The J. Margaret Weaver Journal

Lisa Caras on effective decision making, balancing career & family, and building personal discipline

Lisa Caras on effective decision making, balancing career & family,  and building personal discipline

I met Lisa Caras when we were both undergrads at Miami of Ohio.  We were both in the business school, members of a business fraternity, and were part of a group of close friends.  One thing that always stood out about Lisa was her discipline and ability to focus - from the time I met her at 19 or 20 years old, she prioritized the things that matter and focused on preparing herself for the future, even if that meant a Friday night at home studying or going to bed early to be ready for an exam the next day.  She's always been mature and wise, and it was edifying for me to sit down with her now, 15 or so years after we met, to dig in to how she's approached her career, education, and life.  I think you'll feel the same.

Join me as I sit down with Lisa, now a mom of two young kids, wife, and marketing manager for her family-owned business - Jones Dairy Farm - about being a strategy consultant in the Big Apple, why she decided to go back to business school and how she picked NYU, and how she keeps things going at work, home, and in between.  Lisa holds a high degree of excellence and expectations for herself, and she shares advice and experiences she's had that have been instrumental in shaping her along the way.

 Listen on Spotify, Apple, and Anchor.

 About Lisa Caras:

Lisa Caras is a 7th generation family member at Jones Dairy Farm, a premium breakfast meats company located in Fort Atkinson, WI. She joined the family business in 2017 after working in finance at Intel and consulting at IBM. She holds a BA from Miami University (OH) and an MBA from New York University. Lisa lives in Madison, WI with her husband and two children.

 

Continue reading

The "Story Behind the Seams" - Connie & Malachi

The "Story Behind the Seams" - Connie & Malachi

When we received a "Name a Design" nomination from Connie for her son Malachi, the words of a proud mom resonated with us.  After further contemplation of name options for our latest collection, we decided to secretly reach out to Malachi.  Through this, we learned more about the sacrifices his mom had made for him and his desire to recognize his mom.  It became clear from our conversation, that we were going to name the shirt Connie to honor the example she's made for her son, and we couldn't be more excited to do so! 

As a thank you, Connie will receive a gift of her namesake shirt (she picked the pink floral print - our most popular so far)!

I'll be doing a podcast interview with Connie this summer - stay tuned to hear more of her story and her tips for success in life, work, and motherhood.

Continue reading

Is Your Network Really Your Net Worth, Part 2: An Amazing Debt-Free Story with Adam Trafton

Is Your Network Really Your Net Worth, Part 2: An Amazing Debt-Free Story with Adam Trafton
A few months ago, I published a podcast episode that took a critical look at the saying and the philosophy that "your network is your net worth." This generated a lot of conversation and feedback, and I enjoyed hearing stories from people about their financial journeys, financial literacy, and sometimes the lack of education or transparency they had with respect to personal finances as they were growing up and some of the challenges this created later in life.
One of my colleagues and friends, Adam Trafton, reached out and shared some of the details about his debt-free journey.  It was such an inspiration, I asked if he would join me for an interview to share how and why he paid off his debt so quickly (he paid off $70,000 in student loans and car loan debt in five months!) as well as what he's learned about personal finances and some of the common pitfalls many people find themselves in.  Finally, we wrap up with the fun that comes with building wealth and using that wealth to be outrageously generous with other people!  We agreed that the best part of being financially secure was the ability to give to people and causes that are important to you.

Listen on Spotfiy, Apple, and Anchor.

Finally, I want to add a disclaimer that we are not giving any financial advice nor are we licensed financial experts. Adam shares resources and a program that worked well for him, and encourages you to do the same.  We recognized that everyone is at a different place in their financial journey, and this is an opportunity to hear how he changed his behaviors around spending and saving to reach specific financial goals.  Your goals might be the same and they might be different, and I welcome productive, thoughtful dialogue and discussion.  
About Mr. Trafton 
Vice President & Area Chief Resource Officer | Wisconsin

Adam Trafton is the Vice President and Area Chief Resource Officer serving Ascension Wisconsin. In his role, Adam has responsibility for planning, developing, leading, and implementing all measures needed to manage non-labor spend, with a specific emphasis on  supply chain. He is also responsible for determining the best approach to control supply and non-labor spend through facilitation of utilization strategies with physicians and clinicians and managing change related to supply and non-labor spend within The Resource Group Wisconsin market.

Adam, previously served as a Director in The Resource Group Deployment Community where he specialized in strategic financial consulting and Group Purchasing Organization (GPO) integration. He has completed 48 healthcare GPO Participant integrations with The Resource Group and is an experienced supply chain and change management leader.

