Angel Johnson is founder of Memphis Makeup Artists, INC (memphismakeup.com). Her love for beauty goes back to high school where she first wanted to pursue a career in cosmetology. However, life led her down a different career path as a corporate accountant. In February of 2018, she managed to bridge her corporate world and her first love with the launch of Memphis Makeup Artists, INC.
Natalia Vargas is the creative and innovative mind behind the brand Doppia Swimwear. She has been running the company for a short time with a big picture of how the brand is going to grow. Natalia was born in Colombia with Latin blood and passion for her country. She wants to share the story of Colombia, its rich culture, diversity, colors, people, and values through the Doppia brand. www.doppiaswimwear.com
It’s easier than ever before to start a business, thanks to the gig economy. Whether you want to provide short-term work as a consultant or services provider or do freelance work, you can build your own successful gig-based business in just about no time. The trick is zeroing in on a need in your area or putting your skills to work for yourself.
Ashley-Victoria Smith, founder, and producer of Descalzo Shows, a fashion show production company focused on women empowerment and working with female-owned businesses and brands, helps small business owners find the tools and resources they need to grow, scale, and build their businesses, and ultimately themselves.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
In 2012, I was fed up with my underpaid, underappreciated, Director of Marketing 8–5, a desk job that I decided to quit without any backup plans. I had been doing behind-the-scenes fashion show production for about two years by then and I knew that I wanted to bring something different to the table. That difference was to do a lingerie fashion show that focuses on WOMEN EMPOWERMENT to erase the taboo of lingerie being provocative, but rather as a statement for the woman wearing it; making her feel good.
I put together a theatrical lingerie fashion show with one of my good friends at the time with a $500 budget. We partnered with boutique lingerie stores and we showcased the most beautiful luxury pieces while telling a “star-crossed lovers story”. It was a hit. We sold out violating fire marshall code and donated ticket sales to a local breast cancer charity.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you started your company?
Really it’s the businesses that I first reached out to who told me no or no response, are now actually asking me to be involved. It’s like “hustle until your haters ask if you’re hiring” kinda thing.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
I believe the company stands out because I genuinely care about the woman behind the brand and her well being. Being in a male-dominated industry is hard enough and when you’re a business it doesn’t get any easier.
I want designers to know that when they register for our showcase, I am with them every step of the way. For many, this is their first show, so the nervousness and insecurities are even higher. I will help show them the ropes in putting together their models, run of the show, etc…
Many producers have a team that does this for them so they can (obviously) focus on the logistics and production standpoint; however, I choose to do both.
Additionally, I am not competing with anyone, I am not trying to be like the other fashion show production companies out there; there’s nothing wrong with them but I feel that having a private, invite-only show isolates the everyday woman who reads Elle, W, and other high-end magazines that may not get invites to fashion shows but sure as hell BUYS what’s showcased on that runway. I want to give those women an opportunity to have a fun night out, meeting designers, experience the red carpet, shop the runway in person. This is also great for the designers because they can get direct feedback from actual customers & future clients.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
There’s actually two; one is Ryan Philemon who held my hand and stayed up late hours with me offering me more wine to calm down and know that our first production was going to awesome. The other is my late best friend Carolyn Colon, whom we lost to suicide; she pushed me to believe in myself, she took care of the back of house, taking care of expenses, helping models, encouraging other women to believe in themselves; it was her that kept me running when the coffee ran out. I wish I could tell her that today.
Are you working on any exciting projects now?
Always.. I have several large projects in the works that Descalzo Shows will reveal in Spring 2019.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
My Grandmother told me, when you can, give. Then the money from the shows I give towards charities geared to help women; from breast cancer awareness to fighting human and sex trafficking. This year for Miami Swim Week, I am switching it up slightly to donate to The Humane Society.
Do you have a favorite book that made a deep impact on your life?
Yes, and of all them, it’s #Girlboss.
