Investing in your visual brand

What I love about school fundraising auctions is that you can usually buy something that you need and get a tax deduction for it. This year’s Old Orchard school auction did not disappoint.

Lately I’ve had increased needs for a head shot. Hosting Twitterchats with the lovely Britt Michaelian and Amy Chesler reminded me that post blow out selfies can only go so far. I did have professional headshots done by Michael O’Donnell and Rosalinda Luna, both great photographers, but it had been awhile.

Yes, I would have loved to have lost 15 pounds before this set of photos, but I was hoping that the included hair and make up artist could do a little magic. I haven’t seen the final results yet, but I am extremely optimistic as the process was top notch.


Ilyanne first asked if she could have a pre-session with me. We met in the evening at the house. She had an extensive list of questions, trying to understand my objectives for the shoot. In my case we were going to do the head shots, but we were also going to try for some fun photos for the husband. We talked about props and outfits as there would be plenty of time for changes.

It was at this point that I started to panic a bit and felt that I wouldn’t be ready for the shoot. What outfit was I going to wear? I needed to take my favorite blouse to the dry cleaner. I spent an evening on Rent the Runway and found some ‘new’ dresses to order. The night before the shoot I literally packed a suitcase and a garment bag. I must have taken 10 pairs of shoes, jewelry, lingerie and a dozen dresses. My favorite blouse didn’t make it as the dry cleaners didn’t open until 9.



I had seen photos from previous shoots, but I was still surprised by how warm and inviting the studio felt. It also didn’t hurt that Ilyanne had put together a wonderful feast of fruit, coffee and champagne. Becky then worked wonders with hair and makeup. I loved the eyelash extensions and made wish I had real ones!


We started with the business shots. I have a great deal more respect for models. Ilyanne understands how to have you pose so your features may be seen in the best light. In fact, she had over 30 sketches of shots she wanted to accomplish. In addition to her creative eye, her husband is also there with a camera. He has his own sense of creativity and often took the same shot at a different angle. One blouse and two dresses later we were finished with the first part of the shoot. [Side note: I had my first disappointing Rent the Runway experience as one of the dresses arrived with a broken zipper. Even more disappointing is how difficult Rent the Runway makes it to file a complaint.]


Even this single teaser image has already made me feel better about my visual brand. I’ve changed my Facebook profile picture and need to do the same for Twitter and Instagram, but I am waiting until I see the rest before I change everything.

The second part of the shoot was fun. I am quite confident that the husband will be quite happy. How much of it I will reveal on social media remains to be seen. Your image is your brand, and it should be SFW.

Due to vacations the final reveal won’t be until mid-July, so stay tuned.





High School Movies Most Likely to Watch Again


I’m so looking forward to our DVD Netflix Twitterchat today. Amy Chesler, This House of Love, did a great job with her High School Superlative movies, but I’d say there’s a generation gap between her and I.  Here are my top nine favorite movies about high school.

Most Likely to Succeed:  Risky Business

After 1983, my friends quoted the infamous line for the rest of our high school years and beyond. It was a breakout role for Tom Cruise.  Watch the whole scene here.


Most Likely to Join a Rock Band:  Valley Girl

Another breakout role for the young rising starts of Hollywood, Nicholas Cage, played the boy on the wrong side of the bathtub.


Most Likely to Stay Home on Saturday Night:  Grease

The movie that made everyone want to go back to being in high school in a much simpler time.giphy.gif

Most Likely to Serve Time:  The Breakfast Club

No one has been able to forget this crew who had one of the most honest dialogues about high school ever.


Most Likely to be a Camp Counselor:  American Pie

Even though my high school films have tended to be 1980s hits, this one from 1999 had so many cringe worthy moments on those final high school days.


Most Likely to Know Everyone:  Footloose

Kevin Bacon, before he was connected to everyone, starred as the rebel rouser who simply wanted to everyone to have a night to celebrate.


Most Likely to Be an Event Planner: Sixteen Candles

A recurrent heroine in John Hughes’ tales of teen angst, Molly Ringwald is just one of many comedic moments in this epic 1980s tale.

Most Likely to Be a Slacker: Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

Who didn’t want to be friends with Matthew Broderick? A day out in the Windy City evading a crafty principal makes you want to leave your job right now.


