EXPOsé: Part Three “How sweet it is!”


Mary DugganBy Mary Duggan

Leaving Chicago I was aware of the publication of Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In; but I never imagined the kerfluffle that would ensue. I missed most of it as EXPO held my full attention the week of the book’s launch. Steadily working my way through the week-tall stack of newspapers that awaited my return I got a sense of the debate. That and seeing the author when I turned on the TV to see what Katie and Piers were up to. My favorite moment in the debate was reading a guest writer for the Chicago Tribune who identified herself as someone who had not read the book but wanted to criticize it anyways. Okay. She seemed to find more value in watching the HBO series GIRLS. Really? If you can’t Lean In enough to actually read the book in question, then maybe get out, right?

I am taken with the synchronicity popping up here between the COO of Facebook and the Duggan Sisters – please don’t laugh. As I struggled with writing this post about our participation in the Natural Products EXPO, I turned to my sisters for insight. Why did we go? Why does it matter? Why did it feel so good? Their answers were wise and insightful and WRONG, and I made sure they knew that too. We did not go to EXPO to shine our light, spread the good word about lymphatic wellness, speak our truth or any of the other intents we set before each and every engagement. No. Not this time. We went to EXPO to do business because we mean business. Or as one idiot blogger once said, “The Duggan Sisters put the mean in we mean business.” Okay, she was wrong. And an idiot. And did not like my on-line challenge of her behavior towards women in business. There is NOTHING mean about the Duggan Sisters. But we do mean business and that’s why we went to Anaheim. Were we leaning in? I don’t know. What I do know is we were there to witness power. To see how things are done and who is doing it. We were there to discern the scoundrels from the gentlemen. Add an R to lean; we were there to learn.

Brace yourself for Peanut Butter and Jelly on a Hamburger. Then continue, please.

Opening Day of EXPO was preceded by Thursday night’s set-up from 6-9 p.m. We were astounded leaving, weary and starving, that so many folks had not even arrived yet and set-up their 2′ x 6′ table. We could not imagine taking the risk of setting up the morning of the show itself. That would be way too Farmers’ Market. We discovered the next morning that many booths were so simple and minimalist or thrown together that only a few minutes were needed. We, of course, had overstayed our welcome and were escorted to the elevator by a security guard at 9:30 p.m. because we are the Duggan Sisters and so 3 women spending 3.5 hours to set up one small table was to be expected. That’s right, 10.5 hours collectively spent scrapping and huffing and puffing over one small kingdom.

expo_covered booth

Secured with a high tech drop cloth and ready for Friday morning.

Bear with me. I am going to be popping in here at intervals with food talk. One of the most challenging parts of business travel, if you have any dietary restrictions, is eating. When we were 100% raw vegan it was an exhausting nightmare. Maybe that is why we are now toxic and chubby raw wannabee-agains. For now, we draw the line at gluten free. I am happy to report that it proved to be do-able; but just as much an exhausting nightmare as maintaining a raw regimen in the final analysis. As we were such late registrants for EXPO – 3 DAYS EARLIER!!! – we were not able to get a hotel room in Anaheim. We convinced ourselves that the half hour troop to Yorba Linda at the beginning and end of each day was manageable and the identical hotel room in Yorba Linda costing $100, not the $250 tab in Anaheim, sealed the deal. 

So really we can only report on food from Yorba Linda for those of you may be heading out to visit the Nixon Museum – too weird – or willing to drive a bit to Disneyland, in the name of being frugal – not weird at all. And looking for gluten free.

expo_PBJ burger

No caption required. I am so ashamed.

SET-UP NIGHT: I am not proud but I am honest. My food posts are going to horrify raw vegans. But they might prove helpful to folks “leaning in” to clean food and looking for gluten free.  It was 10:30 p.m. as we approached Yorba and Yelp revealed a hamburger joint called 50/50 that is quite popular. And they advertised gluten free buns. I was hoping for three burgers in a bag being snarfed in our hotel room. But no. In we went to wicked powerful air conditioning,  big screen TVs everywhere, really loud music, really bright lights and a staff so over-the-top friendly meets jovial that Red Bull had to figure somehow into the picture. The name 50/50 reflects the make-up of their classic house burger: 50% beef + 50% pork. Again, I am not proud. And I will end here by saying I had one of their most popular burgers: the Peanut Butter and Jeallousy (sic). And, oh yeah, it was yummy. Burger, bacon, peanut butter, and jelly on a gluten free bun. Please focus on the gluten free bun and know that I did suffer because they did not have gluten free cider and remember all the noise and cold and TVs, please. We got to our hotel room so dangerously late the night before the big event that I thanked God we were already checked in and unpacked.

