5 Questions with SPPR Featuring Joshua Zad

This week, we’re excited to welcome our new client Joshua Zad to the blog. Josh is the brilliant founder of Alfred Coffee & Kitchen (@alfred) and Alfred Tea Room (@alfredtea) as well as the mastermind behind the ubiquitous #butfirstcoffee. We’re thrilled to be working with Josh on a new lifestyle beer brand called Calidad which officially launches on November 1st. Read on to learn a little bit about Josh’s inspiration for Calidad, his thoughts on shaking up the beer industry and his favorite spots in LA.

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1. With a real estate background and success with Alfred, what inspired you to make beer?

In short, I wanted to affect change in the beverage world on a much broader scale. At Alfred, we have the unique ability to control customers’ experiences 100% — from the music, to the store layout and design, to how customers are greeted at the register; and of course, the quality and appearance of the coffee/tea drinks. But alas, there is a cap on how many people we can both serve and reach in the course of one day. I had been tossing around the idea of getting into alcoholic beverages for a while, and after taking a deeper look into the beer category, I noticed a huge opportunity. The opportunity to take a fresh and exciting approach to beer – specifically when it comes to catering to the non-specialized, novice beer drinkers. Craft beers and hop-heavy IPA’s have had their time, but the majority of beer drinkers shy away from them. So, I created Calidad — a lifestyle beer brand that capitalizes on the surging growth of the Mexican beer category and consumers’ desire to reconnect emotionally with basic, everyday beverages. The beer category has been stagnant for a while, it’s time for a shake up!

2. What is your goal for Calidad?

My goal with Calidad is to take a sizable chunk out of the Mexican import market. And to show people that you can enjoy an easy, drinkable cerveza that tastes just as good (if not better) than the long-standing, incumbent brands you have come to know, while also providing a level of transparency in the process and sourcing of the ingredients in that beer. I think the ultimate success would be eventually diversifying Calidad, which is produced in California, by launching new beer SKUs, other Mexican spirits like tequila and mezcal, and expanding into the broader Mexican foods space – all through a California lens and most importantly, never losing the emphasis on one obsession: Quality.

3. What does it take to be successful in the industry?

In the beer industry, where people have SO many solid options and new breweries are popping up daily, a strong following can make or break your brand. Loyalty is paramount. For this reason, we are dedicated to sampling product in-store and at festivals, connecting with both Calidad lovers and newcomers alike, and building our following one sip and one conversation at a time. We are taking a brand-first approach to this company, which is not so common in the beer industry — to grow a loyal customer base of Calidad lovers from the onset.

4. As an LA native, what’s your favorite restaurant in town and what do you normally order?

Easy. Ding’s Crispy Chicken Sandwich at Honor Bar in Beverly Hills. Second to that would be a chicken parm from either Dan Tana’s or Craig’s. I am a huge fried boneless chicken guy.

5. Where’s your favorite place to grab a holiday cocktail when it finally gets chilly in LA?

Roger Room hands down. My go to holiday-rainy-and-cold-outside drink is the “Japanese Maple” – Suntory whiskey, maple syrup, lemon juice, egg white and house made bitters.

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5 Questions with SPPR Featuring Caitlin Lee

From a Galentine’s Day DIY Homemade Pop-Tart party to making healthy chicken pot pie with Lauren Conrad, Public Lives Secret Recipes creator Caitlin Lee knows how to have fun with her food. Caitlin’s fantastic blog features interviews and recipes from people in the public eye as well as all of her favorite things in the lifestyle and food space. We’re excited to welcome Caitlin to our corner of the internet this week to talk about comfort food, her first year in LA and where to go for creative inspiration.

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1. What inspired you to start Public Lives, Secret Recipes and are there any recipes in particular that stand out as favorites?

I’m not sure there was one thing that inspired me to start PLSR. It was more a combination & natural build-up over time. When I was in college I had to live in my sorority house for 3 years. Don’t get me wrong, it was the absolute best, however, we only had access to a toaster & microwave. After I graduated & moved to Chicago I began baking a ton. It was something I had grown up doing & when I finally had all the tools to do so, I remembered just how much I enjoyed it. I would bring everything I made into work, post it on my personal Instagram, & send some to family. Everyone would ask for the recipes & it just seemed like posting them on a website would be an easier way to go rather than emailing, texting, etc. for people individually.

Once the site was live I was shocked that people aside from those I shared it with were viewing it. The OCD in me immediately kicked in & realized I needed to make this site aesthetically pleasing. In that process I began brainstorming exactly what I wanted to blog about. I knew there were a billion other baking blogs out there so I decided I wanted to do something different. Food to me is so much more than the taste, it brings people together & is the ultimate ice breaker. I realized I wanted to start hearing other people’s stories & get recipes from them.

