’s resolution, I was going to take back control of my life; anything I could control, I would.

But where to start?

I thought about the best way to approach this project. My best bet is always to try to relate a challenge or a project to food in some way, as an analogy to understand it better. But how was I going to do this?

Then it dawned on me.

My pantry.

(Stay tuned for part 2!)

It’s My Birthday and I’ll Blog if I Want To – 5 Life Lessons Learned at 35

Today, I turned 35. (OK, go on. Why, thank you! Yes, I know I look young! Haha.)

For my birthday today, I decided to share some memories that ended up having a big impact on me with you, the 10 friends who will actually end up reading this. Here are 5 moments I’ve learned that over the course of my life have been the most valuable, useful, and important. Enjoy 🙂

1. When I was twelve, I used to read the Reader’s Digest magazine every month. One article that caught my eye was entitled “The Keys to Happiness”. It started by saying: “#1 – Marry the right person. This decision will determine 90% of your happiness or misery”. 

Marrying anyone seemed a million years away but this sentence resonated in me so powerfully. I was raised in a happy household by parents who loved each other so I knew it to be true. I vowed that, if I was ever to get married, it would be to the right person.

Side note – Mother, I know you’re reading this. We’re nearly married, OK? It’s a different world nowadays….

2. A favourite book of mine growing up was Harriet the Spy. The two things I remember most were that 1) she used to eat tomato sandwiches, and 2) one passage in which Harriet remarked that she never minded admitting when she didn’t know something. “So what; I can always learn.”

To this day, I ask the “stupid” questions that no one else seems to want to ask, presumably for fear of looking foolish. Because of Harriet, I’ve never really had this fear. She taught me that not knowing something doesn’t make you foolish; what makes you foolish is thinking it’s better to not know something than to ask a simple question. You can always learn.

3. At the age of two I taught myself to read. I therefore grew up being considered precocious, with everyone from my family to my teachers telling me how smart I was. Consequently, I never doubted it. I was special. I was smart. I was going places.

Six years ago, I was offered a research dietitian position at the world’s most prestigious university. I told my mother and explained to her how even from a young age I felt that I was special. My mother responded by saying, “I knew you were special on the day you were born.”

Then I Skyped one of my dearest friends to tell her the news. She is a statuesque, 6-foot blonde from Sweden we’ll call “Alita”. Due to her Viking toughness, Scandinavian straight-talking, and steely, calculating manner, I’ve nicknamed her the “Ice Queen”. During our conversation, I recounted how I had always felt special, and that now, I knew it to be true – moreover, how my mother had confirmed it.

Alita looked at me disdainfully in all of her measured, gorgeous, Ice Queen glory and said dismissively in her lilting Swedish accent, “Lee-zee, every mutter tink dey child is spesh-shill.”

I couldn’t stop laughing. What absurdity and arrogance on my part. Of course, she was right. Every mother thinks her child is special. Really, I am no different than any other child born that day. Every person is special. I often think about this when I’m invited to sit on a panel, or have won an award. It’s lovely to be recognised, but surely it makes me no better than anyone else. I really do try to do my very best every day to treat everyone equally and with respect.

4. Picture a thirteen-year-old Liz. (It looks a lot like 35-year-old Liz, except with more hair spray and wearing Aeropostale T-shirts.) She is sitting in eighth-grade biology class, eating a toasted pumpernickel bagel with reduced-fat peanut butter and low-sugar strawberry jam (true story). Liz’s love of food has piqued an early interest in nutrition, and she is flipping through a Shape magazine. She comes across an article discussing the best foods to eat following a workout, reading a passage that states something along the lines of “So-and-so, nutritionist, says almonds are a great post workout snack since they are high in protein, potassium and zinc.” She reads it again. There and then, she makes up her mind that THIS is what she is going to do with the rest of her life.

Knowing what you want makes everything easier. So many people don’t know what they want out of life, or know what they want to be when they “grow up”. I, on the other hand, knew EXACTLY what I was going to do – work in nutrition. Napoleon Hill, whose treatise Think and Grow Rich changed my life, talks about the first step to success being to have a definite major purpose. Because I made my mind up so definitively as to what was going to make me happy as a career at such a young age, I was given an incredible advantage when making decisions. Not only was I able to advance quickly in my career, but I felt personally fulfilled. And even though now I’m not doing a business directly related to nutrition, I still get to talk about food every day. I can’t imagine doing anything else.

