At first, any opportunity is an opportunity. Especially in the beginning, I did whatever I could to stand above the rest and show that I was willing to work very hard for what I earned. What I worked for did not come overnight and it did not happen within the course of a year. It took more than a half a decade to fully solidify myself in my business.
As a part of our series about entrepreneurs who transformed something they did for fun into a full-time career, I had the pleasure of interviewing Vanessa Gordon. Vanessa is the Founder and Publisher of East End Taste Magazine (eastendtastemagazine.com). Her writing has appeared in Modern Luxury publications including Thrillist, Hamptons Magazine and Beach Magazine, Pregnancy & Newborn, Psychology Today, the Independent Newspaper, Sag Harbor Express, and many others. She also has a bi-monthly radio segment with Long Island Radio Broadcasting’s 102.5 WBAZ.
Vanessa is also the Founder and Host of the Hamptons Interactive Brunch, an annual event that brings together business owners, executives, philanthropists, entrepreneurs, actors, media personalities, and more.
Vanessa earned her Master of Arts in Education from New York University, and studied abroad at the Institute of Education and at University of Oxford’s St. Edmund’s College.
She lives in New York with her husband, two children, and two cats.
Thank you so much for doing this with us Vanessa! Can you tell us a bit about your “childhood backstory”?
I was born and raised in East Hampton, New York before moving to New England in the mid-nineties. I still visited the Hamptons, particularly Sag Harbor, on a regular basis as my grandparents lived there until they sold their home and moved to Central Florida in 2005. My grandma taught me how to cook and my grandpa and I spent a lot of time together. He taught me many skills from building model airplanes and life skills like basic electric and plumbing, and even how to drive (demonstrating, of course as I was only nine years old), and how to fix a car. He was very hands on and always very direct and honest with his words of wisdom.
The most poignant piece of advice he would always give me was “be a leader, not a follower.” I believe it was that emphasis that ultimately has lead me to my chosen career path: a business owner.
What was the catalyst from transforming your hobby or something you love into a business? Can you share the story of your “ah ha” moment with us?
After my daughter was born in early 2014, I was in need of an outlet where I could occupy my mind, choose my own hours, strategies, and topics. I came from a teaching and freelance writing background. My freelancing ability at the time was limited due to my being at home full time with my new baby. Trust me, I had my hands full, but I desired a creative focus to keep my mind active. That was when the concept for East End Taste came about. East End Taste, which originally started as a blog, was simply meant to be an outlet where I could share family’s experience with living on the East End of Long Island including day to day life with a food and drink angle. These experiences would be restaurant visits, chef talks, recipe development, and more.
When it came to transitioning the website into a full-time business, that particularly “ah ha moment” came from small steps of trial and error, for receiving feedback, and in particular, learning about the power of social media and how it goes hand-in-hand with having a blog. It also came with realizing that I could not manage all of the responsibilities that came with running a website on my own if I wanted to grow. The blog has since transitioned into its being an online publication where we have a small full-time and freelance staff.
There are no shortage of good ideas out there, but people seem to struggle in taking a good idea and translating it into an actual business. How did you overcome this challenge?
There were certainly many challenges that came my way, but those challenges have differed drastically. The many difference across the board is that I know how to handle and grow from experiencing the challenges rather than let them take over me.
What advice would you give someone who has a hobby or pastime that they absolutely love but is reluctant to do it for a living?
Go for it and be in it to win it. It really does boil down to doing what you love is the greatest blessing. It is never too late to start a new venture.
It’s said that the quickest way to take the fun out of doing something is to do it for a living. How do you keep from changing something you love into something you dread? How do you keep it fresh and enjoyable?
That statement is so far from the truth when it comes to what I do. I have learned through years of running East End Taste that it is acceptable to bend a little, roll with the trends and changes, but stay true to yourself and integrity in your business means to you. If it is not for you, then stay away for the time being.
I never, for example, thought I would dive into creating video content. I recently began taking some online courses in video content creation and learned through experience. The more I do it, the more thrilling it has become. But I always try to not let any feeling of frustration take over me. I have learned through experience not to let so much weight be carried on my shoulders.
What is it that you enjoy most about running your own business? What are the downsides of running your own business? Can you share what you did to overcome these drawbacks?
