Q&A with Natalia Vargas

Natalia Vargas

Natalia Vargas is the creative and innovative mind behind the brand Doppia Swimwear. She has been running the company for a short time with a big picture of how the brand is going to grow. Natalia was born in Colombia with Latin blood and passion for her country. She wants to share the story of Colombia, its rich culture, diversity, colors, people, and values through the Doppia brand. www.doppiaswimwear.com  

Can you tell our readers about your background?

I studied and worked in finance at the beginning of my career. However, I have always loved to draw, design, and create, so I quit my job four years ago to start this new adventure.

I also studied for a Master's Degree in International Business in Spain and have a certificate in Brand Management from The Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City.

What inspired you to start your business?

I wanted to connect with people and to create a brand that represents and celebrates the different shapes of women.  My own experience was also part of the inspiration because I am curvy - my hips and legs are thick and it was very hard for me to find bathing suits that didn’t leave me marks but were also pretty, fancy, and trendy.

Where is your business based?

My business is based in Bogotá, Colombia.

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

The way I started is not usual because the brand already existed. I joined the company four years ago. I was a customer and what I loved the most was the concept; Doppia means "double" in Italian so reversibility is the main characteristic of the design.

I kept the essence of the brand (reversible swimwear) but made improvements in terms of design, inspiration, and communication. I asked our customer what they wanted and how they felt about the brand. Once I had gathered that relevant data, I used inspiration from Colombia, its people, and traditions to create bold and fun designs.  

Natalia Vargas

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

Word-of-mouth is definitely the way I started to build brand awareness. Between my friends, family, and every place and event that I go, I talk about the brand and its concept and people get really excited and start following it. Social media has also been an effective way to build brand awareness. 

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

My biggest challenges have been related to production and design. I have all the ideas about what I want and how I want the products to be, but as I am not a trained designer, there are many things related to both processes where I don't have enough expertise. So the way I overcome them is by working closely with my design team and the garment factory.

How do you stay focused?

Oh boy, this is a hard one! When you have your own business many opportunities emerge. Yet I stay focused by tackling one goal at a time. Sometimes you just have to say "not now, but later" when different opportunities emerge. 

How do you differentiate your business from the competition?

I think the way my brand is different from my competition is how we communicate with our customers. We have close relationships with them and provide as much information as we can. For example, our hang tags are designed specially to let the customer know which garments are reversible.

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

Since a few collections ago, I decided to switch the image and prototype of my Doppia woman by shooting campaign photos with my customers. This strategy resulted in more engagement with my market because women identify with the girl they see in the photos. This approach also helped to grow the brand's sales and awareness in social media.

Natalia Vargas

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

My advice is to keep working, love what you do, and be patient. Sometimes being an entrepreneur is hard and everything can get overwhelming, but don't quit.  Just keep working and keep the goal in your mind. Patience you will get where you want!

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

My favorite app is Instagram; I use it for editing pictures, making short videos, benchmarking, as a communication channel with my customers, for inspiration, to find stores, potential customers, shopping and sale events and many other different things.

My favorite blog is Foundr because there are many interesting articles related to business, new entrepreneurs, marketing, and strategies that are very useful.

My favorite book is "The One Thing" because it tells the importance of keep focused!

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

I like Shopify because of the valuable data it provides, including what visitors see, what products they like, as well as what are the most viewed and added to the cart products. The platform also provides information about promotions, ads, and marketing strategies to reach wider audiences. 

Who is your business role model? Why?

A couple of years ago, I met a wonderful Colombian designer based in New York City named Raul Peñaranda. He became an inspiration for me and my business role model. I had the opportunity to find out about his work and history, how he began to work in the industry and started his brand with all the struggles and this really inspired me! And last year, I worked with him at an event in Bogotá, Colombia where he presented his collection and it was an amazing experience!

What do you have planned for the next six months?

My plans for the next six months are exploring new markets - one is the U.S. This collection will be inspired by our indigenous southern tribes and their creations, and we'll let women and men know about our unique Colombian pieces and share a bit of our country.

How can our readers connect with you?

They can reach out to me or to the brand through social media, in Instagram as @doppiaswimwear, Facebook as Doppia Swimwear or our web page www.doppiaswimwear.com. I would love to get in touch and introduce them to my brand experience!

New Book Release: Publicity Jumpstart

Hi Fem Founders, 

Happy Independence Day Week!

I hope everyone is relaxing a bit and enjoying the warm summer months! I've finally slowed down and taken off to spend time with my family.

Meanwhile,  I am so excited to announce my forthcoming book release called The Publicity Jumpstart cowritten with former actress and visibility expert, Michelle Lewis of VisibilityVixen.com.  Michelle and I talk all about how to get press for your startup in my recent podcast interview on The Visible Entrepreneur, which you can listen to here.  You can also find out when the book launches by signing up here

Kristin Marquet PR

4 Ways to Start a Successful Gig Economy Business

Dog Walker - Gig Economy

By: Lucy Reed

It’s easier than ever before to start a business, thanks to the gig economy. Whether you want to provide short-term work as a consultant or services provider or do freelance work, you can build your own successful gig-based business in just about no time. The trick is zeroing in on a need in your area or putting your skills to work for yourself.

1. Turn Your Hobby or Interests into a Gig Economy Business

The gig economy is characterized by independent contractors providing services or work for the short-term. It’s an ideal environment for people who want to set their own hours and rates and have more freedom than a permanent position provides. It’s also ideal for entrepreneurs or people who want to start their own small business and achieve an improved work-life balance.

One of the best ways to get started in the gig economy is to transform your hobby or interests into a real business. For example, if you have a knack for painting, you could paint people’s homes for them. If you have an eye for decorating, you could stage people’s homes as they prepare to sell them.

If you prefer to spend time outdoors, you can start a gig economy business guiding people on hikes in your area or completing landscaping projects. Thousands of people offer their skills and services on TaskRabbit. Using a platform such as this helps you connect with more people looking for your particular skills, from housecleaning to completing handyman jobs.

2. Turn Your Love for Animals into a Gig Economy Business

Some people turn their love for animals into successful gig economy businesses. For example, if you love dogs, you could become a dog walker, dog boarder, or pet sitter. Regardless of where you live, people look for reliable animal lovers who can help take care of their dogs when they are away at work or on vacation.

Becoming a dog walker, for instance, is a perfect way to spend time with four-legged friends, spend time outside, and set your own hours and rates. You’ll also enjoy the benefits of getting exercise outside and reducing your stress by spending time with dogs. In fact, Time Magazine reports that spending time with pets is good for your mental health, and studies show that spending time with dogs can reduce your blood pressure in addition to reducing stress.

