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Monday, August 31, 2015

Friday, August 28, 2015

Adventures of a Lifestyle Start Up—Learning Healthy Eating from the Chinese


Dinner on the beach of the South China Sea
We recently took our first trip to China for our start up, Livliga. We went to visit the factories fabricating our product. It was an incredible trip. We loved discovering China. Since we are foodies at heart and our company is all about healthy eating, we were particularly interested in the ritual of meals and how foods were prepared and eaten at mealtime.

After we had been in China for many days and experienced a number of meals, we saw a common thread regarding the ritual surrounding meals. We came to see it as a satisfying and healthy activity. We thought it would be interesting to highlight the elements of the meal that are particularly healthy to learn from them and share with others. Here is what we experienced and observed:

Meals take time. There is an etiquette around picking out the fresh food you want to eat, waiting for it to be prepared, and having it served as each dish is ready, not all at once. This allows you to savor the process and enjoy each bite. There is no piling on your plate and shoveling the food in all at once.
Fish tanks at a restaurant
Food is prepared fresh. Most commonly, you start by going to an anteroom of the restaurant kitchen to pick out the food you want to eat. Most of it is alive in tanks, if it is seafood, including frogs, snails, and eels. This way you truly know what you are eating.

You start the meal with fresh fruit juice. While you are waiting for your food to be prepared restaurants offer you fresh fruit juices like watermelon or cucumber. They are served unstrained and nothing is added. It takes the edge off your hunger, is high in fiber and gushing with vitamins since it is made fresh right after you order it.

You serve yourself by picking up pieces of food from a platter, one piece at a time. Rarely are you provided spoons to serve yourself food. Instead you use your chopsticks, pinching one piece of food at a time to place on your plate. When you think about it, it requires awareness and a bit of concentration to serve yourself. You can’t be distracted or focused on the next bite. You need to be present with the bite you are working on serving yourself. This is a great way to know what you are eating and allows your body to better metabolize your meal.

You eat with chopsticks. Chopsticks are meant for one bite at a time. There is no way to scoop a lot onto your plate. And for westerners, we are not as adept so it takes us even more time to lift a bite to our mouths. Amazing how much less you end up eating and how full you end up feeling.

All foods are pre-cut into bite-sized pieces. Foods seem so much more delicate when served in China. No matter what kind of food from vegetables to starchy morsels to meats, they have all been cut or shaped into bites that can be picked up by chopsticks to be eaten in one right-sized mouthful.

The meat is cut up with bones in. Perhaps one of the most fascinating things we experienced was how meats are prepared in China. No matter whether it is fish, frog, duck, chicken, pork or beef, meats are cut into bite-sized servings, bones and all. This means you don’t chew your meat. Instead you put it in your mouth, roll it around to extract the meat and then spit out the bones. As you can imagine, you end up putting more effort into eating your meat and consume a lot less during the course of a meal.

Carbs, like rice or noodles, are served after your main dishes. All of us who have spent time learning how to eat right and control our calories know to eat our salad first at a meal to help fill us up. What we learned in China was to eat our carbohydrates last. After all the dishes you chose have been served and eaten you are then asked for your preference of rice or noodles to be served. At that point in the meal you are pretty full so when the bowl of noodles or rice is delivered to the table you end up eating very little. It is a great way to manage your carb intake.

Unlike the U.S., proper etiquette requires that you leave food on your plate. I really had to consciously think about this standard of eating etiquette. We are so programmed in the United States to eat everything on our plate it is hard to remember not to in China. Interestingly, by eating everything on your plate you are signaling to the host that they have not provided you with enough food. It is an embarrassment to them. It you leave something on your plate it indicates they have been generous and good hosts. It is actually a great way of looking at a meal. Leaving something behind is a compliment!
Dragon fruit and watermelon offered for dessert
If offered, dessert is most often cut up pieces of fresh fruit such as watermelon, cantaloupe or dragon fruit. Dessert is light, fresh and again offered in bite-sized pieces. It cleanses the palate and gives you just a touch of sweetness, without a ton of calories, to top off your meal.

Every meal is finished off with hot tea, usually fresh green tea. Besides the benefits to your digestion and health, because of the antioxidants in green tea, there is nothing more satisfying than finishing a meal and good conversation than with a cup of tea. Usually the host serves you. It is such a gracious custom.

There is so much we can learn about healthy eating from other cultures. The traditions in China that we experienced taught us many things. We have already made some simple changes to our eating habits at home. We are enjoying our start up adventures!






