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 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







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 Jenna Reiss

Jenna Reiss

Jenna Reiss, Intuitive Healer, Writer, Founder & Lead Breathwork Meditation Coach at Breathe Accented Life, believes in the personal power of oneself and works with clients helping them re-discover their higher-truth. Using a 2-part active breathing technique, intuitive guidance and life coaching tactics, and pulling from a toolbox of intuitive thinking, therapeutic conversation, essential oils and musical sound, she teaches individuals, groups and corporate clients how to detox the body from negative energy and create a heightened sense of awareness inwards. She believes that together we can heal the world, and it all begins by choosing love as a state of mind.  Link: http://www.breatheaccentedlife.com/

Can you tell our readers about your background?

My background is an eclectic one, beginning in my 20’s were I spent my time doing what every 20-something does, exploring the world, getting to know myself, learning how I fit in, if I fit in and most importantly, discovering where I belonged. I jumped around between industries, worked as a preschool teacher for a while, I moved to Spain to teach English where I volunteered in the disability classroom and came back to the states getting certified as a Behavioral Therapist and started working with children with Autism. It was in those early years that I realized I wasn’t making the impact I wanted to make in the world because I couldn’t work the school systems the way I had hoped. Just like that, I switched entirely and landed in the Advertising/Marketing world. I always knew that I wanted to help people, but I never knew exactly what that meant, or how it was going to come to life. Switching to Advertising, I felt like I could get some experience on big brands, and then start working for non-profits, or smaller companies with a strong message or product that helped better the world. For many reasons, over time I learned my non-profit marketing dream wasn’t going to happen, and although I was bummed about it, I was mostly bummed because I felt confused about the path I was on. I knew I was destined to be making a bigger splash in the world, to be helping people on a grander level and yet I also knew that where I was just wasn’t right.

Then trauma in my family happened, and as it works with trauma, I was shaken to my very core and found myself amidst a lot of pain, darkness and a completely unknown future. Although I would never wish trauma, or pain on anyone, this experience in a way, woke me up. Initially, I didn’t see it this way of course, and I was consumed with more darkness than I had ever experienced before. I felt like I had lost my ability to connect with people, and was now unsure how to open my heart to the level of connection with the world that I used to love. But, this trauma is also the reason I went searching for more. I knew there was more of life to be lived, that there was more than just waiting for Friday’s and the weekends to roll around. I knew that I had to take some leaps of faith.

My mother taught me how to meditate at a young age. I was an emotional child and unsure of how to work with my emotions, she gave me meditation as a tool and I began learning thought management. I didn’t know it was a meditation at the time, but over the years, it’s been fun to look back and see that my path was set up for me starting at a very young age, and I have my mother to thank for that.

When it came time to take some leaps of faith, after many tears and discussed fears, I got dropped off on a mountaintop in New Mexico and began studying with worldwide healers, authors and meditation instructors. I worked with a life and career coach to get clear on the path ahead, and three years later I can confidently say that my trauma cracked me wide open sending me on a healing journey, that I’m still on, and is the reason I was able to open my practice. It’s the reason I started working with people on a much deeper level, and it’s most definitely the reason I can feel surrounded by and within so much love in every class and workshop I teach, every group and private session I lead. Following my intuition, my inner voice, and allowing myself to say yes to experiences I knew were right although couldn’t see or prove why at the moment, and taking leaps of faith by believing in me, were the best decisions I ever made because they lead me to where I am today.

What inspired you to start your business?

I was inspired to start my business, Breathe Accented Life because, after more than a decade in the corporate marketing space, it was time to push against the day-to-day stressors and depletion that corporate America presents. I wanted to create a practice that empowers individuals to be their authentic selves because I had grown to see, to feel like that was a key element missing from my own 20-something search.

Growing up I was lucky and am grateful to have been supported in following my dreams. What was missing though was the societal conversation, the empowerment to explore who I really was, and what I wanted to do with my life. That is certainly not at the fault of my parents, or even teachers or mentors around me, it’s just not a conversation that I had found in my everyday. The job title that is my life purpose isn’t something that exists on a job hunting site and I therefore never knew it existed before creating it for myself. BUT, if we have a place and space for us to have the difficult deep-dive conversations into our individual definitions and self-understanding, if we have the tools to help us discover who we are, what our truth and essence really is, then we can confidently stand in the wholeness that is ourselves. Only then can we all go confidently after our dreams, make up our own job titles, and empower others to not be bogged down by their own baggage, history or old stories.

It is because of all that I had experienced in the corporate world, all that I experienced in my trauma, my pain, and all that I experienced in my own self-exploration in going after my dreams, that Breathe Accented Life was born. Breathe Accented Life is a Breathwork Meditation and Coaching practice where people are led through an active, guided meditation that ultimately opens their minds, moves the body’s energy and allows participants to connect with their truer essence. The goal is to help individuals recognize their own truth and ultimately experience healing, empowerment, and love in their own lives. I work with many major companies and brands, well-known meditation studios in the Los Angeles area, and private individuals educating people and their teams on the benefits of meditation and helping people look beyond their fears to realize their true self.

Where is your business based?

My business is based in two places, in Los Angeles, and online/everywhere else in the world. In the Los Angeles area, I work with many major companies, brands, well-known meditation studios, and private clients in person, educating people and their teams on the benefits of meditation and helping people look beyond their fears to realize their true self. And then the other 75% of my work is done online and I work with clients all over the world from San Francisco to Vancouver and Dubai. Working online through video chat is magnificent not only because it allows people all over the world to experience healing, but because it creates an online community of like-minded individuals who connect on a deep level over this powerful work, and create a community that stretches all over the world. I launched an online program this year called WILD HEARTS which is a group of individuals from all over the world joining online together once a week for healing, creation, and community. It’s extremely powerful to watch each individual learn from one another’s stories, connect over common themes in their lives and heal from the journey that we’ve all been taking. I love the combination of working both in person and online.

