"Connect with others in your desired field of business" with Emily Cosgrove

Emily_Cosgrove-3.jpg

Emily, a clinically trained and licensed couple and family therapist and life coach, specializes in the mind, body, soul connection. She loves assisting women in creating a life they love by helping them develop self-care practices, build confidence and self-love. She holds an MA in Marriage and Family Therapy from Syracuse University and has been featured in many publications including The Huffington Post, Family Circle, Maed, Brit + Co, Cosmopolitan, Greatist, Apartment Therapy, Bustle and Elite Daily. Originally from Ohio, she currently calls the Canadian 1000 Islands home and lives with her husband, daughter, and cat.

What inspired you to start your business?

I was inspired by a friend who had become a life coach and the freedom it offered her to work from wherever while reaching out and helping people around the world. I wanted to stay at home longer with my daughter but still felt the calling to help others and thought branching into life coaching would allow me the freedom to do that. I reconnected with her and expressed my interest in life coaching and she has graciously embraced me and helped me in so many ways along my journey.

 Where is your business based?

I am currently located in the Canadian 1000 Islands but offer most of my packages online through my website.

How did you start your business?

My friend gave me many tips and advice on how to get started setting up my business and getting clear on what kind of coaching I wanted to do and who I wanted to help. I knew I would need a website and began researching platforms, web address names and layouts based on how I wanted my future clients to feel while viewing my website. I also knew I would need to work on the service side of my business by figuring out what kind of services I wanted to offer, how I wanted to help people and with what issues.

What has been the most effective way of raising awareness for your business?

Referrals and social media. Being somewhat new to the coaching world, referrals from friends and family members have been immensely helpful in building awareness and a following. Social media has also been key to building awareness and getting myself and my business out to the public.

What have been your biggest challenges and how did you overcome them?

One of my biggest challenges has been maintaining the confidence to sell yourself and your skills and believing in your ability to affect change through your work with other people. The other challenge is in perseverance when it seems like you’re not getting the attention and growth in awareness and your business that you were hoping to achieve. My friend has been supportive and encouraging having gone through the same process as she was starting her life coaching business. I also think setting aside time continuously to do your own self-work and change your own belief systems has been vital to the growth of my business.

How do you stay focused?

I set aside time for self-care and self-work which allows me to work through my own inhibitions and re-focus myself on my vision and goals for my business. Meditation and yoga are extremely helpful for me to gain focus and clarity. I also have a lot on the go with my business and home life so I try to stay focused and not waste too much time.

How do you differentiate your business from the competition?

I think having experience as a therapist is a huge leg up in the coaching world. Along with the wealth of knowledge and experience to draw from, I’ve developed skills and tools to help others in their journey and change process. I’m also an empath so my ability to connect with people on an emotional level is pivotal and allows my clients the feeling of safety and depth to explore their struggles and issues knowing I am there with them and holding space for them.

What has been your most effective marketing strategy to grow your business?

I think marketing strategies should evolve with the business and clientele you are serving. One size does not fit all and I believe the same can be said for many aspects of business and life including marketing strategies.

What’s your best piece of advice for aspiring and new entrepreneurs?

Connect with others in your desired field of business. Build relationships and ask questions. Always.

What’s your favorite app, blog, and book? Why?

I don’t use many apps, but I have been listening to more audiobooks lately so I can multi-task.

Most of the blogs I follow are by people in the coaching industry so I am always learning new things and feeling encouraged and supported in my own work as a coach.

I don’t have one favorite book, but I love to read and I am always learning something new. I have enjoyed books by Jen Sincero, Gabby Bernstein and Elizabeth Gilbert’s book “Big Magic” often comes to mind while I work on business-related projects or finding the motivation to stay focused. My ‘to be read’ list is always growing with inspirational business books written by other female entrepreneurs.

What’s your favorite business tool or resource? Why?

I use Instagram a lot to share content and information that is helpful, inspiring and uplifting to my followers. I find it’s one of the best ways to get my business and what I do out into the world.

Who is your business role model? Why?

Amanda Frances. That girl is always working and putting out great content. I’ve taken a few of her online courses and she is great for telling it like it is and being specific and to the point. I admire her passion, dedication and drive to constantly put content out that is encouraging and inspiring to people and creating change in the world.

What is your beauty routine?

My beauty routine is very simple and minimalist where my every-day is lip balm and sometimes black mascara. When I get ready for an event I use light or rose-colored eyeshadow, black mascara, blush, and lip color.

How do you balance work and life?

It’s important to me to be present with my family so I am often trying to get as much done as possible during naptime and after my daughter and husband have gone to bed. I also think it’s incredibly important to set aside time for self-work and growth.

 What’s your favorite way to decompress?

Playing with my daughter, yoga, reading, meditation and enjoying the summer by being outside with my family.

What do you have planned for the next six months?

I am creating two online courses to offer on my website and writing a book and continuing to build and grow my business.

How can our readers connect with you?

The best and most direct way is through email or one of my social media channels.

 Emily Cosgrove, LMFT and Life Coach

emcosgrove@yahoo.com

www.emcosgrove.com

https://www.instagram.com/emcosgrove/

https://www.facebook.com/emcosgrov/

https://www.pinterest.com/emilyrcosgrove/

"Believe in yourself, because if you don’t, no one else will" Treva Brandon Scharf

TrevaFitness.jpg

Treva Brandon Scharf is an ICF-certified professional life coach, dating coach, fitness professional, and first-time bride at 50. With over 35 years in the fitness industry and many more in the singles world, Treva knows first-hand how to achieve peak performance in both life and love. Learn more about Treva and her coaching services at www.trevabrandonscharf.com.

Can you tell our readers about your background?

I’m an only child born and raised in Beverly Hills, CA. Parents were both agents in the entertainment industry. I attended CU Boulder and UC Santa Barbara, graduated with a B.A. in Liberal Studies. I’m a life long athlete and fitness enthusiast. Moved to NYC out of college, became an advertising copywriter at BBDO. Five years later, I moved back to L.A. and created entertainment advertising for networks and studios.

I transitioned to full-time fitness in 2001 as a personal fitness trainer and group fitness instructor.

In 2014, at the age of 51, I got married for the first time and started a blog called “The Late Blooming Bride,” which established me as an authority in the midlife dating/singles space.

In January 2019, I became an ICF-certified professional life coach and dating coach. 

 What inspired you to start your business?

While I was teaching at a fitness studio in L.A., a fellow group fitness instructor (who was also a private trainer) asked me if I’d be interested in working with one of her female clients. I said yes, and proceeded to change this woman’s body. I realized I had a gift to motivate and inspire, so I left advertising and devoted myself to fitness.

My move to life coaching and dating coaching was a natural progression, and a no-brainer in terms of potential business for me. 

Where is your business based?

Beverly Hills

How did you start your business? What were the first steps you took?

My fitness business was all word of mouth and still is. Somehow word got out, and I was able to build a very successful, high-end clientele. My life coaching/dating coaching business is still getting off the ground, but my first steps were building a website, getting business cards printed, appearing on podcasts, and announcing it on the major social media sites including Facebook, Instagram, LiinkedIn, Twitter, and Aligned.

What has been the most effective way of raising awareness for your business?

Social media has been the most effective, but I’m parlaying it off my existing fitness business. I also have my own podcast I co-host with my husband called “Done Being Single,” on the VoiceAmerica Talk Radio Network. I just started running promos for my coaching business on our show.

What have been your biggest challenges and how did you overcome them?

Self-promotion is always challenging for me. I hate tooting my own horn, but I realize it’s necessary to establish myself, gain visibility and break through the clutter (everyone and their mother is a life coach or dating coach these days, so you’ve got to stand out!).

How do you stay focused?

I keep my eye on the prize, stay away from distractions, and visualize my success in daily high-performance self-guided meditation and breathwork.  

How do you differentiate your business from the competition?

I work with my life coaching/dating coaching clients like their athletes because that’s the world I come from. I’m big on discipline, accountability, tough love, hard work, meeting challenges, and facing your fears. No one can kick your ass like a former trainer!

What has been your most effective marketing strategy to grow your business?

Growing my life coaching business is still new, and I’m still building my brand, but so far the best marketing strategy has been networking, affiliating myself with other coaches, and marketing myself on my podcast and appearing on other podcasts, and social media.  

What's your best piece of advice for aspiring and new entrepreneurs?

Believe in yourself, because if you don’t, no one else will. Do everything you can to build your confidence, skills, worth and value to yourself and others. Read, read, and read more! Get informed and be empowered!

What's your favorite app, blog, and book? Why?

The latest books I love are “The Big Leap,” by Gay Hendricks, and “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F**k,” by Mark Manson. I eat up all the fantastic self-improvement and personal growth & development articles on Medium.

What's your favorite business tool or resource? Why?

Blogs from thought leaders and influencers on LinkedIn, articles on Medium, and watching closely how other coaches run their businesses.

Who is your business role model? Why?

Oprah. An overweight woman of color starts with nothing and becomes an industry. She’s a success in every area: publishing, TV, movies, retail, self-help, wellness, entertainment, etc. Her story is incredibly inspiring.  

What is your beauty routine? What are some of your favorite products?

