PHOTOS BY NATALIE SINISGALLI
The most life changing choice I have ever made is to believe that I am enough. Throughout my life, I’ve gravitated toward people who evoke a strong sense of confidence; people who pushed boundaries and stood out from a crowd, had an identifying trait, or won superlatives in high school because they were the best at who they were.
Those people intrigued me. I could effortlessly identify them. The appearance of mental grit, passion, tenacity and strong character traits attracted me – friends, boyfriends, colleagues, teammates. I always felt that if I surrounded myself with these people, I would thrive. They were the coolest, the prettiest, the smartest, the most athletic, the wittiest… if I was with them, I’d too, be the most [fill in the blank] .
I lived in Tokyo, Japan through some impressionable middle school years. (Side Note: This is where my fascination with food truly blossomed and is a foundational building block of my family’s company, Simply Crepes). My father’s corporate career had temporarily relocated our family. I recall late nights spent after school at the age of 12, working diligently on algebraic math problems to try to keep up with a couple of the girls in the advanced math class (this was cool). I never felt smart, but I could hang with the cool girls. There are countless memories like this in my life. Countless. I promise they do not all look so cute.
In acting in this manner, I may have managed to appear a certain way to others. Sometimes smart, sometimes athletic, sometimes popular. However, my own mental state never matched up. All I believed was that I was never good enough. I could just fake it well enough to play nice with the best. I had an affinity to be perfect at something, but I could never achieve the goal. My flaws were glaringly obvious to my own self and negative thoughts festered inside, doing exactly the opposite of my original intent. I believed I could align myself with the best to become the best, but instead, I would consistently fall short and felt subpar by comparison. I’ve since come to understand this negative self-perspective as emotional immaturity.
A Shift in Outlook
I don’t for a second, believe I’m alone in this struggle. “7 out of 10 girls believe they are not good enough or do not measure up in some sort of way…” (Dove Self-Esteem Fund, 2008).
Many of these girls grow to be women struggling with this same sense of insecurity, scrutinizing and comparing ourselves to other women, moms, boss women, friends, super models, athletes. Social media makes it even easier for us to go down a rabbit hole of viewing other people’s lives as perfectly showcased on Instagram or Facebook. “#Goals” we like to call them. Am I right?
I’ve come to learn that this behavior is self-deprecating (shocking… right?). Throughout the last ten years of my life, I have made a conscious effort to STOP such negative thinking toward myself. Gosh, so many good things come from hard break ups! I quite literally woke up one morning with an epiphany that I would no longer accept the negative self-talk. I had spent the last 25 years of my life learning and collecting character traits from some of he most successful people in my world. It was time to appreciate and showcase my own identity and start to believe in my own self. She just seemed a bit buried. It was time to dig her out. So, I did just that. Here’s how:
Create a Book of Awesome.
I wrote down my proudest moments. I started with the earliest years and worked my way to today.
We’re going way back to my earliest memory of the coolest thing I ever did. In 4th grade, I initiated the foundation of a peer mentor group at my elementary school, the first anti-bullying group of the school’s history. Do something impactful. Check.
I attended a few colleges. My husband thinks this is amusing. No, I did not get kicked out of school. I just had a change of heart a couple times. My parents founded our family business in 2003 and I wanted to be a part of it – cue Simply Crepes. Despite attending three schools and switching majors three times, I graduated within 4 years from St. John Fisher College with a B.S. in Business Administration while serving tables at Simply Crepes. Graduate on time, with a 4-year degree and some money. Check.
After graduating from Fisher, I decided to branch out and build something of my own. In 2006, I moved myself to NYC on a whim without a job and accepted a position in fixed income trading at Bear Stearns Investment Bank within a week. Through the financial crisis buyout, I was absorbed into and shortly thereafter promoted at JP Morgan Chase in cash management sales for multinational large corporates. Land a badass sales job. Check.
Life happens. We make choices based on our heart many a time… that’s what happened here. So, I moved home and integrated myself back into my family’s growing business with the knowledge learned from my time in New York. Going back to Simply Crepes came with a lot of mixed emotions. I wanted to ensure my position would be working WITH my parents, not FOR them. Make life altering choice and dive in. Check.
I dove into the elements I felt most comfortable with. Sales and culinary development. While these two things are drastically different, they were two areas I felt I could add value. We had three restaurants at the time: Simply Crepes Pittsford, NY, Canandaigua, NY & Raleigh, NC. I managed the day-to-day operations in Canandaigua while building a successful sales program for the front of house teams on a corporate level, that could be managed and measured. I reworked and consolidated the menu so all recipes could be made from scratch and replicated in each house. Contribute foundationally impactful upgrades to the family business. Check.
I reflected on each year of my life, jotting down my proudest moments. This became my own personal Book of Awesome. I continue writing in this journal. It’s a living document. Sometimes I add merely one small act of kindness or something I’ve learned, like how to change an electrical outlet or how to paint a room. Sometimes it’s bigger than that, like conquering a fear or receiving an award. It helps to remind myself that I am enough.
