How Mal uses friendship to power her business confidence.
Photo by Taylor St. John
Influencer, baker extraordinaire, event planner, designer and creative Mal Botts is most definitely a doer. The beauty of Mal is she is a wonderful example of drive, hard work, positivity, people skills, and the tenacity to figure things out paying off.
Openly candid Mal’s interview will make you feel like you’re chatting with an old girlfriend. An old girlfriend chock full of wise advice on how the friends you choose affects your business confidence, how to be a social media influencer while also being a present mother, and her self-care strategy that involves. . . Harry Potter!
As told to Ashley Johnson
Photo by Taylor St. John
AJ: What is your goal for Brunch with Aloha?
MB: Brunch with Aloha is about bringing women together to connect, network, support each other, support local businesses, take time for self-care, and have an incredible experience. We are focused on creating community - a portion of the proceeds of each event goes to a local non-profit, and we feature local businesses at the events as much as possible too, with local food and products.
AJ: How did the idea for Brunch with Aloha start? (Mal wearing the Pikake sunglasses in Guava Mimosa above)
MB: My background is in event and wedding planning and graphic design. I’ve done a lot of different jobs in those areas, and started putting together brunch events for friends and friends of friends several years ago, but it’s really been in the last year that I’ve started to work on making this a profiting business. I connected with a friend who runs the Mom Owned Businesses alliance, which is a networking and support group for entrepreneurial moms. She helped kick my butt into gear by encouraging me to monetize the business.
Our events are about creating a beautiful experience to bring women together and make every woman feel special. I love to bake and design, so at each event, I design the decor, table layouts, gifts, name cards, and the other personal touches, and then I make a special dessert bar. Our events are small enough to feel personal, but diverse enough to walk away with new friends and contacts.
AJ: Where does your confidence come from?
MB: One useful piece of advice I got about confidence is from a friend who told me, you know, everybody doesn't have to be your friend. Even if you say or do something that someone else doesn't love or agree with, that doesn't devalue you. It just means those aren't your people.
Having children also really helped my confidence. For my son, it’s seeing his natural confidence at such a young age. He is the most competent little human being I've ever seen in my life, and will go up to any person and ask to be friends. It’s simple and inspiring!
For my daughter, it’s more about wanting to be a role model for her as a woman. She’s more reserved and pulled back, and even at such a young age she already gets embarrassed. I’ll see her do something, and she'll kind of look around and see if anyone's watching. I don't want her to live her life in that way. If I can be any sort of example for her to show her to go for what she wants in this world, I'm going to try my best to do that.
Also having people in your corner who really believe in you can also affect your confidence. Knowing people are there to root for you, tell you they think you can do it, I think makes all the difference. If you don't have that, if you have somebody sort of holding you back then you need to be careful of who you surround yourself with. That’s been huge for me the people I surround myself with have been a huge element to my confidence.
AJ: Do you have a daily weekly or monthly routine you do to manage stress?
MB: I listen to Harry Potter audible books! I love Harry Potter and so does my husband. We just went on a date to a Harry Potter Trivia night at a local bar. When I'm driving or baking or doing something similar, I listen to Harry Potter and it really makes me happy and calms me down. Or, alternatively, I just turn off all sounds completely. I’m bombarded by sound all day with my children and everything that sometimes when I get in the car, I just turn it all off. So basically, either quiet or Harry Potter.
Photo by Taylor St. John
AJ: How did you make the decision to leave your career in event planning to stay home with your kids and eventually start your own business?
MB: When you leave a career, especially as a woman, it's almost like you become obsolete and get left behind as the years go by and you are out of the workforce. In creative work especially, there’s always someone up and coming there to fill the space. That was one of my big fears. Fortunately, Hawaii is a really unique, wonderful place where relationships are built on so much more than just work, like they are in other places. But it's still hard.
One reason for that is that there isn’t real maternity support in this country. You have to apply for a temporary disability to even get partial pay benefits and take time off – that says a lot. It’s saying that having a child is equated with having a disability. For people to expect women to just go back to work right away after what your body goes through having a baby is just insane. Other countries are making it work by providing maternal workforce support, so it’s not like there’s no solutions out there.
For me, the first day I went back to work, I sat in my car and cried. And I knew I wasn’t ready and that it wasn’t right for my family. Running Brunch with Aloha is the perfect fit for me because I’m able to stay home with my family while using my creativity and doing things I absolutely love.
AJ: How do you balance task division running a household with your partner, and what tips can you offer other women on how to navigate these agreements?
MB: My support system is fantastic I'm very very lucky. My brother and our friend Scott both also live with us and help a lot. When my in-laws are in town, they also help and are fantastic. My husband, who is a police officer and works really hard, is also very supportive of me getting a sitter from time to time, to just have a few hours in the day to get things done.
I also don't want to give anyone reading this any impressions that I'm just like, constantly doing crafts and focusing on my kids. My kids watch movies! That's a big help. So for any other moms out there? Don't feel guilty. We do lots of Disney.
Photo by Chelsie Thompson
AJ: What decision process helps you most to balance work demands with having healthy relationships? How do you know when to stop working and focus on your loved ones?
MB: One of the great things about working for myself from home is I can do it on the go with my kids. If we go to the beach and I have a product to shoot, I can bring the product, put it on a rock and take a picture while the kids are playing, and then go play with the kids.
At the same time, it’s easy to justify being on my phone all the time because I’m trying to build a business. So I have to tell myself to just put the phone down too. Kids know when you’re really paying attention. When I stop to look and talk to them with my full attention, they get that immediate sense of gratification. It’s a balance, and just remembering sometimes that the quality time still needs to happen.
It’s also helpful to remind myself that someday they're not going to be there and need me like they do now. They're not going to want me to hold them and hug them and be around. So it's just remembering to take the time, whether its 10 minutes or half an hour, to put work down.
Photo by Taylor St. John
AJ: Tell me about a time where you failed and how you moved forward?
MB: I started a small stationary business years ago that didn’t work out. I didn't have the right equipment, I didn't have a business plan, and ultimately, I didn't value my time enough to know what to charge. I ran myself into the ground trying to perfect every detail while not making enough from the business to sustain it. So I closed the doors on that little venture, and while it was a failure in the sense that it didn't work out, I learned a lot from it. Especially on how important it is to be organized and have a business plan.
Photo by Esther Lambright Patterson
AJ: What is your favorite pair of Mohala’s and how would you style them?
It’s a tie between the Pikake Guava Mimosa and the Lina in Coconut Mojito. They both go with everything that I own – my black stuff, my white stuff, my bathing suit. Everything! They’re fantastic.
Today, I’m styling the Pikake in Guava Mimosa with a black tank, black and green palm tree high wasted pants, black and gold earrings, and a black hat!
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