For weeks, I have been waiting for the perfect moment to reveal a new series that looks beyond recipes & restaurants and delves into the characters behind such creative execution. Through "caramelized conversations," you will soak up first-hand narratives, beliefs and opinions that drive these mentors through career choices and accomplishments. I couldn't be more thrilled to introduce our first conversationalist, Clara Persis, whose social marketing company and beautiful lifestyle blog provide the perfect balance between an inspirational creative outlet and insightful business approach. Personally, I've been following Clara's site for almost the entirety of Caramelized's existence, and I will always read it for inspiration and long-distance mentoring opportunities. I hope you will find the same after learning a little more about the fabulous Clara Persis from Manhattan!
WHAT DO YOU LOVE MOST ABOUT NEW YORK CITY?
I grew up in New York (both in the city and outside), and most of my friends from college are here, so it very much feels like home. But I also really love the anonymity of this city. Despite how crowded and bustling it is, you can be whoever you want, do whatever you want, and no one seems to care. In short, anything goes. I don't think it's what I want forever, and I certainly yearn for a greater sense of community at times, but at this point in my life - it's exhilerating.
DESCRIBE YOUR CREATIVE PROCESS.
I find I'm most creative when I'm away from the computer or any sort of technology. I'll be at the gym, doing my makeup, or taking a shower -- any sort of activity where my mind can wander a bit -- and some great idea or thought will pop into my head. Being online all day can cause such a racket in my mind, so it's those more quiet and subdued times where I can create some mental space and let new thoughts in. Knowing this motivates me to make time for those activities, and then being diligent about doing a serious brain dump afterwards!
FAVORITE SUMMER RECIPE?
The Barefoot Contessa makes this incredible pasta dish -- Linguine with Marinated Tomatoes. Raw heirloom tomatoes, basil and garlic are marinated in olive oil and salt at room temperature for a few hours, creating the most fresh and flavorful sauce. I especially love it for summer entertaining because it can be served at room temperature. So key!
MOST UNFORGETTABLE RESTAURANT EXPERIENCE?
A few years ago my boyfriend and I were vacationing in Northern California and had an epic lunch at Mustards Grill in Yountville. The ironic part is that I ordered a veggie burger (something I never do), but the mix of mushrooms, spinach, and farmer's cheese was the farthest thing from your typical meatless pattie. My boyfriend got the porkchop (out of this world), and we topped off the meal with a dark chocolate caramel tart. This was five years ago... and I'm still talking about it!
LET US IN ON YOUR DAILY ROUTINE.
My day begins around 7:30/8 am. I settle in at my desk with a big homemade latte in hand, and evaluate my to do list for the day. I generally have an ongoing weekly to do list that gets re-worked and prioritized as things shift throughout the week. I work to schedule my time in blocks- so if I have a bunch of meetings or calls, I'll schedule them back to back on specific days. I try to keep at least 1-2 days a week where I'm largely at my desk so I can crank through client work, coordinate shoots or brand partnerships for the blog, and pitch new business. Most of my actual blog work, i.e. shooting food posts, researching links, or writing actual posts gets done on the weekends. During the week, I do my best to wrap things up around 6:30/7, get to the gym, and then come home to prep dinner and decompress. Some days I might do my workout at 1 pm, so then I'll work later, or other days I'll have a client event that goes really late and I start my day a little on the later side. Having control over my own schedule is truly one of the things I value most when it comes to working for myself!
HOW DO YOU ADD SWEET TOUCHES TO EVERYDAY EXPERIENCES?
It obviously revolves so heavily around food for me. I spend a lot of time preparing quality food to eat at home. I'll do things like make a big batch of buckwheat pancakes with a homemade berry sauce over the weekend, freeze them, and then enjoy pancakes with berries, almond butter and Greek yogurt on weekday mornings. Sure there are days where I'll inhale a granola bar as I run to the subway, but I find making a point to invest in, cook with, and consume quality whole foods, makes me feel my best -- both mentally and physically. And it definitely makes life that much sweeter!
EVERY HOME COOK NEEDS...
If I had to narrow it down.... a bottle of good wine, sea salt, a solid chef's knife, and a microplane.
THOUGHTS ON BEING A FEMALE ENTREPRENEUR?
It's funny, I don't connect too much to the title of "entrepeneur." I first and foremost think of myself as a freelance consultant and blogger. In order to make that feel cohesive, I've worked to create a brand that flows seamlessly between the two roles. But whether you call yourself a freelancer or entrepeneur, I think the way in which more and more women are creating custom careers for themselves is incredibly positive and inspiring. At the same time, it also makes great sense. The traditional corporate structure and ladder can be a challenge when building a family and life outside work, especially for women who manage numerous roles on an ongoing basis. I think being able to create a career that flows seamlessly with your personal life overall brings such satisfaction and empowerment. That definitely does not mean that "career" has to involve freelance or entrepeneurship, but I think for women, it frequently does.
HOW DO BALANCE YOUR WORK & PERSONAL LIVES?
For me, feeling "balanced" comes from maintaining the things I need to feel healthy- good sleep, healthy food, and consistent exercise. I generally work most weekends, but it's only because I love the work I do (and it's generally producing blog content). It also means I can take a few hours off on a Friday and have a leisurely breakfast with some fellow freelancers. I used to work so hard to force my hours into a strict weekday schedule, but have learned being a little more relaxed about it (even if it means doing some work over the weekend or late at night), allows for a much greater sense of balance in my life. I still go through periods where things are completely crazy and I have very little time for myself, but the longer you do this, the better you get at managing those ebbs and flows.
WHAT'S YOUR TAKE ON SOCIAL MARKETING?
The ways in which consumers interact, develop relationships, and make purchasing decisions around brands these days has completely shifted, and much of that shift rests within the social and digital space. Thus it's key for brands to be acutely clear and exercise great strategy when it comes to understanding how to best leverage their brand within this space, develop content, and identify how their efforts within this space connect to and drive their overarching business goals. The solutions to those area truly vary from brand to brand, but if a brand can gain clarity on what those solutions are (which is where I come in!), they can set themselves up for success.
Got an idea for any future caramelized conversations? Let me know, or comment below.
photos by bryce covey