We feel like there’s just so much put on productivity and that rest is the opposite of that. When in reality, it’s part of that, right? That is the time where you can innovate. That is a time where you get new ideas. That’s when you’re breaking away from your routine and stepping outside of yourself and letting new things come in.
If you had the freedom to rest, what would you do? What could you do? Could you take the freedom to rest and create Chronic Profit?
That’s just what today’s guest did. She launched a marketing business alongside her 9 to 5, and after 4 months, left for her own business that she worked from her couch. She created a life where she could give her body the rest she needed, and I think you’ll be in awe of where she is now. #nospoilers
This week’s episode interview is with author, marketer, and mom Alison Tedford. Alison is an Indigenous entrepreneur and author from Abbotsford, BC, Canada. Her experiences building a business while managing chronic pain led her to write her first book, Chronic Profit.
Alison and I endeavored to talk about rest from both a disability perspective as well as a mompreneur lens and the revolutionary idea that self-care as a business investment is your most valuable asset.
In specifics, we talk about:
- how Alison started her own business,
- how working for herself allows Alison to work when and how and where she works best,
- the story of Alison’s publishing deal for Chronic Profit,
- how asking for what she wants and needs leads Alison in launching her creative projects,
- the ways we hope the pandemic changes the world,
- how the freedom to rest leads to greater creativity,
- the communication Alison shares with her would-be clients so they respect her mode of operation,
- why you need to think of your own rest as an investment in your most valuable business asset, and
- memes, of course.
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I was a fan before I was a guest. Now I’ve been a guest and I’m an even greater fan! Cristin Downs is an amazing interviewer and host. She is insightful, professional and just a pleasure to work with. What comes across in the stories is as much a product of Cristin’s fierce talent in conceptualizing the episodes and finding the stories as it is the a reflection of her interesting and engaging subjects. Fantastic, Notable Women. Listen and enjoy!
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She is an indigenous entrepreneur and author from Abbotsford, British Columbia, Canada. Her experiences building a business while managing chronic pain have led her to write her first book, Chronic Profit. Allison. Thank you so much for being here today.
Alison: Thank you so much for having me. I’m so excited.
Cristin: It’s so, wonderful. So we’re doing a series on rest right now. And so I had mentioned in Julie Neale’s group, who, I’m pretty sure that is how I know you is through Julie. That’s entirely possible.
Alison: We, Julie and I worked together and and I love her. I was a fan of her podcast before I worked with her and yeah, it’s just, [00:01:00] it’s exciting.
Cristin: Yes. I think she’s delightful. And often I feel like oftentimes on this podcast, I’m like, I think Julie introduced us, it just seems like that’s her superpower. So that I’m pretty sure is how I know you and how I’ve started to follow your work and read everything about what you’re doing.
And I had mentioned that I wanted to do a series on rest. And you mentioned that this was totally in your wheelhouse. So I thank you for coming in to talk about this particular topic. And I think it very much connects with your book that you wrote about chronic profit because obviously chronic illness and. working is particularly, I feel like in COVID-19 land, people are starting to get much more clarity around the complexities of, work while you’re dealing with an illness, any kind, let alone a chronic illness. And so do you mind sharing a little bit of your story with us.
Alison: For sure. I started my career working in government. [00:02:00] And but I had chronic health complaints and I wasn’t really sure what was going on that made it a bit harder to get accommodated in the workplace. And I just knew I needed to be living life differently. So I ended up sub-contracting as a social media manager and fell in love with it. And basically ran away and joined the circus.
So within four months I had a full-time business and I waved goodbye to my friends at the Canadian government and started working from my sofa and building a marketing practice. And it was really, cool experience. And after that, I was diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, which explained all of the things that were wrong before.
And it’s not necessarily the most treatable, definitely not curable condition. There’s lifestyle changes that you can make that can make it more manageable. So [00:03:00] I have been navigating that journey for a few years now.
Cristin: Thank you so much for sharing that. And I can definitely see that.
