From The Desk Of … Libbie Summers
I absolutely love this series and love diving into the lives and businesses of amazing creatives. This year has been one of my favorites so far, so it is only fitting that I end it with a feature on one of my favorite creatives. Anyone who knows Libbie Summers knows she is a perfect choice for this post as it will be filled with zest and humor, lots of color, some confetti throwing and truth for days. She is not only a kick-ass business owner, but quite possibly the most fun person to ever live.
The first time I met Libbie, my life instantly changed. I know for a fact the way I view my business and my brand changed as she immediately challenged me to take every single thing I know and change it up. Libbie is the queen of brands and is known for her amazing videos and blog posts. She is also quite possibly the owner of details.
The artistic director of A Food-Inspired Life, she is also the author of three books, Creative Culinary Director of Terra’s Kitchen and is an “award winning producer of imaginative lifestyle content for clients in print, digital and film media”. So to say she wears many hats is an understatement. She not only wears them all, she adds pompoms, gingham and somehow designs them to shoot out confetti on command. And promise me when I say, I kid you not.
My favorite thing about Libbie is her approach to brands and lifestyle content. She firmly believes and has inspired me to add life to my brand. To give it even more depth, to add video, to embrace the fun and to continue to share things that bring me immense joy, and to do it in a completely new fashion. My Instastory presence is thanks to Libbie, the introduction of videos to my blog and social media are because of everything I have heard her preach and the way I perceive myself as a business owner and as a brand this year is one hundred percent because of my relationship with this powerhouse friend.
My favorite Libbie Summers story is from The Summit earlier this year when I asked her to take a picture. She declined and then told me instead of a photo we would be shooting a video. We were at a dance party and told me the photo would do nothing to capture the moment. After downloading a strobe light app she told me to dance while she used the strobe light and captured it all on video. The result is by far one of my favorite videos for the year. We captured the sights, sounds and the fun we were having in a small one-minute video. Her decline taught me so much … selfies are so last year.
A few weeks later I posted a comment on a post she created for Valentines Day. Telling her I loved the watermelon hearts she made and would be serving them for dinner with the Hubs she responded to me saying … “perfect, and I will need to see that image with you wearing a pink tulle skirt and a pink gingham shirt”.
See what I mean … life changed.
I have the huge honor of sharing Libbie Summers’ business and journey with you. As you read the following interview you will learn so much about her but, most of all, you will understand why she is both an inspiration and a huge treasure to so many. Simply put … SHE ROCKS!
First of all, tell me about Libbie Summers. Where did you grow up and how did your childhood influence your life and your business today?
I grew up in a small town in Missouri. Summers were spent playing softball, kissing boys and long visits to my grandparent’s hog farm. The most beautiful things around me were handmade and VERY colorful. My mom and grandmother both loved color– from hair color and pickles to wall paint–my world was filled with color because of them. So, the color part of my world is a no brainer. It saturates everything I do.
The ‘food-inspired’ piece of me is a little tougher. I was always fascinated with food but it different ways than most people. It was the three shades of dirt against a red radish pulled from the ground that made me swoon. Biting into the peppery radish and learning that some were hotter than others was just a bonus. I don’t look at food the way most people do. I see it differently—deeper and more holistically.
As a child what did you want to be when you grew up?
A talk show host—I have a love for people, listening to their stories and leading conversations.
How did the journey to A Food-Inspired Life begin?
At about 35 it just hit me over the head. I realized how I see food differently– how it inspires everything I do. So, I started focusing on all dimensions of food from fashion and crafts to recipes and table settings. Everything can be inspired by the beauty of one ingredient.
What has your career path looked like and how did you get to the present day?
My career path hasn’t been totally direct. It’s been a constant learning experience and journey. I look at everything I’ve done as an opportunity to grow and better myself. I also took time to reflect on how certain things affected me—my happiness, my success, and my family. I focus on the things that matter—what brings me and those around me joy. That’s how I landed in the world of food, entertaining, creative production and more.
It went a little something like this:
- Vail, Colorado: I owned a popcorn wagon and cappuccino cart.
- Sailing Yachts: My family (husband, son and I) cruised aboard our sailboat for two years. We had big adventures and even bigger stories to tell.
- St. Maarten to Honduras: I took my first gig as chef on a private yacht and caught the bug. I continued to chef on charter yachts for 10 years.
- Martha Stewart: I was offered a job styling sets on her show. I was also asked to shoot a pilot about a yacht chef, which went nowhere. Clearly it was before its time!
- Culinary Producer and Food Stylist: My first gig as a culinary producer and food stylist was for Paula’s Home Cooking and Paula’s Best Dishes (among and other Food Network shows). It was then that I realized I wanted to use my talents to make more meaningful and beautiful content.
- The Whole Hog Cookbook: I wrote my first book that was named a notable book of the year by The NY Times. That was a pretty special moment– holding that paper.
