Up Close & Personal – The Kimchi Dude

Up Close & Personal – The Kimchi Dude

Some people may know Randy Ryan as “Rein Beau,” a name that stemmed from his first business. To others, though, he is known as “the Kimchi Dude,” his business name and brand identity for homemade, healthful foods. He recently opened a stand in the Marketplace at Steamtown, where his menu frequently changes to feature his new ideas or holiday specials. While he is mainly self-taught in the culinary arts, he credits a culinary class at Wallenpaupack Area High School as his introduction to the craft. He graduated from Wallenpaupack in 2005 and lives in Scranton.

Meet Randy Ryan…

How did “the Kimchi Dude” come about”? 
Originally, the first company I started was just juice. It was called Rainbow Juice. Through the process, I ended up elaborating the menu and the concept. I put all my eggs into the kimchi basket and kind of just rode that out and switched to the Kimchi Dude. The idea behind Rainbow Juice was just a company, whereas when I transitioned to the Kimchi Dude, it would be more about me and a personal brand and what I’m putting out and what I’m proud of. Rein Beau kind of stuck from there.

What is the concept you’re trying to show through the Kimchi Dude?
The main priority of the company is to create sustainable culinary, so using ingredients that can be grown sustainably and of course are healthy for the environment and people. I didn’t just want to create healthy food, I wanted to create delicious food that anybody can enjoy.

Can you describe kimchi?
The simplest method is to call it Korean sauerkraut. It’s fermented vegetables, Napa cabbage, Daikon radish, green onion, carrots, ginger, garlic, gochugaru, Celtic sea salt and just a little bit of sugar to activate the process.

What got you interested in creating something that’s so different?
The push for sustainability is a huge thing. Our nation as a whole is extremely wasteful. I just figured the government isn’t really doing anything, so I wanted to do whatever I could.

How did you learn about kimchi prior to starting this business?
I’ve always been very intrigued with the eastern cultures, whether it be sumo, smithing and the culinary, of course. Somewhere along the lines of researching the eastern culture, kimchi sprung up. I was just very intrigued. It’s what they call an eternal food. It’s kind of like honey in a sense that it won’t go bad, if prepared correctly, and it can sit for hundreds or thousands of years. It’s super sustainable. It was a way for the South Koreans to preserve the harvest through winter and have something to eat. Its a probiotic, ketogenic food. It’s kind of the best of (all) worlds — health, deliciousness and sustainability. After the first batch I made, I loved it, and it went from there.

How did making one batch for yourself become a full-time business?
Back in those days, I was sharing a lot of food with people just to kind of get my products out there and gain recognition. I was sharing little jars of kimchi with people, and they were obsessed. They’d call me up at midnight and say, “I need to swing by and get some kimchi,” so I knew it was time to put more focus on it.

Can you describe your products?
The original juice concepts were called earth juice, sun juice and moon juice. They correlate with the colors. Earth is a green juice, sun is an orange juice, and the moon is a white, cashew milk and is white like the moon. Earth juice is mixed greens, and I describe it as a vegetable candy, sweet and sour. It might sound nasty, but it’s totally not. I find a balance in my drinks between fruits and vegetables, so they’re nice and sweet. Sun juice is, of all the juices, definitely a pick-me-up. Moon juice may fall in the category of dessert. It has maple syrup that sweetens it up and cinnamon.

You say your menu is “the most innovative in the valley.” Why?
First of all, I don’t use recipes. Everything is made from scratch. Not a single thing on the menu is or will be made from a pre-made ingredient. One-hundred percent of things I make will use whole foods, scratch or basic ingredients. I don’t think anybody else can claim that. On top of that, I’m creating five times more compost than waste. To add in, people are losing weight, reversing illnesses and all these other things that I didn’t expect along the way. There’s an aspect of wellness to the menu.