Again I do not have chronic illness. I’ve interviewed many people on the podcast and had many people in my group who have talked about the complexities of chronic illness and work, which is in general absolutely not accommodating whatsoever. You have to actually cut yourself open and be like, I bleed for this job.
They had possibly admit that there’s anything else in life you care about. Let alone be sick. Let alone not be able to do certain things. I remember when I first went back to work after having my tiny human and I had been very much taught that you do not eat in meetings that was very inappropriate at the executive level. And I have my tiny human and I was making milk. I was eating everything. I was Brad Pitt in Ocean’s 11. I’ll eat that like that under the sun. [00:04:00] And I just could not possibly care. I could not care how you felt about me eating in this meeting. I need to eat this to not pass out and die.
And I just it, really helped clarify for me, something I had never really understood, which is if there are things that you have to do for your physical well-being and the workplace frowns upon it, whether it’s coming in to work at different times or leaving at certain times, not coming in, in certain conditions certain workplace accommodations.
I really, I’m an empathetic person. So I won’t say I ever said no, you don’t get whatever it is that you need. But I really started to understand how complicated it must be. And in my episode with Julie Morgenlender, we talked a lot about how, so much of what we’ve been taught is a sham, essentially, that you couldn’t work from home, that you couldn’t have these accommodations.
And so COVID-19 is really blowing all of that up. I think in so many ways. So for you about, as [00:05:00] you started to make that transition into working for yourself, how have you incorporated the rest that you need into your personal schedule and found that fit for yourself?
Alison: For me working for myself meant that I could work when I’m like most able to do things.
So I woke up at five o’clock this morning and I was in the zone. So I worked through some things and and then I stopped and had some breakfast. And so I’m able to slot work in where I have the energy to do it as long as they meet the deadlines. The other thing that I did was I significantly invested in Sleep related things like I have an adjustable bed that elevates my head and my feet, so that, and that really good mattress and a C-PAP machine.
And like all of the things so that my rest is optimized because without it, I am not very useful. So those are, [00:06:00] some of the pieces and really looking at my mental capacity and looking at what. Changes I need to make in my business in order to make sure that I’m not mentally exhausted by the end of the day, and finding strategies to stay really organized, to streamline things so that it’s not such a battle to stay awake and to do the things.
Cristin: That’s excellent. It’s so great to hear that you’re. That it’s a combination of things, right? It is investing in yourself and then also responding to your, own needs, your own physical needs. So working when you should be and not working when you shouldn’t be, I’ve often thought in the nine to five life, that the whole idea of you will sit in this office chair, whether you are being productive or not, whether it would be better suited for you to go take a walk in the park or something like that.
But no, you must sit in this chair and be productive.
Alison: Yeah. And even positioning like some, I my [00:07:00] joints do weird things and sometimes I’ll have to sit in awkward positions that might look uncomfortable and maybe not very workplace appropriate, but it’s how I need to feel comfortable.
And just being able to control my environment, like I’m somebody who gets really easily overstimulated. So working in an open concept office, It was really challenging. And I was working in a role that did a lot of statistical analysis and I was working directly beside a really emotionally charged customer service department.
So that was a lot of input to be taking in while also trying to do the things. So having an optimized environment is really important for me in order to be successful.
Cristin: Those are amazing points. I definitely first time. So I’m, a theater person by training and senior people. We do our actual work wherever we want to.
And then we do our shows, obviously in our [00:08:00] rehearsals, in our theater spaces, but actors don’t learn lines three feet away from a customer service rep and stage managers don’t work on complicated queuing sequences next to. I don’t know a finance person, if I’m going to go they’re not like if you talk to yourself one more time, I’m you in the eye.
So we don’t, we get to go in our own places and I can do things at night or in the morning. And so when I switched over to nine to five life, I just was astounded. No one is actually getting any work done here. Is it totally a myth that we’re all just sitting here pretending work when really these are absolutely the most terrible conditions to get anything done whatsoever.
And I just think about, I used to, when I used to share an office with people, I always thought they were so loud. And now that I’ve been home, my husband said. No, you are loud. You are actually the [00:09:00] loud one. You are so obnoxious when you were on the phone. And I said, Oh no, one’s ever told me that, but I bet you’re very right.
