SheBoss, brought to you by Flourish, chats with Ana Lewis, one of Huntsville’s biggest cheerleaders of small businesses and owner of Native or Not. This chat centers around her journey in business, life as a Mom and small business owner and so much more.
She Boss with Ana Lewis
Megan: Hey guys, this is Megan. Welcome to another episode of She Boss, just to give you a quick overview on. She boss, this is a video series that we do that highlights local and actually, I’m going to start back in a minute. Stop that we are going to start that over.
Ana: I’m going to say hi because I’m like
Megan: Like hey, just hang out there for a second.
Ana: Just don’t pick your nose for like 2 minutes.
Megan: Just don’t do that, okay, we’ll start this over. Hey guys, this is another episode of She Boss and I am Megan with Flourish. We are very excited to bring our guests to you today. And before we get started, She Boss is a video series where we highlight women entrepreneurs and talk about their Journey, their struggles, how they keep it real, how they maintain their sanity and all that comes in between. So I am so excited to introduce my guest, Ana Lewis. She is with Native or Not in addition to being a badass female entrepreneur. She’s also a dear friend of mine. And of course, like Flourish style. We’re going to do this interview over a cocktail. So I believe she’s got hers hiding in that mug there as well. So please grab yourself a cocktail and join us. Ana, thank you so much for being here today. I just adore you in so many ways. So I’m just going to turn it over to you and you kind of chat a little bit about your background, your journey. How you got here all that good stuff.
Ana: Fabulous. Thank you. Thank you. First of all, this is an absolute honor. Being a Huntsville native and moving back to town and seeing people like you who are just taking this city to the next level, it’s just so inspiring. And I’m very honored to be here. So, I’m Ana Lewis and I’m the founder of Native or Not. We are a digital platform right now, we have a website we’ll be working on an app we are heavy on social media. And we’re all about connecting people with the great local businesses in the community that I’ve been a military spouse for ten years now and we’ve moved six times. So with every move there, it is really is an adventure. It’s exciting. I like to see the different places explore. There are definitely some challenges though. One of those challenges is really feeling at home. I’ve got two little girls now who every time we move they’re watching me. They’re seeing how quickly this becomes our new normal. And a pattern I noticed over the last ten years, in those six moves is that when we move to a town and we automatically know the great local businesses to support. We feel more at home. We feel like we’re a local and again with my little ladies watching that’s really important that they’re seeing a step into this role. So, it’s been an incredible journey as an entrepreneur. I call it my Jesus Journey because my trade is dental hygiene. So this has been a huge Adventure. I’ll never forget getting our orders for Redstone Arsenal. We were stationed out in Monterrey for 18 months and we thought for sure we were coming to Huntsville next, but that got put on hold and we moved to Aberdeen Proving Grounds up in Maryland. And during that time Zach deployed and it was in those six months that I really had time to really process. Okay, I’ve had this idea on my heart and what if we got stationed at Redstone, what would that look like? And we got those orders and I said, “I’ve got to do this. I’m moving back to my hometown and I don’t know if I’m Native or Not. There’s been so much positive growth in this city that I think how many military families, anybody new to town that are moving to these areas that are going. I want to know about this town and I want to know one place low noise. So it’s really been a lot of fun connecting with just the really unique businesses in the area. And I know in the last two years we’ve been here. I mean this city, it looks totally different in just those two years. So I’m really proud to be from here and get to be back here. I2C over at UAH, anybody who has an idea, they have been incredible, connecting me with my first investor Sanjay Kumar. So that’s been an incredible experience. Getting to do pitch events- which is definitely a huge push out of my comfort zone but just really helping to collect those building blocks for opportunities. So if I want,
Megan: I want you to elaborate on that a little bit. So we are recording this in Huntsville, Alabama. And what Anna’s talking about is the University of Alabama in Huntsville, the local college here, it is an amazing school. And they have the Invention to Innovation Center, which is the I2C. I got that right- The Invention to Innovation.
Megan: I think it is a phenomenal facility that was primarily designed to help fuel startup businesses who want to come there, have space there, they have mentors, they have resources, they introduce you to a variety of different people. And so it’s a great hub, if you are a startup business to be able to connect with other resources that can help you along this way. And what Anna’s talking about with the pitch, there’s different pitch competitions that you can go in, where you can sort of give your elevator speech, if you will, to potential investors who will invest in your business and give you guidance and all of that. As a startup, that is probably one of the most terrifying things to go through because you’re literally putting yourself out there in all of its glory, and just hoping that things provide a positive return. So talk to us a little bit about that experience for you.
