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AMANDA: A really big moment that I had with my business, is I was talking about my business and feeling like I didn't know where to go with it and I said, "I just, I feel like I'm floundering." What he said to me is, "Finding your way is not floundering.”
And as a student it's okay to be learning, it's okay to be pivoting, which are also, funny enough, really huge contributing factors to being an entrepreneur.
Welcome to Redefine U, a podcast that explores what happens when we’re challenged to change our beliefs, our thoughts or even who we think we are.
What compels us to take a leap of faith? How do we accept that kind of risk?
I’m Dan Baum and in this episode we’ll talk to Amanda Behrens, Ratcliffe Scholar and student in AACC’s Entrepreneurial Studies program. We’ll hear how she left a job she enjoyed to pursue her passion. We’ll also talk to her mentor, Ken Jarvis, a professor in our Hotel, Culinary Arts and Tourism Institute.
First, Amanda’s story.
AMANDA: Hi, I'm Amanda Behrens. I'm a wellness coach. I was actually an employee here at AACC, I worked in media services. And then in the summer of 2016, I decided to leave the college, because I wanted to pursue my passion for wellness coaching. So kind of a leap.
DAN: Have you always wanted to have a business?
AMANDA: I've always had kind of an entrepreneurial spirit, but I know when I was a sophomore in college I had just started learning how to do video editing and I had a really awesome professor. I went up to him after class one day. I was like, "Hey, do you have any side work that a student could do?" And he said, "Actually, yes I do." So I started doing some freelance video editing on the side with him and then kind of went out on my own a little more. And that was kind of my first freelance video editing business, but it wasn't fully sustainable. I just really didn't have that business expertise. So …
DAN: So what was your ambition back then?
AMANDA: I just wanted to do video editing. I really didn't have any major ambitions beyond that. I've always been a learner. Writing was my very first passion.
The reason I fell in love with video editing specifically was I liked storytelling. So it was a visual way to tell the stories that I had always been writing and it gave me an opportunity to help somebody else tell their story.
In fact, in health coaching, that's also what I'm helping somebody do as I'm helping them figure out, you have an idea, a goal of what you want your story to be, how do I help you get there?
DAN: So what drew you to wellness to begin with? Where does that fit into your story?
AMANDA: For any of us that get into that sphere, there's somebody in your life that you want to help, whether it's a close friend, or a family member, or maybe it's yourself. And for me it was both myself and somebody else.
So I have an autoimmune condition. I have Eczema. It started kind of on my wrists was where it first presented and then it just slowly started creeping outward. And then one day I woke up and it was on my face. And then as it continued on my face, it got so bad that my eyes swelled shut. And you know, I had to have somebody else drive me to the doctor just to be able to, to get there, to get something to help relieve that.
That was a really scary moment, because it’s like, wow, something is not right. My body is not happy. My body was telling me something and I wasn't willing to listen.
I saw so many doctors, allergists, dermatologists, like the whole gamut. Prednisone roller coaster, so steroid rollercoaster, trying to figure out how to calm this thing down. And ultimately while the medications are what helps to get it back under control, I realized that there was a huge dietary component to what was causing those issues.
And the other thing I struggle with — it's not fun to talk about, but so many people struggle with it — is digestive issues. There's so much that's tied to our gut and our digestion that will then kind of show out in the body systemically, and a lot of times it'll show up on your skin.
And so once I realized that there was this kind of gut connection to what was going on with my skin, I was like, “I can start doing things to make sure this does not happen again.”
So that was the me side. And then the other side of that is that on both my mother and my father's side, we have history of adult-onset diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, different things like that. And I just kept thinking about my mom and dad and even while they were still here, my grandparents, what could I do to help them be here as long as possible?
DAN: When you look back, is there a single catalyst, a particular moment, event, or something that you said, "I can do this."?
