The Interview Series: Spotlight on Vegetarian Zen

Vegetarian Zen Logo Interview Series

Tell me a little about you and your company.

Vickie and I actually have several current ventures, all under our limited liability company, Two Southpaws Enterprises (est. 2005).

We created Vegetarian Zen in March of 2013, shortly after we became vegetarians.  Our mission and vision: 

Vegetarian Zen is committed to providing informative and entertaining content, including recipes, tips, products, and services, to both current and aspiring vegetarians and vegans in an open and non-judgmental manner.

Vegetarian Zen is a top online resource and community for those trying to live a healthy plant-based life style. Our products and services provide education and aid for understanding and simplifying living a plant-based lifestyle.

Since June of 2013 we have produced a weekly podcast on which we discuss topics pertaining to plant-based eating, animal activism, and then environment.  We also blog about these topics on the Vegetarian Zen website and share recipes and other resources.  

Over the past two years we have developed a strong community of “Veg Zenners” and we communicate with many of them regularly via our website, email, and through our closed Facebook group, The Peas and Carrots Society.  

We have a second podcast, Productivity Power Up, which we began in June of 2015.  On it, we discuss ways to increase productivity, both in business and in personal life.  Vickie is a skilled productivity coach and has done more than 30 individual and group training sessions at her corporate day job.  It’s not her paid position (she is a Business Analyst Manager at a top mutual fund company); she does these sessions because she is passionate about productivity.  We began the podcast now as part of the development process for Vickie’s private coaching business. 

Additionally, I (Larissa) have my own business, First to Final Copyediting.  This is a new business venture for me, established in July of 2015.  My mission at First to Final Copyediting is “to provide high quality copyediting services to authors, bloggers, entrepreneurs, and students in order to help them maximize the quality and effectiveness of their writing projects”.   I am in the process of adding a copywriting component to the business as well. 

How long have you owned your own business?

We established our LLC in 2005 and have had several small business ventures through it since then.  For a time we operated an eBay consignment business.  Vegetarian Zen was established in March 2013, Productivity Power Up in May 2015, and First to Final Copyediting in July 2015.

What made you decide to start your own business?

We have been together as a couple for nearly 14 years.  Vickie has been with the same corporate job for 18 years, and I have held a few different positions in that time.  I was an archaeologist (field and lab) until health problems forced me from the field and shortage of grant funding cost me my lab position.  I worked for a construction company for 4 years, where I worked my way from temporary Administrative Assistant through Executive Assistant, Project Assistant, and ended as the Design Project Coordinator.  I was a researcher for various university professors when I was working on a graduate degree in History.  My last position was as the Volunteer Coordinator for the National Audubon Society’s center here in San Antonio.  

We have always wanted to work together.  Our initial foray into eBay sales (before selling for others on consignment) was really just a test to see if we could work together effectively.  We determined that we can, and we actually complement each other very well.  Our efforts since then have been geared toward to our ultimate goal of being self-supporting and location-independent.  This has not been without significant struggles!

What was the best advice you received when you started your career?

From Larissa: For me personally, some of the best advice has come from Vickie herself, and has involved learning to let go of the limiting beliefs and advice of other people.  I turn 44 next month, and from past experience I should have learned long ago to let what my parents and well-meaning friends say that I should/can do or not do go in one ear and right out the other.  Easier said than done, but I’m finally learning, and am seeing change in myself as a result.

From Vickie: Best business advice I’ve ever received from a couple of trusted peers at different times was essentially to choose your battles wisely. Some things aren’t worth your time and energy. Passion is something that should be saved for things that are worth fighting for. 

What do you wish someone had told you when you started your business?

From Larissa: I wish someone had told me how emotional having my own business would be.  Joy, surprise, anxiety, anger, frustration, intimidation, self-doubt, alarm, amazement…it has been a roller-coaster ride I never thought I would take, but one I wouldn’t trade for anything. 

From Vickie: While there is a lot of great advice out there, you can’t consume it all nor should you try. When we started I was taking courses and signing up for everything. While there are some great resources out there, you can also overwhelm yourself. Slow down and learn what you need to learn as you move along your journey rather than trying to cram it all in as if you’re being tested on in the next day.

What are the three skills that new entrepreneurs need in order to succeed?

An open mind

A passionate heart

A thick skin

What routines do you have in place to help your days run smoothly?

I do make schedules, but I’m afraid I’m not the best at adhering to them.  Once I got over my stubbornness, I have found that having a productivity expert in the house is an incredible asset!  I’ve tried a number of different systems for keeping track of my tasks, projects, and goals, but what works best for me is a sort of hybrid system that is based on paper but that also has a digital component.  

I plan out my days as much as I can, structuring work sessions around household chores, errands, and appointments. 

How do you find balance as an entrepreneur?

It’s difficult, especially because we each have our hands in several different ventures.  Vickie and I have planning meetings throughout the week to keep abreast of what each person is working on, to plan content (podcast topics, blog posts, social media interactions, etc.) ahead of time, and to brainstorm new ideas. 

What is your favorite thing about being an entrepreneur?

From Larissa: Right now, I like being able to be home to take care of our aging dog.  Molly Brown is nearly 13, and she has developed significant health issues over the past two years.  We both feel grateful that I am able to be here to watch over her during the day and help her when she needs it. 

From Vickie: Being an entrepreneur is a creative outlet for me. I have some flexibility in my corporate job but there are definitely limits and things that need to be “bought off” on. Larissa and I can make decisions about direction and what we create within our company in order to offer our community value very quickly. 

What do you do to unwind?

I love to read fiction.  Vickie is more of a non-fiction reader.  One of her current favorite pastimes is online poker (the not-for-money kind!).  She also has a degree in music and plays guitar, which is another way she likes to unwind.  We are both huge horror movie fans, and one of our favorite Friday or Saturday evening treats is to settle in with a snack and a good (or cheesy, depending on our mood!) scary movie.  I am a birder, and now that it’s cooling off a bit here in South Texas, we’ll be able to head back out to the parks and spend time with my feathered friends. 

What is a project that you are working on right now or just finished?

My biggest “just finished” project was establishing First to Final Copyediting.  I did it completely without contracted help, from creating the business entity to building the website, to marketing and writing copy.  It’s the first business I established completely on my own. 

Vickie was one of a small number of people selected to do a TED-like talk within her company. She is currently working hard preparing her talk, “Zen and the Art of Being Me”.  

We are also working on development and launch of our first product for Productivity Power Up (can’t release additional details yet!).

Larissa Vickie Silver Shade Group Entrepreneur Spotlight

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