Finding Calm Amidst the Chaos – Tips for Healthy Brands and Healthy Living

July 28, 2014

Regular readers know that I am doing 50 healthy things this year in honor of my 50th birthday. Here’s number 20 – finding calm amidst the chaos.

As mentioned in previous posts, I recently returned from a two-week road trip. This post is the fifth in a series about lessons learned from the road.

The final stop on our journey was Atlanta for a weeklong baseball tournament with my son, Griffin’s team. (More on that later in an upcoming post.) But suffice it to say that playing 7 games in 6 days against the toughest 17U teams in the country was somewhat of a grind. Most of our energy was spent making sure the boys were fed, hydrated, rested, motivated and punctual.

However, in the midst of all the activity, my husband, Randy, and I managed to find a great getaway one afternoon. Prior to this trip, we had never spent time in Atlanta outside of the airport. Its lush and hilly terrain was a pleasant surprise. We were even more surprised to learn that the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area runs right through one of the city’s northern suburbs.Julie and Randy

It was a beautiful oasis offering hiking, fishing and rafting. I had kind of a surreal feeling because I felt as though I was hiking in one of the many remote National Parks we have visited. Yet, a quick turn onto a busy road when we were finished was a stark reminder that we were actually right in the heart of a bustling city.Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area

This impromptu break ended up being a highlight of our trip. It was a great reminder to stop and smell the proverbial roses even during intensely busy times. Just a quick couple of hours was enough to rejuvenate us for more baseball.

What do you do to reenergize yourself or your brand team during especially hectic times?

Expanding Your Fitness Horizons – Tips for Healthy Brands and Healthy Living

July 25, 2014

Regular readers know that I am doing 50 healthy things this year in honor of my 50th birthday. Here’s number 19 – Expand your fitness horizons.

As mentioned in previous posts, I recently returned from a two-week road trip. This post is the fourth in a series about lessons learned from the road.

One of my biggest concerns about being on the road for so long was that I would get out of my normal exercise routine. I did get out of my “normal” routine, but that turned out to be a good thing. While visiting our daughter in Greensboro, AL, I was searching for a gym. As it happened, I needed to look no further than the local city park.

Thanks to Rural Studio, an off-campus, design-build program of Auburn University, I was able to work out in the beauty of nature on equipment more typically found inside a gym. The Lions Park project offered an excellent mix of cardio, strength and flexibility training.

Julie workout

Rural Studio gives architecture students a hands-on educational experience while assisting an underserved population in west Alabama’s Black Belt region. The Rural Studio philosophy suggests that everyone, rich or poor, deserves the benefit of good design. To fulfill this mission, the Studio focuses on community-oriented projects. It also focuses on “what should be built, rather than what can be built.”

This project certainly provided me with a fun workout. However, the whole time, my mind was actually preoccupied with thoughts about how our clients and all brands can learn valuable lessons from Rural Studio. First, it took a tried and true product, gym equipment, and put it into a whole new distribution channel, broadening access and expanding the target audience. Second, it took a relevant audience need and built what the market truly needed, not just what the company wanted to build. I wish I could take my clients here for a strategic planning session. This project is one of the best examples of “out of the box” thinking I have ever seen.

Randy workout


Eat More Pie – Tips for Healthy Brands and Healthy Living

July 22, 2014

Regular readers know that I am doing 50 healthy things this year in honor of my 50th birthday. Here’s number 18 – Eat more pie.

As mentioned in previous posts, I recently returned from a two-week road trip. This post is the third in a series about lessons learned from the road.

With all of my recent rants about healthy eating, one might find it curious that I am recommending eating more pie as a health tip. I might be skeptical myself if I hadn’t experienced a magical place in Greensboro, AL, called the Pie Lab.

Pie Lab

Welcome to Pie Lab.

Pie Lab is much more than a typical restaurant. It’s a shop meant to build community. It’s founded on the idea that simple things, like delicious pie and good conversation, can bring people together and spread joy. Pie + Conversation = Ideas. Ideas + Design = Positive Change.

Pie Lab’s home, the small town of Greensboro in Hale County, AL, is a special community. A group of committed citizens, including Hale County native Chef Seaborn Whatley and his wife, Chef Kelley Whatley, owners of Pie Lab, are working tirelessly as catalysts for community development. Greensboro is also home to HERO, a group that runs several businesses focused on job training, affordable housing and economic development in a quest to end poverty in the Alabama Black Belt.