A revelation and this new COVID times. So now how had, you’ve had this experience for work working for the government, going into business yourself, and then how did all of this lead to a book?
Alison: So I always wanted to write a book and I just never really knew how to make it happen.
And I thought I was inspired one day and I decided that I was going to pitch the publisher of somebody that I really admire. And I posted on Facebook and I was like, Hey guys, can you please put some good GGR onto the world for me, because I’ve pitched this publisher and they’re probably going to ignore me, but I would, it would be so cool if this, a thing.
And then one of my friends commented and she was like, would you like me to talk about your books? [00:10:00] My editor at the publisher that I.
It published by. And I was like, yes, please. If it’s not okay, please change my life. Or you may be my fairy godmother if you so choose. And she did.
And she can, they were initially interested in the concept.
They invited me to send them an email about it. They asked for more clarification about the scope of the problem. They were like, we’re having trouble visualizing it. Could you maybe give us like a draft book jacket? So I sent them a Google doc of this draft book jacket, and they came back and they’re like, yeah, we shared it with the buyers.
They’re really interested. Let’s send you a contract. And I was like, people traditionally do like these things called book proposals. And they swear about them and they’re long and they cry and sometimes they hire people to write them. They usually don’t get a book deal because you send an email and a Google doc and a couple of statistics, but that’s how it happened.
And yeah, it was very unlikely, but [00:11:00] it worked. And so I’m very delighted because there are really amazing publisher to work with.
Cristin: That’s awesome. That is a phenomenal story that I did not read on your social media because clearly I haven’t stalked to you to the level that I thought that I had done.
So that, that is so amazing. And I really think that’s something I, often tell people, which is, if you want something just saying it out loud, other people will often carry it forward into the world because. The thing that you need, like that contact would have not known that was something that you wanted to do.
Alison: So it’s amazing that, yeah, that’s something, that’s definitely been the case. When I, my sister and I decided that we wanted to launch this clothing line, I shared that. And all of a sudden, one of my friends reached out and was like, Hey, I’ve got a factory. I have a pattern designer. I have a trademark agent.
I have a fabric person. Like I’m going to connect you with all these people. Like everybody we needed was all lined up. So like definitely putting it out [00:12:00] there and asking for support is, has been really one of the best ways because people want to help.
Cristin: They absolutely do. And that makes me want to talk about the other thing that I stopped you about on social media, which is your absolutely wonderful taste in a tire that is both beautiful, lovely, and comfortable.
So I don’t know what other people call them. I call them onesies. But you have often suggested, is that what you call them? What do you call them?
Alison: They call them rompers or jumpsuits, but onesies also, I tend to call like my jammy type ones more like onesies, they’re like, they’re my favorite.
I probably have one for every day of the week. And they just bring me so much joy because I am like, I believe in being aggressively comfortable. Because life is too short to be wearing things that make you hate. No breathing.
Cristin: Yes, absolutely. And that’s what I love about everything that you talk about when you come, when you talk about [00:13:00] fashion, when you talk about clothing, is that it can look good and you can feel great.
And that’s something that I had to really transition out of, particularly being a New York city person, right? New York city, people feel the way they feel about clothes, which is, Oh, they’ve got opinions. And I had decided. I want to say it was like late 20, 19 into the beginning of 2020 that I had decided I was only going to wear shoes.
Now that made me feel grounded, but I was tired of being in shoes that. No squish my toes or felt like they were weapons. I just want it to feel like very grounded in everything that I did and in all the spaces that I move. And I’m glad I made that decision before heading into the pandemic where I think I wear seekers slippers, essentially having more, a real shoe.
And I consider this, those are real shoes, but I did, I do wear snow boots because it’s been snowing [00:14:00] quite a bit. That’s really easy.
Alison: My favorite thing about shoes is that my feet are child sized. Like I can literally wear a size four and children’s shoes. So I have shoes that light up because I believe that shoes should be fun.
