March 2016

Lunch On A Budget: It’s A Wrap!

Lunch on a Budget Pic

[Image from]

Does the thought of a work week lunch bring you anxiety? Or even worse…a blank stare into space? And then the options start getting crossed off. If you pack a lunch then most likely that would require packing leftovers from a home cooked meal you don’t have the time or energy to make at night. And the kindergarten PB&J sandwich might seem way more comical than realistic. But if you don’t pack a lunch, then that will most likely result in eating out. As tasty and exciting as dining out options are, they can also be pretty pricey.

So here’s a suggestion: look for something pre-packaged, tasty and inexpensive all in one. (Yes, it does exist!) After testifying to all the examples above, I was in search of more lunch options. Well I found a gold mine at Trader Joes! Below are a couple of my favorite wraps paired with other TJ goodies for a tasty, filling meal. I also enjoy the salads and hot lunch options which I hope to post about in the future. For now, here’s to wrapping up the “what’s for lunch?” inquiries!

Turkey, Spinach and Swiss Cheese Wrap with side: Chocolate-Covered Almonds


Total Price: $4.98

Now I know a sandwich wrap and chocolate-covered almonds sound like an unlikely pairing. But the wraps can be so filling (at least for me) that chips may not be needed. In addition to being a welcomed sweet treat, the almonds alone are a healthier alternative and provide energy to avoid the common post-lunch snooze. Also the individual almonds allow you to portion for just the right fill up level.


Italian Style Wrap with Potato Salad


Total Price: $7.98

This lunch provides the perfect deli variety of Italian meats with the comfort food satisfaction that the potato salad provides. You also get more bang for your buck with the potato salad because the container has about 4 servings so you can pack a few lunches with it. Note: If you’re used to certain spices and condiments in your potato salad, you may need to dress this one up a bit. Though it’s not too bad for a basic version.


(*Selection may vary depending on your neighborhood Trader Joes store)


If these wraps spark your interest or you’re looking to try something new, be sure to check out your neighborhood Trader Joes for more wrap selections and other cool meals on the go.

Shopping On A Budget: “The Rule of 5”

Prints Separates_Full Body

[Photo credit: Shot by Kelley]

The skirt and top pictured is from H&M. I only spent approximately $28.00 on the separates total! (Purse and shoes sold separately.) Not only do I love the pieces together but they work great independently. So while it looks like I got only one outfit, the separates actually make a few different ensembles. Mixing and matching is ideal for diversifying your closet. It also allows you to get the most out of your wardrobe in the transition from Winter to Spring. Most importantly, it can be a boost to your bank account.

Shopping with possibilities in mind is key. A cute outfit is great but how can you reuse the pieces in different ways? Are you likely to wear the outfit outside of the purchased pairing? Can it be used for your work and weekend collections collaboratively? When I consider buying a new item I like to challenge myself with the question: “How can I use this piece with 5 different things already in my closet? If I find myself unable to come up with other options, I usually don’t buy the item(s) in question. I like to call it “The Rule of 5”.

This strategy has really helped over the years and taken me from impulse buyer to careful shopper. Though I’m not 100% converted…I still have my “gotta have it now” moments every now and then 😉 … it has definitely been a huge boost to my self-discipline and budget.

Below is an example of how I would use “The Rule of 5” to come up with a few possibilities for the skirt and top pictured:

Shirt paired with…

Looks for the office:

Weekend and girls night out attire:

Skirt paired with…

Looks for the office:

  • White button down shirt and black heels with a bold handbag
  • Bodysuit with a black blazer and bold black accessories
  • Lace top with statement heels

Weekend and girls night out attire:

Note that the items above are (typically) basic staples that many women may already own. I’m typically able to think of what I already have off the top of my head while in the store. Though if you find yourself unable to remember what you have while out shopping, take a picture of the item in question. You can always look at the picture when you get home and compare with what is in your closet. This also prevents impulse buying.

Happy [Budget Conscious] Shopping!

Prints Separates_Details With Purse

[Outfit details: Top and skirt (H&M); Handbag (Target); Heels (Forever21); Watch (NY&Co); Necklace (Fashion Trend LA) ]

The Road To Franchise Ownership: Blood, Sweat, Tears and A Side of Chicken

Ashley Derby CFA

[Photo by Zon D’Amour]

Think back to your first job in high school. Maybe it was an in-home job like completing chores or babysitting for a neighbor. Or it could have been a role working for a corporation such as a retail or food service chain. Well what if that first job led you directly to not only a career you love but also a business you own? Right – take a second to bask in the glory of that idea! For Ashley Derby this is a dream turned reality as a Chick-Fil-A franchise owner at the tender age of 26. Ashley has built her restaurant to be a well-known and highly respected Southern California eatery. Located down the street from USC, her restaurant serves a variety of individuals from families to community members to “starving” students. Even a starving me has benefitted from the delicious menu of her establishment from time to time. 🙂

Find out about Ashley’s journey as well as her work-life balance practices, how she gives back and multiple nuggets of wisdom (no pun intended with the chicken nuggets 😉 ) in our interview. Enjoy!