Once I had a good start on my book of awesome, which focused on my PAST achievements, I had built enough confidence in myself to tackle some healthy choices for my FUTURE. Forget creating goals for the moment… just start doing. Thank you, Nike, I’ve taken “Just Do It” to heart. I began to seek out =opportunities to build myself up from a personal and professional standpoint.
At this point, everyone who works at Simply Crepes understands we carry high quality, local-where-possible-everything, FLX wines and coffee since the inception of the business in 2003. We know that we sweeten our sauces and dressings with a touch of 100% pure maple syrup – not refined sugar. We know 80% of our menu is available gluten/dairy free, we offer a vegan crepe, we push the envelope on everything “crepe” like adding a ridiculously good burger topped with crepe-battered onion strings. We know our freshly homespun craft recipes and brunch cocktails are killer (full bar coming soon). We know the relaxed, yet country-chic vibe of the space is beyond welcoming. We know we are doing so much cool, so much “current”. The problem: No one else knows about this.
Now that I was fully integrated back into the family business, I began to seek opportunities to grow myself while showcasing The Simply Crepes Brand within the community. The strategy is akin to a HIIT workout: “short” bursts of energy utilizing multiple muscle groups to get the biggest bang for your buck.
– I completed a course through The Entrepreneur Network of Rochester to learn how to become a better business owner and how to network.
– I joined the American Diabetes Association (ADA) Tour de Cure initiative as an executive committee leader and corporate sponsor, tripling the number of $1,000+ fundraisers over the last several years. I was the 2019 Event Chair which raised over $1.3M for the cause, making us the #1 Tour in the nation 3 years in a row, and currently sit on the board.
– I joined the planning committee for the Golisano Children’s Hospital Gala as a member and corporate sponsor.
– I was featured in Sarah Knight’s blog Roc Girl Gang, for being a second-generation boss woman, refreshing my parents’ 15-year-old business (at the time) enough to maintain the integrity of the business while keeping current with the rapidly evolving food scene of the world today.
– I received a Young Athena Award nomination for efforts building leaders at Simply Crepes, advocacy for Rochester area restaurant support for FLX wineries and philanthropic efforts for the ADA.
Through every single effort / achievement above, I questioned my abilities and my worth. Countless times I’d catch myself wondering, “why me?” or “can I do this?”. Countless times I went through this self-talk battle, literally saying to myself over and over, “yes, you can” and “yes, you are enough”.
Strengthen the Mind & Body
I generally make sure to carve time out of my days to do something for just me. I started with simple things like getting my nails done and finishing a week of meal prep. I made new friends at the gym and implemented 5am work outs to start my days strong (we’re working on this always). I learned to run longer than 5 minutes at a time. I completed a Spartan Race and 7.5 more (another story). All in effort to train my mental grit and tenacity. Complete a Spartan Beast and you’ll be acutely aware of what I’m referring to here. In doing these healthy, mentally gritty things, I met my husband. Cue my instinct of aligning myself with mentally gritty people. Joel is pretty gritty. There’s a lot of positive self-talk in our home: “Williams are winners.”
Set Goals. I know I said forget goals earlier, but that was just to get myself moving. Now that I was moving in the right direction, it was important to set goals to structure some routine for real productivity. Without goals, you begin to feel like the wheels are spinning but you’re going nowhere.
For me, big goals are daunting. I don’t focus on them. That’s just me. I identify the big goal in the broadest aspect and then I set a small goal to get me one single step toward achieving the big one. Just one. Achieve it. Take a moment to relish and reflect on it. Applaud yourself. Then make a new one and so on until you’ve reached your end game.
I work from home. It’s virtually impossible for me to be productive without a routine. After having a baby last year, it’s become even harder. I love my tiny human, but mom-life/work-at home-life without a routine is a fail… and sometimes is a fail regardless, but I’ve gotten comfortable with this concept (another topic). While stuck to a chair nursing, during my son’s first year of life, I read a book called Atomic Habits but James Clear. It breaks down exactly how to build good habits and break bad ones. I also use a goal planner & routine tracker app called Fabulous. It’s helped me set routine to my days. The first goal is to create a habit of drinking a glass of water in the morning. It is that simplified. There are a whole bunch of theories on how to do this, regularly. Learn this habit, then move on to the next. Master the methods and you can apply it to most things in life.
Get Up. Seize the day. Getting up early is hard for me. I have a 16-month old son, so sleeping past 7:30am is unheard of in this house and many days it’s Jayden/Mommy time until naptime. If I don’t get up before him, I struggle to find semblance of the day – I can, but it’s much harder. So, what does a night owl do in this dilemma? Go the F*** to Sleep. It’s a book by Adam Mansbach. Read it to yourself. If this is something you struggle with, here’s your Pro Tip: Go to bed. When you lay down, consciously decide that however many hours you’re going to sleep is enough to function properly. I literally talk to myself before I go to bed. I’ve done this for the last 12 or so months since having a child. “Nicole, you’re going to bed at 10pm. If you wake up at 5am, you’ll have had 7 hours of sleep. That is enough sleep for an adult human. You should have no problem waking up at 5am.” When your alarm goes off, get up. You don’t have to go on a 5-mile run, you can merely grab a cup of coffee and sit on your couch with a candle lit and have some moments of peace to yourself. Journal, plan meals for the week, write your things to-do list or a fun plan for the day for you and your family, sift through emails, organize your desktop, set yourself up for success, etc. It’s empowering.