 I’m embarrassed to say I just started to really take care of my skin in my 50s! I wash my face at night and combine a homemade moisturizer with a lightening cream from The Perfect Derma Peel to lighten spots. Sometimes I use my mother’s secret and smear a Vitamin. E capsule all over my face. In the morning, I use a tinted moisturizer by Dermalogica, a powder bronzer by Mac, lip pencil by Gabriel, and eye pencil by Pacifica (both available at Whole Foods).

How do you balance work and life?

I devote equal amounts of energy to both, but if work becomes too much, I make sure I balance it out with downtime, exercise, time with my husband, or hanging with my girlfriends. You can read more about me, and my passions and purpose, at www.trevabrandonscharf.com and at @trevabme.

 What’s your favorite way to decompress?

Having a glass of wine with my husband after work, chilling at home. And yes, I smoke pot.

 What do you have planned for the next six months?

I just finished my self-help memoir, “Confessions of a Late Blooming Bride: how to conquer singledom and triumph at love.” The next six months will be spent shopping it around to agents and publishers, and promoting it everywhere I can. I also plan on continuing to build my life coaching & dating coaching business by blogging prolifically, building my social media following, increasing my exposure and branding.

How can our readers connect with you?

www.trevabrandonscharf.com

Twitter: @trevabme

IG: @trevabm

"I believe self-awareness is the greatest asset for any new or aspiring entrepreneur" with Juliet Starrett

Juliet Starrett is an entrepreneur, attorney, and CEO of two world-renowned fitness companies —The Ready State (formerly MobilityWOD) and San Francisco Crossfit. She is the co-author of the Wall Street Journal best-seller Deskbound: Standing Up To A Sitting World and the co-founder of and StandUpKids, a non-profit dedicated to combating kids' sedentary lifestyles by bringing standing/moving desks to low-income public schools.

Juliet Headshot Compressed.jpg

Can you tell our readers about your background?

I am a lifelong athlete, an attorney, and an entrepreneur. I rowed in high school and was on the U.C. Berkeley crew team. I went on to paddle professionally for the U.S. Women’s Extreme Whitewater Team from 1997 - 2000 where I won two World Championships and five national titles. In 2018, I reunited with my team to win another Whitewater World Championship in Argentina, this time as a master’s athlete. 

After graduating from U.C. Berkeley in 1995, I earned my J.D. degree from the University of San Francisco School of Law in 2003. For nearly eight years, I had a successful career as an attorney practicing complex commercial litigation at the large international firm Reed Smith.

I left the legal field in 2010 to run our businesses full-time. I am now the CEO of two world-renowned fitness companies — The Ready State and San Francisco Crossfit. My husband Kelly and I co-founded San Francisco Crossfit in 2005 (as one of first 50 Crossfit gyms in the world) and MobilityWOD in 2008, which has revolutionized how athletes think about human movement and athletic performance.

I am also the co-author of the Wall Street Journal Bestseller, Deskbound: Standing Up To A Sitting World and co-founder of StandUpKids.org, a non-profit dedicated to combating kids' sedentary lifestyles by bringing standing/moving desks to low-income public schools. To date, StandUpKids has converted 95,000 kids from sitting to standing at school (and counting). 

What inspired you to start your business? 

We didn’t start either of our businesses as a business per se. Instead, we started each one in an effort to solve a problem. In 2004, while seeking more effective ways to train, my husband and I discovered a little known workout program called Crossfit. We started doing some of the workouts and were hooked.

As former professional athletes, the Crossfit program spoke to us because it was so challenging, pushed our athletic limits, and we saw immediate results. And, the workouts were short and sweet so we could do them without dedicating hours and hours to training. 

We started training in our backyard and slowly our friends and family joined us. But, we quickly outgrew the yard and realized we needed a legitimate place to train. There were no other Crossfit’s in San Francisco (and very few anywhere at that point) so we decided to open San Francisco Crossfit, which is the 21st Crossfit affiliate (there are now more than 15,000 worldwide). 

In addition to classes and private coaching, my husband Kelly moved his physical therapy practice to SFCF. He began to see clients with the same musculoskeletal injuries over and over. He realized that most of these injuries were preventable with better movement or fixable with some simple mobilizations or soft-tissue work done at home.

In response to this clear need and lack of general education and understanding about movement, mechanics, and mobility, we started the “Mobility Project” in 2008 on YouTube. We published a video a day for 365 days on movement, mechanics, mobility, injury prevention, and general health/fitness topics. MobilityWOD was born.

We grew to over 230,000 subscribers on YouTube until 2013 when we switched to a membership business model. Today, we have 14,000 paying subscribers, we have written 5 books (including two New York Times Bestsellers), consulted with over a hundred teams and organizations, and have put more than 20,000 coaches through our training programs. 

Where is your business based?

San Francisco Crossfit is based in the Presidio in San Francisco. MobiltyWOD is based in San Rafael, California, about 20 minutes north of San Francisco. 

 How did you start your business? What were the first steps you took?

The first step we took in starting San Francisco Crossfit was becoming an official Crossfit affiliate. We then secured the sanfranciscocrossfit.com URL and built a rudimentary 2005-era website.

Our first step in starting MobilityWOD was publishing our first free video on YouTube in 2008. We didn’t do any advertising or marketing and just slowly built a dedicated audience by offering useful content.

What has been the most effective way of raising awareness for your business?

San Francisco Crossfit has grown almost entirely through word of mouth and by offering consistently good quality coaching and customer experience.  

We effectively raised awareness and grew MobilityWOD initially by offering unique, free content that solved problems for people. Whether it was giving people the tools to fix a nagging injury or helping them squat more at the gym, our content has always been oriented toward problem-solving. When you solve a problem for someone (especially nagging pain or injury), they are a fan and customer for life. 

 What have been your biggest challenges and how did you overcome them? 

San Francisco Crossfit has been in business for nearly 15 years and MobilityWOD for nearly 13 years. Our challenge has been to stay current and relevant. When we started MobilityWOD as a subscription/membership service in 2013, we were literally the first in the health and fitness industry to even consider charging for content. At that time, it was enough to offer a good product at a good price with a decent website and the customers signed up.

Now, in order to stay competitive, we need to stay current with all of the latest digital marketing trends including things like paid social media advertising, Google SEO, YouTube ads, content marketing, email marketing, split testing, social messaging apps, and even artificial intelligence. As a small and fully bootstrapped company, it has been a challenge to figure out where and how to effectively spend our marketing dollars. 

How do you stay focused?

I stay focused by being disciplined about sticking to my schedule and calendar, working really hard to remove complexity and mystery from my businesses by focusing on the fundamentals, and fixating on continued learning and growth.

I’m a voracious reader of the New York Times, New Yorker, Forbes, Fast Company, Business Insider and Inc. and I chip away at reading as many business-focused books as I can. I just finished reading Confessions of A Pricing Man: How Price Affects Everything by Hermann Simon. It has been on my list for several years and has invaluable pricing insights for aspiring and veteran entrepreneurs alike.  

 How do you differentiate your business from the competition?

Our largest differentiator is our social proof. Over the past 15 years, we have helped and consulted with the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, the All Blacks, Arsenal, every branch of the U.S. Military including special forces, the U.S. Olympic Committee and a host of Olympic athletes, the UFC, the US Ski Team, Tour de France cyclists, and countless university strength and conditioning programs.

In addition, our New York Times bestselling book Becoming A Supple Leopard is considered THE book on movement, mobility, and mechanics.

Our competitors focus on knocking off our techniques but lack the deep underlying experience and social proof that we have earned not only being in but creating this business.

What has been your most effective marketing strategy to grow your business?

Our most effective marketing strategy is content marketing. Our goal with our content marketing strategy is to create valuable, useful, and relevant free content to attract and retain an audience. The ultimate goal, of course, is driving customers to eventually purchase something from us. 

What's your best piece of advice for aspiring and new entrepreneurs?

“Know thyself” - Socrates. I believe self-awareness is the greatest asset for any new or aspiring entrepreneur. We all have strengths and weaknesses but we must be honest about what those are and be ready to hire people to fill gaps in our experience or expertise.

For example, if you are in a business that requires customer service but can’t respond quickly to email/text/voicemail and/or lack attention to detail, you need to hire someone who excels at those skills. I see too many new entrepreneurs try to do it all themselves, including things they don’t excel at, and it is a recipe for disaster. 

What's your favorite app, blog, and book? Why? 

My favorite app is BrainFM. It provides music designed for the brain to improve focus, meditation, relaxation, naps & sleep. I use it to help focus during the day and to drown out office noise. I even use it to facilitate 15-minute power naps and to meditate. 

My favorite book of late is Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker. I think it is a must-read for everyone. The book is clear and well-written and does the best job I’ve seen of explaining why sleep is THE most important (and easiest) thing we can do for our health.

I’ve been really enjoying the Backlinko blog by Brian Dean. He is one of my go-to resources for actionable SEO and marketing advice. 

 What's your favorite business tool or resource? Why?

I love Asana, the web-based project management tool. It’s intuitive and easy to use and has been the most effective tool in improving my and my team’s productivity. 

 Who is your business role model? Why?

 Arianna Huffington is my business role model. She is obviously the founder of The Huffington Post and one of Forbes 100 Most Powerful Women but I am particularly inspired by her focus on health, well-being and sleep through her Thrive Global platform. 

