The Pivotter Series explores the themes of ambition, motivation, and productivity as experienced by high-performing women.
A note before we get started
When you talk to Liz, you immediately get the sense that she's genuinely excited and committed to making it easier for people to bring their product ideas to life. Pivotte could not be more supportive of this attitude. We encourage *everyone*, at least one time in their life, to follow an idea through – no matter how goofy or unattainable it may seem. If your idea happens to be a tangible thing (i.e. not a tech product), visit Liz's site for workshop info, free reads, and more!
Read more about her and her company on her site.
What are some of the most important things to know about you?
I’ve never had a “real” job! I started my first company while still in college and have been charting my own career path ever since.
My family is everything to me. My favorite thing to do is sit and drink coffee with my husband while our daughter toddles around.
What does ambition personally mean to you - what place does it have in your life?
Ambition is the thing that forces me to take risks and make sacrifices. I have a love/hate relationship with my own ambition because it means time away from my family, to extend myself financially… it’s during these times that I wonder what life would be like if I weren’t so driven to create. But it’s part of who I am and accepting that is a daily practice!Do you think our culture perceives “ambition” to be a dirty word for women? Why or why not?
Definitely. Look at my own internal conflict. I don’t see my husband struggling with his self-identify in the same way. But that said, pretty much every person with a job has to face the tension between giving their time and energy to their work versus giving it to themselves and their friends and family. My worries here are not unique.
Please share one of your current, important goals (can be personal or work-related).
I want to have bigger impact through my work helping “makers” than I’ve had with other endeavors. I feel like I’m always ahead of the curve with trends, but I don’t get to ride the wave in the way I want to. We launched Bag the Habit - a company that makes custom reusable shopping bags for retailers - before reusable bags were ubiquitous. We’ve definitely had success, but when reusable bag sales were at their highest (there was a huge spike in 2009/2010) we were having all sorts of production problems and we didn’t fully capitalize on this. I also co-founded an eco-friendly cleaning company in 2007 and it’s a similar story. The maker’s movement is gaining a lot of traction at the moment and it’s exciting. When I first started creating classes for product entrepreneurs around sourcing and manufacturing there was not much else out there. Now even the White House is hosting events for the maker community!
Why is this a goal and how did you realize it was something that you wanted to work on?There is SUCH a need for more guidance around the “making” process. I hear from people everyday who have been struggling to find factories who want to work with them, have had terrible quality problems and lost a lot of money…almost everyone comments on how it’s harder than they anticipated. As someone who’s been there myself, I want to help people avoid preventable mistakes (which most are) and have a more enjoyable (and less costly and time-consuming) experience as they get their product ideas out into the world.
What’s your plan for achieving it?
I have an awesome partnership with Maker’s Row to help people go through the product development and factory finding process. I’m really proud of the work we do and the difference the platform has made in the manufacturing community. I’m also in the process of launching my own site (lizlong.co) and have signed on with a speaking agency to deliver more live workshops.
What do you do if you are having a hard time defining goals?
Some of my closest friends are business coaches - I turn to them for help!
How do you stay motivated to fulfill your goals and sense of ambition, and what do you do when you get stuck?
If possible, I take a break! In the short-term that might mean running an errand but if it’s a more meta problem and I’m feeling stuck in life, I may just take it easy for a few weeks and not focus as much on my work. Momentum seems to come in phases so I try and roll with it.
What is one tool/trick/lifehack/resource/service do you use to stay productive?
Exercise! I am a Pure Barre fanatic and go every day that I can..
What activities do you do outside of your full-time gig (whether that’s work, parenting or something else)? How do you find time to do it? How does it make you more successful in your full-time gig?
I get excited by the concept of global citizenship and am on the board of The Global Citizen’s Initiative. We hold an annual Global Citizen Leadership class for professional worldwide, and I’ve met really interesting people, from Uganda to Syria. I also volunteer with Bpeace, an organization that helps entrepreneurs create jobs in an effort to reduce wider systemic violence. Right now I’m working with a Guatemalan dishware factory who wants to partner with big box retailers in the US. I could talk about these projects all day! I think any relationship-building is going to help build your career (often in ways you can’t see yet).
As far as making time, I just take time out of my regular work day and make it happen. I am also increasingly comfortable asking people to wait if I can’t get to something. I already fit a full-time work week into a part-time schedule in order to be with my daughter, so I’m used to being REALLY efficient. I can’t believe how much time I wasted before but that’s a story for another article!
Run around after Lila! She is always smiling. It’s the best.