Be prepared to step outside your comfort zone. You’re not going to feel comfortable with everything…it’s just not possible. You’re going to have to step outside your comfort zone for something…whether that’s becoming more comfortable in front of a camera for photos and YouTube videos, or pitching your company to other people and magazines and websites. It’s all part of the job.
Many successful people reinvented themselves in a later period in their life. Jeff Bezos worked in Wall Street before he reinvented himself and started Amazon. Sara Blakely sold office supplies before she started Spanx. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was a WWE wrestler before he became a successful actor and filmmaker. Arnold Schwarzenegger went from a bodybuilder, to an actor to a Governor. McDonald’s founder Ray Croc was a milkshake-device salesman before starting the McDonalds franchise in his 50’s.
How does one reinvent themselves? What hurdles have to be overcome to take life in a new direction? How do you overcome those challenges? How do you ignore the naysayers? How do you push through the paralyzing fear?
In this series called “Second Chapters; How I Reinvented Myself In The Second Chapter Of My Life “ we are interviewing successful people who reinvented themselves in a second chapter in life, to share their story and help empower others.
As a part of this interview series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Viana Boenzli.
Viana is a 45-year-old woman who, two years ago, left her job as an elementary school nurse to become a full-time food and craft blogger at www.maplewoodroad.com, along with her husband, Erich (who works on the website part-time). She says “It’s all about creating for me, whether it’s making something artistic that can be appreciated for its beauty or comfort when it’s finished…or cooking or baking something delicious.”
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
Sure! I grew up in southern New Jersey with my parents and one younger sister. Both my mom and dad are very artistic. I always aspired to draw and be creative like them. I remember my father painting giant 3-D artistic renderings on the walls or sketching some really cool drawings and cartoons on a piece of scrap paper, and still today he creates beautiful digital art. While my mom is also an excellent drawing artist, she’s usually more artsy-craftsy, whether it’s creating beautiful cross-stitch or crochet or sewing or picture framing. I like to think that I inherited the best of both of their artistic abilities. Although I’m usually more artsy-craftsy like mom (she taught me how to crochet), on quiet days I like to sit down with a pencil and sketchbook and work on my drawing skills, like dad. My sister, Steph, is the same way, always crafting something…our parents have always encouraged creativity.
I grew up in an Italian-Polish family. While talking loudly over each other, hands gesturing all the way, we would eat…and eat…and eat. Sunday dinners at my grandparents’ house was just what you would imagine. Lots of spaghetti with sauce (or is it gravy?), that you would pull onto your plate with a couple forks, alongside my grandmother’s kielbasa and pierogies. All the cousins running around, eating the olives we stuck on the ends of our fingers, sneaking away with a pizzelle cookie when the adults weren’t looking. Grandmom asking “Are you hungry?”, but she never heard you say no, she just said “I’ll go fix you something.” And you ate some more, and it was delicious. Growing up this way, I’ve always appreciated good home-cooked food…the kind of everyday food that uses fresh ingredients and reminds you of a meal at your mom’s dinner table.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I’ve always tried to live my life with the lessons of “treat others as you’d want to be treated” and “you get what you give.” I know that everyone is taught these things as children, but I feel that we really have to try to remember them every day and show kindness, compassion, and help others. When working with young children as an elementary school nurse, these should be part of the foundation of what makes you a good, caring nurse. Now that I’ve transitioned to being a full-time blogger, I also try to show this side of myself (and sometimes the goofy, funny side too) and teach others that they can make that dessert or crochet that blanket. I want every single one of our readers to say “I did this!”
You have been blessed with much success. In your opinion, what are the top three qualities that you possess that have helped you accomplish so much? If you can, please share a story or example for each.
When I’m passionate about something, I’ll work hard for it…day and night. When we first came up with the idea of staring a blog, I studied and studied and studied some more. I’d return home from work in the afternoon and would stay up until ten or eleven o’clock at night, taking webinars on understanding HTML coding and researching everything I could find on how to start a blog. And to this day, I still try to spend time each day on learning, figuring out how to make our website better.
I’ve always been a creative person. I believe that it’s in my DNA from both of my parents, but also came from growing up in an artistic family. My parents always encouraged us to be artistic in any way we liked. Whether that was drawing or crocheting or painting or singing or anything else.
