Ignite Your Productivity With The Spark Notebook (Giveaway!)

I'm a productivity junkie. I will save all the articles, add all the books to my wish list, and read all the tips I can get my hands on in the name of getting shit done. Still, finding that perfect mix of productivity tools and systems for my current lifestyle has eluded me. I'll find some new tips or processes and stick with them enthusiastically for awhile, but ultimately I always fall back in the cycle of getting overwhelmed by everything I need to do. A million things to do, a million different to-do lists, Post-Its, notebooks, planners, calendars and apps to keep track of them all.

My endless pursuit of the perfect productivity system has brought the Spark Notebook into my life. I'd been following Kate Matsudaira and her productivity-centric startup, PopForms on social media when my friend Sarah Lovrien asked if I'd be part of the video she was filming for Kate's Kickstarter campaign. Fast forward to now, with Kate's wildly successful campaign funded in 24 hours and the Spark Notebook completely sold out in its first edition!

What's the Spark Notebook, you ask?

In short, it's a planner on steroids. All of your notes, goals, big ideas and things to do now have one home, versus many different Post-Its. The Spark Notebook was meticulously designed by Kate and team to take your career and life to the next level. 

Watch the video below - and visit the Kickstarter page for more insight into Kate's vision for the Notebook as well as how others are already using it. Kate also shares some of her other favorite Kickstarter projects in the updates - click through for more really cool ideas coming to life! There's some serious productivity and entrepreneur inspo going on over on the Kickstarter page!

Soooo I've got a Spark Notebook to give away!

GIVEAWAY CLOSED - Congrats Chloe for winning my Spark Notebook, and thanks so much to everyone who participated!

On 2.5 Years of Freelancing

When I decided to start freelancing over two and a half years ago, I had no idea what I was getting into. I just knew I had to do it. Working for yourself is the most freeing job you can ever have - if you're willing to work the hardest you ever have in your life for it! It's also the one professional move you can make that will teach you more about yourself, about others and about life than anything else. The great thing about freelancing is that it's always there if you decide to do it. While I wrap up my first round of life as a freelancer, here are a few of the best - and hardest - lessons I've learned:

Image via    Pinterest

Image via Pinterest

Putting yourself out there is nerve-wracking & necessary.

Working for yourself means you do everything - everything - yourself. At least when you're starting out. Of the many hats you wear, marketing yourself is one hat that's always on your head. I happen to know a bit about marketing myself - building a personal brand as a blogger and social media professional made that a necessary skill, and LinkedIn and the occasional blog/real-life comment tells me I'm pretty good at it. Still, that didn't prepare me for the nerves that come with putting yourself out there as a freelancer.

People are fascinating.

Once I got over those nerves and started telling people what I was up to, a beautiful thing happened. People responded warmly, and many were willing to help! In fact, the lion's share of my freelance work has come from word-of-mouth. People are awesome. Some people really aren't, and you encounter them when you decide to work for yourself too. People who think freelancing means you can't hold a 'real' job down. People who don't pay you for work you've done. People who change what they want out of you after the contract's been signed. People who want to have coffee or co-work with you then can't stop talking to let either of you get any work done. The awesome and the not-so-awesome have taught me to always surround yourself with good, true people. As James Altucher said, "Who you choose is more important than what you do."

You get what you give.

Sometimes we're enamored by the idea of freelancing because of its perceived benefits. You can work on your own schedule, from anywhere you want, at any time of day. You can take a break and go do something else for awhile and not have coworkers breathing down your neck wondering where you are. "Sign me up!", right? What's hard for any freelancer to convey unless you've been there yourself is that you truly work harder than you ever had in a conventional 9 - 5. It's crazy how much your perspective changes when you establish an hourly bill rate and you (or your client) want to squeeze every ounce out of every hour!

Structure is key.

Speaking of time, my perspective on my schedule and what I did with my time completely changed once I started freelancing. "Does it benefit my bottom line?" I'd ask myself when weighing what I'd do with my hours every day. Not everything directly benefits it, of course, but that mindset sure made it a lot easier to say no to things and people that aren't worth the time. I find I'm more productive when I've got some structure to my day and in what I'm doing.

It's lonely.

Working for yourself at home is great, until you realize almost all of your interaction with other human beings is through email or social media. Something I missed most when freelancing was collaborating with others on an idea or on tactics, or just brainstorming. Going to coffee shops all the time helped to feel somewhat connected, but on a short-term basis. I didn't want to set too many coffee dates when there's always work to do. So while your coworkers can get on your last nerve sometimes, don't ever take their banter for granted!

You will always know what's best for yourself.

When the balance between blogging, consulting and life became my biggest struggle, that's when I made the choice to turn the long-term contract gig I had into a permanent thing. I freelanced because I wanted to spend more time blogging, and yet I never figured out that happy medium marrying professional blogging with the consulting work I was doing. More often than not, the blogging gigs I took on were too short-term or not lucrative enough, and so my profits would come from strictly consulting. Because I'd be working a lot, I wasn't able to spend nearly as much time on the blogging side of business as I wanted to. On top of that, I discovered I really liked blogging about things that I wouldn't or couldn't necessarily charge for - and that's okay. In fact, I know you beautiful readers would rather read about things I'm passionate about; not products or services that paid to be here.

I'm officially a permanent full-timer at the non-profit gig I started on contract in May, and while I struggled with the culture shock of going back to office life (I gotta put pants on again?), it's the choice I needed to make. Freelancing is amazing and I wouldn't doubt it if it was part of my future sometime down the road. For now, giving back with purpose through work and the connections I'm cultivating with students have already made this an opportunity I couldn't pass up. I am also still able to work on and grow Fresh Jess, so I'm excited to have the mind and creative space to take things even higher from here.

Happy holidays!

Fresh Jess Loves Ampersand as Apostrophe (+ Giveaway!)

The gifts just keep on comin' from Fresh Jess this holiday season!

Last month, I had the honor of hanging out with Jessica (owner) and Mady (production assistant) in the Ampersand as Apostrophe studio. I love meeting small biz owners, and what a treat to see Jess in her element. Amidst giant rolls of leather hides and shelves full of chains of all kinds, we talked bags, business and life. Ampersand as Apostrophe is one of the most coveted bag brands on ShopBop, Revolve and boutiques across the world. We're so lucky to have Jess and AasA based right here in the Emerald City!

