Where To Go From Here: An Interview With Lorraine Rise

As I dodged yet another painful gathering around a large sheet cake and waited for Annie, cake in hand, to pop into my cubicle to ask me for the umpteenth time whether or not I thought so-and-so liked her, I yearned for a job where I could make my own schedule and have some autonomy. The prospect seemed vastly out of reach at the time. A remote job would have been my ultimate dream, but not only were remote jobs uncommon at this time, but Top Secret documents are not allowed outside of a secure building, so my current employment at the Central Intelligence Agency would definitely not grant me that wish.

You see, really my goal was to have freedom.

Years later, as CIA Headquarters was beckoning me back to endless cake gatherings, pointless meetings and mindless office chatter, I finally found a way out. I would take a dramatic risk and start over almost from zero. I had worked undercover for the CIA for the previous eight years, so my work history appeared to be a black hole. Most employers outside of the intelligence community tend to look skeptically at someone whose resume contains such a mysterious gap. Even after I had my cover removed and my resume cleared, finding work after the CIA would be challenging at best.

“No one wants a thirty-seven year old,” a misguided acquaintance informed me. I repeatedly heard that phrase in slightly different forms, referring to both the professional and personal relationship worlds. Needless to say, it didn’t help. At this low point in my life I could have used the services of someone like Lorraine Rise, owner, CEO and head coach at Career UpRising. Ms. Rise is a career coach who works with mid and late career professionals who are looking to change careers, launch a job search, or overcome the age bias. She began in the health and weight loss industry and was a director and regional trainer for Jenny Craig. She was laid off in 2013 and then made a career change to human resources where she supported the recruiting efforts of numerous firms, to include many defense contractors with whom I am very familiar, in the Washington, D.C. area.

While Ms. Rise gained valuable human resources experience in this position, she still yearned for autonomy and freedom in her work life. While she didn’t see entrepreneurship coming, after an experience with a toxic job from which she ended up being fired, all of her experience gave her the motivation to start her own business. Career UpRising was born.

Lorraine founded Career UpRising in 2015, taking everything she had learned and using it to help others who want more from their career, as she had. She offers guidance, accountability, and resources to those who are looking to change fields or launch a job search. Her company also offers support with interview preparation, salary negotiation, networking, resume writing, as well as much more. When she first began, she had little experience and therefore did not charge very much. As time went on, she gained more confidence and gradually started increasing her fees and expanding her services. These days, Lorraine heads a team of professionals and they have served over four hundred clients in dozens of industries, both public and private. Many of her clients come from recognizable firms such as Microsoft, Amazon, Fannie Mae, Coca Cola, IBM and others. The biggest challenge she faced in the beginning days of starting the business was just finding the courage to get started even when she didn’t have a lot of experience. She overcame that challenge by setting small goals and achieving them before moving on to larger ones. Though based out of the Washington, D.C. area, Lorraine’s creation, Career UpRising, now serves clients all across the globe.

As Ms. Rise’s company continues to grow, expanding the ways she can reach more people, she has recently accomplished one of her biggest goals: to write a book.  What You Didn’t Learn In School: Lessons on Growth, Change and Living Your Best Life is a collection of thirty essays, or teachings, from her work as a coach as well as her own experiences. It is available for pre-order now and will be released on December 5, 2023.

I recently had the opportunity to interview Ms. Rise. The following is what she shared with me.

How does one become a career coach?

There are training programs and certifications you can earn through a number of organizations. I’ve earned mine through Career Thought Leaders and the Professional Association of Resume Writers and Career Coaches. I also leveraged the corporate experience I already had in human resources and recruiting.

Do you have any top tips for how you get out of being “stuck” in your career and life?

Yes, I hear the word “stuck” more than any other word when I talk to clients! Being “stuck” can mean different things to different people. In most cases, it just means they lack clarity on what their next step is or how to get there. We’re never really stuck though. We always have options we just don’t always know what they are or how to make it happen.

Do you have a typical type of client that uses your service? Describe them.

Yes, we work with mid and late career professionals most of whom are forty plus. Many of them are even sixty plus. People are working longer than they used to and this age group still needs to be relevant and competitive in the job market. Many of them have very long job tenures (fifteen, twenty plus years) at one company and starting over after that can be very overwhelming. We enjoy being able to support people at that juncture in their career.

How do you find your clients, or how do they find you, generally speaking?

Most clients find me on LinkedIn. That’s the social media platform where I have the largest following. We also get clients from referrals and internet searches.

Is there a location that you find you get most of your clients from? 

Career UpRising knows no borders! Most of our clients are from the U.S. but we’ve clients in Australia, Europe and even Africa. It always blows me away when international clients find us.

Is there an industry or profession that you find more people trying to get out of, to find something new?

We’ve seen a sharp increase in public school teachers leaving the classroom and transitioning into the corporate world. I believe that the pandemic, as well as the onset of remote work, fueled this change.

Do you find today that people are wanting more remote work?  Do you see more of that or has there been a shift in your experience with people not wanting in-person office jobs and opting for more remote work options?

Yes, there is an incredible desire for remote work. Here in the U.S. though, there is a significant movement called Return to Office (RTO) in which companies are beginning to require workers to be onsite again. Thus, the desire for remote work is high but the opportunities are not as plentiful as you’d think.

I know you work with mid and late career professionals, but what would you advise a recent college graduate looking for a career that they love?

Yes, from time to time, we’ve had younger professionals referred to us—usually from our current clients. Much of what we teach is still applicable to early career professionals and we’re happy to help them.

Some say that there aren’t enough candidates or people who want to work in today’s world – specifically amongst our youngest generations.  Are you finding that in your experiences?  Are businesses having a hard time these days finding good candidates?

Overall, I do think they want to work but it looks different than it used to. The younger generation is pushing for more flexibility, autonomy, and creativity. They are not loyal to one employer and are more likely to embrace entrepreneurship and non-traditional career paths than the older generations.

What do you see mid and late career professionals looking for in a career change? Is there a common thread amongst them?

They want work that is meaningful and that compensates them for the experience they have so far. Many of them also want to pivot to new industries in order expand their skills and their future opportunities.

What is the age of the oldest late career professional you have helped? What were they looking for?

We’ve helped clients who are in their late sixties. I’m not sure if I’ve had anyone in their seventies yet! Oftentimes, they want to work longer in order to stay active and engaged. They could retire but they just don’t want to.

Do you have any resume writing tips?

Yes. Remember that your resume is a marketing tool first and foremost, and it should clearly communicate your qualifications, experience, and value to potential employers using specific, quantifiable achievements when possible. Continuously update your resume as you gain new skills and experiences, and tailor it for each job application to increase your chances of landing interviews.

Do you have a number one tip for being successful in an interview?

Interviews are not just about the employer assessing you, but they are also an opportunity for you to evaluate if the company and role align with your career goals and values. Cultural fit is very important. Approach the interview as a two-way conversation, and don’t be afraid to ask questions to ensure it’s the right fit for you as well. Lastly, use your intuition. If it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.

Do you have any tips to help with nervousness in an interview? How can an applicant calm their nerves when they are in an interview?

Get to the bottom of why you are nervous. What are you afraid of? Oftentimes, we put too much emphasis on getting a certain job that it makes us overly nervous. There’s too much pressure on the situation. Do some introspection to find the root of the nervousness (usually a fear) and work through that.

How do you personally stay motivated?

Doing work that I love naturally motivates me. I’m very blessed to be in a career that is joyful for me. I think the first step is knowing what motivates you and then building a career around that.

How do you deal with stress?

I’ve learned that stress is a state of mind usually caused by fear. Get to the heart of what you are afraid of. Are you afraid of failing? Being judged? These self-created fears are nearly always what cause our stress, not the actual situation.

How do you deal with anxiety?

Writing is very therapeutic for me. If I’m having anxiety, I write it out as a way of releasing it.

Tell me about a time you struggled in your life and how you got yourself out of it.

I’ve had some health challenges over the last four years and my family and my faith definitely got me through. Having a strong support system is critical for getting through hard times.

Do you ever have a day when you dread work or just do not want to go to work? What do you do on those days to get yourself going and in a better frame of mind?

I used to, but not nearly as much now that I work for myself! But yes, I’ve had many days where I’ve dreaded work and it’s a difficult thing to get through. We spend so much time at work, being unhappy there is not tolerable for me! Sometimes you have to focus your vision on the future and use your current situation to motivate you to take action and create a better future. Whenever I’ve been at a bad job, I’ve asked myself: What can I learn from this? How can I use this experience to create, or find, something better?