9ToFlyGirl: What is your background (education; business)?

Ashley: I am originally from Atlanta and graduated from Spelman College in 2006 with a degree in Economics. I have been working for Chick-fil-A since I was 15 years old starting as a part time team member. After graduation I began working full time in the restaurant to learn more about the business. I went into a pipeline program [within the company] then was selected for ownership. I wanted to stay in Atlanta but heard about an opening in LA. I was selected as an owner in 2011 at the age of 26. I had also just gotten married.

9TFG: Oh wow!

Ashley: Yeah it was crazy!


9TFG: Tell me more about how you got to the place you’re at today with franchise ownership?

Ashley: I have always enjoyed the company and environment. The franchise owner I was working for in college suggested I look into opportunities within the company since I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do after school. I applied for 3 different restaurants. There were lots of “no’s” along the way. At times I thought: I’ll never get selected…maybe I’m not good enough. But my supporters told me to keep pushing.


9TFG: Looking back 10 years ago, did you envision yourself to be where you are today?

Ashley: No not at all! Ten years ago I was only 21 and had just graduated from college. I knew I wanted to have my own franchise with Chick-fil-A. But if you told me it would be in LA, I would have laughed.

9TFG: So you really weren’t thinking about leaving Atlanta!


Ashley: No! Not at all!


9TFG: What is a day in the life of a franchise owner like?

Ashley: It has been challenging at times. I spent about the first 6 months working from open to close. There were lots of early mornings and long nights. I had to quickly learn how to start using my leaders and teaching them. I knew I couldn’t go on like that for forever!

I now have more freedom and flexibility. I have 12 leaders so I don’t need to be as hands on in the [daily] operations as much. I spend about 70% of my time with my leaders. The remaining 30% on email, meeting with franchise owners, and presenting initiatives on a corporate panel. I’m at the restaurant about 3-4 days a week. I also have an offsite office where I get work done.

It’s a balancing act. I try to remember this is not the end all, be all. Self care is important. I’m also a wife, a sister and a friend.


9TFG: Funny you bring up the idea of self-care. I’m curious to know more about your work-life balance practices.

Ashley: Yes. You can’t pour from an empty cup. Saying no is important. I need time to go to the gym, to hang out with my girlfriends. I’m seeing that now. Being intentional about my time is important. At work I’m in work mode. At home I’m in home mode. I can’t be the best boss if I’m not sleeping. And I can’t be a good wife if I’m stressed out about work. I am being more intentional about saying “no” this year.

9TFG: Kinda opposite of the new book Year of Yes [and its concept].

Ashley: I was just talking to a girlfriend about that the other day. She said she would say “yes” more this year. We realized that it’s really the same thing. You’re either saying “no” or “yes” more to make more time for the things that are important to you.


9TFG: How does being a franchise owner allow you to “create your ideal career”?

Ashley: I love this career. It’s flexible. It provides me with the freedom and income I need. I’m able to volunteer for an organization called Hollywood Young Life. It is a youth outreach ministry. We fundraise for youth to go to summer camp and do other great things in the ministry.

This career allows me to create an environment to do other things. I love yoga. I teach people how to shop in other ways (financially).


9TFG: What leadership tools have you found to be most effective?

Ashley: There’s a quote that goes something like…we’ll I’m probably going to butcher it…(Laughter)

But it’s something like: You’re essentially the same person you were last year as you are this year except for the books you read and people you meet.

So I never stop growing and learning. Last year I set a goal to read 24 books. But I only got to 20.(Laughs)

9TFG: No…that’s really good! 20 books in a year?!

Ashley: Yeah I guess so. (Laughs) I try to schedule everything because if I don’t it’s too easy to be lazy. It’s okay to have those days lounging on the couch but not all the time. Being a learner has helped me in the business.


9TFG: I have found that much of your background consists of strong networks with African American women – college and sorority. How do you currently use your platform to reach this group?