And in terms of the comfort, like when you think about the ratty, like sweat pants or like the oversights. T-shirts that like have last Tuesday’s soup stains on them or whatever. Like you talk about why you hang on to them sick, but it’s so comfortable and it’s it can also look amazing and be comfortable.
Like they don’t have comfortable clothes. Don’t have to look terrible and that’s. That’s my fashion perspective.
Cristin: I love it. I think it’s, I think it’s so true. And I think that it’ll be interesting to see. I have no, no clairvoyance on the pandemic and what’s going to happen with it when it’s going to end or whatever, hopefully it does. But [00:15:00] I have a feeling that people are not going to be running back to put on painful clothes. They’re going to say, okay, I do want to go to a bookstore. I do want to go to a bar. I want to see live music, but I’m not going to put that painful, whatever it is on ever again, at least that’s my hope.
Alison: Yeah. Yeah. I hope we don’t go back to uncomfortable clothes.
I hope we don’t go back to a world where admitting you’re lonely is an awkward thing. And I hope. We don’t go back to going to work when sick. Because culturally, that was just something that you like soldiered on. And that was something that was like admired. And now it’s, you did what you were saying, like way to infect the world. It’s become like less cool to just go in there while you’re hacking your face out, stay home. So I hope we, we stick with that because it’s important.
Cristin: Yes, it absolutely is. And I think that [00:16:00] there’s, still much around our societies push for just constantly going and not taking any of these opportunities to stop and pause, which is what rest and the series is all about, which is that when you’re tired, you should sleep.
When you’re sick, you should stay home. When you need to take a break, you should take a break and not do this pushing forward, soldiering on. And it, comes in two waves, which is both the one that you mentioned, which is that please don’t come to work. If you’re sick, please take care of yourself and don’t spread it around the office.
When I made the decision to close my office, which was before New York city closed down, I had multiple emails from staff members that were sick. And so we were in your city. So we’re in the epicenter of the epicenter. And I, told people [00:17:00] okay, I have so many emails from people right now that are sick.
That it’s just, time to close down. We should just not even try to be open anymore. And that was at the time considered incredibly drastic to not to say you have a sniffle I’m concerned, I don’t know enough about this virus. You should stay home. But then also this idea of, taking care of yourself, which is outlandish now for so many people that you would for us when you need to, and that you would stop and that you don’t have to.
No, I it’s probably extreme to say, be a martyr for the cause, but having worked in nine to five corporate America, higher ed nonprofits and theater, that’s the, that’s really the belief system, which is that you get a star for, this kind of thing.
Alison: Yeah. And and the reality is, that we feel like [00:18:00] there’s just so much put on productivity and that rest is the opposite of that. When in reality, it’s part of that, right? That is the time where you can innovate. That is a time where you get new ideas. That’s when you’re breaking away from your routine and stepping outside of yourself and letting new things come in. So that rest is not it’s part of the program. It’s not stepping out of it. If you need to justify it from a productivity perspective, it is key to productivity to take rests, but I don’t think that it needs to be productive in order to be valuable. And I think it’s how we recognize ourselves as valuable even factories with machinery have to like, let them cool down a bit.
Like you can’t be running everything all the time and your body isn’t really any different you wouldn’t like to take it really expensive piece of integral [00:19:00] equipment, your business, tie it to the back of a bumper, go for a joy ride. That would be crazy. Why would you drag your investment around like that?
Like when your, the most important piece, like you, you can’t just be running it into the ground, but not resting either. Cause that’s, the same thing.
Cristin: Absolutely. And I agree with all those points that if, you need to think about it from a productivity standard, then you can do that and know that rest is integral to being productive.
And in fact, it will improve your productivity and that also you don’t need to be productive. You’re amazing and valuable just as you are as a person. And that person deserves care and attention. And that that things that matter to us then have value that they should be treated that way. I think those are all great points.
Now it does make me think, because we’re talking about your, we’re talking about your book and your business, and then of course you mentioned your clothing line. I know that you also have a [00:20:00] coffee company that you’re starting.
Alison: Yeah. So that’s an exciting process that I’m working with a friend who has a coffee company and we’re launching a really fun line of coffee for International Women’s Day.