5. My favourite celebrity is Judge Judy. She’s a woman who, in her mid-fifties, became one of the most wealthy, recognisable people on Earth on the sheer power and force of her personality and mind. In an age where women are measured almost solely on their sex appeal, Judge Judy served as an important role model for me. I still enjoy watching her take down the bad guys on her show.

For my 18th birthday, my grandmother bought me the Judge Judy book “Beauty Fades – Dumb is Forever”. In it, Judge Judy recounted countless times she’d seen husbands who had left their middle-aged wives for younger women, leaving the past-their-physical-prime wives dependent upon paltry allowances from their despised ex-spouses. The premise was that, as women, we were entering an enlightened, empowering age where we no longer were beholden to or dependent on men. The flipside of that was, of course, that women needed to embrace this newfound power by being able to make a living with a skill, some education, etc so that you could, in fact, emancipate yourself from a bad relationship if necessary and make your own way in life. That book made me resolve to always make and be responsible for a significant portion of my income, no matter what my marital status would be.

I close this blog by saying this. I like getting older. No, really. Youth is replaced by wisdom, and there is nothing I love more than learning. Everyone must get old. Plus, at this point in my life I am far from ancient. I feel fantastic, I am healthy, and I am happier than I have ever been.

Thanks to each and everyone of you for being part of my life! Happy Birthday to me!

L x

 

 

 

 

You Chews Your Own Destiny – by Kristopher O’Sullivan

Everyone knows the life of a founder is hard. And the past two weeks have been the most difficult of my journey. I won’t get into the reasons here (that’s for another blog post) but it culminated in a trusted organisation that is well-known in the Sydney startup community, a non-profit whose mission is “helping tech startups grow”, publicly act in a manner that caused potentially irrevocable damage to You Chews.

I was bewildered, upset, hurt and questioning everything. Why was I putting myself through this? Why am I sacrificing and busting my ass everyday when clearly I’m not offering any value, especially to an organisation whose sole purpose is to “help build the startup scene here in Sydney”? Are all my efforts completely wasted? I’m not from Australia. I’ve seen my family twice in three years. I’m missing watching my nephews grow up because I’m trying to make a go of this business. What I am even doing here?

Then my inbox pinged.

Six months ago, a former You Chews intern, Kris O’Sullivan, asked if I would be the topic of his thesis for one of his courses. I agreed and answered a few questions via email, then promptly forgot about it. Then two nights ago, Kris emailed me with the feature, telling me he got a distinction, thanking me for my help, and asking me if it would read it.

It was just… everything I needed to hear. Be tenacious. Keep going. Recognise it’s going to be tough. Anyone can do it. Stop at nothing to achieve your goals. It will get better. And it was in my own words.

I decided to post on Facebook about my internal struggle and how Kris’s email and subsequent article lifted my spirits. The outpouring of support was comforting and much needed. A few of the commenters asked to read the whole article, so with Kris’s permission, I’ve posted it here. I haven’t touched a thing – it’s reprinted verbatim.

Before you read I have to say – if you are reading this blog post, thank you. Thank you for spending your time, that you could be spending elsewhere, to be reading this. I am grateful for having had the opportunity to meet Kris, and I am bloody proud to have made such an impression on him. Some days, everything goes wrong, but in Kris’s case, I must be doing something right.

You Chews Your Own Destiny

By Kristopher O’Sullivan

‘Nothing worth having is easy’ is one of life’s great mantra’s, one in which some people have experienced time and time again but not all have faced the same struggles that a founder of a start up business has. The start up business world is not always a kind one, there are all time highs and deep lows, each providing the people involved with further desire and determination to succeed – but sometimes it can leave you with a sense of there being no option but to give up. Although there were times in which she thought she could give it all away, she didn’t. And she has reaped the benefits. She is Liz Kaelin, the founder of You Chews from the MuruD Class of 2015.  A woman of great pride, willingness to work hard and sacrificing the things she likes for the better good of her company, she has truly is the model founder of a business. Her journey from the other side of the world with times of fulfillment, despair, experiencing the highs, the lows and everything in between is an incredible one, one that proves anybody can make their dream a reality.

 

Elizabeth Kaelin was born and raised in New Jersey, US however migrated to Australia in September 2012 to pursue a stable life after moving around the US for her career for the best part of 5 years. Liz has always been a worldly character, leaving her family home at the young age of 18, moving to New Hampshire to obtain her degree in Public Health Nutrition, before moving to London to complete her masters. During this time, Liz realized home is where your family is, moving back to the states to further her studies – and to experience some of her mother’s incredible home cooked dishes again, something that ignited her passion food, ‘Food was at the center of our family life’ Liz recalls,  ‘My mother insisted we eat dinner as a family together every night’. Liz’s desire for great food has always held a place close to her heart ever since she can recall, ‘ My mother tells a story of when I was a young child and being difficult to put to sleep. “Go to sleep”, my mother would say, “and in the morning for breakfast I’ll make you eggs and bacon and pancakes…” and I would go right to sleep.’. Although she was too young to realise, this passion for food developed into a burning desire for more and would, over 20 years later, lead her to great things.