What is your number one tip for people trying to find work that they love and enjoy doing? How can they find that activity that will be something they like doing, but can also make money while doing?

Know yourself. Know what you enjoy and what you are good at. From there, you can nearly always find a way to monetize it—whether through a job or working for yourself.

Lorraine Rise took a risk and left the corporate world at thirty-one.  She now has a thriving global business where she not only does work she loves, but she is able to give back by helping people find work that they will love. She serves as a wonderful example to her own teenage daughter, showing her that she can do whatever she wants for a living. She doesn’t have to fit into the nine-to-five if she does not choose to. She can carve out her own career.

So can you.

If you would like to learn more about Lorraine Rise and Career UpRising, please visit www.careeruprising.com. Her podcast, Career UpRising, can be found on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, iHeart Radio, as well as on her website.

This article was originally published on OpsLens.

Inspiring Youth: An Interview With Gail Holman

In today’s world, how do we inspire younger people to develop a purpose in life when it seems they are all glued to their phone screens? I recently had the opportunity to interview Gail Holman of the Sports and Entertainment Division of Compass Real Estate and she opened my eyes to one way we can help the younger generations to realize their potential and create a lucrative lifestyle for themselves. Gail is not only ranked at the top one percent in her industry, but she has sold over $500 million in real estate. But she doesn’t just sell luxury real estate in New York to make herself wealthy, she views her job as a way to expose younger people to the real estate business. Her team consists of all young people, in their twenties and thirties, and she takes it upon herself to teach them the industry so they can live successful, fulfilling lives.

Ms. Holman started out in clothing design but eventually found her groove in furniture and interior design, opening her own showroom in Beverly Hills specializing in high-end furniture and interior design. She ended up returning to her birthplace, New York, and turned her focus to real estate mainly in the North Shore. Over a span of five years she managed to rack up over $500 million in sales. Her early days of working with developers gave her a solid foundation from which to continue growing her network and business and now she leads a very passionate and driven team of real estate professionals. They all genuinely love what they do.

While researching and interviewing Gail, I could see that she is a master of mindset. Growing up, her main goal was to find success in something she truly loved. She always had a vision of owning her own home and having the freedom to travel and see new places. It wasn’t just making it big; it was about enjoying the journey and ensuring she had those personal joys along the way. She stays focused on her goals by crafting a detailed business plan at the onset of each year. She outlines her objectives, which ensures she has a roadmap to guide her throughout the year. She also reviews her performance and goals on a weekly basis. Gail primarily focuses on high-end properties in the Gold Coast area of Long Island, also known as the North Shore of New York. One of her recent goals was to expand into the New York City real estate market, and she accomplished that goal recently with the listing of an $80 million building.  Not bad.

Life is this unique, one-time journey, and I believe in embracing the mindset of “you only live once”.

Ms. Holman truly believes in the importance of following your dreams. She believes that every challenge and opportunity should be approached with the idea that the sky is the limit. It’s not just about achieving success or reaching milestones; it’s about being happy in all that you do. She realizes that we cannot do anything about interest rates or politics – at times, she simply puts her blinders on and keeps going. Sometimes, we just have to work harder.

So, dream big, aim high, and remember that each day is a chance to get closer to where you want to be.

As always, I like to include some of my interview in the hopes that it will give readers some useful tips. The following is what Ms. Holman shared with me:

What is the price range of the real estate you sell? Do you sell solely in New York at this time?

I primarily focus on high-end properties in New York. That’s where my specialty lies. But it’s worth mentioning that while I concentrate on the upper end of the market, my team is versatile and deals with properties across all price ranges. So yes, right now, all our business is in New York.

What is the price range of the rentals you show?

When it comes to rentals, I showcase the crème de la crème. I represent a collection of upscale properties that truly stand out in their luxury and elegance. In terms of pricing, these stunning rentals typically fall between $10K to $20K a month.

How do you see the real estate market right now? How do you see it going in the next five to ten years?

The North Shore real estate market is robust, although there is low inventory, it is a prevailing seller’s atmosphere. Despite broader market fluctuations, the unique allure of the North Shore ensures its resilience. Projecting into the next five years, I anticipate continued strength in this distinctive and prosperous segment of the New York market.

Have you noticed many people wanting to move to New York right now? Or have the numbers gone down, have you seen more people leaving New York?

Many individuals are choosing to relocate from New York due to mounting tax burdens and the pressures of escalating inflation. Similarly, these financial challenges deter others from making the move to the state in the first place, highlighting the dual impact of economic constraints on both current residents and potential newcomers.

You sell high-end real estate. In this time, when a lot of people aren’t doing well financially, who are these individuals who can afford such high price tags?

My clientele predominantly comprises successful business owners, individuals in finance, and athletes. Additionally, I’ve observed a noteworthy influx of investments from international sources as well.

For the rentals, who can afford the prices of the rentals these days? In your experience, who is choosing to rent these days versus buying?

It’s really the same demographic as the previous question. My clientele remains consistent and the only difference really is that they have either sold a high priced home, have secondary homes in other places like The Hamptons and Florida, etc.

What age range do you mostly see buying and also renting? Do you see one age group more than others?

Not necessarily. I see all ages from young to old buying and renting. It all depends on their success in their businesses.

For our younger readers, who may feel that buying a home is out of reach to them, what is your advice?

For younger readers who might perceive homeownership as a distant dream, my foremost advice is to speak with a mortgage broker or a bank. These professionals can provide invaluable insights into financing options, potential affordability, and strategic steps to bring them closer to owning a home. There are also programs for the ones still in school to receive loans based on their projected income. Engaging in these conversations early can demystify the process and set a clear pathway toward achieving their real estate aspirations.

Many people I went to high school with are now, even in their late forties, renting. They feel that owning a home is out of reach to them. What kind of tips could you give a fifty-year-old for finally accomplishing that goal of home ownership?

It’s never too late to pursue the dream of homeownership. For those in their late forties and beyond who may feel that owning a home is an elusive goal, it’s crucial to recognize the myriad of opportunities tailored specifically for first-time buyers. Numerous programs are designed to guide and support potential homeowners at any age. Begin with researching first-time buyer programs in your locality, and consider consulting with a real estate advisor or financial counselor who can introduce you to these resources.

What does a brand new first-time buyer need to know most about purchasing their first property?

For a brand new first-time buyer, there are some essential things to keep in mind when diving into the market. Understanding how much you can afford is crucial. It’s not just about the mortgage; you have to factor in other ongoing costs of owning a home, like maintenance and taxes. Plus, owning a home isn’t just about paying for it. Taking care of your property, from regular upkeep to unexpected repairs, is a significant responsibility. It’s a rewarding journey, but one that requires diligence, planning, and a clear understanding of the full scope of homeownership.

You are a home staging expert. Can you give our readers some insider tips on how to stage a home?

Absolutely! I would recommend engaging a professional. Compass has a concierge program that sellers can utilize for this. Relying on a professional stager can make all the difference. Their expertise and keen eye can transform spaces to maximize appeal. Decluttering and depersonalizing should present a balance of live-in warmth without overwhelming personal artifacts. Remember, the objective is to create a setting where potential buyers can mentally move in and see themselves residing. A well-staged home not only presents better but has been proven to sell faster and often at a better price. While personal touches make a home uniquely yours, when selling, it’s all about broad appeal.

Do you have any management or leadership tips for our readers? How do you manage your team?

Effective leadership and management are pivotal in driving any team toward success. Clear communication is essential to establish open channels of communication. Ensure your team knows they can approach you with their concerns, ideas, and feedback. While it’s crucial to maintain boundaries for work-life balance, I make a conscious effort to be accessible to my team when they truly need guidance or support. Understand what each team member wants to accomplish professionally. Encourage them to set milestones and guide them in achieving those aspirations. Regular team meetings are essential for keeping everyone on the same page. It provides a platform for discussing updates, sharing successes, addressing challenges, and brainstorming solutions. Your team will often mirror your dedication, attitude, and work ethic. Be the embodiment of the values and standards you wish to see in them.

If you would like to learn more about Gail Holman, please visit https://www.compass.com/agents/gail-holman/.

This article was originally published on OpsLens.