Monday, August 24, 2015

Friday, August 21, 2015

There’s Something Greater Going On

The Might and Magic of Our World is a Tremendous Resource (photo by LivligaHome)

Have you ever thought about the tricky challenge of loving your self as you are yet at the same time acknowledging there is work to be done? I so admire Melissa McCarthy and Lady Gaga for challenging us about our prejudices around weight. Who are others to judge us anyway, right? But then I also know I have to be honest with myself and know there is work to be done, pounds to be lost, a healthy lifestyle to foster. As our society our self-worth is so wrapped up into how we look as well as how others perceive us. The transformation of Bruce Jenner into Caitlyn Jenner is a very public reminder. It is hard to say it doesn't matter. Very few of us truly don't care. 

I read something sent to me from the Institute for the Psychology of Eating that reminded me that sometimes we get so wrapped up in earth bound thoughts that we forget there is something greater going on. It helped me put this struggle in perspective and reminded me that life is a journey full of wonder and learning and greatness. It is a mighty and magical resource. Read on and see what you think.

There’s Something Greater Going On - If you wish to turbo-charge the process of finding hope, and seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, for whatever eating issue you might face, then perhaps the last step is to awaken to the possibility that there is something greater going on here. There’s a wisdom to life that’s indeed intelligent, thoughtful, and profoundly more clever than anyone of us. If we believe in a random, loveless, chaotic and meaningless universe – then this will assuredly be our experience of life, and continued suffering is practically guaranteed. If you’ve been duped into thinking that there isn’t a powerful force of conscious design that moves and shapes all of creation, including your very important life, then this is perhaps the greatest worldview shift that any of us could make. We can never fully understand the forces of fate, destiny, and cosmic intelligence. But if we choose, we can experiment with being humble in the face of it all, and do our best to respond to how life is laying out our grand education. We’re all paying a lot of tuition to be in the school of life. Don’t let all that cash go to waste. Look around you at the magic of the world, notice it every day, and remember that no matter how challenging your eating concern might be, it’s secretly guiding you into your greatness.

So go out there and enjoy life! And Live Vibrant!



Resource: http://psychologyofeating.com/hope-eating-challenge/

Monday, August 17, 2015

Friday, August 14, 2015

You Drank A Margarita--Now What!?!


It can feel so great to indulge. The key is is to avoid overindulging and enjoy!

 There is nothing better than a fresh Margarita on a hot Friday night. It can feel so great to indulge. The key is not to get wrapped up in the guilt so we can enjoy our choices and avoid giving into to over indulgence. When you struggle with weight management this can be a fine line. Make the choice. Have a plan. Then savor every sip!


I came across a listing of foods we sometimes treat ourselves to. I like how the facts were broken down, including the various ways we could burn off what we just consumed. It allows us to take responsibility and avoid the guilt. I would much prefer sweating off the calories and alcohol than live with the hangover of excess. Below shows us how! Here are the facts:

You sipped: a 12-ounce frozen margarita
Calories: 540
Fat: 0 grams

Now burn it off with:
160 minutes of picking up around the house
80 minutes of hiking, cross country
60 minutes of playing basketball


Resource: iVillage.com

Monday, August 10, 2015

Friday, August 7, 2015

Adventures of a Healthy Lifestyle Start Up—First Trip to China



Our coastal route visiting factoriesin China for Livliga
Easily put, the life of a young company is an amazing adventure. Much of it is the reality of “first time” experiences. There are also decisions you have to make in context of this fledgling business that are new to you. Up until now my careers have been about running service-oriented companies. I knew nothing about manufacturing. Now with Livliga my husband and I are learning the challenges of how to get quality products manufactured in another country, with a different language and unfamiliar ways of operating.

Because we care passionately about helping people live healthier lives, we have created dishware, serveware and glassware for adults and children to help make it easier to right size their balanced meals and feel full. These are such original designs we have them patented. What this also means is that manufacturing them requires partnering with factories to figure out how to get them produced and in a repeatable manner so we can make larger and larger quantities. Although we tried, it was not possible to have them made in America; the factories do not exist.

Getting our LivSpoons manufactured has been our biggest challenge so far. We were very naïve about the challenges of getting such a complex design fabricated. We are now on our 6th factory (not our choice but because of the management through our trading company) and it has taken us the better part of 3 years to get a sample produced in a way that it can be mass-produced. We finally realized, with increasing encouragement from other entrepreneurs, we had to go to China to work directly with the factories making our product. All along we had relied on agents to help us, believing that with the language barrier we were better off relying on them to translate, negotiate and navigate the challenges for us. It became clear we were relying too heavily on them to solve the issues and we were running out of time and money to get our product on line.

Once we decided to go, there wasn’t much time before we left, since we had a window between tradeshows to go. In about 6 weeks time we got our passports renewed, applied for visas, booked our flight, contacted the three different factories producing our product, and figured out the route for the visits. We planned to be there for a little over 2 weeks.
Official of Hainan Airlines with Sammie and Sax (photo by LivligaHome)
It was an incredible trip, full of memorable moments. We started out the trip by booking with Hainan Airlines through Seattle to Shanghai. It turns out it was their inaugural flight out of Seattle. Prior to boarding the flight, there were ceremonies, speeches, cake, Chinese music played by a live ensemble and many officials from Hainan airlines, Seattle and the airport. We all got inflatable neck pillows and postcards and codes for future discounts. Since it was our inaugural trip to Mainland China, I thought it would be memorable to have our children’s book Sammie and Sax in the Land of Quinoa: The Search for a Balanced Meal photographed with one of the Hainan Airlines officials. He agreed and we promptly tweeted out the moment.