3. Create a Website

To get started in the gig economy, you’ll need to market yourself. One of the best ways to get more work is to provide an excellent customer experience so that satisfied clients tell others about you. Word-of-mouth advertising is free, and people are more likely to hire someone their friends or family members recommend.

That’s why you also should build a website for your gig economy business; according to Forbes, online customer reviews generate more business, and you want to help prospective clients find you by creating an online presence for your business. This includes creating a social media profile and keeping your Google business listing up to date. The more places that people can find excellent reviews about you, the easier it will be to generate more business.

4. Use Your Network

It’s also helpful if you rely on your professional and personal networks as you delve into a gig economy business. Independent contractors especially attract more freelancing work when they network. Make sure the people from your former permanent position know that you have started your own business so they can recommend you.

Use your personal connections to get information about projects before they go public so you can get in as early as possible. Go to Meetups, economic development meetings, alumni networking events, and career fairs to expand your network. It’s also a good idea to collaborate with others in the early days of your new business so you can tackle larger projects with more people.

You can start a successful gig-related business by focusing on your hobbies, interests, or love of animals. Build a website so people can find you easily and leave reviews to generate more business. Then, rely on your network to launch your business quickly.

Q&A with Women's Empowerment and Fashion Visionary, Ashley-Victoria Smith

Ashley-Victoria Smith, founder, and producer of Descalzo Shows, a fashion show production company focused on women empowerment and working with female-owned businesses and brands, helps small business owners find the tools and resources they need to grow, scale, and build their businesses, and ultimately themselves.

Ashley-Victoria Smith

 

Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?

In 2012, I was fed up with my underpaid, underappreciated, Director of Marketing 8–5, a desk job that I decided to quit without any backup plans. I had been doing behind-the-scenes fashion show production for about two years by then and I knew that I wanted to bring something different to the table. That difference was to do a lingerie fashion show that focuses on WOMEN EMPOWERMENT to erase the taboo of lingerie being provocative, but rather as a statement for the woman wearing it; making her feel good.

I put together a theatrical lingerie fashion show with one of my good friends at the time with a $500 budget. We partnered with boutique lingerie stores and we showcased the most beautiful luxury pieces while telling a “star-crossed lovers story”. It was a hit. We sold out violating fire marshall code and donated ticket sales to a local breast cancer charity.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you started your company?

Really it’s the businesses that I first reached out to who told me no or no response, are now actually asking me to be involved. It’s like “hustle until your haters ask if you’re hiring” kinda thing.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

I believe the company stands out because I genuinely care about the woman behind the brand and her well being. Being in a male-dominated industry is hard enough and when you’re a business it doesn’t get any easier.

I want designers to know that when they register for our showcase, I am with them every step of the way. For many, this is their first show, so the nervousness and insecurities are even higher. I will help show them the ropes in putting together their models, run of the show, etc…

Many producers have a team that does this for them so they can (obviously) focus on the logistics and production standpoint; however, I choose to do both.

Additionally, I am not competing with anyone, I am not trying to be like the other fashion show production companies out there; there’s nothing wrong with them but I feel that having a private, invite-only show isolates the everyday woman who reads Elle, W, and other high-end magazines that may not get invites to fashion shows but sure as hell BUYS what’s showcased on that runway. I want to give those women an opportunity to have a fun night out, meeting designers, experience the red carpet, shop the runway in person. This is also great for the designers because they can get direct feedback from actual customers & future clients.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

There’s actually two; one is Ryan Philemon who held my hand and stayed up late hours with me offering me more wine to calm down and know that our first production was going to awesome. The other is my late best friend Carolyn Colon, whom we lost to suicide; she pushed me to believe in myself, she took care of the back of house, taking care of expenses, helping models, encouraging other women to believe in themselves; it was her that kept me running when the coffee ran out. I wish I could tell her that today.

Are you working on any exciting projects now?

Always.. I have several large projects in the works that Descalzo Shows will reveal in Spring 2019.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

My Grandmother told me, when you can, give. Then the money from the shows I give towards charities geared to help women; from breast cancer awareness to fighting human and sex trafficking. This year for Miami Swim Week, I am switching it up slightly to donate to The Humane Society.

Do you have a favorite book that made a deep impact on your life?

Yes, and of all them, it’s #Girlboss.

Can you share a story? I picked up this copy back in 2015 at a gift shop at the Philadelphia Amtrak Station because I had 13 more hours to go before I was back home, and this book was a game changer for me. For one, I was going through a rough time with the lingerie shows due to uncomfortable businesses situation with men. I felt that I wasn’t where I was supposed to be in my career path (still working a full-time job), and my relationship with my own man was just crumbling. I started reading this book and I cried because I realized that us women aren’t so different. We all go through financial battles, personal battles, health crisis, bad relationships, etc… #Girlboss simply enlightened me to know that I am not alone in this entrepreneur...ship (pun intended).

What do you “ wish someone told me before I started my company”?

Don’t try to be like everyone else. When I first started doing my lingerie shows, I wanted to be like New York Fashion Week, after three productions (while the audience was now at 400 people), I still wasn’t getting the response for mainstream press and media. It took coffee on the Chelsea Pier with a very notable photographer in NYC to tell me this; “do you think NYFW cares what London FW is doing? Do you think Paris Fashion Week wants to be like London? No. You have to do what works for your city, your audience”… and that is legitimately my Oprah, ‘ah-ha’ moment. He then told me, “If we weren’t friends, I wouldn’t be talking to you right now because, in NYC, time is money.” Jaw drop.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why?

I want a date night with Ellen DeGeneres (aka De Generous). Ellen has heart, has character, and more balls than some of these men ruining, I mean, running our country. I want to work with her in doing a show with real everyday women, not models, help them bring out something they never saw in themselves or too scared to. Tell them to know their worth add shipping and handling fees.

Q&A with Entrepreneur and Therapist Angela Ficken

Angela Ficken

Can you tell our readers about your background?

I was born and raised in Boston. I’ve never left although I tried after undergraduate just to get an idea of what it was like to live away from familiar. But I realized that everything works out for the best and really love that I did stay in Boston.

After undergrad, I got my first job at McLean hospital working as a counselor at the OCD Institute. It was there that I really learned about anxiety disorders, and received training in Exposure therapy, and learned about cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). I was trained by the worlds best in the field which was an amazing experience.