It’s funny, but I never liked to cook when I was a kid and young adult. But then I discovered baking and everything changed. I do create some of the main recipes on the site, but mostly focus on the sweeter side of things. While my husband, Erich, does most of the cooking at home, I’m the baker. I’m always trying new creations and asking him and our friends and neighbors to try them (I don’t think they mind, though!). Of course, they don’t always work out as planned, but that’s part of the fun and the learning process in anything.
Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion about ‘Second Chapters’. Can you tell our readers about your career experience before your Second Chapter?
When I was 30 years old, I decided to go to college for the first time, to study nursing. I’d always been fascinated by the human body. My mom worked as a medical transcriptionist while my sister and I were growing up, and we both followed in her footsteps for many years. So I already had some background knowledge of medicine through that work experience, but wanted to be more hands-on now. As my children were young, I attended college part-time, so it seemed to take forever, but finally I got my RN, then my BSN, then my CSN (certified school nurse). I first started out working as a substitute school nurse, then eventually was able to find a full-time position. It was so exciting to have my own office for the first time!
Throughout my experience as a substitute, I got to work with all different age groups, from kindergarten through twelfth grade. I found that my natural goofiness lent itself well to the younger group, so decided that an elementary school was the best fit.
Although I couldn’t bring my baked goods to school to share with the students (lots of food allergies to consider), I was able to show my creative side. Both the teachers and students loved how I would decorate my office for all the seasons. I would stop at the dollar store and craft store and find things I could create into something fun for the kids, whether that was making 3-D snowflakes to hang from the ceiling in winter or colorful Easter egg decorations in the spring.
And how did you “reinvent yourself” in your Second Chapter?
While I loved working with children in the school setting, I felt that I didn’t have the time to pursue my passions of cooking and crafting…so Erich and I talked about it and we decided to create maplewoodroad.com. And now I have the best boss ever…ME! Another bonus of working from home: I get to spend more time with our kitties, Monkey & Pearly (I’m a serious cat lady). Fair warning: All of my crochet projects have cat hair on them. I didn’t really have to reinvent myself because this is who I truly am and I’m doing what I love.
Can you tell us about the specific trigger that made you decide that you were going to “take the plunge” and make your huge transition?
I wasn’t happy at the school where I was working and the situation was such that I felt it was best to move on. Erich and I had already been talking about starting a website and I was already staying up nights studying, so this was the perfect opportunity to really start…no excuses anymore. So in the next few weeks, with only a few articles published on the site, we went live! What a scary but exhilarating moment.
What did you do to discover that you had a new skillset inside of you that you haven’t been maximizing? How did you find that and how did you ultimately overcome the barriers to help manifest those powers?
I always knew that I had this creative side inside of me for crafting…and eventually figured out that I loved baking too. But being a blogger had never occurred to me as a serious career choice. I wasn’t a writer. Funny enough, I think all those papers I had to write in college helped me realize that I was actually pretty good at writing. When a paper was due (a short one, at least), I could just sit down for an hour or so and the words just poured out of me naturally. So, when we were playing around with the idea of creating a website, I thought about all the writing involved on top of the crafting and cooking, and I finally thought, “Okay, we can do this!”
How are things going with this new initiative? We would love to hear some specific examples or stories.
While our website has grown significantly over this short time, we’re not yet financially successful; however, I would say that I’m hugely successful in terms of happiness and peace in my life now. I never could have imagined the amount of work that goes into a website. I work more now than I ever have…over 40 hours most weeks. But I’ve never been happier in my job.
We’re growing slowly but steadily. Although we’ve done a few small ads on social media, we’ve mostly depended on organic growth up to this point. And that’s okay. Because we’re learning too. We don’t pretend to be know-it-all experts. We encourage our readers to tell us their experiences and share their tips and tricks. But we’re here to guide and encourage you along the way. And I keep reminding myself: Slow and steady wins the race.
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?
That would probably be my husband, Erich. He has supported me this entire time. That’s not to say that we don’t have our disagreements on a website feature or a recipe, but he’s always willing to work together. We’ve also started to realize the different strengths that we each have too…when I’m not crafting or baking, I do most of the behind-the-scenes work on the website, and he develops most of the recipes. Or when I mention that I need tree branches for a craft I want to create, we both put on our boots, grab a saw, and jump in the car to stomp around in the woods. Or I might be crocheting an amigurumi (a crocheted doll) and he’ll want to tell me something, and I’ll shout out “Counting!” He knows that means that I’m counting stitches and to give me a minute until I get to the end of the row. It really is a team effort.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started in this new direction?