Can you share a story? I picked up this copy back in 2015 at a gift shop at the Philadelphia Amtrak Station because I had 13 more hours to go before I was back home, and this book was a game changer for me. For one, I was going through a rough time with the lingerie shows due to uncomfortable businesses situation with men. I felt that I wasn’t where I was supposed to be in my career path (still working a full-time job), and my relationship with my own man was just crumbling. I started reading this book and I cried because I realized that us women aren’t so different. We all go through financial battles, personal battles, health crisis, bad relationships, etc… #Girlboss simply enlightened me to know that I am not alone in this entrepreneur...ship (pun intended).
What do you “ wish someone told me before I started my company”?
Don’t try to be like everyone else. When I first started doing my lingerie shows, I wanted to be like New York Fashion Week, after three productions (while the audience was now at 400 people), I still wasn’t getting the response for mainstream press and media. It took coffee on the Chelsea Pier with a very notable photographer in NYC to tell me this; “do you think NYFW cares what London FW is doing? Do you think Paris Fashion Week wants to be like London? No. You have to do what works for your city, your audience”… and that is legitimately my Oprah, ‘ah-ha’ moment. He then told me, “If we weren’t friends, I wouldn’t be talking to you right now because, in NYC, time is money.” Jaw drop.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why?
I want a date night with Ellen DeGeneres (aka De Generous). Ellen has heart, has character, and more balls than some of these men ruining, I mean, running our country. I want to work with her in doing a show with real everyday women, not models, help them bring out something they never saw in themselves or too scared to. Tell them to know their worth add shipping and handling fees.
Aida was eager to hit the ground running straight out of college with her BA in Marketing. She spent her formative years with the Walt Disney Company working alongside and learning from writers, graphic artists, and creatives. Aida then segued from entertainment into the booming SoCal biotechnology industry, successfully building “MarCom” departments for two biotechnology start-up companies. One moment with her daughter was the catalyst that sent Aida from working in science to manufacturing girl’s undergarments relatively overnight.
Kate Bagoy is an award-winning consultant & coach for entrepreneurs. After quitting a corporate dream job, Kate moved to Silicon Valley and fell in love with startups and entrepreneurship. The valley wasn’t a fit, but she caught the startup bug & has been working with entrepreneurs at all stages ever since - working with more than 50 startups as a designer, marketer, product manager, strategist, advisor, coach and consultant.
HappyBoxStore.com is a sister-owned online gifting platform that allows users to build-a-care package tailored to their recipient, with affordability in mind. It’s simple: pick a box design, choose gifts to include, pick a card and write a note, and the HappyBoxStore.com team packs and ships directly to your recipient for free.
Can you tell our readers about your background?
I grew up in small-town Minnesota and have been singing for as long as I can remember. Music was a part of our family, something we did together. My dad was unfortunately killed in a car accident when I was ten years old, and songwriting became the therapy that got me through that traumatic experience. I threw myself into music, went off to study at Berklee College of Music in Boston, and shortly after moved to Nashville, Tennessee, where I live now.
I recorded my first album in 2009, and was told my music industry executives that I was “Too pop for country and too country for pop.” It was during the writing and recording of my sophomore album, Jealous, that I truly tapped into the depths of my soul and with co-writers, Zach Runquist and Jimmy Fortune, penned the song that changed my life, “Jealous of the Angels.” This song is a deeply personal tribute to my father, and through a passionate fan across the pond, it was played on Smooth Radio, BBC Radio 2, I performed it on BBC Breakfast, and it went #1 on the iTunes singer/songwriter chart in the UK. That song brought me to the stage of the Grand Ole Opry, which was a dream come true, but more importantly, it allowed me to heal and connect with fans in a way I never realized my music would allow. I strive to write from the bottom of my heart and bring messages of hope and encouragement into the world.
What inspired you to start your music career?
I do think it had a lot to do with the introduction of music at an early age and the challenges that I have faced.
Where do you call home?
How did you start your career? What were the first steps you took?