After Grad school, I returned to McLean Hospital but this time was a social worker on an inpatient locked unit. I, again, had another wonderful opportunity learning from the best doctors and social workers. It was during this time that I became trained in DBT and CBT, both therapies I use today in my practice with clients, focusing on teaching effective coping strategies for anxiety disorders.

After McLean, I worked at Harvard University as a primary therapist to undergrad and graduate students. I really enjoyed working with the young adult population, everyone coming into their own, finding their way, and being apart of that journey with them was very rewarding.

Now that I am in full-time private practice, I remain committed to teaching skills and strategies to people who are looking to manage their stress, anxiety, and other challenging emotions more effectively.

I also wanted to be able to reach more people than those I am only able to see in my office which prompted me to write an online course on stress management, so others around the country can have access to the skills I teach in sessions. Additionally, I created the Progress Wellness App which provides coping skills for any challenging emotion one might be in, at any given moment.

I love the work I do and being in full-time private practice allows me to focus on thinking outside the standard psychotherapy box and finding new ways to reach those who are interested in managing their difficult emotions more effectively. I have a great gig! 

What inspired you to start your business?

I had always had a small private practice in addition to whatever full-time job I had at the time, whether I was working at McLean Hospital or Harvard University. After years of doing this, I realized I enjoyed the creativity my private practice gave me. I could create my own hours, I was my own boss, and I could really focus on what I was interested in and fine-tuning those skill sets. Taking the plunge into the unknown of full-time private practice was stressful and anxiety-inducing but also exciting. Paving my own path was important to me, and starting my business gave me that.

Where is your business based?

My private practice is based in Boston, right in the Back Bay. I’m lucky that my office has a great view of the public garden which is the oldest park in America and overlooks some of the best parts of the city.

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

Starting my full-time private practice was like jumping into a sea of unknowns. I had no idea of all the steps involved in setting up shop. But, I knew some basics, like find an office, build a website, and finding a network of peers. I chose to sublet office space both in Boston and Cambridge to see where I would eventually like to have a full-time office.

Did I want the city or did I want the other side of the river? Subletting allowed me to figure out what I preferred and where I felt most at home. Back Bay won! After I had my website up and running, I definitely felt more official and soon began connecting with other clinicians in the community for support.

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

Believe it or not, it’s been Pinterest. I have a little over 1050 followers on Pinterest which can ebb and flow, but I receive on average 500k views to my website each month. I also think the articles I’ve written for HuffingtonPost.com, ThriveGlobal.com, and Marriage.com, along with my blog have helped my business tremendously in terms of raising awareness.

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

My biggest challenges all revolve around anxiety, which is funny because I am an expert in the field! And, I think when starting your own business there is a level of stress and anxiety that is inevitable.

The first challenge I faced was getting started. Since I had never done this before, and there is no manual for starting your own business, I felt my anxiety hold me back in making decisions. I wanted to wait to figure out the perfect “right” decision rather than just going for something and figuring it out later.

After realizing that strategy was not working for me, I started to catch on that I needed to practice what I preach! So, I decided to create small to-do lists that I would tend to each day. Little steps getting me to the bigger goal. That helped me organize my thoughts and stay on task. I use this strategy all the time now when I am faced with a challenge or deadline.   

How do you stay focused?

I find that keeping a schedule and looking at what I need to do each day incredibly helpful. I have certain things on my schedule that are set in stone, like my sessions with clients and my time at the gym, self-care is important! Other tasks I schedule but can move around if needed.

Things like making calls, getting billing done, and writing assignments if I am not hitting up against a deadline. I also make social time with friends and family and personal downtime a priority. Making time for that during the week also helps with staying focused. Seeing my weekly schedule gives me a visual on what my week is looking like and how I want to manage it. 

How do you differentiate your business from the competition?

I think I’m different than most psychotherapists in my area of expertise and in general. I am trained and certified in three different very effective behavioral therapies which have given me the skill sets to teach others how to manage stress and anxiety. I consider myself a skills queen. I can talk skills for days! I also think I have a great sense of humor (my mother agrees) which is helpful when trying to break through and talk about difficult topics such as anxiety.

I also have other interests outside of the office which include writing and finding creative ways to reach and help as many people as I can who struggle with anxiety. I recently finished writing and audio recording my first online course on stress management and created an App - the Progress Wellness App that gives on the spot coping skills based on whatever challenging emotion you are experiencing at that moment.

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

You mean besides Kristin Marquet? :) Just Kidding! I think creating an entire system that leads people to my website where they can learn more about me and my practice has been helpful. Pinterest, Instagram, and my blog to name a few are all different strategies to show people who I am, my style as a therapist, and the work I do.

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

Take one step at a time. It’s OK if you have no idea what comes next. I didn’t and I still don’t! I take all the mistakes I’ve made and see them as learning opportunities. Without the flops, I wouldn’t know what I know now. So embrace uncertainty and the mistakes that go along with building a new business. We learn by doing, so go do!

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

Ok, I’m not going to lie - my favorite App is Candy Crush. I know. I’ve been playing it for years and find it can be a helpful skill for me when I need a 5-10 minute brain break from whatever it is I’m doing. My favorite blog right now is Lucie’s list. Her blog is about pregnancy and each week you get an article from her on what’s happening to your body that week and what to think about (creating a registry to breastfeeding tips).

My favorite book at the moment is Difficult Conversations by Bruce Patton, Douglas Stone, and Sheila Heen. It discusses different communication styles and how to navigate more effectively through conflict. I recommend it so much, I should buy stock in it.

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

OK, so I am going to say my online calendar is one of my favorite tools. It collects and tracks all payments I receive, it organizes my life and is easy to use, which I like as I am one of the more technologically challenged people I know. I used to have a paper datebook and really fought leaving the old school method. So glad I gave in!

Who is your business role model? Why?

Alison Ratner-Mayer is a child and adolescent therapist in the Boston area. She and I do very different things and because of that have different businesses. Although we both are clinicians, she has built her business to include two counseling groups and she has a multitude of wonderful clinicians working for her. I admire how creative she is in building her business and her advice and feedback to me have been incredibly helpful in creating and expanding my own brand.

What do you have planned for the next six months?

Well, I have a new baby so that will be a major piece on my plate over the next several months. On the business front, I am interested in doing more online courses for anxiety and continuing to think about ways in which I can build my business outside of my private practice office. I see a lot of brainstorming in my future.

How can our readers connect with you?