 

Liz obtained work as a nutrition adviser with Nestle in 2008, something that left her satisfied and seemingly fulfilling her dreams, ‘’I’ve wanted to be a dietitian since I was fourteen so I found my career extremely satisfying as I never really wanted to do anything else’ however, after being exposed to the corporate world, Liz realized that there was more to life than sales, product development and target demographics, this was when the idea of “You Chews” was born. “It was after I arrived in Sydney and was working in the nutrition adviser role for Nestle..”, she remembers. A part of this role meant she was to hold sales pitches to local GP’s, many of which were only attended if there were a free meal involved. Liz quickly learnt that although catering was preferred, providing a high quality, fresh and tasty meal was a must when closing a deal. Liz believes that food ignite something in people, ‘it brings people happiness, it brings a whole group of people who may not even know each other together, it brings so much more than the average person would expect’. After many years of less-than-popular catering and unsatisfied clients, she thought ‘what if there was a platform where people like me who were looking for great catering could connect with the best local food businesses for their catering needs?’.

Liz muru-D photo

(Above: Liz at MuruD headquarters)

 

At this point in time, Liz had created a dream for herself, saving local businesses from falling short of their mainstream, hugely popular and in some cases, poor quality counterparts. She began developing relationships with young entrepreneurs and put her idea of sourcing local food and providing corporate companies with the opportunity to have a great quality catering to test at Sydney’s Lean Machine start up event, where other like-minded entrepreneurs would gather for a weekend to obtain advice, guidance and validity as to whether their service, or business was viable. “I got a good enough response that weekend to keep going’ she remembers of that first public event in which ‘You Chews’ was a part of. It was the start of something bigger than she could ever imagine and where her desire to succeed was cemented.

 

Continual pitches to various investors, at all levels and through varying platforms, Liz came to learn about MuruD. MuruD first started in 2014 and is an accelerated start up program, funded by Telstra which enables young entrepreneurs, like Liz, to obtain funding in return for a small stake in their business as well as having industry heavyweights guide the founders to make their business a successful, and profitable business. You Chew’s big break came from a man named Ben Ried, who had met Liz at an event where they got talking about You Chews and her business model. “Ben took my business card and emailed me a few days later, asking if I would cater for an event sponsored by Telstra…he turned out being the business development manager for MuruD and the event was MuruD launch party” Liz reminiscences. 

Though meeting someone with such a high influence on the program is a positive, that doesn’t mean there wasn’t years of hard work before ‘You Chews’ became a part of the program. ‘I applied for MuruD that year and made the top 20 but didn’t make it to the top 10… we were told to come back the next year with a website prototype’ and that is exactly what she did. She worked tirelessly for the following 12 months to cement her place in program.

 

One year later and ‘You Chews’ was selected for 2015 intake. Her hard work had paid off, but what she didn’t realize was how tough this program would be. “My goal for so long was to get into the program, to participate in an accelerator to learn how to build a global business, but I had no idea how much it entailed and how tough it would be’ but Liz was left with no option but to fight, fight for her dream and fight for the strength to keep going.

MuruD opened a lot of new opportunities for You Chews by creating powerful networks with large companies, offering insightful workshops and opening their business to growth far quicker than Liz and her co-founder and real life partner, Phil could have done on their own. ‘muru-D has certainly given us opportunities that we would not have had / would have taken much longer / grown our business and networks more quickly than slogging it out alone’, though she admits that it is her determination she believes has lead to her where she is today, ‘But the only thing that enables success is, in fact, sheer determination’. Her co-founder Phil seconds this ‘Liz has always had this determination to succeed that made is easier for us to work together to meeting our common goal’ and that was to ensure that they did not fail. Giving up their lives to be a part of MuruD is a testament to that goal, with Phil explaining. ‘When we were accepted into MuruD, we quit our jobs, we moved houses and we decided we would give it all that we had, what other choice did we have?’.