Ana: Yes, yes. So we’ve had a couple opportunities. Alabama Upstarts, which was filmed at I2C was one of the very first ones Street Shares Foundation last summer, I was part of that one over in Texas. And again, it’s a huge push out of your comfort zone to get up and to share. I2C helped me break down my slides. The Catalyst Center was one of the very first, Engaged in Entrepreneurship, that class really helped me break down my messaging. In the last six months, we’ve really taken a pivot. Because originally native or not, I wanted everybody to be my market.
Megan: Why not?
Ana: It’s my personality. I want to be friends with everybody. And I want to make this platform that serves everybody, and we will get there. However, our growth needs to start with, that are my superpower, I’m a military spouse, I feel the pain point. As a military spouse, with all the moving we do. So really breaking down to that market of okay, as we’re growing this, let’s focus on heavy military duty station areas, cities, then will continue to grow to the rest of the world. So yes, really breaking down your pitch that you share, and getting those mentors to look over that making sure it’s clean, making sure you’re verbalizing. It’s really, again, a push out of the comfort zone. But it’s what’s taken us to that next level.
Megan: Yeah. I think that’s a big challenge, too, for entrepreneurs as they get their business off the ground, because this is one of those things where you don’t know what you don’t know. And a resource such as the I2C, The Catalyst their Engaged Program is amazing. For anybody who’s local here in Huntsville. It’s a program that is free. It’s extremely low cost next to nothing to go through that program. But it really helps to sort of take you through a series of workshops to teach you how to develop a business plan, figure out your financials, figure out how it’s whether or not you need to be incorporated, or an LLC, or an S corp as far as taxes go. They help you with your messaging, who’s your audience defining all of these things? If you don’t if you don’t know those things up front, it makes things extremely challenging. And one thing I’ve seen a lot being in Huntsville, because there are so many innovative startups here. And there’s so much talent here. Huntsville, I believe the stat is still relevant where we have more PhDs per square capita than any other city in the United States, which is insane. But if you don’t know who you’re selling to, and if you don’t know what their pain points are, that makes things very challenging. So you can’t just develop something and then expect people to buy it, you really have to work from the audience back. And it’s perfect for you because you’ve been able to feel those pain points as a mother, as a wife, as someone being new to community, which is phenomenal, because you are your target audience in a way.
Ana: Exactly, well, and something that’s really unearthed organically in this process is the military spouse entrepreneur. Whether that’s a veteran spouse, which is a lot here in the Huntsville area, but just up the road at Fort Campbell, where I’ve started to do a little bit of market research, there are so many military bases are turning to entrepreneurship, and Native or Not is finding that niche to empower them that we do have some great- it’s the association of the military spouse entrepreneurs. It’s a great virtual group with some really great leaders, and they’re something that Native or Not has really developed is, I’ll give an example up in Maryland, a photographer, she found native or not on Instagram up there, and she said, “Hey, I just moved here. I’ve never heard of this, and I want to get plugged in”. And with her, we did a styled photo shoot. And then she got asked to make a proposal from one of the restaurants that we did the photo shoot in, so it’s finding that way for that military spouse entrepreneur, as he or she moves, when they move to their duty station, they can connect with Native or Not, and go, “Oh, okay, now I can find the Flourish Consulting in my area, I can find The Catalyst Center, Urban Engine. That military spouse who is transitioning not just her family, but also her business now has a contact who can lead him or her to all the great resources. So it’s really been neat. I know, in this challenging time, we’re in finding the pieces of my business that really need more attention. And then maybe pieces that I give a lot of attention that aren’t necessarily growing. It’s been a really interesting time as an entrepreneur interesting as an overwhelming and right twist of it.
Megan: There’s never a dull moment, right?
Ana: Exactly, exactly
Megan: So what is having two young kids, I mean, we talk about this a lot, but running a business, trying to be a mom, trying to be a wife, all of those things; it is not an easy thing to do. So tell us a little bit about what some of the challenges you have as far as the work life balance aspect of things, having two little girls that are like the cutest thing on the planet, but I mean, they’re just so cute. But yeah, tell us a little bit about that.
