Q & A
A Conversation with
Kirsten Poe Hill & Renée E. Warren
Authors of
The Absolutely True Adventures of Best Friends in Business

Q: You Buy the Peanut Butter, I’ll Get the Bread is part inspiring business story and part how-to on building and maintaining a successful business. What inspired you to write this book?
A: Kirsten: Having been in business with your dear friend for years, you are bound to share funny, incredible, painful and joyous moments. This quite naturally happened with me and Renée and we would often say "this would be great material for a book." Finally we started jotting stories down to remember in case it ever happened. After we scraped ourselves off the floor from our tax crisis we realized that now, we REALLY had a story to tell and started trying to find out how to write a book. We knew that there had to be plenty of people out there who could identify with our experience and/or be encouraged by it.

Renée: Kirsten and I have always said, from the start of our company, that we had a book in us. Along our journey, there were stories we thought others could learn from. So, when we discovered that one of Kirsten’s friends had a friend who was an agent; we decided to start the project. We contacted her, and started to write our proposal. We had some work to do but she too thought we had a story to tell.

Q: In this current time of economic insecurity how is your book even more necessary and helpful for the emerging small business entrepreneurs embarking on a new project?
A: Kirsten: As a small business owner it seems as though you are always experiencing a recession. Readers will see from our book that we were often operating at a deficit - a client who would not pay, a bill past due, a bad accountant - and always had to put cost-saving techniques into practice in order to survive.  I think the lesson in this economy and in life, business owner or not, is that you should always live below your means - personally and professionally and be prepared for the lean times. We tell the story of how we survived with oftentimes, little or nothing and show the clever practices we put into place to improve our situation. This can be useful in any economy.

Renée:Our book is timely because small businesses must survive. Small firms with fewer than 500 workers employed 58.6 million according to the most recent report by the office of Advocacy/SBA. Small businesses have been and will continue to be the hallmark of America. In our book, we give tips on how to survive in a tough economy. Simple ways to reduce your bottom line and even though we are in challenging times, it still can be a time that you can live your dreams and start that small business.

Q: You both were in media prior to launching Noelle-Elaine Media, Inc. What drew you to this industry and ultimately to launch your own media relations company?
A: Kirsten: The media industry combines creativity and business. You are able to be creative in your thought process and strategic in your implementation. You have to consider logistics, time management, people management, media management, venues, budgets, protocol and 100 things coming at you at the same time, so you always have to think on your feet. But the pay off is that  you are never bored - you work on a conference,  a movie screening, a dinner, an event in another country, a press conference with a dignitary, a project with a celebrity - it's always changing and you're always adapting to that change - and that is what makes it exciting. It is certainly not for the faint-hearted.

Renée:I have always known that my passion was the media industry. While in high school and college, I wrote for my school paper and later became a reporter. It was always my desire to tell a story through words. Additionally, I loved planning events, and was always the one planning the birthday party or other holiday celebrations – so, our company just formalized my passions.

Q: You say in the book that paying rent was the least of your worries during the early stages of the business. Was there ever a time that you wanted to throw in the towel and give-up?
A: Kirsten: We never thought about giving up - by hook or by crook, we were going to make it.  This was our baby and we had to nurture it. Even in bad times, having a business was crucial to our independence. It was essential to living life the way we wanted; even if we weren't always experiencing that life, we knew we were working to make it happen. We were in control of who we worked with, how we worked, when we worked, and even when it seemed like we were in control of "a whole lot of nothing," - it was ours. Now we certainly took time to say "this is not being effective, how can we change what we are doing and how we are doing it for better results?" but we have never given up.

Q: You two are clearly best friends and have been for years. Was your friendship ever tested, especially during the early years when the company was still being established?

A: Kirsten:  Renée and I have been lucky in that we have managed to avoid most problems like that.  Early on, we decided not to work together but on the business that we individually brought in. That meant that she would work and oversee her business and her team the way she wanted and I would do the same. So we were never in each other's hair or conflicted about style of work.  Often we'd be in the same office but barely have time to talk as we were so busy on our projects. We would however, all come together for key planning and brainstorming and of course "show time," pooling all of our resources and expertise to make a project happen.

Renée: We may not have agreed on all business decisions, but at the end of the day we have always agreed that we would never let the business affect our friendship. 

