More focus on family. My son is going to get to remember the pandemic as a time of building cool things, trying science experiments, raising chickens, growing his own vegetables, and helping me brew kombucha. If life were back to normal, we wouldn’t have had time to do all of those things. I am cherishing this and the new routines it has created.
The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. Many of us now have new challenges that come with working from home, homeschooling, and sheltering in place.
As a part of my series about how busy women leaders are addressing these new needs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Alane Boyd, founder and CEO of BurgerFit and published author — BurgerFit: Eat Burgers. Be Healthy., The Small Steps Planner, and BurgerFit Deconstructed (coming Fall 2020). Alane built her company with one mission: to help busy moms fight one less battle at dinner time by getting their kids (and picky significant others) to eat vegetables, whether they know it or not. BurgerFit burgers are made of ground meat and blended vegetables to get everyone from 2 to 92 years old to eat healthier.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?
A short way of describing it is a long road of fortunate mishaps! But I think that is what the best ideas and businesses are made of. Without all of those experiences, we wouldn’t have come to where we are today.
I struggled with my weight from the time I was in middle school until my late twenties when I was diagnosed with high blood pressure and the doctor was going to put me on medication. My husband and I had just gotten married and he is one of those tall slender types that can eat anything they want. I decided if I wanted to live a long healthy life, I needed to find a way to sustainably lose the weight. He and I also owned a software company and we were working on scaling it. Our workdays were long and I traveled a lot, adding to the problem. But, I figured it out and worked to maintain the weight loss, going on almost 10 years. After losing the weight and getting my blood pressure to a healthy level, my meals looked a lot different and when I had family over, I realized they didn’t want to eat anything I cooked. I figured I would try hiding veggies in a burger to see if I could get them to eat peas, cauliflower, beets, carrots, etc. and it worked! I started making the BurgerFit burgers at BBQs without telling our guests so I could see if they would eat them, and again, it worked! That’s when I thought I had something people needed. So many times we find ourselves in these situations, whether it’s with our kids that won’t eat vegetables or sometimes even our significant other. My husband and I had the opportunity to exit our software company in November 2018 and I started BurgerFit in June 2019.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started at your company?
Before Covid-19 hit, the Rachel Ray Show called to interview me to be a guest on their show. I had just picked up my son from pre-school and he was jabbering in the background when I answered my phone! They said they didn’t mind and that they loved kids. We did the entire interview with him talking about how much he loved eating his cookie that school gave him and asking why I was on the phone. Now with filming on pause, I guess I’ll never know if I would have had the opportunity to be on the show!
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
We are currently working on expanding our line of kitchen accessories that make mealtime easier. Everyone is so busy now that even a little help in the kitchen goes a long way. I also have a firm belief that kids, especially when they are young and excited to help, should have the opportunity to lend a hand in the kitchen. To make it easy for them to help and to give moms peace of mind that they won’t hurt themselves, we are launching a knife set specifically for kids and we’ve just launched our HANDLENVY line of leather iron skillet sleeves to keep from burning your hands when touching hot pots and pans.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
There are so many people that have helped along the way. One of the first people I met after we launched BurgerFit was the creator of Buns of Steel, the 90s video craze. He came up to me at a tradeshow we were at in Nashville to express how much he loved the idea of BurgerFit. He then met me for lunch following our initial meeting and gave me great advice on next steps I should take and introduced me to other great mentors. These serendipitous meetings are fantastic reminders to keep putting yourself out there because you never know who you will meet!
The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. Can you articulate to our readers what are the biggest family related challenges you are facing as a woman business leader during this pandemic?
Trying to juggle everything has been extremely difficult. It was hard managing the house, the family, and the business before Covid-19 and now it is even harder! Now all of our meals fall on me and we haven’t eaten out since March. I am homeschooling our son in Kindergarten, and growing BurgerFit with my team working remotely. With juggling meals, school, and business, I was completely exhausted by the end of the day! I had to make changes or I was not going to be productive.
Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
I had to reprioritize how my day runs and let go of the things that I “want” to get done but don’t “need” to get done. I have the personality to squeeze every last second out of the day and not waste time but I realized that looks different now. Relaxing and resting does not equate to wasting time, it gives you time to mentally and physically repair.
My son makes his own breakfast, every morning. He has gotten his recipe down to an art for what he calls his cereal — rolled oats, plain yogurt, raisins, coconut milk, and maple syrup. The first few times were pretty messy! He had oats all over the counter, coconut milk spilled, way too much maple syrup but I didn’t let my overpowering personality take over, I kept letting him learn and get better. Now, he does it perfectly every time. It is one less thing I have to do in the day.
Learning to let go of what a “real meal” looks like. I was the one that felt like I had to cook every meal and make it be something amazing. Then I realized, I was putting that pressure on myself. My son and husband are just as happy with a smoothie most nights for dinner. As soon as I stopped making a big deal out of what we were having, everyone else was happier!