Ana: So, um, there are definitely some ‘uncute’ moments. And I would say, especially as a startup, because I think once Native or Not has its legs, and I’ve expanded and I’ve started to share some of that load. And we have revenue coming in, I think some of that burden will be lifted. I think at this point, I’ve really had to work hard on I’m going to mess up saying this word compartmentalizing.
Megan: Yeah, you got it.
Ana: Taking that, you know, sections of the day are totally dedicated to being a mom. This section of the day is totally dedicated to being a wife, which God bless my dear husband, who has been incredibly supportive watching his dental hygienist wife, start an app. So, really honoring, I would say that something else that has really surfaced in the last few weeks of this challenging time is really giving yourself grace and giving others even more grace, things that are surfacing that you need to take time and you need to look at. Okay, can I truly continue at this trajectory with the caliber of work? What needs to change so that I can be the mom I want to be, continue this momentum, and continue the growth? I’m a very person person. So when I’m in an Instagram message, my heart’s in it. You know what I mean? I’m not a copy and paste message kind of person when I’m responding. And so that takes a lot out of me mentally, emotionally. But if I’m doing that when it’s my- if I’m trying to make lunches, and so I’m really gotten firm. Like, okay, this is when I’m going to be a mom, right?
Megan: And making lunches, you’re making lunches.
Ana: Yeah, make the lunch. Make your lunch period. And I think as an entrepreneur, your business is like another baby that you nurture. You think about this baby nonstop. I mean, it’s a life that you want to watch grow. And I think at the heart of that, especially with you that heart of service. I see that in you that. You have this gift to offer, and to support and share. But I also, it’s like I said, especially in the last few weeks, I can share that gift better when I’m focused, and I am where I am.
Megan: So I love that so much, because I think that’s one of the things and so my husband is also Zack, and we both work for startup companies. And it is extremely difficult for us to put our phones down, because you feel like you’re either not delivering where the level that you need to, or that you’re letting people down or that you always have to be engaged. And you always have to be with your finger on the pulse, which to some extent that might be true. But to your point, if you are trying to spread yourself across all of these things with the hopes that you’re going to rock it and knock it out of the park with everything that you’re doing, the reality is that you won’t, and you’re going to end up stressing yourself out more so than you think.
Ana: And I think especially in this time, I mentioned it before, I’m so inspired by local business owners watching you take this time and pivot and go, “Okay, this stinks. This is not fun. This is overwhelming. However, this is how I’m going to deal with this”. Being a leader, showing that there’s going to be shifts in how we do things. And I think the hardest thing for me, especially because so the launch of Native or Not, is completely reliant on when Redstone Arsenal opens back up. You know, as a way, our launch doesn’t get lost in all of this, as people are trying to sort out what their next move is, but finding those ways that remaining relevant, remaining supportive to our local business owner community, but also honoring and respecting that they’re figuring out their next move, that there are so many of us who are taking it day by day. And I just need to find that person with the magic eight ball that will tell us when. I think I told somebody I was like, I didn’t realize what a control freak guy was that, like certain areas of my life. Like even with my own kids, my faith. I’m like, God’s got this. But it’s like my business baby. I’m like, “No, this was the day say that I was going to do the thing”.
Megan: Well, I think if anything, and you and I talked about this a little bit before we jumped on, but there are obviously and this goes without saying so because I don’t want this to come off as insensitive in any way. I mean, there has been absolute devastation in his head that has rocked this globe beyond belief. I mean, there’s just you can’t even put a value or anything on that. It’s just been so devastating. But I truly believe and I think you agree with me, we’re going to come out on the other side of this much more resilient, much stronger, have that ‘what if’ plan in place. And we were just talking as a small business owner; I was not prepared for this massive hit. And we talked about this as well, the first week after all this happened, it’s, oh, my gosh, how do you do, there’s so many unknowns and I think when that gets thrown on you, it’s just across the board, from business, to financial, to your kids’ school, to all these different things to the health of those around you that, maybe in that high risk, category, there’s so many things that are unknown. And I think a lot of things I think that we can benefit from given the situation is going to come out of reflection, right. And it’s going to come out of really taking the time to- Tiffany Jordan has mentioned this, I think it’s pause, breathe, go or something like that, where it’s like, you have to take the time to really reflect in those moments and understand what is important to you and keep things in perspective, because it’s very easy to get caught up in the day to day. And to your point earlier about when you’re making lunch, make lunch. Yeah, like when you’re sitting at the dinner table, sit at the dinner table and pay attention to your kids. And I hate to say it, but I’ve had our 15 year old daughters be like, “Hey, can you get off your phone? That way we can have a conversation” and I’m like, it breaks my heart because you don’t even realize it.