What is something running a business has taught you?
Discipline for sure. Getting up in the morning, if I didn’t show up today, it’s not happening. The biggest thing is discipline, finding a balance (between) personal leisure and running a business. It’s a balancing act and takes practice.

Have you have a moment or time if your life that helped shape you into who you are today?
I think opening this stand for sure. You listen to entrepreneurs and speakers say, “You’re never going to be ready,” so just say yes to things. It was probably in March or April, I put a deposit in for this place, I wrote a check and said, “I don’t know what I’m doing, but I’m just going to do it and see how it goes.” It was one of those moments when I had to stop waiting for other people to help me, jump right in by myself and stand on my own two feet. It’s working out so far.

What has been most gratifying so far?
My favorite part, now that I have a spot, is people coming here on dates or first dates and inviting other people. It’s more of like a gathering space. It’s a new element to the business that I just love.

Did living in different places give you a different perspective on anything as opposed to being in NEPA?
Totally. Even if you just go to Philadelphia and you eat, then come back to Scranton, you realize the food culture here is 10 years behind. It’s very limited. It’s one of those things where you only know what you experience. I grew up in a trucking family, so that helped a lot. We were always going somewhere.

Do you hope that your stand and products will contribute to growing the food culture in NEPA?
Definitely. Part of becoming the Kimchi Dude was that I would establish a personal brand as a chef and be able to open different concept restaurants. This is one. This is sustainable, whole food and raw diet. There are plans for a gourmet burger bar. Maybe there’s pizza (shop) down the road or a noodle shop.

Your food and products have an element of art to them. Can you describe how it is art?
My philosophy is life is art. Art can be anything from painting to the way you design your furniture to the way you dress yourself. Culinary for me, includes the plating and a lot of minor details that are often overlooked. I appreciate culinary as an art because it’s the only art that can stimulate all five senses.

The final word is yours.
Don’t be afraid to try new things. A big shift in my life was the first time I tried high-quality sushi. That was probably the start of me losing a lot of weight, feeling better and clean. And I’ll often hear that people don’t like kimchi because they’ve tried it from someone else. My kimchi is a balanced recipe, not too spicy, it doesn’t have the fish sauce, and most people who try it end up loving it.

 

Photos by EMma Black 

Up Close & Personal – Melissa Wollmering

Up Close & Personal – Melissa Wollmering

Melissa Wollmering is a printmaker and professor at University of Scranton and Marywood University. She loves all forms of art, and has taught other areas of art in the past. She grew up in Minnesota and earned a bachelor’s degree in studio art from Hamline University in St. Paul, Minnesota. She also has a master’s of fine arts degree in printmaking from Marywood University. She and her husband, Andrew, live in Scranton.

Meet Melissa Wollmering…

What first got you interested in art and more specifically in printmaking?
I think my parents probably encouraged all my siblings to pursue art. I have artists on both sides of the family, so it was kind of just always an option. I’ve always had an interest from a young age. I don’t know if there’s any particular moment I can say that sparked it, but I’ve always liked making things. I grew up on a farm, so we were allowed to just go into the barn and just make stuff with whatever we found. It was nice to have that urge and put it into something more directed. As for printmaking, I had barely even heard of it until college. I went to a school that randomly had a very solid printmaking program. I was introduced to it in college and I just loved it. I insanely loved it. It was magical.

What about printmaking got you hooked?
I would say the materials and the process. You’re kind of like a mad scientist. The method that I started with is called intaglio, which is kind of a strange one to start with, people usually start with relief, it’s a little easier. The nature of intaglio is so cool because you have a copperplate, you get to carve it and then you get to throw it in vats of acid, and burn it and cut it. The process was so fun, it was a lot of substances, materials and processes… and a vat of acid, how cool is that. There’s this element where you don’t have full control, which I thought was really exciting.