In the studio

In the studio

Styling my one-of-a-kind grey Sideways Tote!   Alive & Well off-white knit beanie // Zara leather jacket // old plaid flannel shirt //     TopShop black skinny jeans    // black boots found on Poshmark // J.Crew knit infinity scarf // Target gloves

Styling my one-of-a-kind grey Sideways Tote! Alive & Well off-white knit beanie // Zara leather jacket // old plaid flannel shirt //  TopShop black skinny jeans // black boots found on Poshmark // J.Crew knit infinity scarf // Target gloves

With Jess at The Seattle Collective

With Jess at The Seattle Collective

#Seattle: Meet Winegarden, Happiness Delivered

Today I'd like to welcome back one of my contributors, Titus Kimbowa. A junior at the University of Washington at the time, Titus first approached me after a talk and asked me how to grow a network on Twitter, balancing the line between professionalism while building your personal brand. His drive and curiosity have taken him far in the last two years I've known him, and I'm honored that Fresh Jess is the first to bring you his new venture. Read on to discover Winegarden!

winegarden
winegarden

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As a student at UW, one of the best experiences I was lucky enough to get involved with was building startups. Being immersed in startups gave me an opportunity to meet interesting people. As a kid from a little town in Uganda, the only place I could think to meet such wonderful people was in my dreams. During these meetings, a consistent social connector was wine. Aside from wine being an acquired taste that was lost on me, I knew nothing of its intricacies. After multiple attempts, I was finally able to grasp the basics of wine. There’s clearly a big learning curve.

Soon after I finished school, I was burned out! Working three jobs to pay for school while being a full time student took a toll on me. I decided to break from the stresses of work and school, and absorb more of the unique culture Seattle had to offer that I couldn’t properly appreciate in the past. To my surprise, I find that wine is again at the center of my cultural experience. I realized in order to fully appreciate what Seattle had to offer, I would have to uncork this wonder and learn firsthand what makes it so intriguing.

As I discovered and learned about the diverse selection of great wines, I noticed that wine is not well-cultivated here. Specifically, locally-sourced wines have yet to take a crack at Seattle’s eclectic culture. Wines made in Washington have won numerous awards on the global scale, yet Seattleites know more about California wines than Washington wines. Either we just don’t like Washington wines or the marketing sucks.

I’m with the latter.

The Seattleite in me wouldn’t allow me to give the city a pass on enjoying an inferior wine that’s not from Washington. I got in touch with a friend, Thomas Winegarden who had talked about a wine delivery service that he wanted to build. We discussed different ways in which the technology could be built and settled on a platform, to which local wine shops and wineries would market and sell their wine then have it delivered to consumers on-demand or at a set time that day. The challenge lies between the seamless communication between the customer, driver, and winery/shop. The delivery charge starts at $10 and $6, respectively.

We set forth on the journey to create a service that puts the customer at the center of every transaction. At Winegarden, it's now our mission:

We believe that shopping for wine should be an unforgettable, fun, and delightful experience.

Winegarden not only puts Washington wines at your disposal, but leaves little to no time between you and the perfect glass. Additionally, we put the guesswork out of wine by making it easy to search and discover wines that best fit your taste preference and budget. Washington wines are world-class and are slowly making waves across the globe. We want to accelerate this trend by providing the best service to every Winegarden customer.

With this goal in mind, we set out to land our first set of customers. Knocking on doors, and using referrals has been the only way we’ve delivered wine. During this period, we’ve learned a lot about the nuances of delivering wine. We are now ready to announce it to Seattle and take on more orders!

Join the revolution at www.JoinWinegarden.com.

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Titus Kimbowa is a young entrepreneur living in Seattle, WA. He was born in Kampala, Uganda & moved to the States when he was 12. He’s currently a senior at the University of Washington and serves as vice-president of the UW American Marketing Association, and he's interning as the product marketing analyst for stealthy start-up Webtuner. He’s got past experience as part of the Zagat team at Google, Crown Social, TEDxYouth Seattle, and starting up an enterprise travel company. In his spare time (which he rarely gets) he likes to play basketball, read, and hang out around Seattle.

Find Titus on Twitter, and view all of his posts here.

Aces Interview: Davida Ingram, Gates Foundation Visitor Center

No matter where you go or what you do, your experiences are always punctuated with the memories of the people who left an impact on you. Whenever I go to the Gates Foundation Visitor Center, I make sure to catch up with my friend and one of Seattle's culture savants, Davida Ingram. Davida is an educator at the Gates Visitor Center, meaning her days there are filled with meeting people from all walks of life, taking them on tours and providing them with the richest experience they can possibly have there. Davida and I met way back in our careers, and I'd say the Gates Visitor Center is the perfect place not only to meet Davida, but to get a true sense of her passion for educating others. Definitely take a tour with Davida next time you're at the Gates Visitor Center, and today, get a peek into her life:

What's on your playlist right now?

  • Lake Street Dive (I love their cover of the Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back)

  • NighTrain (go see them live)

  • Thee Satisfaction

  • Meklit Hadero (Abbay Mado)

Who is your biggest inspiration today?

Oh, dang. That is really hard. Right now, I am inspired by actors like Harry Belafonte and Danny Glover for their commitments to social justice. I also love that we live in city that is constantly making connections between civic life and social justice.

Describe your style.

How would I describe my style? Fashion-wise—eclectic. I love mixing and matching vintage and contemporary. I was raised by women with style—I have my own and it’s very different but it’s my way of honoring them. People-wise, in terms of style, I love making connections so understanding what’s important to others and what motivates them really matters to me. Like a lot of educators, I think it’s important to keep learning, so I often think about my learning style. I am definitely the person who’s computer is slow because too many things are open.

What's your favorite way to unplug after a busy day of tours?

I am a not-quite-closeted introvert. So, one-on-one conversations really help me unwind. But Thursdays and Sundays are all about Scandal or Game of Thrones. One of my favorite Scandal times is gathering with other community workers who like to bug out about the latest plot twists.