What is your beauty routine? What are some of your favorite products?

The focus of my beauty routine is sleeping an average of eight hours a night and exercising/training 5 days a week. I do love Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Moisturizer with SPF 30 and Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides

How do you balance work and life?

I don’t even try to achieve work-life balance. When I do, I feel like its just another thing on my list I’m trying to “achieve” and that ends up adding more general stress to my life. I’m a busy entrepreneur working to grow two businesses and raising two girls. My focus is on my husband, my girls, my health, my businesses, and my community, in that order. I don’t expect my life will always be so full, especially after my daughters leave home, so I’m just embracing and enjoying the madness. 

What’s your favorite way to decompress?

In addition to exercising and sleeping, I love to read, cook, be outdoors, and hang out with my kids.  

 What do you have planned for the next six months?

In September 2019, we are rebranding our company MobilityWOD to The Ready State along with rebuilding our website and user experience from the ground up.  

When we launched MobiltiyWOD in 2008, we were the only company using “WOD” in a business title. Since then, the market has become crowded and confusing with hundreds of businesses using the WOD moniker (i.e, ROMWOD, PowerWOD, GOWOD, FaithWOD, etc.).

The name MobilityWOD also does not represent all that we do as a business. We do offer mobility content but we also write books, teach courses, consult with professional organizations, sell gear (and more) and the name MobilityWOD no longer encompasses all of our diverse work. This is the next big step for our company and we are confident it will continue to move our business in the right direction and foster growth. 

On the StandUpKids front, we are working with researchers at U.C. Berkeley from the ergonomics and education departments to organize and initiate a 2-year comprehensive study of the benefits of kids using standing/moving desks versus sitting at school. Our goal is to have California-based research that we can share with the legislature in the hopes that standing/moving at school becomes the norm, not the exception. 

How can our readers connect with you?

Juliet Starrett, J.D.

CEO, MobilityWOD Inc. & San Francisco Crossfit

415-350-9762

Thereadystate.com

www.sanfranciscocrossfit.com

www.standupkids.org

LinkedIn

Instagram

Facebook

Instagram

San Francisco Crossfit Instagram

"Work hard, don't give up, and keep trying" Audrey Craig

Audrey Craig

Audrey Craig is President and CEO of GB Design House and it’s subsidiary Gracious Bridal, specializing in custom branding fabulous events with personalized products and gifts. Blending her entrepreneurial spirit and design flair, Audrey brings style and savvy to a lifestyle brand that defines effortless and personalized entertaining.

GB Design House has contributed unique design elements to enhance special events for corporate clients such as Neiman Marcus, Kendra Scott, the NFL, Miu-Miu, Prada, Lululemon, Coco-Cola, Crown Royal, the San Antonio Spurs and Titos, etc. In the celebrity space, she has worked with "Real Housewives of Atlanta" Porsha Williams; "Real Housewives of Dallas" LeeAnne Locken; "Bachelor in Paradise" couple Ashley Iaconetti and Jared Haibon; fashionista Nicky Hilton Rothschild; Olympic Gold Medalist Tara Lipinski; and actress Sabrina Bryan.


Can you tell our readers about your background? 

I graduated from the University of Texas in 2003 with a degree in Corporate Communications.  After graduation, I began working in sales and marketing but was eager to find something tapping into my creative ability. 

In 7th grade, I had started a small side business and since then, I always yearned to do something entrepreneurial.  So after graduating and being in the workforce for a few years, my wheels were churning on how I could do something challenging, creative and be self-employed!

What inspired you to start your business?  

After being involved in planning several weddings, my mother, artist, and entrepreneur Brenda Cascio, noticed a lack of beautiful wedding favors options and decided to start Gracious Bridal.  I left my current job at the time and jumped on board.

 Where is your business based?  

GB Design House's design studio is based out of Austin, Texas and is also online at gbdesignhouse.com.   

How did you start your business? What were the first steps you took?    

Gracious Bridal began in 2006 curating wedding favors and decorations.  We started small and worked non-stop.  We were very lean at the beginning, which was especially helped us to make it past the 2008 recession.  With us being in business for less than 2 years, it was tough! We kept our heads down and powered through.  At that time, we learned to get really creative and branch out into new products to diversify our offerings.    As Gracious Bridal customer base grew, we started attracting more and more corporate clients expanding into today's GB Design House. 

What has been the most effective way of raising awareness for your business?    

Three things have been instrumental in raising awareness of our business:

1.  Social Media - has been a great platform for GB Design House.   We post beautiful photos of our featured items and clients tag us in personal photos, hence, showcasing what we do.

2. Word of mouth - we pride ourselves on outstanding customer service.   And therefore, we have a lot of repeat business as well as referral business.

3.  Press coverage – we have done many celebrity events and our products have been featured in a variety of press outlets such as People Magazine, US Weekly, Forbes, Brides, etc.    

What have been your biggest challenges and how did you overcome them?

My biggest challenge as a business owner is learning when to stop and take a break.  It is hard as I am usually working seven days a week and raising two small children.  I'm always navigating the waters of putting work aside to take a break and enjoy my family.  It is a constant struggle but I am always more focused with my time, whether it is with my kids or with my employees at our design studio.

How do you stay focused?

Lol! I drink coffee and I take my lunch break exercise.  That helps me re-focus, then come back and focus on the tasks at hand.

How do you differentiate your business from the competition?

I think what sets GB Design House apart is our excellent customer service.  We treat every order and customer just like we want to be treated. We design and create all of our clients' orders based on their needs and wants and nothing is placed into production until they approve the proof.  This helps ensure the customer is getting what they want!  

What has been your most effective marketing strategy to grow your business?

I think it is pretty much the same answer as #5.  Social Media and Customer Service is key for us! 

What's your best piece of advice for aspiring and new entrepreneurs? 

Work hard, don't give up and keep trying! Over the past 12 years, our business has learned to morph as needed.  Make little tweaks along the way until you get to where you want to be.  Successful entrepreneurs cannot work Monday through Friday from 9 to 5. This is your baby, so work hard and you will see results.

 What's your favorite app, blog, and book? Why?

I'm still old fashion - instead of an app I use an organizer journal where I write all my appointments and to-do list in. My favorite book at this time is “Girl, Wash Your Face” by Rachel Hollis! Very inspiring and really gets me motivated! 

What's your favorite business tool or resource? Why?  

I love reading books about managing and growing businesses as well as self-motivation!  Those help keep me inspired and provide ways to keep growing GB Design House.    

Who is your business role model? Why? 

My mom. She had other successful businesses when we were kids, and while she insists she constantly worked, my sisters and I always remember her nearby, making dinner, taking us to school, etc.  She worked at night after everyone went to bed.  She was the master at balancing business and her family.    

What is your beauty routine? What are some of your favorite products?  

I love Beauty Counter products that are great for your skin.  At night, I wash my face, apply moisturizer, and exfoliate three times a week.  In the morning, I begin with sunscreen, then continue with moisturizer, and then apply my makeup.  Living in Texas where it is HOT, it is important to keep my face moisturized and safe from the sun. Beauty Counter makes the best. 

How do you balance work and life? 

It is a work in progress!  I try and turn it off when I get home from work and my kids are done with school.  I am usually back on my computer after the kids go to bed. I try and limit my weekend work to Saturday mornings so the rest of the weekend is time with my family!

What’s your favorite way to decompress? 

Reading, spending time with my husband and kids, and enjoying a nice glass of wine :)

What do you have planned for the next six months? 

Business wise, we are working hard on coming out with new lines and products!  GB Design House has some very innovative products on the horizon.  Personally—I plan to take a few trips with my family and friends to unwind!

How can our readers connect with you? 

Readers can find us at website at www.gbdesignhouse.com  or Instagram @gbdesignhouse, Facebook @GBDesignHouse, and Twitter @GBDesignHouse.

 

"Believe in yourself and surround yourself with people who believe in you" with Lucrezia “Lulu” Bisignani

Lucrezia “Lulu” Bisignani is a social entrepreneur and the Founder and CEO of London-based Kukua, an entertainment-education company founded in 2014 to produce a Pan-African children’s franchise around Super Sema, Africa’s first animated child heroine who is brought to life through game-based learning Apps, an upcoming animated TV series and toys.

Named in 2019 as one of Forbes Magazine’s 30 Under 30 Social Entrepreneurs, Bisignani began developing mobile gaming to teach African children basic reading, writing, and mathematics to help battle functional illiteracy among approximately 200 million African children and around the world.

Lucrezia_Bisigna_headshot_1975.JPG

Can you tell our readers about your background?

I grew up in Rome and come from a family of adventurers. I traveled to Africa for the first time at the age of seven and it changed my life. After seeing rural Africa, and how different my life in Italy was to kids there, I came home with a different mindset and an urge to do something to have a positive impact. I was a very entrepreneurial child and started creating and selling things from the age of seven and donating profits to causes in Africa.

Even while studying at drama school at the age of 16, I had already launched my first education business and focused on raising money for projects in Africa. My entrepreneurial flair was further nurtured by a series of mentors who encouraged me to move to San Francisco to understand how I could use technology to have a bigger impact. I worked in an accelerator for startups and met as many social entrepreneurs as I possibly could. After a few months, the CEO I worked for suggested I apply to Singularity University: a place for entrepreneurs who wanted to change the world.