Are you working on any projects right now?
There is an organization called Big Ink, which is a printmaking collaborative out of New Hampshire, and they have a mission to spread large-scale woodcut or relief work. A lot of organizations in printmaking are seeking to promote the methods because not many people know about it. They have a very large press and they go to different galleries and have events. They ask certain artists to cut blocks. There are five artists, and they have a big event — the whole day you print big-scale and they exhibit them, so it’s a very collaborative, fun event in addition to producing art.

What are some of the previous shows that you’ve had your work displayed in?
I’m part of a printmaking guild. That’s a really fun kind of a show or organization to be associated with. A lot of printmakers are associated with guilds where you do editions and then print trades. So everyone would create an edition of, say, 25, and then you get one of everybody else’s print. You get to have a huge art collection because every time you are involved with it, you get 25 pieces back. Printmaking or even a lot of arts can be sort of solitary, but there’s something inherent about printmaking that’s collaborative.

What is the printmaking atmosphere in Northeast Pennsylvania like? Are you able to collaborate with other artists?
The print community is quite strong in Scranton. We have this studio [at University of Scranton], and at Marywood University. Peter Hoffer, who has managed the printmaking department for 40 years, has created a lovely community. There are other teachers, including Chris Medley at The Workshop downtown. There are actually quite a few people who do printmaking in the area, and a lot of artists, even if they identify as a painter or sculptor, dip their toe in print making probably once or twice. It’s a very open thing where if you’re looking for something different, a lot of people will just try it, and if there’s a studio, it brings people in.

What other types of art do you enjoy or do you like to do?
Photography, I love it. It’s a real sister discipline to printmaking because a lot of the processes are similar. Photography is very process heavy if you do the darkroom and film. And digital is very process heavy in a different way. I did a bit of that and it’s always in the back of my head as something fun. Also, when you are a print maker, you’re tied to the studio pretty tightly. You don’t walk around and do stuff outside like a painter. With photography you really can go out in the world, and I really like being an acting agent out in the world and getting a little more exposure outside of the studio.

What artists inspire you?
I was very into Klimt and Egon Schiele for a few years. I very much admire the work of Helen Frankenthaler and Kiki Smith as well. I get so much enjoyment out of almost every artist I encounter. I also like Munch, he’s Norwegian and he worked in the 19 century. He came up with some multi-colored relief wood cuts so I’m very interested in his work. He has a very strong existential sort of concern and I’m very interested in art theory and of course philosophy and the osmosis so he’s quite interesting to me at the moment now. Also, Käthe Kollwitz, she’s great and another printmaker, also a woman, which is nice.

What is your favorite part about teaching?
You’re always learning. I love getting to explore new methods and different exercises for the students and see them learning. Whenever you see a light bulb go off or that they really love something, that is amazing. It’s just nice having a community of people exploring.

Either from an artist’s standpoint or a teacher’s, what is one of the biggest challenges of printmaking?
Printmaking is challenging in that you need space for materials and process. You can’t do it anywhere, and it takes a certain amount of physical space. Another thing that a lot of people find challenging, but I love it, is you can’t go faster than the process allows. Sometimes the speed at which you can work is a challenge.

What is the process of printmaking like?
There are different types of printmaking. Relief would probably be what people are familiar with or perhaps screen printing, which is what’s done to make T-shirts. Essentially when you’re printing, you’re taking ink from one surface and transferring it to another. You’re working with a matrix as opposed to a paintbrush. You’re working from a finite mold and transferring it to a substrate. What you do to the matrix before you print is where all the variation comes in.

Have you had a moment or time in your life that helped shape you into who you are today?
I had a professor in undergrad, he was a wonderful sculptor. He was advising me one day. I was trying to decide what to do with my life, as one does in college, and he sat me down and he said ‘Don’t wait for an epiphany. You know what you want to do, just pursue it.’ Art can be a difficult area because sometimes you’re not sure if you can really make a living. I think that was a lovely deciding moment hearing that.

