At the ripe old age of 28 (and three-quarters) Kendra Aronson has already checked a box on her life-goals list.
Last year after interviewing, writing, photographing, editing, designing, marketing, social media-ing and hosting a successful crowd-funding campaign, she published “The San Luis Obispo Farmers’ Market Cookbook.”
The years-in-the-making project had a stellar release that resulted in a second print run.
The proprietress of Kendra Aronson Creative Studio recently took off all the hats that a solopreneur wears and talked about Leslie Knope, saying “yes” and asking chefs for their recipes.
What is your favorite word?
The word “yes” because it implies excitement, new beginnings and opportunities. It’s the best word in any language as far as I’m concerned!
Who would play you in the film of your life?
I’ve been told that I am a real life Leslie Knope from Parks & Rec, because like Leslie, I too am organized, ambitious, enthusiastic, productive, energetic, thoughtful, inclusive, upbeat, encouraging, hard-working and persistent. Even though she is a fictional character (that can be over-to-top at times) I take it as a huge compliment since we have similar values and personalities. I try to channel my inner Knope on the daily.
What do you want to be when you grow up?
In first grade I wanted to be the person in charge of naming the colors of Crayola crayons; in fifth grade and sixth grade I wanted to be an architect; in 10th grade I wanted to be a pre-calculus teacher for high school students; in my senior year of college I wanted to be an ESL (English as a Second Language) teacher—particularly serving the immigrant population through non-credit community college courses. Now, at 28 and three-quarters I want to be a full-time creative freelancer. Since 2014 I’ve been running my own one-woman business: Kendra Aronson Creative Studio. I’m an enthusiastic ”Jane of all trades” who is always on the lookout for personal projects, work opportunities and creative collaborations.
What personal quality are you working on?
I recently finished reading The Power of Habit—I’m always reading some kind of book on self-help, self-improvement, entrepreneurship, creativity, productivity—and I’m focusing on ingraining habits into my routine like taking exercise classes regularly, walking our dog every afternoon and zeroing my inbox as frequently as possible.
The success of the SLO Farmers’ Market Cookbook is a testament to the years-long hard work and time that you put into creating it. What motivated you to go through all of that?
It was a product that I truly believed in. They say that you should write the book you want to read, so that’s what I did. It was only a matter of time before San Luis Obispo had its very own farmers market cookbook (many other cities have their own: Santa Monica, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Davis, etc.) and I wanted to be the one to do it. When I started brainstorming the concept of the book I was craving a creative challenge that I could throw myself into. I had always wanted to become a better writer, a more skilled food photographer, and I had a yearning for teaching myself graphic design—it was the perfect project to sharpen all three of these skillsets. Once I got the dream of creating The San Luis Obispo Farmers’ Market cookbook in my head I couldn’t shake it. I knew I didn’t want to fall into the typical trap of putting down a dream on an ever-growing lofty life-goals list; I needed to immediately put it into action. It’s good to dream big: write a cookbook, start a business, travel more—but it’s equally important to take a daunting dream and break it down into small actionable task items to reach the end goal. As an obsessive list maker, this cookbook project really showed me how to take a big project and reverse engineer a to-do list!
You spoke to many dozens of farmers, chefs and ranchers to gather stories, insights and ideas. What was the most fascinating thing that you learned throughout the process?
What surprised me is that everyone was willing to take a chance on me. When I started the project a few years back I had no credentials or experience in what I was doing, yet everyone was willing to share their time and expertise with me. I was extremely hesitant to reach out to chefs to ask for their recipes because I assumed that all of them would keep them close to the vest. I was nervous they would say no and I was afraid of rejection. I really lollygagged on asking for recipes because of this fear, until I had a light bulb moment of: if they say no, I will be exactly where I am right now with no recipes. The worst case scenario would be to have to create all 60 recipes myself, and even though that would add time to my project release date, it could be another skillset I could add to my tool belt. Now I’m not afraid to ask for anything from everyone, worst case scenario is they say no and then you figure out a new way to approach a problem. To my surprise, almost everyone I reached out to said yes—my favorite word!