Connecting in an Intentional Way

I highly suggest this book if you are looking for a new community or are working on building your support system.

I highly suggest this book if you are looking for a new community or are working on building your support system.

Me laughing at something Jules Shumate said during our coffee meeting at Left Bank Coffeehouse. I loved Jules energy and outlook on life.

Me laughing at something Jules Shumate said during our coffee meeting at Left Bank Coffeehouse. I loved Jules energy and outlook on life.

The graphic I used for the 12 Women Project.

The graphic I used for the 12 Women Project.

One of the new coffeeshops I got to visit when I met up with Molly Reckmann, owner of Spruce Nail Shop. Photo from 1215 Wine Bar and Coffee Lab.

One of the new coffeeshops I got to visit when I met up with Molly Reckmann, owner of Spruce Nail Shop. Photo from 1215 Wine Bar and Coffee Lab.

Need a planner to keep up with all this? I recommend the Day Designer. Tap the photo to get their free printable sheets.

Need a planner to keep up with all this? I recommend the Day Designer. Tap the photo to get their free printable sheets.

“We are born in community—fully connected to another human. Without connection, we cannot survive. It’s in our DNA to belong. “ —Radha Agrawal from Belong: Find Your People, Create Community and Live a More Connected Life

I feel like I just got off a rollercoaster ride. Less spinning teacup experience, and more of a wooden, shaky, beast sort of amusement. The kind where you get to the top, and think “oh shit!” We moved three days after executing two huge events, closed on our house on Xmas Eve, battled two viruses and a pulled back— and are almost clear of unpacked boxes. We made it to 5 Christmas’ in 24 hrs, and had a full house for NYE at the restaurant. As we take down holiday decorations and close out 2018, we are breaking out 2019 planning sheets, markers, and dry erase boards. It’s time to reflect on the past year, digest, and celebrate.

Part of this reflection includes my personal journey in 2018. One of the most meaningful things I did this year, was put myself out there to meet total strangers. I knew there were other women like me—ones that fought some huge battles, opened their own companies, and had big dreams. I wanted to meet them, so I decided to ask one woman (that I had never met) to coffee each month for the entire year of 2018. The twelve women I met were extraordinary. I asked questions about what they did, where they were from, what they wanted to learn— and if I could offer them support.

It was a spectacular adventure and I was moved by each women I met. I urge you to expand your circle and connect. Here is how I did it, feel free to use any of this!

12 Women Project

1. I set up a signup genius, with each month listed. This works like a digital signup sheet. You could also use google docs.

2. Through names I had seen in articles or on social media, I chose the names of 12 women and searched for a contact online. 

3. I added the link to an email and sent it to the women I wanted to meet. This is what I said in the email.

“Hi (Name),

I am writing from a desk with a view of the woods, and the pond just outside my window has a frozen top. It’s cold in Cincy and I hope this email finds you with a nice cup of coffee or an extra layer of warmth today.  I am writing you because in 2017 I had an idea, I set a goal to meet 12 new women.

Maybe I should backtrack and start by introducing myself. My name is Tess Burns. I own a restaurant called Commonwealth Bistro and work during the day in the marketing field. In 2017, I partnered with Dr. Angie Taylor to create Morning “Happy Hour”: A free quarterly networking event for women. Those mornings fueled me with the energy from brilliant women, and the help and connections I was able to make for people filled my soul. Recently, as I created my goal list for 2018, I thought “How cool would it be to meet a new woman every month?” So I jotted down “Meet 12 new women in 2018.” That’s why I am contacting you.

I would simply like to invite you for a cup of coffee, my treat. No hidden agenda or sales pitch here. I just want to expand my network; and hear about what you are doing. There are so many amazing women in the tri-state doing wonderful things and I think you’re one of them! Your name has crossed my path either in conversation with other women or online in articles or social media. 

Would you be willing to let me buy you a latte? I am happy to meet at a coffee shop in your neck of the woods so it’s convenient for you.  Sign up for a month here (insert your signup genius link here.) 

I look forward to meeting you and hearing about what you’re up to. 


Tess Burns

4. When someone signs up send them a confirmation email and ask where they would like to meet. It is important to let them pick so it’s convenient for them (plus you get to visit some new cool coffeeshops.) Note the date and location in your calendar. Also make a note 2 weeks before the date. to send a friendly email. reminding the person of the meet up. Note: Keep meet-ups to under 60 minutes (30-40 minutes works best to be mindful of their time.)

5. When I met each women I mainly just asked about their story. Then the conversation found its natural way from there. At the end, I did ask the same three questions to each woman. You can use mine or create your own.

What is something you have always wanted to learn?

What do you think we need to do to better support women in the tri-state?

Is there any way I can be of support to you?

I met one woman that felt like a kindred spirit, one that made me laugh hysterically, one that I was able to connect to a new speaking opportunity—and much more.

I hope you go on your own journey of meeting new people. Feel free to use the body copy from my email, as well as the attached graphic in your 12 women meetups. If you're reading this and I don't know you, I would love to be invited as one of the 12 women you meet in 2019!



Gifts for your Favorite Girl Boss

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Do you know a women who has a side hustle, owns a business, or hits the pavement everyday running? Here’s a gift guide for your favorite gal pal achiever.

