Meet Michelle Bommarito

Tuesday, April 12th, 2011 9:51 pm

Growing up around her Italian family in Michigan, Michelle Bommarito— best known as a cake design guru on Food Network Challenge— learned to love being in the kitchen. As a child, she helped out on weekends at her family’s Italian Market, Bommarito Brothers CO, and just enjoyed being around food.

“Whenever I wasn’t at my dad’s store, I would be in the kitchen with my Mom and my grandparents,” she says. But she never thought food would be her life’s calling. Instead, her dream was to one day own a bed and breakfast in Europe.  Michelle graduated with a Marketing Management major and a Psychology minor from the University of Michigan, and her first job out of college was for Marriott.

She resisted being around baking and cooking, but her heart kept being pulled in the direction of the kitchen. After working in the marketing and hotel business for years, Michelle decided to take a bread-making class, just for the fun of it.

“I didn’t think I was going to culinary school to change my career,” she says. “I thought it was to have that backbone and knowledge as a woman.”

After a nudge from a coworker to pursue cooking school, she attended The Institute of Culinary Education in New York. Then, she moved back to Michigan, and opened her own wedding and pastry business called Michelle Bommarito LLC.

It was a slow start; her first year she had just 17 wedding cakes.  “But then, it grew to 35 and then to 55 a year. It just kept building,” she says. “Whatever you want to do, go out there and do it! Volunteer, do charity work; I can’t tell you how much charity work I did to get my name out there. I was doing what I loved even though I wasn’t getting paid.”

After running the business for 10 years, Michelle got the itch for something new. “I always loved what I did for a living,” Michelle says. “But then I started feeling that figurative tap on your shoulder, you know, that feeling that says ‘Hey, you are not doing exactly what you should be doing, ‘ I knew it was time for that transition, to take a risk.”

In 2009 she closed up shop and decided to try her hand as a traveling chef, teaching her vast knowledge of cake design, and also conducting “Eating Well” Speaking Engagements and Super Power Food Culinary Demonstrations.  Years earlier (before she even opened her cake company), Michelle had found herself bed-ridden from working too much. “After about a couple months of putting up with it, my cousin took me under her wing and said, ‘Michelle, you’re going to my Holistic doctor,’” she says.

The doctor put her on an extreme diet that consisted of grains, lean cuts of meat, nuts, flaxseed oil and vegetables.  After two weeks on the regimen, Michelle was filled with bouncing energy– and she’s kept up the healthy lifestyle for fifteen years. (Yes that’s right: the cake designer doesn’t eat cake–except of course to test each batch of her creations for quality, and the occasional “just a bite” at a party to celebrate!)

Making wellness her primary career focus was a natural progression. Says Michelle, “I just decided one day, I really think I’m supposed to follow in the wellness direction. I lived it for so long and I believed in it. It’s good for my body and it made me be who I am as far as my high energy.”

As for what’s next in Michelle’s life, only time can tell.

“I don’t know what I’m going to do next,” she said. “It happens to be every 10 to 12 years is when I evolve; ironically it’s what happens.”

Inspirational, that doesn’t even begin to describe this risk taker, but ambitious and courageous . . . that’s a start.

Needs some inspiration for taking the plunge in your career?

Check out The 9 steps of getting started the Bommarito style:

1.     Find your strength and your passion.

2.     Invest in your knowledge and skills.

3.     Create your own style and niche.

4.     Develop (figure out what is good for you to make you a success).

5.     Impress quality in every aspect of your job, career or passion.

6.     Not all business is good business, check who you will do business with.

7.     Know your competition.

8.     Price yourself correctly (competitively and accordingly to what’s right in the market).

9.     Put yourself out there and market yourself.

Erin Lucido

B-School Diaries: 5 Things I Wish I Someone Had Told Me

Tuesday, February 1st, 2011 11:16 am

[Editor's Note: The following is the first in our new series Business School Diaries, written by Alexandra Bochicchio, a first-year at a top business school (which we'll call "XBS").]

I officially have finished my first semester of business school!  After living, breathing, and talking XBS for the past three and a half months, I am looking forward to a one-month hiatus.   While school definitely has been fun, it has not exactly been the vacation my friends and colleagues told me it would be.  Specifically no one warned me about the emotional rollercoaster: I fluctuate daily among self-doubt, apathy, gratitude, and excitement.  While I by no means have it all figured out, I do want to share a few things I wish I had known in September.

You’re no different from anyone else. Because I am introverted and hoping to make a career switch out of finance, I immediately thought I was different from my seemingly networking-loving, super-social classmates.  However, over the course of the semester I have realized that we all are at turning points in our careers and slightly nervous to have made the decision to step off the professional treadmill and go back to school.  While people show insecurities in different ways, at the end of the day we all want to be accepted by and learn from one another.

Differentiate yourself. I used to stand out as the smart, former college athlete who worked in finance.  However this now describes 90% of my classmates (just swap out “consulting” for “finance”).  Therefore, I need to find other ways to distinguish myself.  One of my best decisions was applying to be the first-year writer for the XBS parody show.  Although I applied because I thought it would be fun, writing for the show has led to a disproportionate number of conversations with classmates and potential employers.  Graduate school allows me the time and resources to explore things outside of the core curriculum, and I need to make sure I take advantage of this.

