I'm passionate about finding and sharing ideas that feed creativity and inspiration in this weary world. Because we're so surrounded with illusion and lies, I hope this blog will help others in their quest to get a bit closer to the truth. I'd also like to say that opinions expressed in this blog are not necessarily mine or those featured here. Oh, and if you choose to use any images/words from this site, kindly obtain permission from all relevant parties and add the necessary links and references.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Interview: Hostess With The Mostess

Today's interview is with Jennifer Sbranti of Hostess with the Mostess, an amazingly comprehensive website and blog that informs you of everything you wanted to know about entertaining, but were afraid to ask. In addition to being an entertainer and entrepreneur, Jennifer also runs Sbranti Design. I'm overjoyed that she took the time to answer a few questions for me. (graphic courtesy of HTWM.com)
You were unusual in that you knew what you wanted to do at an early age. What advice would you give someone who has no idea what they want to do when they grow up?
The best thing I could tell them is to pay attention to their natural interests and things they enjoy and seek out career paths that line up with those interests. For example, if you love the idea of the fashion industry, but aren’t necessarily artistic to the point where you’d want to design the clothing and patterns yourself, you can always go after a career in the business side of fashion – such as buying, merchandising, sales, opening your own boutique or online shop, etc. The key is to find a position that continually inspires and challenges you in an industry with which you’re genuinely interested. This will keep you energized in general and will help make those early mornings when the alarm clock goes off at 6am, or late nights when the times when you have to burn the midnight oil, from being less painful!

What challenges/fears do you face and how do you overcome them?
Well, over the past couple years while we’ve (my husband and I) been trying to build HWTM “on the side” of our regular jobs, I’ve put a ton of extra work hours in – 70-80+ hour work weeks are pretty common – and I’ve also had to make sacrifices as far as extra curricular activities go when choosing between spending time with friends and family or staying home and working. There are tons of additions we want to make to the website, but we need more manpower to get them done. Sometimes I worry that if we can’t get HWTM to where we want it to be (and to a point where it supports us financially), then all of this extra time and effort will have been in vain – or I worry that it will eventually happen, but I’ll be 85 by the time it does
:). (Slightly exaggerated, but you know what I mean!) I just don’t want to look back in 10 years and feel like I missed out on too much of the TRULY important things in life – time spent with friends and family – but I also know that you have to take risks and put the extra time in to make big things happen, so I feel like I struggle daily with finding a balance. When I feel myself feeling a little beaten down, I usually get re-energized by reading encouraging emails that readers have sent in (which makes all the work feel worth it again) or forcing myself to step away from work for a bit to do something fun – whether it’s spending time with friends, going out to dinner with my husband, or going for a run in the middle of the day.

It almost seems as if HWTM just exploded in popularity. How did you become known so quickly?
Honestly, I’m not 100% sure how we got to this point – while it sometimes feels like I’ve been working on HWTM forever, it also feels like I just started blogging a few months ago, but it will already be 2 years in June! I definitely have people to thank though – Holly from decor8
did an interview on me when I first started blogging that gave me an amazing amount of exposure from the get-to, and word of mouth from friends and other bloggers has helped so much as well. My good friend Jen Berson is in PR and has opened up a lot of opportunities for us – from local news appearances to mentions in magazines, all of which have been invaluable. And I’d like to think that some of the work I’m doing is helping as well :). I try to update the blog at least once daily, which helps with search engine strength, and we actually get a lot of traffic from organic searches now, which is great. And I also try to keep things very visually appealing for readers so that they have something very pretty – and hopefully inspiring - to look at whenever they visit.

How do you find the time to run both Sbranti Design and HWTM? Do you ever get overwhelmed?
Good question :).
The answer to whether or not I get overwhelmed would be a resounding YES! For example, I was up until midnight last night and back up again at 5:45am this morning because I have a lot of pressing deadlines today, but the thing that makes me lucky and makes this doable is that I enjoy both jobs. That’s not to say I want to be working so many late nights – I definitely look forward to the day when my schedule is more “regular” and I’m not glued to the computer for quite so many hours each day, but, for now, at least I’m able to be working for myself and doing something that I love.

What brings you comfort and joy?

The BIG Things:
My husband – who is super supportive and gives me pep talks whenever I need them. Sometimes the pep talks are sweet and sometimes they’re more in the “you need to toughen up” sense, but they’re always comforting one way or the other, and it’s nice to know that you have someone there, no matter what.

Friends and family. When it comes down to it, relationships really are the most important thing in life, and definitely what brings the most “real” joy. I’m definitely at my happiest when I’m out with my girlfriends. No matter what we’re doing, we’re usually laughing – and that’s pretty much the best thing you can ask for!
Our dogs. If you’re not a dog person, it might be hard to understand exactly how much joy these little (or big) creatures can bring, but trust me it’s HUGE! We have 2 yellow labs – Jazz and Max, and they are 100% members of the family. They love to cuddle, are patient enough to put up with the loads of hugs we smother them with every day, and thing they’re “lap” dogs even though they weigh in at 80 and 100 lbs. I’m incredibly thankful for them :)
The Little Things:Chick flicks, sweets (chocolate, ice cream – love it all!), lunch at the beach, outdoor runs, kickboxing, design blogs, DVR, great mystery novels, vacations to Maui!

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