Photos by Emma Black: 

Up Close & Personal – Steve Werner

Up Close & Personal – Steve Werner

Steve Werner is a multi-instrumentalist and Scranton native. He plays the handpan among many other instruments. A graduate of West Scranton High School, Werner studied human development and family studies at Lackawanna College and Penn State Worthington. He is employed by Keystone Community Resources and works as a vocational job coach. He lives in Scranton.

Meet Steve Werner…

What do you do at Keystone Community Resources?
Basically what we do is we work with kids with disabilities and we give them job training, so whatever they’re interested (in), we just show them around and give them experience.

What is your musical background?
I started playing in middle school, because they offered band class. They just asked me what I wanted to play, so it was the drums. I was probably the worst one in the class. I didn’t get it for a while, and then it just kind of clicked. I’ve been playing ever since.

What other instruments do you play?
When I was about 18, I started playing guitar, and I did both (guitar and drums) for a while. With drums, I played more rock music; with the guitar, I liked classical music better, so I started to learn how to do that.

Can you compare playing solo, in a duo and in a group?
I love being a solo artist because I can just do whatever I want when I want. I get to do different kinds of gigs; with the handpan and the solo stuff I do, the music is more mindful. I do stuff for yoga, meditation. I just got done doing something in the ICU at Geisinger Hospital. I take it to schools where there are people with disabilities and play for the kids and in nursing homes. I really enjoy doing that as opposed to playing in bars all the time.

Many people have probably seen you playing the handpan. What exactly is that, and can you give some background on it?
Basically it has anywhere from eight to 18 notes. Mine has nine. It’s in a circle, and it’s a key. Mine is in D minor. It starts with the base note on top, and from there it goes around through the whole scale. They’re made by hand, so each one takes a while to make. Most people have to be on a waiting list to get one. I think it took me eight months to get mine from the day I ordered it. Some people wait even longer than that. They wait years. Just because you want one doesn’t mean someone is going to make you one.

How did you get into playing this unusual instrument?
I had back surgery in 2013. I had a lot of nerve damage in my leg and foot. The doctors didn’t know how much use I was going to have. I started (looking for) drums I could play with my hands because I didn’t know if it was going to work to be able to play drums (and tap) with my foot. I looked around, and this popped up. They’re hard to get. Mine is from Germany. I had to write this guy a letter. I knew nothing about him, nothing about these drums; he could have been a scam, but I wanted it so badly. That’s what I did, and it worked out.

What is the music program at Geisinger you were recently a part of?
It’s a county program run by Maureen McGuigan. It’s called Arts Heal. I play music in the ICU. I couldn’t really talk to the patients, but the families gave me a lot of feedback. They said it’s very soothing to hear the music. The doctors and nurses came up to me; they said it’s really helpful because it drowns out the background noises and beeping in the hospital. It’s really nice.

What thoughts or emotions do you have while playing around people in places such as the ICU and hospice?
You definitely want to play with more of an intention to relax people or calm someone down. Families don’t always get the best news. You want to go in there and have a lighter touch to everything. I’m really glad the county does it. It blends the two things that I do. I’m really only good at two things, and they’re my two passions, so to be able to combine them like this, I’m really grateful.

Talk about your recently released solo album.
It’s called “Incantation.” It’s got nine songs and has the handpan on it. It’s focused around the handpan, but it has some other instruments. I use a lot of acoustic instruments; I play the acoustic guitar, I have somebody play the piano, I have a cello player. I kind of blend electronic sounds into it. It’s kind of natural sounds of music versus the scientific side of music.

How would you describe your own style as a musician? 
I sent (the album) out to a bunch of industry professionals just to get an idea of what I was working with. A lot of them said it’s kind of in the ambient, new age (genre), but it’s kind of its own niche too. I would classify it as new age music, but it also has its own unique sound to it.

Who are your musical influences?
A woman named Loreena McKennitt, she’s a Celtic world music artist. She’s from Canada, and Tori Amos, I’m a huge fan, that’s probably my biggest one. I really like the band REM and Led Zeppelin.