Most Likely to Win Project Runway:  Pretty in Pink

I’ll admit it I liked the music more than the movie. It was my least favorite of the Molly Ringwald movies. But, the Psychedelic Furs nailed it with the theme song.



And, one of the best places to find these movies, is DVD Netflix, where I have the great pleasure of working as the head of marketing. First month is always free for new customers.

My 9 Favorite Movie Musicals

With  my Twitterchat looming ahead I gave some thought to my top 9 favorite musical movies. My definition of a musical movie is one where the plot is told through song.  There might be a couple on the list that push it, but “the rain in Spain falls mainly on the plains” cannot be disputed.

  1. My Fair Ladytumblr_of559wEO4i1urbmlbo1_500
  2. Greasetenor
  3. Footloose [Original Version]
  4. Mamma Mia!giphy
  5. Moulin Rouge
    tenor (1).gif
  6. Evita
  7. Moana200_s
  8. Paint Your Wagon
  9. Valley Girldownload

Dreams do come true.

This was just going to be a Facebook post, but then I realized it would be a really long Facebook post.  And, really, it was meant to be a blog post.  It all started with all the kindergarten postings. Those kindergarten postings make you start thinking about how far you’ve come.

Kindergarten Collage.jpg

This year is different.  I have a kid going to kindergarten and it means that I have a bunch of friends whose kids are going too.  When I looked at the many postings of the first day, I sat back and said thank you.  I also cried because I knew how much this day meant.  Most of these postings are from friends I have made along the motherhood path.

From infertility support groups to birthing classes to my first mothers group, all of the women in my Facebook feed have been a part of the tribe.  We compared breastfeeding notes, commiserated over nap transitions and discussed childcare options. We didn’t always agree, but we gave each other ideas.   None of us knew what were doing-and we still don’t.  Heck, I just learned yesterday that you can trade the toy in at Chick-Fil-A for an ice cream cone.

Seriously, some of the women I have never met in person.  Some we worked together briefly.  Some we still get together when we can-which gets harder every year with the increasing activity schedules.   Yet, I love reading their posts every single day because I understand that motherhood is complicated.  You may love your child one minute and want to send them away the next.

For some, we never thought we would have a child.   Every September I would walk the dog past the local elementary school and cry — cry for the child I didn’t have and thought I would never have.   For at least a dozen of my friends on Facebook, I know they had those same thoughts. Look at us now, we have kindergarteners!   And, in some twist of fate, my OB joined a new medical group and I was reminded of the many futile appointments that I once had.


It took us four years to have our first child.  Now that we are in the thick of parenting I forget about those days.   Mainly because I don’t have time, but also it doesn’t matter.  If you want to be a parent, there are so many ways today to achieve it–fostering, adoption, egg donor, IVF.    In my Facebook feed every one of those is represented.

For all of you gals who I’ve met along the way, thank you.  Thank you for the kindness, the inspiration and for being the amazing women you are.  I’m so glad we are traveling this road together.  I wouldn’t have it made it this far without you.

P.S. This post is  especially dedicated to one special friend, and she’ll know why just from the title.

P.P.S.  Now to really make her cry..

Why are there so many songs about rainbows
And what’s on the other side
Rainbows are visions
But only illusions
And rainbows have nothing to hide

So we’ve been told
And some choose to believe it
And I know they’re wrong, wait and see
Some day we’ll find it
The rainbow connection
The lovers, the dreamers, and me

And who said that every wish
Would be heard and answered
When wished on the morning star
And somebody thought of that
And someone believed it
And look what it’s done so far

What’s so amazing
That keeps us stargazing
And what do we think we might see
And someday we’ll find it
The rainbow connection
The lovers, the dreamers, and me

All of us under its spell
We know that it’s probably magic

Have you been half asleep?
And have you heard voices?
And I’ve heard them calling my name
This is the sweet sound
That called the young sailors?
The voice might be one in the same

And I’ve heard it too many times to ignore it
It’s something that I’m supposed to be
Someday we’ll find it
The rainbow connection
The lovers, the dreamers and me

La da da di da da dum da
Someday we’ll find it
The rainbow connection
The lovers, the dreamers and me

La da da di da da dum da
Duh da da di dum di da ohhh

Published by
Lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Warner/Chappell Music, Inc., Walt Disney Music Company, Universal Music Publishing Group

Hockey All the Time

Back before kids, it was hockey all the time.  I met my husband while learning to play.  The only way to get better was to go skating, play pickup and be on as many teams as possible to get maximum ice time.  Our weekends were crazy, driving from one rink to another and hoping that the gear would dry on the way.