And coffee is part of my love language. And I, love a good latte and it just really made sense in terms of a collaboration. So we’re going to be doing that for March and it’s going to be really awesome.
Cristin: I’m stoked. That is amazing. So now we’ve got clothing company, coffee company. I’m going to need that link by the way.
So I just want to be clear about that international women’s day coffee MI perfection. It’s a match made in heaven and then of course your book. And it certainly makes me think that all of these things that you’re doing, they’re very, creative. And so do you feel like by being able to be in control of your own schedule and [00:21:00] to take care of yourself the way you need to has that really helped expand your creativity?
Alison: Definitely. Cause I’m not, I’m able to think about things from different perspectives. And the people that I interact with tend to be people who support that level of balance. I’m very transparent about my health concerns. So people who work with me are aware of. What’s going on and they we work together to make sure that things happen and that I’m able to take care of myself and they can take care of themselves.
So being in that kind of supportive professional relationship means that I have the freedom to, to rest and get creative and that it doesn’t have to be like an in the middle, like quick come up with this brilliant idea. It’s okay to say I need to percolate on this for a minute and take the time and space. Like I get the most brilliant ideas in the bathtub. I spend one to two hours a day in the [00:22:00] bathtub with my bath bombs because one of my besties has a bath bomb company. And yeah, that’s where I get some of my greatest ideas is being able to chill out and just let things simmer.
Cristin: I love that. And now. Is that something you’d like to do at a certain time of the day? Or is it based on how you feel in a certain moment or do you have a routine?
Alison: I tend to like it in the evening, but sometimes if I’m in discomfort, I will take a break or if I’m really overloaded and super stressed out. Then I will just be like, it needs to be in the day bubble bath. And, then obviously like my local post office seems to be aware. Cause that’s the only time the postman comes with a package. So he’s never seen me, like not in a towel, I’m always like scrambling out of the bathtub. But yeah usually it’s evening, but sometimes it’s afternoon if I’m just like at my max and it’s funny cause my my son’s grandmother, her, the running, [00:23:00] whenever she was upset about something. Or like you’re in trouble or whatever. She would be like, go take a bath. It was the solution for everything, like Windex on my Big Fat Greek Wedding. It’s like a bath we’ll fix that.
Cristin: I definitely feel similarly. That’s how my mom feels about baths, almost everything. And so I to really enjoy my bath time and it is I would say a sacred mom activity.
Alison: I have a client who was a midwife and she refers to it as mother nature’s epidural, which I find to be very accurate.
Cristin: Yes. I love that. That is such a good way to describe it. So now I do want to, I think I have three more questions off the top of my head from just what you just said, which is first of all, from a business perspective, how do you start the conversation with folks that, who are new to you about the fact that you [00:24:00] do work in this way and you do take care of yourself?
Alison: Usually people come to me actually through either, they’re either on my Facebook, in my world already, or they know somebody who is and usually I explain this is what I navigating with. As and I am very transparent about it because I’ve published a lot about it.
So if they Google me, they’re gonna find out. So I may as well tell them and just say this is what I deal with. This is what that can look like.
This is how I work in order to accommodate things. And this is, how I need to function and let’s find a way to make sure that I get to do the things I need to do, and then you get the things that you need and that together, we can make some marketing magic.[00:25:00] Cristin: So then my next question, and it’s gonna be. Follow into the third one, which is that. So your book, his first book is coming out April, 2021, but you already have a second book also. Is that, how did that come about?
Alison: When I ha I handed my book in and then I was like, Super vulnerable. And I was like, a useless puddle for a month laying there. Like maybe they won’t like it. Maybe nothing I’ve written is ever been good.
It’s just like the most useless writer for a whole month. That was like, I wrote them. I was like, how does cause they optioned my next two projects in, the contract. So it was like, how do we go about talking about the next project?
Do you wait to see if the book does well, or do we talk about that now or how do you want to work it? And he said either, or we want to finish off this one before we get too serious [00:26:00] about anything. But if you have an idea and I was like as a matter of fact, like the summer, I ran this course to teach business owners how to talk about social justice.