 

Once You Chews were into MuruD, herself and Phil stopped at nothing to create a successful business, knowing that operating a business was not going to be easy. ‘Starting any kind of business is going to be tough; building a successful startup is even tougher. Part of being in a startup is beginning your own mini-industry, which means you have to do and learn everything from scratch. It’s very different than doing something like starting a photography business’ Liz states, aware of the fact that with technological advancements occurring in todays world that nearly anyone could open a business with the push of a couple of buttons by operating through the means of social media. Social media has changed the way in which the world operates, including the business world, however, a quick and easy business model was never something Liz was interested in. ‘We were willing to work the hard yards, have the sleepless nights glued to the computer screen – knowing that each decision you make at that exact moment was a crucial one’.
When asked about the struggles the founder of a start up business faces, her response was simple, ‘Nearly everything is a struggle’ she states, without hesitation. ‘Every part of the journey has been a challenge – learning what customers want, dealing with vendors, trying to build a website, hiring staff, growth metrics, online marketing, project and strategy planning for overseas expansion… I could go on.’ Some of the hardest things would not only be about the business side of things, but the personal struggles and learning curves that have to happen, ‘For me though the biggest challenge has been learning to focus on what’s important. With those much on and so many pressing issues vying for your attention it’s imperative to figure out what’s most important to your business, and to figuring it out quickly. I still struggle with those decisions every day, but one of my mantras is that everything is hard before it’s easy. So I keep going. ‘. That attitude has allowed Liz to feel some fantastic high’s during the program, some in which she will never forget. ‘The final demo night, where we presented our progress, was a really special moment. All of us in the program were really close by that time, so to have a night where we were recognised was incredible.’

The start up business industry in Australia is experiencing some of its highest growth to date, with 62,160 enterprises establishing in the second quarter of 2014, up from 50,339 in the first. This by no means suggests that each of these businesses will succeed, in fact, Liz believes that due the hard work and determination that a company owner must have, that there are extremely large numbers of failed businesses, ‘there is such a high dropout / failure rate and that is why persistence in startup founders is valued so highly by investors’ Liz says asked about the key motivators to a successful business, ‘I am 100% convinced that I have been able to get as far as I have and done as much as I have because I haven’t given up’ she insists referring to the passion and drive that you must have for your business before you can fully immerse yourself in making your dream a reality.  It is clear that in today’s world, there are a large portion of failed businesses, with almost 11% of start up businesses failing in their first year of operation.  (Deloitte Australia 2012)

 

A person who knows all to well about the failures of a business is Joshua Cuve , the owner of Leite, who has reflected on his business experience and commends Liz for sticking by her business and beliefs during the tough times. His business was only operational for approximately 7 months before he threw in the towel, it all proving too difficult at that particular time, ‘I look back and realize I wasn’t in the right headspace… I had a million other things happening in my life and Leite just wasn’t a priority’ he reflects, ‘I commend people like Liz who have stuck by their business and worked incredibly hard to succeed’. Although he ‘holds no regrets about Leite’, due to his lack in belief of that particular business, he does mention that the business industry is not for everyone, ‘Personally, I believe you have be a certain person to run a successful business’ he says, ‘I can tell you back then, I wasn’t that person…”.

 

Though Sydney, where You Chews was born, has the highest number of start up businesses in Australia, equating to 6 times more than the number of start up’s in Melbourne, Sydney also has the highest number of start up failures. According to a report, created by Silocone Beach that outlines the facts relating to the start up business industry in Australia, it is said that only 95.8% of start up’s are deemed as unsuccessful. With such a large percentage of failures, it is understandable why there is an angst amongst the start up business community, which can sometimes prove too much for its members. It takes courage, determination and drive – something that not all people are prepared to commit too, but something that Liz has come to terms with over the duration of her adventure thus far, ‘You have to get used to it being hard for a really long time, you will be out of your comfort zone daily, you’ll be scared sh)tless half the time, but you have to keep going!’.

It is a shame that many start up businesses never get the chance the shine, considering many have incredible ideas that could impact our society, however, fall short of ever really making it. Of course, it is some company founders that allow for this to happen, however, there are a large portion that society doesn’t get behind – no matter how hard how much effort a founder may put in. Comparing Australian statistics to those of the US, start up businesses are five times more likely to support a start up business, with companies earning 4.8 times more than Australian businesses and earning 100 times more by the time that they are able scale their operations. Joel Cox from Deliotte Australia, the company behind study, believes it is mainly because Australians are less willing to throw themselves into something that is previously unheard of, ‘It is a shame that Australians seem a little less willing to support these companies, some of them have incredible ideas that just cannot seem to get off the ground’.