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

The most important step for me in starting my business was to get out of my minds fearful tricks and say yes to my intuition. It’s not always easy, and I know some people feel like they don’t have an inner voice, but I believe every person has that inner-knowing, their own psychic powers. It’s about learning how to listen to it because as you start listening to intuition, the voice gets louder, it grows, and it starts to become more of an inner-knowingness that you don’t have to prove to yourself because you’re just comfortable and confident in the knowing. Once you start asking the questions about what is next for you, what is the right step, the Universe starts to give you signs, answers, messages and it’s important to say yes. Saying yes to the strange, unique opportunities that fall in front of you, take you a step further to something else. Then your body starts gaining the knowledge and information it needs to say yes to the next interesting thing, and before you know it’s the funniest path how you got to where you are, but it becomes so clear that this is where you’re supposed to be. For me listening to my intuition, saying yes to the Universe, yes to the path even when it was extremely unclear what I was saying yes to and why was the most important step in getting me to starting my business.

One of those unique, intuitive steps I took was to begin working with a Business and Career Life Coach. It wasn’t an intentional step, something I knew I needed to do but it fell into my lap and I was willing to listen to my intuition telling me to say yes. I had no idea what new route my career was going to take, I didn’t know what new job, or even industry I was going to fall into, but I knew where I was no longer working and at that moment, that was enough for me to say yes to some unknowns. I strongly believe that we are all our own healers and that we have the ability to heal ourselves. With that said, no one should have to go on, or take their journey alone. It’s important to have an outside perspective, someone who supports you, guides you and helps you get out of your own way. My life coach is still very much a big part of my life, and I believe it’s important for all of us to lean on others as we take the scary steps towards our dreams. If we try to do it all alone, I find that we typically end up letting our fears, and our minds have too much control over our actions.

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

My answers to this aren’t tactical. More than anything else, I started by doing a lot of internal work, healing work on myself in order to get out of my own way and let some of the pieces fall into place. I had to start believing in myself, believing that working as my own boss, that launching my business and being successful was possible first. As I started growing those, raising awareness became less about taking action and more about talking confidently about what I’m doing with people that come my way and sounded like they could use support. If you believe you, if you know you can do something for someone, it’s less about convincing them because your confidence and energy speak for itself.

On that same front, once my confidence and self-worth had begun to heal, I was able to present myself confidently to studios in Los Angeles. I let those teaching opportunities fall into place and started teaching at the places that were right for me. Some of these studios had their own following, some were small, some were big, but all I needed to do was show up, hold space, and let the work speak for itself. From there people started telling their friends, their loved ones, and awareness began to spread.

Most importantly, in my experience raising awareness has been about leaning into TRUST. I trust that the Universe brings me the clients I want to be working with, I trust that the sessions, workshops will get filled with the people who are supposed to be there, and I trust in the path that I’m on so it unfolds as it’s meant to.

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

My biggest challenge has probably been a personal challenge I faced. Ironically enough, a few months prior to my trauma I started dating a man. He had only been in my life for 3 months when my world got turned upside down. Because of everything that was going on, I was struggling to understand what love really meant to me. As someone who wears her heart on her sleeve, almost always open, loving and trusting, I questioned love more than I ever had in life. I would get aggressively angry in that first year of us dating and me healing, unsure of how to let my frustration and pain be felt and released. I know I got mad at him more than once when he hadn’t done anything wrong. He responded one day with this - “ I know you’re not really mad at me, and that right now you’re so mad you just need to yell, so it’s okay, keep yelling at me if you need, but please know, there is nothing I can say to make you feel better so I’m just going to keep listening.”

And the part that will never leave me - “And I’m not going anywhere”. From that moment on, unconscious to me at the time and in the most unruly of situations, I let him into my heart. It wasn’t difficult in a way because it was so unconscious, it was as though my heart knew this was what was right for me. But over the years, my mind would question things and pull away by fear, and pain. One day, after an in-depth tarot card reading with my best friend, I felt a block release, and I made the most difficult, yet easiest and most impactful decision: he was my person, the only person I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. This decision opened my heart up even more, allowing my love of life to grow, our relationship to flourish, and professionally, the Universe started sending me more people to work with because I was able to help them heal their own unconscious, yet painful blocks in their life. So at the same time as my personal life grew, and I felt this internal and external decision of my love, my business began to flourish and I was able to connect with people in a completely new way.

From a business perspective, my biggest challenge has been getting out of my own way. Like many others in this world, my mind can be like a monkey, jumping around between thoughts, ideas, creations, doubts, fears, joys, love. I believe that staying true to my practices, to breathwork, to meditation, to my daily journaling and writing is what continues to help me overcome me standing in my own way. I work with myself each and every day, I use different practices and tools, and over time my monkey brain has gotten significantly better and more able to focus on love, focus on trust and on letting go into the Universal flow. Overcoming monkey brain might be something that’s always there, I’m not sure, but as I’ve watched myself improve over time, my faith in myself, in my business, it’s success and how it all unfolds, continues to grow stronger.

How do you stay focused?

Definitely my practices. I have a powerful morning practice that I’m generally good at sticking to and it really helps me set up the day for success. And my mid-day check-in practice has been extremely helpful in either turning a day around or reminding myself to go a little easier on me. If/when I’ve gotten off track, I have an alarm that goes off every day at 2pm reminding myself to acknowledge me for something I’m proud of and to call myself out for something I could have done better. No matter what path the day has gone down, once that alarm goes off it’s as though it’s a complete reset. I’m able to see where I can continue to grow and I’m able to treat myself with some kindness and pride in what I’ve already accomplished.

How do you differentiate your business from the competition?

I really don’t see other people, their practices, business’ and whatnot as competition, but rather as inspiration with the potential for collaboration. I was in a competitive industry for a long time, I was an athlete my whole life always competing, and although I understand that competition motivates some people, in my field, I genuinely feel that there is enough space for everyone. The client that is right for me, will always find me, and if they’re not right for me, or I’m not right for them, I’m grateful that there are other practitioners out there that can offer their support and guidance.