Chefs Kelley and Seaborn Whatley, owners of the Pie Lab.

Our daughter, Lyndall, works at HERO Bike in Greensboro. A stop to visit her was one of the highlights of our road trip. Kelley and Seaborn have essentially adopted Lyndall as a part of their family – which includes five adorable children and a menagerie of pets. I think Lyndall eats the majority of her meals courtesy of the Pie Lab duo. Their home has also become her go-to spot for laundry and just hanging out. Randy and I are so appreciative of the love and kindness they have shown our girl, as she is so far away from home.

In addition to pie, Pie Lab serves breakfast and lunch Tuesday – Sunday. Each day, it has a hot lunch entrée. We were fortunate to experience incredible homemade meatloaf and Cajun tetrazzini. It also features an array of homemade soups, salads and sandwiches. In addition, Pie Lab caters special events and hosts a monthly dinner with a different international theme each time. Check out Pie Lab on Facebook if you want to drool over the daily specials.

Chef Kelley hard at work.

Chef Kelley hard at work.

Pie Lab’s food rivals that of any fine dining restaurant in the world. But its mission of building community through conversation puts it far ahead of any restaurant I’ve experienced. And in terms of health, that philosophy trumps any amount of sugar and calories in my book. Global brands would be well advised to study the Pie Lab model. Its brand essence is as well defined as any I’ve seen. Pie Lab also has an exciting new line extension opening soon – the Pie Lab Creamery, which will feature Chef Kelley’s homemade ice cream. I may have to make a special trip back for that.

Coconut Cream

Coconut Cream


Getting Back to Your roots – Tips for Healthy Brands and Healthy Living.

July 18, 2014

Regular readers know that I am doing 50 healthy things this year in anticipation of my 50th birthday. Here’s number 17- getting back to your roots.

As mentioned in my last post, I recently returned from a two-week road trip. This post is the second in a series about lessons learned from the road.

The first stop on our journey was Oklahoma City for my cousin Troy’s wedding to his beautiful bride, Brianna. I have been very fortunate to have close relationships with my cousins throughout my life. I always joke that Troy was my birthday present the year I turned six. I wanted him to be born on my birthday so badly, but alas, he was a few days late. At any rate, Troy and his brother, Aaron, have always been like little brothers to me.

My cousin Aaron’s son, Dax, my cousin Aaron, my brother-in-law, Steve;  my cousin Troy, my son Griffin, my husband Randy

My cousin Aaron’s son, Dax, my cousin Aaron, my brother-in-law, Steve; my cousin Troy, my son Griffin, my husband Randy

Griffin, me and Randy

Griffin, me and Randy

Troy’s mother, my Aunt Kathy, is my father’s only sister. She and I have always been close, and now that my dad is deceased, she is my strongest connection to the history of that side of my family. We always have a lot of fun when we get together, and this event was no exception. We laughed and reminisced about so many shared experiences over the years. It struck me that there is nothing like spending time with extended family to really make you appreciate your heritage.

My Uncle Don and Aunt Kathy

My Uncle Don and Aunt Kathy

Sharing stories and memories highlighted the core values of our family over the years – hard work mixed with a lot of fun and the importance of community, faith and fellowship. After the evening was over, I reflected on the many ways this group has contributed to the person I am today. Holiday traditions and summer memories forged together at my grandparents’ house are among my favorite life experiences. In addition to Troy and Aaron, I am fortunate to have two more cousins, David and Shawn, with whom I have similar relationships.

This group has known me my whole life, and they love me anyway. They have encouraged me in pursuing my goals and indulged my crazy ways. Spending time with them always helps me to pause in the midst of my over-scheduled life to remember the things that are most important.

Troy and Brianna cutting cake

Troy and Brianna cutting cake

The happy couple, Brianna and Troy

The happy couple, Brianna and Troy

Just as getting back to basics is a rejuvenating life strategy, I think it’s also a smart brand strategy. As people and marketers, we are constantly being pushed to change and adapt to new technology and new ways of thinking. On one hand, that progress is invigorating. However, the challenge is not to adapt so much that we lose the core strengths of our brands or ourselves. Strong people and strong brands will weather the storm over time by staying true to their roots.

Life on the Open Road – Tips for Healthy Brands and Healthy Living

July 16, 2014

Regular readers know that I am doing 50 healthy things in anticipation of my upcoming 50th birthday.  Here’s number 16: road trip.