Now, if we are lucky,  we play together once or twice a month.  It’s definitely what we prefer.  We’ve been on the same line for thirteen years now.  He at center and me on right wing.  When one of us is not there, it just isn’t the same.   Our left wing has been with us just along.  When all three of us are actually on the ice at the same time, it is a thing of beauty.

Sometimes I question my sanity for still playing hockey.  Last night was one of those nights.  Thankfully it was an early game [715], though I often prefer games after the kids’ bedtimes to ease the guilt of taking time for myself.   It was a close game when one of my teammates [another gal] took an intentional hit and went down.  Mind you, this is beer league, aka non-checking league.  She came off the ice a bit shaken. She had hit her head and her tailbone.  The game continued much in the same vein.

I play co-ed hockey for a reason [a lot less drama and cliques], and the game is just more intense.  However, I am not playing to get hurt.   Most of the folks on the ice have jobs and families.    I was a bit more cautious for the rest of the game, still trying to make plays but trying to avoid unnecessary contact.  To me the only bad night of hockey is the one that ends up in the emergency room.

Driving home, after a quick beer, it was clear to me why I still play, even at the risk of injury. Hockey makes me feel alive.  The hour on the ice is a chance to be me.  It represents who I have become–someone willing to learn to play at the age of thirty-three and start writing a new chapter in her life.   I was newly divorced, looking to meet someone who liked hockey.     If it wasn’t for hockey and the San Jose Sharks, I wouldn’t have three kids and a dog named Zamboni.

With that, I’ll leave you with my hockey and relationship wisdom for the day.

Late night hockey is like sex. You may think you are tired, but the end game is always worth it.

P.S.  I may just skip the 11:30pm game on Friday–my husband can play that one.

Coming Back: What I Love about BlogHer

BlogHer ’16 is eighteen days away.  It would probably be too ambitious to try and write a post every day between now and then, but I am not one to back down from a challenge.  I’ve written many posts in my head, but with roughly two spare hours a day, it is hard to prioritize blog posts over laundry, thank you notes and general relaxation.  Writing, however, is still where my passion is and I want to get back to it.  BlogHer usually forces me to start putting my thoughts down.

I could just blame it on the movies.   I started at right after I wrote my last post.  It’s been about five years since I made any effort to watch good movies.  Having children eliminated most trips to the movie theater and usually dictates getting to bed before 11, but now I am addicted.


My husband and I have embraced the movie night at home.  We’ve stopped aimlessly surfing and have much better viewing habits.  We are still three seasons behind on Game of Thrones, but I at least feel like I am part of the cultural norm now.  And, VEEP, fills those short snacking half hours, though mirroring the current election a little too closely.  I’ve caught up on the Hunger Games series, seen award winning movies like Brooklyn and The Martian, or simply laughed my butt off watching Deadpool.  All without commercial breaks and in high quality Blu-ray.

Rather than blame the movies, I could blame the work blog we started from scratch.  However, I have a rock star writer who has my back on that one [and she’ll be attending BlogHer ’16 for the first time].  I try from time to time to write, but I’m not a movie critic.  It is, however, a place to see my favorite movies on one of our Red Hot lists.

No, I think what’s really going on is that it is more complicated at this point in life to be transparent.   Whatever I write here reflects upon me and my personal brand.  I am conscious about what legacy I am leaving for my kids.  Despite all the challenges of being a full-time working mom in Silicon Valley, it still is very clear to me that I  have to take a moment to pause that these words will follow me around.  Yet, I also want to be a champion for women who want to be glass breakers.

This is a start.  Let’s see what the next seventeen days bring.

P.S.  This didn’t get published last night due to one little girl who refused to go to sleep.  Guess I am doing two today.