DAY ONE: EXPO is such an astounding sea of humanity, a veritable lava flow of pulsing bodies on the go that it overwhelms the senses. Or delights them if you have spent the better part of 5 years in a basement making natural deodorant. Navigating parking and badges was a bit tricky; but Annie snuck in without a badge and I talked my way in (okay I offered the kid my watch – value $30 – and I think he was so overwhelmed by the pathetic-ness of the offer that he let me in) while Clare did the standing in line due diligence. What happened next was so sweet that I thought I would be keeping it under my bonnet for a good long while. But, I’ve changed my mind.


Annie had preceded me to the booth, so the plastic drape had been removed and she was already selling. The tables that stood empty the night before were  now set up and staffed. The floor was beginning to fill, so I moved quickly and directly to our booth – the last table, in the last row, of the pavilion that was separate from all other pavilions and that no one knew about. Someone was standing in front of our booth -a great big robust friendly-faced middle-aged guy – and years of experience turned on as I swept into sales mode and began the pitch only to have him say, “Mary, Mary, that’s okay,” and I’m thinking wait a minute.  I don’t have a badge on but he’s calling me by my first name and sure enough he turns over his inverted badge and guess what organization I’m looking at? Now just to test to make sure that you have been religiously following our blog I am only going to say, yep, you guessed it, the biggest butt heads we have encountered in all our years of doing business. The guys who broke our health and crushed our spirits and almost cost us our home and  our business. And here was a high level representative from an enormous region within that organization doing the mea culpa shuffle. Right there in front of my booth. Day One. Expo. First customer. I could not believe it. And I pushed back hard. Have you read my blog? Have you read my letter to your CEO? Not a problem, Mary, he repeated over and over again. Let’s do this again, bigger region, where you belonged all along, you will never get treated that way again. Blah, blah, blah. Cost of going to EXPO? THOUSANDS.  Apology, please come back to us, we will never treat you that way again, kind smiles, warm handshakes, assurances, let’s start over: PRICELESS.

But here’s why I share this moment of absolute bliss with you when I would probably be better served to remain circumspect and coy and cunning. I think this is the leaning in. The learning how it’s done that young women are so frequently removed from, protected from, and denied access to. This is why I want so desperately to succeed. I am not motivated by money, or I would have moved more swiftly. I am not motivated by fame, or I would have hired a publicist, no matter the cost.

I want to succeed for every woman with a great idea who has never been shown what she can do with it; how she can build something with it; how she can make a life from a really great idea. Men have been doing it forever. Women less so. When I think of leaning in, I think of someone eavesdropping and I am a great fan of doing that. I think women are skillful at this subtle gathering of information and I think we need to lean in and listen up and learn just how the game is played. Remembering it is a game and games are fun; so much of what men do looks like child’s play to exhausted women. But it is in great measure a game. A game made so much sweeter when it is won.

I would also like to offer this anecdote for women trying to discern the real men from the real weenies. I have shared this anecdote a bit since our return. Most of the men I have told reacted along these lines. Wow, that was really big of them to apologize. That really speaks highly of them. It took a lot for them to do that. Are you going to do business with them again? Definition: weenie. My personal physician, on the other hand, upon hearing this anecdote, practically jumped from his chair, extending his arm in a full and unequivocal dismissal and said,”Get the hell out of my booth. We don’t want anything you have to sell.” At least that is what he hoped we had said. Definition: real man. Goal: get more of them into your life. Reason: women are well-served by champions.