What inspired you to start your business?

Singularity University really changed my mindset and helped me to think big.  The first thing you bump into each morning before class, is a big pink sign that says “How will you positively impact the lives of a billion people?” You then learn how exponential technologies can be used to solve some of the biggest challenges in the world.  Two months after Singularity, I was equipped with this “think ridiculously big” mindset, and a heavy dose of Mom-encouragement, so I decided I was going to dedicate my life to solving one of the biggest problems in global education: child illiteracy. 

So I took my backpack and traveled and lived across Africa to understand why over 250 million children were illiterate with 67% of them dropping out of primary school.

Where is your business based?

We are a UK company with our headquarters based between London and Nairobi, with teams in the US and Italy. 

How did you start your business? What were the first steps you took?

At the start of Kukua’s journey in 2014, I carried out six months of on-the-ground research including living across urban slums and rural areas in Gambia, Kenya, and South Africa, sitting at the back of hundreds of classrooms, interviewing parents and testing literacy tools with children, and living in the homes of families who were earning less than $2 per day.

Through my research, I discovered how the exponential rise of mobile technology was democratizing access to learning even among low-income families and yet how little content there was that was locally relevant for the African population. I saw a huge gap in the representation of Africa in the media industry and at the same time an opportunity to create locally relevant and educational content for the whole African population.

Soon after I created Super Sema, an animated character and an African superhero to become the inspirational figure that the whole youth black population, over a billion people, could look up to when envisioning their future. Super Sema combines the worlds of education and entertainment to create magical learning experiences that will empower generations of children in Africa and the world with the skills and confidence to pursue anything they dream of.

What have been your biggest challenges and how did you overcome them?

The biggest challenges are always the ones you are currently overcoming. Everyday founders have to do at least one thing they’ve never done before. You are constantly having to learn new things very fast, I joke that I could be called “Chief Learning Officer” because most of the time that is my role! But I do have a method. I read as much as I can on the specific topic I need to master, I find 3-5 experts who I can talk to (these have typically then become my mentors), and then I see an example of what the top-of-the-top looks like and I just go for it!

Most of the times, I get it wrong in the beginning, but we have a great culture of testing and iterating fast enough so we can learn from mistakes and failures until we then succeed. Before you know it, you’re an expert on the subject and find yourself advising others on it! 

How do you stay focused?

It’s easy for me to stay focused because I do something I truly love. I’m so lucky to be actively using all my passions into Kukua: building a business, having an impact, entertainment and creativity, and Africa and emerging markets. But it’s also okay when I’m not focused… I run a creative business and sometimes the best ideas or sparks of inspiration don’t come from being focused!

For example, we have our general team meetings once a week and while we always have an agenda for them, it’s okay if people suddenly go off track and the conversations take a different direction. Some people may see this as a waste of time or productivity, I see it as giving space for ideas to spring from places you were not expecting. 

How do you differentiate your business from the competition?

Children all over the world are obsessed with great stories and characters. You see it when they’re watching Elsa on YouTube and singing along to ‘Let it Go’ or most recently the big hit “Baby Shark Dance” a video that got over 3 billion views. 

At Kukua, we’re constantly thinking of how to capture those eyeballs and convert them into curiosity for learning. Essentially screen time becomes a way to unlock potential and imagination in the real world. 

With a world-class team of writers, franchise developers, and producers formerly at The Walt Disney Company and Warner Bros., paired with leading educators, we’re blurring the worlds of entertainment and education to create a magical and locally relevant learning universe that will educate and inspire children all over the world. 

The power of characters in mass media, especially aspirational ones, is incredible; they have the power to fundamentally change how people perceive their own place in the world. A Geena Davis study reported that after the release of “The Hunger Games” and “Brave” in 2012 — both of which feature women protagonists who use a bow and arrow — girls’ participation in archery competitions doubled.

What's your best piece of advice for aspiring and new entrepreneurs?

First, believe in yourself and surround yourself with people who believe in you. Second, never stop learning and evolving your business.

What's your favorite app, blog, and book? Why?

App - Revolut! Allows me to be a true millennial, I can do anything in one click. 

Books, I love reading biographies and my favorite one is Walt Disney’s. My team recently gave me as a present “Becoming Michelle Obama” and it was truly inspiring. Her story gives courage to so many women around the world, to unapologetically find their voice and own it!

What's your favorite business tool or resource? Why?

Without a doubt, it’s Slack. It allows our globally distributed team to be connected and productive from all parts of the world whether we’re working from the office or home. 

Who is your business role model? Why?

Oprah Winfrey, of course. I admired for her talent, charisma, and values. She is one of the first African American female role models whose voice has reached the world and whose impact is immeasurable. People look up to her, I look up to her and if she were a young hero, she would be Super Sema.

What is your beauty routine? What are some of your favorite products?

Exercising daily whether it’s Pilates or playing tennis and eating healthy, religiously Italian food! 

How do you balance work and life?

This year, during my fundraising period I forgot to balance work and life, because I never see my work as “work”, it’s just something I love and could keep on going for hours and hours without noticing the time. But I did see the consequences of not “unplugging” and understood how much your personal well-being is so important.  I now schedule my gym classes, for example, before the start of the week and try to stick to them religiously! I’m also a family-first person and though I don’t have kids yet I am very close to my parents and brothers, so I try to spend as much time as possible with them! 

What’s your favorite way to decompress?

I ride horses with my mom! 

What do you have planned for the next six months?

We’re launching our YouTube channel with an inspiring Afro-kid pop music video! Wait for it!

How can our readers connect with you?

Through our social media, you can find us on Facebook @SemaKukua, Instagram @supersemaofficial, twitter @super_sema and an upcoming YouTube channel @Sema

"Setting an intention (one task) for the day is my secret to staying ridiculously focused" with Courtney Elmer

Lifestyle+Coach+Courtney+Elmer+Mompreneurs.jpg

Courtney is a Business Strategist and Stress Expert who teaches high-achieving women how to expand their income + impact without the stress (or as Courtney loves to say: “how to make bank in their biz without the burnout!”)

After a fast-paced career and overcoming cancer at the age of 25, Courtney realized that life’s too short to waste any time feeling stressed, overwhelmed, and overworked.

Now as the creator and founder of The StressLESS System©️, Courtney specializes in showing busy women how to ditch the overwhelm, create order out of life’s chaos, and find their inner peace. 

She’s known for sharing simple, actionable steps to help them scale their business without the stress, so they can have more time to enjoy the life that’s in front of them right now. 

After all, “StressLESS, LiveMORE” is her motto!

You’ll find her in New Orleans with her husband Alan and their son AJ, most likely with a hot cappuccino and piece of dark chocolate somewhere nearby.

To learn more, you can connect with Courtney on Instagram @CourtneyElmer_ or on her website, CourtneyElmer.com.

Can you tell our readers about your background? What inspired you to start your business?

Overcoming cancer at 25 was not how I expected to start my journey as an entrepreneur. But that’s exactly where my story starts, because as I sat there in that cold, sterile exam room, THAT was the moment I realized that life is too short. 

That’s when I decided to quit burning myself out, feeling like I had to choose between having success or having a life I truly loved, and figure out how to have both. So I walked away from my fast-paced career (and all the luxury and accolades that went with it) and became obsessed with figuring out how to StressLESS and LiveMORE. 

And on my journey of healing, I quit buying into the belief that to be successful I meant I had to DO it all.

So facing this unimaginable challenge was not the end. It was my beginning. 

My test became my testimony, and I created what’s now known as the StressLESS System© to help high-achieving women carve out a clear path to create wild success -- without the stress.

Where is your business based?

Although I help women across the globe thanks to the power of technology, I live in New Orleans with my husband Alan and our son AJ (a surprise miracle baby following my cancer treatments!) 

How did you start your business? What were the first steps you took?

It’s a funny story, actually. When I went back to my full-time career following my cancer treatments, I kept feeling this tug on my heart that I was meant for something more. So one day, I decided, “Ok, I’m going to launch this coaching business to teach other women what I’ve learned, and see where it goes.” Little did I know I’d have a ton of growing still to do both personally and professionally, but that decision — that moment when I said to myself, “I can do this,” — was the start. 

From there, I told my husband, “Babe! I need a business coach.” And he said, “Ok, well why don’t you interview a bunch of coaches and find one who you really connect with and go from there.” So, I started researching and came up with EIGHT different coaches to interview. Now you have to understand, my husband Alan is an engineer. I’m a creative. He’s into the data, while I take more of a “let’s jump in and figure it out as we go” approach. But I knew I needed to win him over to this idea of investing thousands of dollars in hiring a mentor to help me launch my business, so I created a spreadsheet listing the pros and cons of every coach I interviewed, the investment, and what I personally liked about each one.

One morning over breakfast I said, “I’ve found the one!” and then I pulled out my spreadsheet, and made sure he was sitting down so I could tell him it would cost 5-figures to invest in her program. To my surprise, he was totally on board! So I set up a payment plan, flew to Canada for two weeks to meet my new coach, and took a crash course in everything from marketing funnels, to offers, to program content, and more. 