I can be reached via email at angela@progresswellness.com. My website progresswellness.com also has more information about me and my practice and has a contact form you can fill out that gets sent directly to my email.

 

Q&A with Aida Yodites

Aida Yodites

Aida was eager to hit the ground running straight out of college with her BA in Marketing. She spent her formative years with the Walt Disney Company working alongside and learning from writers, graphic artists, and creatives. Aida then segued from entertainment into the booming SoCal biotechnology industry, successfully building “MarCom” departments for two biotechnology start-up companies. One moment with her daughter was the catalyst that sent Aida from working in science to manufacturing girl’s undergarments relatively overnight.

Can you tell our readers about your background?

I received a BA in Business Administration with an emphasis in Marketing. I hit the ground running in my field straight out of college. I spent my formative years with The Walt Disney Company, where I held various marketing and communication roles. I then segued into the biotechnology field where I was able to exercise my growing MarCom skills in a completely different industry. In my most recent professional role, I spent 5 years building the Corporate Communications Department for a renewable chemicals start-up company.

What inspired you to start your business?

My young daughter was the sole inspiration behind Delicate Seams. She walked in my room one morning as she was getting ready for school and expressed how dissatisfied she was with her current undergarment selection. I thought she was joking. It was when she became visibly upset, that I realized that her plea was genuine. That was the catalyst that sent me on my entrepreneurial journey.

Where is your business located?

My business is a based out of Murrieta, California.

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

I started my business by first and foremost doing a ton of research. I spent months looking for the right undergarment product for my daughter. While on that quest, I had learned the “gap” in the current market and the competitive landscape pretty easily and organically. I then did a lot of online research about the manufacturing and apparel industry. I also spoke to any professional in the industry that would lend me their time. I continue to do this today.

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

The most effective way of raising awareness for my business has been “getting out there”! What I mean by this, is by making personal connections with as many different organizations, groups, and networks as possible. This could mean joining social media groups and circles, attending retail and wholesale shows, or meeting a stranger on a plane who may be a great business connection. I’m not going to grow my business sitting behind a desk. I know that I make a much stronger impact when I’m connecting with people.

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

One of the biggest challenges with my business is having to learn “on the fly” about an industry that I have zero background and experience in. I came from the biotechnology field and entered the apparel/retail business. In essence, I went from working in the science industry to manufacturing girl’s underwear relatively overnight! I’m overcoming this challenge by continually reaching out and learning from any expert or successful person that I meet or become connected to in the apparel/retail industry.

How do you stay focused?

I stay focused by doing two things – Creating a daily list of tasks and keeping a daily routine as much as possible. Being an entrepreneur can be very overwhelming if you look at it from afar. I try to triage the tasks at hand for my business every day, then I tackle the list one item at a time. I am amazed at what I can get accomplished in a day. A daily routine allows normalcy and balance, which is necessary to running a successful business.

How do you differentiate your business from the competition?

I differentiate myself from others by emphasizing that Delicate Seams not only offers a product with great function and fit. But we are a brand that is introducing fabrics and trims in a way like nobody else because we promote modesty and appropriateness in all of our styles. We are also a brand that promotes positive messages to young girls at an age that is so impressionable - That modesty matters and embracing that we all come in different shapes, sizes and skin tones. We are truly building confidence in young girls one bralette at a time.

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

I think the most effective marketing strategy that has helped grow my business has been my partnership with the mother/daughter ministry group, Secret Keeper Girl. I am one of their first official sponsors for their national tour. As a result, their following has become a number one customer source for Delicate Seams. Moreover, when I ask people how “they found” Delicate Seams, more often than not, I’m told through “Secret Keeper Girl”. So, I think this partnership has been a great marketing move for me.

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

My best piece of advice for aspiring entrepreneurs would be this - Don’t let every obstacle stop you in your tracks. Stop signs cause you to second guess yourself. Very early on, if something didn’t go right for me, I would ask myself “Is this a sign that I need to stop?” Then I started to realize that if something became an obstacle, it just meant that there was a different solution, or a better way of doing something. In other words, obstacles are really detour signs – just look left, right, or behind you for a better way, but don’t stop!

What’s your favorite app, blog or book and why?

My favorite app right now is Grasshopper. This phone app allows me to capture my customers’ phone messages while I’m on the road. The app transcribes voicemails into a text and relays them straight to my phone. Most recently, we had our first “lost” package and a customer left me a voicemail. Within an hour of receiving her message that her package was not received on time, I personally contacted her to apologize and to let her know that we were going to replace her misplaced package immediately. The customer was so pleasantly stunned that I (the Founder) personally contacted her, and she ended up writing a beautiful testimonial about Delicate Seams that is now posted on our website.

What’s your favorite business tool or resource and why?

My favorite business resource is StartUpFashion.com. It is a “one-stop-shop” community for aspiring designers, of all skill levels. The website offers a plethora of business tools and templates used in the design/apparel industry, as well as, current resources for upcoming events in the retail industry. In addition, they offer live interactive webinars and their Facebook group is very friendly and helpful. I’ve actually received great information from other designers/entrepreneurs and I’ve had the opportunity to lend my voice and help others as well.

Who is your business role model and why?

My business role model is a former employer who was the Founder and President of a very successful company. Even though he has since passed, he is still my biggest role model for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, he started his company out of his garage, which is exactly the way so many successful businesses have started. This man was not only one of the smartest people I’ve ever met, but he had so much passion for his company and life in general. He is a testament to hard work and passion paying off. He once told me something that has resonated with me - He said, “Aida, you have the most impeccable instinct that I’ve ever seen in someone.” I believe that he really meant those words, because there have been many instances on my business journey where my instinct has been my only guide. So far, my instinct has always been right.

What do you have planned for the next 6 months?

The next 6 months are going to be pretty busy for me and Delicate Seams. I will be promoting my brand at some big retail shows coming to Southern California and Las Vegas. I will also be rolling out in-home trunk shows, which is a more exclusive event for mothers and their daughters to experience Delicate Seams in a very unique and fun-filled way.

How can readers connect with you?

Readers can connect with me on:

facebook.com/Delicate Seams

Instagram/delicateseams

Linkedin/Delicate Seams, LLC

Q&A with Kate Bagoy

Kate Bagoy

Kate Bagoy is an award-winning consultant & coach for entrepreneurs. After quitting a corporate dream job, Kate moved to Silicon Valley and fell in love with startups and entrepreneurship. The valley wasn’t a fit, but she caught the startup bug & has been working with entrepreneurs at all stages ever since - working with more than 50 startups as a designer, marketer, product manager, strategist, advisor, coach and consultant.