What has been your most memorable music experience?
Definitely going to see Tori Amos was really cool. As far as performing, the ones I get the most out of are the ones playing for the disabled children. I really like that stuff more than everything else I do.

What is something that sticks out about the NEPA music community?
This is the best community. Everybody is so tight; there is no competition, and everybody is supportive of each other. We share musicians and bands and bounce back and forth. It’s like one big family. It’s great. We promote each others’ bands, we play on each other’s albums, we get shows together, we’ll help people get shows out of the area. It’s just everything.

What is something being a musician has taught you?
I had a teacher when I started playing in sixth grade. When I was having trouble, he told me 90 percent of music is listening. I kind of took that and put it to everything else in life and just listened to what people say and take everything in before I act or open my mouth. I’d definitely say listening is the most important thing.

What are some of your hobbies outside of music?
I really like football; I like the Eagles. I like going to baseball games. I don’t like watching baseball games because that’s boring to me, but going to baseball games is really fun. I’ve always watched it on TV, but then I went to a Phillies game a few years and thought, “This is fun,” and people get rowdy and stuff, so I really like watching baseball live.

Have you had a moment or time in your life that helped shape you into who you are today?
Definitely working in the field that I work in made me grow really fast. In my field, you see a lot of bad things every day, so it kind of gives you a perspective on how things are. I started doing that when I was around 20 for a college internship and just stuck with it.

 

Photos by Emma Black

Up Close & Personal – Lance Miley

Up Close & Personal – Lance Miley

Music, and particularly rock, has been part of Lance Miley’s life for as long as he can remember. Miley founded and owns Rock School of Music, Clarks Summit, a nonprofit organization designed to offer music to all children. There, he teaches guitar, vocals, keyboard, drums and bass. On Friday, July 13, he and Making Music Matter for Kids will host the free Summit Fest Rock the Block block party on Spring Street in Clarks Summit from 5 to 9 p.m. Miley also is the vocalist for the band Metal Mob and has performed alongside many musicians throughout his life. He grew up in Sussex County, New Jersey, and now lives in Clarks Summit with his partner, Robin. He has three children, Lance, Kelsey and Jacob, and two grandchildren, Silas and Layla.

Meet Lance Miley…

What is Making Music Matter for Kids? 
A nonprofit that supports low-income and disadvantaged youth. It also supports all kids. It’s not just for low-income. The cool thing is it’s the low-income (who) are supporting the kids who have families that can pay for it. We keep our prices low and affordable. The kids that are getting grants don’t need to be ashamed, because they’re supporting music for all kids. We have about eight kids who are getting grants. Right now, we need support. The program started with me moving from New Jersey to Pennsylvania. We opened shop in Lake Wallenpaupack in Greentown at the end of 2010. We had students coming in and working with us, and all of a sudden parents couldn’t afford $20 a week. I didn’t have the heart to say I couldn’t teach them anymore, so I volunteered my time. We started the nonprofit. We had an event at Wally Fest at Lake Wallenpaupack. Our first event was in 2015. We were just beginning to look into becoming a nonprofit. It was 100 percent charity through the community. In 2016, we put in for the 501, and in six months, we received our 503(c)3 application, a couple days before the event.

What got you interested in teaching?
As far as instructing, I realized that there’s a need. As far as teaching goes, I was teaching pretty young. I got serious about it probably 15 years ago. The bottom line is you have to give it away if you want to keep it. It’s always nice when you get a student who progresses, and you get to see them go off to college. There’s a lot of joy in it and passion about it. I just love teaching, and I get more out of it than gigging. That’s really why I teach.

What is your favorite thing about teaching?
My favorite thing is when the kids come back and they’ve done their homework. I get to see it pay off. It’s always 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration. I’ve been doing it long enough that I can tell right off the bat if they’ve done their homework. It inspires me to see kids grow. Music is an amazing tool.