But what I least expected was THE deep personal transformation I experienced and learning how my own journey played a much bigger role in my overall mission. And having this new-found knowledge about myself from the get-go helped me to set up my business in a way that was in such alignment with the desires of my heart: sustainable, simple, not stressful! 

What has been the most effective way of raising awareness for your business?

Speaking, social media, and PR are all a huge part of my visibility strategy, but the number one thing that’s helped increase awareness for what I do is this: exceed people’s expectations. 

Get in front of them, deliver what they expect, and then some. 

This is what gets people talking about you! Word-of-mouth marketing builds know-like-trust faster than any other form of marketing. And it’s been the single-most influential thing that’s increased awareness for my brand.

What have been your biggest challenges and how did you overcome them?

While going through cancer at 25 as a newlywed was certainly something I never expected to face in my lifetime, the bigger challenge I struggled with after going through cancer treatments was the possibility that we might not ever be able to have a family. Because of my age, there was a risk that the radiation could cause infertility. 

In fact for almost 5 years following treatment, it didn’t look like I’d ever be able to have kids. So instead I stayed focused on growing my business.  Things were running smoothly, and my business was growing even faster than I’d expected. I was totally enjoying the process, and I felt like I had it all figured out. 

But then, I woke up one morning and could barely drag myself out of bed. It felt like I’d been run over by a truck, and on top of it I had a debilitating migraine. This went on for days — and many tests later, my doctors couldn’t find anything wrong. And THAT scared me. 

These symptoms were almost identical to what I’d experienced before my cancer diagnosis, and I thought the doctors were missing something. So I decided to take matters into my own hands and start testing what I could on my own to rule out any and every other possibility.

And one of those tests came back positive. I was pregnant.

I can’t even begin to describe the emotions I felt in that moment — shock, joy, excitement, disbelief! We were completely caught off guard and so humbled by this true blessing. 

And then it hit me. How on earth was I going to be a mom and keep growing my business at the rate it was growing? How could I stay present for my son and be successful in my business at the same time? Questions like these kept me up at night. 

And now after a full year (and then some) of being both a work-at-home mom and the CEO of a major brand (without putting my son in daycare), I’ll tell you my secret to having success without the stress: the one thing I had to do early on was to challenge my own beliefs about myself as a mom and as a business owner. 

First I had to define what it meant (to me) to be a “good mom.” Then I had to pick a pace that I was comfortable with in my business -- a pace where we’re steadily growing, but not at the expense of everything else that’s truly important. 

It’s a total game-changer. Because your thoughts determine your beliefs, which define your actions. And your actions create your reality. So, if you’re not happy with your reality, you have to change your thoughts about it so that you can change your actions, and get different results.

How do you stay focused?

The to-do list that comes with being a mom, a wife, and a business owner is endless. For many people, it feels like there’s “never enough time in the day” to get it all done.  

I used to fall into bed at night feeling like I’d worked my butt off all day but didn’t really accomplish anything. It was defeating, and exhausting. 

So I started approaching things differently. I began starting each day by asking myself, “What’s the ONE thing I want to make sure gets done today?”

I’d set my intention for the day with my answer, and make sure that one thing was done by the time I went to bed at night. Maybe it was an important phone call I needed to make. Maybe it was work on a major project that I’d been procrastinating. Maybe it was a workout or some me-time. Whatever it was, I’d make sure it got done. 

I practice this every day, and I teach my clients to do the same. I encourage them to pick the one thing that will move the needle the most in their life or business, and focus on that. When they finish it, if they have more time, they can go on to tackle other things on their list. 

Setting an intention (one task) for the day like this is my secret to staying ridiculously focused AND feel accomplished when my head hits the pillow at night. 

How do you differentiate your business from the competition?

We all have “our thing” that makes us unique, right? For me, my story, the challenges I’ve overcome, and what I’ve learned (and now teach others) definitely sets me apart. But when it comes to differentiating myself as a coach and speaker, that’s not my “it factor.” Lots of coaches and speakers have amazing personal stories of overcoming and triumph.

That’s why the StressLESS System© I created and the way I teach it is what sets me apart and makes the work I do with my clients so effective, because it gets them better, quicker results.  

The problem I see in the industry is that most coaches and speakers only specialize in one methodology: they either teach mindset OR “how-to” strategy, but not both. 

And this is where a lot of clients are when they first start working with me. They feel like they’ve had some AHAs about themselves and a few mindset shifts along the way, and they’ve been out there devouring every free resource on “how-to” do all the things in their business, but they’re not sure how to put it all together for their unique life and business

It’s kind of the equivalent of going to a great conference. You get really inspired by all the speakers that are there and take tons of notes. But when you get home, the excitement fizzles as you “get back to the real world,” because you have no idea how to apply all that you’ve just learned and take action on it. 

So with the StressLESS System© I help people on not only their mindset or on their business strategy, but on BOTH. 

Mindset work is absolutely necessary. If you have a belief about yourself or your business that’s limiting you, you can work as hard as you want forever and still never see the results you truly desire. 

Or, you can try every “how-to” in the book and waste a ton of time going through trial-and-error to figure out what works for you, but it’s like throwing spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks. 

That’s why I help my clients do both. I do not teach them about “managing” time or “managing” stress. Instead, we go deeper and more foundational to figure out what mindsets are causing them those feelings of stress and overwhelm in the first place. Then, I teach them how to reframe those limiting beliefs and identify the perfect strategy for them to achieve the unique goals they want in life and business: faster, more effectively, and with better, longer-lasting results.

What has been your most effective marketing strategy to grow your business?

My number one piece of advice for growing your business effectively through marketing is this: find where your ideal audience hangs out + deliver quality content to them consistently. 

So many people make the massive mistake of trying to be everywhere at once. Facebook, a Facebook Group, Instagram, LinkedIN, Twitter, Pinterest, a blog, guest-blogs, a podcast, guest-podcasts, weekly email newsletters to their audience, a website, and all. the. other. things. 

It’s exhausting just thinking about it all!

Here’s what I suggest. Ask yourself: “Where does my ideal client hang out? How do they like to consume information?” If your ideal client is someone in the flesh and not an avatar, ask them where they hang out and how they like to consume information. 

Then, aim to deliver your (high-quality, high-value) content to them on that platform, consistently. This will build know-like-trust and help to get your business in front of other ideal clients who are likely using those platforms to consume information like yours too.

And last but not least, it’ll take the pressure off you from feeling like you have to do it all and be everywhere. Because you don’t. 

What's your best piece of advice for aspiring and new entrepreneurs?

Did you know that over 7 out of 10 new businesses fail within the first two years of getting started? That’s alarming. And the reason is because too many new entrepreneurs are biting off more than they can chew, trying to grow too fast and burning themselves out in the process.

So instead, GO SLOW TO GO FAST. It sounds counterintuitive, I know. And I get that when you’re first starting out, there are SO many big ideas in that pretty little head of yours that you want to bring to life, like now. 

But remember, you will get nowhere fast by burning yourself out. 

Take it slow. Focus on one project at a time. Build intentionally, create systems, and document processes, so that one day you can have a business that runs without you. 

A little bit every day over a long period of time will truly help you grow sustainably in the long run. 

What's your favorite app, blog, and book? Why?

App: It’s less of an app and more of an iPhone function that has made a huge difference for me in how I start and end my day! It’s called “quiet mode” and you can set it up in your phone settings. (Google how to do it, it’s super simple and takes less than a minute to set up!)

I’ve set mine to “quiet” all of my apps from 8pm to 8am. And I LOVE IT because while I aim to spend the first and last hours of my day off my phone, sometimes out of habit I’ll open it up to check Instagram or email or whatever. But when it’s on “quiet mode,” it’s a gentle reminder that I don’t need to be on my phone right then and it helps me turn my attention back to whatever I was doing so that I can stay present and live in the moment. 

Book/Blog: 

(I’m more of a book girl than I am a blog girl!) One of my all-time favorite reads is The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery by Ian Cron and Suzanne Stabile. 

The more you can get to know yourself and how you operate, the more you can operate better in all areas of your life. 

If you’re not familiar with the Enneagram, this book is a perfect introduction!

What's your favorite business tool or resource? Why?

Is it cheating to say my VA + Interns? Seriously! I consider each of them an ultimate business resource, and it’s truly an honor to empower others to gain new knowledge and skills when we work as a team.

On a personal level, it’s helped me take a lot off my plate that I didn’t *need* to be doing, freeing up my time to stay in the visionary role in my business and focus on important projects that are up to me to do.

The best thing about working with Interns, especially, is that they will often work in exchange for experience. I give them tons of fun perks and opportunities for personal coaching when they work with me, and create a true team environment where they’re able to gain valuable skills to add to their resume. So, even if you’re just starting out or if you feel like you “can’t afford” good help -- I’m challenging you on that. You can. You just have to do it in a way that’s smart.

Start with an Intern who can manage your social media. You write the content, and let them post and schedule it. Even that simple small task will save you HOURS and give them the experience that they want on their resume. It’s a win-win for you both!

Who is your business role model? Why?

Oh wow it’s going to be impossible to answer this question without writing a book. I have so many who I look to for advice and mentorship!  

James Wedmore and his program, Business by Design, has been an invaluable resource to me along the way. 

