No, I haven't been absent from blog writing after retracting my statements about Haagen Dazs because of embarrassment. On the contrary, I have invited Haagen Dazs to use me as their spokesperson. They haven't yet responded....
I've been absent because of the extraordinary opportunity to participate in the first ever twelve day residency program at Santa Clara University, Women Leaders For The World (WLW). Women from diverse places have come to participate -- Uganda, Uzbekistan, Mexico, Indonesia, South Africa, and the United States. Each participant came with a vision or to create a vision in a supportive environment, with the goal of making the world a better place. While many of the visions are focused on women or women and children, ultimately, each involves everyone, and empowers all to have a better life. Challenges women in developing countries face, and specifically Uzbekistan, are nearly unimaginable to those of us who live in more democratic environments. Their courage and determination is moving.
Initially my intention was to work on the International Tropical Farmers Network, still in its nascent state, but garnering a lot of enthusiasm with our core group. However, I realized that in order to focus time on the network it was first necessary for me to focus on growing our core business. By creating a very profitable business we can implement more of the projects that we hold dear and important to us.
I have set a goal to have our vanilla sugar into Starbucks by October. Rather than feeling daunted, I feel determined. While I certainly see this as doable, if for any reason Starbucks decides it isn't the right product for them (though I can't imagine why they wouldn't want it!), there are many other avenues we can explore.
We are also interested to get our products into more specialty food and natural food stores such as Whole Foods, as well as to provide our premium extracts and beans to more restaurants, ice cream stores and bakeries. If you who read my blog will point us in the direction of your favorite places to eat, small-to-mid-size ice cream producers, or bakeries, we'll be sure to follow your suggestions.
On Friday we visited Google in Mountain View. What an amazing place!! We were all impressed with their vision, their goals, their eco-friendly environment and beautiful facility. It was a community in the truest sense of the world. They even provide their employees with their meals for free! Well, yes, I do that too, but only for four, not for thousands. They have great desserts -- maybe they'll be our next big account.
The women and men who are facilitating the WLW cohort have impressive credentials and a strong presence in the business and academic communities. Our classes are varied, with some segments focused on leadership and vision, and others on ethics, cultural diversity, etc. For instance, Saturday was devoted to understanding cultural differences as a way to better interact within our global community.
Perhaps one of the most powerful tools has been to understand how the lenses through which we view our lives impact ourselves as well as our way of doing business or running organizations, or even relating to our friends and family. I went to the conference knowing that I would learn a lot but I had not known that the experience would be transformational. I look forward putting into motion what I have learned. Watch out world, I have big plans! I will write more about the WLW after we have completed the cohort.
On a sadder note, on July 20th my oncologist, Richard Shapiro, died quite suddenly of a heart attack. He was only 41 years old and had no history of heart disease. It has been a huge shock for his family, friends, patients, and for the community at large. He was funny, irreverent, compassionate and gave us a sense of hope. We all were his favorite patient. I feel blessed to have had him in my life and sad to let go of an extraordinary human being.