What are you reading?

Honestly. Facebook. In the sense that I curate my “current events” content based on what my friends are posting. Their links take me to places for news. Crunk Feminist CollectiveImpatient OptimistsSalon are regular reads for me. I am also a (proud) nerd so I am usually reading more than one book at a time. My new books are Singing Plants  and a book of poetry called Twerk. Anything by Toni Morrison or Toni Cade Bambara is a good stand by book for me.

What's your favorite meal & beverage?

My favorite meal changes—right now it’s all about smoked salmon, wakame and white rice topped with sesame oil and chili flakes. And I loves cherry Kombucha with chia seeds.

What are you most excited about in the coming months?

We have a teen action fair  coming up on May 10 at the Visitor Center and two teen workshops. I see our programs as passports to a global context with an emphasis on young people as change makers. So those two things have me really excited.

Davida Ingram - Gates Visitor Center

Davida Ingram - Gates Visitor Center

Can you tell us a little about the Gates Foundation Visitor Center from your perspective?

On my tours I often share that the best part of my job is that I have learned about so many issues that existed under the radar for me, until I got here. If you walk into our bathrooms, you will see photos of different toilets from around the world, along with info about the over 2.5 billion people who don’t have toilets. I’ve seen myself as a global citizen for many years in terms of my interest in cross-cultural dialog, art, design, music, fashion and more. But my job, and the conversations I have here with staff and especially our visitors, helps me see ways of building affinity with mothers who want to raise their children’s standard of living because they live on less than $2 a day.

What's your favorite thing about the Gates Foundation Visitor Center?

The people. Buildings are nothing without the people. The vision for this place was to inspire our visitors to share and discuss the things that they want to consciously do to make a better world. Now, I almost said the Visitor Center’s public programs were my favorite thing—but *surprise* they are all about people too, whether it’s visitors or our partners from the community. Our recent work parties, family days and teen events are people-centered things that I love about my job, aside from touring.

Is there a specific Gates Foundation Visitor Center visitor/group who's inspired you?

One of my biggest joys comes from working with our teens. We have workshop and special teen committees, and they are filled with really remarkable young leaders who want to make a difference now and as they grow into adulthood. I just had to sit down and tell one of our participants Malaya that I was so proud of her for her recent volunteerism with a group called Birthday Dreams. She’s been helping to organize birthday parties for children in families and foster care that struggle. Birthdays are always big for me so when she mentioned that it really moved me, like I teared up. She and other amazing youth will be presenting at our May 10 Teen Action Fair, and I would encourage anybody to come and check their stories out. They will inspire you.

Any events coming up at the Gates Foundation Visitor Center you're excited for?

Well, if you could not tell, the May 10 Teen Action Fair has me pretty psyched. I love giving young people an opportunity to shine. And it’s incredibly powerful when they have their communities surrounding them and cheering them on. We have a range of different topics that teens will be tackling at the teen action fair—health care in poor countries, education, arts & culture—but at the heart of each of these issues is a young person who sees his or her part in turning the tide. And that is definitely something to get excited about. It’s boring to be cynical.

Thank you!

Find Davida at the Gates Visitor Center.

Read all of my Aces interviews here.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Visitor Center is open Tuesdays - Saturdays, 10:00a.m. - 5:00p.m. at 440 5th Ave. N. Street and garage parking are aplenty. 

Register online for a group tour of the Gates Visitor Center.

Check out their events calendar for upcoming special programs.

Join the dialogue! Follow the Visitor Center on Twitter and Facebook.

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Visitor Center. The opinions expressed herein are those of the author and are not indicative of the opinions or positions of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Visitor Center.

Fresh Reads: Unlabel / On Reconnecting w/Your Core Strengths

Being sick at home all week sure has its perks. I've been battling what seems to be a cold and nasty allergy cough, and rather than force myself out to spread some germs, I canceled everything on my calendar, moved meetings to satellite calls and gave myself some self-imposed cabin fever. While at times it drove me nuts, not having to go anywhere left a lot more time to get caught up on things like emails, reading and writing. I'd started Marc Ecko's Unlabel last fall; after seasons of slowly making my way through, I powered through the second half of it in one night this week. Boy, was it worth it!

For those who don't know Marc Ecko, he's a cultural ingenue in the realms of streetwear, hip-hop and graffiti. Most famously, he's the founder and face behind Ecko Unlimited and its family of streetwear collection brands as well as the figurehead behind Complex Magazine/Media. As Unlabel will show you, Marc's had many other endeavors in art, video games, high fashion and more. He weaves all of his entrepreneurial successes and failures into a brilliant story on personal branding and starting your own business. He even appeals to the analytical brains by conveying his points with an algorithm; each chapter highlights one piece in this algorithm that eventually comes together in a formula for 'unlabeling' yourself.

As you can imagine, a white Jewish kid from Jersey had a hard time establishing a name for himself in graffiti culture, then in streetwear, then in mainstream fashion. This is where the 'Unlabel' flame is ignited. Ecko shows how he overcame the presumptions and the hardships put in place by the 'gatekeepers' of these 'scenes'; that despite what label one might place on him, he didn't have to live in a box, limited by what that label meant.

I could go on forever about all the things I resonated with in Unlabel - the trials and tribulations of entrepreneurship, personal branding, being a creator, breaking down barriers, being vulnerable, thinking strategically, etc. - but what struck me most was his consistent return to 'remembering your core strengths.'

That could be your most popular, best-selling service or product, or it could be the passions, personality traits and skills you know you're strongest in. No matter how far Marc strayed, he always came back to his core strengths.

Wow.

How often do we stray from our own core strengths?

I do it all the time. Anyone with a smartphone or internet access can probably say the same. I started this sick week almost bored from forcing myself to rest and not knowing what to do. I didn't like anything on TV, so naturally I'd reach for my phone and scroll endlessly. After reading Unlabel, I thought about all the things I'm truly passionate about doing (besides working out.) Reading, writing, blogging, marketing. I should never be bored b/c there's always something new to read about, try, analyze and try again in those four fields alone. Return to your core strengths, Jess.