As my biz took off it was obvious I needed a framework to get my message out to the world in a bigger way. I knew adding an online component was the answer, but I was so afraid of losing that authentic human connection if I tried to take the powerful, transformative experiences offline and put them online. 

But I needed to make a decision fast, because not only was my business growing beyond what I could handle on my own, I’d just become a mom and I wanted to stay true to my personal mission of stressing less while scaling my business.

I’ve invested in myself and my biz a lot over the years but Business by Design stands out. I’ve learned SO much! James has made it so easy to track my progress, make sense of the numbers, and know exactly when I’m on track, and in a way that’s in such alignment with my own mission — sustainable and simple, not stressful!

What is your beauty routine? What are some of your favorite products?

My routine is super quick and easy. (And an esthetician just recently told me, “keep doing whatever you’re doing, your skin is amazing!)

Part of my success early on in my career was in network marketing. I used to rep for (and got hooked on) Neora anti-aging products, and what I love is that they’re so EASY to use. Literally one-step in the morning and one at night!
My typical routine looks like this:

Wake up, brush my teeth, wash my face with the Neora Age-defying Botanical Cleanser. Then, I use the Hydrating Day Moisturizer to fight free radicals and deeply moisturize my skin without feeling heavy or sticky (I live in New Orleans y’all -- heavy moisturizers and high humidity do not mix!) That’s it. Most days just a dab of mascara and I’m out the door.

Then in the evenings, I cleanse again with the Botanical Cleanser, and spray rose-water toner all over my face before applying the Age IQ Night Cream

That’s IT. Super simple! 

How do you balance work and life?

This is one of my all-time favorite topics. I literally just gave a workshop on the surprising truth about work-life balance, and why it’s a total LIE. 

Here’s the thing. There are 3 myths about balance that our culture wants you to believe. 

3. Balance can be found

2. Balance exists outside of you

1. Balance exists, period. 

But despite popular belief, Balance can’t be found because it’s not something that’s lost. Balance doesn’t exist outside of you, because it already exists inside of you. The perfect “work-life balance” doesn’t exist in the way our society wants you to think that it does, because balance is a feeling, not a thing. And it’s a feeling that’s unique to you!

So of COURSE if you’re chasing after someone else’s (or the world’s) idea of “perfect work-life balance” you’re not going to find it. 

First, you have go get clear on what balance looks and feels like for you. Close your eyes and imagine: if you were living a day that felt perfectly balanced, what would you be doing? What would that day look like? What would that day feel like? Get as clear and descriptive as you can. 

Then, take small steps toward this vision. If “being more present” and “working out” show up in your vision for your perfectly-balanced day, then ask yourself: “What’s one step I can take to be more present in my day?” “What’s one step I can take toward moving my body more today?” 

This is how I find — and keep — a feeling of balance in my work and in my life. I’ve defined what my definition of balance is, for me. And I take small steps to create this in my life every day. It’s what helps me live in the moment, and it takes the pressure off of having the “perfect” work-life balance… just a balance that’s good enough for me. 

PS: If you want my 4-step process to getting crystal clear on what balance looks like for you so that you can experience more of it, check out the free resource I created for you: Your Ultimate StressLESS Balance Blueprint! (courtneyelmer.com/balance-blueprint)

What’s your favorite way to decompress?

There are two things that I love to do when I need a little mental break: barre class or hip-hop dance, and date nights with Alan. There’s nothing I love more than moving my body or spending quality time with the man I love!

What do you have planned for the next six months?

The last half or 2019 is going to be a huge period of growth for the company! We’re officially re-opening the doors to “Chaos to Clarity,” my signature 6-week digital group coaching experience where I teach the StressLESS System© live to high-achieving women who want to learn how to have it all without having to do it all. 

I’m working on a podcast that will also be launching late Fall/early Winter, and my book proposal is out for bid to find the right publisher! 

But even with all of these exciting things in the works, my #1 mission is the same: serve others by walking my talk. The best way I can teach others to StressLESS is if I’m living my mission in my own life. 

How can our readers connect with you?

Although I run a primarily digital company, I believe in the power of human connection. And that’s why I love technology, because it’s what connects me to YOU! I hope you’ll come hang out with me on the ‘Gram @CourtneyElmer_ and for more info on how I serve high-achievers like you, visit my website courtneyelmer.com

I can’t wait to connect with you!

"Starting a new business can be all consuming and it's hard to find the balance so that you don’t burn yourself out" with Vicky Lowell

MBP_7019MayBagnellPhotography.jpg

Victoria “Vicky” Lowell is a financial educator dedicated to empowering women with the knowledge to become active participants in the planning of their financial future and well-being. Born and raised in Florida, She majored in organization management and human resources at Florida International University. In 2012, she narrowed her focus to finance at UBS Financial Services Inc.

(UBS) where she began as a client service associate. She made the natural transition to a financial advisor where she implemented a comprehensive and holistic approach to financial planning. She left UBS to follow her passion of helping women assert themselves fiscally and founded Empowered Worth, a resource for financial coaching geared toward educating women to not only meet their immediate economic needs but attain long-term goals.

Can you tell our readers about your background?

I grew in South Florida and got my bachelor’s degree in Business from Florida International University. After taking some years off from working to raise my daughters, I re-entered the workforce working at UBS Financial Services – Wealth Management as a client service associate. I grew in that position to become a full-time financial advisor and a certified divorce financial analyst. I left that position to start my business Empowered Worth.

What inspired you to start your business?

I was inspired to start my business by all the women that I encountered as a financial advisor. I saw a need to empower these amazing ladies. Ladies who were abdicating or had abdicated their financial power to others because they felt they lack the knowledge to be part of the decision-making process. I wanted to create an environment that would foster a spirit of empowerment to change this narrative for women.

Where is your business based?

Empowered Worth is based in South Florida and we offer educational workshops and coaching to women in our area. In addition, we offer an online education course that can be accessed from anywhere.

How did you start your business? What were the first steps you took?

The first step I took was reaching out to women I knew who owned a successful business. I ask them to mentor me through this process. They guided me to a great lawyer and accountant who helped me set up my legal structure.

What has been the most effective way of raising awareness for your business?

Social Media!  It has been a great way to reach my target client. We are on all forms of social media.

What have been your biggest challenges and how did you overcome them?  

The biggest challenge is work life balance. Starting a new business can be all-consuming and it’s hard to find the balance so that you don’t burn yourself out.

How do you stay focused?

Block scheduling has been key to staying focused.

How do you differentiate your business from the competition?

One thing is that we focus on providing personal finance education targeted for women. In addition, in 2020 we will be launching our online course and workshops in Spanish.

What has been your most effective marketing strategy to grow your business?

As I stated before, social media has been key to our marketing. In addition, writing my first book Empower Your Worth will also play a crucial role in our marketing. It will be available August 2019.

What's your best piece of advice for aspiring and new entrepreneurs?

Don’t second guess yourself, take the leap and start your own business. There will never be a perfect time so start today.

What's your favorite app, blog, and book? Why?

I love Femcity blog and podcast for female entrepreneurs. I have found it to be incredibly informative.

What's your favorite business tool or resource? Why?

Upwork has been a great tool for finding affordable freelancers for my business.

Who is your business role model? Why?

My father who started his own business in my teens. His determination and grit were instilled in me when I worked in the family business.

What is your beauty routine? What are some of your favorite products?

 I would love to say I have one but aside from Botox, I don’t do much for my skin.

How do you balance work and life?

I made a commitment to step away from work on Friday at 4 PM and I don’t touch it again till Sunday evening when I prep for Monday. No email or text during that time.

Social Media Handles

Instagram : @empoweredworth

Twitter : @empoweredworth

Facebook: @ empoweredworth

What’s your favorite way to decompress?

Reading or binge-watching historical dramas.

What do you have planned for the next six months?

The next six months are packed. We are launching our podcast next month and our online course will be opening for enrollment in September. Also, don’t forget my book will be available come August and I will be promoting and speaking about that.

How can our readers connect with you?

Please feel free to visit our website www.empoweredworth.com or email us at info@empoweredworth.com

"You do not need permission to start a business and you do not need to be perfect to start" with Holly Morphew

Holly Morphew

Holly Morphew is an award-winning financial coach and speaker. She started teaching personal finance in 2006 as a Rotary International service project and has since become a global influencer reaching thousands on their path to financial independence. Holly’s values-based approach to building wealth has been featured in Forbes, Yahoo Personal Finance, The Muse, and credit.com. http://www.financialimpact.com/

 Can you tell our readers about your background? 

I come from a long line of entrepreneurs in my family. My parents made a big deal of sit-down family meals, and we talked about money and business just about every night at the dinner table. I spent my first six years after college working in real estate, where I learned how to invest and how “the wealthy” relate to and make decisions about money. I always had a side-hustle along with my full-time jobs and owning my business was my goal. Before I became a full-time financial coach, I started a fabrication company with my ex-husband, consulted for six years for a software company, and worked in finance with an international retail wellness store chain.

What inspired you to start your business? 

When I was 25, I bought my first house. I could rent out a room, which paid for half my mortgage. I wondered why more young adults like myself didn’t also buy a home, and that’s when I realized that no one teaches us about money, much less how to build wealth. I was fortunate because my parents taught me a lot about credit, saving, and investing, which I could put to use in my early twenties to build wealth. 