I do believe that what sets me apart is the simple fact that I’m me. Every energy worker, healer, teacher, or guide that I know has something different and powerful to provide. There is always something unique give to the world just purely based on the fact that we are all different beings. My background, my energy, and my style as a teacher and a coach is reflective of who I am, how I identify with and how I show up in the world. To me that means my clients, classes, and workshops will always be held with the utmost love and compassion, I will always show up as the full embodiment of myself, bringing what I’ve learned and what I’m feeling energetically, and I always promise to read between your words, pushing you up against your comfort zone so you can step into your fullness and release old stories, when your body is ready.

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

My marketing strategy has been a lot of learns. With my background being in Marketing, I’ve put together too many marketing strategy presentations from creative strategy, go-to-market strategy to social media ecosystems over the years and for major Consumer Packaged Goods, Automobile, and Confection brands. I learned that marketing for yourself, let alone specifically marketing yourself, was a completely different ballgame. Prior to launching my practice, I started putting together my business plan and all the documentation “they” say you’re supposed to make in order to create a successful business. Although a lot of the work we put into it absolutely helped shape my mission statement, my voice, and who my company was, I found that the most effective marketing strategy for the first year was to rely on word of mouth. The process of outlining my company goals, my unique selling proposition and gathering consumer research has been extremely helpful in understanding what people are looking for and for me to sell my corporate offerings. On the other hand, with the type of work that I do, a meditation practice combined with life coaching, people want to work with someone they trust and to grow trust and let someone in at this deep of a level, they need to hear about it from their friends. For this reason, and many more it never felt right or necessary to lay out an overarching plan on how to achieve maximum success. Success was, is happening already, and I actually needed to let go of my old corporate, analytical ways, allow the process to unfold and trust in the information and knowledge I already did have. Once I started doing that, that’s when things really began to take off.

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

My advice to anyone starting their own business, or to aspiring dream goers is to do your research, ask questions and take it slow. Information is power, it can help build your confidence, and personal strength as a business owner - if you allow it. BUT, it can also be overwhelming and bring you down - if you allow it. Find a mentor or mentors, take them to lunches, coffee’s, etc. and ask them questions, give yourself time to grow, and know that if you truly believe in what you're building, the Universe will help support the execution and the details.

There will always be challenges and roadblocks to overcome. The key is to BELIEVE. Believe in yourself, believe in what you're doing, believe in putting yourself out there, believe in having the hard conversations and answering the hard questions. Fear and doubt will always exist in some capacity, but it's up to you to decide how much strength and how much power you're going to let them have over you. As far as I'm concerned, if there isn't a little bit of fear in what I'm doing, then I'm probably playing it too safe and have gotten too comfortable with complacency.

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

Favorite app: Probably the Libby app which is the Los Angeles library app. Yup, you heard correctly, I have a library card and the app lets you listen to thousands of books from the library on your phone for free. It’s an incredible resource of information, I listen to fun fiction books, educational books to anything that I know will empower me with more knowledge and information to better serve my clients

Favorite blog: I don’t really follow a lot of blogs out there, but the one that’s been pretty consistent over the years is The Power Path. They have a monthly forecast where they discuss energetically what’s going on in the Universe both from an astrological perspective and from an energetic perspective, and their themes are always so on the money. They empower me daily, monthly reminding me that I’m not alone on this journey and to just take the ride as it comes.

Favorite Book: Over the years this answer definitely changes and right now I have two that have been in the top for the last 10 years, and one new one that’s just been added: First, The Female Brain by Louann Brizendine. This book should be read by any woman who wants to understand herself, her body, and her brain better, and don’t just see the movie, read the book first. Secondly, The Artist Way by Julia Cameron, for any creative who knows they are a creative or not, and they just don’t know how to let it out, how to express it or what to do with it. And third, would be Braving the Wilderness by Brene Brown because living life with a strong back and a soft front is the way I always strive to live my life.

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

I’m still working on figuring this out myself. There are so many systems, tools out there for small business owners, and everyone has their own preference. I’d say that first and foremost, Zoom has been my best friend. Doing most of my business online, I depend heavily on their program in many ways and even when they’ve frustrated me or I’ve had difficulties, their customer service has been all over the solution. So for anyone out there looking to connect with clients all over the world, as long as you have a strong internet connection, Zoom has been great. My second favorite resource is YouCanBookMe. It’s a specialized scheduling app and it makes booking clients, private, groups etc. exceptionally easy without becoming the time suck that going back and forth on scheduling can.

Who is your business role model? Why?

To start, and I’m quite surprised by my own answer but it feels right to say, my father. I have a difficult relationship with him as our family trauma was heavily reliant on him and the choices he made, but he has got to be the hardest working person I’ve ever known. He started his career in Hollywood sweeping floors and worked his way to being the boss of his department, has an incredible eye for what he does and almost always, at least used to, act with honor. I also feel grateful for the lessons his hard-working demeanor taught me not to do, one of the main lessons being that it’s not about working longer, or harder, it’s about working smarter. I want to always work through that lens.

My Life, Business and Career Coach, Sarah Khambatta is absolutely a business role model for me. This woman has been holding me true to my essence for the last 2.5 years. Never quite knowing what or how she was going to help me get out of my own head, she always seems to help the flowing tears, and the fears make sense. She guides me to see between my own words, helping me gain clarity on major life decisions while also empowering me with self-confidence when I’m not sure where it went. Together we turn my dreams into action, helping me manifest all my visions while always leaving room for more dreams to come true. And all the while, her story is incredibly inspiring, building her business from the ground up, expanding and now the president-elect of the International Coaching Federation, working with major brands all over the world. She continues to blow my mind and I’m grateful for her mentorship.

What do you have planned for the next six months?

Expansion baby! I have expansion on my mind, body, and soul and I’m saying yes to all of it! Over the next six months I’ll be leading retreats all over the world, starting with a few coming up this summer, some in Malibu, Santa Barbara, and then Virginia and Wyoming. Soon thereafter, international retreats, all events always empowering more people to step into their light and their authenticity. In the next six months, I’ll be working with my editor on getting my book on authenticity published and out into the world with a wonderful book deal.