 

There has been a slight increase in support for start up’s, with an increase in successful business within the last 4 years, however, very little in comparison to overseas. He believes it will take time, though is on its way, ‘I mean, if you look overseas, the statistics show that it seems to start slow, then there’s a boom because people realize that these companies are bringing ideas to the table that really can change our world’.  You Chews, being one of the lucky ones, accounting for the 5% of successful start up’s is a great achievement and one that Liz can’t thank anyone enough for, ‘Looking at the statistics is scary, it makes me so appreciative of the support I have received and pushes me to work harder every single day!’.

Earlier this year, Liz was nominated for businesswoman of the year run by Telstra. This award is the longest running women’s award program in Australia, running for the past two decades which recognizes hard working women in Australia who have excelled in their chosen career path over the previous 12 months. Although the nomination came as a surprise the Liz, being recognized for her hard work in 2015 came with great appreciation and humility, speaking of the help that this kind of recognition can aid the local businesses that she is trying to support, ‘being recognised for the hard work does definitely help get through the tough times. It’s always nice to hear that people appreciate what we’re doing, especially when they’ve had our food and recommend us to others, which means more support for small local businesses.’ Her care and support for local business shines through Liz as she smiles whilst speaking of these businesses that she is determine to help to succeed, something to be further recognized and admired. The award will be announced in late October, although Liz has no expectations, ‘I’m just happy to be nominated and recognized!’ she says, with a humble smile.
When asking Liz whether her dream has truly become a reality, she finds this question difficult to answer. Most people are willing to settle with creating a successful, profitable business – but not Liz. ‘That’s a tough question. I am truly grateful and proud of where we are at, but I’m a perfectionist.’ Insisting that she always wonders where she could have improved to end up with a better, or different outcome and although she recognizes her achievements, she is humble in saying that there are still goals she wants to meet, ‘While we’ve done extremely well in the short time we’ve been in business, we still have a long way to go before my dreams come true’. It is this kind of attitude that is respected in the industry, that it is a good thing to strive to do better – keeping company founders striving for a better business and more success can only lead to good things.
With MuruD coming up to its 2016 intake, there will be many hopefuls out there perfecting their application, trying to gain acceptance into one of the largest and most well known start up business accelerator programs. There is one main piece of advice that Liz offers to make that dream become a reality and that is to familarise yourself with the industry and get to know those involved in it,  “Get out there and meet as many people as possible trying to do the same thing. You don’t need your own idea or anything like that – just start networking and getting out there to see what others are doing. It’ll help inspire you to define your dreams and goals and make a start, however small”. Co-Founder, Phil, agrees with Liz in recommending anybody who wishes to become a part of a similar program needs to familarise yourself with the industry so that you are somewhat prepared, if you are successful, ‘learn the industry, meet the people and use that to guide your ideas and motivations’.

 

You Chews has continued to grow since its departure from MuruD earlier this year and seems to be going from strength to strength. It now has over 200 regular clients, which has tripled their revenue since the beginning of their adventure 14 months ago. The company has constantly bought on new vendors to supply to their clients with the best fresh food in Sydney, conquering boring lunches one at a time. Although You Chews is currently only based it Sydney, it won’t be long until we will see You Chews infiltrating the rest of the Australian market with plans to move into Melbourne within the next 4-6 months. The pure growth of the company speaks for itself, anybody really can make their dream become a reality and the key to that is to remember ‘nothing worth having is easy’.

If you would like to see more about You Chews please head to their website or contact Liz directly at liz@youchews.com.au

Never Give Up – Three Feet from Gold

“Never, ever ever ever, ever give up.” – Winston Churchill

When I was thinking about becoming an entrepreneur, my father recommended I read Napoleon Hill’s classic Think and Grow Rich. That book changed my whole life, as it gave me the courage and knowledge to harness the power that was in my own mind. Hill is, in fact, the man who coined the well-known phrase “Whatever your mind can conceive and believe, your mind can achieve.” And since reading the book (and becoming a startup founder), I’ve never doubted this is so.

Amongst the many life lessons taught in the book, Hill describes the core tenets if you are to succeed in life as follows:

1) Have a definite major purpose.

2) Maintain a positive mental attitude – believe you can do it.

3) Determine your specific plan to carry out your definite major purpose.

4) Build a mastermind alliance to cover your knowledge gaps and harness the power of the minds of others, who are willing to put the aim of the definite major purpose of the group above all else, working towards a common goal.

5) From your greatest failure will come the seed of an equivalent benefit, which will become your greatest success.