The Luxury Mindset: An Interview With Marc Hernandez

I recently had the privilege of meeting a truly engaging, energetic and empathetic person. He is someone who combines a love for life and a sense of humor with elegance, grace, charm and an admirable work ethic.

“You have to be interested in, be interesting and good at caring for and engaging with people.”

Marc Hernandez is a luxury real estate agent in Beverly Hills, California. He works with Compass, the number one real estate brokerage in the US. But not only that, he comes from a very interesting background in the entertainment industry. Upon graduating from USC, Marc started out in commercial real estate brokerage and property management, where he was doing quite well. However, it wasn’t enough for him. He wanted something more creative. He wanted something bigger. He wanted entertainment. So he left a six-figure income for the literary and talent agency business where he landed a job in the mailroom with United Talent Agency earning a mere $350 a week. His parents thought he was crazy and he took a huge risk to do so, but he says that he believed he could work his way back up the ladder and it was the best thing he ever did. He credits his experience in literary representation in teaching him his “hustle and flow” and ability to represent, protect and serve high-profile clients.

In the Hollywood assistant world, everyone wants your job. One misstep, and you are out. It is a fast-paced environment with a hundred calls a day, reading scripts for your boss, organizing schedules, and running errands. Marc quickly learned that it’s not who you know, it’s who knows you. He clearly makes an impression with people and he shared a story about how back in 1997 he once had to drive the director M. Night Shyamalan to the Sony Pictures Studios lot, then at the beginning of this year he was having a client lunch on the rooftop of the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in Beverly Hills when he ran into Mr. Shyamalan. They recognized each other and had a nice conversation. Marc clearly made an impression and fits his own qualification of “you have to be interested in, be interesting and be good at caring for and engaging with people.”

After his time as a Hollywood assistant, starting his own entertainment company, Crescendo Entertainment Group, and then transitioning to run digital advertising sales for Fox Networks Group specifically with the highly popular show American Idol, he decided to enter the world of luxury real estate. He even had the opportunity to appear on Bravo TV’s “Million Dollar Listing Los Angeles.” Cut to the present where Marc currently heads a team of agents at Compass and is also a member of the Sports & Entertainment Division. I have become fairly familiar with this division of Compass as they deal with high-profile sports and entertainment clients, globally. Coming from the Hollywood world, for Marc it is the perfect fit, as many of his clients are actors, writers, producers and directors. He clearly has the connections from the showbiz world from which he came.

He is also what I would call a branding mastermind. During my research while preparing for my interview with Marc, I learned that he is very good at incorporating pop culture and music references into his marketing, email newsletter and social media initiatives. For example, being a long-time Beatles fan (he used to sing “Hey Jude” for his parents and their friends, as a child. He also has a son named Lennon), the name of his weekly email newsletter is “The BEAT: From Beverly Hills, LA and Beyond.” He knows that creating a personal brand is a cross between heart and mind and that at its core, it comes down to showing your true and authentic self. “We already are the brand, we just need to define, design and distribute it. It’s about knowing who you are, what interests you and what you are passionate about … then sharing it with the world.”

As always, I like to include some tips for people who may be interested in the real estate market in the region each individual is located in as well as their view on how things are going in the market currently and even some personal and leadership tips. The following is what Marc Hernandez shared with me:

How do you see the real estate market right now? How do you see it going in the next 5 or 10 years?

We’re currently in a “sideways” market. There’s not enough inventory in the market right now. We’ve seen this shortage for over a decade. Inventory has contracted further as a result of the FOMC’s 11 rate hikes and 22-year high interest rates. The properties that are in the best condition continue to increase in value and fetch multiple offers and sell considerably over list price and those that need repair or upgrades are sitting on the market longer and need price reductions to get them under contract. I think in the next 5 to 10 years, the financial markets will already have normalized and we will see more inventory, more buyers and even stronger value gains.

For our younger readers, who may feel that buying a home is out of reach to them, what is your advice to them?

Find a way. Stop renting and paying someone else’s mortgage. If you think of it, the interest rate on renting is 100%. Find something small, such as a condo, which you can afford. Expand your search beyond the high-demand areas of the city. Get help from parents and start creating wealth now. Real estate, with its forced savings, appreciation gain and mortgage interest tax deduction, is very likely the best asset class for investment.

Since 2020, what changes have you seen in the California real estate market? Have you seen a shift of people moving out of CA (being one of the people who left, I am curious about this), has housing availability become more, or less?  I know the luxury market is probably very different from regular real estate, but do you have any observations?

The market today has even less inventory than it did in 2020. The global pandemic drove people out of the cities and into areas where they could work remotely. Now, we are seeing a return to office and some demand to migrate closer to the city center. Personally, I haven’t seen many people moving out of California but I think migration data might prove otherwise.

Since you deal in the Sports & Entertainment Division of Compass, do you see more of the entertainment figures who are your clients wanting to move out of California in the past few years, or has it stayed pretty much the same?

I am not seeing that. I think the entertainment business in Los Angeles has been, and continues to be, a people magnet. There’s so much of it here in LA, the motion picture and television studios, the streaming companies, the music industry, tech and digital media, advertising … It’s a big draw. Many of my clients are coming here, both nationally and globally, for opportunities in the entertainment industry.

What does a brand new first time buyer need to know most about purchasing their first property?

As Robert Reffkin, Co-Founder and CEO of Compass, says, no one succeeds alone. They need to know that buying directly from the listing agent, unrepresented, is a process that is not in their best interest, financially. There’s much that a buy-side agent does for a buyer that is important and critical with regard to purchasing a property. A buyer should be educated on the market, the lending process, the purchase contract, offer strategy, how to win multiple offers, real estate inspections, buyer credit negotiation and a good buyer’s agent will cover all of this. Ultimately, this saves the buyer time, money and protects them from making a poor purchase decision.

What do you love most about California and the Los Angeles area in particular? Do you see yourself staying there?  If you were going to move to another state or country, which one would you choose?

I love California and all of its glory. The coastline, the mountains, the deserts, the climate, the metropolitan areas, the small towns, the people and the various businesses headquartered here offer so much to its residents and visitors alike. I will most likely stay in Los Angeles but I would probably consider living in NYC for part of the year.

Do you have any management or leadership tips for our readers? How do you manage your team?

Lead with purpose, care and empathy. I believe that leadership is a process that supports from the bottom up. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link, so it’s important to ensure everyone is educated, guided and supported. A leader has to ensure that the team has the tools and information to meet objectives and reach success. Leadership works best when being directive, collaborative and protective, rather than autocratic.

How do you personally stay focused on your goals?

I focus on my goals by reviewing them daily. It starts with a consistent morning routine, time blocking and using the Compass platform and CRM for analyzing and driving my business. I also set intentions and manifest good things for me, my family, my business and my relationships.

You seem like you truly love what you do and you truly love life. What would be your advice to someone looking to find their passion or a job they really love? What would be your advice to someone looking to better their life and enjoy it more?

It starts with loving yourself. Know who you are and what makes you happy and then do that with energy and passion. Ask yourself what are the personal traits that make up who you are? Find a way to incorporate them into your career path. Do what you love and the money will follow.

There are a lot of people out there right now struggling.  What is your secret to happiness?

I don’t have a secret, but I am most happy when I am with my family, my friends and my Compass colleagues. Studies show that having a sense of community and belonging contribute to better health and living longer. I am also very happy when I am eating with health and performance in mind and pushing myself physically at the gym and staying active. Health, mindset and a social network are all very important to me.

Tell me about what you do to stay fit.

I typically work out six days per week, for about 1 ½ to 2 hours per day. It’s non-negotiable. I eat only two meals a day, starting at 12 noon and ending at 6pm. My food intake is strictly plant-based. I take a number of supplements. And, I usually get 7 1/2 to 8 hours of sleep every day with a 9 to 5 sleep plan. I occasionally snack after dinner when I shouldn’t, though.

Tell me your number one tip for managing stress? What do you do when you get stressed out?

I sing! I take voice lessons and I have a playlist of songs that I like. So, when stressed, I will go outside for a walk, put on my AirPods, do some vocal warm ups, and then sing songs by Chris Cornell, Eddie Vedder, Lenny Kravitz and more. It definitely helps me and I hope the neighbors don’t mind.

What is luxury to you? What does it mean, in all aspects of life?