Most of all, I’ll be allowing myself to stay in alignment with what is right for me, my business, and my expansion. I’ll be saying yes to all the right opportunities, trusting completely in what comes my way, and what doesn’t, and allowing the Universe to take me on this ride of life!

 How can our readers connect with you?

My website and Instagram are where I’m most active so you can always reach me eventually through one of those. It’s important to note that I am going through a rebrand, so what is now Breathe Accented Life will soon be my name - Jenna Reiss. And the best way to stay in touch on events, retreats and classes I have going on is to sign up for my newsletter which you can do through my website.

Website: http://www.breatheaccentedlife.com/

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

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AccentedLife/?ref=bookmarks


Q&A with Entrepreneur, Nicole Faith

Nicole Faith

Nicole Faith is a location independent entrepreneur that crafts online service businesses (niche, packaged services, website, copy, tech, + e-commerce) for aspiring digital nomads in just 1 week so they can work with clients as they travel the world at 10 Carat Creations (https://10caratcreations.com). By helping freelancers turn their expertise into a five star business, they can inject sanity, flexibility and profit to their own location independent life. She also founded the Digital Nomad Business Directory (https://nomadbusinessdirectory.com), the first and only directory of location independent businesses.



Can you tell our readers about your background?

I was the girl wearing the rainbow in school because fashion is expression! I lived for Teen Vogue and devoured fashion blogs as sustenance. Thinking I wanted to be a fashion journalist, I had four internships in the fashion industry while I went to NYU for communications. It took me that long and a career panel to realize you can be good at fashion and not work in fashion. Eureka! I went on to work at Squarespace for three years where I helped entrepreneurs build their online business. Eventually, my body told me what my mind already knew- I wasn’t meant to work for anyone but myself.

What inspired you to start your business?

I didn’t see anyone offering to build your online service business from A to Z with an emphasis on professionalism. I know that so many people want to quit their job or stop struggling as a freelancer so they can travel the world while they work. I can practically see their desperation seeping from their pores. I believe everyone deserves the freedom to travel and work on their terms if they have the skills to back it up. My business is not for the so-called experts, but the actual experts in their field who just need some help putting it all together. The digital nomad movement is full of hype but I’m here to talk about reality.

Where is your business based?

Everywhere there’s wifi!

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

My business started with an idea. I knew I wanted to work with aspiring digital nomads who were the best in their field. I envisioned the vibe I wanted to give off- professional and upscale. I brainstormed names and words as I scoured the thesaurus. Words like sophisticated, concierge, premier and elite graced my list.

I created a loose draft of my packaged services (Concept Concierge appointment & The Tycoon’s Box) and the process I wanted to follow. Giving your products a name makes them more real, but boy is it a journey coming up with the perfect name!

Once I nailed the name and product, I designed my website.

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

Getting consistent press has been a nice surprise that’s boosted brand awareness for 10 Carat Creations. LinkedIn outreach has also worked wonders. I understand better than most people that everyone has a different timeline for their goals. It’s not easy to drop your job or your clients and start a business today. I think my respectfulness towards people’s unique situations has hopefully earned me a place in their hearts so when they are ready, I’ll be here to help.

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

When I started freelancing, I made a website. I thought this meant I had a business but I was so wrong! I thought I had a business before I actually did. I freelanced for clients who needed web design, technical tutoring and copywriting, always feeling like they didn’t respect my expertise. I chased after clients, continually negotiated my rates, had no focus and couldn’t even get a testimonial out of them despite doing amazing work.

I was royally fed up with being treated like crap, the hallmark of a strung-out freelancer. I knew I was better than the work I was doing, the clients I attracted and the treatment I received. I backed away from freelancing to package my services while re-branding my entire business.

I think the biggest challenge for most people who quit their jobs to freelance, thinking it means freedom, is realizing a website is not a business. A business has processes, boundaries and focus. A website is just one piece of a business. You feel so official when you throw a website up and call it a business, but it’s anything but.

 How do you stay focused?

I naturally focus when I’m feeling creative and the ideas pour out of me. When I’m distracted or not in the mood, I walk away and do something else. Forcing myself to stare at the computer and complete a task I don’t want to do isn’t productive. I don’t have a set routine in place but I definitely work in bursts. I get 99% of my work done in 10% of my time.

 How do you differentiate your business from the competition?

Everyone tells you what to do if you want to quit your job, build a business, and travel the world. But it’s fluffy generic advice like “Pitch clients on Upwork or fiverr all day and live on poverty level in a cheap country!” Plus, no one actually does it for you.

As far as I know, I’m the only one who crafts an entire online service business in just 1 week so you can take on clients immediately.

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

Using LinkedIn strategically and writing articles that resonate with my audience. I like to connect with freelancers who have one foot out of the 9-5 grind but are still stuck in a vicious cycle of looking for work.

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

You learn everything as you go when you’re an entrepreneur, so if you know you can teach yourself anything then just do something. Start. There’s no perfect step to start with. On the flip side, if you aren’t motivated by anything other than money then it will be hard. Everyone wants more money. Few people want to work for it.

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

App: Bear, a simple writing app: http://www.bear-writer.com/

It’s very clean and lets me focus on just the words.

Blog: I like Teachable’s blog: http://blog.teachable.com/

It’s such a comprehensive resource for entrepreneurs at all levels.

Book: For pleasure, Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli. It’s a touching story about individuality.

For Business, The One Thing by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan. They really make you question the importance of every single thing you do and it’s helped me narrow my focus.

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

Typinator- a text expander: http://www.ergonis.com/products/typinator/

It saves me a lot of time re-typing or copying and pasting responses/phrases/descriptions I use frequently. I couldn’t do email without it!

Who is your business role model? Why?

I don’t have one, and I think this is how I’ve been able to consistently improve myself and my business. I like to learn from a lot of people, but I find too many wantrepreneurs put successful entrepreneurs on a pedestal and then re-quote them to death. I don’t blindly follow people’s advice, and I wouldn’t want anyone to look to me as anything other than a working example. Idolizing people prevents new ideas from breaking through. I admire and respect many people, but if anyone is my role model it’s me. Be your own hero.

