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Toffee TalkThis month’s Celebrity Spotlight features Catherine Hughes & Ellin Purdom of Cj’s Toffee & Toppings, LLC, more commonly known as: “Toffee Talk” Little Pieces of Conversations.

Toffee so good it starts conversations!   Based out of San Francisco, Catherine and Ellin pride themselves on shipping candy that tastes so fresh and delicious you wouldn’t want to buy it any other way.

Q. What inspired you to start your own business?

A. Cousins, best friends, sisterly love, a Hawaiian 50th Birthday Party, and a cherished childhood recipe was the inspiration behind Toffee Talk, our artisan, award-winning confections company.  We both have had successful careers in the Real Estate and Investment worlds, but a trip celebrating Catherine’s 50th Birthday with 12 of our closest friends brought a different sort of flavor and richness to our lives.  Through many long talks, our friends recommended that Catherine use her Godmother’s Toffee recipe to start a new career. Toffee Talk was born.

Q. How is your business a reflection of your own personality and passions?

A. Catherine:  I have always loved cooking.  It started when I was a Piedmont Campfire Girl in the 3rd grade. We had to give ourselves an Indian name and I chose right away “Pa Shu Ta” which means “to be a cook”.  From this early age I have always loved entertaining and cooking for friends.   It only took me 50 years to turn my passion into an award winning confection business.

A. Ellin:  My passion has been networking with everyone we know and learning every step of the way. The first thing we discovered is that we have an amazing product – once people tasted Toffee Talk, it started to sell itself.  Using our Social Media channels has helped us spread the word about our company.  We are lining up orders faster than we ever imagined. Once we started talking/tweeting about Toffee Talk – the cat was out of the bag. Your friends and family can also be a great source of connections – just ask them.

Q. What is your “bigger why” of being in business?

A. It is never too late to turn your passion into a dream. We are having a blast planning the next chapter in our lives.  We have always wanted to do something together and hope to build our company into something we can be proud of.

Q. What are three words that describe the essence of you and your business (don’t be shy!)

A. Catherine:  Smart, Successful,  & “Busy-as-hell”
A. Ellin:   The Human LinkedIn

Q. Greatest Lesson learned: Something you have learned about yourself in the process of becoming a female entrepreneur?

A. Catherine: I had never been involved in a startup but have been mentored by many successful entrepreneurs.  I realized that if they could do it so could I!  However, my career in legal transactional real estate has proven to be invaluable in launching Toffee Talk.  There are so many legalities in starting your own business – I had a good understanding.  I am now a proud card carrying member of the Small Business/Entrepreneur Club.

Q. Your secret luxury or indulgence?

A. Catherine – A shot of really good tequila.
A. Ellin – A piece of artisan dark chocolate every night after dinner.

Q. Favorite restaurants?

We love supporting and eating at our local restaurants:

A. Catherine:  A16 and Meze’s on Chestnut Street, San Francisco

A. Ellin:  Cucina and Insalata’s in San Anselmo

Q. Favorite shoes?

A. We both agree – Dansko Clogs. Not terribly sexy but critical for those that stand on their feet all day.

Q. Books worth reading?

A. Catherine:  Handmade: How Eight Everyday People Became Artisan Food Entrepreneurs And Their Recipes For Success
bu Jennifer Lewis.

A. Ellin:  The Tao of Twitter: Changing Your Life and Business 140 Characters at a Time by Mark Schaefer

Q. Dream vacation?

A. Escape for 4 days to Tucson, Arizona to Miraval Resort and Spa. An amazing place to re-energize, rest, reflect and get “Life In Balance”.

Q. Exercise of choice?

A. Catherine:  Private Pilates Sessions
A. Ellin:  Getting in 10,000 steps per day

Q. Items in your bag you cant live without

A. Catherine: iPhone, Toffee Talk Samples, Brown Sharpie Pen, Bobbi Brown Lipstick
A. Ellin: iPad, Fitbit, Square Reader, & always Toffee Talk Samples

Q. Women who have inspired you?

A. You women out there reading this who had the guts and gumption to start and run your own business.  That includes you Jane!

Q. Where can we find you online?

Web address:  www.cjstoffeetalk.com
Facebook:  Facebook.com/CJsToffeeTalk
Twitter:  @Toffee_Talk
Pinterest: Pinterest.com/toffeetalk
Instagram: Instagram.com/toffee_talk


Latest obsessions I have discovered I can’t live without…

1. Jo Malone Pomegranate Noir Fragrance

Well ,my friends know that I’m pretty much obsessed with anything Jo Malone.  Recently I have adopted pomegranate noir which is a wonderful fall scent. The Joe Malone fragrances can be cleverly layered and this one works very well with grapefruit or lavender and amber- two of my other Jo Malone staple fragrances.  It is also very intriguing on it’s own. I bought a small candle and the body cream which often is a little bit less Intense than a cologne… And why not moisturize while you’re at it anyway?

