Fem Founder™ Interview with Entrepreneur Jamie Gelbtuch
Publication: Fem Founder™
Author: Kristin Marquet

Jamie Gelbtuch is the founder of Cultural Mixology where she serves as a strategic thinking partner to support individuals and organizations that are faced with multicultural challenges. Through coaching, training, mentoring, and consulting, she equips clients with tools to flourish during cultural transitions. Jamie is multilingual, has lived abroad, and has traveled extensively throughout five continents. She is always looking for new and innovative ways to help herself and others manage the complexity, uncertainty, and personal challenges presented by living or working in a global world. 

Can you tell our readers about your background?

I grew up in NY and I was always passionate about languages. My mom was a foreign language teacher so she would sometimes talk to me in French and I just latched onto it. I loved it. I was always asking for more, and when I had the opportunity in school to get into classes I ran with it. In college, I had my first opportunity to travel abroad and it made everything kind of click in my head. My dad was always in business and I got my business head from him. My parents have also been entrepreneurs for a long time (and I started tons of my own silly “businesses” as a kid!) so I think I am a product of all of that background and experience.

What inspired you to start your business?

After working in corporate New York and finishing my MBA in South Africa, I decided I wanted to do something where I worked more with people, but kept my foot in the door in terms of the business environment. I just didn’t want to be in a corporate office all day long. At that time, I was providing cross-cultural and language training for a relocation company on an as-needed basis and conducting a typical MBA job search. At a certain point, I just woke up in my job search and thought, ‘I’m looking for something that I already love doing.’ It’s been 12 years since!

Where is your business based?

I ❤️ NY

How did you start your business? What were the first steps you took?

I came up with the name Cultural Mixology during a long walk with my mom. Then I took the steps of having a logo and printed materials created. Back in 2008, it didn’t seem as critical to have a website and social media was not the way it is today so none of that initially came into play. I attended my first conference in the intercultural field, continued to freelance with as many companies as I could to expand my network and client base, and over the years (and lots of trial and error) the business grew.

What has been the most effective way of raising awareness for your business?

I have experimented with lots of ways of raising awareness. One of the most successful has been taking the steps to become a certified MWBE in New York where I have had the opportunity to leverage the various networks and resources that the city makes available to connect with opportunities where Cultural Mixology can add value.

What have been your biggest challenges and how did you overcome them?

I’ve always thought that the intangible nature of a service (especially training and coaching) makes it harder to sell than a tangible product. In addition, my services are for a niche market of expats and people working on a global scale. Over the years, I have asked clients to write testimonials about what their experience has been like participating in training or coaching with Cultural Mixology so that I can share that with people or organizations who are considering it. It makes a big difference for potential clients to read about what the experience might be like and what results are possible. 

How do you stay focused?

I am super organized but also extremely low tech. For example, I still handwrite my calendar commitments and use different color pens to keep them all in order. I like to make lots of lists too…daily to-do lists, short/medium/long term goal lists, and at the end of each year I create a “to-done” list where I reflect on all that I have accomplished.

How do you differentiate your business from the competition?

One of the advantages that I really enjoy about being a small business is that we are able to truly bring customized solutions for our clients. Of course, there are common topics that clients struggle with (e.g. differences in communication styles) and when it comes to the culture there are research-backed dimensions that are helpful to use when talking about differences, but the way we put the pieces of the puzzle together is always a little different. We get to think outside the box a lot.

What has been your most effective marketing strategy to grow your business?

Our monthly newsletter, the Cultural Insider, has a tremendous following. We send out a really fun email once a month with cool culture tips and tricks including everything from the meaning of colors across cultures to a beginner’s guide to Ramadan, to a lesson in Quechua. We focus on sharing rather than selling and stay in front of people once a month so we’re consistently top of mind from a marketing perspective.

What’s your best piece of advice for aspiring and new entrepreneurs?

There are no inexperienced people in this world and everyone has something of value to share, so my advice is to engage as much as possible in as many ways as possible. Don’t hold back just because something seems obvious to you; it may not be to someone else. We often just don’t know what we don’t know!

What’s your favorite app, blog, and book? Why?

App: Elevate because it keeps your mind sharp with fun brain training for a few minutes a day.

Blog: The Points Guy as I love to travel and dream about future destinations. #wanderlust

Book: Let Your Mind Run by Olympic athlete Deena Kastor. Although it’s about her journey with running, so many lessons are applicable to life and business. One of the biggest ones that sticks with me is that success is about having (e.g. money, awards, status) but excellence is about being (e.g. living your values, having them guide your daily life). She shares that if you pursue excellence, success will follow, which is a great message for entrepreneurs.

What’s your favorite business tool or resource? Why?

SmarterQueue has been such a timesaver and intuitive tool to use to organize all of the social media!

Who is your business role model? Why?

I’ve been fortunate to have my parents as entrepreneurs to guide me along the journey even though we are in totally different fields. But really, anyone who works hard, creates value, and makes an impact is a role model in my eyes.

How do you balance work and life?

I set boundaries in my schedule. Working on the weekends and in the evenings is off limits with the occasional exception or late night call with a client in Asia.

What’s your favorite way to decompress?

I meditate every morning when I wake up with the Headspace app. I’ve meditated for 1500+ days in a row (!) and I believe it helps to take even a few minutes to just be with yourself in that space. 

What do you have planned for the next six months?

Continuing to help Cultural Mixology’s clients succeed across cultures…and hopefully leaving the house more once quarantine ends!