What do you have planned for the next six months?

#1 Working with clients who buy a Business With a Bow™:


They are original pre-made online service businesses. Many people want an online business, but can’t visualize a concept. I do 99% of the work and they just fill in the blanks.

#2 I’m also writing a book on building a five star business so you can travel luxuriously:


How can our readers connect with you?

Please connect with me on LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/nicolefaith/ and introduce yourself! Don’t be shy.

If you want an inside look at my methodology for crafting five star businesses, sign up for my email course at https://10caratcreations.com/#exclusive-email-course.

Q&A with Stephanie Pope

Stephanie Pope

Stephanie Pope is a Partner and Head of Marketing at Hope & Harmony Farms; the gourmet arm of her family’s fourth-generation peanut farm that offers Virginia's finest, gourmet jumbo peanuts that are home-grown and hand-cooked just as they have been for four generations.

Can you tell our readers about your background?

I’m Stephanie Pope, Partner and Head of Marketing at Hope & Harmony Farms. Owned and operated by my husband's family for over a century, our inspiration for running Hope & Harmony Farms stems from continuing a long legacy of integrity and respect for the land. Hope and Harmony Farms is our 5,500-acre family-owned, fourth-generation peanut farm in Drewryville, VA. Producing 1.5 million pounds of the finest Virginia peanuts each year, Hope & Harmony Farms offers the finest quality, super extra-large peanuts that are all home-grown, hand-cooked and hand-packaged on our farm; with a commitment to being all natural, no additives or preservatives, NON-GMO, and Gluten Free. Notably, we’ve been featured on The Cooking Channel with G. Garvin for our famous Southern Heat-Habanero peanuts. In addition to our peanut farm, we run a thriving e-commerce arm of the business that offers high-end, gourmet peanut products year-round (which I was responsible for launching). More about our story.

I was born and raised in South Hill, Virginia; a town with a population of a whopping 4,541 people. I grew up far from agriculture, with my dad being a civil engineer and my mom being a wonderful domestic engineer (AKA stay at home mom). I grew up quite the stereotypical girly girl; lacking an appreciation for hard work and getting your hands dirty.  Like most headstrong teenagers, I was determined to move to the big city and lead a more sophisticated life.

In a quest to lead that life, there were three things that I said I would never do:

  1. Marry a farmer (how dreadful would that be?)

  2. Get married in December (why would you want poinsettias at your wedding?)

  3. Live in a place smaller than South Hill, VA.

What’s that phrase? Oh yes, “never say never.”  Fast forward to 1991 when girl meets boy and girl falls in love. With who? You guessed it, a farmer! Well, the son of a farmer, if we’re getting technical.  

When we first met, Jeffrey was an Agricultural Economics major at Virginia Tech with zero desire to return to his hometown of Drewryville, VA, population: 727. That’s not a typo. Fast forward to 1993: two weeks before graduation and Jeffrey tells me he wants to go back to Drewryville to farm. 

Did I mention I don’t like to get my hands dirty? 

So, Jeffrey graduated and moved home to do the farming thing and after six years of dating, he proposed! You know what they say: love is blind. So, I happily packed my bags and moved to the “big” town of Drewryville to embark on our next adventure.

It was summer time when I moved to Drewryville and there was lots of work to be done on the farm. Jeffrey decided that he was going to grow butter beans to freeze for the winter. High on love, this sounded fun and domestic. Not. It’s important to note here that we had been to a friend’s wedding the night before and we had a GRAND time. Jeffrey emphasized that we needed to be up early the next morning to pick butter beans before it got too hot. Fun fact: butter beans are picked by hand. Another fun fact: you sit on a five-gallon bucket bent over, picking butter beans for a very, very long time. Well, I was not feeling my best self from our evening out and when the sun began to really beat down….well, let’s just say it was not one of my finest moments.

Nor, was it Jeffrey’s best light bulb moment inviting me to assist with butter bean picking. I was able to compose myself and return to my duties.  Jeffrey was then subjected to my rendition of “Green Acres is NOT the place for me” over and over.  He gladly sent me packing to the house and has never requested my help in picking again! 22 years and counting.

So, back to those 3 things that I said I would never, ever do.

Yes, I married a farmer, moved to a much smaller town, and got married in December (I drew the line at having poinsettias at my wedding).

But I must say, marrying this farmer was by far one of my finest moments.

 What inspired you to start your business?

For generations, farming these peanuts has sustained the Pope family and our ancestors. My husband's grandfather and great-grandfather farmed the land with their bare hands. After graduating from Virginia Tech with an agricultural economics degree, my husband felt the call of the family business. After attending college, experiencing the world, and getting married, was it then that we realized that the grass is indeed the greenest in our little part of world.  And as it turned out, our whole family came to the same realization and all of us returned home after college. The farm now had (4) families to provide for. We had to get creative on how to make our farm profitable and sustainable for our families & the next generation. Then there was a major change in the peanut industry in 2002 with a farm bill that had a massive impact on peanut farmers; it was no longer profitable for us to continue. That’s when we started the gourmet peanut business and began processing a lot of our own crop. My husband had a light bulb moment: “Hey Steph, why don’t you cook the peanuts we grow and sell them directly to the consumer?”

Mind you, it was 2002 and we had a 3½-year-old and a 1½-year-old at the time.

But lo and behold, our gourmet peanut business was born.

I would cook, package, and ship peanuts; all with the help of mommy's little helpers and with a lot of help from my mother-in-law.

And just like that, I became the CEO, chef, packer/shipper, janitor, secretary, and accountant; the Jack (or Jill) of all trades for my family’s business.

Now, I can’t take all of the credit. The Pope boys have been growing the finest Virginia peanuts since the late 1800's on our 5,500-acre farm in Southampton County, Virginia; long before I entered the picture. Our peanuts are truly the cream of the crop. We grow only the world-famous Virginia jumbo peanut, prized by gourmets everywhere for its impressive size and even more incredible flavor.