When did you realize you wanted to be a teacher as opposed to a performer?
2008 was our first event. After touring for a couple of years, I stepped back and looked at my life and realized I love to perform. Don’t get me wrong, it’s so exciting; on stage I get to be somebody I’m not, I get to show my talents, but I knew back in [the early 2000s] I saw the direction music was going, and I didn’t want to include myself in that.

What is the project you’re working on with Metal Mob?
We’re in the studio. We’re putting together a press kit, and we’re going to be playing A-rooms, national clubs, maybe a couple local things. Metal Mob will be at the event on the 13th working with the kids.

Guitar was the first of many instruments you played. What interested you about it? 
It was Glenn Campbell, and it was the pick. He was singing, and he reached into his pocket and he pulled it out and started doing these riffs up and down the neck that were just magical. For a 3-year-old, I had seen the pick and I needed to have a pick, so asked my dad to get me a pick, and he got me a guitar and a pick. I was correct about the pick. The right hand (if you’re a righty) is what makes the guitar come to life.

What happened after you got your first guitar and pick?
It was my first guitar; I was probably 3 or 4 years old. By second grade, I was playing in the school dances, parties. I took some lessons. I was a young kid doing some stuff, promoting the events, then Boy Scout gigs and into high school.

If there is one thing you could give or teach your students, what would it be?
Give back. Give what I’ve taught and whatever experience I’ve given them to another human being. Give charity. It’s greater than humility and gratitude. There is no humility or gratitude without charity.

What is one thing you’ve had to overcome or learn as a teacher?
Pride. Without a doubt. Every year, I get groups of kids together, and they would work together with me for two or three years and all of a sudden they decide they’re going to do it on their own, and it’s never worked out too well for them. I just remember that it’s not mine, it’s the greater power, the gift comes from above.

What is your favorite thing to teach and why?
Guitar. It’s almost universal. Learning guitar, I’m able to play keyboard, bass. I’m able to play other instruments. The instrument has much of the quality as every other instrument out there, combined. There are so many different ways to play modes and scales. With guitar, you can have three different patterns. Guitar is the greatest tool, but it also enhanced my vocals. It’s given me the opportunity to do vocals.

 

Up Close & Personal – Eleanor Gwyn-Jones

Up Close & Personal – Eleanor Gwyn-Jones

Eleanor Gwyn-Jones is an independent Mary Kay director, author and the proprietor of the Lion’s Den, Clarks Summit. Having grown up in London, she says her British accent may fool some people, but she considers Northeast Pennsylvania to be home. She has published two novels, “Theatricks” and “Jazz Hands,” and has two additional novels that will be published soon. While she has worked her way through the ranks of Mary Kay, there is more to her story than “lotion and lipstick.” She attended secondary school at Parsons Mead and earned a degree in biology from University of Southampton, both in England. She lives in Scranton’s Green Ridge section with her partner, Matt Mang, and their rescue dog, Beanie.

Meet Eleanor Gwyn-Jones…

Tell me a little about yourself. 
I came 14 years ago on a fiance visa. I met this handsome, dashing American hunk. The visa process is so complicated. I was surprised it would be so difficult for me to get a visa. We really had to go through flaming hoops. I lived in West Pittston for a wee while. It was sort of the beginning and the breaking of the fairy tale. I had the opportunity to go back to England when that relationship ended. I had just started my business here, and I had just gotten an agent for my first novel. It seemed foolhardy to go back home with a tail between my legs, so I started a new chapter. I moved to Clarks Summit, and I really went gung-ho with my Mary Kay business and really dived deep into writing.

Of the cities you’ve lived in, what sticks out most about NEPA?
I have made such wonderful friendships here. Ride-or-die kind of relationships with girlfriends who I know would champion me to the end of the earth, and I them. I feel very fortunate at finding them. When you vibrate at a certain energy level, you find these fabulous people who similarly want to change the world and want to make an impact. People who are joyful and who are passionate and love what they do, and are on a mission, and that’s what I love and was able to find here.