AMANDA: I think when the announcement was made that I did in fact get the Ratcliffe scholarship, I think that was the moment. One of the amazing things about the Ratcliffe scholarship is that it covers your books, your tuition, your fees, pretty much anything that you can think of that is directly related to the classes you need to take to pursue your business is covered through that scholarship.
Had I not gotten the Ratcliffe scholarship, I wouldn't have had the confidence to even consider really leaving the college because one of the things that I loved so much about being here was, I loved the people that I worked with, and I love taking being able to take classes here. So by having the door opened to be able to take classes, it then opened the door to, okay, I don't have to leave this entire world behind that I really love.
DAN: Did anyone or anything help you decide this journey either to embark, continue or the next phase?
AMANDA: It really for me goes piece by piece. I mean the first person would be Amy Allen-Chabot. Originally when I had signed up for her principles of nutrition class, I was going to audit it. And I think we were a couple of weeks into the semester and she and I had been going back and forth and she's just like, "Why are you auditing this again? And I thought, “Yeah I think it would be worth it to do that. If I'm doing well already and this is something I love, then I'm going to make it happen somehow.” That would have been the first time. And then I'd say that Steve Berry from Entrepreneurial Studies would have been the next connecting point. And then even getting to ... the woman that I work with now, Diane Sanfilippo, one of her kind of side projects is encouraging entrepreneurs.
And when I first told my immediate supervisor that I was leaving, of course, "Well, okay. We don't want you to go but we've been watching you over the past couple of months and years and this is definitely your passion. So we support you." And then moving up to her supervisor and her supervisor, the support that I had from all of these different people was incredible.
DAN: It seems like it would make it almost harder, because you have all these people who are supporting you and they're saying, "Yeah you can go," but you also recognized that your support network and you're leaving them. That seems like that would be kind of challenging.
AMANDA: It really was. And I think that, had I not had the Ratcliffe scholarship where I was then still able to take classes, I knew I would be able to come back and see folks. Through maintaining these connections, I met up with a friend of mine who actually works here, Trish Eyerly, and she was saying how she was teaching classes through the Center for Faculty and Staff Development here at the college. And in my head I thought, "You know what? I wonder if that might be the next step.” So, I ended up in the fall, I hosted four wellness workshops here at the college and now I'm teaching. And I'm working with the same people that I loved working with before ... and it goes back why I even got into wellness in the first place is I wanted to help myself, but I wanted help the people that I love and care about. And now I get to do that.
Amanda went from college employee to student entrepreneur. It was a big leap, but one she felt supported to make. We’ll hear more about the risks she saw and the lessons she learned, but first, we wanted to speak to Ken Jarvis, Amanda’s faculty mentor here at the college.
Ken is no stranger to redefinition. Before becoming a professor, he worked in and helped establish several landmark restaurants in Annapolis, Maryland. Let’s talk to Ken, hear a little of his background and what it’s like to mentor students as they transform themselves and their ideas into viable businesses.
DAN: Do you know what you've gone yourself into Ken?
Ken: I don't, but I figured with you it had to be fun.
Dan: Okay, well that's good to hear.
Ken: When I told people I was going to hang out with Dan in front of microphones, they were like, "Ooo."
DAN: I like it.
Tell us a little bit about what you teach and your background?
KEN: I've been here at the college for 25 years. I came out of the restaurant industry, mostly in Annapolis, a little bit in New York, after attending college and culinary school. I teach currently, Purchasing and Cost Controls class, Intro to Hospitality …
And then I also teach a class, which is now a social science class, World Culture and Cuisine.
DAN: That sounds fun.
KEN: Yeah. And then I'm also a mentor with the Entrepreneurial Studies Institute where we supplied the mentees with lots of rich resources and then communicate with them face-to-face, online, as well as a group.
DAN: What brought you here and what's kept you here?
KEN: Back in 1993, I was a manager at Middleton Tavern, and someone told me there was a culinary program or hospitality program at AACC, and I've lived in Arnold since 1964, and I was like, "I had no idea." So one day in August, it was, I was in my sandals, a T-shirt and shorts and I was driving by the college and I said, "I'm going to go in, see what's going on with this program." Having gone to the Culinary Institute of America I thought, "Let's go see what this is all about."