Can you tell our readers about your background?

I studied graphic design in college and landed a sweet job with a Fortune 500 company within a year. It was a my dream job for awhile, but it slowly turned into a nightmare.

I quit that job without a plan, started freelancing and went back to school to earn a Masters in Business. At the time, the goal was to lead product innovation in the Valley… but after moving to the Bay Area for a job, I realized I really wanted to run my own business.

I struggled for a few years to get traction until I started really investing in my business and learning from more successful business owners.

In 2017, after having a successful couple of years in business, I left the US to travel full-time as a location-independent consultant and coach.

I work primarily with new consultants and entrepreneurs who want support growing their business and tactics for becoming financially and location-independent.

What inspired you to start your business?

I initially got started as a freelancer just to get out of my day job, which later became business & design consulting for startups.

Years later, I jumped into coaching because I believe life is too short to just exist.

I spent years in a self-made prison… burnt-out and trapped in a cubicle I hated, spending money on stuff that didn’t fill the void, drinking to avoid dealing with anything…

Now I help people move forward inspire the fear and doubt that’s kept them trapped before, and give them effective strategies for getting their life or business where they want to go.

Where is your business based?

My business is conducted 100% online. I’ve lived in 17 different countries in the last year as a digital nomad, but I spend the most time in Portland, London, Bangkok, Barcelona and Melbourne.

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

My first business was a disaster. I quit my job without a plan and basically spent months cold calling, writing emails, working with anyone who would hire me. Don’t do that.

When I started consulting again years later, I approached things very differently. I started by investing in training and coaching to learn what I needed.

Then I got amazingly clear on who my client was and what they needed that I could provide better than anyone else.

I built a website that targeted that specific need, used every keyword related to that business in my LinkedIn Profile and started helping people. I’d share helpful content, volunteering at events, going to networking breakfasts… and basically building relationships.

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

I’d say it’s a fairly even split between meeting people at events (like conferences or volunteering), referral marketing and social media / content marketing.

As a freelancer, LinkedIn was a source of more than 50% of my income - I got most of my business organically by people who found me in search, clicked through and booked an appointment. The rest of my income came from referrals and people I met local tech and marketing events.

As an online coach and consultant, Instagram and Facebook had been a big factor in my growth. I focus my effort on organic Instagram engagement and paid Facebook Ads.

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

My biggest challenge have always been mindset, money and energy.

When I pivoted into coaching I thought I was simply growing my exiting business but I was dead wrong. It was an entirely new business and far more difficult than I anticipated. Which means I failed to plan for it financially.

I simultaneously left the country to travel with Remote Year, and failed to anticipate how that would effect me energetically.

The problem with burnout is that it sneaks up on you until it completely shuts you down - and then it takes forever to recover from.

Now my biggest challenge is growing a business while struggling with physical exhaustion and a lack of funds.

How I move forward is slowly… but I don’t give up.

The more entrepreneurs I work with, the more I am convinced that the survival rate of a new business has less to do with the right ideas or perfect strategy than it does the founders willingness to keep going when things are hard and problem solve.

How do you stay focused?

I start my days with a gratitude list and then get focused on what’s most important. I write down the 3 most important things to get done that day, and I do those first if I can.

I say NO to a lot of things, spend little time in email, rarely use social media and unsubscribe to things with a vengeance.

When in doubt, I ask myself if the activity is revenue driving.

How do you differentiate your business from the competition?

As a coach my differentiation has more to do with my personality than any other factor, which is a big shift from previous businesses I’ve run.

My clients want to work with me because of my energy and authenticity. I don’t sugar coat things and make outrageous claims just to make sales, and my ideal clients appreciate that.

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

I tripled my email list and opt-in rate when I started offering webinars on evergreen.

I’ve now switched to video training which are also highly-effective when combined with targeted social media posts. Quizzes, and video posts perform best for getting people into the funnel.
For example, I’ll run an ad that links to a quiz, which pre-qualifies the leads and directs them to an email opt-in for a free video training or to book a strategy call.

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

Pay yourself first and pay yourself well.

This likely means raising capital before you want to, but in my experience, most new businesses fail because the founder failed to plan for his or her financial needs and runs out of money and energy.

Take a business loan early and invest in the right training, tools and support for your business up front so you can grow.

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

Secrets of Six Figure Women by Barbara Stanny. I read it close to a decade ago and doubled my salary within two years. I recommend it to nearly every woman I meet.

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

WiFi! Because it allows me to run my business from anywhere in the world.

Who is your business role model? Why?

Tony Robbins, because he’s gotten immensely wealthy doing what he loves and changing lives. If I can impact one person the way his programs have impacted me I will have been successful in life.

What do you have planned for the next six months?

Massive growth for my training program, Six Figure Freelancers, and a podcast launch.

How can our readers connect with you?

Visit me online at katebagoy.com or sixfigurefreelancers.com

http://instagram.com/kbagoy

http://facebook.com/kbagoy

http://twitter.com/kbagoy

http://pinterest.com/kbagoy

http://linkedin.com/in/katebagoy

 

Q&A with Sisters and Co-Founders, Hannah and Ariel

Hannah and Ariel

HappyBoxStore.com is a sister-owned online gifting platform that allows users to build-a-care package tailored to their recipient, with affordability in mind. It’s simple: pick a box design, choose  gifts to include, pick a card and write a note, and the HappyBoxStore.com team packs and ships directly to your recipient for free.

Can you tell our readers about your background?

We’re two sisters with similar, yet complimentary backgrounds. I am a marketing strategist and an MBA, and Ariel is a creative mastermind--she’s our Creative Director and designer. We both have been working in advertising and marketing agencies for years, and started HappyBoxStore.com as our side hustle which we hope to grow to be full-time.

What inspired you to start your business?

The thought behind our business started in college. Ariel had a bad break up, and I wanted to send her a care package, since we lived in different states and I couldn’t give her a hug. So, I curated a “Break Up Box!” I realized that I had to run all over town to find all these items and then had to wait in line at the post office. While worth it, I thought it was super time consuming and expensive, so I looked online to see if anyone had created a more modern gift basket company. What was out there was super expensive or not personalized, so I pitched the idea to my sister and we together started brainstorming and ultimately built the site and launched our business!

Where is your business based?

We are based in Hoboken, NJ. But we’re an e-commerce company that ships globally!

