What’s Your Family Brand?

Every small business owner has a backstory, and many times your life experiences play a big part in shaping the style and content of your entrepreneurial journey. On this month’s podcast, Amanda Benson-Tilch of Ask Amanda Consulting gives her audience a closer look at some of the circumstances that helped her develop strength and resilience as a female business owner while navigating life as a single mother. To get to the heart of it, and to see the impact she’s had on those around her, she had a conversation with the two people who know her best – her son and daughter, Miles and Audrey Benson.

Amanda As Mom

Because she is so active in the community, Amanda is recognized by philanthropic leaders, local officials, and Santa Clarita business owners, which means her children are often in the public eye.

“Going into a restaurant and getting recognized immediately by somebody I’ve never met before,” Miles said, “is always sweet and they’re always nice people. I think it’s a unique situation for both of us, compared to most. It’s like being a reverse celebrity.”

Now young adults, Miles and Audrey described their mother as a model of inspiration.

“Growing up with you as a mom has shown me so much strength and confidence,” Audrey said. “You’re motivated and you have so many opportunities … so many things going on in your head, and you’re always going, going, going. It’s something to look forward to and be inspired by.”

Miles appreciated years of learning how to form healthy bonds between himself and his mother, as well as other family relationships.

“I feel appreciation and gratitude from learning that relationship correctly, because there are a lot of troubled ones,” he said. “I think seeing that and coming to the realization that we have the relationship that we do, and with each other, it’s a place for gratitude for sure.”

Amanda described the first time she caught a young Miles lying to her. She told him: “I’m going to let you sit in here for a while and you’re going to think about what to say. If you choose to lie to me, then it’s going to change our relationship forever.”

A self-described non-mushy mom, when Amanda returned to the room, he told her the truth.

“I’ve thought about it a lot,” Miles said. “We’ve had a taste of being taught something, specifically and sternly – ONCE – and then that changes our mental chemistry and viewpoint for the rest of our lives.”

Children of Divorce

Amanda’s two grown children sometimes use the word “mentorship” to describe Amanda’s strictness, but they also refer to many positive changes they’ve seen from both of their parents over the years. The couple divorced when Audrey was 4 and Miles was 8 years old, at which point Amanda became a single mother.

“It’s really interesting to see that difference,” Miles said. “He’s changed also, but you are very different – both in the very best way possible. The growth of taking the reins – you grabbed the reins, and you got sweaty palms, but you figured it out.”

Audrey has fewer memories because she was young, but she did have a little advice to share.

“I do remember some big pinpoints that also I think made us grow up really quick,” she said. “I would just say, ‘Don’t use what has happened to you and hold onto it forever. Just learn from it and accept it and grow, because it’s going to happen to all of us.’ I think it makes you who you are as a person too. Now I know what I want to look for in someone to love, and because we have a good relationship, that’s what I want for me with my kids too.”

Because he was older, Miles was more conscious of the divorce and its impact.

“My one word of advice, or phrase, would be more narrow,” he said, “and it goes for all kinds of relationships: it’s OK to grieve somebody who’s still alive.”

He brought up a quote from an interview with Spiderman actor Andrew Garfield, who recently lost his mother: “Grief is all of the love you didn’t get to express.”

“It struck a chord with me, and I think it’s the most impactful thing I’ve ever heard,” Miles said. “It’s changed my outlook on a lot, especially divorce, but also relationships with friends and romantic ones. … When grieving somebody who’s alive – clearly, you’re going to see them now and then – it’s OK to still express that grief. Your parents are also, at the same time, at the end of a big term of their lives and it’s traumatic for them also. Everybody’s on the receiving end of that.”

Family Lessons Learned

Making your family a priority is one of the most significant messages Miles and Audrey metabolized as children of Amanda and members of their sizable family.

“You always put family first, because they’re always going to be there for you – no matter what,” Audrey said. “You’re going to go through a lot with them, but that’s your hard rock, your stone. That’s your home. You’re my home – you guys are my home.”

Birth order and proximity to family members, such as having grandparents in the house, have contributed to Audrey’s worldview.

“Being the youngest, it gives me so many people to look up to, especially having Nana and Papa in the house now,” she said. “Nana has become such a good role model for me. I spend a lot of time with her now. And you, Miles, growing up being the bigger brother, I always looked up to you. And, of course, Mom looked up to you. And now I have so many more people.”

Miles appreciated the kind of messaging that taught him to replace judgment with empathy.

“It’s not judgment, as in approaching a situation analytically, carefully, and cautiously,” he said, “but with a form of grace and empathy.”

Audrey concurred.

“You’ve taught both of us to just love people, to not be mean, but accepting with no judgment,” Audrey said. “You’ve taught me to always love, and I think that’s the best thing in a family – to always love.”