Ashley:  Well the Spelman network is strong and deep. [In a local alumnae chapter] I help raise scholarship money for girls in LA to be able to go to Spelman. Having the restaurant allows me to pay for ad space in program books and give gift cards. I was honored in a fundraiser [for the alumnae group] last year. The AKA network is just as strong, allowing me to help in similar ways.

Chick-Fil-A is a ministry opportunity for me as well. It excites me to mentor staff. I got to where I am today because of people that invested in me. I tell my staff all the time “If I, the little Black girl from Atlanta, can do it – you definitely can do it!”. I love helping them reach their goals.

I’m also able to speak to lots of people in the community.


9TFG: What advice would you give to someone interested in franchise ownership?

Ashley: Well Chick-Fil-A is very unique in that it’s privately owned. But [in general] I would ask “why?”. Why do you want to own a franchise? Are you passionate about the brand? Are you willing to put in the work? Find a local owner to spend time with in the restaurant. You want to know as much as you can about the business. For Chick-Fil-A (specifically) they are looking for the right fit. They want lifelong partners in the company.


9TFG: What advice would you give to an aspiring business owner (self-employed, franchise, small partnership or other)?

Ashley: I love owning a business. But you have to consider what it means to be in business for yourself and by yourself. I am constantly thinking about the business. Even when we’re closed on Sunday! You must be prepared for the 24 hour aspect of it. The work doesn’t stop. Not to sound discouraging…

9TFG: No it doesn’t at all. I think it always is beneficial for people to hear both the positive and not so positive aspects of it.

Ashley: Yes, the idea of having your own business is often portrayed as sexy and appealing. There is safety [for me] working under a corporation. But I’ve had tough financial months. Also, in all business ownership you are probably going to have to double what you’re doing at work now.

But I would say go for it! Know what you want and understand the risks.


Ashley’s restaurant is located at 3758 S. Figueroa Street Los Angeles, CA 90007. If you have any questions or comments for Ashley directly, please leave them below. And as always, you can feel free to leave me any feedback in the comments as well.

The Talented Mr. Q-U-E



I had the pleasure of sitting down with Teacher-Educational Rapper Lamar Queen better known as “Mr. Q-U-E”. Lamar is a Southern California high school teacher with a very unique story. While he had a passion that led him to teaching, an even greater passion (and persistent students) led him to rapping about a subject that students often struggle with – math. Mr. Q-U-E is inspirational to the students he teaches across the country through his raps while motivating them to excel in school. He and his business partner, Jimmy Pascascio, (a fellow teacher) own the educational music company Music Notes.

In addition to gracing the classroom with his musical talent, Lamar also leads training and in-service for teachers to be more effective at ensuring their students comprehend complex material while enjoying what they are learning. He also inspired me as a fellow creative. I hope you are inspired by this educational prodigy as well! Let’s jump right in!

9toFlyGirl: Tell me about your background and how your career started.

Lamar: In undergrad [Grambling State University] I was initially a Business major. Someone saw how I worked with kids and suggested I look into Education. So I switched majors my junior year. I knew I wanted to run a business after college but this isn’t what I thought I’d be doing. I taught elementary school in Louisiana for my student teaching.

9TFG: How did you get to be Mr. Q-U-E? What is the story behind that?

Lamar: Well my original stage name was whack…

(*Communal laugh*)

Lamar: I rapped “Mr. Q-U-E” in a song then changed it to that. It actually is an acronym: Mr. Queen Understands Everybody.

9TFG: I’ve heard you mention before that rapping in the classroom came about in an interesting way. Can you explain how that happened?

Lamar: Yeah. (Laughs) My first year teaching my students said I was boring. They said I looked like Kanye West so I should rap. My students didn’t know I could actually rap. I started rapping and it changed the culture of the classroom. It was sort of a way of “brainwashing” them into taking notes.

(*Communal laugh part II*)

9TFG: How has incorporating this talent changed your teaching career?

Lamar: Other teachers started wanting to observe my classroom. They started asking me to perform for groups. Then my business partner asked me about shooting a video and it took off online. I found my calling in teaching through music. Students and teachers demanded the music.

9TFG: Prior to you combining music and teaching, would you say you were fulfilled in your career?

Lamar: Well I was only teaching for 2 weeks before it all started. So this has pretty much been my whole career, aside from subbing short term. But I would say I’m greedy to reach more. I’m continuously looking to help students and teachers. I provide training for districts to use my music.

9TFG: Did you have prior interest in music?

Lamar: Yes. I grew up singing in the choir at church. I taught myself how to play the keyboard. In middle school I used to rap free style about school…funny how that’s where I am today.