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

First we did started our “proof of concept” stage, which was a small website and a ton of user surveys and interviewing people to find out what they wanted out of a gift experience. Then we launched our minimum viable product, our curated box collection, which had pre-created gifts for various occasions. Finally, after learning a lot about our customers and their desire for ultimate customization, we launched our “build a care package” offer last July, which was a major but great pivot for us!

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

Word of mouth and our local startup community. We feel so honored that people enjoy working with us and creating fun gifts for their friends so they spread the word for us.

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

Balancing our full time jobs, social lives, and Happyboxstore.com is hard. We set deliberate goals for each time we work together, and have accepted that we won’t be able to accomplish everything at one time. We overcome our challenges by celebrating each win and taking real breaks from our work lives with spa days and vacations to refresh ourselves. It’s much needed!

Our second major business challenge is trying to learn while doing. This is our first ever attempt at e-commerce, so we’re starting with zero experience. We have business advisors and mentors who are invaluable to us; they are successful entrepreneurs who constantly challenge our hypotheses and make us think bigger when we get stuck in tactics. One of our mentors is constantly emailing us ideas and research he does for fun to help us out, it’s amazing.

How do you stay focused?

An on-going to-do list! We try to stick to accomplishing simply 2-3 things in every meeting. Our list is a LOT longer, but we get sidetracked and don’t get very far if we try to do everything at once.

How do you differentiate your business from the competition?

Price point and free shipping. We try stay approachable and affordable so gifting is never a hassle and never breaks the bank.

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

Search advertising by far, followed by influencer marketing. Search drives the most conversions in a direct and trackable way, but influencers on social media who talk about our business drive so much peripheral benefit in addition to conversion - they provide SEO benefits plus the credibility we need as a small company.

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

Use every opportunity to learn. Seek advice from seasoned entrepreneurs and attend entrepreneurship events. Inhale entrepreneurial books, blogs, and podcasts. Every car ride my sister and have together, we’re listening to a Ted talk, or an audiobook about growing and scaling our business. You have to be curious and constantly want to learn and improve.

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

The Lean Startup by Eric Ries has taught us a lot of important lessons about measurement and approaching a startup with true deliberation.

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

There are so many great books, podcasts, and blogs, but to be honest earning my MBA was such a great experience that not only taught me a lot but also connected me with such brilliant professors and people who definitely guided the way for us to start this business. They are still mentors of mine to this day.

Who is your business role model? Why?

Sara Blakely. Her stories of shipping boxes out of her apartment are too, too real. We love her because she is so open and honest about not really knowing what she was doing but being confident and going for it. That’s how we feel - lost sometimes but always learning and staying true to our aspirations. Also, Tony Hseih. His approach to customer service really resonates with us and we think about it every single day and with every customer interaction. It can really set a company apart, as he has proved at Zappos.

What do you have planned for the next six months?

For the next six months, we have some PR aspirations since we haven’t really done too much proactive PR. We also are focused on perfecting the user experience and creating some features that will make our “build a gift” care packages even easier!

How can our readers connect with you?

IG: @happyboxstore

email: hello@happyboxstore.com

Q&A with Singer Jenn Bostic

Jenn Bostic

Can you tell our readers about your background? 

I grew up in small-town Minnesota and have been singing for as long as I can remember. Music was a part of our family, something we did together. My dad was unfortunately killed in a car accident when I was ten years old, and songwriting became the therapy that got me through that traumatic experience. I threw myself into music, went off to study at Berklee College of Music in Boston, and shortly after moved to Nashville, Tennessee, where I live now.

I recorded my first album in 2009, and was told my music industry executives that I was “Too pop for country and too country for pop.” It was during the writing and recording of my sophomore album, Jealous, that I truly tapped into the depths of my soul and with co-writers, Zach Runquist and Jimmy Fortune, penned the song that changed my life, “Jealous of the Angels.” This song is a deeply personal tribute to my father, and through a passionate fan across the pond, it was played on Smooth Radio, BBC Radio 2, I performed it on BBC Breakfast, and it went #1 on the iTunes singer/songwriter chart in the UK. That song brought me to the stage of the Grand Ole Opry, which was a dream come true, but more importantly, it allowed me to heal and connect with fans in a way I never realized my music would allow. I strive to write from the bottom of my heart and bring messages of hope and encouragement into the world.  

What inspired you to start your music career? 

I do think it had a lot to do with the introduction of music at an early age and the challenges that I have faced.

Where do you call home?

Nashville, Tennessee. 

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

I studied Music Education at Berklee College of Music in Boston because I love working with kids and I knew how powerful expressing myself through music had been for me. I enjoyed the program and followed through with my student teaching, but upon graduation, I just knew in my heart that if I didn’t step out and pursue a life as a performing and recording artist I would always regret it. I then moved to Nashville and recorded my first album.

I had some amazing friends and mentors along the way to guide me. When I finished the album I wanted to go out tour but didn’t have an agent or the first clue about getting one. I picked up the phone and started asked coffee shops if I could perform in their venues, sometimes just for tips. Before I knew it, I had a three-week long tour with a friend of mine booked and it was still one of the best, most educational experiences of my life.

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

Social media is an incredible tool. Since I have fans of the music around the world, I think it’s really important to stay connected. Consistent posting, live online performances, and email updates have been great resources. I am constantly touring, and that in-person connection is absolutely the most powerful.

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

Losing my dad was the biggest challenge my family and I have ever had to face. It was so sudden that it took an incredibly long time to process and find a way to truly grieve. I’m so grateful that music allows me that opportunity.

Performing “Jealous of the Angels,” did not come easy at first. I hadn’t talked about losing my dad much before the song was written, but performing it live almost forced me into sharing my vulnerable story over a microphone. However, realizing that the worst day of my life had somehow channeled into a song that could bring hope and comfort to grieving hearts around the world, made every painful moment of performing that song worth it.

How do you stay focused?

Self-care is so important. I have learned over the years that I need to take time for myself to rejuvenate. I am the most effective performer when I am at my best. I try to eat healthily and exercise out on the road, and although it’s difficult I really try to get at least 7 hours of sleep each night. 

How do you differentiate yourself from the competition? 

There’s a place for all the art that’s being created. I think what sets me apart is that my story isn’t the same as anyone else’s. The more honestly and authentically I share my story through the songs I write, the more unique my brand and my music becomes. While the general ideas and concepts of the songs will resonate with many, the specific lyrical moments and styles are my own.