I just returned from a two-week road trip.  My family and I are affectionately calling it our “Summer Southern Odyssey.”  Our travels took us from Kansas City to Oklahoma to Atlanta and several points in between.  Activities included a family wedding, visiting more family and a weeklong high school showcase baseball tournament.  I managed to get in a fair amount of work too – thanks to the joys (?) of technology.

I have only been out of the office for a full two weeks once before in the past 25 years.  Needless to say, preparing to leave was slightly intimidating.  I have the utmost confidence in our team at Kuhn & Wittenborn, so I knew they would proceed without missing a beat. Maybe I was even a little worried they wouldn’t miss me at all.  More than anything, though, I wanted to find the right balance of staying in the loop and staying out of the way.


Email certainly kept me in the loop.  I also participated in several phone meetings – including a client conference call while simultaneously watching a baseball game. My multi-tasking skills were put to the ultimate challenge when the coach put my son in as the closing pitcher at the top of the seventh inning.  We won the game, so all was well.

I learned a lot of great lessons during this trip that apply to both healthy living and healthy brands.  My key takeaway is that we can all benefit from a change in scenery.  New locations yield new perspectives and new ways to solve problems.

Please stay tuned for a series of posts that will outline more specifics.

PiYo For Strength, Balance and Flexibility – Tips for Healthy Brands and Healthy Living

June 24, 2014

Regular readers know I am doing 50 healthy things in anticipation of my upcoming 50th birthday.  Here’s number 15: PiYo.

PiYo is a hybrid workout, which combines the mind/body practices of Yoga and Pilates, along with stretching, strength training, conditioning and dynamic movement. During a PiYo class, participants find themselves standing in a yoga pose one minute and down on their mat in a Pilates pose the next.

photo 3

I actually started doing PiYo a couple of years ago when my gym added it as a Saturday morning class.  At first, I was skeptical.  I didn’t think it would be a “tough enough” workout.  I was wrong.  It has been an incredible journey in strength, balance and flexibility – key concepts for both healthy brands and healthy living.

I find that during PiYo, I have to completely focus in order to maintain my balance.  The moves were awkward at first, but my strength and flexibility have both improved tremendously with practice.

photo 1-1

This morning, I had the pleasure of introducing PiYo to some of my teammates at Kuhn & Wittenborn.  My Saturday morning teacher, Becky Feller, was gracious enough to lead us in a class outside of our office building on Crown Center Square.  It was a gorgeous morning, and I think people enjoyed it – even the newbies. It was a great way to get a healthy start before tackling a day of challenges for the healthy brands we represent.

The KuhnWitts post PiYo

photo 2-1


Supercharging with Powerhouse Greens – Tips for Healthy Brands and Healthy Living

June 11, 2014

Regular readers know I’m doing 50 healthy things in anticipation of my 50th birthday.  Here’s number 14: “powerhouse” greens.

We’ve already established the importance of eating at least seven fruits and veggies each day in a previous post.  But let’s dig a little deeper.  Not all produce is created equal.

According to a study published in a Centers for Disease Control and Protection journal, some fruits and veggies are  are powerhouse foods because they are “most strongly associated with reduced chronic disease risk.”

Here are the top five, based on the authors’ “nutrient density scale:

  1. Watercress
  2. Chinese Cabbage
  3. Chard
  4. Beet Greens
  5. Spinach

Fortunately, I actually like all five of these greens, and I eat them on a regular basis.  But I know that for some people, including a few of my family and friends, eating greens is a real challenge.

Here’s a quick and easy recipe that will fool you into eating greens without even noticing:

Green Choco Shake

4 T unsweetened cacao (or cocoa) powder

1 banana (frozen if possible)

2 T natural almond butter or peanut butter

2 cups chopped greens of your choice (I think any of the five powerhouse greens would work with the possible exception of Chinese cabbage.  I’d suggest starting with spinach or beet greens.)

2 t local honey or pure maple syrup

6-8 ice cubes

2 cups unsweetened almond milk

I promise you this treat tastes more like a dessert than a vegetable.  In addition to the greens’ nutritional punch, the cacao adds powerful antioxidants.  The shake is also loaded with protein and many other nutrients.

I love this unconventional strategy for packing powerhouse greens into your diet.  Using new or unusual combinations of various elements can be great strategies for healthy brands too. I welcome your ideas.



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