Pamela Fishman CianciEntrepreneurPhotography & Story by Lauri Levenfeld
With Pamela Cianci Fishman, there’s always six degrees. Having lived in the San Francisco for fifteen years, run three successful businesses side by side, having three kids in eight years, and now joining team with one of the most successful and international company brands; at one time or another you have most likely run into Pamela. And being a local SF gal for so many years myself, I have recognized many times over the interest, influence, and affect this lady has had on so many people and in so many areas of life. Pamela has learned “you have make time, so you have to make time count”. She shares her list (and much more) on how to be most efficient in life, business, and entertaining.
I’m Pamela…Walking into my home is always a surprise. Since I am a busy mom of three little ones, you’re sure to find something exciting going on. Perhaps I’m hosting a cooking class for the neighborhood kids, chatting with friends who help connect me to brands about the next Gilt partnership, or adding DIY “Hallmark” holiday decor to one of the many rooms we have filled with antiques, accessories and art handed down from family members. The integration of my family’s treasures into my home is one of my greatest loves. I feel transported on a daily basis back to the houses where I spent my childhood laughing, snuggling, learning, crying, dancing, hiding and examining the countless objects of curiosity relived through my own children.
My life centers around my family. As a child, I gained a deep appreciation for style, excellence, entertaining, cooking, and creating from my great-grandmother, grandmother and mother. Through their careful guidance I was given the tools I needed to become a loving mother as well as a successful businesswoman.
For me, cooking is not just about making food, it’s about taking raw ingredients, measuring them carefully, mixing, and knowing exactly how to transform them into something delicious. Just like business. I have to have a game plan before I start cooking—and so it goes in business as well. Being organized and systematic helps and being good at delegating is key, as I certainly don’t do it alone.
The practical and important skills I learned from my family helped set my professional direction and they gave me the confidence and security I needed to write my own recipe of success.
People ask me, “How do you do it?” I just do. These are the incredible roles I have taken on and I welcome the challenges.
Working with The PlumpJack Group–after realizing teaching in the classroom in my mid-twenties was not for me–solidified my love for all things culinary, design and event-related. Through the years, I gained an intimate understanding of the do’s and dont’s of starting and managing a business, the behind-the-scenes of food and beverage, and the inner circles of both the political and the socialite scenes. This invaluable working education provided a strong platform for diving headfirst into entrepreneurship.
Shortly after resigning The PlumpJack Group, I was contacted to produce an event, plan a wedding, and help build and brand a website–all areas I was well-versed in. These initial projects led to the need to open a business, so instead of opening one business I thought it would be smarter to open two at the same time. I launched Sugar & Spike, a made-to-order baking business; and Outlined Productions, an event and wedding production company.
At this time, I also started writing a weekly column called “Life & Style” for the San Francisco Examiner. This event-based, photo-filled page featured an event of my choice and the experience of “having” to attend all types of events in the Bay Area, interview attendees and learn about their “look,” a.k.a. ask them what brands they were wearing, was yet another education. Little did I know at the time how incredibly valuable this education would be.
After writing the column for over a year, it was time to to focus on Outlined which was taking off. The referrals alone were enough to sustain the business, as most of our work was deliberately out-of-the-box: one-of-a-kind ideas, off-the-beaten path venues, logistically complicated productions and high-powered clients. This hard and rewarding working style engrained a sense of flexibility in me while at the same time has made almost everything since seem rather manageable, including raising a family.
As my friend Lisa likes to say…
“It’s pretty vulnerable as a parent to have your heart walking around outside of your body.”
This perfectly sums up my feelings on the birth of our baby girl.
In 2007 Beaumont, our beautiful mountain, was born. My flexible schedule permitted special time with my babe but I also did not miss a beat, meaning no time off at all. I continued taking on projects, and in one case, my project led to a friendship and even deeper working relationship.
In late 2009 a former wedding client asked to meet and chat about my involvement with a new business she was thinking about starting, the rest is a blur. We created, built and launched a high-end daily deal site in SF and LA called Bergine. After six months the team was in talks with Gilt Groupe about a possible acquisition and 10 months from its inception Bergine and its whole team were acquired by Gilt.
During this time I was pregnant with and had number two, essentially I had two babies at once and Mallin, our little warrior, is aptly named since living through a fast-paced technology start-up and acquisition, even in utero, is a huge feather.
It was a surprise to me that after years of working on my own, and thinking I would never work “for” anyone else or a company again, how much I loved the energy of Bergine and Gilt. Even though the hours were long and the start-up nature hard to navigate most of the time, there was something so amazing about Gilt and the fact that my role, which changed often in those early days, melded every skill from my past.
I’m still producing events through Outlined Productions, baking with Sugar & Spike, working with Gilt and balancing my family life. Last year we welcomed number three, Lazlo, our glorious ruler, who has melted our hearts more than we could imagine with his sweetness and genuinely happy disposition. People ask me, “How do you do it?” I just do. These are the incredible roles I have taken on and I welcome the challenges.
Currently, I spend most of my time working nationally on event-based partnerships for Gilt. My job is to ensure we have relevant lifestyle brands supporting or sponsoring events that we create for Gilt’s coveted membership base and/or create brand-centric events for partners looking to utilize the robust brand marketing platform that is Gilt. HINT Water, Benefit Cosmetics and E&J Gallo are all partners I work with for events across the country, but happen to be based in the Bay Area, which makes me smile. My current work passion is coming up with event ideas that tie into and meet brand goals, and of course, convincing the brands to work with our incredible company.