- Salted and Styled: I started the blog with my friend and talented photographer, Chia Chong. We won a big-deal National award right out of the gate. The blog and the award opened a lot of doors for of us—both personally and professionally.
- Sweet and Vicious: This was my second book deal. It was an Indie Award Book of the Year Finalist (I don’t really know what that means, but I’m told it’s a big deal) 🙂 I just know I LOVE this book and put my heart and soul into it.
- Videos: I started creating short little Sunday videos for this new platform called Instagram. 🙂 This lead to lots of great opportunities, including sharing my thoughts on storytelling at The Southern C Summit.
Anything you wish you had done along the way and didn’t do?
Not. One. Thing.
Share two people who have inspired your journey and why?
My husband Josh is my true inspiration. He allows me to dream bigger…do bigger. He also loves to travel and never looks at his watch when I say I want to go into the restroom so I can see the interior design!! Having a person in your corner who encourages all your crazy is a wonderful thing. Josh even makes me sit down for budget meetings and I love him for that.
Your career takes you all over and you meet and work with so many people and brands … where do you love to travel to for work?
Honestly, I love traveling for work. My days are filled from the moment I land, so I don’t always get to see the cities –I concentrate on getting to know the people I’m working with. I’ve made one big observation– the smaller the city the more fun the people I work with seem to be. There is less pretense. It’s refreshing.
Big cities like NYC are places I have to go for work, but not always the most inviting. I make a point of always bringing a little “Southern gift” when I go to prop houses in the city. You’d be surprised how far a smile and a beautifully wrapped package of cheese straws will take you with a surly New Yorker.
Tell me about your beloved pup, The Bitch?
The Bitch is a piece of work! Since she was a puppy she just had this judg-y way about her. She could look at you sideways and you would want to change your clothes because you just knew she hated the outfit. So, she became kind of a funny thing within my world. She also NEVER takes a bad picture, yet another reason why she is such a bitch.
You work with so many fun people. What is that like?
With my work, there are typically a lot of egos in the room. I do my best to make sure that everyone is “heard”…especially the client!! For the best outcome, all parties have to work together. From the makeup artist to the key grip. We all have to be supportive of each other. And no matter what … ALWAYS have lunch with the crew … ALWAYS.
Can you share a high point in your journey and what was that like for you?
That’s an easy one! Three weeks ago, as I watched the first jars of my Libbie Summers’ Custom Sprinkles being filled, I cried. All tears of joy. I was seeing a product I worked on for nearly a year become a reality. I held it in my hand and just stared at the label for at least five minutes. The feeling was somewhere between launching a book and launching a baby….closer to launching a book.
What is one tip you think everyone should know about their own brands?
Know to get a brand audit every so often. I just had one and it was eye opening–I used a local firm, Flourish Collaborative, because they know me and know my brand and I wanted to be hyper focused on staying on brand when launching my first product, Sprinkles!
I sent their assessment to the people who work with me for their feedback, like my publicist Lauren Hopkins of LBH & Co. PR and various graphic designers I work with. It was really enlightening to get their feedback about the feedback!
Anything people shouldn’t do?
I say this with a little hesitation, because I think Pinterest is a great thing, but I wish people would stay off of it for a bit. Take break for a month—or three. Look for inspiration in the world at your finger tips … not someone else’s fingertips.
What is your favorite way to unwind?
Traveling to the countryside of any country…I’m not a big city kind of girl. I prefer to see how people live outside of the cities. My husband and I took a recent trip to Vietnam and part of our stay was at a place called Tam Coc Garden in the Ninh Binh province (about 100km southeast of Hanoi). I could have stayed there forever. It was my happy place. Trust me when I say take two minutes to watch this video….you will be breathing easier after.
What is your favorite role in your life?
Wife, mother and friend. They really are all the same roll, you can’t be good at one without being good at the other.
Death row meal? That’s an easy one. Chicken fried steak, mashed potatoes, gravy and homemade biscuits.
Best Meal I’ve Ever Eaten? Any meal from my favorite restaurant in the US. Primo in Rockland, Maine. Chef Melissa Kelly is a 3-Time James Beard Award winner and pig farmer! My husband and I splurged one New Year’s Eve and flew up there for dinner. It was magical.
Five must haves.
Good Sense of humor. Hearty Appetite. Thick skin. Open heart. Great pair of jeans.
“Sometimes, you have to say “no” to good things so you can say “yes” to great things.”
Libbie Summers is dynamic in so many ways and the way she has changed my approach to my brand is evident in my content this year. As a result, I feel more confident in my value as a brand owner, my vision has been fine tuned and I am thrilled to take an other year as a blogger, brand ambassador and contributor.
Thank you Libbie Summers for your friendship, your humor, your inspiration and your passion and zest for life. It is nothing short of magical.