Where is your business based?

Drewryville, VA (population 727)

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

Since we were already growing our product, our journey in selling it directly to the consumer looked a little different since we didn’t have to source our product (peanuts).

(1)  Begin with market research. Survey the competitive landscape; what tactics are your successful competitors using? We visited many specialty brick and mortar shops, in addition to their e-commerce platforms, to research our competitors' branding, packaging, marketing strategy, and price points.

(2)  We utilized agricultural programs available through our state university to become well-educated on shelf life and regulations concerning food safety.

(3)  We worked closely with our State Department of Agriculture to ensure we were in compliance with all state-mandated guidelines for packaging.

(4)  We chose our name, designed our labels/packaging, and hired a designer to create digital brand identity pieces.

Since lack of funds are often a deterrent to people in launching a business, I must add that all of the above services were of no charge, with the exception of the designer. Capitalize on free educational resources to help bring your idea to life; run a lean business.

We renovated a building next to our house to serve as our cooking facility. Once the building was up to code, we got busy cooking and packaging our first batches. When we would see or taste a flavor profile we like, we would custom blend or purchase the spice and test it on our peanuts before bringing it to market. When internal testing goes well on a new flavor profile, we create a custom label and introduce it our customers through our website and at gourmet food shows.

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

Our story and the power of the Internet have dramatically impacted our business’ trajectory. Because we are the farmers and have control of our crop from planting, to harvesting and processing, customers inherently connect with us and trust the product they’re purchasing. People like the idea of knowing who they are purchasing from. We’re a true farm family with kids and selling an honest, farm-to-table product makes customers feel good about where they’re spending their hard-earned dollars.  The Internet has provided the world a window into the farm (transparency) while giving us a platform to sell our gourmet products all across the world. Quality control is our trademark throughout every step of the process - from growing, harvesting and cooking our crop of delicious peanuts to shipping them to any destination you may choose. Our cooking process deserves special mention. Each batch of our Virginia peanuts is cooked according to a time-honored family recipe in pure 100% peanut oil. Our artisan product is made to order in small batches, so you get the freshest product possible.  With 30 essential vitamins & nutrients, they are actually a superfood. In addition, peanuts have 7 grams of protein, more than any nut. We believe with 7 grams of protein peanuts provide you energy for a good life, and with our hectic lives who doesn’t need more energy? Our peanuts reflect our passion, heritage, and love of the land and we might be biased, but our Virginia peanuts are the best.

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

With zero prior experience in sales and very little capital to launch this venture, we decided to reach out to our network of family and friends. After all, these were people who wanted to see us succeed.  We developed a website (Royal Oak Peanuts) that went live in 2002. I worked with a graphic designer to create a catalog with all of our products, which, we in turn, mailed to approximately 700 people. Since we launched just prior to the holiday season, it served as a prime time to start our business. We were able to generate $50,000 in sales with the help of just our family, friends, and friends of friends.  From there, we joined numerous trade organizations and hit the road to participate in gourmet food shows. It was at a show where we met a specialist in marketing and PR who began to talk with us about our branding. We soon realized that there was a major disconnect with our branding.  Our branding at the time wasn’t representative of our story or who we were; talk about disheartening. While the Royal Oak Peanuts branding held great meaning to us, the public was struggling to connect with it. We started polling friends about their brand perception and they echoed this opinion. One close friend even said the name almost sounded like a cemetery. Yikes. After many months of deliberating, we decided to make the leap and rebrand from Royal Oak Peanuts to Hope & Harmony Farms. The rebrand finally portrayed who we are as a family and a company: “Love the land. Respect your roots. Give your best.” Our fresh branding was responsible for taking us to the next level with acquiring distributors and wholesale accounts.

 How do you stay focused?

The joy of producing an honest crop. During harvest season when the picking has begun, the delicious aroma of peanuts is in the air for miles. Sitting on the porch and watching the sensational sunsets over the fields, listening to the birds and crickets chirp, and the hum of farm equipment being parked for the evening. My favorite: watching the billions of stars light up the sky. There are not many professions where you get a second chance.  Farming gives you that gift over and over. Planting season is a second chance year after year.  It is a season of great optimism and angst.  Certain growing conditions are needed to succeed; soil temperature and moisture are vital to success and it never goes according to plan. I truly believe that farming is like being in Vegas, it’s one big gamble; not for the faint of heart. Knowing that all of your eggs are in one basket can be too much for some to bear. One bad crop can put you out of business. Most family farms today are generational because of the immense appreciation for the land and its unique lifestyle. It is a lifestyle of back breaking work at times, but with that hard work comes tremendous reward. The overwhelming feeling of accomplishment that comes from putting a seed into the dirt, and with water, sun and a lot of hard work, you are able to produce something that is greater than you.

 How do you differentiate your business from the competition?

We're one of the only specialty food brands that both farms our own product and sells directly to the consumer; think: full control over integrity and quality of the product from farm to table, literally.

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

Prioritizing relationship building and aligning our brand with influencers and industry experts to boost credibility. As the old adage says, it's not always what you know but who you know. Relationship building aided us in being featured on The Cooking Channel with G. Garvin and provided a platform for us to get the message out about the farm-to-table qualities, nutritional benefits and culinary versatility of peanuts and peanut products.

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

I’d love for other business owners to understand that it’s critical to your business and personal well-being to embrace challenges and not to fear failure. At some point, our society (both professionally and personally) became so paralyzed by the fear of failure that we began to view the experience as a source of shame instead of a source of fresh opportunity to self-reflect and evolve. Use failure as fuel for growth and connection and prioritize positive self-talk through each challenge. Creative solutions come to you when you’re in a tight spot; listen to your intuition and keep a tight focus on what truly matters in the highs and lows of each business season because in the journey of business, those seasons are coming. For any small or family-owned business that has experienced amazing, rapid growth, being able to scale in a sustainable way is a challenge that you’ll face. Businesses of all sizes must have a solid infrastructure and business model established to help secure their place in the market. As we grow, continuing to evolve and adopting more sophisticated digital marketing strategy is also a fantastic challenge that we’re excited about embracing. But it’s the love of growing and maintaining and caring for the land that has been worked by my husband’s family for more than a century that makes the challenges worth it.