I studied Music Education at Berklee College of Music in Boston because I love working with kids and I knew how powerful expressing myself through music had been for me. I enjoyed the program and followed through with my student teaching, but upon graduation, I just knew in my heart that if I didn’t step out and pursue a life as a performing and recording artist I would always regret it. I then moved to Nashville and recorded my first album.
I had some amazing friends and mentors along the way to guide me. When I finished the album I wanted to go out tour but didn’t have an agent or the first clue about getting one. I picked up the phone and started asked coffee shops if I could perform in their venues, sometimes just for tips. Before I knew it, I had a three-week long tour with a friend of mine booked and it was still one of the best, most educational experiences of my life.
What has been the most effective way of raising awareness for your brand?
Social media is an incredible tool. Since I have fans of the music around the world, I think it’s really important to stay connected. Consistent posting, live online performances, and email updates have been great resources. I am constantly touring, and that in-person connection is absolutely the most powerful.
What have been your biggest challenges and how did you overcome them?
Losing my dad was the biggest challenge my family and I have ever had to face. It was so sudden that it took an incredibly long time to process and find a way to truly grieve. I’m so grateful that music allows me that opportunity.
Performing “Jealous of the Angels,” did not come easy at first. I hadn’t talked about losing my dad much before the song was written, but performing it live almost forced me into sharing my vulnerable story over a microphone. However, realizing that the worst day of my life had somehow channeled into a song that could bring hope and comfort to grieving hearts around the world, made every painful moment of performing that song worth it.
How do you stay focused?
Self-care is so important. I have learned over the years that I need to take time for myself to rejuvenate. I am the most effective performer when I am at my best. I try to eat healthily and exercise out on the road, and although it’s difficult I really try to get at least 7 hours of sleep each night.
How do you differentiate yourself from the competition?
There’s a place for all the art that’s being created. I think what sets me apart is that my story isn’t the same as anyone else’s. The more honestly and authentically I share my story through the songs I write, the more unique my brand and my music becomes. While the general ideas and concepts of the songs will resonate with many, the specific lyrical moments and styles are my own.
What has been your most effective marketing strategy to grow your fanbase?
Understanding what I do well. I have been able to best connect with an audience through my honesty and vulnerability. Therefore, when I’m writing a new song, my audience has given me the freedom to be raw, emotional and real. I have stopped trying to think about what the radio wants to hear and I write music that inspires and encourages me. That authenticity comes through in the songs and I truly believe it pulls people to a connection.
What's your best piece of advice for aspiring and new musicians, or working women in general?
Stay true to yourself and stand firm for what you believe in. Your work matters and you are strong enough to achieve the success you desire.
What's your favorite app, blog, and book? Why?
I love the “Jesus Calling” app. It’s a daily dose of faithful encouragement that sets the tone for my day. No matter what background you come from, the author’s writing is full of love and hope. The perfect way to start any morning.
What's your favorite business tool or resource? Why?
There’s an app called “Thank You Pro” that I have just started using. This app allows you to design and mail a physical card straight from your phone, using personal photographs and signatures. I believe little personal touches can mean so much. When I perform at an event, sending a little note of thanks with a personalized photo on the cover spreads a little extra appreciation.
Who is your role model? Why?
My mom. She is the strongest woman I have ever known. She lost her husband, and gracefully raised two children on her own. She was a professional model, make-up artist, flight attendant and pageant winner. She is a true dream chaser and continues to be. She now performs in community theater productions in Sarasota, Florida, where she lives.
What do you have planned for the next six months?
I am so excited to be releasing my brand new album “Revival,” today on Amazon. It is my favorite album I have ever recorded and pulls from my influences of blues, soul, pop, gospel, and country. I toured the album through the UK during, as well as Mexico and the United States throughout the summer. I truly hope this album encourages and empowers people to believe they can overcome any obstacle.
How can our readers connect with you?
All of my contact information and music is available on my website at www.jennbostic.com, and I am personally active on all my social networks as well. Thanks for taking the time to chat with me!