KEN: So, I walked into the humanities building and poked my head into the lab, which was pretty sparsely equipped. And the person in there, an old colleague, looked up and said, "Are you Ken Jarvis? And basically when can you start?" Because apparently she was made aware that I might be popping by.
DAN: So, you've really seen this program grow up?
KEN: Yes. Big time.
DAN: And now state of the art and everything.
KEN: It really is. Yes.
DAN: Let's talk a little bit about your students. What types of students do you see? Describe who takes culinary classes?
KEN: Wow, that's a great question because we get students from all walks of life.
We have students that are still in high school, that are dual-enrolled. We have students who are right out of high school who are going through life changes. I would say predominantly our population is mostly middle-aged Americans of all walks of life.
DAN: So, then what kind of experience or skills are they bringing? Are they … have been in the industry for a while or they are amateurs that want to become more professional? What kind of skills do they have?
KEN: The younger students tend to be the ones that are in the industry now, and really think that they want to move forward with that as a career goal. The middle-age students are more career changers.
Some people are here for their own self-enrichment.
DAN: You mentioned mentorships. Let's talk a little bit about that. What exactly is the mentorship program in the entrepreneurial studies and how did you get involved in it?
KEN: It's actually a pretty magical thing. I was chosen because we have so many students in our area, in hotel restaurant management, that …
DAN: They want to launch a business.
KEN: And they want to launch a business, exactly. So they can launch a business and the businesses are very diverse with all the different students. The opportunities by getting that scholarship, allow the students to have a mentor. And I think there's seven or eight of us, and we all have different areas of expertise.
So students can choose which mentors they want. They usually choose because of the area of expertise that they need to maybe prepare their business plan or because of the time that you're offering to meet with them. I choose to meet with my students as a group once a month and then I meet with them once or twice or three times a month, face-to-face, one-on-one.
DAN: What do you see as the skills that they need most to progress along the path that they're seeking to affect the change that they want?
KEN: Years ago, I probably would say first, knowledge because you know the old saying, "knowledge is power." I think that's still true, but I think social skills and communication skills are really important. If you don't ask people for help and get involved with people and have good social skills to do that, then I really do think you're setting yourself up for not complete success.
DAN: It seems especially true in culinary and the hospitality.
KEN: Absolutely. Absolutely. My role, because I teach a lot of the management in front of the house classes is to try and get my students to understand that this is a social industry. You need to have good social skills.
DAN: Does this surprise some students, particularly entrepreneurial students, that they may be driven in a more solo way that they really need support from other people, mentors, guides, team?
KEN: Absolutely. And I think that's probably an underlying focus on the whole mentorship is you're in a group with six or seven other students. They become close friends and colleagues because they're helping each other, which is why we meet as groups. And then there's the individual meetings between myself and them, but then I find that they often will start meeting with each other one-on-one to learn from each other.
DAN: That's good to hear. I was curious if most are receptive or whether they really think they need to do this solo and are a little bit reluctant to embrace getting all this support, but you're saying most welcome it.
KEN: I think many do, especially when they realize that all these people are in the same boat as they are in, they've all been given this opportunity, because they have an ambition, and they are outgoing, and they have some skill sets that not everybody has.
DAN: We spoke to one of those students recently, Amanda Behrens. You were a mentor for her.
Amanda has chosen me as her mentor. I guess this is our third year together.
Her idea has evolved and so has she, into something that she's actually launched. She's launched her business and she is successfully and very enjoyably doing things that she loves.
DAN: It was great to hear that transformation that she's been going through. In that process, she described it being an evolution, but something that you advised her, which you may not remember. She said you said something to the effect of finding your way is not floundering.
KEN: No, it's not.