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

Favorite app: LogMeIn. No matter what life throws at me, when I am away from the office I can still access my office computer and work remotely when needed. This app has been a lifesaver.

Blog: The Positivity Blog by Henrik Edberg. An easy read that is a reminder that life does not have to be so complicated. Happiness is a choice; no matter how complicated or overwhelming life seems at that moment, there is always something in your life to be thankful for.

Book:  Unlimited Power: The New Science of Personal Achievement by Anthony Robbins. This book has provided by me with a sense of courage and motivation, not only in my personal life but in my professional life as well.  "Some people have life to happen to them and others happen to life"- here’s to being one of those that happens to life.

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

Shipping Easy. It integrates all of our shopping channels into one platform with ease and integrates seamlessly with our accounting software, reducing/eliminating data entry.

 Who is your business role model? Why?

My family. I have been fortunate enough to have many people in my life who have the entrepreneurial spirit. My dad, aunts, grandfather, to name a few. Starting a business and being self-employed is a hard road. With that being said, it is a very personal choice. While others may think the cons outweigh the pro's, it really is all about perspective. For me personally, the pro's have outweighed the cons. I work my business around my family so that I can always put them first. While the flexibility is definitely a pro for me, I am often faced with working longer/later hours to afford this perk. Growing up, I observed my family members and had the privilege to learn from their mistakes and use their successes to propel my own path.

 What do you have planned for the next six months?

While it’s important to be present, I always have goals and am forecasting what the next 6, 12, 18 months, etc. will look like in terms of business goals and aspirations. 

A few exciting projects in the line up:

(1) Add 3 additional flavors to our Virginia peanut line. (Stay tuned!)

(2) Add additional nuts to our line up.

(3) Amp up our website for an increase in e-commerce sales.

(4) Increase awareness surrounding the health benefits of peanuts and what "Farm to Table" truly means; showing the consumer what goes into the creation of our products from planting, growing, harvesting and processing.

 How can our readers connect with you?

Hope & Harmony Farms Virginia Peanuts Blog






Top 15 Women to Watch in 2018 this International Women's Day

International Women's Day

To celebrate International Women's Day, we've scoured the web to find the most promising female entrepreneurs.  Here is the first list of women who are disrupting their industries and making changes to female entrepreneurship in a big way.  This list focuses on the up and coming female entrepreneurs rather than the usual suspects.

Meet the women who are paving the way to make a change as well as the future for the younger generations. 

Clarissa Shetler, Co-founder, C2 California Clean, Doctor of Pharmacy

She says the biggest challenge female founders face in business is:

Understanding that we may have to work twice as hard as a male but it's all worth it.

Best piece of advice she has for female entrepreneurs:

Connect with other business women. Don't be shy and reach out. Females want to help other females succeed. We always love helping others and sharing our advice.

Danni Lin, Founder and CEO, GREAT WINE, Inc.

She says the biggest challenge female founders face in business is:

We still see many women living with gender stereotyping and gender inequality. The biggest social assumption is that family should always be a woman’s top and only priority in life, not her career or passion.

As a female entrepreneur, I always think that confidence is the roots of beauty. Every woman is unique and uniquely beautiful because they all have a different life experience.

Best piece of advice she has for female entrepreneurs:

There will be ups and downs in the progress of setting up a business. At the up times, you may want to ride on the tides and go faster. At down times, remain confident and work hard to achieve your goals. Successful entrepreneurs are people who do not give up.

Danielle Tate, Founder & CEO MissNowMrs.com

She says the biggest challenge female founders face in business is:

Overcoming fear of failure is a huge challenge. Instead of the glass ceiling of Corporate America, we have the "sticky floor" of entrepreneurship. Amazing women can think of every reason why they are under-qualified to start a company, why it will fail, or why someone else would do a better job as the founder.

It's incredibly frustrating to have these conversations. Statistics have shown that women entrepreneurs return a significantly higher ROI than men, and I believe we have a moral obligation to solve the problems we encounter or no one else will.

Once we have our startups, finding funding as a woman is difficult. I'm excited to see more and more women-focused venture funds and hope to see more women have huge exits that give them the ability to become angel investors in women-led startups. It will take time, but positive change is coming.

Best piece of advice she has for female entrepreneurs:

Begin with the end in mind. Pinpointing exactly what you want out of your startup before you start will help you make strategic decisions that make your dream a reality. Knowing if you want to build a lifestyle company, versus a 3-year flip, or ten-year unicorn will make finding a co-founder or investors with a similar vision easier. It also helps you avoid waking up 5 years into a business and realizing you don't have the company or life that makes you happy.

Michelle Lewis, Visibility Expert and Founder of Visibility Vixen 

She says the biggest challenge female founders face in business is:

I believe this is the most opportunistic time in history for female entrepreneurs online.

Best piece of advice she has for female entrepreneurs:

Do your research, don’t just jump. Know your purpose, find your unique voice in your industry, outline your product path. I see the most frustration from people because they want an entrepreneur lifestyle, but they spend months struggling with no income because these steps aren’t in place.

Kristen Baird, CEO and CVO, Kristen Baird

She says the biggest challenge female founders face in business is:

The fine jewelry industry is male-dominated, generationally owned, and characterized by mass-manufacturing. I'm a female entrepreneur, a first generation business owner, and a proponent of handcrafted fine jewelry. Shaking up the "norm" and gaining respect from my peers (mostly male) has been the most challenging part of my business and I would say that is one of the greatest challenges most female founders face today.

Best piece of advice she has for female entrepreneurs:

Relationships are imperative. Align yourself with positive, driven individuals across all industries, in all age groups, and from all backgrounds. They will be your tribe and you will need them through thick and thin. Likewise, it's not just a "take" situation. Be a giver and share with your tribe and the generations coming behind you.