To me, luxury is an association with a high level of price, quality, rarity and extraordinariness. For example, I buy my perfume from Chanel and the line is called “Les Exclusifs.” You can only purchase these fragrances in store at Chanel boutiques, rather than through retailers. So fewer people access and purchase these products and, in my opinion, they are luxury products. In real estate, I see luxury differentiators being location, price, quality, amenities, and privacy.

Marc Hernandez certainly embodies the luxury lifestyle, but he is not averse to getting down in the dirt and rubbing a pig’s belly or saving a hurt hummingbird here and there. He serves on the Board of Directors of The Gentle Barn, where all sorts of animals are rescued and rehabilitated. Additionally, he serves on the Board of Directors of WriteGirl, a non-profit organization that promotes creativity and self-expression to empower girls. He strikes me as a person who combines energy, empathy, compassion, elegance, grace and humor into a go-getter real estate superstar persona who shows up no matter the situation.

If you would like to learn more about Marc Hernandez click here.  You can also find him on Instagram @themarchernandez.

This article was originally published on OpsLens.

Does Anyone Remember?

What happened to our memory?

When the events of September 11th occurred, it changed the world. It was a horrible change, but it did bring some unity to our country. Suddenly we were united against one enemy. I was in Washington DC at the time, and I can honestly say that people just got nicer, even if it was only in the congested Washington DC traffic. People waved, allowed you to merge in front of them, made room, consideration for fellow humans prevailed… suddenly. We were all in shock.

I have written about this before…. I saw the Pentagon burning. I saw cars pulled over on the side of the freeway – people lining up at phone booths (we had them at this time) to call their loved ones. Cell phones weren’t as common, but if you did have one, you could not get through to anyone. I remember worrying about my family in California and what attack might be coming their way at the various federal buildings in which they worked. It was still early morning for them. I wanted to warn them not to go in to work.

But it really didn’t hit me until I was back at my small studio apartment in Alexandria, Virginia and watched on my giant clunky television (we had those at this time) the extremely tall buildings being toppled by airplanes. I had just seen these buildings in person, for the first time in my life, just weeks prior on a trip to New York. I remember thinking how tall the buildings were – they almost made me dizzy just looking up at them – they were THAT tall.

I saw people jumping out or falling out of these tall towers. It still makes me tear up to think about what I saw that day.

I kept wondering, what was it like to be at your office, working as a clerk or secretary, or any other average office employee… and to look out the window and see a commercial airliner coming straight for you. That was the image I had in my mind. Did anyone actually see it or was it just so quick that no one saw it coming? I guess you wouldn’t know unless you were in that situation. And those people are gone. This is just how my brain works, I picture myself in the other person’s position.

Since March 2020 life changed dramatically for most of us – if you were in California as I was, your life changed dramatically more than people in other states in the US because of the extreme measures that were taken. But there were no planes hitting towers. There was footage coming out of Wuhan, China showing death and quarantining of people, due to a leak of a virus – COVID-19 or what we then called corona virus. Then we quickly saw the statistics in Italy, which has one of the oldest populations in the world, of the deaths due to the corona virus.

People freaked out. In California, parents locked their kids inside the house. I still have the image of a child’s writing on a window in my neighborhood etched in my mind. It said “Can I go to the Out now?” We were told we had to mask up. We had one of the first mask mandates in the country in our small desert town. Playgrounds were promptly roped off with tape. People were actually calling 9-1-1 on people who dared walk in the neighborhood with no masks. It was an extreme reaction, and frankly, I wasn’t buying it.

I tried to sound the alarm. I was shouted down by the most vocal and loud minority in our society. Nobody was listening. I’m guess I’m just not loud enough.

Now, as I can think of the positive that came from the horrible events of September 11th, small as they may have been – they were human. But, I cannot think of any one positive thing that has come from this COVID pandemic hysteria. In fact, it is quite the opposite. People are ruder, less humane, and more division and hatred exists now than before. There is more visceral hatred.

People don’t even seem to WANT to get along. They treat each other – and even worse, our children – as lepers. They believe everyone carries this virus, dormant inside, and somehow we can all infect each other – sort of like a zombie apocalypse movie. Everyone is a big germ.

I see people now embracing awkward elbow bumps instead of shaking hands. People avert eyes as their mask-covered faces quickly look down at the ground. Where I used to imagine getting involved in the PTA or volunteering at schools, for instance, I now feel uncomfortable and frankly, unwelcome. It’s as if I am a walking disease just waiting to make everyone sick. And my children are too.

Why would anyone be wary of me ? My vaccine passport wouldn’t fit in a large suitcase – I have had vaccinations that many reading this have never even heard of.

Now, I could have gotten by thinking this is just temporary, but we are going on two years of this. Where does it end?

After September 11th I had friends (yes, it was California) who claimed that President Bush had orchestrated the attacks and it was all made up, like a Hollywood movie. They had all these conspiracy theories. I was horrified listening to them. Now, I’ve seen this conspiracy theory theme twisted around. The original conspiracy theorists are now telling people how to think. These same people will tell you there has never been a pandemic in our lifetimes. These people will also tell you we’ve never had two or three hurricanes lined up in the ocean at a time, ever before.

I even had one clearly deranged individual tell me that the people in those towers that day deserved “what they got”. That the problem was how rich all those people who worked in the towers were. It didn’t matter to this person that the majority of the people in their office early in the morning were not the mega-rich, they were the clerical workers, secretaries and mid-level managers. Either way, being “rich” does not justify being murdered by terrorists.

Where once, aside from the obvious nut jobs mentioned above, we stood together after a horrible terrorist attack on our country, now it seems it’s every man for himself. Parents of older children are not concerned with the effects of masking on our youngest children – because it doesn’t affect them directly. If it doesn’t affect them, they don’t want to get involved or even hear about it. They hide their heads in the sand. The small, loud minority of shrieking voices rules the day.

“It’s just the way it is now.”

It is only that way if you continue to allow it to be that way.

On this Patriot Day, let’s remember.

  This article was originally published in September 2021. Re-published today because it’s still so relevant.

Join Shelly Beach On Her Latest Adventure!

In the second installment of The Adventures of Shelly Beach series, A Hermit Crab’s Home, Shelly and her brother Sunny continue on their adventures in the Florida Keys. Young readers can continue to learn about the wildlife found in the Keys while they join Shelly in her magical paddle boat. In this installment, readers will discover hermit crabs, as they meet Herbie the Hermit Crab and Uncle Shrimpie, guided by a MerDog! The print copy comes in large font, to assist those computer-strained eyes. With so much being done on the screen these days, I know firsthand how much damage can be done to eyesight.

My hope is that the series will teach young kids the value of wildlife, nature, and the ocean in a fun and magical way.

Available in eBook and print!

Get ready to meet Uncle Shrimpie, and be led by a MerDog on some magical adventures!
As always, thank you to my young readers for supporting my work!

On Email Deliverability, Spam Filters, And Finding Your Passion: An Interview With Yanna Torry Aspraki

What do email deliverability, spam filters, and finding your passion have in common?

Sometimes you meet a person who is just so in love with their work, who truly loves what they do, and it inspires you. As someone who has never loved any job that I’ve had (until becoming a writer), I find people like Yanna Torry Aspraki fascinating. You may recall from my first interview with Ms. Aspraki that she is an email deliverability specialist with exceptional knowledge and skill in areas such as email authentication, list hygiene, and reputation management. She consistently delivers exceptional results for her clients. Her mission is to democratize and simplify email deliverability so that everyone can communicate effectively via email, regardless of their technical expertise, size of their business, or email lists, and to tackle the growing challenge of email deliverability in today’s complex digital landscape. Not only that, it is abundantly clear from talking to her that she just absolutely loves her job!

With so many in the world struggling to find meaning and a purpose in their lives, I decided to focus this interview on Yanna Torry’s philosophies on life and wellness as well as throw in some great tips and information straight from her expert experience in a very specialized world.

You seem like you truly love what you do. What would be your advice to someone looking to find their passion or a job they really love?

Finding your passion or a job you truly love is a personal journey, but I can share some advice based on my own experience as a deliverability specialist. When it comes to discovering your passion, it’s important to reflect on what truly excites you and aligns with your values. For me, I found that I had a deep passion for problem solving and working on things that always changed or evolved. Deliverability keeps me on my toes and I love to be challenged while helping businesses succeed in reaching their customers’ inboxes.

