Tea Silvestre – Founder of Prosperity’s Kitchen

[quote style=”boxed”]Keep learning. Stay curious. Professional development never ends. When you stop exploring new ideas, products and services (or how you deliver them), your business dies.[/quote]

Tea (pronounced Tay’ah) Silvestre started her marketing career more than twenty years ago as a graphic designer and copy editor and then worked her way up into C-level positions before going out on her own. She’s spent the last six years as an entrepreneur, consultant and small business coach, teaching startups how to market their unique offerings (a.k.a. their secret sauce) online.

Prior to founding her current company, The Word Chef, she created a boutique agency called Social Good Marketing (whose primary clients had social missions). Tea is also the founder and executive producer of the new web series, Prosperity’s Kitchen.

Prior to becoming an entrepreneur, Tea served as director of marketing for PRIDE Industries, a national nonprofit/social enterprise that creates jobs for people with disabilities. Before that, she headed up the Community Center Department for the City of Lodi, known as the Hutchins Street Square Performing Arts and Conference Center.

Tea recently published her first book, Attract and Feed a Hungry Crowd: How thinking like a Chef can help you build a solid business. In addition to writing, Tea loves to create visual art: paintings, drawings, multi-media, etc. You name it, and she’s tried it. She also really loves to cook–and eat–and has a weakness for old vine zin and dark chocolate.

What are you working on right now?

A ground-breaking new way to deliver online education. It’s called Prosperity’s Kitchen, and it’s a 12-week reality web series that brings together the best of TV (like Shark Tank or Hell’s Kitchen–but without the melodrama) and teaches its contestants and viewers how to market themselves effectively online. We premiere in January of 2013, and are currently taking applications for the 15 competitor slots. There will be a different “celebrity” guest mentor every week, and folks can also play along at home.

Where did the idea for Prosperity’s Kitchen come from?

I’d been searching for a new way to deliver my classes online–a platform that would create a high degree of accountability and commitment in the students, and still make it financially accessible to everyone. A few months ago, a friend of a friend offered me a free ticket to a local conference on new trends in search and social. Two of the presentations covered “gamification.” They talked about how businesses were incorporating some of these techniques into things like staff training and user experience. That’s when the light bulb went on.

What does your typical day look like?

Since I work from home, I’m usually up at 6:00 a.m. and to my desk by 6:30., with a coffee in my hand. I spend about an hour reading email and checking social media, and then the rest of the day is divvied up between having client meetings and other meetings, getting the work done, writing, etc. I don’t quit until Mr. Spouse comes home for dinner. Then we give our full attention to each other.

How do you bring ideas to life?

If it’s a big idea, I’ll usually grab a good friend or colleague first and bounce it off of them for feedback, work through some of the questions of implementation, and decide whether or not it really serves any of my current goals.

If it’s a little idea, I’ll just dive in and get started. For me, that usually means playing around with my graphics software to visualize it and make it more concrete. Then I do the necessary writing, emails and list-making–whatever needs to be done to make it happen.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

Gamification. For a long time now we’ve heard over and over that “content is king.” (I think I read recently that Bill Gates wrote the primal essay on this topic 10 years ago). We’ll probably never stop creating content, but in order for that content to be utilized and implemented, there’s got to something more engaging and experiential built in. There’s a glut of info products out there right now, and everyone’s offering a freebie bribe in exchange for an email. It’s created a worldwide problem of “infobesity”–one that I think can only be solved when we refocus on creating an experience for our customers.

What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?

A two-week stint at Taco Bell. I learned that while I love to eat tacos, I’m not cut out for the food service industry.

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

I would start a lot earlier. I think I spent way too long in the corporate and government sectors, trying to fit in and please people who couldn’t be pleased.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Keep learning. Stay curious. Professional development never ends. When you stop exploring new ideas, products and services (or how you deliver them), your business dies.

What is one problem you encountered as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

Oy. I’ve got a long list. Generically, I can say I’ve always been too trusting. I’ve been too much of an optimist where human nature is concerned. I’m not sure I actually overcame those problems; rather, they’ve taught me some valuable lessons, including: 1) stand up for yourself, 2) get a lawyer to look at it and 3) never assume anything.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

I’ve had this idea for an app or a plugin that I’ve tentatively named Map My Tribe. (And yes, I have the domain name, so let me know if you’re ready to run with the idea.) I see this app as a way for any business or organization to plug in a client list or merge with a Facebook profile/page/group to create a map with pins showing the faces and contact info of everyone in the group–a map that you could then embed on a website and/or share via social media. (If someone’s already made this, please let me know. The things I’ve found so far don’t quite meet my specifications.)

If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be and how would you go about it?

I’m on a mission right now to change the face of online education, especially as it relates to small business learning. There’s a lot of folks out there doing it poorly, promising pie-in-the-sky results and ripping off new entrepreneurs who don’t know any better. And there’s a lot of info products that also end up collecting digital dust on hard drives everywhere. I envision a world where every new biz owner can get the best help they need to learn how to be successful entrepreneurs–without losing body parts in the process.

Tell us a secret.

I once shared the screen with Kirk Douglas. I was an extra in the made-for-TV movie, Amos. In my one scene, it was just me and him. I was a hospital orderly mopping the floor, and he passed me on his way down the hall. He was a great guy in real life.

What are your three favorite online tools or resources and what do you love about them?

  1. WordPress helps me bring my ideas to the world.
  2. Google Apps. I use a lot of them to keep my business running.
  3. Facebook. It’s actually a love/hate relationship, but it does keep me connected to so many people and conversations.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard by Chip and Dan Heath. It’s a brilliant look at how our psychology impacts our daily habits and thought processes. My favorite quote from the book is, “Resistance (to change) is usually a clarity problem.”

Three people we should follow on Twitter and why?

  1. @sarahjbray (Sarah Bray), because she’s full of creativity and generosity.
  2. ‏@carollynnrivera (Carol Lynn Rivera), because she’s smart as a whip and always shares the best stuff.
  3. @theBloggess (Jenny Lawson), because she’s incredibly funny.

When was the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?

This morning. I was horsing around with Mr. Spouse before he left for work.

Who is your hero?

I have lots of them. But if I had to pick one, I’d call her “the solopreneur”—the indie biz owner who sets a big, hairy, audacious goal and then makes it happen. She’s the most interesting entrepreneur in the world! And she inspires me daily.

How can people participate in Prosperity’s Kitchen?

Potential contestants and sponsor information is available on the website. We’ve also got an option for people to sign-up for email updates; and as soon as the play-at-home option is ready, they’ll be the first to know.

What does the future hold for you?

A move. Our lease is up in just two months, and Mr. Spouse and I are considering relocating out of state. It’s a toss-up between Colorado and Oregon—both have great potential. (If any of you readers live in those two places and have recommendations, please get in touch!)


Tea Silvestre on Twitter: @teasilvestre
Prosperity’s Kitchen on Facebook: facebook.com/prosperityskitchen
The Word Chef on Facebook: facebook.com/mywordchef
Prosperity’s Kitchen’s website: ProsperitysKitchen.com
The Word Chef’s website: theWordChef.com