Where is your business based?

I work from home in Boulder, CO.

How did you start your business? What were the first steps you took?

I wrote a book when I was 26 that outlined all the things I thought high school students needed to know before they were out the real world. At the time, I was a member of Rotary International. I proposed an idea to them where I would go to local high schools and teach young adults about money. This was when credit card companies would give college students a free t-shirt for completing a credit application. The project was a hit and soon parents of my students were asking if they could sit in on my workshops. That’s when it occurred to me that all ages need financial education. I created a workshop for adults and offered it free to my friends. I tested the concepts and got feedback and later turned the workshop into a private program where I could work with individuals and couples.

What has been the most effective way of raising awareness for your business? 

Hands-down, social media. When I first began teaching personal finance in 2006, no one understood what I did. They would always ask if I was a financial advisor. I spent a lot of time explaining that I help you get to where you have money to invest, whereas a financial planner helps you invest money you already have. I work with entrepreneurs, career-driven leaders, and those who want to invest or create an additional stream of income. Social media has been a portal to let people know exactly what I do and how I can help them create wealth starting with where they are right now.

What have been your biggest challenges and how did you overcome them? 

My biggest challenge has been staying up to date with marketing strategies and the changing economy. I had three offices at one point, and I realized that the business model was not sustainable. In 2016, I rebranded and went entirely online. Today I meet clients on Zoom and I work with people from all over the US, and sometimes the world. In addition, I’ve learned that a business is only as good as its plan and building a platform that includes additional revenue streams such as books, speaking, courses, and masterminds, besides coaching, has been the key to my success.

How do you stay focused?

I have a strict morning routine and I spend a lot of time outside. I start my days with a 5 am a workout, followed by 30 minutes of reading, then meditation, and finally a vegan protein shake with probiotics. I take breaks throughout the day to walk or ride my bike, even if it’s just for 15-20 minutes. Finding stillness and quiet in my day and making it a priority in my free time allows me to connect with my purpose, and that’s what drives my business day in and day out.

I also use a productivity planner, which is a tool a friend recommended to me when I was feeling overwhelmed with the number of tasks on my to-do list. I list my top 5 most important tasks of the day and work in 25 minute increments to complete them. Each day I test how I did, acknowledge my wins, as well as what we can improve, and prepare an agenda for the next day.

How do you differentiate your business from the competition? 

My background in entrepreneurship, business consulting, and investing in real estate give me an edge when working with higher-earners who have financial concerns beyond simple budgeting. Personal and business finances can be complicated, and many pieces need to come together to create wealth. Additionally, there are a lot of emotions that come up around the subject of money. I begin with getting clear about your goals then digging down into what makes you feel alive and thrive. Implementing a system to build wealth is simple. Implementing behaviors that build wealth is an ongoing practice, and self-awareness is the key to that practice.

The more you learn about yourself and how you relate to money, the more you will unlock the massive potential you have to become fabulously wealthy. I use a values-based approach, which means becoming aware of what drives you, setting intentions, and then aligning your behavior with those intentions. When you’re living from your values and have a clear vision for where you want to go, nothing can stop you.

What has been your most effective marketing strategy to grow your business? 

I began building an email list early on. I didn’t know how to leverage it until I began to learn about how to build relationships online. Today, it’s the way I share new programs, podcasts, resources, and of course, my blog.

What’s your best piece of advice for aspiring and new entrepreneurs? 

You do not need permission to start a business and you do not need to be perfect to start. If there is something you want to share with the world, just do it. You will learn best practices along the way, refine your business model, and improve your offering. What’s most important is that you get into action. Get your website up and add to it gradually. Join groups for support and learn what others are doing to grow their business. Ask for help when you need it. Get a coach. Finally, remember that a business is a work in progress. As long as you are doing your best, have a vision, and are committed to doing the work, you will be successful.

What’s your favorite app, blog, and book? Why?

My favorite app is WellWallet. It’s a financial wellness tool that consolidates all your accounts in one place and tracks spending. Plus, it’s a conscious company committed to making a positive impact on people and the planet.

My favorite book is Accidentally Adamant by Tisha Schuller. It was given to me at a summit I spoke at last year. It’s a story of leadership challenges and being brave when navigating opposing sides of contentious issues that face our planet today. It’s honest and bold and provides actionable steps for communicating effectively with those who may have different beliefs than yours.

My favorite blog is Bigger Pockets. It is by far the best real estate investing resource I’ve come across, and most of its content, from calculators to analytical tools, are free. 

What’s your favorite business tool or resource? Why?

I recently discovered Trello, and it has absolutely changed the way I work. I use it to communicate with my team, build talks, organize my projects. I love that I can tag people on specific items, create deadlines, categorize activities, and include documents and graphics in one place related to what I am working on. 

Who is your business role model? Why? 

My business role model is Amanda Frances. She knows who she is, where she is going, and what she is here to do. She sprinkles positive messaging into her social media, emails, courses, and videos, and sets a great example for being true to yourself while being unapologetic about your strengths and weaknesses. She’s one of the most successful coaches I’ve come across, both from a revenue standpoint and how much her audience loves her, and she doesn’t hold back in sharing her knowledge and expertise every chance she gets. She is a giver first, and it is clear she truly cares about helping others become as successful.

What is your beauty routine? What are some of your favorite products? 

I had dermatitis my entire life until I discovered Arbonne, a Swiss herbal and botanically based vegan skincare and cosmetics line. I have used their products since I was 25 and my skin has never felt better. I even became a consultant for Arbonne, which was my first side-hustle. I still get checks today for work I did 10 years ago! I had acne in high school so taking care of my skin has always been important to me. I wash and moisturize my face with a day crème with SPF every morning, and at night I use a super-moisturizing night crème that makes my skin feel amazing all night long. My favorite product is a body-firming crème which comes in a tub, smells like oranges, and makes my skin feel soft and supple. I use it on my hands, my arms, stomach, and legs!

How do you balance work and life? 

I struggled for many years with my schedule. Since I work for myself, there’s no one telling me what time to start or end or what I need to accomplish in a day. Also, as an entrepreneur, there’s always more work to be done! For a long time, I couldn’t turn off and was always in work-mode. When I was 20 I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis, and stress is the number one trigger for flares. I was sick for four years and had to learn at a very young age how to prioritize my health and listen to my body. I get plenty of sleep, eat a plant-based diet, have healthy relationships, and a set work schedule.

Being honest with myself about what I need and what is good for me has been the biggest learning experience. The clearer I have become about who I am, what people and situations make me feel the best, and what my body needs, the healthier I have become. I was told I would be sick for the rest of my life and even given handicap status. Today I am the healthiest I have ever been.

What’s your favorite way to decompress? 

I love sensory deprivation tanks, yoga, watching the sun rise, reading, camping, and baking.

What do you have planned for the next six months? 

I am finishing my first book at the moment and getting ready to speak at a couple of conferences about how to build a profitable online business and how to reach financial independence. I’m also working on producing my first digital course.

How can our readers connect with you?

Instagram https://www.instagram.com/hollymorph/

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/HollyMorph

Twitter https://twitter.com/HollyMorph

http://www.financialimpact.com/

"There’s not enough of it in a day or enough in startup mode when you’re alone putting in the sweat equity" with Laura McGuire

Laura McGuire

Laura McGuire

Hipstik Legwear, LLC materialized out of founder, Laura McGuire's, frustration from years of trying on dozens of styles and brands hoping to find a comfortable pair of hosiery. Laura realized she could make tights and pantyhose women of all shapes actually want to wear. Hipstiks have a stretchy lace waistband that sits on the hip for ultimate comfort and a stick strip that keeps them in place without sagging or rolling down; the sizing, to include plus sizes, is unlike the industry, based on the unique body shapes of women. www.hipstiks.com.

Can you tell our readers about your background?

I've worked with entrepreneurs and companies to launch or relaunch and market their own projects for the past 10 years, so I know what it takes: passion and a meaningful idea. When I was struggling to find a pantyhose product that was comfortable, I realized I could be one of those entrepreneurs and make this product a reality for women. Launching Hipstik Legwear has given me a deeper understanding of those entrepreneurs in my past. We build on ourselves with each year.

What inspired you to start your business?

I’d been taking a pair of scissors to my tights and pantyhose for years to loosen the control top so that I could breathe (and I knew other women were doing it, too)! It was almost as if all the manufacturers were saying that we need to be three sizes smaller to be comfortable in their product. After years searching for a comfortable pair and asking other women their experiences, all points aligned, and I realized I could be the one to make tights women actually want to wear.

Where is your business based?

Hipstik Legwear is based in North Carolina. We also proudly manufacture in the USA, in the same state - a short 90-minute drive apart.

How did you start your business?

What were the first steps you took? The first step I took to start my business was pouring over a business plan. It took me months but it was worth getting it all down on paper. My husband jokes that it’s the length of War and Peace but this as the first thing you do with thoughtful consideration; a business plan is non-linear to running your business so it helps think outside of immediate next steps. After the plan was written, the brand name I originally came up with was changed for the better to Hipstik. These type of things come out of this vital process; it’s less about the actual words that end up on paper and more about the thinking, considering and idea editing you must do to get words there.

What has been the most effective way of raising awareness for your business?