DAN: Do you find other students have a similar perspective? There in the middle of it, they can't see the forest for the trees and they think, 'I'm really floundering. I don't know what I'm doing," and you have to help them understand, "That's part of the process and you're finding your way. You may think that it's floundering, but that's a process to find your way."?
KEN: Yeah. I think many of the students go through that process, and I think what's nice about this program and helping students to redefine themselves is that they hear it from us in the classroom and it's kind of like hearing something from your parents. It's like, "Yeah, yeah, yeah, I get it, I get it." But then they start hearing it from financial and people from banks, from accountants, from lawyers, from people that volunteer their services to help mentor these students. Different perspectives, but the same message, and it does help them to transform. It's amazing to see the light bulbs go off.
DAN: If you care to share, are there specific challenges you faced or risks you've taken that you do share with students that they find beneficial to hear, "Oh, well if you had that experience, I can handle it too."?
KEN: I tell students stories all the time about my ups and downs in the industry and even in school and in my career here, and everything's not always going to be perfect. So they need to hear the stories.
DAN: Yeah, they must appreciate hearing that it's not a linear or smooth path.
DAN: In that regard, when you look back to a different point in your life, what are the similarities or differences that you see between who you are now and who you were then?
KEN: When I look back at my younger self, when I was opening Carrol's Creek Café… I started there when it was dirt floor and cinder block walls.
KEN: I had knowledge, but I had no confidence. I didn't think I did to make really big decisions on the menu and the equipment and purchasing things using tons of money that wasn't mine.
I did have confidence back then, otherwise I wouldn't have done that. So when I compare myself back then to now, back then I had the confidence to do what I was doing and a lot of physical ability. Today, it's mostly mental ability, but I feel very confident in helping others do the right thing, make the right decisions, transform.
I just had a milestone birthday and I wish it was like-
DAN: You're 30 now.
KEN: Yeah, 30. I wish I was 30 because if I knew what I knew now 10 years ago or 15 years ago — and it's mostly with the help of my colleagues that I've learned all this and the help of students who have evolved and have transformed — I could be so much better 10 years ago if I had that shot again.
I'm applying things now that are making a difference in people's lives, and I didn't always feel comfortable doing that. I was always kind of afraid to do that. Maybe I even thought that people should do that on their own and then ask, "Is this right or wrong?" But that's not how it is. It's up to people like us to help people evolve and transform and reinvent themselves.
The road to finding your way is not a straight line, it may wind around one idea or another. Ken Jarvis also stressed the importance of social skills, communication and self-confidence. How have these things played a role in Amanda’s transformation? What risks were involved in making her big leap. How did she manage that risk?
DAN: On the surface it strikes me that, moving from film to wellness is a big redefinition and you might say well I've redefined myself in that way. But what I'm also hearing is you as a person, you were used to being behind the scenes, you were the one following what other people wanted to do and to tell their story. Now you're out front. You're helping guide people. Which do you think, is for you, the bigger change?
AMANDA: Having the confidence to be in front of people is a huge change for me.
You know a lot of people get this thing in their head where they’re like “why me? Why should I do that?” And it’s like “Why not you? Why not be the person that gets out there? You have a voice and you have a message. And there could be 10 billion health coaches in the world, but each person connects with a coach in a different way. And getting out there and being that voice and not being afraid to share your message? It’s incredibly important.
DAN: What risks did you see or did you feel you had to take on the journey?
AMANDA: Initially, honestly leaving the job at AACC. To go from this more traditional Monday through Friday kind of job where I had an office and …
I don’t know, I think my poor parents were a little worried. Like, “is this your quarter-life crisis here?”
DAN: It’s stable. It’s secure. They like you.
AMANDA: It’s stable. You have health care.
DAN: I can hear those voices.
AMANDA: But I can also say that one of the people who consistently taught me that if there's something else that you really want to do, something that you're being pulled to do, and you need to make a change in your life, my father was that person. He went back to nursing school. He’s been nursing ever since, but at different types of jobs and every time something just didn't quite feel right to him, he would do what he needed to do to move to the next thing.