2.  The tangle free magic brush by Regency.

This amazing brush comes in a variety of colors and slides right through your hair when it’s wet.  The best way to untangle your hair when you step out of the shower. Wish I had this when I was a little girl dealing with rats-nests in my wavy tresses. A must have for girls of all ages! Can be purchased at Joseph Cozza Salon-  77 Maiden Lane in San Francisco-2nd floor.  (My favorite hair salon)

3.  The Hydra Facial by Edge.

Have you tried this yet? I had my first one in Vail Colorado this past winter and loved how it cleanses extracts and moisturizes all with the tip of a magic machine. Not painful at all! Check their website for a location near you http://www.hydrafacial.com


maggie schreiberThis month’s Celebrity Spotlight features Maggie Schreiber. Certified Dream Coach® WOW Coach, and Founder of Women Of Wonder, a spiritually based women’s group of self discovery.  We connect from the heart, inspire dreams, celebrate friendship and expand joy.

Q. What inspired you to start your own business?

A. I spent the first half of my career in dentistry as a registered dental assistant and office manager. 
I discovered my ability to nurture patients who were in pain and fear, 
and support them to realize their dream of a beautiful smile.  After 22 years of being in the dental field I wanted a more creative way to serve others; 
my life changed when I attended a workshop and discovered 
that who I am matters.  I began a journey to deeper self discovery and found that as much as I resisted being a coach it was what I did naturally and I was really effective at it.  My dream at the time was to be an event planner and to own a retreat space for women to be nurtured and inspired.  I thought it had to be either or….. coaching or retreats.  Then I realized it could be both!!!!!  My women’s group sprouted from something I did for 10 of my friends to thank them for being angels in my life.  I planned a weekend away with all the details, location, meals, activities and they just had to send me a check and show up.  It became an annual weekend away called our WOW weekend.  I wanted them to experience a WOW, whether it was because they did something for the first time like kayaking or because they learned something about themselves.

Q. How is your business a reflection of your own personality and passions?

A. I have created a business that nurtures and inspires women who have given to others most of their lives, at their own expense, who are ready now to know they matter and be in the flow of giving AND receiving. This creating a WOW life of balance, abundance and joy.  How did I come to this?  I believe it is my blessing to nurture and inspire.  I was born into a family where my father died of cancer when I was three and my mother was an alcoholic. My siblings were 20, 18, and 15.  I think I was born into the family to create a focus of love and inspiration as my father was going through his battle with cancer.   After my father’s death my mother had a very tough time being in her 40’s alone to raise a child.  My mother’s disease prevented her from offering any nurture to me as a child and I didn’t feel like I mattered.  From this wound came the ability and desire to nurture others.  The happy ending to the story is my sister stepped in and raised me with her two daughters.  I realize now that my sister’s generous loving offer and my mother’s willingness to let go and allow my sister to raise me was really an example of how I matter. I am passionate about women being nurtured and inspired to know that they matter. Oh and I almost forgot.  I love to have fun and my gatherings and events are really fun!!

Q. What is your “bigger why” of being in business?

A. I want to do what I love that allows me to be creative and to have fun all while making money.  Why?  To support my family and to own a retreat space to serve many women and to create a foundation for giving back.  I don’t know at this time what the foundation looks like and who I am to serve but I am excited and trust that if I keep doing this work and don’t give up it will be revealed to me.

Q. What are three words that describe the essence of you and your business (don’t be shy!)

A. Nurture, Inspiration, Collaboration. Can I add one more? FUN!!!!!

Q. Greatest Lesson learned: Something you have learned about yourself in the process of becoming a female entrepreneur?

I learned that when I have doubts and fears around my business, and at times I do, that it is very important to reach out and ask for help.  There have been times in my business where I have said “I AM DONE”  and felt like I had to get a J.O.B. and then I remember to call on my trusted guides, a friend, my coach, the angels, God, the Universe (sometimes all at the same time) and know that I am supported and not all alone. I have also learned that if I am asked to do something and it isn’t a HELL YES  then it is a no!  I get into trouble when I say well maybe I can do that.  That means it is a no.

Q. Your secret luxury or indulgence?

This is an interesting question.  I love flowers and pedicures and staying in hotels with room service but specifically what is my secret luxury…. I don’t have one.  You have inspired me to find a luxury that I do that is my special secret.  I just thought of something that is an indulgence.  I have a session every week with my shaman and spiritual counselor Lynn Bieber.