Be vulnerable. One of my biggest fears is looking stupid or weak, and I used to live by the philosophy that it was better to remain silent and be thought a fool than speak out and remove all doubt.  However, I have made the best connections with classmates when I let my guard down or am not 100% politically correct.  There is so much pressure to be professional in business school that it is easy to forget how friendships actually are made: I (while not too inebriated) share something personal, you share something, and BOOM! a little trust is formed.

You were let in for a reason. Sometimes a dumb comment in class can lead to a downward spiral: Why did I say that?  That was dumb.  I am dumb.  XBS was dumb for admitting me. This is cockamamie.  More often than not no one notices my stupid comment or action (however, the same can be said for the few times I thought I made a brilliant contribution).  Because admissions are so competitive, schools take it very seriously, and no student is accepted because of a fluke (one exception – is the school currently constructing a library in your name?!).  The sooner I accept this, the sooner I can stop the downward spiral and instead concentrate on trying to say something brilliant (a work-in-progress).

Keep your eye on the prize. My classmates and I asked about twenty-five questions during our last finance class in hopes our professor would let slip a nugget of knowledge which would give us an edge on the final exam.  And XBS doesn’t even give grades.  Our professor said it best when he pointed out most of us have worked for a number of years and some even have families; being overly stressed about an exam is, well, silly.  The stakes in business school are relatively low – I would much rather mess up my net present value calculation on an exam than during an important board meeting (warning – I may be rationalizing a bit).  Although it is a constant struggle, it is essential to maintain perspective and remember everything will work itself out.  This philosophy has served me fairly well thus far; there is no reason to think it won’t in the future.

Alexandra Bochicchio


On the Hunt: Tricks for Job Searching with Social Media

Thursday, December 16th, 2010 11:28 am

I only use social media for personal reasons. I keep tabs of high school and college friends that I haven’t seen in years on Facebook.com. Game days are spent on Twitter.com chatting friends across the country about the referee’s recently blown call and past colleagues and competition’s profiles are glanced at on Linkedin.com. I’ve never considered how theses websites could help me in my professional career. But in an effort to get out of my slump, I’ve vowed to learn more about how those sites could help me land a full-time job. There are so many sites out there that I’m concentrating on the big three.

Facebook

I signed up for Facebook when the site was still just for college students (and not all universities were involved). I still kind of view it like a small gathering of friends. But, with more than 500 million people currently on the site, chances are favorable that editors and human resources have profiles as well. I couldn’t find an email for an editor I would love to talk to, but I looked up her name, and up came her profile.

But is it OK to contact somebody that you’ve never met through the site? I asked around to a couple of editors and they all agreed that Facebook was too personal to cold message somebody. They did suggest one way I can get involved is to “Like” the magazine’s profile page. This will allow me to get any updates that might be valuable or join the conversation to maybe get noticed. I’ve had a couple of friend post jobs at their company (none in my field, bummer) on the site and say “mention me when you apply.”

Twitter

I already follow my favorite editors and magazines on twitter, but the hardest part is getting them to notice my tweets. I try to tweet them about recent stories I loved or who I’d like to see in the magazine, but I never get a response. Marian Schembari, who used Twitter and Facebook to land a fulltime gig, suggest replying when they specifically ask for a response and throw in a subtle reminder that you are looking for a job.  During downtime, I’ve seen some editors tweet things like, “What’s going on out there?” So maybe if I throw out something like “Just trying to figure out a clever way to write this cover letter,” they might be willing to respond with a tip.

Sites like Mediabistro.com and ed2010.com tweet daily job openings, which is helpful, but doesn’t eliminate constant obsession with job boards. Schembari also recommended making sure you’re consistently tweeting. Programs like Hootsuite.com will allow a person to enter all their tweets for the day then schedule the release time. Although this will give the appearance that I’m consistent, it won’t be to time consuming and distract me from other aspects of the job hunt.

Linkedin

I think of Linkedin as a professional Facebook. So, I signed up for Schembari’s free newsletter and got instant access to a video giving me tips on how to use the site more effectively. Just like the other sites, it is about being active. So every time I tweet or answer a question in the Q&A section, my name comes up to everybody in my network. Through looking at the site statistics, I found out somebody from a job applied for looked at my profile. I’ve never made a reference in my job hunt to this profile, so I found it kind of weird that someone came here to check up on me. Thankfully, I’ve kept my profile up-to-date. Another big deal about this website is that, generally, people have told me it is OK to contact somebody I don’t know to discuss their job. This site is all about building connections, so here people want to help. This is a way of being personal, but not coming off as a stalker, say if I messaged them on Facebook!

Samantha Hyde

Samantha Hyde graduated from the University of Texas in 2009. During her time spent in Austin, she interned and contributed to Austin Monthly, Texas Parks & Wildlife and Texas Highways magazine. She served as president of the magazine club and editor-in-chief of a college magazine, burntORANGE. Her issue, “How to be a Longhorn,” won second place in general excellence at the 2009 AEJMC awards.