9TFG: Right

Lamar: I created my first song in 7th grade. I’ve always had a passion for music. Toward the end of high school I was introduced to recording just for fun. I always hung around musicians.

9TFG: How did you envision your career 10 years ago? Was what you do now anywhere in the plan?

Lamar: My goal [in teaching] has always been to help parents and teachers. I thought I’d get my masters degree and be a published author writing educational journals. I wanted to write insight on how to reach kids. I guess my journals are now in the form of cds and dvds. Now I’m presenting at workshops for students, parents and teachers.

9TFG: How would you encourage a teacher or other professional that may be uninspired?

Lamar: I actually present on this topic to in-service teachers. I tell them to listen to their students. Observe what they like. I also tell them to value others like friends that can help give ideas. They should take these steps before teaching [new material] then observe the students behavior. I use the acronym L.O.V.E.: Listen, Observe, Value, Educate to teach this concept.

9TFG: What would you say to the professional that can’t afford to quit their day job but wants to do something more creative?

Lamar: Make the time and be committed. You will have to work for a certain amount of time before it gets off the ground. You have to have the mindset of “I actually DO have time”. Look for those pockets of time. Even if it’s only a few hours a week.

9TFG: What is your “secret” to success?

Lamar: An undeniable belief in yourself and your product. Faith the size of a mustard see can move mountains. So doubt the size of a mustard seed can crush mountains. Find at least 1 person who thinks the same as you [about your product]. Even if others around you don’t get it, that person will. For me, it’s my business partner. Also, you have to stick to your vision. Everything will come into fruition by sticking to your own thing.

9TFG: Where can the readers find more information about Mr. Q-U-E and Music Notes?

Lamar: We have a website and I’m on social media.


Instagram: @mrq_u_e

Facebook: mr.q.u.e.

Twitter: mrquethemathman

How To Handle Unsolicited Career Advice

Unsolicited Career Advice Post

[Image from]

Sometimes people can mean well when they try to give you advice or help along your journey. I was recently thinking about this regarding careers in particular. Perhaps someone may make an unsolicited career suggestion or offer themselves as a mentor because they genuinely want to help. But this doesn’t mean that they necessarily know what’s best for you. They may only see what seems to be the best option for you. Though this doesn’t mean they know what the best outcome will be. Those big dreams, goals or ideas that have been deposited into your spirit or those tugs of intuition that you keep experiencing.

Note that there is nothing wrong with someone offering help. But what is wrong is when you allow this to shift or question your goals. Consider their advice or suggestions if it is something you’d be interested in. If not, thank them and let them know how they can help on your terms (if you want any) and keep it at that. Ultimately the decision will be up to you. And if you make the wrong decision based on someone else’s prediction of what you should do with your life, you will continually beat yourself up over it. On the other hand, even if you make your own decision and fail, at least you tried. And the lessons learned will be invaluable.

Going a step further, do embrace your goals and dreams but also do your homework. Research, take into account what you’re willing to sacrifice, be knowledgeable about what it will take. Establish that foundation so you aren’t easily swayed in one direction or another.

Moral of the story: Be appreciative of those that are genuinely trying to help. Consider any pieces of advice that sound interesting but don’t let that be the sole factor to determine your outcome. Be rooted in your goals. And if you’re not sure what those are, do the homework for yourself to explore options first.

What To Wear For A Job Interview

Professional Dress_Suit

[Photo shot by Kelley B.]

Preparing for an interview can be stressful. Are you ready? What will the interviewer ask? What if the other candidates are more qualified? So many questions running through your head. And for a good reason – this could be your next job…your well being (at least when it comes to finances) could depend on this! Scary!

While “freaking out” isn’t recommended, being prepared is. Especially when it comes to what you wear. As the saying goes, “You never get a second chance at a first impression”. For this reason you should always look polished and professional. Ideally, you should wear a suit but depending on the type of work you are doing, business professional attire should do. (For example, someone going on an interview for an Executive Assistant role should certainly wear a suit versus someone interviewing to work at a fast food chain probably won’t have to worry about the suit so much.) Though I will say, when in doubt – go with the suit. I was recently helping a young lady prepare for an interview for an office clerk position. I selected a few suits for her to try on. She asked “do I really have to wear a suit?”. My response was “you probably could get away with business professional attire [like a blouse and slacks] but you want to stand out, right?”. Remember, you want to stand out from the competition so overdressed is always better than underdressed.  And it certainly will make you stand out in a sea of ordinary button downs and creased pants.

Note: Much of the information in this post is catered toward women (because I’m more of an expert in that area 😉 ) but I’ve included a few pointers for the men here and there. Also, some tips easily apply to both parties.