What I enjoy most is that I get to oversee every component of how the website is running and how I get to explore partnerships, marketing tactics, editorial options, and most often create my own hours. I get to effectively work from any corner of the world, with most recently East End Taste allowing me the opportunity to travel to Australia, Cuba, Mexico, England, and Ireland, and many more destinations to come.
The downside is that it is nearly impossible to separate myself from the business. I don’t mind in the slightest, but it can be overwhelming at times (in good ways and challenging ways). It is nearly impossible to put an out of office reply where I try to limit that to less than twice per year, and I work seven days a week, I rarely take any time off, only when I have to. For instance, I will be traveling to a remote destination later this year where I will have to be ‘away from my desk’ for nearly two weeks. When I was in Cuba, I had no internet access. It is tough to disconnect as I never want to miss a ‘beat’.
Can you share what was the most striking difference between your actual job and how you thought the job would be?
I thought it was simply going to be a write, publish, repeat. Then everything else came into play when I put forth the idea of East End Taste becoming an online publication. Even though my job description is fairly direct, I wear many hats within my business. I have to, I always have to be in the know of every aspect that is transpiring. I have to be there for every component, and ready to go. The work across all fronts never ends. But I love every moment of it.
Has there ever been a moment when you thought to yourself “I can’t take it anymore, I’m going to get a “real” job? If so how did you overcome it?
Initially I was juggling teaching fitness classes in five different disciplines from Pilates to Indoor Cycling. People loved my classes and I loved teaching. It took up a great amount of my time but I loved staying active and engaging with my clients.
However, I realized that my website was not going to grow and my business was not going to flourish if I did not focus. I loved (and still do) love fitness but it was growing more and more difficult to do both as my demand for teaching more and more fitness classes grew. The catalyst, ironically, was my getting pregnant with my son. I was so sick with morning sickness that I ended my quitting my fitness jobs. It helped me to rethink and reprioritize soon after he was born. I now focus solely on East End Taste and all of its endeavors, including our annual summer event.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I had to learn how to sell my brand and business to others. For such a long time, I had the tendency to under sell myself. I had to force myself to realize my value as a business owner, brand, and content creator. I realize the immense amount of time and effort that I put into every detail of the business. Though it is tricky to relay your worth to others, I have learned through experience, time, and speaking to other like-minded business owners to not let others undermine you.
Who has inspired or continues to inspire you to be a great leader? Why?
My husband, Dr. Kris Gordon, inspires me every day. He has been a tremendous supporter in my business and if it were not for him, East End Taste would not exist. He was the one who originally told me to write and create my own website, and he was recently the one who encouraged me to reflect and rebrand the business. He was also the one who gave me the green light to create an annual event concept in the Hamptons (the Hamptons Interactive Brunch).
How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
I love to mentor others. I have met with many budding writers, college students, and recent graduates over coffee, lunch or simply a phone call to offer advice, suggestions and feedback. I am always there for others that are willing to learn and willing to work hard.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Patience is everything: never ever give, and know that the baby steps and taking a few steps back now and again are key to growth.
- There is always someone waking up earlier than you are: when you think you are working hard enough, there is always some else out there willing to get up earlier (or stay up later) and put in those extra hours. Hard work is honorable.
- Time is money: don’t sell yourself short. Don’t under value yourself. Know your capabilities and stick by them.
- At first, any opportunity is an opportunity. Especially in the beginning, I did whatever I could to stand above the rest and show that I was willing to work very hard for what I earned. What I worked for did not come overnight and it did not happen within the course of a year. It took more than a half a decade to fully solidify myself in my business.
- Get a great accountant and lawyer. I have a very strong accounting and legal team by my side. You have to be ready and protected at all times.
What person wouldn’t want to work doing something they absolutely love. You are an incredible inspiration to a great many people. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
Thank you! I always love when I hear “you have inspired me to…” As long as I inspire others to do what they love, that will always make me smile and feel that my job as been done right.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
One of my favorite Life Lesson Quotes is “Instead of worrying about what you cannot control, shift your energy to what you can create.” — Roy T. Bennett. He is the author of The Light of the Heart. I had read this quote for the first time not too longer ago. My husband was the one who should it to me when I was having a difficult day. It was what you manifest and put forth that should mean the most. Never mind what you cannot control. If it is out of your control, you cannot worry about it.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
Definitely Richard Branson. I find his vision inspiring and his perseverance unstoppable.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.