When my son is doing school work and I need to help him through it, I work on other things that don’t need a lot of brainpower and it doesn’t matter if I get distracted. I do things like put away clean dishes, start a load of laundry, sweep the floor, and get lunch together or do meal prep like chopping vegetables for dinner that night. I realized if I was trying to get work done while he was doing his school work, I couldn’t get anything done and it made me frustrated and irritable. By doing the simple tasks, I was still making progress without the added frustration.
Recognize time blocks and then communicate them to your family and to your team members. By doing so, team members know what time is best to schedule meetings with me. Create a schedule that your kid(s) can see. For my 4-year-old, I include pictures to represent what happens at the time and I got him a digital clock that he picked out so he could compare the time on his clock with the time on the schedule. I had the schedule laminated so he could check off what he has completed each day.
Communicate to your kid(s) what to do while you are on a call. Interruptions still happen but they happen a lot less now that my son understands the protocol. My son’s biggest need is that he feels a part of what I am doing. When I get on a call and on my laptop, he gets to also be on his laptop. I found learning games that he loves on pbskids.org. After setting him up with it, I found most of his interruptions were to ask me if it was snack time because all he wants to do is eat constantly! I set him up with a snack before any call and he sits at the same table so I can watch him.
Can you share the biggest work related challenges you are facing as a woman in business during this pandemic?
- We had several tradeshows and events we were scheduled to be a part of, since we are a food brand, it is important that people try our BurgerFit burgers. With all of our events being canceled, we no longer have the opportunity to get in front of people with our burgers.
- We do a lot of filming and photography since we are a food company. With our team working remote 100% of the time, I no longer have my team at the office to assist in filming. One of my team members is an excellent photographer and did all of the photos and filming. Now that falls on me to get done! It has been stressful and a learning curve! But with all things, it has improved over the last several months of having to do it on my own.
- By not seeing people in the office, you miss out on the body language and facial expressions made throughout the day. My team and I have worked very hard to stay ultra-focused and cut out many things to the back burner.
Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
- We looked at ways to pivot to get our products in front of consumers. We may not be able to do tradeshows and events for the time being but that has given us time to focus on other avenues with our burgers. We have been able to eliminate travel time from having to attend so many, so in one aspect, we have gained more time in our week! We’ve also started meeting with retailers to carry our products, which is something that we had wanted to do but previously couldn’t do it with our travel schedule.
- I’ve set up different places in my home to use for photography. I have everything I need in one place so that I can easily set up for a session. It makes areas of the house a little cluttered but it makes that part of the workday a lot less stressful and efficient!
- Each week we have a priorities call to make sure we are on track, identify what our roadblocks are, and to make sure that is still a priority. This has given us the opportunity to dive deeper into some of the things we want to improve in our workflows!
Can you share your advice about how to best work from home, while balancing the needs of homeschooling or the needs of a family?
- Turn off the TV. TV is a huge time suck. If I watch something on Netflix, it is because I physically and mentally have nothing else to give for the day, and it is rare that I even do it then. Instead, when I’m exhausted I meditate and go to bed. As I said above, sleep is very important to me.
- Limit social media. If you find yourself on there for hours watching and scanning photos, it’s time to put your phone away.
- Listen to podcasts or audiobooks while doing mundane tasks like washing dishes, folding clothes, and putting on makeup. I also listen to them while driving, even if it is a short distance. Those minutes add up! My favorite is How I Built This by NPR with Guy Raz.
- Get sleep. When I’m tired, I am not able to fully function during the day, so it is important that I get my rest. Sometimes it is hard for my brain to slow down — there are always a million things that I want to get done, new ideas that come to me, and thoughts about my next day — so I started meditating before bed. This helps my mind slow down so I can fall asleep quickly. It takes practice, so don’t give up after just a week of trying meditation. There are great apps that teach you how to do it when you are getting started. I like Headspace, but there are plenty of other apps for your phone.
- Organize your life (and businesses) with a project management system. I like using Asana (https://asana.com) for tasks, reminders, and templates but there are other popular ones out there. My husband and I have travel templates we use so we don’t forget things; a reminder for when to give the dogs heartworm medicine each month; a reminder for housework that needs to get done (i.e. fix gate, paint house, reorganize guest room, etc.). We also use Slack (https://slack.com) for conversations. It is much easier to have longer conversations in Slack than it is in text. You can also make threads on comments so you don’t lose track of conversations on multiple topics. Both have free versions so it doesn’t cost anything to start organizing your life! Something amazing happens when you start writing those ideas down instead of letting them continue to rotate in your head: your mind can start relaxing and using that space for more important things!
Can you share your strategies about how to stay sane and serene while sheltering in place, or simply staying inside, for long periods with your family?
- Give each other space to be alone. Even our son needs space from us. On the weekends, we let him make decisions on what he wants to do. The week is filled with so many things that have to be done, this helps him feel in control of his life from time to time.
- I started learning wild edible identification so I could make walks with my son more exciting for him. He can now successfully identify wild mint, dandelions, sassafras trees, roses, and blackberries. Then when we get home we make teas and different concoctions with what we find. We even made mint ice cream with chocolate cake chunks in it. Now when I ask him if he wants to go on a walk, he gets really excited!