Ana: Oh, it is. Well and I think again, grace that giving ourselves a lot of grace right now. Next week, things could look totally different. And the next week, things could look totally different. And just, like you said, resilient, there’s actually as a military spouse, you can go through resiliency training. And I did that as a young military spouse. But it does, it teaches you that bounce that you’ve just got to be able to bounce that it’s not a ‘this is just how it is and this is how it’s going to be’. So I think we’ve really had the government change our plans before. And so we’re flexible about that, that that’s one of those things I’m like, okay, yes, it’s kind of normal.
Megan: Let’s talk about that a little bit more, because I know one of the things we wanted to kind of talk about was you being a military spouse, moving and part of the military family moving six times in ten years, that is crazy. I bet you can like pack your house up with your eyes closed.
Ana: Well, and I have to tell you, so my husband, I have to give him all the credit he is. So I’m the youngest of five. And I’m I grew up in the same house my parents still live in. In South Huntsville, it’s about 1200 square feet, all seven of us lived in there. It was just a beautiful. I had such a beautiful childhood. I’m not super organized, though. My husband on the other hand, only child, army background, he went to Virginia Military Institute, he’s so organized. And I’ll get there, I’ll get there. So when it comes time to move, we’ve been through almost every closet in this rental house. I mean, you just start to go through the things, you just get rid of the things. But also, we have movers that come and packers, and so you kind of keep your own little look of things of okay, don’t touch this, I’m going to move this myself. And then the Packers come. And it’s an adventure and honestly.
My girls, so Eleanor is seven and Lucy’s almost five and each time and again, it drives back to one of those really strong whys. Moving is one of the most stressful things a human being will do in their lives. There’s lots of research on that, as a military family, we’ve been very fortunate that every move Zach has been with us, but sometimes a spouse picks up and moves with just her kids and maintains this house over here while they’re moving to this one that I’ve had it very Cush, that every time it’s been a team effort, but you really focus on those positives, and then focus also, in those moments with my business that I get, I’m just frustrated, where’s this even going? What is what’s going on? I’m focusing on there’s there are thousands of people who are going to benefit from this resource that the bottom line is, it’s not about you, then it’s about the stress that’s going to be relieved for these military families that are moving constantly, but also, more than ever, these local business owners that there’s got to be a better way for people to directly an inclusive resource that people can go to and go, Okay, I know, when I spend my money, this is staying in this community. This is helping pay for those dance classes helping pay for those bills, really leaning on what is the why. Going back to that engage in entrepreneurship class that really digging down and focusing on that why and mine has those two parts that that military family who’s moving constantly but also these, again, more than ever these local business owners. So military life in conjunction with being an entrepreneur, I use a lot of the same tactics.
Megan: Yeah. I mean, in Huntsville being such a huge military town. I mean, it’s massive. And there are so many- I was fortunate enough to have a chance to work with the Army a couple years ago, and they are some of the most disciplined and organized and thorough individuals and I know that’s taught from day one. Those types of things are taught from day one. So it’s awesome to see how a lot of those traits can kind of carry over and benefit you in your day to day.
Ana: It does. It makes you flexible when you know, okay, I’ve got x y z lined up in these areas. I know something. Last week, I was just feeling super overwhelmed. Like it was one day, but you know, it comes and goes in waves. But I took and I just wrote down, okay, what are the things I can control right now? What are the things that I can prepare, even if it’s an email, I might not send for another month, or it’s a newsletter that won’t get sent out for eight weeks, I can go ahead and I can take this time right now and put all this energy and focus it right here in this moment that they’re there for all my fellow control freaks, there are things we can still control.
