WHO SHE IS: Lauren Hirshfield Belden, Co-Founder and Chief Creative Cultivator of Belden Barns Wine; Freelance Brand Strategy and Innovation Guru
LOCATION: San Francisco & Sonoma
SUCCESS STORY: Building a family wine business from the ground up with my husband Nate, while continuing a freelance consultancy that feeds my passion for innovation and gives me exposure to exciting new products and ideas.
WORK SCHEDULE: It changes every week, month and season!
KIDS Olivia (2) & Milo (9 months)
SANITY VICE: Exercise — 20 minutes a day on an elliptical machine can clear my head and change my whole attitude about the world.
RECENT SMART READ: Small Giants: Companies That Choose To Be Great Instead of Big (by Bo Burlingham) — reading right now and underlining almost every page.
BEST TIME-MANAGEMENT TIP: Write a physical “to do” list on Monday with space to add items throughout the week, keep it with you at all times, and challenge yourself to check off as many boxes as you can every day.
GO-TO TECH: These days? Sprig! Nothing like having a healthy, ready-to-eat family dinner (complete with veggies and sides) delivered to your door in less than twenty minutes.
BETTER WAY TO SAY WORK-LIFE BALANCE? Workquilivebrium? pronunciation: Work-we-live-bree-um (In case it’s not obvious, I just made this one up.)
5 Questions for Lauren
1. You have two children under the age of THREE and just started a wine label with your husband. What?!! Tell us about your vineyard and your wines.
Having launched the wine label earlier this year, we often joke that we have three kids under three: Olivia Bird, Milo Field and Belden Barns.
Our vineyard is located on Sonoma Mountain Road, where we spend most Fridays through Sundays. It is a truly magical spot which has helped to inspire the “Wish Big” philosophy behind our brand. All of our wines are estate-grown, which means that every grape that goes into every bottle of wine we produce was grown on our property. Before starting the brand, we had been selling our grapes to many well-respected labels for a number of years, and one of the fun benefits of being a grower is that the people who buy your grapes almost always give you at least a few bottles of what they make. Everything we tasted was absolutely delicious, so we knew that our grapes made very good wine. Before Belden Barns, Nate has spent his career helping build different companies, while I had spent mine focused on creating brand strategies and innovations to set them apart from the competition. When the two of us met, we thought, if we can’t create our own success story with these grapes and our backgrounds, shame on us.
2. Seriously, how are you managing all of it?
The nice thing about starting your own business is that (most of the time) you can do it on your own terms. When it feels like the work-life balance (or “workquilivebrium”) is way out of whack, you have the luxury of being able to revise your hours, insert a random day (or week) off, or as a couple, switch roles and have one person take a break to spend more time with the kids. When things feel too wine-centric, I can always take on more freelance projects in other categories. I am blessed to have an incredibly supportive husband who carries more than his fair share of all of the things it takes to make both a business and household run smoothly. On top of it all, Nate and I both feel beyond lucky to have Shea Kelly, the best nanny on earth, four days a week. Without her constant flexibility and thoughtful “how-can-I-make-this-family’s-entire-life-better” attitude, we probably wouldn’t be able to pursue the Belden Barns dreams with such vigor while simultaneously raising such small children.
3. You’re a writer and a marketer by background. What’s the most surprising thing you’ve learned about yourself as an entrepreneur?
I used to despise sales or anything having to do with sales. It’s come as a real shock to learn just how enjoyable and even thrilling it can be to sell products that you’re truly invested in. Passion is contagious. When you believe in something you created as much as I believe in Belden Barns, you want everyone you come into contact with to experience the brand.
4. What are you doing to “work smarter” these days?
I constantly remind myself that the more productive I am while I’m working, the more free time I’ll have to spend with family and friends. Our house is currently under construction, so Starbucks has become my new office. I get there as early as I can, try to find a spot facing away from the crowds to minimize distractions, and don’t let myself leave the premises until I’ve checked at least a handful of boxes off my list. I also designate certain hours “no facebook or personal Internet browsing allowed.” Finally, I set up rewards to motivate myself. For example, completing 2 new product concepts can earn me a walk with a friend, or following up with 10 wine contacts might win me a trip to our local frozen yogurt shop with my daughter.
5. What is the media missing about working moms, in your opinion?
There is so much talk and advice about “work-life” balance: what it means, how to get it, who’s doing it well, and why we all need to be doing it better. What I think the media is missing is that no two women have the same exact situation or priorities. We all come at the equation with such different backgrounds, career paths, financial circumstances, number of children, needs and life goals that what might be the “perfect solution” for one working mama would be hell on earth for another. I think the media needs to remind working moms to be less judgmental of each other and more supportive. I think we all need to do a better job of trying to understand that at the end of the day, we all want to be the best moms (working or non-working) that we can.
5+. What advice do you live by as a working mom?
“No child ever died from eating too much mac & cheese or too many peanut butter & jelly sandwiches.” This advice has become somewhat of a mantra when things get particularly crazy at work. I think it’s impossible to have a successful career, quality family time, and still manage to pull of Martha Stewart feats around the house. Something’s got to give. I don’t beat myself up if I can’t put a balanced meal on the table every night or keep the house from looking like a hurricane- ravaged world of wine boxes, toys, and mismatched socks under my watch.
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