Although I could work every minute of every day, my family has taught me the importance of time well spent. Not just being around, which is important and great, but being present and, engaging in a way that lights everyone up.
It is not something easily explained, or done, it happens when you are playing on the floor or dancing like no one can see you or listening closely to sibling interaction.
On Mondays at 4:30pm, I wrap early and I cook with the kids. We started this special routine “class”/real family dinner a few months after we moved to our new home. I really wanted share what my mother and her mother and her mother’s mother shared with me.
As we fill a practical need (we need to make and to eat dinner), we turn Monday into a “funday” and I get to spend meaningful time with the children. They can count on this time and look forward to it. We include friends and neighbors whenever we can to embrace the community we are so fortunate to have.
The homes of my childhood always smelled and felt welcoming, whether being the aromas of homemade foods cooking or fresh cut flowers from the garden. There was always a warm, special air. It came part from all the beautiful things surrounding us, part from the stories behind the objects that have created comfortable living environments for so long, but mostly it’s the laughter of children as they roll off 60 year-old chairs onto the floor, the clinking of the vintage glasses filled with delicious wine from grapes grown 100 miles away, the conversations of new neighbors becoming life-long friends and the meals from 80 year-old recipes served on 100 year-old china that make a home special and truly beautiful.
Even before I became a mother, I was all about efficiency.
I figured out the most organized way to complete any given task.
Cooking in general is a great way to teach, learn and interact. From preparing to cook and cooking this new routine format supports so many lifelong skills like planning, systems, order and efficiency and it is FUN…we turned a recent Monday night cooking class into a full-fledged St. Patrick’s Day party with four neighboring families.
Being busy is a reality. Most people are busy, but how you handle the chaos is what matters. That is the most important thing I have had to learn as a parent, which my mother-in-law instilled in me: “Don’t just try to get through it, but actually try to enjoy it.” Sometimes I do not handle things well–especially parenting–as it is incredibly difficult and slightly unpredictable. Little kids don’t always make a lot of sense, this is not ideal when there is the balancing act of life to tackle every day.
But I must be doing something right as a parent, even though so often it feels so wrong when I yell or say not now I am too busy, since on multiple and separate occasions my girls have answered when asked what they want to be when they grow up: “A mom!” I have never felt so humbled as in these moments.
Occasionally, I will say to them, “I want to freeze time and keep you just the way you are now.” Mallin recently replied, “But Mom I have to get big and grow up so I can be a mom one day too and then one day you can be a grandma.” As the expression goes From the mouths of babes…precious.
I have learned to breathe in this incredibly full and blessed life, most of the time at least, and freeze as many moments as possible, since they are truly fleeting. This said, I have also learned you have make time and make that time count.
A few things I do in all my realms to promote high efficiency for entertaining:
1. Online Shopping. As promotional as this may sound, shopping online is an enjoyable time-saver that you can easily become an expert doing, and it not just because I am a Gilt employee. It is easy, cost-effective and there are items online that just are not that easy to find in stores, anyone who has recently moved probably knows this. Searching the Internet is plain and simply the most efficient way to find what you need and whether you order it or go to a store to buy it, you’ve actually vetted in advance, which is a smart consumer decision.
2. Casual Entertaining…KISS + HUG – Keep It Simple Silly + HUG – Have Upbeat Guests…since life should be about XOXO whenever possible. People prefer when things are easy and comfortable not forced. Set-up a spread of mostly room temperature, easy-to-prepare in advance items, one or two hot items if necessary and always have a yummy treat as the finale. Have go-to items you feel great about creating and keep the ingredients on-hand to promote spontaneous gatherings.
Use nice platters, fun napkins and have fresh flowers and/or candles to make it more special. Don’t invite people who don’t contribute to the fun. Life is too short and every get-together should be a time of sharing with positive people.
3. Practice + Tasting = Good Cooking
You really shouldn’t eat (or drink) anything that does not taste good. So if nothing else, learn how to make a few things well and make them often, as practice really does make a difference. Tasting food while cooking is a must as it is your opportunity to enhance, change or refine the flavors. Don’t be afraid of spices, herbs, salt and pepper. My amazing hairdresser had the idea of tasting spoons. As hostollect fun or vintage spoons for the chefs in your life to use while cooking to taste: brilliant, stylish and slightly more sanitary.
Like Pamela says…we are all blessed by incredibly full and wonderful lives. I love the idea of freezing as many moments as possible and learning to make the time you have count. Inspired as always. Thanks P. xo
A Day In The Life
A typical “school day” given there is school, no work travel, no big events, no one home sick…
9AM to approximately 4PM
Lazlo and Celine spend the day playing, doing household chores, going to the park, running errands for groceries all on foot. They say hi in between calls and whenever they can. It is quick but meaningful to be able to interact with my handsome boy during the day.
It also helps to work at home and not have to get from one place to another on most days. This routine is what I have found to be the efficient, happy, low-stress and productive plan. I schedule a day a week to have meetings, spend time in the Gilt City San Francisco office, and these days might include an evening event or meeting.
5PM – 6PM
I have learned not to work on the weekends starting on Friday late afternoon, unless I have an event production or a have to. This commitment makes a huge difference in family life even though it impacts the amount I can accomplish, it is a real step toward balance. On the weekends, we try to do fun family activities. It is not always easy with three small children with different schedules and needs, but we try and spend a lot of time together.
Of course this does not make up for the busy work weeks, but it is something…