Four years later that is still the most prominent part of PLSR, however, there are some other aspects such as travel, my own recipes, style & more that have been fun to dive into.

I go through phases of what my favorite recipes on the site are. Right now my top three would have to be Coolhaus’ Cookie Dough Ice Cream Sandwich (their founder & CEO, Natasha, is one of the coolest ladies I know & she shared this recipe exclusively for my site!) for the ultimate indulgence, Lauren Gores’ popsicles recipe for a sweet yet healthy treat, & Lauren Conrads’ healthy chicken pot pie for when I need to balance out the Coolhaus recipe.

2. You moved to LA in the last year, what are a couple of your favorite spots in the city so far?

Oh man, there are SO many! For food: Gjelina, Lodge Bread Co., Great White, Malibu Farm, Pressed Juicery, Sugarfish, Moon Juice, Katsuya, Zinque, the list goes on & on. For something other than eating… hiking in Malibu, biking down Abbot Kinney, & exploring all of the different neighborhoods LA has to offer.

3. As someone who spends a lot of time in the kitchen, what is your favorite comfort food to make at home? 

A few years back my parents were hounding me for gift ideas of what I wanted for my birthday (they’re clearly the kindest!) & I told them I wanted the two of them to make me a cookbook of all their favorite recipes. I don’t think they were expecting me to ask for a gift that required them to really work but it’s easily the best gift I’ve ever been given. Any of those recipes or my grandma’s bread recipes are my go-to comfort dishes!

4. Where do you go for inspiration when you’re in a creative rut?

For the obvious, Pinterest. The less obvious, Malibu, my family, & my website. I love combining a few old recipes into one hybrid recipe so looking back on what I’ve done in the past serves as a huge form of inspiration for me.

5. What would be your ideal food day if distance was no limit (breakfast, lunch and dinner)?

Holy moly this is one of the best questions I’ve ever been asked. Can I include tons of snacks & desserts too?! Breakfast: Parisian croissants (yes, multiple!) in bed with a view of the Eiffel Tower, Snack: Pinkberry Tart Froyo with Gummy Bears (in a dream world they’d also have chocolate covered gummy bears as an option there!), Lunch: Ravioli from 4Leoni in Florence, Snack: My sister’s homemade cinnamon rolls, Dinner: Peppermint Thai Restaurant in Cleveland, Ohio Dessert: My homemade vegan chocolate chip cookies!

 

 

5 Questions with SPPR Featuring Sami Davis

This week we’re excited to welcome SPPR’s new Creative Coordinator, Sami Davis, to the blog. Sami joins the Soda Pop PR team with experience in marketing, graphic design, event planning, and content creation!

Read on to learn more about Sami’s advice on how to find your creativity and why she MUST go to Egypt.

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1. You are one creative lady! Where do you look for inspiration?

I honestly feel like inspiration can strike anywhere and everywhere. Pinterest and Instagram are great platforms that I scroll through the most frequently; both are endless visual resources that show me what people have already created so I can dream up something new! Travel is also a big influence on my creativity. I’ve learned the most from experiencing different cultures, habitats and colors of the world from the dusty hues of Zion National Park to the ethereal mountain temples in Chiang Mai.

2. What advice would you give to someone who is “not creative” but wishes they were?

I think it’s absurd when someone says they aren’t creative! I definitely believe everyone has their own form of creativity. If you really don’t believe me and are still “wishing” you were creative, then take some steps in a creative direction you’ve always wanted to learn more about. Pick up a paintbrush, have a DIY day, or take a class to learn how to do something you’ve always lusted after. I taught myself how how to hand letter by watching Skillshare videos, which was great because I was able to take my time learning.

3. What excites you most about public relations?

PR is constantly morphing and changing, most recently to encompass influencer marketing, digital media, and even social media management. Strategies and technology have transformed so much, especially in the past two years, to really redefine what “Public Relations” means! I admire this industry because I’m constantly kept on my toes and pushed out of my comfort zone to meet the changing demands. I’m so excited to have a front seat to the innovative ideas coming out of PR!

4. If you had unlimited funds and two-weeks off, where would you go?

Morocco and Egypt! I’m so captivated by the vivid colors, diversity of cities, and rich culture of Morocco. I would love to explore Jamaa el Fna in Marrakech to shop the spices and pigments. Not to mention, the architecture also looks insane and I’m eager to hang out in the Sahara Desert.