ONE SMALL MILESTONE. One Giant Leap for the Sisters: Samples are really expensive and so we have delayed and delayed and delayed on making the investment. With EXPO we knew we had to make it happen. So in those frantic weeks of not knowing if we would get the funding to go to the show, we “acted as if” and got the labels designed and the lifestinks “little stinkers” containers into the shop and filled. When angel investors came through, we pressed go; but the deadline was unbearably tight. The labels were finally hand-delivered to us at the end of the first day; so we forfeited a cocktail party and appetizers and networking for one hour of all hands on deck labelling of our little stinkers.

expo_Kevin Suhey Our 1st Sample

expo_matthew_mcconaughey_290x402Note to our Hollywood hostess and her guidance that if it looks like Matthew McConaughey then it is probably is...well look who got our first sample freshly labelled in the final moments of Day One. Yep, the cutest investment banker we have ever seen and a dead ringer for Matthew McConaughey’s I don’t know,  younger brother. All joking aside this young man was a joy not only to behold  but also to talk to about real concerns like breast wellness and capital needs for small and worthy endeavors. Again, men have been having fun doing business FOREVER. But caution to Annie: leaning in does not meaning jumping on. Just kidding. How sweet it is to be at the table, especially when Hollywood-styled hunks show up.


NIGHT ONE: Friday night was INSANE. It was Woodstock meets Wall Street as all the movers and shakers mingled and greeted each other  and shook hands and shared a drink or two while old friendships were renewed, introductions made and deals struck. A phenomenal rock band roared in the palm tree canopied outdoor arena where loyal employees danced and bounced and gyrated to the 25th Anniversary celebration of a huge Canadian natural products corporation. You could barely move for the swell of people. Parties were everywhere; but the one we were invited to was just way too far away to attend. Exhausted from the drama of Day One and an extra hour spent labeling our first samples, all we wanted was a quiet hideaway somewhere behind the Orange Curtain where we could have a bite to eat, a glass of wine, and our first chance to share stories. All we managed to achieve was gluten free pizza, despite selecting a restaurant referred to as date night romantic quiet. How and why have we become such a loud culture? But our delightful waiter, Manny, moves us beyond our fatigue and straight on to the gluten free artisan pizzas that were phenomenal and a gluten free dessert that was so amazing, it was worth staying up just a bit later to enjoy. Once again it was late by the time we collapsed in our hotel beds. Life on the road. Somebody’s gotta do it.

expo_GF pizza

Time to stop complaining…

expo_pizza gf dessert

about the rigors of gf dining.








DAY TWO is the power day, or so we were told. And indeed the pace was rigorous. As we arrived at the Anaheim Convention Center, we took a few minutes outdoors to drink in the incredible beauty of a Southern California morning in early March.

expo_Sisters in front with palm trees

An hour earlier it was not all sunshine and smiles as I discovered that my new yellow top was a full size too big. The girls looked adorable in their side-gathered tops; I looked like some sort of tummy tuck gone horribly wrong.

We went from drinking in the ambience to chowing down on at the co-sponsored Udi and Glutino booth where energetic staffers were toasting gluten freen bagels and slathering them in organic peanut butter.  Then it was off to the booth. But not before Clare made a quick sideswipe to the Humboldt Bay Coffee Company to get the day started. Those hard working gals became wonderful show friends who never balked at us needing coffee in triplicate. It is so fun to know these new lifestinks wearers.

expo_Humboldt Bay Coffee Co

Glamorous back story? These hard-working entrepreneurs had hand stamped sample bags until their hands were swollen and sore. Our kind of gals.


TRADE SHOW TWO-STEP: Engage in conversation, tell your story, answer questions, get their story, get their business card, attach their business card to piece of paper and capture as many notes as you can quickly. Set it aside. Take their picture. Shake hands or more likely hug. There is something so incredibly huggy about the natural deodorant business. At least it is for the Huggin’ Duggans. Move on to the next person in line. Step behind the booth at intervals and apply throat spray. Move on to the next person or group. Go to the ladies’ room if you absolutely must. Sip green smoothies to remain standing. Begin the interior dialogue: Japanese Distributors, check, Venezualan distributors, check, Canadian distributors, form a line please, Mexican distributors, Australian distributors, note irony, check. Distinguish brokers from reps and media from bloggers. And listen, listen, listen to the stories being shared that have nothing to do with business and everything to do with who we are.


EXCUSE ME,  YOU WANT ME TO DO WHAT? Stop, lick lips, and tape a public service announcement in my ginormous sagging blouse for the National Park District’s US and Canadian website. Please explain why you should never go into nature wearing wretched chemicals like triclosan in your deodorant or DEET in your bug repellent. He had done his work and been sent to our booth to capture the Duggan Sisters’ message. Is this really my life? And where are Clare and Annie and their better looking teeth and properly fitting tops when I need them?

Our young reported assured me that we were to make clear that our products are the antidote to chemically polluting personal care products. Thanks National Park District for a bit of really fun press. Then, when I was not expecting it, one final question. On camera. What is your favorite National Park?