So while Unlabel was a great marketing / personal branding read overall, I thank Marc Ecko for renewing that fire within me. Sometimes it takes a little sickness and some quality reading time to re-anchor ourselves to what's truly important to us.

Check out Unlabel here.

Inside Zara Seattle (Open Tomorrow, 2/13!)

SEATTLE, REJOICE! Zara has finally landed in the Emerald City, right in the heart of downtown Seattle at Westlake Mall. The 49th U.S. Zara location opens its doors to the public tomorrow morning, satiating the shopping palate of so many Pacific Northwesterners who've waited patiently for years to get one of our own (me included.) Zara Seattle is 8200 square feet of pure, unadulterated, amazing fast fashion for women, men and kids alike. Fitting right in with many PNW businesses, sustainability is a priority at Zara, with environmentally-friendly fixtures and efficient systems that cut electricity usage by 30% and water consumption by 50%. 

Sarah Lovrien and I teamed up for this morning's press preview to give Fresh Jess readers a unique look into the store. Black and white, stark lines and lots of drama run prevalent in Zara's current product offering, so we thought it'd be fun to apply the same thought in these preview photos. Enjoy, and happy shopping!

Zara Seattle
Zara Seattle
Zara Seattle
Zara Seattle
Zara Seattle
Zara Seattle
Zara Seattle
Zara Seattle
Zara Seattle
Zara Seattle
Zara Seattle
Zara Seattle

Inditex (Zara's parent company) Jesús Echevarría giving insight on Zara's business model and their ability to turn out new product from concept to delivery in 48 hours. Insane!

Zara Seattle
Zara Seattle
Zara Seattle
Zara Seattle
Zara Seattle
Zara Seattle
Zara Seattle
Zara Seattle

All photos credit Sarah Lovrien. For portfolio & booking, visit SarahLovrien.com.

Aces Interview: Tac Anderson

Twitter was a different world back in 2009. It hadn't reached its tipping point yet, and it felt like a small, manageable community. I found myself making tons of friends and admiring not-yet-friends in many circles - Seattle, blogging, social media, fashion blogging, fashion, hip-hop music, MMA/UFC. You could tweet at anyone and would likely get a response, because we were all trying to figure out what the hell all of this social media hype was and how it'd fit into our lives. Those glory days are gone, but I'm thankful to have people like Tac Anderson still active and awesome in my Twittersphere.

Tac Anderson

Tac Anderson

I think I first learned about Tac through my dear friend and his former colleague, Jordana Bruner. I can't remember if I'd met Tac in real life before, but we did for sure very recently at a local marketing event. I've been following Tac's tweets, Instagrams and blog posts for years, from his own adventures navigating PR and social media in Seattle, then out in London, then back again. Though organization and productivity are never-ending lessons for me, I am a big fan of Tac's Getting Things Done (GTD, as in the David Allen productivity system) Moleskine hack and revisit it often when my to-do list needs a serious shape-up. Tac's like a quiet force in social media nowadays, in that he doesn't post as much but everything he says is good stuff.

Tac Anderson

Tac Anderson

What's on your playlist right now?

  • Cumulus (new local Seattle band)

  • Phantogram

  • White Lies

  • Tokyo Police Club

  • Bloc Party

  • Pixies (always)

  • We Were Promised Jetpacks

Describe your style.

Monochromatic NW Geek meets London.

Really all I need is Doc Martens, 501s, a black (or gray) shirt with the occasional flat cap, scarf and/or cardigan.

I try and keep it simple and everything matches black and gray, especially more black and gray. I grew up in the NW but living in London for a year left its mark.

Tac Anderson

Tac Anderson

Who inspires you?

Everyone and no one. I don't have role models. I don't get inspired by people, but by actions. The everyday decisions to strive to make oneself better is what matters. The things people do, even ordinary people, are what I find inspiring.

Tac Anderson

Tac Anderson

What are you reading?

I love reading. I just launched a new blog, the Book Punk where I review cyberpunk and steampunk books. I also contribute book reviews to the I Hear of Sherlock blog. I just finished Nexus by Seattle author and technologist, Ramez Naam and The Will of the Dead written by steampunk author George Mann. But I'm also really excited about S, a new book by JJ Abrams, which is a book within a book.

Tac Anderson

Tac Anderson

What are you most excited about in the coming months?

2014. I think it's going to be an amazing year.

Thanks Tac! Find him at Fear My Blog and on Twitter.

Read all of my Aces interviews here.

Just Do It: My Theme & Vision Boards for 2014

Hope you've had a happy holiday season! I had a very Merry Christmas, then was promptly taken down by the sick bug a couple of days later. Being in bed all day is driving me nuts, although I did watch our beloved Seahawks clinch the NFC West and home field advantage for the playoffs; tons of reading (I cleared out all the articles I saved in my Twitter favorites and Pocket!); and of course, writing in my journal. I can't sit still, even when I'm sick.

I finished Stratejoy's 2013 Holiday Council workshop, which has been incredibly helpful for me in framing my goals for the upcoming year (this was my second year doing it.) Instead of just writing down a list of resolutions I may or may not (who am I kidding - probably not) stick to, Molly has us determine a theme for our year. We think about all the things we want to be, and our goals are designed from there. WITH ACTION PLANS! I still have to work on my action plans for my goals, but I've settled on a theme and created vision boards I'm happy to stand behind.

So what's my theme for 2014? I wasn't going for anything too lofty - this year, for example, my theme was "Be responsible." That was simple enough for me to carry as a mantra throughout everything I took on this year. For 2014, the theme "Just do it" stood out to me above the rest of my ideas. Not just because of my forever love for Nike, but because I need to remind myself of this simple phrase constantly.

I am always piling way too much on my plate. My way of dealing with doing too much is to over-organize. I try to put everything on my to-do list, even when I know it shouldn't go on there (or it's already done and I just want to cross it off. Haha!) It's a coping mechanism that leads to an unnecessarily long list of shit I have to do, and when I look at it, I don't want to do any of it. So here we are. Just do it Jess. Be present in the moment, and act on it. Don't overthink, don't leave it for later when you "have more time to stew on it" (I am always saying that to myself), and especially don't delay any more on the things you want the most. It's not fancy, but it's exactly what I need to help me do all that I need to realize my dreams.