Egypt has been on my bucket list since I was 5 years old. I had a fascination with ancient Egyptian history and wanted to be an archaeologist for the longest time! I’m still dead set on taking a cruise down the Nile River and walking among the Valley of Kings & Queens.

5. What do you think is the biggest challenge facing women in their 20s today?

As someone who is smack dab in the heart of my 20’s, social media and workplace equality are huge challenges we face. Over and over again, I see that there is an adverse effect of social media on girls and women alike. We need to spend less time comparing ourselves to what’s in the media because it’s really damaging at such an imperative growth stage. The more opportunities that women have to really find their own inner strength and balance it with external strength, we can go out and be advocates for ourselves.
As for women in the workplace, I was brought up in a family without any type or mention of discrimination, ever. When I started working and my career took off, the idea of women being held back due to their gender was so foreign to me until I got a taste of it myself. It’s still so bizarre to me and a topic I tend to get really passionate about if anyone of any gender, ethnicity, or size gets discriminated against because of who they are– especially if they are good at what they do! I’m excited to see so many thriving, women-owned businesses make an impact and watch how women as a whole will make strides in 2018.

 

Follow along with Sami’s adventures @theunexpectedtype

5 Questions with SPPR Featuring Christina Schneider

From Snapchat filters to festival grounds it’s hard to resist a flower crown. The longtime favored accessory of boho-chic brides is now acceptable for weekend wear and we know who to thank for it. Wedding planner and flower queen Christina Schneider of Cake & Punch joins us on the blog this week to talk about how she turned a birthday party arts and crafts project into a serious side hustle.

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1. You started out as a wedding planner, where did you get your idea for a flower crown bar and when did you know it would be a success?

I’ve always had an eye and interest for floral design. I had the idea of a flower crown bar for a friend’s birthday party at Malibu Wines. Other guests at Malibu Wines came up to us and asked us if they could buy one.

I called Malibu Wines the following week to see if we could do a Pop Up Flower Crown Shop, and over 2 years later we are still at Malibu Wines and now Rosenthal Winery every weekend making custom flower crowns for purchase. We’ve also expanded to the festival market, making crowns at Coachella, Stagecoach, and KAABOO.

I had no idea it was going to be this popular, but I did recognize the need for affordable flower crowns. If you call up a Florist the pricing for 1 flower crown can be anywhere from $60 – $250. The first flower crown I ever wore was one I made for myself. I felt so radiant wearing it and I wanted to share that experience with everyone at a price everyone can afford.

2. You really hustled to make your business happen. How do you stay motivated?

It’s easier to stay motivated when you are doing what you love! Ever since I was young, I’ve always known I’d have my own business for some reason. I like the idea of working for myself and making my dreams and ideas come to fruition. My goal is to have Cake & Punch grow with me as I continue to discover all my passions in life.

3. What has been your proudest girl boss moment to date?

Wow I love this question! Growing up I’d secretly flip through The Knot magazine fantasizing about my future wedding (yes I was that girl lol), thinking that a wedding planner would be my absolute DREAM job.

Since starting Cake & Punch 2 years ago, one of my weddings got published in The Knot magazine with a 6 page spread AND we recently did an Instagram take over on their 1.3 million follower fan base! The fact that The Knot actually loves my work is what makes me feel truly like a Girl Boss.

4. What advice do you have for entrepreneurs just starting out or testing an idea?

Depending on what your product or idea is, get a booth at a local farmers market, venue, or small local event that fits your brand. The investment should be small, but the feedback from the attendees will be priceless. Start small and ask family and friends for a little help if you can! My business wouldn’t be where it is now without their help and support.

5. What goals do you have for the next year?

I’ve actually developed a unique hair accessory that I will be launching early spring and I hope everyone loves it as much as I do.

I also want to use my public speaking/hosting background in some capacity in the wedding industry. Whether its workshops I host, speaking at events, TV, who knows, but I am open to all possibilities that God and the Universe want to flow my way.

 

5 Questions with SPPR featuring Ashley Hudson

This week we’re excited to welcome SPPR’s newest Senior Account Executive, Ashley Hudson, to the blog. Ashley joins Soda Pop PR with experience in design, architecture, and real estate public relations, and with a passion for strategic communication and how it can be applied to every industry.

Continue reading to learn more about Ashley’s advice to new PR professionals, what her perfect 24-hour food day would look like and where she would go on her dream vacation.

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1. In your opinion, what’s the best kept secret about LA?