Stocking Stuffers and Secret Santas
From national companies like Spanx— to neighborhood shops like Handzy or Curated, gifting items purchased from women-owned companies is a way to be mindful this year when gifting to your favorite #girlboss or girlfriend. There are so many to choose from, try starting with this guide.

A Website
Do you know someone that’s just getting started with a business? From websites and online stores, to marketing tools and analytics, Squarespace is the all-in-one platform to build a beautiful online presence. I swear by this tool, and suggest it to clients that fall in love with its ease of use.

Business Cards
Give the gift of business cards for that lady working on a startup. Moo does an amazing job at texture of paper, printing, and exact cuts. You get five design backs, for the price of one.

Branded Graphics
Instantly design branded graphics with Canva for Work. This paid version of Canva allows you to upload your branded fonts, colors, and logo and keep them in a library for quick access—ensuring consistently branded graphics.

A Manicure
Whether we have worked dish tank in the kitchen, or created products in the shop, a woman that works with her hands appreciates a healthy manicure. Try Molly’s shop, Spruce in OTR. Spruce is the natural answer to the neighborhood nail shop.

A Facial
The Greenline ladies know what’s up. Their talent, mixed with amazing Aveda products make for the best R&R.

Get your friend out of her office and in to Jessica’s yoga studio. Rooted’s diversely-trained teachers offer a variety of class types.

Gift a subscription- No Man’s Land by The Wing

For your girlfriend climbing in her career

Learning how to create a work life you love

For the foodie in your life

Hair Refresh
Hit Lightbox in Hyde Park to gift bangs, a cut, or color and a great convo about the latest cookbook and party hosting.

Midliners for Her Planner
Trade in the neon highlighters for this aesthetically pleasing version. Color code business, personal and project based events.

A Good Cry and Pep Talk
Rachel Hollis is at it again. On top of a new clothing line on QVC, she’s re-releasing the made for More Movie one more time in January. Encore tickets.

The Fashionista
Winter Wraps are available from Alicia Lee. Her company Me by Lee offers small batch hand finished designs.

Girl’s Lunch or Brunch
Take your friend to lunch or slip a gift card to Commonwealth into her bag. For lunch try the veggie burger with smoked pimento aioli. Or do a girl’s brunch. My picks—order two items and split. Try the pancake soufflé and the shakshuka naan. One of only two farm-to-table restaurants in Covington. (Also, try Bouquet.)

Get Outdoors
Park passes make great gifts on a budget. For $10-14 you can grab an annual pass that will get your friend into over 21 parks and nature preserves.

Cooking Classes
Head to Tablespoon where Jordan will teach you essential knife skills.

Home Life
Send your favorite home body a handmade, limited edition candle. Erikka has a talent for combining unique mood setting scents.

Get Organized
The Everboard is a dream designed command center. The magnet board allows accessories to be moved in to place for organizing keys, mail, and much more!

Choosing Your Words Wisely


Are the words you’re using, properly representing your intention?

Recently, someone said to me, “Oh, she works for you, right?” To which I replied, I work with her.”

An amazing leader once told me, “our language defines us.” I think about that often. It’s why we use purposeful language choices like, “the Commonwealth Team.” This mindset and language helps to support our goal to be servant leaders that are invested in people. Do you work with a team, or do they work for you? We aren’t perfect—but if we can take the time to think, adjust, and grow, we become better. Think about this— do you have word choices that you intentionally use? Start by identifying one and using it consistently in your messaging and conversations. Talk the talk, and walk the walk.

Speaking of words. We sold our house! This staged scrabble game helped us get some messages across about parking, neighbors, and perks to the home. A huge thanks to Amanda, that I met in brand class, for this suggestion.

From Milan to Dish Tank


From Traveling to Milan to Hanging Out on Dish Tank

It’s funny to think that there’s two of me. One fictional character that travels to far off places like Milan, buys expensive clothes, drinks rosé, and eats fancy meals created by a chef. Or at least that’s sometimes what people think I do by being a restaurateur. The other me is hanging out on dish tank, sober, bleaching floors, and shopping at Kroger (at midnight) for Epsom salts to soothe sore muscles. I wouldn't trade the real me for the jet setter and here's why—I get to be in our business, I mean all up in it. Sometimes knee deep in the shit that is hard and sometimes on the end of high fives for team wins and celebratory moments where we kill it on guest experience. It’s wild and messy— but full of life.

We don’t have money to travel to far off places because we invested it in our community and our business. I believe in being sustainable, so I tend to find clothes at vintage shops and thrift stores. I don't drink, and have seen too many restauranteurs go down because they use drinking to cope with stress. And my chef husband rarely cooks at home because he has cooked for people all day and he gets home after 11 p.m.

Why am I sharing this? Because I want to take down the walls of what it means to be an owner of a small business. And I want you to know that you are not alone. If you're a small business owner that receives eye-rolls as you explain how hard this is, or minimization of the weight of this work, I see you. I mean I really SEE you.

I’ve cried on the kitchen floor too. I totally get putting everything on the line. Kudos to you for deciding to take a huge leap and risk with your one wild and beautiful life. Girl, I want to know you because you are courageous and strong!

Extra kudos if you have built-in time to manage stress and eat healthy. And extra extra kudos if you have found a way to have goals outside of your business. I haven't figured it all out but I have found some pretty innovative ways to make this shit work. I’m going to be sharing them here over the next 4 weeks. I get it, and I got your back.