Adam came to The Resource Group from PwC where he supported both audit and tax practices. He has more than 13 years of experience in both private and public sectors, including executive leadership, public accounting, healthcare operations, project management, consulting, supply chain and analytics.

Adam earned his bachelor’s degree in business administration and his master’s degree in accounting from the Richard A. Chaifetz School of Business at Saint Louis University. Adam is also a licensed Certified Public Accountant (CPA).

 

 

 

Continue reading

Let's Go "Behind the Seams" of our Newest Collection: Prints, Petal Sleeves, and Personalization

Let's Go "Behind the Seams" of our Newest Collection: Prints, Petal Sleeves, and Personalization

 

What Inspired our Newest Collection?

A serendipitous find of our first print, multiple requests from you for petal sleeves, and my search for personalized stationary.

A chance encounter with a local fabric store led me to find this Tula floral print.  After receiving a ton of comments about it on social media, I did some digging and learned that it's from a local (KC) designer, made from 100% cotton (and machine washable), and would sew up beautifully in our new Connie petal sleeve top.  It was quite the last-minute add, and when I saw the sample, I couldn't wait to try it on!

Our Connie petal Sleeve top has a similar fit to the Mimi with a slightly looser neckline and drape-y petal sleeves that are feminine yet offer a slightly longer sleeve for a more flattering look.  Along with the new print, we're bringing the purple from the Mimi back for this top, along with a bright coral.  We'll also have it in three staple colors - ivory, black, and navy.

Our Barbara dress is also back and in new colors: cream and pine green, and with a few tweaks, including a shorter back zipper and a two inch higher slit than last year (thank you all for the feedback)!  I've already talked to many of you interested in the cream for a rehearsal dinner or graduation ceremony, and the pine green for fall and holiday events - this is the perfect dress for any and all of these occasions!  Both of the new colors come in the same TENCEL fabric as the first round of Barbara dresses, and the colors look absolutely gorgeous. 

For those of you who missed getting a Barbara in Bordeaux, Nightfall Blue, or Black, we will open up pre-orders for these colors, too, so you can guarantee the color and size you want now, prior to production.  A a thank you for pre-ordering, we will discount pre-orders by 15%, so the Barbara dress will be $148.75 (vs. $175 regular price) and the Connie top will be $72.25 (vs. $85). 

We will make web stock online once production is complete later this summer, though I would encourage you to pre-order if you know you want a particular color and size that sold out fast last year.

 

How Will Pre-Orders Work?

We'll open up pre-orders from April 30 - May 7 for the Connie petal sleeve top and the Barbara dress for every color.  Pre-orders will be discounted at 15% as a thank you for helping us reduce waste and practice good financial stewardship.  As always, we have a 100% satisfaction guarantee, so you can return your pre-ordered items if you don't love them.  Pre-orders will be shipped later this summer (about ten weeks after pre-orders close), and any remaining inventory will be available online to shop at that time.

Personalized Stationary

My personal quest for stationary with bright colors (perhaps inspiration from the Tula print?) and a fun yet simple design led me to start designing it myself.  What's better than fun snail mail to brighten someone's day?  Personalize a set of eight flat cards or folded cards for yourself or someone you love, and spread some cheer.  

Each set is printed to order with your selection of name or monogram and colors.  Sets come with eight cards and envelopes, and come ready to give as a gift, just in time for upcoming holidays and events, including Administrative Professionals Day (April 27), Mother's Day (May 7), graduations and wedding season.

Our personalized stationary launches on Wednesday, April 20, and for a limited time, enjoy 50% off your second set of stationary when you order one at full price.  Use code JMW at checkout for this discount.

I cannot wait to share more of this new collection with you! Thank you, as always, for being here. 

Cheers,

KaLeena

 
Continue reading

Aim to Do the Right Things

Aim to Do the Right Things

I shared last week on social media that the theme for that week had been "too much to do". That was the case not only for me, but also for a number of people I talked to across all walks of life; this sense of having too many priorities to work on, problems to solve, or fire drills to put out.

Books on time management, productivity, and organization routinely top best-seller lists, with the message that this way of managing your time, improving your focus, or taking breaks will be the catalyst needed to help you organize and manage your time.  I think there is value to these time / energy "optimization" methods, to being organized, and to finding what works for you.  But it goes beyond that.