To explore different fields and opportunities, I engaged in activities outside of my current job. I attended webinars, joined groups dedicated to my field and attended conferences related to email deliverability specifically. The best thing was when I networked with professionals in the industry, and took on side projects to broaden my skills. These experiences helped me gain insights into the field and confirmed my passion for deliverability.

Identifying your strengths and skills is crucial in finding a job you love. For me, it was essential to recognize my technical knowledge in email deliverability and my ability to communicate complex concepts effectively. By leveraging my strengths, I was able to find a job that aligned with my expertise and passion.

However, it’s important to remember that the journey to finding your passion may not always be smooth sailing. There will be obstacles and hardships along the way. Whenever I faced challenges, I reminded myself of my personal credo: ‘If it is to be, it is up to me.’ This mindset helped me stay motivated and view everything as valuable learning opportunities. I didn’t allow difficult times to get in the way of my passion for solving deliverability inboxing issues.

In your own search for passion or a job you love, I encourage you to embrace a growth mindset. Approach setbacks as learning experiences and adapt your strategy accordingly. Don’t be afraid to try new things and explore different avenues. Volunteer, take internships, or engage in side projects to gain diverse experiences and uncover new passions. And remember, finding your passion is an active process. Be proactive in seeking out opportunities, networking, and taking action. Don’t wait for the perfect job to come to you; create it through your own efforts. Everything you learn, related or not to your passion, will help in ways you never imagined.

Aside from your work, what are your hobbies?  

Aside from my work in email and deliverability, I find great joy and fulfillment in a variety of hobbies that enrich my life. One of my greatest passions outside of my professional sphere is practicing karate. For the past 28 years, I have wholeheartedly dedicated myself to this martial art, reaching the esteemed rank of a 5th degree black belt. This incredible journey has not only instilled discipline, mental focus, and physical fitness within me but has also shaped my character in profound ways.

In fact, fueled by my love for karate, I embarked on a rewarding endeavor with my sister as we co-owned a karate school that we sold 5 years later. Teaching students of all ages, we had the privilege of sharing our knowledge and passion with others. Guiding aspiring martial artists and witnessing their growth was an immensely fulfilling experience. Moreover, teaching karate not only allowed me to deepen my understanding of the art but also provided an avenue to inspire and motivate individuals on their own paths of self-discovery and personal growth.

Beyond the dojo, another hobby that fills my heart with immense joy is traveling and exploring new places. Immersing myself in diverse cultures and novel environments is a deep-rooted passion of mine. Whether it involves traversing scenic landscapes, uncovering the stories behind historical landmarks, or savoring the flavors of local cuisines, each adventure broadens my perspective and deepens my understanding of the world we inhabit.

In addition to my love for exploration, I have a keen interest in languages. Currently fluent in four, I am continuously driven to expand my linguistic repertoire. Mastering new languages not only facilitates effective communication during my travels but also grants me the ability to connect with people from different backgrounds on a profound level. The opportunity to engage in meaningful conversations and immerse myself in diverse cultural contexts adds a vibrant dimension to my experiences.

Embracing an active lifestyle is paramount to my overall well-being, and I prioritize engaging in physical activities. Whether it’s the disciplined practice of karate, the exhilaration of hiking through nature’s breathtaking landscapes, or the excitement of trying out new sports, being physically active invigorates me. By maintaining an active routine, I find balance, preserve my energy, and approach life with a renewed sense of vitality.

Do you ever have a day when you feel like you do NOT want to go to work? If you ever have one of these days, how do you motivate yourself to get going?

In my line of work as a deliverability specialist, there are certainly days when the nature of the job can be challenging. As I deal with clients who may be unaware of why their emails are landing in spam folders or facing difficulties in reaching their intended audience, I often find myself being the bearer of bad news. Explaining the reasons behind their deliverability issues and the necessary changes can sometimes be met with resistance, as businesses may have conflicting priorities between sales and deliverability.

However, despite these challenges, I rarely find myself lacking motivation to engage with email-related tasks. I have a genuine passion for my work, particularly in educating and sharing knowledge with others. This passion helps drive my motivation even on days when I may feel tired or overwhelmed.

To maintain motivation, I prioritize tasks that involve educating people and sharing valuable insights. I find great satisfaction in helping others understand the intricacies of email deliverability and guiding them towards making the right changes to improve their email performance. This focus on education allows me to make a positive impact and contribute to their long-term success.

In instances where I may feel fatigued or in need of a break, I recognize the importance of self-care and work-life balance. Taking time for physical activities or spending quality time with my partner Daniel or my dog Luna helps me recharge and regain energy. These activities provide a refreshing break from work-related challenges, allowing me to return with renewed enthusiasm.

There are a lot of people out there right now struggling.  What is your secret to happiness?

In the face of struggles and challenges, my secret to happiness lies in the support and presence of the right people in my life. I am fortunate to be surrounded by a strong network of individuals who uplift and support me through thick and thin.

My partner, Daniel, plays a significant role in my happiness. His unwavering support, understanding, and love provide a solid foundation for me to navigate through life’s ups and downs. Together, we create a nurturing and fulfilling environment that contributes to my overall well-being and happiness.

Furthermore, my family has been an incredible source of support throughout my journey. Their presence, guidance, and belief in me have been invaluable. Their encouragement fuels my motivation and reminds me of the importance of cherishing the relationships that matter most.

In addition to my personal connections, my business partners at EmailConsul and Especial Mail have played a crucial role in my happiness. We share a common passion for the email industry and support one another’s growth and success. The camaraderie and collaboration within the email geek community further reinforce the idea that we are all in this together. The collective mindset of supporting each other’s success creates a positive and uplifting environment that fosters happiness.

Surrounding myself with the right people who genuinely care about my well-being, success, and happiness has been instrumental. Their support, encouragement, and shared experiences remind me that I am not alone in my journey. Together, we navigate through challenges, celebrate achievements, and find joy in both personal and professional endeavors.

What sets you apart from other deliverability specialists in the industry?

What sets me apart from other deliverability specialists in the industry is my unique ability to bridge the gap between IT deliverability decisions and the business perspective. While my primary focus is to ensure inboxing and maintain high deliverability rates, I understand the importance of striking a balance between deliverability and overall business goals.

I have a deep understanding of the technical intricacies involved in email deliverability, enabling me to implement best practices and strategies that maximize inbox placement. However, what truly sets me apart is my expertise in aligning deliverability efforts with the broader business objectives.

I recognize that deliverability decisions should not be made in isolation; they need to be considered in the context of the business’s specific goals and requirements. By understanding the impact of deliverability on key business metrics such as conversions, customer engagement, and revenue, I can make informed decisions and recommendations that optimize both deliverability and business outcomes.

In other words, I take a holistic approach that considers the business implications of deliverability decisions. I strive to find solutions that allow emails to reach the inbox while minimizing any negative impacts on the overall business performance, such as return on investment or customer satisfaction. This approach ensures that deliverability efforts are not seen as hindrances, but rather as catalysts for business growth and success.

By being a skilled translator between the IT deliverability realm and the business side of things, I can effectively communicate the importance of deliverability practices, address any concerns or objections from stakeholders, and drive the necessary changes without compromising the business’s bottom line.

Can you explain your approach to educating and empowering clients to enhance their email marketing strategies?

My approach to educating and empowering clients is rooted in a commitment to transparency, knowledge sharing, and inclusivity. I firmly believe that every sender, regardless of their size or resources, deserves the opportunity to succeed in their email marketing endeavors. Therefore, I prioritize open communication and freely sharing insights and best practices to empower clients and help them elevate their strategies.

First and foremost, I ensure that my clients have a thorough understanding of the underlying principles and mechanics of email deliverability. By demystifying the technical aspects and providing clear explanations, I empower them to make informed decisions and take proactive steps to improve their deliverability.

I take a collaborative approach, working closely with clients to identify their unique challenges and goals. Through in-depth discussions and analysis, I provide tailored recommendations and strategies that align with their specific needs and aspirations. I focus not only on short-term solutions but also on building a foundation for long-term success.

In addition to one-on-one consultations, I offer educational resources such as workshops, webinars, and guides. These resources cover a wide range of topics, from email authentication and list management to content optimization and engagement strategies. By sharing my knowledge openly, I empower clients to make informed decisions and implement best practices that drive improved email marketing performance.