- I have to communicate with my husband when I need a break. When I am feeling overwhelmed, which absolutely happens, he will take a break from his day to give me some time to breathe. It doesn’t always happen right that second but at some point in the day it does, and it helps me regroup.
- Finding new hobbies, I started kombucha. My husband started producing music. We got my son Kiwi Co (https://www.kiwico.com/) boxes so he could learn to make robots, hydraulic claws, pinball machines, etc. We spent quality time together building them and then he would spend hours playing with them. Now we are working on re-working the pieces to do other cool things that he comes up with. His current idea is a robot that will clean his room. I hope he figures it out because I want one to clean the entire house!
- Getting a book of easy science experiments to do with kids. We love this one from Smithsonian Maker Lab: https://www.amazon.com/Maker-Lab-Super-Cool-Projects/dp/1465451358/. My son’s favorite activity is the bath bombs. He makes them for himself and makes them as gifts. He is so proud to send them to people.
Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. From your perspective can you help our readers to see the “Light at the End of the Tunnel”? Can you share your “5 Reasons To Be Hopeful During this Corona Crisis”? If you can, please share a story or example for each.
- The change in how we are doing business with Zoom calls and kids in the backgrounds is refreshing to see. It has been a relief to see so many other CEOs of large and small companies relax our normal “ultra professional” persona and get more real on how life really is. I love the calls where we are all laughing because someone’s child popped into the screen and started sticking their tongue out. After Covid-19, I hope it is one of the things we continue to embrace!
- The reduction in obligations has been freeing. Even with all of the added amount of things to do, there are also a lot of other areas that have been reduced. I have been able to prioritize time with my son and husband instead of having to constantly run around. I don’t have to travel to tradeshows or in-person meetings, everything is done from my home office, right there next to my son.
- Healthier eating habits by eating more meals at home. The reduction in eating out at restaurants and cooking more at home has helped me focus even more on my health and my family’s. By exclusively eating meals cooked by me at home, I have healed my gut and eczema breakouts, something I’ve been battling for years. My husband has also seen benefits from eating at home. When we first started, he had massive salt cravings and headaches from years of eating out for lunch every day of the week (his choice, not mine). Now we are both benefiting from cleaner eating!
- More focus on family. My son is going to get to remember the pandemic as a time of building cool things, trying science experiments, raising chickens, growing his own vegetables, and helping me brew kombucha. If life were back to normal, we wouldn’t have had time to do all of those things. I am cherishing this and the new routines it has created.
- No longer feeling guilty. Saying no to doing things when people asked was hard for me. I felt like I always had to say yes. Now, I no longer carry guilt with me when I have to say no and everyone is understanding of the situation.
From your experience, what are a few ideas that one can use to effectively offer support to their family and loved ones who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?
- Make a list of everything running through your head. Even if it is just you and you don’t have a partner, getting everything out of your head, helps you make a plan. I use Asana project management system to manage BurgerFit but also to manage our family (There are many others like Trello and Mondays but I prefer Asana). I even set up recurring tasks for when to water my house plants. When we think of something that we need someone to come fix, we put that in Asana as well so it doesn’t slip our mind. I can schedule that during parts of the day that my son and I are going for a walk. I can use that time to get a quick call into someone for scheduling to come to the house. My husband and I also can easily collaborate on things and know who is doing what and where we are at on it.
- Don’t try to do everything yourself. What can be taken off your plate? Can you hire a house cleaner once a month to help you? Can you hire a handyman to help you tackle things at your house? I recently hired a company called Miscellaneous Men, a company that does odd jobs, to help remove old furniture from our house and bring it to a donation place. It was a huge burden lifted from me!
- My four year old struggled with the concept of why we work, so instead of continuously trying to explain the concept of money, I asked him what business he would want to start so he would have his own money for spending. He came up with a 10 location coffee shop at first but I had to explain because of the virus, we needed something that he could start from home. He came up with the idea of making paper airplanes to sell. Part of his kindergarten curriculum is now the steps he needs to take to make his business real. He has been learning the scientific method by producing different prototypes. He is learning to count money so he can understand how many he needs to sell to make enough money for what he wants. He’ll be learning how to add and subtract using his revenue minus costs to determine profit. When I started putting it into something he got excited about, he couldn’t wait to learn!
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Don’t compare yourself to others, only compare yourself to your previous self. Am I better than I was yesterday, last week, last year? — Alane Boyd
We can get in a trap of comparing ourselves to others. When we do that, put ourselves into a negative cycle of either thinking we are better than someone or that we aren’t as good as them. It is an unhealthy mindset and makes you feel like you will always fall short. I have to remind myself to do this often. You see on social media another mom or another business owner feeling balanced and excelling through this time. That is what they want you to see. You don’t know what their day looks like behind social media. I guarantee it isn’t all rainbows. Focus on improving yourself and your situation and you will keep making progress!
How can our readers follow you online?
Personal Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/the_hurricanealane
Personal LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/alaneboyd/
BurgerFit Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/getburgerfit
BurgerFit Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/getburgerfit
BurgerFit Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/getburgerfit
BurgerFit Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/getburgerfit
BurgerFit LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/getburgerfit
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!