LA’s food scene is slowly gaining greater recognition on a national and global scale, which typically includes our city’s Mexican, Korean and iconic American staples. However, access to consistent and locally-sourced farmer’s market ingredients has allowed for the recent burgeoning of fresh and thoughtful Italian eateries in Los Angeles and surprisingly, this has been flying under the radar.

I’ve been doing my best to eat my way through the Italian spots in my neighborhood on the Westside, so here are a few must-trys for the next time you’re out that way. Definitely book a reservation at Evan Funke’s, Felix, in Venice Beach and watch the master himself twist and roll fresh handmade pasta for dishes inspired by Italy’s various regions. Also, do not miss the house focaccia. Another great pasta eatery is the quaint, Forma, in Santa Monica. Forma specializes in their impressive cheese offering and charcuterie, but they have a few great pasta dishes that stay on the menu including the tortellini bathed in mushrooms, light cream, truffle oil then tossed in Bella Lodi cheese. Last but not least, make sure to check out Pizzana in Brentwood for a cozy #neoneopolitan pizza as they call it. It hits the spot for your true wood-fired pizza craving.

2. Describe your perfect food day from start to finish.

This is challenging to answer as there are so many great cuisines and it would depend entirely on my mood. I’ll go with an ideal food day in LA.

Although I’m not a morning person, I would have to wake up extra early so I could make sure to fit in all the must-haves in a 24-hour period. First, I would start the day off with a nutrition-packed smoothie to get my fruits and greens in right away. A couple hours later for breakfast part two, I would head to DTLA for an almond milk cappuccino from nice coffee and a croissant from Pitchoun. For lunch, I would go to my favorite empanada spot in West LA, Empanadas Place for their two empanada and salad special – I love empanadas. For dinner, it would be a toss-up between Korean BBQ in K-Town, Argentinean at Malbec in Santa Monica, or market-driven fare at MB Post in Manhattan Beach. I would finish this perfect day with the monkey bread dessert at Salt Air in Venice Beach. I’m full and happy just thinking about it.

3. If you had unlimited funds and two-weeks off, where would you go?

I would book the first flight to Oslo in October. I would spend the two weeks road-tripping through Norway, stopping to hike the Fjords, riding on dog sleds and staying in a bubble/igloo resort to see the majestic Northern Lights. If I had a couple extra days, I’d hop over to Iceland to dive the Silfra fissure where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates meet and are drifting apart at about 2cm per year.

4. What advice do you have for college students hoping to have a career in public relations?

Stay curious and value relationships.

A career in PR requires an inherent curiosity, but as our field continues to evolve, PR professionals must stay curious in non-traditional ways. As digital continues to take command of the way we practice public relations, we must be curious and informed of the latest tactics and tools that build brand equity and meet the bottom line. We should also be curious outside the silo of public relations practice. Companies are starting to consolidate public relations, marketing, and advertising into teams of well-rounded generalists. If PR is where you want to specialize, it’s still important to understand the fundamentals and best practices of these different disciplines to be nimble and forward-thinking in your career.

At this stage in my own career, the most important lesson I have learned is the value of relationships. Every person you will come in contact with over the course of your career is important, especially when the success of our daily work as PR practitioners depends on the strength of our relationships with the media, the public, our colleagues, clients, influencers, etc. The more connected our world is, the more important it is to nurture authentic connections. I have found that to date, my most meaningful work has been done in partnership with those I have spent the time to build quality relationships with.

5. What do you think is the biggest challenge facing publicists today?

I would say the biggest challenge facing publicists today is in educating clients about public relations practice and defining how it applies to them as the PR field steadily transforms. When clients understand the purpose and central value PR adds to their business, they are more inclined to work symbiotically with their publicists and provide essential resources to create something special.

5 Questions with SPPR Featuring Monica Wang

You’ve seen Monica Wang’s work before. Her bright, light filled photos have appeared on The Every Girl, Rue Magazine, Glitter Guide and even the Soda Pop PR blog. As an interior and lifestyle photographer popping up on all our favorite Insta feeds, Monica is one of our go-to ladies for photo magic and style inspiration. This week, we asked her to give us a little insight into balance, creativity and why it’s all about the lighting.

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1. You’re an amazing photographer but it’s actually your side hustle. What’s the biggest struggle in balancing photography with your finance career?

I would have to say that my biggest struggle is to maintain a normal personal life with two jobs and it isn’t balancing between a photography and a finance job. I am a workaholic! I can work hours on end and I love the feeling of achieving something and feeling proud of the work I have put together. So after juggling all my work responsibilities the thing that I spend the least amount of time on is with family and friends. I have to remind myself that I can’t complain because I have been given so many amazing opportunities.  However, now I only say yes to the gigs that I really want to do vs saying yes to everything.  Work/life balance is the real struggle for me.