6) Back yourself with everything you’ve got and BELIEVE that the universe is designed to bring success to those with a burning desire for it. (This is otherwise known as “applied faith” in “infinite intelligence”.)

The part of the book that stood out to me the most was the anecdote “Three Feet from Gold”. A man named R.U. Darby had traveled to Colorado during the gold rush days in the American West. Finding a vein of gold, Darby quickly enlisted his uncle to finance the machinery necessary to mine gold and were successful miners for a time. Alas, disaster struck. No more gold was forthcoming. After drilling day after day, the promise of gold which had so enticed them was nowhere to be found. Finally, after searching for what they believed to be a futile exercise, Darby and his uncle both decided to quit. Seeking to salvage some of their investment, they quickly sold their expensive mining equipment at a fraction of the cost to a common, uneducated junkman, and returned East.

But the “junkman” to whom they sold their equipment was no “common man”. While he lacked the education of the upper-crust, aristocratic customers who quit when the goings got tough, he possessed definite major purpose and a positive mental attitude. The “junkman” was smart enough to know what he didn’t know. Rather than melt down the machinery for scrap metal for quick cash, the junkman assessed the situation, and, not convinced that the mine had no gold, hired a mining engineer to get an expert opinion. The engineer’s discovery was astonishing – he found the vein of gold ore that Darby and his uncle had been seeking,  just three feet from where they had stopped drilling!

Astonishing to everyone, that is, except the junkman. He knew enough to seek expert counsel and look at alternatives. He persisted when all seemed lost. Where lesser men gave up mere inches away from riches beyond their wildest dreams, the “junkman”, much less educated than his ne’er-do-well predecessors, followed his gut instinct, persevered, and reaped the benefits.

As for Darby, he learned from his mistakes and eventually became a millionaire later in life, attributing his tenacity and persistence in doing so to this event. Indeed, his motto became: “The most common cause of failure is quitting.”

As a startup founder, I think about this story every single day. Don’t get me wrong – no one wants to delude themselves. Part of the reason we obsessively test our theories in startups is because we want to make sure we are doing the right things that customers want, and to make sure there are enough customers to make the business financially successful. But if you have tested your idea and believe it to be a viable business; if you love what you do so much that you jump up out of bed every morning ready to make your dream a reality; if you refuse to take “no” for an answer because you know in your heart, mind and soul that you’re on the right path; if you keep your definite major purpose front of mind and maintain your positive mental attitude and refuse to quit when times are tough; if you 100% commit yourself to hard work seven days a week, sacrificing holidays and time off, and (at times) your sanity, because even though it’s such hard work and you’ve never done it before and you know that you’re not the smartest person or the toughest person and you’ve continually made a sh*tload of mistakes but you will NEVER give up because you KNOW that the universe brings to those riches who truly BELIEVE it to be so?

You just might make it so.

I’ve done loads of things the wrong way – chose the wrong co-founders, struggled with focus, wasted time worrying about things that didn’t matter at the expense of moving the business forward. But the one positive, successful trait I’ve maintained since diving head-first into the startup world is having the foresight and the humility to admit and know what I don’t know. I don’t have all of the answers. I may stumble and fall (and scrape my knees and possibly cry) along the way. But what I WON’T do is give up when times are tough. I try very hard not to protest when someone questions my ability when I know deep down they’ve got a point. I’ve had to grudgingly admit that I shouldn’t be even remotely thinking about making tons of money before I’ve finished refining my product offering. The power of my mind, however flawed, is all I have. And I am backing it – and myself – with everything I’ve got, because that IS all I’ve got. I won’t quit when times get tough, because they always will be in a startup. I won’t give up. And because I’ll never give up, because I’ll continually recognise and work on my flaws to make myself better and develop myself as a founder, because I’ll never be satisfied with just being “good enough”, I WILL succeed.

If you believe in yourself, if you allow yourself not to get caught up in all of the bullshit around “metrics” and “data” that may change as your business evolves, and you trust your instincts and your gut not to quit when you’re three feet from gold, you will succeed too.

2015’s New Contender for Sydney’s Best Burger

Burgers are taking Sydney by storm. Chur Burger arguably started the burger trend; Neil Perry has opened Burger Project; other notable burger spots include the Kiwi-influenced Burger Bro and Mary’s (with two outposts in Newtown and the CBD) considered by burger fans to be the “unicorn” of Sydney burgers. It is in this burger-centric environment that Cheeky Burger Bar has opened its doors in Paddington on Oxford St, which just so happens to be just metres away from You Chews HQ. What a fab excuse for a “cheeky” You Chews team lunch to try out the newest burger joint in Sydney!