7 Steps for Facebook Rehab

Tuesday, November 30th, 2010 8:27 am

Can everyone see those outrageous toga party photos that are on your Facebook? Do you have “mud wrestling” and “partying” as some of your favorite interests on your profile? Do you constantly update your status with complaints about your life (or worse, your job)?

If you answer YES to any of these questions and you’re on the hunt for that spectacular job then you should check into Facebook rehab…and fast.

In a 2009 survey conducted by CareerBuilder, 45 percent of employers admitted that they use Facebook to review their candidates (which about doubled from 22 percent in 2008) and 11 percent plan to use Facebook in the future to check on their interviewees.

Also from the survey, 35 percent found content on the candidates profile to cost them the possibility of landing the job. Here are the top examples, from the survey, of why candidates didn’t get hired:

  • Posted inappropriate photographs or information
  • Posted content about drinking or using drugs
  • Bad-mouthed their previous employer and co-workers
  • Expressed poor communication skills
  • Lied about qualifications

Go-Getter-Girls work too hard on creating flawless resumes and portfolios to have it all be flushed down the drain because of an inappropriate picture or comment on Facebook.

Before any interview, you polish your look and you double-check to make sure your resume and portfolio is perfect; so why isn’t that Facebook page getting the once-over when your profile is easily your online resume for anyone to see?

Here are a couple of suggestions on how to job-proof your profile:

  • Customize your own privacy settings. Go to Account, select privacy settings. Select Customize settings. Change the things you share to Friends Only or Only Me
  • Consider changing your name on your profile. Use your middle initial as your last name or use your middle name as your first name. How? Go to Account, select My Account. Under Settings, you will find “name” and select “change.”
  • Make the pictures in which you are tagged only available to yourself: You can also do this when you customize your privacy settings.
  • Delete any inappropriate photos: Think of it this way, if you don’t want your Grandma to see them then you don’t want a future employer to.
  • Info should be short and sweet.
  • Be smart about what you put on your Likes and Interests; no one really needs to know that you like “Your Mom” jokes.
  • Watch what you say on your status: Employers will not be impressed with someone who gushes their relationship problems every hour of everyday.

With these helpful tips you should be on our way out of Facebook rehab and on the right path to landing that dream job.

Erin Lucido

Seeing is Believing! How to Create a Vision Board

Tuesday, November 16th, 2010 2:13 pm

[Editor's Note: The following GGG Firsthand was written by Rashana A. Hooks]

Growing up, my mother would always tell me to keep my “eyes on the prize.” As an educator, she instilled in me that education was the key to success, and if I wanted to become successful I not only needed a college degree; I needed a vision of what I wanted to accomplish.

I’d heard about vision boards for a while, and I learned how to fully create one from an article in O, The Oprah Magazine. The purpose of the board is to help you see your goals and dreams clearly by using images and sayings/quotes that represent your aspirations.

Here’s how it works: There are three main elements on my board (which you can see above!). The first are quotes–motivational sayings to encourage me, inspire me, and lift me up. The second element is photos that represent my short-term and long-term goals, such as becoming a published author, owning my own home (including a summer home in South Hampton!), and increasing my salary in the next couple of years. There are picture clippings of Oprah, Michelle Obama, and Desiree Rogers to remind me that intelligence, beauty and being all around fabulous is so sexy. I also have dreamy pictures of sandy white beaches with blue waters to motivate me to continue to work hard so I can take beautiful vacations! Symbolically, the third and last element is a photograph that represents my spirituality. Its purpose is to keep me centered, focused and humbled.

I keep the board above my computer in my home office, and look at it for a boost of confidence before I begin a new project, or to help me refocus after a setback. Not long ago I was in a job that I was absolutely not passionate about.  I went to my vision board, and one particular quote caught my attention that day: “Be absolutely determined to enjoy what you do.” It was at that moment I knew I deserved to be happy doing what I wanted and I was not going to stop until I reached that goal. I’ve since left that job and have been freelance writing. Two of my proudest accomplishments since? My short story titled “GOAL DIGGER” is published in the anthology Souls of My Young Sisters, Kensington Publishing 2010, and I’m now nearing the steps to owning my first home.

Thinking about giving a vision board a try? Here are a few steps to create your own:

  1. Write down your dreams, goals, and aspirations (Be very, very specific).
  2. Get a poster board, small to mid-size bulletin board or a large sheet of paper (11 x 14).
  3. Grab a few magazines, tape and a pair of scissors.
  4. Search the magazine for pictures that mirror the goals and dreams you identified in step #1.
  5. Place your selected clippings onto the board.
  6. Take a few minutes to look at each “vision” and then envision yourself achieving them.
  7. Place the board at eye level, in a place you frequent often.
  8. Look at the board every day – and keep your eyes on the prize!
  9. Revise your board from time to time, replacing completed goals with new ones.

Rashana A. Hooks