Megan: And maybe just by doing something as simple as writing it down, you know, visually being able to see, okay, this and even if it’s with a timetable where it like this doesn’t need attention until three more days. Yeah, something like that.
Ana: Take your little piece of brain that was thinking about that and come back to it. That with the kids in school- I know when I think of being in charge of preparing my preschooler for kindergarten, that’s really overwhelming to me. Like, that’s kind of a big deal. Like, we’re going to go from homeschooling to being in a five day kindergarten, but we’re going to do it and it’s going to be great. But breaking it down, Okay, we need to work on handwriting, and we need to work on sounding out some letters and pushing them together.
Megan: Piece of cake, right? Well, I think that is super relevant for starting a business. And we’ve talked about this before, where the thought of starting a business and getting it off the ground can be so overwhelming. And especially I think for women, our minds go to well, I’ve got to do this, and I got to do that I got to make sure I have this together. And this has got to be perfect and got to go ahead. You know, it’s just all these things, right? When the sheer thought of all of that, combined, of course, is going to be so overwhelming.
Megan: But if you just it’s like that old saying not to be cliché, but you don’t swallow the whale, you take one bite at a time. And the same thing goes to starting a business, right? If you kind of write down what your goals are, what your driving force is and just write down some of those initial things that need to happen that way, you can at least start to move down that that point. One thing and I want you to talk a little bit about, some of the driving forces for you, I know you had desires to start Native or Not, because you experienced those pain points. And you went through that yourself where it’s like, we want to instill this feeling of being comfortable and being confident in a new city. And so here’s a resource that can do that. But talk a little bit about some of the struggles and challenges you had, and maybe some of the doubts that you had as well about starting an actual business and maybe looking back what you would tell your former self then that, you know now that kind of helped get through some of that.
Ana: Yes, yes. So I would say struggle wise, which I’ve had, I would say the building blocks of starting a business. It’s been such a blessing to be in Huntsville, for so many reasons, personally and professionally. So those building blocks to build the framework of a business, they’re in Huntsville, a lot of them are free. I mean, what got me that I2C was the amazing Tony Everhart. I mean, we were doing a takeover. And all it took was, “hey, you should enter this contest”. And it just unfolds from there The Catalyst Center so that piece anybody who’s in the Huntsville area wanting to start a business check that block because your resources are here. I would say one of the biggest struggles is more personally, that fear of judgment where you’re thinking, what if what if it fails? What if all the ‘what ifs’ are terrible? What if in especially now, you know, now what about this? What if this happens? It’s work as an entrepreneur, because there’s always going to be a roadblock that appears whether it’s COVID or whether it’s competition, and it’s how we react to that. It’s how we go, “Okay, I know I’ve got my why. Um, it’s grit. It’s perseverance”, which I think are things I pull from my military spouse experience, a lot of times much easier said than done. But it is I mean, it’s daily work of talking yourself up, not so much talking yourself into things, but going, No, you set out to do this.
Megan: And reminding yourself.
Ana: Yeah, that’s it. And I think when we look for that, in other people and other places, I think it’s, I mean, I love Oh, my goodness, my female entrepreneur relationships are so important and special. I know hearing from my friend, April, Keating, the other day that you introduced me to, it was like, the most encouraging three or four lines that I saved, and I put it in my phone to read because being an entrepreneur is so heavy on your mind, because it’s your baby, it’s your idea. And a lot of times you see the vision before anybody else.
Megan: Well, we’ve talked about this before, too, it’s about you have to the feeling of being vulnerable, is something that can really cause a lot of anxiety. And because when you when you put yourself out there and you open yourself up to everybody, especially by sort of unveiling this new child with not having everything figured out, that’s a very vulnerable feeling. And so there is there’s a lot of sense of judgment and the ‘what ifs’ and what if I don’t do it right, and you almost have to just don’t care, you know, you can’t care about it.
Ana: Exactly, exactly. They can I would tell my younger self that, God didn’t put us on this planet, to have other people tell us how we’re supposed to be that our gifts are here, and they’re here to be shared. And to keep them all wrapped up. That’s just selfish.
Megan: Right, I love that. I love that though. So, let me ask you a question about that. That ability to feel that way and feel confident in yourself enough to get to that point where you can say that did not happen overnight.