While the readership to our website has been steadily increasing over time, one day we realized that we were getting a lot more traffic, and the same thing the next day, and the next day. What’s different? What happened? After doing a little digging, we discovered that one of our articles, “How to Cook an Egg and Why Are There 100 Folds in a Chef’s Hat?” had hit #1 in Google search results! That has probably been the most exciting day so far!
Did you ever struggle with believing in yourself? If so, how did you overcome that limiting belief about yourself? Can you share a story or example?
Absolutely! There are days when you think “How in the world can I compete with these hugely successful websites that have been around for years?!” But then you rank #1 in Google for one of your articles and you feel good again.
When I was in nursing school, because I was always crafting or cooking something new, one of my friends used to call me Martha Stewart. She’s kinda my idol. I have a huge respect for people like her, who’s become a household name by doing what she loves. While there are some days that it feels like that’s an unreachable dream, thankfully those days are becoming fewer and fewer. I’ve realized that it takes time and, as a blogger, you’ve got to be in this for the long haul. If you stick with it and keep learning and keep improving, you can get where you want to be.
In my own work I usually encourage my clients to ask for support before they embark on something new. How did you create your support system before you moved to your new chapter?
Aside from my husband, my parents, and my kids, I didn’t really have support. I told my family and friends what I was going to be doing and that was that. My family has been really supportive, and some friends have too, but there are others who think I’m crazy. They say, “You went to school for all those years to become a nurse and now you’re leaving it?!” And my response is “Yes, and I love what I’m doing now, it makes me happy.”
Starting a new chapter usually means getting out of your comfort zone, how did you do that? Can you share a story or example of that?
When the website first went live and I announced it on social media, it was scary. Would people hate it? Would they think it was stupid or looked awful? But I found it somewhere inside myself to just do it anyway. I’d joined some blogger groups on Facebook and kept seeing people say that if you’re waiting for it to be perfect, you’ll never do it…so just do it now! So that’s what I did and I’ve never looked back.
Fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my organization” and why? Please share a story or example for each.
1) Number one would definitely be “It takes a lot more work and a lot more hours than you think.” Most weeks I spend 40+ hours working on the website, whether that’s developing a recipe, creating a craft, writing an article, doing photography, working on the back-end of the website, or a million other things. Plus, Erich puts in a lot of hours too.
2) You’re going to have to wear a lot of hats. Creating a blog like ours isn’t just sitting down, writing an article, and taking a few pictures. There’s a lot more that goes into it that I think most people don’t realize. From learning how to understand HTML code (at least a little bit), to writing, learning photography, and being your own PR person and marketer. It’s a full-time job…and then some.
3) You have to be self-disciplined. When you’re your own boss, there’s no one to tell you that you have to get up in the morning and clock-in to work at a certain time. You have to be self-disciplined and make yourself do those things. But luckily that’s not so difficult when you love what you do.
4) Be prepared to step outside your comfort zone. You’re not going to feel comfortable with everything…it’s just not possible. You’re going to have to step outside your comfort zone for something…whether that’s becoming more comfortable in front of a camera for photos and YouTube videos, or pitching your company to other people and magazines and websites. It’s all part of the job.
5) Just do it. You only get one life. You should spend that time doing what you love.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
Be kind to one another and help those less fortunate than you.
Kindness goes a long way. Even if that’s just saying a kind word to someone. You don’t know what they’re going through, so try to make them feel better if you can. Try to remember that there are days that you’re in their situation and how a little kindness would help you.
Also, if you have a skill that can help others, then do so. Occasionally, I’ll find that I have a bunch of crocheted hats and scarves that I’ll never get to wear or that I made just, well just because. So I’ll donate them to a local shelter.
We are very blessed that some very prominent 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. 🙂
Martha Stewart. She’s living the dream! 🙂
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Our website is www.maplewoodroad.com. We look forward to seeing you there!
And here are links to everywhere else you can follow us online:
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!
Thank you so much!