Cartoonist, Tom Fishburne has said it best: The best marketing doesn’t feel like marketing. The most effective way we have raised awareness for Hipstik is to put the product in real customers’ hands (or in our case, put Hipstik onto their legs) and let them tell their friends, family, and colleagues about their experience. The best way to describe our product has actually been the way real customers describe it to others.

Awareness via traditional methods merely whispers to the customer. Awareness via first-hand product reviews is louder and stronger.

What have been your biggest challenges and how did you overcome them?

Our challenge is changing women’s negative perceptions of hosiery. We’d stopped wearing them. Hipstik’s problem-solving product design, to lots of women’s amazement, actually delivers on shape-based comfort and style.

How do you stay focused?

I stay focused with a master to-do list on my phone. The checking-off part is satisfying. And there’s always something to add.

How do you differentiate your business from the competition?

Hipstik is a new take on hosiery. We don’t compete with other brands like us. We compete with women’s negative perceptions of hosiery - and her desire to wear pants because they have been more comfortable than the hosiery she’s tried. This is where we revolutionize how she sees her wardrobe.

What has been your most effective marketing strategy to grow your business?

There’s no silver bullet, unfortunately. It makes our job harder, but it’s also exciting to be constantly learning. What may work last season fizzles and a new winner takes its place. Facebook advertising was working well for the aspects of the peer to peer review, or digital word of mouth. Then we discovered Yotpo: a platform to harness reviews. Affiliate marketing is a way for influencers to share what they love in return for a percentage of the sale; they’ve spent their energy and smarts building their audience, so they deserve to be rewarded when they share, especially when it’s authentic love for a product. Marketing (and the way consumers want to receive information) is constantly changing, so as you can see, we don’t get complacent with one method of reaching women with Hipstik.

What's your best piece of advice for aspiring and new entrepreneurs?

My best piece of advice for aspiring entrepreneurs is that time is everything for a new business. There’s not enough of it in a day or enough in startup mode when you’re alone putting in the sweat equity. But time takes time. And there will be so many opportunities - so much you see you can do toward the goal of growth. But your job as an entrepreneur is to do the RIGHT work. You’ve got to solve the right problems fast enough to make a difference. So really prioritize. Some things will be trial and error and seem like a waste. Learn from it and keep prioritizing.

What's your favorite app, blog, and book? Why?

My favorite app is the Reminders app that comes standard on the iPhone. It’s a no bells and whistles tool but it motivates big things for me. Sometimes we get bogged down in the tech and tools and don’t actually get anything done.

What's your favorite business tool or resource? Why?

My favorite business tool is MailChimp, an email marketing platform. The company has found a way to be profitable while affordable for startups and small businesses. A lot of tools are too far-reaching into the wallet and only the conglomerates of the world can afford to use them. MailChimp is an effective marketing tool for consumer acquisition and retention, and I don’t have to outsource skills to put it to use.

Who is your business role model? Why?

Joy (the Jennifer Lawrence movie character interpretation of her, as I have not met the real Joy in person) is my role model. Joy Mangano is an American inventor and entrepreneur known for inventions such as the self-wringing Miracle Mop. I own one. I know it works better than any other mop. Joy saw a problem and fixed it with simplicity. And did it before anyone else. Why is works, in the scheme of things, is just a small tweak on the concept of the mop. That’s how I see Hipstik.

My product doesn’t have WiFi running through the legs - it’s simply a comfortable design and an “aha” solution to comfortable tights that makes me wonder why it wasn’t done more mainstream before. That’s when you know you’ve hit on something. And then you patent it like we did! Joy has grit, determination and she believes in her solution-benefit products for women more than anyone else, which is infectious.

What is your beauty routine? What are some of your favorite products?

I’m fair and personally tested our Hipstik Light Nude Pantyhose; I always wear SPF on my face and neck daily and have been using Olay loyally since my mom introduced it to me in middle school. I’m addicted to BECCA Hydra-Mist Powder which I recently discovered from a magazine editor - it goes on with a cool sensation that wakes me up in the morning; I recommend buying the trial size because it does lose that “hydra” wow-factor in the regular size over time. I don’t leave the house without a swipe of blush and a coat of mascara since my eyelashes are otherwise blonde! I’m a brand switcher on blushes and mascaras - haven’t found my silver bullet yet!

How do you balance work and life?

I don’t need to balance work and life. Now that I’m 35, I’ve discovered that what’s meaningful to me and my life is my work. I feel stressed when I don’t get to work on Hipstik. That’s how much fun I’m having and meeting amazing women in the process.

What’s your favorite way to decompress?

I take a shower with Bath & Body Works Gel every night since the day the Bath & Body Works store with the heartland theme opened in my small town’s mall. It was the 90s!

A few years ago, I went wild at their semi-annual sale and ended up with 10 body washes that I cycled through one day at a time, lasting me a long time; I crave product variety so ending my day with a final choice relaxes my mind to sleep. I always aim to get 8 hours of sleep every night to bring energy into the next day.

What do you have planned for the next six months?

In the next six months which brings us into the fall/winter season, our plan is to get more women to try on a pair of Hipstiks! It’s really that straightforward.

How can our readers connect with you?

Email me anytime at laura@hipstiks.com.

https://www.facebook.com/hipstik

https://twitter.com/hipstik

https://www.instagram.com/hipstiktights/

https://www.pinterest.com/hipstik/

"Do what you love! If you love doing something it won’t feel like work" with Melanie Hetzer

Melanie Hetzer is an entrepreneur and digital nomad. Together with her co-founder she founded the eHealth platform Cora Health in 2016. Today, Cora Health helps thousands of blood pressure patients to improve their condition and live a heart-healthy life.

Can you tell our readers about your background?

I come from a small town in northern Austria and studied Marketing in Vienna. However, it was my dream to study abroad. And that’s how it all started. I did my second Master’s degree in Entrepreneurship at Lund University in Sweden and there I met my co-founder Josef.

What inspired you to start your business?

Every fourth adult in Europe has high blood pressure. And what’s worse, every eighth dies from one of its secondary diseases such as stroke or heart attack. We became aware of this issue as members of our families were diagnosed with hypertension. We were appalled how little attention and care patients received to treat their condition. This is when we decided to start Cora Health.

Where is your business based?

Our company is based in Tallinn, Estonia. However, we are a remote team spread across different countries.

How did you start your business? What were the first steps you took?

We started off by doing lots of market research. We interviewed patients and doctors to find out more about their wants and needs. As a second step we analysed all the information we got and then started to develop our product. Until now, user feedback plays a key role in our product development.

What has been the most effective way of raising awareness for your business?

We recognised that many patients inform themselves on their condition on the Internet. By providing patients answers to their concerns through our online heart health guide, we raise awareness for our product.

What have been your biggest challenges and how did you overcome them?

As startup founders we face different kinds of challenges every day, from development to HR. However, one of the biggest challenges is that hypertension itself isn’t a “sexy topic” and does not get much attention in public debates.

How do you stay focused?

In today’s age getting distracted is as easy as never before.That’s why we have weekly stand ups where we plan our tasks for the upcoming week. By doing that we can assure that we’re working towards the same goal and that everyone’s on track.

How do you differentiate your business from the competition?

If you go on the App Store, you’ll find various blood pressure apps. However, all of them focus on tracking and none of them aims to improve the users’ condition. Cora Health is the only app that supports patient empowerment, providing users with a personalised training plan.

What has been your most effective marketing strategy to grow your business?

We want to be present where patients need us. Thus, we started our online health guide and recently our YouTube channel, where we provide patients with valuable information on the topic of heart health.

What’s your best piece of advice for aspiring and new entrepreneurs?

Two things: First, do what you love! If you love doing something it won’t feel like work. And second, have stamina! Founding a startup is like a roller coaster. There are ups and downs, but don’t give up.

What’s your favorite app, blog, and book? Why?

That’s an easy one! Of course, my favourite app is the app I spend most time on – Cora Health. But other than that, I like Instagram as a source of inspiration for new travel destinations.

My favourite blog is Sommertage, an Austrian travel blog which encouraged me to start my own blog (digitalenomadin.at) about traveling and life as a digital nomad.

I don’t really have a favourite book, but I like reading nonfiction books to develop my skills.

What’s your favorite business tool or resource? Why?

I really like the Airtable, a planning tool we’re using for various things. It offers so many different options and it also provides users with useful templates for content planning, outreach etc.

Who is your business role model? Why?

To be honest, I don’t really have a role model. I admire people dare to follow their dreams.

How do you balance work and life?

My work is also my biggest hobby. I love spending time on our eHealth platform Cora Health or my blog Digitale Nomadin. But if I need a break from working, I like spending time with my family and friends.

What’s your favorite way to decompress?

Nature! In summer, I love to cycle to the sea and go for a swim. For me that’s the best way to relax.

What do you have planned for the next six months?

Our goal is to improve the heart health of millions of patients. In order to realize that, we plan to expand our presence on the iPad in the near future.

How can our readers connect with you?

We’d be happy if you visit our website and follow us on our social media channels. Website: https://www.cora.health/
App Store: https://apps.apple.com/gb/app/cora-health/id1186224674

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCFd3G3YhiP82Od_FXPjbLFQ

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/corahealth.co/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/corahealth/