Megan: So what was there any sort of defining moment that sort of brought you to that point where you just decided that you know what, I don’t care anymore? Did something like that happen? Or do you think that confidence was sort of built up over time, with you realizing that the world’s not going to fall, you know, if you stumble and trip a little bit?
Ana: Yes, I think it was after my second baby. And transparency, finances are a stressor in my marriage, that it’s one of those things that I think many couples, I mean, it’s just the world we live in. And then with moving so much, it was really hard to be open to putting my baby in a daycare when we had only lived there a few months building a trust and a community like that, over and over again. That started to fuel a fire of there’s got to be a way there’s got to be a way that I can take this vision of something that is really important to me, and monetize it and help other military spouses do what I’m doing, be an Ana in cities all over. Because there’s not just Ana feeling this way. I would say that pivot. That’s a really good question, Megan. That’s good. UI would say it was it was almost like a switch because it was when Zach was deployed. And then we got those orders for Redstone. And it was a matter of, okay, am I going to sit on this idea that I know could help a lot of people. I mean, worst case scenario, these amazing local businesses and local business owners are getting great exposure, they’re getting people to find out about them that’s amazing.
Megan: If that’s the worst that can happen
Ana: The worst thing that could happen is that I’m helping people. Monetization will come at some point, then that’s a really great scenario. So for me, it was definitely more of a switch. I think it became okay, I’m a mom of two girls. I am a military spouse. This won’t be the first time that I face unemployment because of being a military spouse. We’re hard to hire. I don’t blame employers, we move a lot. However, there’s got to be a better answer to finding ways to help, whether it’s the military spouse entrepreneur, get connected. So that she’s not looking for new childcare every two years. She can still be with her kids and still maintain her business, that I do, I believe, for me, it was more of a switch because I was not super confident. Growing up, I mean, I think most girls are just- we are just girls.
Megan: Especially now, it does not make it any easier with social media and having a 15 year old girl who is on Instagram. I mean, it’s like, oh, my gosh, I think it’s a lot harder now, as far as false expectations that girls feel they need to live up to. But one thing I would add to what you’re talking about a little bit too, just from my own experience, and from seeing others go through this journey, is that the more validation you can get about what it is that you’re doing, the more confident you become, and the less fear you have around actually putting it out there. And I think it’s really important to lean on your tribe, lean on your social media tribe, your family, whoever it might be, and say, “Hey, I’ve got this idea. And here’s what I’m thinking, what are your thoughts around it?” And don’t go into it with the understanding or thought that whoever you share your idea will steal it and run off. Well, I mean, come on, starting a business and getting something off the ground is so hard. If you find someone who actually does that, I’d love to hear about it. But being able to just get that validation behind the idea, I think is something that helps to enhance your confidence level even more so. And then you might find people who can even help you or introduce you to different resources that might assist.
Ana: I mean, one of the driving factors with Native or Not, has been collaboration. I mean, any photo shoot, we’ve done. I know you met Garyann, that amazing girl, Huntsville, I know we just want to come back. But the collaboration with people as you’re sharing that idea for a business, I think is huge, that there’s always a way to work together even if you’re doing something super similar. I love when I see photographers take pictures of each other. That’s my favorite thing on the planet. That is the ultimate in collaboration, that I just think it’s really inspiring. And I think, like you said, with entrepreneurship, there are a lot of challenges, but then when you lean on that validation, getting that from your group. I mean, that’s huge than having a sounding board.
Megan: Okay, so let’s talk about, before we wrap up, let’s talk a little bit about what’s next for Native or Not, what is on the horizon for you guys and talk a little bit- Native or Not has presence in two different markets, Huntsville, obviously being one of them. But let’s talk a little bit about what’s next. What makes you what gets you really excited, what we can keep an eye out for?