When you first walk into Cheeky Burger Bar, there are stools and a long bench for people looking for a quick bite. We opted for table service out the back and were glad we did as three massive comfy booths were awaiting us! We slid into the shadiest one.

Booths!!

Booths out the back!! Bar stools and no table service in front for those wanting a quick bite.

Cheeky Burger Bar is going for the American-style diner burger theme. I was a bit surprised at the lack of description of ingredients on the menu – normally, I like knowing as much as possible about menu items so I make the right ordering decision. However, since the offering were pretty limited, I was hoping no matter what I chose I was going to be a happy burger eater.

Cheeky Burger Menu

Cheeky Burger Menu

The friendly waitress came by for drink orders. Phil opted for a Resch’s, which were on sale for $5 per schooner.

You Chews Co-Founder Phil enjoying a frosty pre-burger brew

For the food, I opted for the $12.99 “Cheeky Porker”, which I assumed would be pulled pork. Co-founder Jo, co-founder Phil and Jo’s guest all went in for the $9.99 “Cheeky Cheeseburger”. You could add a serve of chips for $2.99 extra, and we split 2 serves of chips between the four of us.

I also wanted to order some wings for the table, as there was a Wed special where wings are only $1. Unfortunately, we were informed that the deal started at 5pm. The wings are normally $12.99 a serve, which I thought quite pricey, but this is research, fellow foodies! Those were duly ordered.

Lastly, we rounded out lunch with a serve of fried pickles ($6.99).

Ladies and burgs, I present to you – the Cheeky Porker.

Cheeky Porker: Pulled pork, coleslaw and BBQ sauce on brioche

Cheeky Porker: Pulled pork, coleslaw and BBQ sauce on a super soft bun

The Bun: Not quite a brioche, as it wasn’t very sweet; I think it was a milk bun? I generally prefer toasted buns, but this lightly steamed bun was so fresh and light that toasting wasn’t necessary.

The Pork: There was no BBQ sauce to be had on this pulled pork- just porkiness, salt and pepper. Tender, juicy, and flavourful. Not having it slathered in BBQ sauce meant more opportunity for tasty porkiness to shine through.

The ‘Slaw: Crunchy, craggy slices of red and green cabbage. Good amount of mayo-based dressing. Excellent flavour of combo of salt, vinegar and sugar in the correct ratios.

The BBQ Sauce: Had the sweetness you’d expect (but not overpowering) with a slight smoky flavour. This sauce wasn’t too thick with a predominant tomato component.

By the end, the burger got a bit messy from the mayo sauce dripping from the ‘slaw. It’s a small price to pay for such tastiness. I was indeed a happy burger eater!

Post burger munching - You Chews founder at her happiest!

Post burger munching + a comfy booth – You Chews Chief Foodie at her happiest!

Next up: the Cheeky Cheeseburger.

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The Bun: It looks like the bun completely overwhelms the burger, but it doesn’t due to the softness and lightness of the bun. Because the bread isn’t dense, it actually is the perfect vehicle for the patty and almost sinks into the meat.

The Patty: The New York Times discusses the two types of burger patty commonly eaten in the US. In keeping with the diner theme, this patty was “diner style”, on the thin side and smashed flat, seasoned well and cooked crisp on the edge. The patty could have been juicier and was perhaps cooked just slightly too long (not much pink inside) but I chalked this up to growing pains of the establishment.

Beef patty, soft bun, 'Murcan cheese, pickles, special sauce

Beef patty, soft bun, ‘Murcan cheese, pickles, special sauce by way of a green chutney. Bit o’pink in the middle.

The Cheese: Classic American cheese (THE best burger cheese, IMHO) was melted all over the patty, caressing the nooks and crannies of the meat and blanketing it with its deliciously melted plasticity.

The Pickles: Thin lengthwise slices of dill pickles. Added a nice crunch.

We added tomato sauce or "ketchup" as us Yanks like to say.

We added tomato sauce or “ketchup” as us Yanks like to say.

The Sauce: Here Cheeky Burger Bar deviates from the norm, by adding a green chutney-type relish with a ketchup-y consistency. In no way was it traditional, but my was it tasty! I’ve never tasted something like this on a burger. It just worked.

Overall, a very good burger that we predict will soon earn its place in the hearts and stomachs of Sydney burger devotees everywhere.