If you take away nothing else, please just take pride and care in your appearance. I’ve interviewed both sexes and while I don’t remember all of their responses or qualifications, I can still remember to this day who presented themselves well and who did not.

Below are a few common questions and answers about interview attire.

So what type of suit should I wear?

I’ve heard that dark is usually best for an interview: black, navy blue, or grey. That’s what I’ve always worn and also what I would highly recommend. The suit in the picture is my real, live suit that I wear on interviews. Not just for modeling cred. 🙂

What should I do if I don’t have the money for a suit?

I’d say attempt to find an affordable suit first. Don’t rule out the idea just because what you saw at the department store was too pricey. Try bargain stores like Ross or TJ Maxx. Even a local thrift store may have something high quality yet affordable. A good suit is always a great investment.

But let’s say even those options don’t suit (no pun intended) your budget. Non profits like Dress For Success partner with work force agencies to provide high quality, professional clothing to women at no cost. (Note that this is by referral only. Research the webpage for more detailed information.) Similar organizations such as this one exist for men.

Another option is to use what’s possibly already in your closet. (Or a friends…hint, hint 😉 ) Do you have a black blazer? Black or grey slacks? You can always pair dark separates to create your own suit. Note, avoid patterned blazers or bottoms (pants or skirt) – stick with the solids. Be careful with pairing black on black. Sometimes one black separate will be faded while the other piece is a newer, jet black. A little off is okay but use your best judgment on what looks best.

For skirts, watch the length and be sure it’s not too tight fitting. Need a test? Try sitting down in the skirt and that should confirm whether it will work or not. In addition, be sure to wear stockings with your skirt, particularly for the more conservative employers.

Okay, I have the suit. Now what about the top?

Button downs are always pretty classic. But a pullover blouse could work just as well with a simple, classy necklace. For women, just make sure there is no cleavage showing or gaps between the buttons (example). Solids are safe but if you decide to go with a pattern, choose something on the simpler side that will look clean cut with your suit.

What type of shoes should I wear?

Solid for sure. Avoid patterns in this category. Stick with a darker color that goes with the suit. Lime green heels probably won’t make such a great impression for an interview. Also, keep the heel height low. No platforms or stilettos for the interview. Flats are okay as long as your pants don’t drag over them.

Can I wear accessories? If so, what type?

If you haven’t noticed yet, the overall theme here is simple but classy. So don’t go too over the top with your accessories. A simple necklace to compliment your shirt will do. A pair of studs or smaller earrings are good. It’s probably best to stay away from big hoops or statement pieces. Watches are always nice because in addition to looking clean cut, you’ll be able to check the time without having to whip out your cell. (Particularly when you’re in a waiting area prior to the interview.)

What about the other details – hair, nails, makeup, perfume?

For hair, stick with something neat and clean cut. I think a low bun is pretty classic. Yes, it may look a bit old school (*grins*) but it’s not as distracting as many other styles could be. The attention is on your face so the interviewer can focus on your answers to the questions. Some other great styles could be a ponytail or down in a neat style.

Your nails should be clean and kept up as well. No heavily chipped polish or varying nail lengths. You don’t have to spend money at the nail shop on a manicure (unless you’re able to) but your nails should be “manicured”. Meaning that even on the most basic level, do a quick cut down and file or basic polish yourself. When it comes to polish, neutral and more muted tones are best. Save the loud colors for once you get the job (given that it’s not outside of any company policies).

For makeup and perfume – take it easy on both. If either is overdone, the interviewer will spend the whole time staring at your face art or sneezing from your perfume than actually getting to know you in consideration for the job.

This all sounds like it applies to a conservative, traditional job. What if I’m applying for something more informal or creative that requires different attire?

Check out this You Tube video. The images presented give a good variety of examples for many types of jobs.

So what about the guys? What do we wear?

The simple and clean cut theme applies to the fellas as well. A nice suit, a crisp shirt and modest tie (skip the neon zebra print one). If not the full suit, then a shirt, tie and slacks should do. Neatly kept facial hair is important too. No grizzly bear facial hair for the interview!


Got an interview coming up? Good luck! Got questions for me on something I didn’t cover here – please don’t hesitate to ask below! Also, feel free to comment on any interview attire tips that have helped you to land the gig.

Professional Dress_Suit_2

Outfit details: Suit (Calvin Klein from Macys); Shirt (New York and Company); Shoes (Nine West-similar); Purse (Aldo; similar); Bangle (Francescas); Necklace (New York and Company-similar)