Be fearless. Identify something you are fearful of, then conquer the fear. For years of my life, I ran from fear. In 11th grade, I skipped an entire week of advanced English, so I didn’t have to give a speech. This resulted in a week of detention and a Fail for the end of year project. My pretty A turned immediately to a D, which at the time, I happily accepted in place of standing alone, speaking for 25 minutes in front of my classmates. There is this very common saying, I’m sure you’ve heard: “life begins at the edge of your comfort zone.” This, I have learned to take to heart. It drives me. Whenever I get a knee-jerk instinct that feels something like “Nope. Not for me.” I take a minute to ask myself why. Is this response out of fear? If so, you bet I’m going to just say “yes”, then face the internal struggle to build enough strength to conquer the fear as I go. In 2018, I spoke to a room of over 600 corporate sponsors and participants at the ADA’s Tour de Cure kick off. Take that, 11th grade self! I find the more fears I conquer, the more confident I become and the easier it is to stand up to new challenges. I feel stronger, I feel taller. I feel that I’m enough.
Most recently, Simply Crepes LLC signed with a renowned hospitality group to embark on our long-anticipated growth initiative. We will pilot the concept in Webster, NY late 2020. In doing so, our Simply Crepes executive team chose to reconfigure my title to Director of Marketing, as we recognized a dire need to refresh the 17-year-old Simply Crepes brand. From an all-around marketing perspective, the foundational core “sizzle factors”, I like to call them, were just not being communicated properly to the public.
The idea of shifting to a more creative, marketing-driven role frightened me. I immediately panicked. I am not creative (cue Natalie Sinisgalli’s article from RWO June 2020). I cannot do this. I am not formally trained on anything marketing related. However, everyone else was convinced I was the woman for the job. I have held a strong grip on our brand through the years, with many elements of the company filtering through my lens to ensure all facets of the business reflected our mission and held brand integrity.
In trusting my team and recognizing that fear was the only thing holding me back, I started on a creative journey. I identified and aligned myself with smart, creative people. Here, the goal was to broaden my professional creative skillset and build a network of talented industry leaders to learn from. This concept is no different than choices I made early in life. The difference is the emotional maturity and sense of self-worth that I have developed over the last several years. I can sit in a room of leaders and not feel small but feel like a leader amongst my peers.
Over the last several months, I’ve managed to create & execute a new branding campaign with the assistance of some extraordinary professionals. I have built a framework for the new Simply Crepes “voice”, crushed the game in reconfiguring our social media accounts and just recently launched a new website that screams “current”. I love it. Check it out. I hope you love it too!
If you have ever felt that you are not enough, at least know you are not alone. My hope in candidly sharing my struggle and success with this destructive mindset is that it inspires more women to share openly and to give and receive help from each other. Women are extraordinarily powerful creatures. You can become your own badass boss. Have grace with yourself. You are beautiful. You are enough.
Nicole Heroux Williams, Co-Owner and Director of Marketing Simply Crepes Restaurants
Simply Crepes Website: simplycrepes.com
Instagram: @simplycrepes, @simplycrepes.pittsford, @simplycrepes.canandaigua
Simply Crepes Webster: Coming Soon, late 2020
Tips to abolish nerves and turn that negative energy into a strong mental game, stat!
Hello, girlfriend! About to speak in front of a crowd or walk into an interview for your dream job? Is the familiar feeling of anxiety fluttering in your stomach and every ounce of your being screaming “run”? This feeling of fear and self-doubt is pretty normal, so while I’ve gotten quite good at suppressing these feelings, they still appear often in the form of a deep twinge in my stomach right before an important moment.
Here’s a quick list of things you can do to help regain that inner lioness in a pinch:
– Exercise in the AM of your event. I learned this from my husband. It’s the ultimate trick. Try some intense cardio. Have 20 minutes for the bike? Great. The idea is to get all of that lingering negative energy out.
– Dress in something you feel confident in, appropriate for your event. My friend, Alex Toussaint at Peloton says “Feel good. Look Good. Do Better.” Truth.
-Smile at yourself in the mirror. Someone told me this at one point. I’ve used it ever since. Even if you are bawling your eyes out, just DO IT. Instant mood booster.
– Breathe deeply. Let it in, let it out. My dad says, “Breathe through your toes”. Take all that anxious energy or self-doubt and shoot it out your toes with a huge exhale. No one is looking at the nervous energy at your feet, they’re looking at your confident smile.
– Stand tall.
– Look yourself in the mirror one more time, give a radiant smile and say some positive statements out loud to yourself. “I am interesting.” “People DO want to hear what I have to say.” “I run a successful multiunit business.” “I am creative and have great ideas.” “I can do this.” “I am enough.”
Go. You got this, girl! You are enough!