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

Understanding what I do well. I have been able to best connect with an audience through my honesty and vulnerability. Therefore, when I’m writing a new song, my audience has given me the freedom to be raw, emotional and real. I have stopped trying to think about what the radio wants to hear and I write music that inspires and encourages me. That authenticity comes through in the songs and I truly believe it pulls people to a connection.

What's your best piece of advice for aspiring and new musicians, or working women in general? 

Stay true to yourself and stand firm for what you believe in. Your work matters and you are strong enough to achieve the success you desire.

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

I love the “Jesus Calling” app. It’s a daily dose of faithful encouragement that sets the tone for my day. No matter what background you come from, the author’s writing is full of love and hope. The perfect way to start any morning. 

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

There’s an app called “Thank You Pro” that I have just started using. This app allows you to design and mail a physical card straight from your phone, using personal photographs and signatures. I believe little personal touches can mean so much. When I perform at an event, sending a little note of thanks with a personalized photo on the cover spreads a little extra appreciation.

Who is your role model? Why? 

My mom. She is the strongest woman I have ever known. She lost her husband, and gracefully raised two children on her own. She was a professional model, make-up artist, flight attendant and pageant winner. She is a true dream chaser and continues to be. She now performs in community theater productions in Sarasota, Florida, where she lives.

What do you have planned for the next six months? 

I am so excited to be releasing my brand new album “Revival,” today on Amazon. It is my favorite album I have ever recorded and pulls from my influences of blues, soul, pop, gospel, and country. I toured the album through the UK during, as well as Mexico and the United States throughout the summer. I truly hope this album encourages and empowers people to believe they can overcome any obstacle.

How can our readers connect with you?

All of my contact information and music is available on my website at www.jennbostic.com, and I am personally active on all my social networks as well. Thanks for taking the time to chat with me!

Q&A with Entrepreneur Valeria Duflot

 Photo Credit: Sebastian Fagarazzi / Venezia Autentica

Photo Credit: Sebastian Fagarazzi / Venezia Autentica

Valeria Duflot is the co-founder and startup CEO of the social business Venezia Autentica. She is a believer in the digital world, tech,  innovation, social justice, and sustainability. Valeria holds degrees in Health & Biology and Business Administration and is a neuro and mental health advocate.

Can you tell our readers about your background? 

I'm a 30 year old well-traveled Frenchy with a serious need to try to make things around me better. I'm convinced that business can and should be used to make a positive impact on our world.

Before Venezia Autentica I co-started and co-run a business focused on giving a platform to creative entrepreneurs, worked as a consultant in the healthcare industry and  (co)-organised and curated numerous events and festivals in the field of tech, innovation, performance arts, and entrepreneurship.

I also started researching and developing a couple of businesses ideas that I later paused, one because I realized that it wouldn't work, at least not the way I wanted to go about it,  the other one when I had the idea of Venezia Autentica. 

I hold degrees in Health and Biology and Business Administration and have been living abroad more or less continuously since 2011.

My current venture, Venezia Autentica, is a social business I've co-founded to halt the exodus of the Venetians who are pushed out off their city by unregulated mass tourism. We are trying to do so by making it easy for visitors to feel like locals in Venice while making a positive impact on the life of the Venetians.

What inspired you to start your business? 

I had a 'Eureka ' moment after living in Venice for a few months with my boyfriend, and co-founder Sebastian, who is a native Venetian. 

Due to our interactions and the ones with the people around us,  I was aware of the struggles Venetians face to stay in their city as well as the 'theme-parkisation' of Venice. 

One day, when having a walk, I found myself in between a huge guided group of day trippers and a bunch of young Venetians men who were singing local songs and harboring the Venetian flag. 

I knew the impact that day tourism had on the city and remembered that when my friend and I first visited Venice, we had a completely different approach and that we really enjoyed taking our time and spending time with local artisans who shared their world with us. 

Thinking about this, it suddenly hit me,  I realized that my friend and I couldn't have been the only tourists looking forward to meeting locals, and to support authentic businesses. I thought to myself that if a part of the 30 million tourists coming to Venice yearly would spend their time and money in the right places, and especially at the local businesses then it could have a huge impact on the 55,000 Venetian residents future and the city itself. 

No one was doing anything really to help the Venetians, so I decided that if I could convince Seba to come on board, we would do it ourselves.

Where is your business based?

We're based in Venice, Italy but being a digital company, we are accessible everywhere in the world.

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

The first thing I had to do was to convince my partner in life to work with me on this project as I couldn't see it making any sense without someone who knew the problem from the Venetian perspective in and out. Moreover, as Sebastian and his family used to run a local business in Venice, his insights were invaluable for the success of our project.  So, my first move was to get the right co-founder.

To convince him, I started mocking the website and drawing a rough business model idea focussing on understanding what we wanted to do, how, and who we wanted to touch. Once Sebastian on-boarded, we started taking a lot of time to brainstorm on our strategy, mission and business model. We aimed at understanding how to approach the challenge and what was feasible. Once we had a reasonable idea of what we were going to be, we immediately started working on defining our identity and quickly got online on social media making Facebook our hub for communication.

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

Being present and consistent online has been the most efficient way of raising awareness for our cause and business, so far. Press and media features are also doing wonder to help us broaden our reach and spread our message to a bigger audience.

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

The most significant challenges we've been facing have been to:

1/ Running a business with my better half.  

It is not always easy to separate the personal from the professional. We're overcoming it by clearly allocating responsibilities and tasks while keeping each other accountable and taking all the big decisions together. And we work in different rooms. 

2/Not being in the middle of an ecosystem. 

I used to live in Bangalore, India, where the entrepreneur and creative ecosystem was striving. I could access entrepreneurs of all kind and of all stages, attend meetups and events very easily. These are things that I miss. I find it essential to have the opportunity to speak with people who understand what you are going through. In Venice, there is no such ecosystem and having been in the center of the action I'm aware of the fact that we're missing something. I try to compensate by doing a lot of online reading, learning and attending events in Paris where I go regularly and where the startup scene is growing.

3/Lack of resources:

Like many bootstrapped startup we have limited resources and plenty of needs and ambitions. We've made this limitation a strength by learning to trust ourselves and to learn to do almost everything while recognizing when certain things are beyond our capacity and better outsourced.

How do you stay focused?

I like this question because the more I learn, the more I realize that productivity is crucial and that productivity is, mainly, focus.

I stay focused by doing 3 things: 

1/ Continually creating and evolving a routine which fits me and my objectives, by working on building habits

2/ Removing interruptions 

3/ Using a system of daily to-do lists matched to our company roadmaps. 

