This month, we are so excited to interview Paloma Media, owner of 11:11 supply, a Portland boutique that specializes in beautiful organizational work tools to aid productivity and create balance. Paloma is also a coach and trainer, and she speaks on topics ranging from equity and inclusion to the science of managing goals and stress. If you are in Portland, we highly recommend the 11:11 workshops which cover organization, productivity and general life betterment.
As you know, we are giant nerds when it comes to anything related to organization and productivity. Chatting with Paloma was so inspiring, and we hope she inspires you too!
What motivated you to start 11:11?
I used to have a very different life. I was clinically depressed, broke, lonely, and I didn’t have a clear path out. That began to change when I started learning about how the brain works and the science of self-improvement. Those organizational tools and techniques really worked for me. Then, after many years of reaching my goals and a successful career as a speaker and coach in the tech industry, I realized I was ready to bring those tools to a wider and much more inclusive audience. A retail company was oddly the vehicle for me to do that.
What did your life look like before opening the store? How did you know you were ready to take that step?
Right before I opened the store, I had just moved back to Portland with my husband, and I was doing coaching and training for tech teams and startup leaders but mostly remotely – my clients were in New York, San Francisco, LA – and I reeeeally missed real-life, in-person work. I learned that too much laptop work makes me wither away; I lose my energy and motivation. So I knew that in my pursuit of somehow bringing the science and tools to a wider audience, it had to be via in-person work (hence why I didn’t start by launching an online store).
As you work with customers, vendors and fellow business owners, how do you stay productive as you build on those relationships and connections without getting burned out?
This one is a big one for me right now. When I first started out in my training and coaching career, I showed up to coffee or networking dates in a certain way. Then I would follow up with people to leverage those connections into fruitful future career relationships. But 11:11 has turned this upside down for me — this is the first time when the number of people I meet far exceeds what my brain and previous relationship management tools can keep up with.
My goal is not “how to leverage and build on connections,” the new goal is “how to prioritize and manage so many connections”. It’s a happy problem, but a problem nonetheless.
What productivity / organization tools are you using to support your brain?
I’m currently experimenting with typing notes from meetings and calls into my Google calendar alongside an event or appointment, so that they’re easy to search for later. I also have “quotas” for the maximum number of coffee dates, informational interviews, and networking events that can be added to my calendar each month, helping me manage the inbound requests for connections. I also have pre-defined criteria for which connections I focus on, and which I respectfully decline further connection with (this is hard, because I want to say yes to everyone!).
What was most challenging or scary about starting 11:11? What did you have the most fun with?
Scary: How much more money it took to launch than I ever imagined. I’ve started small companies before, where the startup costs were maybe $7,000 max. 11:11 was $200,000 just to get to Month 6, all of it funded by family and friends, loans, and my life savings. So that size of financial risk. It’s new, scary, but also the best MBA program I could have asked for.
The most fun: My staff and our customers. I am incredibly lucky. From day 1, the people I hired and the friends who have helped me build this thing were unicorns. They’re superbly smart, funny, and love 11:11 as much as I do. So working with them is my dream come true. And our customers! We have such brilliant, kind customers! No other company gets to serve such fascinating and thoughtful humans, I’m sure of it.
How do you achieve life balance as a female entrepreneur? How do you stay grounded?
I made a decision a few years back to not have children, because I realized my true passion was building big things for other humans, and I knew that I didn’t want entrepreneurship to compete with anything else in my life (other than my personal time and my time with my partner). So because of that, I sometimes wonder if it’s easier for me to achieve balance as a female entrepreneur than if I was raised male. In our society, many of the skills that are acculturated into women are incredibly helpful for balancing your mental/physical health with your work. Skills such as social bonding, affect labeling, and emotional regulation for example. I had plenty of practice with these before 11:11, so I see how much easier these tools are for me to leverage vs how my male colleagues are doing.
That said, the one skill that is not acculturated into us as women is negotiation and self-advocacy, so my one tip for all women in this society is take classes on those, read books about them, and hang out with women who you admire and observe how they self-advocate and negotiate for their needs. Balance cannot be achieved without these skills, because so much of what throws us off is what we think others are asking of us (and whether or not we can provide it and still take care of ourselves).
What do you wish people would ask you about more often?
To see my notebook! I have one notebook, it’s my everything, it keeps me sane and happy and grounded, and I don’t think people realize how open I am to sharing it and showing others how it’s organized, or what I’ve changed recently about it to have it keep up with changes in my life. It’s fun and I like trading tips with others about how paper helps the brain stay organized.
What is your favorite organizing product in the store?
My favorite organizing product in the store is definitely our transparent stickies – we have a ton of different ones from different brands, but they are all magic because I can use them in so many different ways. I use them in two main ways. First, as index tabs in my notebook. I color code sections so it’s easy to write new notes and ideas in the right section, which then makes finding those notes later superbly fast and easy. They are reusable, so I can move them around without tearing up the pages in my notebook, and they’re way more sturdy than regular paper stickies too.
The second way I use these is when I’m creating a new long article or workshop: I write one idea or fact per sticky. Because they are moveable, I can arrange them and re-arrange them on my desk or on a wall based on how I am thinking of organizing my article or my workshop, and I can color code too: red for facts, green for examples or anecdotes, and blue for major ideas. This way, it’s super easy to tell if I’ve got too much of one thing or another.
Do you have any advice for fellow women who are thinking of launching a business of their own?
Talk positively about money, ask curiously about money, and surround yourself with people who talk positively about money too. This sounds conceptual but it’s really critical, because launching a business is not about your passion – that’s just the icing on the cake. Launching and running an amazing business is about the constant flow of money. So design a world for yourself where the flow of money is normal, interesting and positive – there’s nothing to feel shame or shyness about. If you’re not sure how to kick-start this, I recommend podcasts like Your First Million, books like You’re a Badass at Making Money, and going to meetups with entrepreneurs from across the gender, racial and global spectrum.
What do you like to do in your free time?
I’m an avid but laissez faire gardener in nice weather, and in crappy weather I like weekly happy hours with friends (I go to bed at 9pm, so happy hour is the best invention ever), reading the New Yorker in front of the fire, and cleaning. I know that sounds boring, but it’s my version of going to the gym. It’s all about creativity!
Thank you Paloma for taking the time to speak with us!