Amanda pointed out that family isn’t always limited to blood relatives.

“I think the concept of accepting a family that’s not blood is a very open concept and it’s preached a lot in media now, like movies and whatever else,” Miles said. “But experiencing that firsthand is definitely something that’s valuable, and more people need to, especially in the world we live in now.”

Audrey described Amanda’s openness.

“You’re always like, ‘Come on, let’s just be part of my family. I’m just going to take you in,” she said. “You just learn to love people so much, especially when they’re going through a lot.”

The Importance of Gratitude

Amanda described some of the challenges the three of them experienced as a family, which forged positive character qualities.

“We didn’t have a lot at all, and we struggled and went through some hard times, but we did that together,” she said. “I think that taught us – and then everything that I have built for us since then – it’s taught you to be grateful. I’m grateful for it.”

Miles agreed.

“I think gratitude is the most valuable thing to learn in life; it’s something that you should reach for,” he said. “Along the same lines as appreciation. Just be here now. Always being present.”

Miles underscored the importance of acceptance and appreciation.

“After you go through something or experience a moment, whatever it is – negative or positive – you think of it differently, replaying it in your head,” he said. “But I think accepting it, in terms of what it is, then you can appreciate it more and live it more richly and thoroughly in that moment. Going through so many different situations in the family, in life, I think I’ve learned to live it more richly. That appreciation – you have to see what it is fully and live by it actively.”

Miles and Audrey have shown a growing level of adaptability.

It’s good that you guys have the approach that you do about changes in life,” Amanda said. “It’s very admirable and I think that it’s something you could pass on to other people, which is helpful.”

“I think that’s the true lesson and I think that’s what your goal would be – either consciously or subconsciously,” Miles said. “That’s what you’ve passed, and it’s clearly stuck with both of us.”

Working with Mom

Both Miles and Audrey have worked with and for Amanda. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Miles worked as her assistant at an apartment complex in Burbank.

“We’ve always had a good relationship, so it wasn’t an eye-rolling event,” Miles said. “We had fun. I liked it a lot. There were a lot of things I learned there.”

The two of them spent nearly a half hour a day carpooling from Santa Clarita to Burbank.

“There were lots of laughs,” he said. “We listened to podcasts, but also, I got to spend a lot more time with you and I think I enjoyed that the most. Working with you is fun because, you know… your personality. And the workplace was pretty good.”

Miles learned a lot about how to deal with people by working alongside Amanda.

“You saw how I dealt with people, which was very different,” Amanda said. “I feel like that was really a good experience for you.”

Amanda’s people skills were one of many facets that impacted Miles in a positive way.

“You’re a people person; I’m not,” he said. “In my first really mature job, which had a lot of things I did not enjoy doing. But also, working with you set me up because I was able to handle it and I knew what I was doing. I was tossed into the deep end, and I stayed that way for the whole two years. I was self-managing the whole time. Having a model – that was you – but also in that industry. It was very valuable.”

Audrey worked for Amanda at Burbank Fitness Club at the front desk. COVID-19 restrictions were over and she had just finished high school through a homeschool program, so she was coming from several years without much social interaction.

“I just needed to meet new people and actually communicate, because I just didn’t really talk to anyone,” Audrey said. “I think mentally and physically, I just needed to go do something. And you were like, ‘Audrey come on, let’s go. You’re coming to work with me.’ The same as Miles, it got me very bonded with you, the more I talked to you, spending all day with you – three or four times a week. I loved it. I just made so many good friends and it taught me a lot about communicating with people and customer service. I loved that job. It was one of the best times of my life. It helped me grow up really quick and it taught me more about people and myself.”

Amanda said she’s grateful for the connections that provided her kids with workplace opportunities.

“I’m very fortunate that I have aligned myself with certain circumstances to be able to provide this for you guys,” she said. “But I’m also very thankful that both of you said yes to different types of jobs that were available at the time.”

There were many conversations between Amanda and her children during job transitions.

“Kids are scared, and they look to us adults who have been in the workforce for years,” she said. “If you’re not giving them proper advice, sound advice – leave your personal thoughts and feelings out of it and really try to set them up for success – then I think you’re doing these kids a disservice. Part of my relationship with both of you is to sort of be a mentor, and there’s a fine line between being somebody’s parent and being their mentor. If these were just young adults coming to me and asking me the same questions and they weren’t my kids, I would say the same thing. I think that more parents need to have that viewpoint and not just put what they think and feel onto the kids, because there’s no room for you guys to think and feel differently.”

Miles agreed wholeheartedly.

“That kind of mentorship is important, but the kind of mentorship when you’re holding their hands is very different,” he said, “because typically if you’re holding their hands, you’re going to naturally guide them to where you were, what you did, your experiences. It’s not productive for anybody; it doesn’t help anybody.”