Ana: Oh, thank you. So as I mentioned a little bit earlier, we made a little bit of a pivot and really geared in towards our military market. So with that, I’ve been collecting information and I’m super thrilled. It’ll be nativeornot.me. And it’s going to have over 192 North Alabama local businesses listed in there. So the support from the local business community- as I approach a local business, the listing is complimentary, there’ll be premier packages that we’ll sell inside. But there’s still a totally complimentary, free listing for the local business. Seeing that support from the local business community has just warmed my heart so much because the active duty military presence is not huge here at Redstone, but the veteran population is. And these veterans that fall in love with Huntsville, when they’re stationed here because you guys are the best kept secret and I swear it’s why it took us so long to get stationed here. I was the mascot until everything you’ve been to Redstone. You’ve got these veterans who have made Huntsville their home. But it’s still even if you’ve been here a couple years, well, this is going to be your forever home, I still believe that key is knowing the great local places. So watching the local business community say absolutely yes, put me in this military guide. They offer an incentive or small discount for military. In my research, military is not the monetary piece, it’s the wow, that means a lot that you recognize, as a military family, what we’ve gone through what we do, so it’s really that sentimental value that the local business owner honoring that really means a lot. So I’m so excited. And again, kind of feeling that out with the plan for now is as business gets back to normal on Redstone Arsenal, whatever that normal will look like. That’s the goal is to get this guide out there. Because again, more than ever, these local business owners, the pivot they’re making, it’s just inspiring. And our platform is very clean. It’s very local businesses, period. That’s what we’re featuring and because I think one of one of my taglines I was using for a bit was every city has a story to tell. And I truly believe those local businesses tell that story. And we’re getting there. And again, if you find that magic eight ball, love to get my hands on that.
Megan: As far as what the future holds. But that’s part of the excitement, don’t you think?
Ana: It is and again, it’s a lot of channeling, okay, what are the things that we can be doing at this moment, because expansion to me expanding into more duty stations is huge, because not only you know, when a military family gets orders, one of our first stops is Facebook. Some duty stations have more Facebook presence than others. We also check something called MWR, Morale Welfare Recreation, where we get to know about the actual post. So the idea with Native or Not is that these military spouses who are running native are not at their duty station, will be that ‘go to’ resource of, ‘Hey, welcome to town. Here’s the local business community to support, here’s some local fashion bloggers to follow here. So I mean, the food blogs the really getting to know the area. But keeping it low noise, of course too is a huge goal. So being able to give the local business owner exposure across the country is huge to me that not only will somebody at Fort Campbell will be able to learn about our Redstone businesses, but somebody who is stationed all the way in Korea and goes, “Redstone Arsenal, I don’t even know where that is. Let me pull it up on Native or Not, and get to know about the community”. So now all these businesses are getting exposure before people even move here.
Megan: So yeah, that is a really good point. I’m excited for you, there’s no doubt you’re going to just be so successful in this effort. And I think one of the biggest reasons why is because like you mentioned, your heart is in everything that you do, which comes through all the way and I’m a true believer that if you’re driven in your journey by passion, and something that really fuels you inside, you will succeed and you will monetize and all of those things. My husband will probably want to punch me sitting here, but I didn’t go down this path because I wanted to be rich. Lord knows we don’t make any money when you start off like that. But I knew that if I was happy in what I was doing, and I went to bed every night feeling really proud about the work we were doing. And we had an opportunity to bring on amazing people that share that same passion, the success is inevitable, and it’ll be visible in everything that we do.
But so as we close out, I have a question for you, though, because that was a good segue. Business as we know it will never be the same thanks to COVID-19. And so I know you made the point earlier about how you’ve seen some businesses innovate and sort of have to pivot a little bit and change what the norm is, and this is going to be our new normal. And will we go back to what we knew four months ago, a little bit of it, probably. But there’s also going to be a lot that’s going to change forever. And the way that consumers interact with businesses is going to be different. The expectation as it relates to service is going to be different, because a lot of things have really shifted more towards online. And so I’m curious from your standpoint, where you think some of the biggest shifts are going to be in that regard. And with Native or Not a lot of your businesses that you support, not only are they the businesses that are based in Fort Sam Houston area, but in other areas, people can physically benefit from those businesses as well, if they’re able to sort of offer some of those things online. So I want to hear your thoughts on that a little bit.