Moreover, I actively participate in industry forums, conferences, and communities to stay up-to-date with the latest trends and developments. I believe in the power of collaboration and believe that sharing insights and experiences benefits the entire email marketing community. By staying engaged and connected, I gain valuable knowledge and insights that I can pass on to my clients, further empowering them in their email marketing efforts.

Ultimately, my approach to educating and empowering clients revolves around fostering a culture of transparency, inclusivity, and knowledge exchange. I am dedicated to ensuring that my clients have the necessary tools, understanding, and guidance to enhance their email marketing strategies and achieve their goals, regardless of their size or resources.

Do you actually have real live human contacts at Amazon and Google? How does an average person contact real humans at one of these huge, what I would call, black holes? Can a regular person or small business actually get in touch with a real human being?

Having been in this industry for over a decade, I have indeed established valuable contacts within major email providers such as Amazon and Google. Building relationships with the teams behind these inboxes has been an essential part of my work, allowing me to gain insights and stay up-to-date with the latest developments in deliverability.

As for how an average person can contact real humans at these large companies, the means of communication are typically the same for everyone. Generally, individuals can reach out through the designated channels provided by Amazon, Google, or other email service providers. This may involve contacting their customer support or using their support portals, feedback forms, or community forums.

However, it’s important to note that while these channels may allow for communication, receiving direct responses, changes, or fixes is not guaranteed for the average person. These companies handle an enormous volume of inquiries and requests, making it challenging for them to respond individually to every message they receive. They also receive the same kind of requests from spammers, so they have to be very strict and will not communicate with most people sending requests.

To increase the chances of getting a meaningful response or assistance, it’s advisable to provide clear and concise information about the issue or inquiry, include relevant details, and be patient. It can also be helpful to refer to any applicable documentation or guidelines provided by the email service provider. Be polite, don’t complain and ask for assistance. 

Additionally, small businesses or individuals seeking to enhance their email deliverability may find it beneficial to work with professionals in the field, such as deliverability specialists or email marketing experts such as I. These professionals can provide guidance, best practices, and strategies tailored to the specific needs and goals of the business, and some will have easier access into getting actual answers from ISPs.

In general, establishing direct and ongoing communication with large email service providers can be challenging for the average person or small business due to the sheer volume of requests they receive. However, leveraging industry knowledge, following best practices, and seeking expert guidance can greatly improve the chances of achieving better deliverability and resolving any issues that may arise.

Explain how spam filters get smarter.  How do they change?

Spam filters undergo a continuous process of evolution and improvement, driven by a combination of technological advancements and ongoing learning processes. The ultimate objective is to enhance their effectiveness in accurately identifying and filtering out unwanted or malicious emails. It is worth noting that each inbox service provider approaches this evolution differently, with updates occurring at varying times and priorities shifting from one update to the next. The more tricks senders come up with to “get in the inbox” the more they learn what to detect.

Technological advancements play a crucial role in the development of spam filters. As spammers devise new tactics and techniques to evade detection, spam filters must adapt and incorporate advanced technologies to counter these threats effectively. Machine learning algorithms, artificial intelligence, and natural language processing are some of the cutting-edge technologies employed to bolster the filtering capabilities. These advancements enable the filters to detect patterns, analyze content, and assess various attributes of incoming emails more accurately.

In addition to technological advancements, spam filters rely on ongoing learning processes to improve their performance. They continually gather and analyze vast amounts of data to stay up-to-date with the ever-changing landscape of spam. This data includes information on new spam campaigns, emerging spam techniques, and evolving trends. By continuously learning from this data, filters can refine their algorithms and rule sets, enabling them to adapt to the latest spam tactics and identify previously unseen patterns or behaviors associated with spam emails.

It’s important to understand that inbox service providers each have their own implementation of spam filters and update schedules. These providers may release updates at different times and prioritize different aspects of spam detection and filtering. What may have been considered less important in one update could become a significant factor in the next. For example, an inbox service provider may place greater emphasis on evaluating sender reputation in one update, while in another update, the focus may shift to engagements or domain authentication.

Furthermore, inbox service providers also take into account feedback and data from users. User reports of spam, false positives, or false negatives help inform the ongoing improvement of the filters. This feedback loop assists in fine-tuning the algorithms and addressing any potential gaps or shortcomings in the filtering process.

Here are some key factors that contribute to the increasing intelligence of spam filters:

  • Machine Learning: Spam filters employ machine learning algorithms that analyze vast amounts of data to identify patterns and characteristics commonly found in spam emails. By examining these patterns, the filters learn to recognize spam-like attributes, such as specific keywords, suspicious sender addresses, or certain types of formatting. As more data is processed, the filters become better at differentiating between legitimate emails and spam.
  • User Feedback: Spam filters take into account user feedback to refine their filtering mechanisms. When users mark an email as spam or move it to the spam folder, this data is used to train the filter and improve its accuracy. User feedback helps the filter adapt to new spam techniques, ensuring that similar emails are accurately classified in the future.
  • Collaborative Filtering: Spam filters collaborate and share information across different email providers, blocklists etc. This collaboration helps create a collective knowledge base, enabling filters to learn from each other’s experiences. By sharing data on new spam campaigns or emerging threats, spam filters collectively become more effective in detecting and blocking spam across various platforms.
  • Real-Time Analysis: Spam filters analyze incoming emails in real-time, assessing various elements such as the content, structure, and metadata. They compare these elements against known spam patterns and use algorithms to assign a spam probability score. This continuous analysis allows filters to adapt quickly to new spam techniques and identify emerging patterns or behaviors associated with spam emails.
  • Advanced Techniques: To stay ahead of spammers, spam filters utilize advanced techniques. For example, they may employ heuristics, which are rules-based algorithms that consider a range of factors to evaluate the likelihood of an email being spam. Additionally, filters may utilize sender reputation analysis, domain reputation checks, or even sophisticated analysis of images or embedded URLs within emails to make more accurate filtering decisions.
  • Regular Updates: Spam filter providers regularly update their algorithms and rulesets to incorporate new information and adapt to changing spam techniques. These updates are based on ongoing analysis, research, and collaboration within the industry. By continuously refining their algorithms, spam filters can keep pace with evolving spam tactics and provide more effective protection against unwanted emails.

In summary, spam filters get smarter by leveraging machine learning, user feedback, collaborative filtering, real-time analysis, advanced techniques, and regular updates. Through these processes, they learn from vast amounts of data, adapt to new spam techniques, and continuously improve their ability to accurately identify and filter out unwanted or malicious emails, providing users with a more reliable and efficient email experience.

One of the most common mistakes that businesses make in their email marketing plans is overlooking the importance of maintaining a clean and updated email list. While businesses may focus on growing their subscriber base, they often neglect to actively manage the quality and engagement of their list over time.

As a business’s email list expands, it is inevitable that some email addresses will become invalid. People change jobs, switch email providers, or abandon old accounts, resulting in email addresses that are no longer active. If businesses continue to send emails to these inactive or non-existent addresses, it not only wastes valuable resources but also negatively impacts their email deliverability.

Additionally, subscribers may lose interest or disengage over time. They may no longer find the content relevant, feel overwhelmed by frequent emails, or simply lose interest in the brand. Continuing to send emails to these unengaged subscribers can result in diminishing open rates, click-through rates, and overall engagement metrics. It also risks damaging the sender’s reputation with internet service providers (ISPs), potentially leading to emails being marked as spam or not reaching the intended recipients’ inboxes.

Moreover, businesses may overlook the importance of providing clear and easy options for subscribers to unsubscribe or manage their email preferences. Without a straightforward and visible way for recipients to opt-out, some individuals may resort to marking emails as spam instead. This not only impacts the business’s deliverability but also tarnishes its reputation and hinders future email marketing efforts.

Regularly cleaning and updating the email list is crucial for maintaining high deliverability rates and ensuring that messages reach engaged and interested recipients. By regularly reviewing the list and removing inactive or unengaged subscribers, businesses can focus their email marketing efforts on those who are more likely to interact with their content, resulting in higher engagement and better overall campaign performance.

What are some of the differences you have seen between the US and Europe in the world of email and the internet- in terms of privacy and security, any tech type of differences you have noticed? What about the US and Canada?  Canada and Europe?

There are indeed notable differences between the United States, Canada, and Europe when it comes to email, the internet, privacy, and security. In the United States, the regulations surrounding email and internet usage are relatively more lenient compared to Europe. In Europe, strict data protection laws, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), prioritize user consent and privacy. This means that businesses operating in Europe need to obtain explicit consent from individuals before sending them marketing emails or collecting their personal data.