For it to be effective, the job seeker needs to also have the desire to be mentored, Amanda pointed out.

Dreams, Aspirations and Budding Entrepreneurs

“Taking your dream and putting it into real life” is the way Audrey defines entrepreneurship. “Like you did with Ask Amanda. You took your dream and made it a reality.”

“Yours is a unique situation because you are like ‘the entrepreneur of entrepreneurs,’” Miles said. “With Ask Amanda, you’re somebody’s grindstone and you help not only give them the consultation part of it, but also, you’re providing the tools for them to hone in on their own entrepreneurial ideas. You’re helping guide them in the ways that they need most or that they may need to go about things a different way.”

Both Miles and Audrey can see themselves launching a small business someday, but they’re taking their time as they establish their plans.

“It’s so hard to know what you want to do with your life when you’re still a kid,” Audrey said. “There’s so much pressure and so many things you could choose from. Eighteen is so young to pick your whole life. It’s just crazy.”

Miles, who completed some courses at College of the Canyons, frowns on the practice of forcing kids to go to college without a real goal.

“Like Audrey said, when you’re younger there’s a lot of pressure and I feel like picking that while you’re young is hard,” he said. “It’s definitely changed a lot throughout my life, but I feel like I’ve found my actual passions to drive my motivations in times that I have to myself. I find appreciation for things that I like – and you don’t know until you try something.”

Miles, who Amanda describes as meticulous and good at tinkering, would like to launch a watch company, among other things.

“I’m determined and I’m going to do it,” he said. “Start with leather bands first … and possibly either write a book or film. I don’t know when that will be, if I’m 70 or 25 – something I can appreciate now and do then.”

It’s easy for Audrey to identify her greatest passion.

“Now that I’m 19 I’ve finally kind of pinpointed it, because since I was little, I’ve always wanted to bake,” she said. “It just stuck with me. I was always pretending to bake, and I had my own little kitchen. I’m going to go to college for it. I’m working in a coffee shop right now, but eventually I’ll work at a bakery. That’s my dream and my goal and my aspiration – I want to be a little baker. My true dream would be to own a bakery.”

When put in the hot seat by her kids, Amanda shared that she has small business goals of her own.

“There’s one dream that I do have that I’ve never really thought about fulfilling and I don’t know if I will or not,” she said. “I would love to host a conference. I have this whole vision in my head. I can see it in big lights, and I have these speakers in mind that would just benefit a certain group of people, around probably entrepreneurship and self-development, in the world of personal development and self-improvement, which I call ‘self-development.’ That’s on my bucket list if I could pull it off.”

Meet the Expert

Amanda Benson-Tilch – Small Business Consulting

While you may notice her first by her wit and second by her infectious sense of humor, the next thing you’ll learn about Amanda Benson-Tilch is: She’s a problem-solver. Owner and Growth Strategist of Ask Amanda Consulting, she offers the skills, tools, and network it takes to get the job done — no matter the task.

Working with each client differently, she helps identify blocks, present solutions, implement them, and execute. And if she can’t execute, she’ll connect you to someone who can. She’s helped past clients improve their branding, operations, customer service, marketing, company culture, and more. She’s organized a company-wide rebranding and restructuring after it was bought out. And she’s helped local small businesses increase their growth without increasing the headache. From consulting to full-scale project management, Amanda steps in to help your business level up with ease.

In addition to her work with Ask Amanda, she’s also the Director of Business Development for Thomas Realty Co., a property management company in Burbank, where she oversees the growth of select tenants. Currently, she’s serving as the Managing Director of both Burbank Fitness Club and Burbank Center Apartments. Over the last year, she helped completely rebrand, renovate, and rebuild the gym, and she recently started the same process with their luxury apartments.

Follow Amanda on Facebook and Instagram.

About The Ask Amanda Show

On any given day, small business owners and entrepreneurs spend most of their time putting out fires, solving problems and asking themselves questions like: “How do I brand this? How do I reach more people online? Why can’t I break through my revenue ceiling and reach the next level of business?” They often feel like an island – holding it all together without the support, clarity, or feedback they need to finally achieve their vision. That’s exactly why Amanda Benson-Tilch created The Ask Amanda Show. As a small business consultant, not only does she have the answers to the questions you keep asking, but she’s also created a podcast community that reminds you: You’re not alone in this journey.

Tune in once a month to get access to small business experts, nuggets of inspiration and answers to those burning questions preventing you from growth. Enjoy powerful guest interviews as Santa Clarita small business experts share their stories and provide actionable steps to help you grow your business. Whether you’re a business owner, aspiring entrepreneur, or someone looking to get more involved in your community, this is your show!