Duggan Family Roadtrip

Duggan Family Rocky Mountain Roaptrip…check out the suspension.

Blank stare. I do not remember that I have been to the Badlands and they are probably my favorite. I can not recall anything when finally a memory surfaces. I can, I explain, share my happiest National Park memory of seven little Duggans being loaded into a station wagon decades ago for a family camping trip all the way from Chicago to Colorado’s Estes Park. Smile. End of taping. God I hope Estes is a National Park. Great save, says the charming videographer. Really, I choke dry mouthed and a little traumatized?  Don’t worry, he says, I’m a great editor. And he’s off. Move to the next in line. Note to self: don’t forget to tell the girls tonight that a video about Duggan Sister products bridging Body Ecology and Earth Ecology is going to be on the site of the National Park District  – US and Canada! This time leaning in means leaning on the table for a moment. Girl, steady yourself. Next?


END OF DAY TWO: One day left and finally we have been directed to a marvelous QUIET gluten free informed Thai restaurant and it is like stepping into heaven. The charming host at the Red Thai Room has us in instant giggles as he GONGS us in and the fatigue begins to dissolve. We have been advised that we must save room for their famed and gluten free dessert: warm sticky rice covered in coconut cream then layered with mangoes in mango sauce and crowned with coconut sorbet. Hot and cold and savory and sweet and I would go back for this alone. The informative and darling waitress completes the night with her gracious  and wildly enthusiastic acceptance of a lifestinks little stinker sample (yes, we also tipped her) and we have been in a serene and beautiful and soul satisfying environ AT LAST. Finally, we collapse into bed on time, and fall INSTANTLY asleep.


expo_thai gong

Eric, our fun and funny host, makes the cares of the day melt away.

expo_thai gf dessert

Coconut mango rice dessert is a final descent into dessert oblivion.













ONLY THE FINAL DAY REMAINS: Don’t miss part four – the conclusion of our EXPOsé adventure.


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5 Responses to “EXPOsé: Part Three “How sweet it is!””

  1. Kory says:

    Wow, Mary, what a trip! This is delightful reading. I was gobsmacked when that upper-echelon suit from The Corporation That Shall Not Be Named came by. Regarding some of the responses of others when you’ve related this anecdote: I find it sad that nowadays it’s considered “very big” of someone to apologize when they were WRONG IN THE FIRST PLACE. That’s not being magnanimous, that’s just doing the right thing, for Pete’s sake. Everyone makes mistakes or acts badly sometimes, including (especially?) huge corporations. But no one deserves a medal for fixing their screw-ups. It’s just what you do.

    • Mary says:

      Thanks for reading my blog. Trust me, we too were way gobsmacked!!! We are still in dismay. I guess when profits are being lost, and trust me our product was “flowing” apologies can be good business. I agree on the apology misinterpretation front. I think it is very gender influenced. When I am approaching a ladies’ bathroom and someone,a lady most commonly, is coming out, invariably they say, excuse me. I always think what in the world are you apologizing for? You are leaving the bathroom, for God’s sake, and I am going in. Ladies, we are too apologetic. Gentlemen, step it up a bit, I think. Maybe a bit over-generalized; but I see it so much.

  2. Kory says:

    I think it’s very gender-influenced as well, Mary. Nowadays I’m very conscious of how I write online, in terms of not using what I consider to be weasel words: words like “just”, “only”, etc., or the phrase “I’m sorry, but….” when arguing a point. (I’d try to give more examples but I’ve already had a large glass of wine and am too relaxed.) 😉 I’ve noticed women (including myself) using these kinds of words to “soften” the message we’re trying to deliver. Don’t get me wrong; there are plenty of times when these types of words are appropriate, and I’m not advocating bad manners or speaking unnecessarily harshly to people. But I think they’re a form of supplication that women are taught, and I’M TIRED OF IT. So now, before I post a response on a blog or news site for example, I re-read it and if I spot those weasels, I delete them in order to sound clearer and less wimpy. Still polite (well, usually), but less wimpy. It feels gooooooood.

    On the same note, I’m so glad you gave that suit some good Chicago attitude. Irish kids from the South Side are not to be trifled with, and it’s best he learns that – quickly, and permanently. 🙂

  3. Kory says:

    🙂 Thanks, and right back atcha.

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