In terms of tech differences, Europe tends to adopt more stringent security measures and encryption protocols to protect user data. The emphasis on privacy and security in Europe has led to the development of robust systems and tools that prioritize user protection. Canada, on the other hand, shares some similarities with the United States in terms of email and internet regulations but has its own data protection laws that are more aligned with European standards.

As always, Yanna Torry Aspraki is a treasure trove of information, and she has been recognized with many awards due to her exceptional leadership and mentorship in the field of email and deliverability. She is always eager to share her knowledge and expertise with others, and lend a helping hand to anyone in need. Beyond simply sharing knowledge, she has also worked tirelessly to help others advance in their careers and achieve their goals. She has always been eager to help others succeed, without any hidden agendas. Her generosity and genuine kindness have made her a beloved and respected figure in the industry, and have inspired countless others to follow in her footsteps.

If you would like to learn more about Yanna Torry Aspraki, EmailConsul, and her own email marketing tool especialmail.com, please visit https://emailconsul.com/, https://yannatorry.com/, and https://www.especialmail.com/.

This article was originally published on OpsLens.

On Real Estate And Indiana: An Interview With Ben Jones

For many people it is the biggest transaction of their life – buying a house. Homeownership is also a huge part of the still-alive-and-well American dream, though it may seem out of reach to many in these days of higher interest rates and even higher housing costs. For me, maybe due to my obvious fear of commitment in my younger years, I was not so interested in the idea of owning my own house – until I did. Now, I can honestly say that buying my first house was the best thing I have done for my financial health since paying off my huge amount of credit card debt in my thirties.

I recently had the opportunity to interview third generation real estate expert Ben Jones. Ben has been featured in the last 12 annual special editions of Indianapolis Star as one of the top 3% of Real Estate Agents in Indiana. He has built his business through hard work and a true commitment to his clients. He has an excellent reputation in Central Indiana which clearly shows because most of his business now comes through referrals. He refers to the process as being “like a snowball” – he started with a couple of clients, then they referred him, and those referrals turned into other referrals. His business is now thriving, with sales ranging from mansions, farms, barns, and investor flips. When it comes to real estate, Ben sees it all.

Ben runs a team of eight agents with Compass. He describes his management style as leading by example. He is hands-off with daily tasks- he does not micromanage. He treats his team the way he would like to be treated. He says that rarely does a day go by that he is not talking with or helping one of his team members through something they have going on with a transaction.

For those wanting to get into real estate as a career, Ben has three key pieces of advice. First, be prepared to fail, when first starting out. It took Ben five or six years to become what he would consider “successful”. Second, be persistent and consistent in your day-to-day process. He considers himself a process person.

He has a process on how he lays out his day, works on tasks, how he communicates with and keeps in touch with clients, etc. If he does that, he says his goals tend to get accomplished. 

Third, Ben recommends having six months of income stashed away. In fact, Ben has a mindset of thinking six months ahead.

I was curious about the current state of the real estate market, so I asked him a few questions surrounding real estate in his local area of Indiana. My interview follows:

What is the price range of the real estate you sell?  Do you sell solely in Indiana at this time?

I get this question quite a bit. I sell in all price points. Last month I helped first time buyers close on a $240k house but also got a $4.5 million dollar listing under contract. I enjoy working with people in different stages of life and think they deserve the best representation regardless of price. 

Do you show any rentals?  If so, what are the rental prices in your area generally?

I don’t really show rentals. A decent three bedroom, two bath rental is probably around $2500+ a month.

How do you see the real estate market right now? How do you see it going in the next five or ten years?

The market needs inventory. Hopefully in five years we will have more inventory and rates will have come down a bit so first time homebuyers can get into the market. 

Have you noticed many people wanting to move to Indiana right now?

Yes. We have seen an influx of people from Chicago as they don’t want to pay the higher property taxes that Illinois has. Indiana was also a little more ‘open’ compared to other states during the pandemic, which helped fuel people here. 

In this time, when a lot of people aren’t doing well financially, who are the people you see buying right now?

People with strong and steady jobs and equity in their current home that they can tap for a down payment. 

In your experience, who is choosing to rent these days, versus buying?

First time home buyers that cannot find the right first time home. 

For our younger readers, who may feel that buying a home is out of reach to them, what is your advice?

Talk with your trusted lender to run numbers to see if you qualify for buying a home. You are paying a mortgage whether you rent or buy. If you rent you’re paying your landlord’s mortgage. If you buy you’re paying your own. 

What does a brand new first time buyer need to know most about purchasing their first property?’

There are some ‘hidden costs’ to homeownership. When something breaks, it’s on the homeowner to remedy it. You can’t call the apartment complex or landlord to come fix it. 

Tell me some things you love about Indiana.

The Purdue and IU Rivalry. It makes things fun when they play each other in football and basketball. 

The Indianapolis 500. It’s the Greatest Spectacle in Racing. People travel from all over the world to go to it. If you’ve never been, add it to your bucket list. 

The people. Good Midwestern people who overall are very nice, cordial, caring, and respectful. 

Ben Jones embodies the Midwestern characteristics he mentions. You can see it in the fact that his former clients, even years after purchasing a home through him, still come to him for guidance and advice regarding home repairs and projects on which they are embarking.

You can find out more about Ben Jones at https://buywithben.com/.

This article was originally published on OpsLens.

Ocean Health, Shelly Beach, and Roombas for the Ocean!

As many of you know, I recently became a referral agent for RanMarine Technology. These are the people who created the WasteShark, the TenderShark, and the soon-to-be-available MegaShark. Now, as many of you also know, I am a horrible salesperson. But, not to worry, I am simply a referral agent, which means if you are interested in buying, leasing, or pursuing sponsorship opportunities for one of these products, you simply have to let me know and I will get you in touch with the person who makes the magic happen – I get a commission, and the world gains another plastic and biomass gobbling robot to help clean our waterways! It’s a win-win! Where I live, it would be a great addition to the canals, but ….  seems I cannot get anyone interested just yet.

If you haven’t heard about these fantastic inventions, I have downloadable brochures here.

I’ve also written a couple of articles about the WasteShark:

A New Hero In The Battle Against Ocean Pollution: The WasteShark

An Accidental Environmentalist

And here, you can see a video of how these sharks work:

My elementary-grade chapter book series, The Adventures of Shelly Beach, aims to teach children about ocean life and the accompanying subject of ocean health, without being preachy. Book #2 in the series will be out soon, by the way.

I don’t think there could be a better partnership than the one between Shelly Beach and RanMarine’s WasteShark!

Feel free to contact me if you are interested in learning more. [email protected]

Keep Going: An Interview With Stacey Sparks-Huff

I had seen too much, yet somehow still had not seen enough. They were calling me back to Washington, D.C., yet I knew I belonged where I was. The truth was, I had never liked any job I had ever had and this one was no different. My one desire was to be my own boss, to live on my own terms. So, what did I do? I decided to make a change.

I quit. I resigned from the Central Intelligence Agency.

But even though my resume was a virtual black hole, having worked undercover for the CIA for the previous eight years, this was just the beginning of my true calling.

It began there, I became an entrepreneur.

I recently had the opportunity to interview Stacey Sparks-Huff, entrepreneur and creator of Mr. Crumbles’ Delectables. Stacey was one of those kids who just didn’t know what she wanted to do when she grew up. In her own words, she fumbled through life taking various jobs that were very unfulfilling, and getting fired from most of them. Yet she always had an entrepreneurial spirit. While she was working these jobs, her mind was always busy creating ideas, inventions, and stories. She was always thinking of ways that she could be her own boss.

She took a chance and started her first business – Lypo-Palooza. She developed her own cellulite treatment capsule and skin cream, not by going to school for chemistry, but by having the drive to figure things out. She painstakingly researched natural herbs that could help rid the body of toxins that may be trapped in fat cells and once she figured out which herbs were the most beneficial for the treatment of cellulite, she started formulating until she believed she had the right combination. She then took her ideas to a lab and worked with experts in the herbal supplement field. After about a year, she had it formulated perfectly and her product was used by celebrities as well as featured in national magazines. Stacey didn’t stop there. She also created an egg substitute. This time she didn’t have to get any help from food scientists, instead she basically turned her kitchen into a test kitchen until she perfected it.