Brands Served Straight Up at Whiskies of World

Today I get to combine my raison d’etre, marketing and mixology.   Last week I took a night off to go to Whiskies of the World event at San Pedro Square Market.   Having never attended a Whiskey festival, I didn’t know what to expect.  I’ve been to many tradeshows over the years for high tech products, but how would this be different?  Besides the obvious tasty enjoyment of fine spirits?

As a marketer and a businesswoman, I often look at events with a different eye—what one might call a “brandometer”.  Did brands I love live up to my expectations?  Did I discover a new brand?  Did a brand I was lukewarm about engage me to a new level?

At regional events such as this, brands often have to make a choice about what type of manpower will staff the event.  This could be a badged employee from the company, someone from their distribution team or a paid brand evangelist.   With the hardware companies I work with, this is always a complex decision as the tradeoff is usually between cost, quality and amount of coverage.   Rather than get into a long discussion about theory, I’ll use a few examples from Whiskey Fest to illustrate the results.

For me the hands-down brand winner at the show was High West.   Often I counsel brands at events or at retail trainings to take a more agnostic approach  and teach people about the category.  Your brand will naturally be enhanced, even when mentioned with other brands.

Organoleptic Journey by High West Distillery

Various tasting cups at the Master Distiller session by High West.

Not every brand is graced with a charismatic leader,  David Perkins is the proprietor of High West and able to carry that role.  He taught the master distiller class that evening.  He led people through the chemistry of distilling or what was called an organoleptic journey.

I won’t lie, there were a few too many chemical equations on his slides, but I learned a couple of things [never drink the heads part of distilling straight, ugh].  Yet, it was what happened next that took the brand relationship to a higher level.

Vanessa and David at Whiskey Fest

Getting the VIP treatment from David at High West Distillery

We were disappointed in the distiller seminar because only a couple of High West bourbons were being tasted.  We had attended the 6-8pm tasting session and had specifically not tasted High West because we figured we’d try them at the special session.  My husband had stayed to ask a question and mentioned that we hadn’t tasted the whole line.  David then offered to take us back over to the expo, so we could complete our High West experience.  There we met the rest of the High West crew—and enjoyed the complete line of High West products.  My favorite was the Bourye ®, which was a blend of bourbon and rye.  High West was almost entirely staffed by their employees.

Another up and coming brand, 2Gingers, also did a great job engaging with customers.  Plenty of swag, a refreshing beverage [the Big Ginger] and someone working who was enthusiastic about sharing the brand reinforced my good feelings about 2Gingers, which we used to have to smuggle back from Minnesota before national availability.

Whiskey Fest Swag in San Jose

Best swag of the night was from Canadian Club. Love this shirt!

I also have to give a call out to the gentleman who was representing Canadian Club.  Though we were not familiar with Canadian Whiskies, he was patient in answering our questions while he was dying in the warm California sun. Our unseasonable spring had meant it was almost 90 degrees in the tent.  We also plan to get a bottle of the Canadian Club 12 year which was our first Canadian whiskey sample.

The most disappointing experience of the evening was at Maker’s Mark, which is our house bourbon and has been one of my favorite brands.  The gal representing the brand [with the bigger organizations, it’s not clear who is an employee–I hope she wasn’t] failed miserably at continuing the warmth that I’ve come to expect from the Maker’s Mark brand.  As an Ambassador and someone who has been to the distillery, I expected an engaging conversation around the product and experience.  The table wasn’t even busy and she was just flat.  She had no additional insight about what was happening at Maker’s Mark, nor interest.    This is where I encourage brands to continually audit those who represent them to the public.   In markets that are getting bigger and more competitive, it doesn’t have to be about the biggest splash but rather about the experience the customer has with the brands.

Enough shop talk, what were my top five bourbons that night?  {I should mention that there were a great deal of Scotch whiskies available also, but those don’t tickle my pallet.}

  1. Colorado Gold Bourbon2Gingers and High West
  2. High West Bourye
  3. 2Gingers Irish Whiskey
  4. Canadian Club 12 Year
  5. Michter’s American Whiskey

I’d love to hear from anyone else who attended Whiskies of the World in either San Jose or San Francisco, what brands or whiskies did you love?



PS   And I have to raise a glass to Dean, who has taught me so much about face to face brand advocacy.