And I was going to make it into an evergreen course and launch it. But if you want it as a book, I won’t, we can just do the book. And I sent them a testimonial from someone who took the course and my experience in that area and they were, they expressed an interest and then all the more, and then they were like one can get it. And then I had a contract.
Cristin: So that’s one, a phenomenal topic and I, again, I thought I was doing good in my stalking of you and I totally missed that course.
So I’m, sad as myself, but. I’ll I will go find it. And I’m excited that it’ll be a book that I can buy also. So that leads me into my third [00:27:00] question, which is that. So you have a business, a clothing company, coffee company, book one book two. How do you, find a balance to all of that?
Alison: There’s a lot of things that I don’t do. Like I do a lot of things, but like I don’t cook or clean. I have a housekeeper who’s amazing. And she, I give myself permission to do as much or as little housework as I please. And she comes and fixes the aftermath or whatever life choice. I don’t even basis. And then she’d be like fire things, sticky, like good question. She’s actually on my Facebook. So if I like I’m baking, she’s and so she helps me out that way. I order in like pre-made meals that so I don’t have to spend time standing cooking, which is tiring and unpleasant. So I just don’t. And I have a child who’s very independent. He knows how to work the microwave.
He’s good. [00:28:00] Yeah, and just really very being very focused on prioritizing things, time management and making sure things make sense and just ruthlessly editing in terms of like business. Like I shut down two business lines a few months into the pandemic and I’m still going to be shutting down another one or two coming up. So definitely just looking at what fits, what works with my bandwidth or what my projected bandwidth is going to be. And just doing like air traffic control around what can land when and what makes sense and what needs to be pushed and what, still fits and what doesn’t fit me more. And just having time away to look at that and just assess what’s really working what feels good and really listening to me your body in terms of, I used to do a lot of work supporting film, and I found that really [00:29:00] heavy launch based marketing where I’m like in the launch moment to moment is really hard on my body.
And as much as I love that work and it was really important to me cause I worked on some really important projects. My body was just like, you cannot do this again. And and, everybody worked really hard to accommodate me. But it just the reality, like sometimes some things, some industries need different things that our bodies just are not onboard with.
And that just had to be how it went. Definitely was some interesting opportunities.
Cristin: I love that description about air traffic control and things landing at different times. I could see that with. All of these projects that you’ve got have going on. They’re probably in different phases at different times. And so just working through that.
Alison: Sure. And also I don’t do it all by myself either. Like I actually hired my mom to help [00:30:00] me because that is the first person I go to when I need something. So I could do that professionally also because she’s really good at admin. So she like lovingly transcribed every interview in my book.
And she supports me in so many different ways in my business. So that’s been really helpful. And I also work with a writer out of California who is really aligned with what I do so that I can get some extra support in lining things up for me to be able to do what I need to do.
Cristin: That is awesome. Now, if people are listening to this and they’re saying to themselves, Oh, my gosh. I love Alison. I want to know everything about her and follow her around. Where would we send them?
Alison: So my website is Alisontedford.com and you can find me at Alison Tedford on Facebook for my Facebook page, which is as a warning a lot of memes, a lot of [00:31:00] social justice content. And, but just a lot of memes.
Cristin: I love that you do a meme dump every Friday, right?
Alison: The Friday meme dumps. Now I’m on Instagram. I’m also at Alison Tedford. And on Twitter, I’m at Alliespins because I used to teach pole dance once upon a time. So I did actually literally spin a lot and that I didn’t have any intention on becoming publicly anything when I developed that Twitter account. And then it just like massively grew. And now I have no idea what to do with that.
Cristin: So it just is wonderful. I am a big fan of the Friday meme jump. And I’ll make sure I link to all those wonderful places in the show notes. And as each of your amazing things happen, I will update your show notes so that people who are listening can find the clothing company, the coffee company, the books, all there as well, of course, links to your current social.
So I really thank you for taking the time to talk [00:32:00] to me today. This has been so fun to finally talk to you in person and instead of just internet stalking you, I
Alison: You’re wonderful. This is amazing. Yeah.
Cristin: Thank you.