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Meet Saya Hillman of Mac & Cheese Productions℠ in Wicker Park

Today we’d like to introduce you to Saya Hillman.

Saya, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I was fired in 2004.

I founded a company called Mac & Cheese Productions℠ where “productions” referred to video production. I quickly discovered that my personal frustration with adulthood that areas I thought should be easy — finding friends, romance, opportunities for personal growth, fun ways to explore and “get out there” — were in fact sources of stress, discomfort and dissatisfaction, and my desire to solve these frustrations was where my passion lay and my skills shone.

“Productions” transformed from video to event and I began curating experiences to help people connect through low-key, comfortably challenging, be yourself methods.

I’ve been blissfully self-employed since the firing and discovered that quality of life is what’s most important to me. Being able to go to 10AM Tuesday Trader Joe’s and yoga, a commute from my bedroom to my home office, random naps and days off, spontaneous and copious travel, being able to do 99% of my work in comfy clothes….

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Ha, has any entrepreneur or business owner ever been able to claim “smooth road”?!

Not knowing how much money you’ll make or where your money will come from, trying to navigate unfamiliar waters like website design and incorporation and payroll and healthcare, being wistful for paid vacation, bonuses, and employee-sponsored education, professional development, and wellness perks, intense periods of stress and ridiculous To Do lists — struggles.

That said, there hasn’t been one moment of regret or “What am I doing?!” and in the grand scheme of things, ALL of the struggles pale in comparison to the goodness.

Mac & Cheese Productions℠ – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
I encourage individuals and groups to embrace a Life of Yes℠ — positivity, self-efficacy, playfulness, & community. Mac & Cheese motivates individuals and organizations to stretch themselves and do their best thinking, and supports people in finding fulfillment and groups in creating a positive culture.

Think adult summer camp.

One day, I take your phone, pile you into a van with strangers, and kidnap you to an undisclosed location for Life of Yes℠ Sleepaway Camp. The next, I come into your workplace to lead interactive team-bonding and skills-building professional development sessions. Or I’ll lead you in a sales and self-promotion Bootcamp or teach you productivity tips or be your storytelling teacher or keynote a conference.

Or, or, or. Many hats, one goal: to help you create and lead a fulfilled life.

What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
My mom has been an entrepreneur and DIYer since I was born. From typing papers for Northwestern PhD students pre-computers to being the sole female apprentice in a woodshop to selling dried flower arrangements at craft fairs made of flowers she picked along the Greenbay Trail to being a self-taught organic gardener, she’s chosen employment that allowed her the quality of life important to her, namely the autonomy to work when she wanted to work and how she wanted to work. She’s supported every move I’ve made and when I got fired, was the first person to say, “It’s ok. You’ll figure it out.”

My husband, whom I met through one of my own events, cheerleads everything I do and I deeply love and appreciate him, and so enjoy professionally collaborating with him.

My network. My clients. I haven’t had to spend any money on marketing or advertising over my 13 years due to word of mouth and referrals. I owe so much to Cheese-Its and how they’ve spread Life of Yes℠ goodness.

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