Whenever I make a vision board, I like to do it the old-school, offline way with old magazines, a pair of scissors and glue sticks. This is the third year I've done one (peep my 2013 and 2012 boards), and every year it amazes me how much the images/feelings/goals portrayed on my boards manifest themselves in my life that same year. I do one for my life/goals, and one for personal style. Both boards go up in my closet, so when I'm in there every morning, they're in my face as a daily reminder of what's most important to me. This year, my life board's got a lot of encouraging phrases and badass, entrepreneurial women juxtaposed with boho, ethereal vibes. Beyonce and my "Just do it" theme are front & center because duh - and I had to include a laughing, dancing Jennifer Lawrence in there too. 

I was super humbled to be a part of Seattle Met's Style Resolutions roundup for 2014 alongside some of the city's flyest & most stylish. My resolution was "...to focus on pieces that make me come alive. Vintage, statement, embellished, updated basics, whatever – as long as it lights my fire." This was the inspiration behind this year's style board. Bonus points if you can spot the Nike FuelBand! :)

2014 will be an interesting year, as I'm heading into it in the midst of total transition in all aspects of my life. I welcome it with an open mind, open heart, and some serious fire.

Do you have any resolutions, themes, vision boards or other ways you like to kick off the new year? Would love to see them! Happy new year to you!

Aces Interview: Lee Smith & Kristen Puckhaber, Rich Kids Brand & Urbanity

I was originally going to post this yesterday, but what better way to kick off Small Business Saturday than with two of my favorite small business owners?

With Mikey McClarron, the reason why Lee & Kristen happened :)

I met Kristen way back when she was co-captain of Western Washington University's hip-hop dance team. I was always in awe of her amazing dancing and impeccably flawless streetwear-laced style. Sassy, smart and always sweet-natured, it's no surprise Kristen now leads the creative vision driving the burgeoning Seattle-based Rich Kids Brand.

Lee is the other half of this stylish power couple and creator behind both Rich Kids Brand and Urbanity Shop. With Lee's leadership, both the brand and shop are flourishing, garnering national attention while staying true to their respective vision. I have always resonated with Rich Kids' motto ("Rich isn't what you have, it's who you have beside you.") Lee is a such a bright entrepreneurial talent that I have a feeling we've only seen the tip of the iceberg with his ventures.

At Agenda

What's on your playlist right now?

Lee:

My playlist right now and pretty much all year around features Lil Wayne (All Mixtapes) with No Ceilings always being at the top, Pusha T, The Weekend, some turn up hood ish and blurbs of Pucks 80's butt rock.

Kristen: 

My current playlist consists of whatever Lee has in the car and my pandora stations combined, which turns out to be kind of all over the place...

  • Jay Z

  • Meek Mill

  • Mya

  • The Postal Service

  • Kendrick Lamar

  • Kanye

  • Prince

  • Lil Wayne

  • Modest Mouse

  • Janet Jackson

  • The Weeknd

  • The Beatles

Describe your style.

Lee:

My style has always been inspired by street culture and high end designers. I love what street and urban style represents, but you can't beat the fit of Saint Laurent or Balmain. You'll always see me in some exclusive Jordan's (og color-ways of course), Balmain Bikers or Japanese Denim, and I'm really feeling these PRSVR napa leather joggers that we just got into the shop. (We brought the leather joggers to Fendi 6 yrs ago) lol. I usually top it off with one of the authentic custom snakeskin hats we did and of course a Rich Kids tee or hoodie. I like to keep it exclusive, but always have some wow pieces that people are familiar with.

Kristen: 

I've never really had to answer this before, so it's weird because I feel like there could be a wrong answer...which there isn't one; since I grew up in the (hip hop) dance world, that has definitely influenced my “contemporary street” style. I dress comfortably, but like to have a little bit of that unique aspect to my wardrobe. I've always been a “thrifter,” I remember going in cliques to the local Value Village in junior high and finding those gem and at the time (late 90's), I didn't know how stylish we were.

Who inspires you?

Lee: 

Honestly my parents have always inspired me and pushed me to be who I want to be. Their support is amazing and I couldn't ask for more. I also get inspired by anyone who lives to push the limits and make their dreams a reality. Style wise of course the Pharrell's and Kanye's of the world, but in terms of business, people like Elon Musk and Richard Branson are people who consistently inspire me to keep on pushing even when things get tough.

Kristen: 

My parents; who are still (happily) married and who are working because they love what they do, not because they have to. My dad builds guitars now [after retiring in '97 as a Major in the Air Force, then after retiring from teaching high school Japanese this past year], and my mom is now an elementary school teacher [after spending time in the Air Force as well and raising my brother and I]. She is also in the midst of getting another teaching certification because she set it is as a goal (not because she has to). That inspires me.

I have been really fortunate to have had family members, friends, peers, etc. around me my whole life that I have always found inspiration in. I think people with creative minds can always find inspiration in even the smallest things. And it goes without saying that Lee inspires me; we constantly challenge each other and the end result is usually something amazing.

What are you reading?

Lee:

I'm not a huge reader because I have the attention span of a two yearr old, but I love to watch videos. I watch a lot of videos on the above mentioned people that inspire me and I like to catch up on articles/interviews of the movers and shakers of the world. I'm am heavy into blogs like: Upscalehype, celebritynetworth, and Forbes.

Kristen: 

I wish I had an answer that would make me sound super refined and cultured, but as of lately, any reading I have been doing consists of Buzzfeed and magazine articles. I have a “to read” book section awaiting me at home, that consists of “The Female Brain” (Louann Brizendine), “Kingdom of Fear” (Hunter S. Thompson), and “Proof of Heaven” (Dr. Eben Alexander), to name a few.

What are you most excited about in the coming months? 

Lee: 

I'm excited of course about the new Urbanity I just opened up in Bellevue Square, all the dope projects I have going on with Rich Kids and the launch of my new tech company. I'm pretty much excited for everything coming up because it's all companies I have started and that I truly believe in. We also have some dope collaborations and releases coming up that everyone will hear about shortly.