Stacey also started one of the first plus-sized bridal shops in the country and later started the first online plus-sized bridal boutique. She had realized during a stint as a bridal consultant that most of her brides were over a size twelve and couldn’t fit into any of the sample bridal gowns. Stacey couldn’t stand to see these brides feel so defeated, so she set out to change that. This endeavor was one of her biggest and best accomplishments- she made so many brides happy and still keeps in touch with many of them today.

Stacey’s last business just prior to Mr. Crumbles’ Delectables was Simple VGN., a vegan baking mix company that she created with her son. They came up with the idea, landed an investor, and had Walmart interested in putting their product in six hundred stores right off the bat. Unfortunately, this business was impacted by COVID. Then Stacey’s mother passed away suddenly. Stacey resigned from the company and was experiencing tremendous grief.

Persuaded by her husband, Stacey reluctantly picked herself up off of the floor and began baking. Out of her deep sadness and loss sprung her newest endeavor- Mr. Crumbles’ Delectables. Begun as a hobby to help her heal, it quickly turned into a business when her husband would take some of her baked goods to work with him. People soon began placing orders and Mr. Crumbles was born!

Stacey Sparks-Huff is a true innovator. I was curious about her view on life, and how other budding entrepreneurs could learn from her experience. My interview follows:

You started your latest company, Mr. Crumbles, as a “hobby” after the passing of your mother. Describe a little bit about this journey. How did you basically get yourself out of mourning and on to feeling better? Do you have any tips for others who are experiencing loss to help them get motivated and feel better?

 Yes, Mr. Crumbles’ started out as a hobby to help me heal from my mother’s passing and it turned into an unexpected business. My husband encouraged me to start baking as a hobby and he would take some of my baked goods to work with him. Well, people started placing orders and it quickly turned into a business! My advice to anyone experiencing loss or grief is to let yourself feel it and go through the process. It comes in waves, but on the days you are feeling “ok”, try to get up and do something that makes you happy or something that comforts you. To be honest, when my husband suggested I start baking, I didn’t want to. I didn’t even want to get out of bed, take a bath, or put makeup on. Everything felt like a chore. I had to force myself at first but as the days went on, I started to feel better. I hope that this can help someone out there that may be struggling.

You mention the importance of finding a mentor. For our youngest readers, or really anyone just starting out in a field, how do you go about finding a mentor? How would you advise someone just starting out on how to find a mentor?

Yes, find yourself a mentor! As I had mentioned before, LinkedIn is such a valuable resource to find experts in your field and it makes them accessible. My suggestion would be to reach out to someone who has had success in your field and ask them for a brief meeting. Be honest with them about where you are in your journey and ask if they could mentor you. Most of the time, they will offer their time to you or refer you to someone who can. Another resource would be the SBDC in your area (Small Business Development Centers) or other small business organizations in or near your city.

How do you manage to not only run a business but to promote your business or product? How do you go about getting a company like Walgreens interested in your business or product?

My son and I founded Mr. Crumbles together so he handles most of the baking, testing, deliveries, and some R&D. I handle sales and all the boring business stuff (lol) so we make a great team. We all know that when you first start a new business, most business owners have to wear many and maybe all the hats but I don’t recommend doing that for too long. I made that mistake in the past. Don’t get me wrong, I know you need money to hire help but something I see all the time is when people work in their business, not for their business.

I am just now to the point where I can actually hire someone to do our social media marketing, and that’s something that I realized that I am not very good at so we need to hire an expert. Same with bookkeeping and anything else that you are not an expert in.

As far as getting Walgreens or any other retailer interested, I use a few different methods and platforms. RangeMe is a platform for CPGs (Consumer Packaged Goods) and they have free and paid accounts available. I use the free version and with that, I take advantage of the free product submissions to big box retailers. Basically, let’s say that Walmart is looking for vegan cookies, I can submit my brands through RangeMe to Walmart for free. The paid subscription, of course, has many more tools to help leverage your brand with retailers.  I also just signed us with a natural food distributor/broker, so we are now taking that next step to growing our pretty local company to a nationwide brand. Fingers crossed!

How do you find the time to do all of the things required for your business – between developing new flavors to coming up with new products, and actually baking, etc., and also promoting your products/business? How do you specifically find the time and also how do you suggest others can do the same?

Time management can be a very difficult thing for small business owners and entrepreneurs. No two of my days are ever the same so I like to take it day by day and break down my tasks into bite-size pieces. I tend to get overwhelmed with to-do lists so that method works for me. I look at my day/week and decide what is the most important thing to do to help me reach my goal and I do that. Then I go down the list and prioritize using that same mentality. For me, it’s all goal oriented.

Mr. Crumbles is a family business.

How did you get your son interested in your business, enough to be your partner?  So many people have trouble getting their children engaged in something they feel is worthwhile and valuable, and you did it.  How?

Out of all my children, my son, Avery, seems to be the only one who has an entrepreneurial spirit (which is fine with me. Being an entrepreneur is hard). When I built my bridal business, I thought my girls would want to take it over when I retire but neither one of them had any interest so I kept that in mind and I sold my business. My last business was Simple VGN., a vegan baking mix company that Avery and I came up with one day driving around in the car. We brainstormed and decided to try to make something happen and it did. We landed an investor and Walmart wanted to put our product into 600 stores off the bat. That gave Avery the entrepreneurial bug and it’s been there ever since.

How do you suggest to someone who perhaps has a family that does not understand their business but can’t divorce their whole family, how can they either get them to understand better or some tips on how to deal with this type of situation and keep going under these non-supportive circumstances?

I’ve seen this a lot and it always makes me sad. I have been so blessed to have a supportive husband and family but that doesn’t mean they always understand what I’m trying to achieve or accomplish. My suggestion is to surround yourself with like-minded people, who also have big dreams and goals.  Join local networking groups, Facebook groups, or church groups for entrepreneurs. Support doesn’t always have to come from your family and friends. I’ve come to realize that unless you are an entrepreneur it’s hard to understand the mindset of one.

Keep going.

Do you use any motivational tools to keep you going?

My motivational tools come in the form of success stories. I love to read interviews with successful entrepreneurs, listen to podcasts, and watch documentaries. I like to learn about an individual’s struggles and how they overcame them to get where they are today.

What makes you happy and/or content?

I am at my happiest when I am working on my business, and reaching my goals! Then when my work day is over, I get to spend time with my husband, family, and dogs! That’s my perfect day, as simple as it sounds.

You have achieved a lot. What is your number one tip for productivity?

Keep going! I swear, there are days when I feel like I am getting nowhere and I want to give up but don’t. People don’t realize that they give up right before success happens. So if you have a bad day, week, month, or year, just keep going! Even if it’s just doing one single thing a day that can propel you forward, just don’t give up.

Pivoting is the key.

You seem very driven. Have you always been this way, and when was the first time you realized you were as driven and focused as you are?

I have always been driven by results. Even as a child I would put on plays in the backyard and sell tickets (even though I was an introvert). I loved to see people actually buy tickets and show up to something that I created. I love to build something and throw it out there to see what effect it has on the world. If it’s working, I continue to build it. If it’s not, I’m done. I don’t spend a lot of time on things that are not working. I pivot quickly, which I feel is even more important than just seeing something through to the end. I believe that’s why I have been able to accomplish so much in not a lot of time. Pivoting is the key, I think.

How do you stay content and possibly fight off restlessness?

Gosh, this is a tough one because I get restless A LOT. The key for me to fight restlessness is to assure myself that it is normal and it will pass. If I’m having a bad day and nothing is working the way I want it, I decide that I am done for that day and I’ll try again tomorrow. I believe giving yourself the grace to feel a certain way is good as long as you also have the determination to snap yourself out of it. Again, this is also why surrounding yourself with like-minded people can help you along your journey tremendously. These are the people who can help you through the restlessness you may feel from time to time and keep you on the path to success. 

When I resigned from the CIA, I felt very lost and had hit a low point.

But then, I kept going and created the life that I wanted.

Regardless of your struggle, Stacey Sparks-Huff is a stellar example of the importance of persistence in pursuing goals to create the life you want.

If you would like to learn more about Stacey and her newest endeavor, Mr. Crumbles’ Delectables, please visit www.mrcrumblesdelectables.com.

This article was originally published on OpsLens.com.