Q. Favorite restaurants?

A. Bottega Micheal Chiarello’s Restaurant in Yountville and The River’s End in Jenner.

Q. Favorite shoes?

A. My black boots that I bought in Italy. Funny thing is I discovered after being so excited about buying Italian boots that they were made in India.

Q. Books worth reading?

A. Of course our book Catch Your Star and Simple Abundance

Q. Dream vacation?

A. Returning to Italy only this time starting with a Mediterranean cruise and then spending a couple weeks in Italy with my whole family.

Q. Women who have inspired you?

Marianne Williamson she was the first mentor I connected with on my spiritual quest.  Louise Hay, you are never to old to realize your dream and to make a difference.  Ellen DeGeneres, speak your truth, break the barriers, and be kind and funny while doing it.  Caterina Rando, my business coach who builds her business with passion and heart and has inspired me to be loud and proud about my business.  Lynn Bieber, my shaman and spiritual counselor who’s wisdom and love allows me to see my magnificence. And finally the women in my WOW community who share their blessings, inspiration, courage, and love to support each other in living a life that is balanced, abundant, and full of joy.

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operaballgazeboLast Friday night my husband and I went to the 91st opening of the San Francisco Opera and the “Opera Ball” at City Hall. We hadn’t attended for a number of years as we were busy attending our sons high school football games on Friday evenings in September.

As newer empty nesters, we decided it would be fun to once again join the excitement of this wonderful San Francisco fall tradition. Although we both appreciate opera, we are certainly not aficionados by any stretch , however we love the celebratory nature of the event, the ambiance, people, and of course hoopla that goes along with this grand opening night. We loved seeing the breathtaking dresses on the thematic green carpet- this years party theme was the Garden of Good and Evil to go hand in hand with the performance of SF Opera’s Mephestopheles. I wore a turquoise chiffon dress beautifully designed by well known and incredibly talented Azadeh of Azadeh Couture.

The Event design this year was created by celebrity designer Colin Cowie from New York and the devil was definitely in all the details- right down to the desserts; white chocolate and chocolate skulls filled with berries and custard- divine. We loved sharing the dinner hour with good friends who we don’t see nearly enough. Walking from City Hall to the Opera House and enjoying the performance in such a beautiful setting was a treat…All around It was a lovely evening and we had a wonderful time.

We enjoyed the cocktail hour upon arrival, as it’s always fun to connect with old friends and meet new people. It was also during this time I realized I spotted three women in particular who have “friended” me on Facebook (and one who even followed me on Instagram and Twitter) Back when they “friended” me I remembered thinking “Oh that’s nice- I’ve seen her around town socially, how kind of her to connect with me.” All three women are very active promoting themselves online for either a business, book or philanthropic endeavor through both social media and high profile social events. Great thing to do…I get it….but… Oh wait…when I walk up to them to offer a smile and look of recognition and hello I realize they have absolutely no idea who I am…Yes, I was just a number…. adding to their “friend count” and they look through me and move on…yes…true… And they want me to buy their book? Support their fundraiser? Use their services? Sorry, we may live in a tech savvy world but manners and real life social graces still matter. If you are going to connect with someone via social media, (especially in your own community) be aware that you may actually meet them one day in person and be ready for that interaction. Personally, I choose to connect and promote people who are socially aware and authentic. I would never expect them to necessarily remember my name- but not even a look of recognition or smile, or hello? Really?

By the end of the night my Facebook news feed was filled with their photos in full “self-promotion” mode as a glaring yet pointed reminder that if I am going to use social media in that way I’d better think about the personal touch and how I connect with people in the real world. Social Media is a wonderful connection tool and can be used to build a strong network but how far will a superficial network that focuses on quantity, and not quality really take you? Click: UNFRIEND.

Cathy CurtisThis month’s Celebrity Spotlight features Cathy Curtis. Owner of Curtis Financial Planning, LLC.   Financial Planning and Investing for Savvy Women, their Families and their Businesses.

Curtis Financial Planning, LLC is a independent financial advisory firm based in Oakland dedicated to helping women create successful financial lives through careful financial planning and investment management.

Q: What inspired you to start your own business?  

A: Since I was a teenager, I’ve been fascinated by investing and personal finance. I was intrigued by what made one business successful and another fail. When I found out you can invest in companies and make money that way, I was hooked. My father was a businessman and since I admired him so much, I think that I was destined to be in business. As a young child, I made up a game called “important papers” where I would make-believe I was running an office using old receipts and invoices my dad would give me. Yes, I also played with Barbie dolls but Important Papers was my favorite game!  While I was building a career in sales and marketing in corporate America I invested my money and learned all I could about personal finance, eventually studying and getting the credentials to be a financial planner and investment advisor. 13 years ago, I started Curtis Financial Planning making two dreams come true: doing what I was passionate about for a living and doing it on my own terms as an entrepreneur and business owner.

