cristy.jpegName: Cristy Clarke

Hometown: Orinda, CA

Current Residence (City, State): Orinda, CA

Education: BA University of California, Berkeley 1987

Professional Background (brief, please):

Property Manager, The Shorenstein Co, SF
Director of Marketing, Charterhouse, SF
Owner, Just Hors d’Oeuvres, Lafayette, CA

What you wanted to be when you grew up: I always wanted to own my own business – I had dreams of running a cafe

What you are: Founder and CEO of TableTopics

Brief Summary of your Start Up: I had the idea for TableTopics and started it in my home, where I still have my office. I wrote questions for three editions, looked around on the internet for a company to manufacture them, and suddenly I was in business.

Company Website? www.tabletopics.com

What inspired you? I remembered those long, late-night conversations in college that I loved so much. I wondered why it was that as an adult I kept finding myself in a lot of meaningless cocktail party-type conversations and thought there had to be a way back to enjoying the time I spent with other people.

How long have you been in business? Almost 3 years

How did you fund it? Personal savings

Do you have a Fairy Godmother (or Mentor)? My Great Aunt Ruby, whom I never met but heard a lot about from my Uncle Ted. Her picture hangs in my office. She was an entrepreneur back in the 1930’s, when women just didn’t do that kind of thing. She was also a gambler, an amazing softball player, and she organized the first women’s softball league in L.A. Her daring and love of life inspire me.

Do you belong to any Business Organization or Networking Groups? No time with my business and three children to raise, though it would be a good idea, I’m sure!

Current Business Challenge? Managing exceptional growth

What are you doing about it? Developing short and long range plans, then executing those plans day-by-day.

Favorite motivational quote:

Be happy with what you have,
Be fulfilled doing the things you love to do, and by expressing who you are with your work,
Be balanced by walking the tightrope between too much and not enough,
Be satisfied by living a thoughtful, self-examined life.

Family? My husband, David, and three daughters, Kelly (14), Kate (13) and Lily (10)

If so, how do you balance family and business? It’s hard, and I always have room for improvement. At first it was hard to keep the demands of my home life from intruding on working hours, but now I have the opposite problem. I’ve decided lately that I need to make a hard and fast rule not to work in the evenings unless something exceptional happens. I’m not disciplined enough to be able to go back and forth between work and family.

Favorite book? Illusions by Richard Bach – I fell in love with it in high school, and it had a huge influence on me.

What do you do to relax? I love to travel with my family and I love to read. I also love photography, though I haven’t spent much time in my darkroom since I started TableTopics.

What do you want to change most about your world? I would love to see people strengthen their connections with each other by deepening their conversations.

What are you most proud of? The family life I’ve built together with my husband – it’s everything I’ve always wanted, and is my greatest happiness.

What advice would you like to offer other Start Up Princesses? Find what your strengths and weaknesses are, then find the necessary people whose strengths are your weaknesses.

Favorite Magic Wand (tool/resource)? My great friend and VP of Sales, Carolyn Akel.

If you could design a tiara, what precious stones would you use? Aquamarine – the color of the ocean!

Would you be interested in being a Fairy Godmother to another woman entrepreneur? (I am working on a secure system to do this, any ideas?) I would love to! I love to give back the help I received from women early on in my business.

What business subjects would you feel comfortable mentoring in? The startup process, marketing, particulars of the gift industry.

Would you be interested in going to lunch with other women entrepreneurs for a “networking tea party”? Sure!

If you are out of Utah County, would you be willing to be a facilitator of such an event? Let me know what this entails –

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