Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Saya Hillman, Founder of Mac & Cheese Productions℠, located in Chicago, IL, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
My lifestyle business is Mac & Cheese Productions℠ — it's an adult summer camp, an adult kindergarten, and an adult recital for the personal and professional space. Mac & Cheese creates ease and fulfillment through building a connection to others, to opportunities, and to self, and provides creative solutions to common problems that encourage individuals and groups to embrace a Life of Yes℠ — positivity, self-efficacy, playfulness, & community.
Customers, aka Cheese Its, are people ready to be honest, transparent, reflective, share'y, and work'y in order to design their ideal lives.
Tell us about yourself
I was fired. I had no clue what I wanted to do, but I did know that I no longer wanted a boss and craved autonomy. I made a list of all the things I wished I could get paid for, no matter how “you can’t get paid for that!" they sounded — wear jeans and flip-flops, play board games, connect Person A to Person B, connect Person C to a job, connect Person D to a client, connect Person E to themselves, scrapbook, make music mixes, sit on my couch.
This list, plus discovering that my personal frustration with adulthood, that areas I thought should be easy — finding friends, romance, opportunities for personal growth, fun ways to explore and “get out there” — were in fact sources of stress, discomfort, and dissatisfaction, and my desire to solve these frustrations was where my passion lay and my skills shone, resulted in the birth of Mac & Cheese Productions℠.
I began curating experiences to help people, including myself, find joy through low-key, comfortably challenging, be-yourself methods. Experiences turned into experiences + 1-on-1 consulting, group coaching, online courses, and... As my skills, interests, and priorities shift, so do my offerings, but they all fall under the umbrella of "Find things that bring you joy and use them to bring others joy and pay the bills."
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
Longevity! Just celebrated 19 years. So many of my peers didn't make it and shut their proverbial doors. Even ones who appeared as if they were crushing it. I can't believe I haven't had an office job or a boss since 2004. I have no debt. I'm 100% word of mouth and haven't spent any money on marketing. I have a life filled with travel, occasional pedicures, and Whole Foods hot bar dinners. I do what I want when I want and don't do anything I don't want to do. I can't imagine doing anything else. There's no salary number someone could offer me to give up the lifestyle I have. Though there have been challenges and stress, every day since day one has been wonderful, a keeper, and I'm just so appreciative of it all.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
Not feeling successful even if you ARE successful because you're not traditionally successful. It's difficult not to compare yourself to peers — bank account size, retirement planning, property ownership, investors, press, number of newsletter subscribers, social media engagement (followers, likes, etc.), sponsorships, and brand partnerships. It's a constant reminder that I'm doing just fine, fabulous even, even though... Bottom line: if you can say you're living life as you'd like to live it the majority of the time, that's all that matters.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Just do it. Whatever it is. You'll spend forever doing research, writing a business plan, what if'ing, and brainstorming, often cause you're too scared to act. Say yes and figure it out later, as Tina Fey preaches.
- Value yourself. Add a zero to whatever price you were going to charge. Stop working for free or discount. Not every client needs to be a client, and not all money is good money. Set and keep unapologetic boundaries.
- (Force yourself to) take improv and storytelling. Especially if they sound horrible to you, the skills learned in both are so applicable to everyday life, personally and professionally, and 110% have made me the confident, go with the flow, open, collaborative, willing to try, good conversationalist, excited to fail and grow person I am today. They'll help you get over hangups about sales, self-promotion, talking about yourself, asking for help, and going against the grain.
Is there anything else you'd like to share?
Take my storytelling class! Visit this page for more information!
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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