Q: How is your business a reflection of your own personality and passions?

A: One of the unsatisfying realities of my corporate career is that I was selling product, not helping people.  This bothered me and drove me towards my career change. Developing financial plans for my clients and seeing their financial lives improve in result is very rewarding.  I’m a very independent person and never made the ideal “employee.” I think I always wanted to be the boss!  I also have strong radar for any kind of unfair treatment due to gender and I found that I could avoid that altogether by starting my own firm.

Q: What is your “bigger why” of being in business?

A: Only 16% of financial advisors in America are women. No one really knows why except some surveys show that women feel that the industry is too male-dominated and/or that the career wouldn’t be interesting and/or that one needs to be a math-whiz to be an advisor.  I’m proud of  the  fact that I’m one of the women trying to level the odds.  It’s also important to me to be proud of what I do, to feel like I’m making a difference in people’s lives and to be stimulated intellectually by my work. There is never a dull moment when investing money, that’s for sure.

Q: What are three words that describe the essence of you and your business (don’t be shy!)

A: Independent, Nonjudgmental, Trustworthy

Q:  Greatest Lesson learned: What is something you have learned about yourself in the process of becoming a female entrepreneur?

A: I’m a very social person, but I don’t mind working on my own.  I do my best work without a lot of distractions and I don’t need a lot of other people around me to stay motivated or engaged. But, I also learned that as a business owner you can’t do everything yourself and you need to know when to hire and delegate tasks. I learned that trying to do everything myself  just leads to burn out and distress. In almost every case, the investment in people or new technology paid off in making me and my firm more productive.

Q: Your secret luxury or indulgence?

A: I love clothes. I recently turned an extra bedroom into my home into a closet – I call it “My Atelier.”  I re-painted the walls, I bought some nice hardware from a boutique that was going out of business and I had an artist friend paint original art for my walls. It’s now more fun than ever to get dressed in the morning or when going out!

Q. What are your favorite restaurants?

A: Gather Restaurant in Berkeley is my #1 choice without question.  The chef is a genius in creating dishes that are unique in flavor, texture and ingredients without using a lot of fat and salt.  Whether it’s his vegetable based dishes or meat or fish, there is always something special about them and taste delicious too.  I can’t wait for his new restaurant to open in San Francisco’s Russian Hill- Verbena.

Q: Tell us about your favorite shoes:

A: I like to be able to move whether I’m casual or dressed up, so I’m not a stiletto or pointy-toe girl. Fortunately there are shoe designers that “get this” such as Dana Davis, Paul Green, Claudia Ciutti and Coclico. My Paul Green red suede platform sling-back pumps are a favorite as well as my Dana Davis black kid and patent leather platform peep-toe pumps. I wear-out just about every pair of Coclico shoes I buy. Maximum heel height for me is about 3.5 inches. I don’t do flat-flats…I always like a little heel.

Q: What book(s) do you recommend reading?

A: This is tough one! There are so many great books and I love to read. Recently I’ve read and can recommend:

How to Deliver a Ted Talk by Jeremey Donovan – lot’s of helpful tips about how to be a better public speaker and communicator.
Wild by Cheryl Strayed – great story about perseverance and a woman pushing her limits
CoCo Chanel: The Legend and the Life – She is a controversial character but the story of her life is interesting and inspiring.

Q: Describe your Dream vacation:

A: I love the excitement and variety that a big city has to offer, but I also love the tranquility and beauty of the outdoors.  So I have two dream vacations.  One would be a hiking trip (not camping!) through the National Parks of the Southwest, staying in gorgeous eco-chic lodgings along the way. The other would be an over the top dining, shopping, art-gazing week in Paris followed by a wine tour of the Bordeaux region of France.

Q: Who are some women who have inspired you?

A: Muriel Siebert: She started her own investment advisory firm in 1966 and was the first woman to own a seat on the New York Stock exchange in 1967.

Hillary Clinton:  wife, mother, Senator from New York, Secretary of State…maybe a Presidential candidate. She perseveres against all odds.

My Auntie Clarisse – my favorite relative…died at 99 years old, classy until the end. She taught me to be less sensitive, to laugh a lot, to nurture friendships and to like myself. Her favorite drink:  Manhattan.  She always gave me the cherry :-)


To learn more about Cathy Curtis you can visit her website and follow her online at:

Web:  www.curtisfinancialplanning.com

Facebook: Facebook.com/Women.and.Money

Twitter: @CathyCurtis

Pinterest:  Pinterest.com/cathycurtis