The other day, I RSVP'd for a wedding online rather than through the mail for the first time. Once I clicked a couple boxes, I immediately had the option to visit the couple's registry and send a gift.  Two minutes later, the gift was en route to them.  Ten years ago, this same task would have taken an hour or two of my time; I would have sent a reply back in the mail and then taken the time to go to an actual store where I printed off a gift registry and wandered the aisles deciding what to give the couple.  Then I would have purchased the gift, perhaps wrapped it, and delivered/shipped/or dropped it off at the reception. 

What astonished me most about that experience was the realization that so many things have become faster and easier, and yet many of us still have more to do than there are hours in the day.

I thought about it.  I talked to people about it.  Why was this happening, and how could we think about our time and energy differently?  

I realized there are two aspects to all of this - there's the "capacity" side of how you have the focus, time, and energy to get things done (and what many people think about when it comes to time management) and then there's the "input/output" side, which is determining what you want to accomplish and how you'll accomplish it in the best way.  This is the aspect that isn't given as much attention, but is just as important.  Here are four tips to help you aim to do the right things.

1. What you say yes to is just as important as what you say no to.  It's important to start with a clear definition of what is most important and what activities contributes to your measure of success.  For example, if you own a business, net income is one of the common measures of success, so it's important to understand what activities most favorably impact net income (while not coming at any ethical expense, of course) and then to focus on doing those activities and measuring the results of them compared to what results you expect. 

Over the past six months, I've said "no" to a lot of things for myself and my family when I realized that I wasn't getting the results on the metrics or measures that are important to me.  One simple example: I signed my kids up for too many activities last fall and it was negatively impacting our time, energy, and behavior (lots of whining, stress, and tantrums).  We moved to one activity per kid per season for now and added independent playtime to give them more space to decompress.  Another example: some of my growth ideas for J. Margaret Weaver were inappropriate based on our business stage so I adjusted my growth timeline which allowed me to let go of some unnecessary work right now and to focus on what matters in the next quarter rather than a year from now.  I've adjusted my approach to consulting projects to simplify the work while still yielding the same or better results, I've delayed superfluous projects around my house (and finally brought in an expert to help me refresh my office), and I even let go of a strong opinion I had on a particular situation that was zapping my energy and time as I tried to build my case for why I was right.  I realized that it didn't matter enough.

While it can be incredibly challenging or look different in practice when leading a team of people or in a situation where it seems like you have to say yes, it's all about coming back to defining what actually matters and how can you accomplish what actually matters in the simplest way possible.  That might mean tuning out some of the noise that accompanies the topic, fostering a relationship so you can set better boundaries in the future, or having some white space to identify the items that actually matter and create specific plans around them.

2. Identify and use constraints to your advantage.  We face constraints and tradeoffs every day.  Time, resources, energy, production capacity, and cash flow are all common constraints that can thwart a plan and require creativity to pivot.  Can't get a meeting with a key decision-maker for four weeks but you need to finalize something in two weeks? Try a different route - whether that's another communication method (texting, email, dinner, breakfast, hallway conversation) or another decision-maker (can that person delegate decision-making authority to someone else or to you? The answer isn't to just throw up your hands and delay the project or to try and eliminate every constraint, it's to work within your constraints to find a creative solution.

3. The shortest distance between two points is a straight line.  Not only is it a math fundamental, it's also good planning.  The more comprehensive a plan is from the beginning, the straighter the line will be from concept to completion.  How do you get a comprehensive plan? Start with what you know and pull in experts to help build it out further.  Validate the plan with anyone who has decision-making authority or an impact on the outcome to ensure you heard then correctly and implemented their feedback.  Finally, test to see if you really need to do something a particular way - perhaps it could be accomplished in two steps rather than five or in a day rather than a week.

4. Practice good stewardship of your time and energy.  I started changing my approach to staying organized and managing my time when I framed it as practicing good personal stewardship.  I steward my time and energy so I can give the right amount to the people and opportunities that are important to me.  That might mean going to bed early, taking a short break, getting a babysitter for a date night, pulling in more resources to help with a project, or not doing activities that you, my wonderful customers, do not value and therefore I should not be doing.  This approach has helped me avoid the trappings of feeling guilty or that I must justify how I am spending my time, as I'm aligning it with a bigger vision and definition of what it means to steward my time.


​​​​​​​

Continue reading

Want to be a more engaging public speaker? Try these three tips.

Want to be a more engaging public speaker? Try these three tips.

Growing up, I loved speaking and performing in front of an audience.  Whether that was through ballet, singing in my church choir, or community/school theatre productions, I had zero fear on stage.

Until my senior year of college.