Next, the French Fries. Totally average shoestring fries. They are just very boring, compared to the burger into which careful consideration has been taken. So many other chip types burger bars can be experimenting with, especially if you’re going with the Americana diner motif. Curly fries anyone? Or waffle fries. Those are the shiz. Mmmmm….waffle fries….

Shoestring fries. Just OK.

Shoestring fries. Just OK. Points for being extra crispy, though.

The Buffalo Wings – Cheeky are going for the traditional American buffalo wing, complete with blue cheese dressing and carrots and celery batons. These wings were heavily coated first, then tossed in sauce so the wings were soggy. Real buffalo wings are quickly tossed in a basic flour base then flash-fried so that the skin is crisp. Serve was 7 wings for $13 so not greatest value for money. Wing meat was juicy and tasty though and the buffalo sauce flavour was spot-on.

Nearly buffalo wings.

Nearly buffalo wings.

The Fried PicklesFried pickles come in a few different varieties, from the crinkle-cut rounds to the crumbed and fried spears. Cheeky Burger Bar opted for the spears, coated in a tempura batter that puffed up nice when fried crispy. But again, value for money I thought was lacking. $7 for around 5 pieces. To be fair, these bad boys are rich and were served with aioli, so you really didn’t need much more than that.

Fried pickle spears in tempura batter

Fried pickle spears in tempura batter

Bite of fried pickle

Bite of fried pickle and Lizzie’s greasy greedy fingers

But the best bit is yet to come. The most memorable part of our meal? The pièce de résistance?

THE tastiest thing we’ve eaten in 2015 thus far?!

Read the next blog to find out 😉

All in all, CheekyBurgerBar is riding the wave of burger bars and riding it well. You Chews would love to have them on the platform serving up burgers to our amazing customers. What about you? What do you think about a build-your-own-Cheeky-Burger at your workplace?

Recipe: Startup Guacamole

Step 1: Find the time to go to shopping for food.

Step 2: Buy ridiculously overpriced avocados that are either rock-hard or nearly rotting. Stick in fridge. Forget you bought them.

Step 3: Invite startup friends over. Decide you and your guests need a snack. Remember you have avocados in the fridge. Announce you will serve fresh guacamole. Go to the fridge to find your avocados are still rock hard/rotted beyond use.

Step 4: Long-suffering boyfriend remembers walking by ripe avocados at the corner shop. Send boyfriend out to get more avocados that are soft.

Step 5: Text boyfriend after he’s left to buy the other ingredients you forgot you also didn’t have (normally fresh lime, chilli and coriander.)

Step 6: Text boyfriend to also buy tortilla chips, since you decided that even though you have lavosh crackers,  you think that tortilla chips would be nicer with guacamole.

Step 7: Boyfriend arrives home with guacamole ingredients in tow, sans tortilla chips as he missed that particular text. Have an animated, whispered conversation in the doorway about how he is NOT going back out to buy tortilla chips. Announce the guacamole will be served alongside lavosh as originally intended. Proceed to make awesome guacamole.

Startup Guacamole:

  • 2 large avocados, ripe enough to mash
That looks about right.

That looks about right.

  • 1/4 small onion, finely diced*
  • 1/2 small tomato, de-seeded and finely diced*
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed through garlic press (I had pre-roasted garlic in my fridge, it’s a tasty alternative)
  • 1/2 small chilli*, minced or 1 generous pinch red pepper flakes (optional, only if you and the others like spicy stuff)
  • 1/2 fresh lime*
  • The leaves of 2-3 large stalks of coriander, finely chopped
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Rice crackers/lavosh/tortilla chips etc for dipping

*Step 8:  When prepping these ingredients, promise yourself that you will use up the rest of the onion/tomato/etc before they go off. Hint: you will fail. But you’re in a startup, so you’re used to failure.

Step 9: Halve, de-stone, peel and mash avocados with a fork in a bowl until it’s a smooth-ish consistency.

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Step 10: Mix the onion, tomato, garlic and chilli (if using) into the avocado.

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Step 11: Squeeze the juice of 1/2 fresh lime into the avocado mixture.

Step 12: Sprinkle over finely chopped coriander over avocado mixture and fold in alongside lime juice. Taste and add salt and pepper if desired.

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Step 13: Attempt to arrange lavosh nicely on a plate. Bring over with bowl of guac to the coffee table.

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Step 14: Accept praise and pats on the back as startup friends appreciate your freshly made (and very tasty) guacamole! Serves 4-6 as a dip with accompanying tortilla chips, carrot sticks, etc. As your guests are likely hungry startup founders, you should not have leftovers.