2. Do you have a favorite, or particularly memorable, photo shoot?

My recent favorite shoot was with my dear friend, Anne Sage of City Sage (a previous 5 Questions with SPPR guest). She is a styling genius and I always love working with her so it doesn’t matter what we are shooting together. When you find the right creative partner, that is when you are able to produce the type of work that you are most proud of.  Work doesn’t feel like “work” and it is quite a milestone to find that within your career!  I always have to take a step back to reflect and be thankful that I am able to do what I do and call it my job.

3. Where do you look for inspiration?

I am constantly influenced by what is around me in LA. There are always new shops and restaurants popping up all the time so I try to keep my radar out for all the good ones I want to check out.

The IG accounts that I follow religiously are @garypeppergirl, @lucywilliams02, and @haleboyd for fashion and lifestyle related things.  I try not to look at other photo work so much because when you do that, your work starts to look like theirs instead of your own. I try to do my own thing as much as possible.

4. What would be your dream photo shoot?

My dream photo shoot would be traveling to Anguilla, Morocco or some other magical destination to photograph beautiful homes or hotels for Architectural Digest or Elle Decor. That would truly be a dream!

5. What is your number one tip for amateurs who want to take better pictures?

Find good lighting. It doesn’t even matter if you are shooting with your iPhone or a super high-end DSLR, as long as you have good natural lighting you can always take a good photo! My favorite kind is soft window light in the early morning.

Food for Thought with Dana Renee Ashmore

As 2016 winds down, we’re excited to share one last interview in the “Food for Thought” series. This week we welcome Dana Renee Ashmore to the blog. After years as a film and television producer, this inspiring lady used her great eye, florist chops and passion for giving back to found Gratitude Collaborative. The L.A.-based company offers curated gift boxes with a built in donation to provide meals to USA children in need. (It also happens to be the perfect holiday gift source if you’re panicking about what to get your boss/best friend/mother-in-law this year.) Read on for Dana’s insights on social media, creativity and what having a mission means for your brand.

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1. What do you look for when you’re searching for brands to include in the Gratitude Collaborative boxes?

We look at brands that we have tried and tested and love, and we love working with smaller brands and knowing the people behind the items we sell. We also trust our friends and people we work with. Every week we sit down and discuss new brands and see if we can find new ones to bring on.

2. How do you find inspiration when you’re in a rut creatively?

Step away and do something fun. Whenever I spend too much time trying to think of something to do, or feel like I’m in a rut, I just get out with friends and take my mind off of it. I think sometimes over-thinking can really make it worse. It’s really doing what feels natural instead of forced.

3. What are challenges you’ve encountered running a small business that aims to give back?

A couple things:  Our brand is that we are a gift company that gives back by providing meals to kids in the USA. In the beginning, our charitable efforts were well-intentioned but unfocused.  We provided art classes, after-school sponsorships and schools supplies to families that needed it. We still do more than provide meals, but at the time, people were really confused by what we were doing. They knew we gave back, but our brand wasn’t aligned with our mission. I think with a company that gives back, you just have to be clear on what you do, and make it easy to understand.

Second, what to do with the little money you have, and how to get yourself out there. Since your profits are not all going back to you or the company, you have smaller margins. It’s hard to make the right choices to help get your name out there. It’s hard when no one knows you and you are just getting started. It’s hard to try to sell yourself in an over-saturated and overexposed market.

4. How do you make sure your social media content is always on brand?

The best advice I have ever been given is to take 90% of my photos with a digital camera and the rest with my iPhone. That’s not for everyone, but for what we sell, we want the flowers to always be consistent in lighting and colors. In the beginning we tried a few things that didn’t work and then naturally fell into a place where we feel comfortable. I also use an app called Planoly; it helps me see my photos in a grid before they post so I can make sure they match with the other ones. This app has helped so much.

5. If you could speak to pre-business starting Dana, what advice would you give? Is there a piece of common advice given to small business owners that you would tell her to ignore?

Trust yourself and Customer Service is a must. Starting a small business is full of small decisions that can cost you lots of money.  You have to know ahead of time that not everything is going to be a win and leave financial space for that to happen.  As for Customer Service, we have someone that checks emails almost 24 hours a day to make sure we are available. Our customers are the reason any small business is running, and you have to remember that even when you’re tired, frustrated and hungry. Some customers will always think you are Amazon and have hundreds of people working around the clock. Instead, you have 3.

Keep up with Dana Renee at Gratitude Collaborative and on her beautiful Instagram.