What happened? My senior finance capstone included a group project and presentation that accounted for 50% of my grade.  Unfortunately, the rest of my group had a bad case of "senioritis" (IKYK), which resulted in a bit of an unbalanced workload for our research, writing, and presentation.  After a week of Starbucks Red Eyes to give me energy amidst the presentation prep along with everything else going on the last semester of my senior year, I was wiped out mentally and physically.  I remember almost forgetting breakfast in my rush to get to class early, and I ate a couple bites of cereal as I ran out the door.

My exhaustion, coupled with adrenaline from the presentation pressure low blood sugar was a dangerous combination.  I passed out in front of my class (thankfully caught by a proactive ROTC student who was sitting in the front row) and developed a terrible fear of public speaking.  I managed my fear by being a "safe" presenter (read: the most boring presenter possible).  I read from slides, I never deviated off script, and I stuck to the facts.

Over the years, as I worked through my fear of getting up in front of an audience, I was challenged by a leader at work who told me that I had to become a more engaging and confident speaker if I wanted to advance further.  While this was the worst feedback I could have gotten (having to tackle a huge fear) I took the advice to heart and engaged a lot of people for perspective, advice, and observation of what works and what doesn't when it comes to engaging - and even persuading - an audience of people.

From this journey of honing my public speaking style, I created simple checklists and prep guides for myself.  Now, I'm not only back to feeling at home on a stage (though thankfully not singing or dancing anymore), I love the energy from these interactions. 

Here are the three most effective practices that I added to my presentation prep.  Try these to add clarity, audience engagement, and persuasion to your communication.


1. Start with a compelling story. Our brains are hardwired to make connections through stories, so starting with a relevant story will help others remember what you said and create an emotional connection with them right from the beginning.  Bonus: when you start with an engaged audience, it builds confidence for the rest of the talk.


2. Practice makes permanent. Rehearse what you are going to say over and over until it feels natural and second-nature to you. I've found this prep sheet for TED speakers to be instrumental in helping me prepare and practice in a constructive way.  Bonus: when your content becomes second nature to you, it's easy to ad lib, veer off course a bit, or lose your place because your brain will go right back to where you need to be when you're done with your unplanned comments.


3. Involve your audience. People love to feel that they are part of a presentation, and it takes pressure off you as the speaker to fill the time or only talk about your data/findings/experience.  Whether that is asking your audience questions, sharing a story about someone in the audience (especially someone that many people in the audience know), or planting questions with people in advance to get the conversation going, getting your audience involved makes it an interactive and engaging conversation among people.


Continue reading

Caitlin Poling on Working on Capitol Hill, Career Pivots, and the Value of Over-Preparing

Caitlin Poling on Working on Capitol Hill, Career Pivots, and the Value of Over-Preparing

An interview with Caitlin Poling, Political Assistant for the Multilateral and Technical Affairs Section of the U.S. Mission to International Organizations in Vienna (UNVIE).


I met Caitlin the summer before my freshman year of college on a long bus ride from Ashland, OH to Knoxville, TN.  She was on the University's cheer team, I was on the dance team, and we were headed to our respective cheer/dance camps at University of Tennessee.  While we didn't have time to get to know each other during the hectic, four-day schedule; as luck would have it, we were also both in the honors program and had been automatically enrolled in Heuristic Problem Solving together on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  We bonded over logic problems, economic models, and a love of fashion.  Over the years, Caitlin has not only been a loyal friend she's also been a source of inspiration for me thanks to her incredible work ethic, high standards, and intellect.  She can tackle any obstacle or problem, make the best of a less-than-ideal situation, and positions herself for success through over-preparation.


On this podcast episode, I interviewed Caitlin to learn more about how she started her career in politics and government, how she pivoted to a new role when her husband was posted overseas, and why she now relentlessly over-prepares for everything. 


Disclaimer: views expressed here are Caitlin's own and are not representative of the State Department or U.S. Government.

Listen on Spotify, Apple, and Anchor.


More about Ms. Poling:
Ms. Caitlin Poling serves as Political Assistant for the Multilateral and Technical Affairs Section of the U.S. Mission to International Organizations in Vienna (UNVIE), where she assists with the peaceful uses of outer space and Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organization portfolios. Upon moving to Vienna with her husband in the Foreign Service, she worked remotely as a Senior Advisor to a U.S. Senator from Georgia providing research and counsel on foreign policy, trade, and defense issues and drafting legislation to counter Chinese economic statecraft. Prior to her move overseas, she served as the senator’s National Security Advisor. In this role, her portfolio included foreign relations, defense, cyber security, and international trade issues, for which Ms. Poling drafted the senator’s speeches, legislation, and hearing materials related to his tenure on the Armed Services Committee. During the 114th Congress, she managed the Senator’s subcommittee on State Department and USAID Management, International Operations, and Bilateral International Development and staffed the senator for his work on the Foreign Relations Committee. Previously, Ms. Poling served as Director of Government Relations at the Foreign Policy Initiative, a DC-based think tank, where she also wrote on Africa and terrorism policy. Her work has been published in U.S. News and World Report, The Weekly Standard, Huffington Post, and e-International Relations. She also contributed a chapter on Boko Haram to “Counterterrorism: Bridging Operations and Theory: A Terrorism Research Center Book.” Ms. Poling spent four years in the U.S. House of Representatives, most recently working on foreign policy, homeland security, and immigration for the U.S. Congressman representing the Fourth District of Kansas.