We visited China during the time of year when it is the hottest and most humid. It reminded me of my summers in Kansas City growing up. It meant packing light, and wearing light, drip dry clothes. I gave up curling my hair after the first day and instead changed to pulling it back in a French braid. Key lesson as an entrepreneur—adapt!

We traveled about 2000 miles along the coast of Southern China. That is where all the factories are. It makes sense when you think about it because they are near where the ships load to take the product to other countries, like the USA. At one point we were at the South China Sea, 30 miles away from Vietnam.

Here are highlights of what we learned about doing business in China:
One of the machines used in fabricating our LivSpoons in one of the factories we visited (photo by LivligaHome)
A factory means many things. We found that a “factory” can be anything from a small garage to large warehouse spaces with multiple buildings. We quickly learned that as a start up with the volume of product we are ordering, we have no control over who is really making our product. We may know the lead factory but there may end up being any number of other factories doing a part of the fabricating. For instance, for us there is the cutting of the raw metal, stamping of the bowl of the spoon, then there is the bending of the handle, welding, polishing, printing of the packaging, packing the product in the packaging, to name the biggest steps involved. Each of these processes can represent a different factory. This can present some unique challenges. If the welding is not done well it makes polishing and finishing of the product unsatisfactory. Even the cleanliness of a factory can have an impact on the quality of the finished product. Quality control becomes a moving target. You have to rely on your main factory to hold firm to the required set of standards.

It is more common to tear apart a sample to create molds than to use 3D CAD drawings. As we visited the factories we became more and more aware that the 3D CAD drawings we had sent were not the reference point for the fabrication of our product. Instead they used our samples as their guide. This meant that sometimes parts of the design were missed…like the fact that the handles on our set of spoons are each different. Lesson? Never assume.

When an issue arises it is more likely they will solve it without asking for help or feedback. We couldn’t figure out why as issues arose we were not looked to for discussion and resolution. A great example was the engraving on the back of the spoons with our logo and the designated sizes for each spoon. When we were at one factory to oversee the etchings and to approve them we saw that the font we selected looked off. With some probing we discovered that they could not open the drawings for the etchings in the format we sent them in. Instead of asking us for a different format the engraver ended up redrawing our logo and other markings, spending much time to do so. We discovered that the reason this happened is due to the need to “save face” in the Chinese culture. They would rather find another solution rather than ask you for help. Asking for help is seen as a sign of failure. Lesson? You need to probe and ask questions to make sure your factory has what they need and in a way where that does not diminish them.
Rituaized meals are key to doing successful business in China (photo by LivligaHome).
There is an important ritual embedded in doing business. You remember Mad Men and the lore about the three-hour lunches? Well those lunches still exist in China. It is actually a key part of doing business. It is how relationships are built and the nuances of personalities and approaches are figured out. Being busy Americans we have the tendency to want to truncate this process. I wouldn’t recommend it. It is a great way to get to know with whom you are working and have them get to know you. Since face time is brief when you are on a business trip, the quickest way to get to know someone is actually over a meal. In addition, part of the adventure is trying new foods and eating with chopsticks (I am writing a whole other blog on our experience with food and the Chinese cuisine…stay tuned).

Relationships are still the key to building trust and long term partners for your business. It is hard to get a sense of whom you are working with long distance, particularly if you are working through agents. Understanding the people who are working on your behalf is key to success. We have been learning this up front and personal and the hard way. We have been so fortunate with our relationships with the porcelain factory that has made our dishware. This has not been the case with producing our LivSpoons. The difference? Our relationship with our agents. It is better to get to know the people sooner rather than later and see with your own eyes how things are being handled where your product is being manufactured. We have lost a lot of time and money relying on people we now understand we cannot rely on.

Regular trips to China are a must. We have now learned our lesson. If you are a product based company you have to invest in the relationships responsible for producing your product. Period.

We so enjoyed being in China. We were wowed by the magnitude and size of everything from the roads and buildings to the number of people. A small town in China is considered one with 10 million people. In the cities we visited it was clear there is a strong middle class. The economy seems to be booming with lots of construction, busy malls and lots of “pop up” factories. We found a great affinity with the people we had the privilege to meet who are also working hard to make their businesses grow and succeed. 



#Startup
#Travel
#Business
#China
#Smallbusiness
#Entrepreneur
#Livliga

Monday, August 3, 2015