What was your pre-U.S. life like?
I always wanted to be an actress. When I was 17, I got selected for the National Youth Theater. This was a summer camp in London. It was this glorious summer. All the school counselors said “acting is very well and good, but you really need to get an education, because 99 percent of actresses are out of work.” I got myself a BSc honors degree in biology. It wasn’t easy, because when you don’t love a subject, it’s all work. After three years, I got through it, and I was ready to pursue my passion to be an actress. I started to audition for drama schools, but I had no idea how expensive it would be to go to drama school. I got through a couple rounds of auditions, and I went to this weekend workshop, and it was just a nightmare. I really disliked the whole experience. Then I auditioned for a children’s company. They needed someone who was going to be an actress and could do some administration things. They selected me. I started promoting the shows and worked as an agent for the company. I took the company from being a few shows here and there to three or four shows a week.

Can you talk about your novels? 
The first two focus on Enna and her journey. She’s the original Brit out of water. She’s a director and in “Theatricks”; she goes through the visa process. … I took nuggets of things I knew, so she meets an American, she’s trying to fight for her theater, which is being threatened to be overtaken by the property developers, but she’s failing. I really dearly wanted to write about the visa process because it was quite hysterical (for me). … It’s finding where home is, finding what’s important to you, what women prioritize and value, and sometimes what we need is not actually what we want, or what we want, it’s not what we need. So in the second book, she leaves the theater and she actually becomes very involved in yoga, which is something that is important to me. I want my characters to feel, and I want my readers to feel. I try to use a lot of symbolism and imagery.

Does your acting background influence you as a writer?
All of my novels thus far are written in first person. We really see in the first two Enna’s perspective, and in the third, Evie’s, and I put myself in that position. I’ll often be writing and tears will be pouring down my face because I’m feeling it. I often find that times in my life when I’ve been dreadfully unhappy, I’ve been super creative. I guess that means you get to live your life vicariously through all these different versions of you.

Do you have a favorite topic to write about?
Obviously my background is in theater, so there’s something very lovely about writing scenes that are set in a theater, because that feels like home to me. I guess I like to create it artificially. Although I do feel at home in this area, I feel sad that there’s not a big theater.

Has your perspective of the U.S. changed since arriving and living here?
I have come to notice that in Northeast PA there is that community that is welcoming. As a small business owner, the support that I have had has been, both for the writing and having my Mary Kay business, has been really heart warming. It’s that relationship-building, and people have time for you here, whereas I believe when I was in New York, and not to speak badly about New York, people didn’t have time to talk to you or find out about you. Whether you’re writing stories and you’re learning about people or whether you’re trying to help you or your small business thrive, it’s all about the people you meet along the way and how you can help them. I think we’re better together. When we support each other, if my customer base hears about your business, then you might have more potential customers than if you tell your customers about me.

You own the Lion’s Den in Clarks Summit. What is the concept behind it? 
When I became a Mary Kay director, you have what’s called your unit, but your unit and a number after it sounds very utilitarian. Most Mary Kay directors give their unit a unit name, and I wanted something that symbolized more. I was named after Eleanor of Aquitaine, and she was the mother of Richard the Lionheart, and Richard the Lionheart fought in the crusades. It just fit, so my units are called the Lionhearts. So I was looking for a space that was local and that I could invite my girls, that I could praise them to success and I could teach them and I could meet my own customers and have great interactions with them and really have a base. … This isn’t a shop. I don’t sell products from shelves. What it is is it’s an experience, and it’s a training center, it’s a success center, it’s where, whether you’ve had a good day, you bring your energy to the table, you lift people up, and if you’ve had a rubbish day, we build you up. It’s really so much more than just lotion and lipstick.