DAN: That's really a powerful example that he set for you.
AMANDA: It truly was, yeah. I'm really, really grateful for that.
DAN: When you think about those things that you are leaving behind, ultimately, what was the biggest risk for you? What was the biggest challenge that you saw as opposed to what your parents and others might've been saying?
AMANDA: I think that the biggest risk was ... Oh, gosh, it does tie into that. It's people being disappointed in you.
To steal from Marie Forleo, everything is figureoutable. And it is. So, every time I would kind of face myself with one of those risks, or one of those fears, I would look at it and think, okay, well what if that did happen? I have this great support system, so if something were to happen that was "catastrophic," it's figureoutable. I could come back from that. It might not be exactly the way I would think, but one way or another it was going to be OK. We'll figure it out.
DAN: I'm really struck by your comment about letting people down because you're getting all this support, but that's such a realistic flip side of that, “wow, all these people are supporting my, I would hate to let them down.” If you hadn't had the mentors supporting you, encouraging you, do you think you would have had as much confidence or were you building it at that point?
AMANDA: I think there's a certain amount of confidence that's inherent. As you do things that scare you, you build confidence. But I do think having those support systems is a huge piece of that. So, to have somebody have that much faith that you're in pursuit of something you love, it's like, wow, I must really be like radiating that I love this thing.
DAN: Just when you look back on your journey so far, what similarities and differences do you see from the person you were to the person you are now?
AMANDA: Similarities, I would say I am still a writer. I've always had that passion. It just hasn't come out in the same way. And I think that the love and the compassion that I have for the people around me and the way that I want to help people in some way, shape or form, I think that's always been there.
The biggest, biggest change is moving from, being behind the camera, behind the scenes, to now being in front of the camera, in front of the people.
It was kind of step by step by step. And I know not everybody has a linear thing, but think again, I'm a storyteller. So I'm always looking for those patterns of like, where did it start and how did it change from there?
DAN: But that's what interested me because from a storytelling standpoint, we often think of the big leap, that big moment, the a-ha, lightning struck. And then you went from there. But you're describing it more as a process.
AMANDA: I think real life is more of a process. I think business growth especially or entrepreneurial growth, that really is very progressive.
There are going to be people that ... It is like lightning struck and they were in the right place at the right time and this incredible thing happened overnight. But I think for the vast majority of us, it is these kind of gradual steps. And how are you making the next best choice for you and your business, or you and your goals, or you and your life? What's the next best choice that you're making?
At pretty much every corner I've asked a question. And even though I might not always like the answer, it generally has propelled me forward in some way. If you're somebody that really, really wants something and you've been told no, keep questioning it until you figure out how to get yourself to a better place.
DAN: Well this has been a great conversation.
Amanda, thank you for coming in and talking to me. This has been really enjoyable.
AMANDA: Thank you so much for having me.
DAN: And I wish you much success from this point forward on your journey.
Sometimes, transformation is simmering just below the surface. We ignore it because change seems risky and we’re comfortable where we are. But then a crisis, a meeting, some final ingredient is added and we know it’s time to redefine.
It’s rarely a tidy, straightforward process. Sometimes we make a mess of the kitchen finding our way. But that’s just part of the process. We continue to learn and grow until one meal — one transformation — becomes another.
Redefine U is a production of Anne Arundel Community College.
Our executive producer and creative director is Allison Baumbusch
Our producer is Jeremiah Prevatte and our writer, Amy Carr Willard
Others who helped with this podcast include Angie Hamlet, Alicia Renehan, and Ben Pierce.
Special thanks to Amanda Behrens and Ken Jarvis.
Find show notes, how to subscribe and other extras on our website: aacc.edu/podcast.
I’m your host and creator of this podcast, Dan Baum. Thanks for listening.
KEN: I was told I was going to have lots of fun doing this with Dan.