May’s Spotlight: Lynn April of Fresh April Flours

Each month, I’ll be featuring an entrepreneur, an industry leader, or expert in the field here on The Talk About Town with the focus on marketing, storytelling, and balancing dreams and the 9 to 5 grind.

It seems fitting to kick off my spotlight series with my first client, a business partner-turned-friend, and hardest working woman and recipe master in all of Philadelphia. My inaugural feature begins with Lynn April, the creator lady boss behind Fresh April Flours, a food (with sprinkles of life and family) blog bringing easy and delicious meals and treats to your kitchen with simplicity in mind.

LG: Tell us about yourself!

Lynn: I’m Lynn, full-time mom, full-time antibody purification technician, and self-taught baker. When I’m not wrangling children or at work, you can find me in the kitchen or behind my camera lens photographing food.

LG: How did you get started with Fresh April Flours five years ago?

Lynn: I started Fresh April Flours as a place to share my recipes. From 2010 to 2014, I baked and decorated custom cakes. It was really fun until it just wasn’t anymore, so I stopped. I wanted to continue sharing my cakes with people, but I also wanted to branch out into other desserts, so I started the blog to sort of “document” that. What started as a place for me wound up a place for all of my readers.

LG: Describe the Fresh April Flours brand.

Lynn: Since I’m self-taught, you won’t find anything super fancy on my blog. Instead, you’ll find real recipes from a real person. I love taking the time to learn something new or challenging and teaching someone else how to approach it from an amateur standpoint, but I also know that sometimes it isn’t realistic to want to make croissants from scratch because they take literally all day and you get 8 of them. What I do want FAF to bring to the kitchen, though, is quality, tested recipes that make you feel good about what you’re putting into your food. When you make quality recipes, and something you put time and effort into, sharing it with others becomes a celebration. My favorite thing to hear is that one of my recipes reminds someone of their grandmother’s or makes them nostalgic for something they had growing up. Helping people learn how to get back into the kitchen in a fast-paced, instant gratification world is what I aim to do with FAF.

LG: How did you build your company’s marketing strategy?

Lynn: Honestly, I’m still learning this one. My husband’s background (before he became a personal trainer and gym owner) is in marketing. For the most part, he helped me figure out what to do prior to my outsourcing of marketing, which was the best thing I have done for my brand thus far. Marketing is probably the hardest part of owning this brand, as the digital world we live in is constantly changing and moving a lightning speed, and all I know how to do is bake, take pictures, and write about my recipes. What I depend most on is word-of-mouth and sharing on social medias from my readers. Pinterest is my #1 traffic source followed closely by Google. I didn’t put myself there – other people did. The brand, in a way, markets itself!

LG: What has been a major success in your business? A fail?

Lynn: As far as success goes, when I realized that blogging was actually making me decent money, I started paying for things like vacations with that income. We’ve been on a few vacations in the last few years paid for solely by the blog, and that’s liberating. Overall, the blog itself making it to the 5-year mark is a major success in and of itself, considering this is not my full-time job AND we have two young kids. When it comes to fails, I actually can’t think of a single one. Nothing I’ve done along the way has set me back or broken me down. Everything has been a step forward. Except my baking fails. I have a lot of those. Do they count?

LG: What’s your biggest piece of advice to entrepreneurs out there?

Lynn: It sounds cliche, but do not compare yourself to other brands. The food blogging world is humungous and quite saturated. There are food blogs out there I could only dream of being as popular as. And some of my most loyal and regular fans/readers have no idea what those blogs are. I say the same thing to my husband whose gym is within a few miles of some major “big name” gyms — your people are with you for a reason. You are their person/brand. While quantity is important in the business world, so is quality and loyalty. If you can build your brand to be trustworthy, necessary, significant, and timeless, people will stick with you. And that can take you far.

LG: How do you manage the balance between your roles as a full-time scientist, blogger, wife, and mom?

Lynn: Coffee, a supportive spouse who gets it, non-negotiable me time (the gym), and regular quality time/dates with my husband.

LG: What’s one thing you wish you could go back and tell yourself as a young adult?

Lynn: You’re going to marry someone who loves to talk about business strategies and ideas. Listen to him in those early years… He knows what he’s talking about.

LG: We’re dying to know. . . what recipe must we try from your page?!

Lynn: Oh my goodness, you’ve got to try a yeast bread. They’re so NOT as intimidating as people make them out to be. My Italian anise bread, cinnamon babka, or funfetti cinnamon rolls are great places to start. As far as my most popular recipes: blueberry lemon pie bars or, believe it or not, my make-ahead breakfast casserole are fan favorites!

Interested in exploring Fresh April Flours recipes? Visit freshaprilflours.com. Want to know more about Lynn and her company? Visit https://freshaprilflours.com/about/faq/.

Author’s Note: A special thank you to Lynn who will forever be my first marketing client, her eagerness to support this new venture, and her willingness to be spotlighted!