Ana: So I think finding that positive in all this mess. I think, because so much of what drives me is the person behind the local business, that actual personality, when you walk into a coffee shop, and it’s local, and you see that kind face, and they smile at you, and you’re like, Okay, I think we’re going to be able to connect with that business owner more, because of this. That I think, these virtual classes that they’re offering that I think, being able to walk into a restaurant and meet a local business owner, is tricky, because they’re there because they’re working to run their restaurant. However, in this process, as a lot of them get out of that comfort zone of okay, I’m going to start sharing how I make our famous such and such, and the consumer is going to get to even if it’s just through social media, that digital virtual, Wow, look at that’s the person, I think it’s going to drive home that point about what Native or Not is creating is that direct connection, that I think our dear local business owners are so busy. And I think it is going to be a transition and a challenge. But you know, even some of the fitness, getting to check out what it’s like to work out with so and so. I mean, I think it’s going to be a great sales piece for them that as a local business owner, we love to support you because we want to know more about you. We want to connect with you. And I think getting these local business owners to share more virtually is really going to pick up on that deeper connection. When somebody says, I want Mexican food, they’re going to be thinking of that person that they saw. So I think finding that positive and maybe it’s just because I’m nosy. I just like to know people.
Megan: I want to know how to make that sauce.
Ana: We have two places. So one in Boiling Springs, Pennsylvania, when I was pregnant with our first daughter, and it’s just peanut butter pie, and it was Boiling Springs. And I’ll never forget, you know, big Ana comes in about to have a baby. Like, I think El came a week later. And they were packed and he didn’t have anywhere to put us and he’s like, “I know you need your pie though”. And you know, at that point, we don’t have family around. He was like this sweet grandfather that had taken us in and he’s like, “hold on”, and he brings back a quarter of the pie and he’s like, “take this home, watch TV and eat it in your-
Megan: Put your feet up.
Ana: Exactly that, thinking of getting to know the local business owners more and again, I know it’s going to be a challenge. I mean, we’re all living it and I am so embarrassed that High School Musical- I’m too old to have watched that when it came out. I can’t get song out of my head because yes, I watched it when it came out- it’s my go to gift.
Megan: Very cool, well, you know, I think you make a really great point, and I’m no expert by any means. But the more we read, the more research we do on brands and customer engagement, and maintaining that long term brand equity with a consumer and consumers are seeking that relationship, they don’t want just a transaction with a company, they want to learn more, they want to know what that brand is about. And that is something that it can be so powerful, if you embrace it, and I would encourage companies who are sort of dabbling in that a little bit, not to overthink it, I think the thought behind sort of being vulnerable, like we talked about before, and really putting yourself out there and trying something new can be somewhat of a scary thought. But the more authentic you are with that, I think, the better it will be received, and people will be able to engage with you more.
Ana: Right, and I think even from the tech side that just your cell phone, you don’t have to go get a big fancy light and a big, just share, just get on and share how you’re feeling about, I had a great thing happened today just wanted to tell you about, I think the community is eager to connect that way.
Megan: I agree. Well, there’s no doubt that you have done such a phenomenal job of connecting with your audience and the businesses that you have worked with and have pulled into the Native or Not family. And if you guys are not following Ana on social media, please make sure that you do. You do such a great job of highlighting them and promoting them. And, I mean, there’s not many people in this town that we can say, as a big a supporter of local business than you are, so kudos to you for taking that initiative, because you’re doing such a great job at it.
Ana: Thank you, that means so much. It is this community support, to be in my hometown and in the same city I was born, watch my business grow. I mean, it’s really been a super special experience. And again, it’s the people who are believing it, believe in that stronger connection with the local business community. So thank you.
Megan: That’s awesome. Well, if you guys want to learn more about Ana and Native or Not, what’s the URL for the website, I want to say nativeornot.net.
Ana: So it’s .net for now, and then maybe we’ll keep it at that until the official launch. So yeah, head to the .net for now, and then it’ll be looking real pretty.
Megan: And if businesses want to be part of Native or Not, there’s information there too, and how they can get involved?
Ana: Yeah, yeah, I’m really busy. Instagram is where I spend most of my time much more friendly algorithm and so I see those in my email. It’s absolutely free to be listed. And yeah, I’ll be shouting about the launch sometime.
Megan: Very exciting, we will all be there celebrating with you. There’s no doubt about it.
Ana: Thank you so much.
Megan: Awesome, well, Ana thank you so much for joining us today and chatting with just your journey and all of that it’s been I mean, I adore you, I always have you’re just a ray of sunshine, just love you. But so excited to see all the great things that are happening and know that there are a lot more growth to come and I just I wish you all the best and everything so thank you so much for being part of She Boss today.
Ana: Thank you