Ms. Poling graduated with honors from Georgetown University with a master’s degree in international security studies in 2012. She wrote her master’s thesis on Boko Haram and affiliated terrorist groups in the Sahel. Caitlin graduated summa cum laude from Ashland University in Ohio with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science, International Studies, and French (minor: International Business) and was a John M. Ashbrook Scholar. She has received three Meritorious Honor Awards from the U.S. State Department for her work at UNVIE. Ms. Poling was featured in Diplomatic Courier’s “Top 99 Under 33 Foreign Policy Leaders” in 2013 and in Red Alert Politics’ “30 Under 30” in 2014. Ms. Poling participated in several foreign policy leadership programs, including the Council on Foreign Relations Congressional Foreign Policy Study Group 2018; The Heritage Foundation’s Marshall Fellows Program 2018; Foreign Policy Initiative’s Future Leaders class of 2016-2017; Atlantik-Brüecke Young Leaders 2016; and Partnership for Secure America’s Congressional Partnership Program 2012.

Continue reading

Healthy Weekday Breakfast in 60 Seconds

Healthy Weekday Breakfast in 60 Seconds

Weekday mornings are always hectic in our house. While I love waking up early, my kids do, too, which means that I cherish my quiet yet short mornings that much more. And, as a morning person who loves to be sweating by 5 am, I need a high-protein breakfast that is fast to prepare with no mess or clean up.

A couple years ago, on a whim, I paired plain Greek yogurt with crumbled energy bites and couldn't believe how delicious it was - almost as good as chocolate peanut butter ice cream but infinitely healthier. I've eaten this breakfast almost every weekday for the past two years and haven't gotten tired of it (yet). Prepare the energy bites over the weekend and keep them refrigerated for up to 10 days for a delicious, healthy breakfast in less than a minute.

RECIPE:

12 oz. pitted medjool dates

1/2 cup peanut, nut, or sunbutter

1/3 cup honey

1 cup oats

1 t. vanilla

Plain Greek yogurt (I recommend whole milk Trader Joe's brand)

To make the topping: In a food processor, pulse the pitted medjool dates for 30 seconds (until chopped into coarse pieces). Add the peanut, nut, or sunbutter, honey, oats, and vanilla and process until mixed into a smooth consistency. Store in the refrigerator for up to 10 days.

To prepare for breakfast, add 1/2 to 1 cup Greek yogurt to a bowl. Finish with as much of the topping as you want and enjoy.

Continue reading

Happy International Women's Day!

Happy International Women's Day!

Growing up, I was influenced and inspired by many amazing women.  This started with my mom, who spent hours with me reading books, teaching me to cross-stitch and then to sew, and molding my character.  Throughout my school years, I had the privilege of learning from caring educators; women who fostered a love of math, a passion for English and literature, and an obsession with logic and problem solving.  From grandmothers and aunts to neighbors, friends, colleagues, and mentors, there are so many women I could thank and recognize for investing their time and energy into me.

And, thank you so much for being here - I am grateful for the opportunity to be part of each of your lives.  Your ideas, encouragement, and honesty have been instrumental as I’ve navigated this entrepreneurship journey.  Not only has this been a period of personal growth and learning, but it has also been an amazing opportunity to meet so many of you either virtually or in-person and hear your ideas and suggestions.  

One of my favorite suggestions - shared by Jackie Challoner and a team of students at Miami University - was to name each piece after an individual who is connected to someone in this community.  The Mimi blouse is named after Jill’s grandmother, Helen, the Huguette clutch honors Christina’s grandmother, the Barbara dress was named after a mentor of Becky’s, and the Kathleen top highlights Laura’s mom.  You can read each of their stories at the links below.

Meet Mimi and Jill

Meet Huguette and Christina

Meet Barbara and Becky

Meet Kathleen and Laura

Continue reading
  • Page 1 of 4