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Couponing leads Henning to reality TV and own business

Ana Anthony/daily globe Lori Henning (right) explains how she organizes her coupon tote during a couponing class last Wednesday in Windom.

LAKEFIELD -- Lori Henning never imagined she would star in a reality TV show until she was selected for "Super Saver Showdown" -- a soon-to-be aired series on the Oprah Winfrey Network.

Henning attributes her "mid-life crisis," and her passion for "extremely good couponing," among her other qualities, of what landed her the role on "Super Saver Showdown."

"I'm on the internet all the time because of what I do," said Henning, who runs a social media marketing firm for small businesses. "I believe it was on my Facebook page where an ad kept popping up all the time saying 'are you a couponer and do you love to plan parties?'

"I was having a mid-life crisis and I thought that if I saw that ad again, I'm going to click on it because I've never done anything like that before," she continued. "The next day, I had turned my phone off because I was working on a proposal. When I checked my voicemail later that night, it said 'Hi, this is Jade from the Oprah Winfrey Network and I'm calling to talk to you about the ad that you clicked on.'"

The voicemail led Henning down a path she had never been before -- an audition for a TV show.

"Within the course of that week, I had to send them a video and do an interview with the producer over Skype," she explained.

The video made by Henning's daughter, Brittany, showcased her event planning skills with a given budget.

"I always look at it from a project management standpoint based on the triple constraint model," Henning said, giving credit to her previous job as a project manager. "You decide if you have a lot of time, or money, or resources.

"In the video, we talked about my daughter's wedding and how she gave us a budget of $2000 to plan her wedding. We did it for $2500 with almost 200 people there."

After a successful video and interview, Henning was flown to Alabama for the filming process. She was paired against another contestant to plan a party for two cheerleaders who never had a pep rally experience due to their health issues.

"We were given a budget of $100 to serve up to 30 people and another $100 for decoration and entertainment," Henning said. "Most of the planning took place over the internet. I had never met the girls' families, but I knew what menu I wanted to use. When I met them I found out they were gluten-free, so we had to change the menu in 15 minutes before we did our shopping"

Henning's experience on set gave her new insights to the entertainment production industry.

"It was nothing like you could ever imagine," she said. "I would never have guessed that when movies are made, you are wired up the whole time.

"You have your own sound man. He took something like a great, big bullet and dropped it right down my shirt," she continued in between laughter. "There's no modesty."

While Henning couldn't disclose more information about the upcoming TV series due a privacy agreement, she was more than willing to share her knowledge of couponing.

Extreme couponing and extremely good couponing are two very different practices, she said.

"Extremely good couponing is not like what you see on TV where they're hoarding all these things," Henning said.

Good couponing involves spending less time and creating a more practical inventory.

"My goal is to spend 20- minutes doing my grocery list and it needs to be fun," Henning explained. "I'm a busy lady."

At her previous job, Henning explained how she and several friends started a women's money group.

"We had an initiative every month to save money," she said. "One member -- who is now my business partner -- saw an article in a magazine about a website called the 'Grocery Game.' That became our initiative for January 2010."

One try at the "Grocery Game" was all it took to get her hooked, she said.

Users on the "Grocery Game" are matched to participating stores in the vicinity of their zip code, Henning said, adding the Worthington Hy-vee and Walgreens are the only two in Worthington.

The website matches coupons from the Sunday newspaper with items on sale in stores that have been narrowed down.

"When you start, you always need to buy a few things at regular price, but by a month's time you'll get a nice inventory," Henning said.

She said she saved $6,000 on groceries within the first year.

"It's part of the reason why I could walk away comfortably from my job to start my own business," she said.

Apart from operating her marketing firm with business partner, Mary Illif, Henning also organizes couponing classes. The most recent class she conducted was last Wednesday in Windom.

Daily Globe Reporter Ana Anthony can be reached at 376-7321.