Kristen: 

Since the new Urbanity just opened, I'm really excited to see not only the store grow, but what the response to the womens side of the store is directly. I always admit that I do not live and breath fashion, but I do love retail and I love learning trends/brands and implementing them into my day to day (work) life.

I always get excited for upcoming trade shows and it is really interesting going as a buyer and as a vendor, so with future of Rich Kids, I am especially excited to represent at the next upcoming Agenda shows in Long Beach and Las Vegas and see what opportunities arise. We have been working really hard to expand and every day brings something new and different.

The new Urbanity in Bellevue Square!

Thank you!

Find Lee & Kristen online: Rich Kids Brand | Urbanity

Read all of my Aces interviews here.

Aces Interview: Jeanine Pesce

The Create + Cultivate Portland event brought a lot of new badasses into my world. My two favorite speakers from the day were Emma McIlroy of Wildfang, and today's Aces interview, Jeanine Pesce.

It's refreshing to know Jeanine Pesce is somewhere out there being awesome. I can tell you right now that the answers you'll read below are so close to how I would answer these questions, it's scary. Kindred spirits indeed! She automatically became one of my favorites at C+C just because she and I were the only ones there wearing Nike FuelBands. I just don't come across sporty West Coast girls with a soft spot for dirty south hip-hop and an affinity for fashion and business to boot. Jeanine left the NYC fashion world for San Francisco and her own business. Range focuses on trend forecasting and daily inspiration for the active, sport and lifestyle markets. It's a perfect fusion of her love for outdoors with a keen sense for bringing the creative eye to sports and active lifestyle marketing. I think what she's doing is super rad and I hope you do too. Enjoy!

What's on your playlist right now?

I love gully rap music more than anything else in the world, I tend to stick to East Coast and Dirty South more than West Coast though. Sorry Pac.

  • Gucci Mane

  • Rick Ross

  • Waka Flocka

  • T.I.

  • Dipset

  • Weezy

  • Meek Mill

  • 2 Chainz

  • A$AP Rocky

  • Biggie

  • Big Pun

  • Three 6 Mafia

In addition to that, I've been pretty much been listening exclusively to records for the last few months, I have a pretty amazing collection of vinyl that I inherited from my parents that just found it's way out of storage and back into my life. It is an interesting mix of Motown, classic rock, movie soundtracks and instrumentals with a touch of '80s bangers. I would say my favorite of the bunch are:

  • Diana Ross

  • Marvin Gaye

  • Al Green

  • Stevie Wonder

  • Prince

  • David Bowie

  • Fleetwood Mac

  • Phil Collins

  • Hall & Oates

  • Neil Young

  • Tom Petty

  • Stan Getz and Charlie Byrd

  • Edith Piaf

Describe your style.

As I get older my style has changed dramatically. It also probably has something to do with the fact that I moved from NYC to California three years ago and have successfully shed most of my fashion-slave layers. If I had to try and nail it down I would describe it as "funky art-aunt goes to the mountain".

You know those ladies that are wearing something super swaggy, but it just looks like a sack? That is how I envision my future self.

I love tent dresses, tunics and rompers and I own more pairs of sport sandals, hiking boots and Birkentsocks than anyone you probably know in real life. I wear tons of performance apparel and natural fibers (like merino) because I am a huge nerd and I obsess over technical materials, plus I am usually outside either camping, hiking, running or getting ready for snow season, so I need clothing that functions and works with the body. I have not totally lost my taste for fashion though, so if I do buy a new piece, I try to make sure it is something timeless like Dries, or a simple basic from A.P.C. or Theory.

Who inspires you?

People that takes chances and strong, independent women. I grew up in a seriously hard-working household and I can only really relate to other people that have a similar work ethic. It is really a double-edge sword for me because I yearn for the freedom associated with being a dreamer, but my genetic makeup is firmly grounded in reality, so "taking a chance" and leaving my career to start my own business for example, wasn't something that came naturally (or easily) to me. I think that is probably why I spend so much time outside. Nature gives me the ability, both literally and figuratively, to get lost in the moment and experience guilt-less bliss. I truly admire the mothers of the world with full-time jobs that weren't willing to sacrifice their dreams of having children for a title and the entrepreneurs that have had the balls to carve out their own path or vision regardless of the outcome.

What are you reading?

Lately, I have been trying to do all my reading off-line, just to give my eyes a little rest from the glowing screen of my computer. I always read New York Times on Sundays with my fiance Cooper, it is a little bit of a tradition for us. We get a coffee and sit around the house passing the sections back and forth. There is something so nice about holding an actual, physical newspaper. Magazines that you will ALWAYS find on my coffee table are -> Kinfolk, Outside Magazine, Frame, Mark, The New Yorker, Sunset Magazine, The Surfers Journal and The Plant (Journal). My guilty pleasure is the Game of Thrones series by George R.R. Martin, I just can't get enough of it and I can always use a little escape from reality.

What are you most excited about in the coming months?

Growing my business and taking on new challenges, wild adventures that involve tents, boards and bikes, and marrying my best friend in front of all the people that I love in the spring.

Thank you Jeanine! Find her at This is Range and JeaninePesce.com.

Read all of my Aces interviews here.

Fresh Style: Women in Business w/Six Twenty

Happy National Women in Business Day! Celebrating days like this might seem trivial to some, but when women are still making less and underrepresented across the board compared to our male counterparts, there's still a lot of work to do. I am proud to be a business owner who also happens to be female (and a 'minority'), and I absolutely respect and treasure my lady peers and inspirations out there.

I'm partnering today with Six Twenty, founded by Angeli Tarsadia Reddy. Angeli started the company with the mission to create the highest quality clothing at ridiculously good prices, refining the lengthy process that often leads to higher pricing behind the amazing basics we all wear to death. By existing solely online, Six Twenty eliminates the traditional retail markup and brings you their own designer quality essentials from the factory straight to your doorstep.

six twenty_fresh jess
six twenty_fresh jess
six twenty_fresh jess
six twenty_fresh jess

I'm honored to be among 30 women entrepreneurs Six Twenty is celebrating today! You can follow all of us & how we styled our Six Twenty basics using the hashtags #BWD and #SHOWUSBASIC.