Q: The title of the book is a reference to bringing different things to the table and the business relationship. In a few sentences can you describe the different personality traits/characteristics that you both bring to the company?
A: Kirsten: It's simple - Charlotte York and Miranda Hobbs; Mary Tyler Moore and Rhoda Morgenstern!

shoot from the hip and say what I mean; I am passionate to a fault in business and in life. I am intense about everything, and will give 1000% in all that I do. I am direct and my mind goes a mile a minute, but I am quick on my feet. Renée is the calm in the storm; she is the consummate professional and always even-tempered. But don't take her calmness for being a push over - and as I say in the book, is a true steel magnolia with balls of a truck driver.

Renée:I think that I bring the flexibility to view all sides of a situation to the table, business background from working in my father’s business and I believe “good” everyday common sense. And, at the end of the day, common sense is probably the most important.

Q: The book is written from both of your voices. Describe your writing style; did you write chapter by chapter or did you each write a version and combine the two into this format?
A: Kirsten: I write as I speak. When you read my chapters you are reading my voice, as if I was talking directly to you. I did not feel writing this book was a challenge because I was writing what happened to me, how it happened to me and how I felt.

In terms of the chapters, we felt that for the first chapter it was important for the readers to "meet" both of us and for the tax chapter, for the readers to see the devastation we experienced from our individual perspectives. 

Renée:From the start Kirsten and I agreed to write separate chapters about our personal lives and then collaborate on the chapters concerning the business. Now we both thoroughly went though each other’s chapters to coordinate tone etc. But I think our styles were complimentary. I write from a stream of consciousness and then fix the grammar and verbiage later.

Q: What distinguishes You Buy the Peanut Butter, I’ll Get the Bread from other business books? 
A: Kirsten: Most people hear about "super heroes" with multi-million dollar businesses sharing their secrets to success. Our story tells the funny behind-the-scenes stories and shares the true existence of the unseen, average, small business owners and what they go through to survive.  We also combine this story with the personal things that were going on in our lives - friendship, marriage, buying a home as we were becoming business owners and "adults," so to speak, at the same time and I think the juxtaposition is what makes our story unique.

Renée:Our book really delves into tips for the small business owner. When you read Michael Bloomberg’s book, you really are reading about a large businesses. Our book can give you tips on starting a business with 10 or more employees. Also, the backdrop is our lives –young women coming of age.

Q: Looking back, if you had known 15 years ago what you know now in terms of the lows and the emotional, physical and personal toll that launching a business takes, would you still do it?
A: Kirsten: 100% yes - except I would respect my instincts more, doubt myself less and ALWAYS put my business on equal footing with my clients.

Renée:Absolutely! The experiences that I have had over the past 15 years can’t be measured and I would not trade it for anything. The highs definitely surpass the lows.

Q: What is the most important element from You Buy the Peanut Butter, I’ll Get the Bread that you hope readers will take away?
A: Kirsten:
1. We were two young women who had an idea and made it come true - and they can too.
2. It is not always easy or pretty, but it’s always interesting and often fun!
3. Ignoring it and not taking proper care of it could be a downfall and jeopardize everything you worked for.
4. You must respect your business and perform regular "check-ups."
5. And you must do the same for yourself - how is your personal life, how is your financial health - are you enjoying the moment or just watching things happen to you.
6. That women CAN work together!

Renée:That it’s your inner strength that will assist you in surviving and that you should always live your dreams.

Q: Is there one common mistake that people make when starting a new business?
Renée:They forget to “mind” their business and watch their bottom line. It’s like the old saying: “the shoemaker w/o shoes.” Kirsten and I walked without shoes for a long time. We didn’t mind our store. We made sure everyone else had the best and we didn’t put ourselves first.

Q: Do you think that anyone can be successful in business or are their some personality traits that help set someone up for success?
A: Kirsten: I think you have to have or develop the right personality to run a business.   People often see the back end - the events we throw, the places we travel, etc. But you have to be willing to work 24 hours a day, to not stop until a job is done and often do it twice, to postpone one thing to make another happen and to sacrifice for the best results.  Not everyone is cut out for that nor do they truly want that type of lifestyle.

Renée:I think you really have to be willing to work hard. While that sounds simple, but you can’t stop working at 5pm, or expect to have a work free vacation. That’s not to say that, you don’t have days that you can get off at 2 or 5 or go away with out interruptions. But, you are responsible for others and you have to be prepared for all emergencies. You must be willing to sacrifice and put your all into your endeavor.

Q: What’s next for the two of you?
A: Kirsten: A best-selling book that takes my career in a new direction as author, speaker, mentor and expert on being a woman in business; a business that functions without being dependent on my daily presence; the presence of mind to, after 15 years adjust my business to the life I now want to live; to live a fearless life that honors who I am today; to always be open to change and the possibilities of life!

Renée:I’m not sure. I’m open to new experiences.