How To Understand Your Value and the Worth of Your Time

I’m back! The end of February and the entire month of March was one big whirlwind. Between work and personal travel, new and fast-growing clients, and the last of my graduate school classes, the last 6 weeks have flown by in a blink of an eye. My travels took me north to Boston, south to Charlottesville and Nashville, west to Los Angeles and seemingly everywhere in between. I toted my laptops along my travels, checked email constantly, and tried to keep up with the world I was separated from back home in Philadelphia. Along the way, I walked the fine line between living in the moment and concerned about my to-do list. It hit me. . . our time in minutes, hours, days, and weeks is so precious. I’ve learned a few things in the last few months that I’d like to share with you:

1. Be Present

Our world moves faster and faster each day and as I get older, it seems like the years pick up speed. Put your cell phone down, avoid checking your inbox for a few hours, do something you love, and celebrate time with your co-workers, your friends, and your family. Exercise your best time management skills by carving out time to work and carving out time to be more present. We only get so many trips around the sun.

2. Be Clear, Honest, and Concise

My safety net when working on projects with clients and co-workers is to not communicate until a project is done. Although it strays from my comfort zone, I’ve found that I build stronger, more personal, and mutually-beneficial relationships when I’m clear, honest, and concise about what’s on my plate, what I’m prioritizing, and what I’m able to do. For example, a client sent me a project that I knew would be a time commitment, and one that I wouldn’t be able to focus on for a few days. Although it was challenging to admit I didn’t have to immediate time to dedicate to the project, I shared that I’d be able to finish by a specific date. By doing so, I gave the liberty to the client to decide the sensitivity and urgency of the project while setting a deadline for myself. I was also able to avoid potentially taking far longer than the client expected me to complete the project or rushing to get it done when it wasn’t a client’s priority. Never underestimate the power of asking, “what’s your timeline for this project?”.

3. Say “No”

Yup, it’s as simple as that. Women, far more than men, find it challenging to say “no” when asked for favors or more work in fear of being viewed as weak, powerless, and ineffective. Humor me. . . what’s one thing that’s been heavy on your mind or pressing of your time in an unpredicted way? Now think, what would have happened if you said “no”? Let’s practice saying “no” more. Your time is more valuable than you give credit to.

4. Prioritize the Right People and the Right Things

In one of my graduate classes, we practiced an activity of active listening during a conversation with one of our classmates. We were held responsible for engaging with the person through eye contact, appreciative question-asking, no distractions, and full comprehension of what the individual was sharing. Seems simple enough, right? Think again. The exercise was a reminder of how frequently we enter a conversation or sit down at the dinner table with a mind full of distractions and our phones in hand. This goes along with being more present, but always focus on the people and things who matter. When you come home from work, refocus your energy to your loved ones and leave work at the door. When you’re out with your friends at dinner, put your phone down and talk. It’s simple.

5. Understand Your Worth

After working in the freelance sector for over a year and a half now, the time to bill my client’s rolls around and I get a pit in my stomach. I’ve done the work, done it well, everyone is happy, and I still shave a few billable hours off the invoice or don’t charge the full value of my work. Why? It’s the same premise of why I show up early to work or stay late in my full-time job. I feel like I owe something more to my company than it gives me (literally, in pay).

As a business professional and woman, it’s important to remember the value of your time, your thought, and your attention. You are not a volunteer for your client or for your full-time employer. Fight for your salary, your hourly wage, your next job or promotion, and what you deserve. It comes with the territory. . . if a client has an issue with the way you bill, it opens the possibility of a discussion or the end of your partnership. Regardless, you’ll be proud that you defended your worth and your time.

I hope you find value in these easy ways to be more defensive of your time and value while being more present with those that matter.

Until next time. . .

Lauren

How I Started My “Side Hustle” 🙋🏼

You know when you’re humming through life, you make a few decisions, and a couple years later something small led to something much bigger? It’s a tale as old as time and one I know very well. Since beginning my “side hustle” about a year and a half ago, I’ve worked with incredible clients and people I consider friends and inspirations.

My freelance work began when my cousin’s Facebook friend, Lynn of Fresh April Flours, posted that she was looking for a virtual assistant for marketing and social media help. At the time, I was wrapping up my time working at Longwood Gardens, heading to graduate school, and actively looking for income to pay for my masters. I sent my application materials to this random human and the rest is history! Lynn and I have worked together now building her business while helping her spend more time with her adorable kiddos and entrepreneurial husband, Matt, who owns an awesome gym nearby in West Chester, PA! Our partnership is where it all began. I fell in love with what it meant to help creative, busy, confident, and self-starting people with what they love to do.

Since then, I’ve found myself working with a social media agency writing social media content for a Main Line painting and decorating company, John Neill Painting. I did some Pinterest work for an amazing food blogger, Krazy Kitchen Mom, down in Flordia. I helped launch a twentieth-anniversary campaign at Sovana Bistro, a restaurant near and dear to my heart, through influencer marketing, traditional marketing, and social media content creation writing. My dear friend and colleague and I have worked together to launch her blog, Corporate2Culinary, and I recently began working with the amazing and inspirational Shanna A. Hocking.

The best part about this all? It’s helped me afford my education, build relationships with incredible people, learn, and do it all from the comfort of my couch with coffee in hand.

There are days when working full-time, heading to class, and turning around to a list of to-dos causes me to chug coffee and take a deep breath, but I truly love it. I now have an LLC, a company card, a website, and more conversations brewing for potential projects. If you had asked me a year ago where I thought my “side hustle” was headed, I would have never thought it would lead me here — and I’m so grateful for it.

My advice to all looking for a “side hustle” or hobby. . . seek opportunity, do the job well, and never forget you’re working with people’s “babies” (for lack of a better word). You never know where one project will lead you! Go get busy!