One piece of advice I've found so critical throughout my time as a business owner?

"Keep going. Past the critics, past your limits. When you are disillusioned or want to quit, that's when your will and passion helps you persist."
Zara Black Strappy Heels
Zara Black Strappy Heels
Six Twenty black tank_Fresh Jess
Six Twenty black tank_Fresh Jess

Aces Interview: Emma McIlroy of Wildfang

These Aces interviews are every bit as fun for me as I hope they are for you. The essence of them lie in the fact that I want to share these incredible people I've come across with you - so how could it not be a blast every time? Emma McIlroy of Wildfang (German for 'tomboy') closed out the Create + Cultivate Portland conference I attended last month with a keynote talk outlining how she and her team have created a whole community for the tomboy lifestyle on the site and beyond. I was riveted.

It seemed like there was a site or blog for literally every style known to mind, yet I couldn't think of anything quite like Wildfang. I was fascinated by how Emma, co-founder Julia & team took the marketing, branding & hustling skills they'd honed at Nike and spun it into an e-commerce site that attracted a healthy first round of funding and thousands of loyalists in a matter of months. All of this amazingness just three hours south in Portland! I asked Emma to share a little about herself and about Wildfang with all of you fine Fresh Jess readers. Enjoy!

Tell us about Wildfang.

We think tomboy is much more than just a style. It’s also an attitude. It’s about being confident, strong and paving your own way. While also being cheeky and knowing how to have fun. We don’t think our girl has ever been allowed to be herself and be her best. She's been restricted and held back for years. She hasn’t had access to the clothes and tools and sources of inspiration to allow her to be who she wants to be. That’s where Wildfang comes in.

We will free her. We will fuel her.

This isn't a business for Jules and I - it's a labor of love. We are the consumer. We share her frustrations. We wanted to do it, so that it was done right.

What inspired you to create Wildfang?

I remember the first time we had the idea. We were in the men’s department at a well-known store and I was looking at a men’s graphic tee which had a barely clad Kate Moss on the front. Jules was staring at a men’s blazer with patches on the elbows. I remember her looking at me and saying “Why don’t they make this shit for us?” And I couldn't answer her. We thought about it a lot, did a ton of consumer research and fast forward three years later - here we are. Launching Wildfang.

What are you most proud of about Wildfang so far?

I'm proud of our team. In five months we've built an online store, an offline store, a product collection and attracted the attention of thousands of young women as well as some awesome media. It's been amazing to watch girls get excited about our brand and feel like they belong at Wildfang. The support we've received has been overwhelming.

What's on your playlist right now?

  • Ms Mr

  • Savages

  • The new David Bowie album

  • and honestly, there's probably some Rolling Stones on there too

Describe your style.

My style is a lot like what you'd expect if you let Patti Smith lose in Keith Richards wardrobe.

Who inspires you?

People who take risks and are laser focused on their consumer. They don't follow the status quo and they do what feels right. Richard Branson is a hero for me.

What are you reading?

I'm currently addicted to Orange is the New Black, but I think everyone is. I'm also reading Triumph of the City. Awesome book.

What are you most excited about in the coming months?

I'm psyched about launching our Wildfang product collection. I'm so excited to see Wildfangs everywhere proudly rocking our gear.

Thanks Emma for the interview, and thank you Wildfang for being so fucking awesome!

Head over to the site and show 'em your Wildfang!

On Showing Up

One book I love to read every year is Bill Gates Sr.'s "Showing Up for Life." The book is part-memoir, part-lessons learned, but in short, the message is that Mr. Gates Sr. attributes much of his success simply to "showing up." 

In his book, Gates Sr. talks a lot about raising Bill (Trey) and his siblings; life with Mary (his first wife) and Mimi; his childhood and his career. Over and over, his stories reaffirm that throughout life, people will ask you to show up. To speak to a group of people. To come to an event. To be there for family dinner. To plan the family summer vacation.

To be present.

It sounds like such a simple thing to do, right? But as life goes on, people to the left and right of you are looking for excuses to not "show up." "I'm not good enough. Fit enough. Smart enough. Confident enough. Funny enough." We've made it so commonplace nowadays to hide behind the biggest excuse: "I'm too busy" or "I don't have time for that." More and more, the people who can actually 'show up' and see things through are few and far between, making them that much more special. 

Show-Up-For-Life
Show-Up-For-Life

Image via Pinterest

I take the concept of "showing up" everywhere and in everything I do. As someone who's produced events in a past life, nothing sucks more than when people don't show up in the very literal sense of the word. For that reason alone, I try to be honest when I say I can come or not come to an event. If I say I can make it, then I try my damnedest to be there. 

When people ask me how I got into blogging or social media, and how I've built a following. Usually the best answer I can give them is "I just kept doing it." I just keep blogging. Keep writing. Keep tweeting. Keep updating the Facebooks. Keep myself open to meeting new people who I might learn from and vice versa. As people are now starting to notice a difference in the way I look, they ask me how I can keep on a meal plan or keep getting up for 6:00a.m. workouts (I am NOT a morning person, by the way.) I just tell 'em that I keep doing it. I'm not perfect, and fall off the 'eating healthy' or 'working out everyday' trains all. the damn. time. BUT - I get right back on and keep going. 

I don't talk a whole lot about my relationship, but Jacob and I have been dating for many years now. People ask us how two young people can keep it together, especially with two totally ambitious minds and careers. How do we ever have time for each other? We get on each other's nerves and piss each other off all the time, but we still show up for each other and work on this every single day. And we show up for Spike, of course :)

One area that I feel I have a lot of work to do is in friendships. It's hard trying to be at and do everything your friends are a part of. I do a lot of things and write a lot of posts that I'm hoping my close friends read and show up for, but it's insane to expect them to be there all the time. I've found that the best, most fruitful friendships are those where you may not see or speak to each other in awhile, but there's a mutual understanding that you're both on your hustle. When you do see each other next, you maintain that level of closeness and realness with each other. None of that awkwardness or "I thought you were mad at me." When times get tough, they tell you when they need you, and you do your best to be there.