I introduce new habits progressively to make them part of my routine more easily or find a better way to do so.  Indeed, I found that implementing big dramatic changes, New Year's resolution style didn't work with me, while let's say introducing one new habit at a time such as  'spending 40 min learning something new' for example, was doing the trick. 

Regarding my to-dos, I organize my daily tasks by priority, identifying the must do of the day and always keeping space for improvisation, opportunities and, obviously, to put out fires. My to-do lists are made of daily micro or routine tasks (checking e-mail, learning something new..)  and 5 to-dos of the day, within which 3 are absolute must do. When I'm too tired to continue working and that I have completed these 3 tasks along with my micro-tasks, I stop working and prioritize rest or leisure,  as taking the risk to burn out or have a migraine attack is never a good idea, according to me. After all, founding a business is more a marathon than a sprint. You need to last the distance.

Something else I do is to remove as many interferences as I can, by filtering my mailbox, checking e-mails and socials at set times, and trying to take calls and meetings only when necessary. The latest one being the part I still struggle the most with as it is not always easy to say 'This is not part of our priorities right now, we'll be happy to meet with you at the right time,"

During the day, I always have a notebook and agenda with me at all time as well as note-taking application on my cell phone.   I use them to write ideas I do not want to forget, and schedule tasks to the following days. This is the best method I've found to achieve the essential objectives of my day without splitting my attention nor fearing to love a valuable idea for my venture.

How do you differentiate your business from the competition? 

We differentiate ourselves from our competition at several levels.

We have a clear purpose. We exist to solve an identified and relatable present social problem, the displacement of a local population due to mass tourism

We offer a tangible solution. The way we tackle the exodus, by focusing on keeping the Venetians in Venice by supporting the local businesses, is easy to grasp and people understand that they can actually help and make a difference,

We know our stakeholders. Our founding team has a deep first-person understanding of all our stakeholders' experience.

We design for people. All our content and tools are conceived with the users in mind.  Our approach is focused on people empowerment, user-friendliness, customer satisfaction, and impact.

We create impact. Every one of our articles, information, and travel tools are designed to improve, directly, the quality of the experience of the travelers and positively impact the local community. 

We create circularity.  We make it easy and highly rewarding for the people who use our platform and the people who work with us to make the right choices and to be driven to continue doing so. Each of the positive decisions they make has a positive impact on not only themselves but also others, ultimately encouraging all stakeholders to repeat the right behavior leading to a wonderful virtuous circle.

We are authentic and approachable. We do what we do because we care and we know that we cannot do it alone. This is something we consistently communicate, and we make a point to make it easy for people to feel close to us and reach out.

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

Getting online on social media early on and making our voice and identity unique and clear since the beginning has definitely been important to bring us where we are today. 

Being authentic and seeing marketing as a way to bring our message to more people to increase awareness and impact is key.  

I see marketing as a service to our cause and our audience. The message we spread, the message they receive should be useful to them each time. It should be an opportunity for them to learn or feel something. I am convinced that when people believe you, enjoy your voice and feel close to you and your cause they are more likely to get on board, support you economically and even champion you.

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

Know your why, be true to yourself and your values and stay focused. Do not let anyone deter you from trying. Do not let anything stop you or corrupt you. Be driven by what you have to accomplish and confident that people who need it will welcome it with happiness and even champion you. 

Off course, the road is full of obstacles, but it is also what makes it enjoyable. Each new challenge is a unique opportunity for learning and growth, a new opportunity to define who you are as an entrepreneur and a human being. 

Venezia Autentica is still a startup, but I've learned so much from it already, about work and myself. What felt like the end of the world a year ago is something which I barely notice now, something I am detached from but gives me the right boost of energy to accomplish more. The thing I love about entrepreneurship too is that no matter what your venture will end up being, successful or not, no one will ever be able to strip you from what you've learned and who you've become.

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

I use many apps and I couldn't do without them. It's a tough choice, but I'd probably say Evernote. I use the paid version, and it is well worth the money. I love being able to record interviews with the business owners we work with or walking meetings with the app or just screenshot full articles to read them later.

Favorite book? This is a tough one. One book I'm reading now which I thoroughly enjoy is 'Heal Me' by Julia Buckley. It is not a business book but a memoir written by a brilliant British female journalist in her 30's and telling her struggle with chronic pain and her search for a cure. She travels the world in search of the person who will heal her, trying desperately to get her life back, to stop being in pain when her local healthcare system failed her. Her story brings many important topics on the table. She's courageous and vulnerable. Her voice is self-aware, witty and unapologetic. An absolute must-read.

I don't really have a favorite blog. I change the blogs I read like I change socks. It all depends on my interest or question of the moment. I find myself often landing on Medium as the variety of their writers equals only the diversity of the topics you can see discussed on the platform.

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

My favorite business resources are currently Quora and Twitter. 

The first one because it allows you to learn just about everything related to business, and beyond, as so many experts, experienced entrepreneurs and leaders take some of their time to share incredible insights on the platform. 

I also love Twitter as it makes keeping up with the latest niche news in tech for example easy.

Who is your business role model? Why? 

Pope Francis!  He's not exactly in business, but I believe he's an excellent role model because of his ability to be fearless and use his voice and position to challenge the status quo while leading one of the oldest, most conservative and probably least agile institution in the world.

Did you know that there is a startup accelerator at the Vatican, now?

Speaking of innovation, I admire Elon Musk for his genius and audacity and for steering the world towards a greater and more sustainable future while at the same time remaining conscious of our limits and trying to push boundaries as much as he tries to protect us from our very nature.

Finally, the work that Ellen Mac Arthur does with her foundation to accelerate the transition to a circular economy is, I believe, outstanding and of great importance.  It is a bold move and an ambitious cause. I applaud her undertaking, and I am convinced of the importance of her work while very glad that the person leading the way towards such a significant shift is a woman.

What do you have planned for the next six months? 

In the next six months, we aim to continue testing our model and make the right adjustments to our strategy and products, assess the impact of our first year in business, nail down our customer acquisition, increase our reach and sales and raise funds.

I firmly believe that to be a successful social business, to be able to make a significant difference, the most important thing that we need to achieve is to have a robust business model, be sustainable and able to grow.

How can our readers connect with you? 

You can follow our work with Venezia Autentica on

Twitter: @veneziaautentic

Instagram: @veneziaautentica 

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

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/company/venezia-autentica

and connect with me on:

Twitter: @duflotvaleria 

Linkedin: https://fr.linkedin.com/in/valeriaduflot/en