It might not be a grandiose or groundbreaking message for some, but to me, it's become an essential way to approach life, love and business. One big piece of showing up is to show up again and again over time. 

Persistence. That's the fundamental difference between a flash in the pan and someone like Bill Gates Sr. 

Which do you want to be? How are you showing up for life?

Quality Control

I've had a lot of conversations around the topic of 'quality control' lately (thanks David and TigerBeat!) Maybe it's because I'm getting older; maybe it's because I'm getting wiser - but in all aspects of my life, it's become a priority - a NECESSITY - to demand the best of myself, for the situation I'm in and for those around me. I've alluded to some of this on Fresh Jess through my health and fitness posts, but I've been working hard on applying this in my professional endeavors and personal life too.

When you up the bar on yourself and make a commitment to (TRULY) do better every day, you find yourself alone in your own mind a whole lot. Practicing your craft. Learning new skills. Researching. Journaling. Jotting ideas down so you can try and capture them as quickly as they come. Writing EVERYTHING down. Mind-mapping. Brainstorming. Trying things and failing. Trying again. Trying new things. Reading and absorbing the words of people you want to learn from; who inspire you. Who don't necessarily make you want to be like them, but who make you want to do better.

So where does that leave room for family, friends and acquaintances? Family's easy, because I will always have (or make) time for them. Acquaintances are even easier, because they are more than likely 'acquaintances' for a reason. You have a really loose tie in common, but other than that your personalities or interests don't mesh well enough for y'all to hang out on a regular basis. Friends are where it gets tough. When you're on a warpath and going absolutely 100 on chasing your dreams, you'll discover which of your friends are genuinely supportive of you, and which aren't. It's a tough pill to swallow to discover a friendship's reached its expiration date, but necessary to wish them well and move on with your life. Your people should never make you feel bad or guilty about doing you, because they never see you or hear from you. They should know not to take it personally. Treasure those who uplift you, challenge you and make you stronger.

Quality control.

Image via Rachel Roy's Instagram

Over time (and over social media), it's getting easier and easier to weed out the people whose energy I need and want in my life, and those whose energy is just toxic. If you have time to tweet or update your Facebook criticizing how people dress, talk or live their life, I ain't got time for you. Social media is amazing, but it's also made it real easy for people to (passively) complain, criticize and throw shade. I can think of a handful of people who've taken indirect jabs at me personally, but I find solace in the fact that while you spent time thinking about me, I spent it working hard. Unless you're a professional comedian or writer making money off of your sarcasm, I'm hitting that unfollow, unfriend or hide button on ya. Turn that energy into something positive for yourself - or better yet, for your community.

Quality control.

I used to blog about every news article, Seattle event and new, cool, shiny thing that caught my attention. When I posted 5 things a day, no one read anything. Now I try to only post when I have something truly meaningful to share or talk about, sprinkled in with sponsored posts that are a necessary reality for someone who wants to make something out of their blog. I pay painstaking attention to my traffic patterns and other analytics, constantly staying on the pulse of what people like and don't like to read here on Fresh Jess. I wrote an article for IFB this week called "The Mid-Year Blog Check-In" about taking time to take stock of your blog and see how you can do better. A fellow IFB member left a comment saying she'd redesigned her blog 6 months ago and didn't think she needed to change anything about what she was doing. No disrespect to her, but IMHO, you should ALWAYS be on your toes, changing, taking risks and trying new things. Doesn't have to be big things, but little tweaks can always be made to make your blog supremely great over time.

Stay hungry. Quality control.

I've been blogging a lot this year about my adventures in mind, health and fitness. I am definitely not perfect, and have a long way to go, but there's a definite shift in my life around the food choices I make and the way I spend my time. i.e. More of my time is spent working out, and with others who like to eat healthy and are active too. Trading happy hours and excessive time sitting down for walking meetings and getting fresh air has been one of the best resolutions I've made - and stuck to - this year.

Quality control.

I am always seeking new opportunities to flex my skills, writing, guest blogging, doing press and sponsored brand campaigns. I share my successes and those of my peers and Aces on social media all the time. I work in social media, and it's pretty much in my nature to share, so I'm just always online sharing, period. I've lost followers and Facebook friends for one reason or another, but that won't ever stop me from seeking more doors to kick open, new friends to meet and more resources and celebrations of success to share on my social media profiles. I'd rather do that anyway than complain about my life. I don't have much to complain about!

Quality control.

As I get older, I get bolder with owning my opinions. If there's anything I've learned about social media, it's that everyone wants to share their opinion, but they're never ready to see people opposing their beliefs and a lot of times, don't care to see others' opinions in the first place. I have a lot of respect and patience for the opinions of my friends, digital and real-life. I'm just better now about demanding respect for my own.

Quality control.

I know this is a long post, and thank you for letting me wax poetic on it. This has been on my mind for weeks, and I've written this about ten times and deleted or abandoned it every time. It can be tough to own convictions when they get strong, but that's when we need to own them the most.

How are you practicing quality control in your life?

Bloggers Know Best: Featured in Styled Right Magazine

Last month, I had the honor of being a part of Styled Right Magazine's "Bloggers Know Best" feature. Seattle's inimitable stylist and power girl, Darcy Camden enlisted the help of Swink Style Bar and photographer Nicole Firestone to make us look so fly. We met up at University Village on a beautiful weekday for these shots, then answered a few questions about our personal style and why we blog. I had a wonderful time getting dolled up for the event (Swink did my hair but I did my own makeup - a very big feat for me!) I think Darcy did a great job pulling together four women with distinctly different styles, who are all very much Seattle in their own way. 

Thanks again for letting me be a part of it!

Peep the top shots and the full issue below:

L to R: Dana of It's My Darlin, Mollie of MollieinSeattle, Kate of All Things Kate and moi

Zara bag, heels and tank; AllSaints sequined skirt via Poshmark (similar); Aritzia's Wilfred Free satin bomber jacket (fun print option here); vintage Alexander McQueen denim jacket (pictured above & below)

Subscribe to Styled Right's quarterly magazine on iTunes.