Amy Hutchins, Chief Product Officer, Unearth Technologies

She says the biggest challenge female founders face in business is:

Fundraising is one of the hardest parts of any startup, something that’s especially true for female entrepreneurs. When looking at statistics, about 28% of proprietary software jobs are held by women, whereas only 7% of VC partners are women. Fundraising is largely driven by networks and its difficult to break into a male-dominated network.

Best piece of advice she has for female entrepreneurs:

Work on something you're passionate about and work with people you're passionate about. Every step of a startup journey can be exceedingly difficult, and the more successful you are, the harder it becomes. Working on a business idea that motivates you, and working with people that push you to be the best personally and professionally, are the two key ingredients to providing the momentum you need to get through the tough times.

Christine Hutchison, Co-Founder and CMO, Proxfinity

She says the biggest challenge female founders face in business is:

Access to capital.

Best piece of advice she has for female entrepreneurs:

You have to have gut and perseverance. Don't take failures to heart. Learn from them and make it better the next time. I am constantly asking for constructive feedback because I know we can always do things better.

Josephine Caminos Oria, Founder and President, La Dorita Cooks, LLC

She says the biggest challenge female founders face in business is:

I believe the greatest challenges women founders face today are not related to their gender but inherent to entrepreneurship itself. And that's access to funding. While it's been proven that women face greater obstacles than men when seeking traditional funding through financial institutions, I believe that this will change in 2018 as a result of the women's movement for equality.

Best piece of advice she has for female entrepreneurs:

The #MeToo movement has cleared the path for female founders in 2018. So I offer, "Get out of your own way, and get to it."

Joanna Dai, Founder, Dai

She says the biggest challenge female founders face in business is:

Compared to finance, my experience in fashion so far has been a far less male-dominated and a more level playing field. I've read the statistics on female founders receiving funding versus male founders, which has been quite discouraging. We have not gone for funding so I can't attest to that first-hand but it's great to see a wealth of support and networks for female entrepreneurs out there.

Best piece of advice she has for female entrepreneurs:

Take your time doing market research and product/brand development so you can really hone in on how and why you're unique.

Brianna Carney, Founder, Crew Bloom

She says the biggest challenge female founders face in business is:

Work-life balance and an expectation for female founders to lead like male counterparts.
There’s a pressure for female founders to be stoic and suppress their emotions and passion. It’s unfair because our ability to feel and to vividly express ourselves is one of our biggest assets.

Best piece of advice she has for female entrepreneurs:

Find smart people because you are only one person, and treat them well.

Carin Luna-Ostaseski, Founder, SIA Scotch Whisky

She says the biggest challenge female founders face in business is:

Fundraising. Unfortunately, we're still very much at a time and in an environment where women face a challenge raising capital. I hope to turn the tables someday with a fund that helps fellow female spirits entrepreneurs.

In the meantime, every year for the past 4 years, SIA Scotch Whisky has contributed a percentage of our gross sales to a different organization that helps support women start and run their own businesses.

Best piece of advice she has for female entrepreneurs:

Ask for what you want. You will get rejected, absolutely ... and then one day, you won't.  I didn't know anyone in the spirits industry when I set out to create my brand. So I reached out to 80 people for help - every single distillery I'd ever visited, every name and resource I found in magazines, books, online. I got 80 "no's" (no we can't help you, no we are not interested, no you are crazy....) and came close to throwing in the towel a few times, but I persisted. And then finally on the 81st time, I found the person who was the one who changed everything for me. And this door to this "old boy's club" was opened to me by a woman!

Vikki Hankins-Jones, CEO and Founder, VMH Media/Publishing - VMH Magazine

She says the biggest challenge female founders face in business is:

I find the most challenging area for female founders is the male-dominated market in my field. Although a great deal of progress has taken place, women are not taken as seriously as their male continuer parts. Further women, in particular women of color, have to work ten times as hard to gain recognition for their brands.

Best piece of advice she has for female entrepreneurs:

My best piece of advice for young entrepreneurs is to believe in their mission, product, services. When the going gets tough it is your 'belief' that will bring the tenacity needed to reach your goals.

Serena Holmes, President & CEO, Tigris Events

She says the biggest challenge female founders face in business is:

I don’t think female founders necessarily face bigger or different challenges than their male counterparts but I’m sure this could be dependent on the industry.

As a business owner starting out, I think some of the biggest challenges may include creating a point of difference in a competitive marketplace, learning to manage cash flow well and understanding how to work on your business while also working in it. That is a challenging balancing act until you are able to grow a team to support you.

Best piece of advice she has for female entrepreneurs:

Get help as soon as you can. Find a mentor or hire a coach. This will help you accelerate your learning and in turn, your growth. I didn’t get help until eight years in and it made the world of difference. I wish I had done it sooner.

Cynthia Jamin, Owner and Designer, TwirlyGirl

She says the biggest challenge female founders face in business is:

I do believe women buy into the stereotypes that are pervasive in our society. It takes a lot of self-determination and confidence to go against these social norms. A lot of them being centered around either women settling for less because they feel they wouldn't be able to compete in the business world (a "man's" world), or they feel obligated to be just a mother or just a wife.

Best piece of advice she has for female entrepreneurs:

Be willing to put in the work and be open to learning everything you can about every aspect of your business. Don't just hire people right from the beginning to do the jobs that you might not be interested in, or feel you don't have that skill set. There is nothing you can't learn. It's through actively being a part of "the every day" that you get to see what works and what doesn't.

You will have first-hand knowledge of how you want things done because you have done them. Growing a business is so much more than just getting sales, it's about creating a whole world, an environment that people interact with. It's a big responsibility that requires your full attention. Be prepared for long hours and no weekends off, but in the end, it's so worth it.

Steph Webster, Co-Founder, Miss Collective

She says the biggest challenge female founders face in business is:

A lot of the women that I've met through the industry and through our Miss Collective network tells me just how prevalent the confidence gap is. I meet incredible women who I'm inspired by, who really doubt their own contribution or level of accomplishment. I'd love to see us continue to work together as an industry to help break down the confidence gap and the barriers that it can create.

As a founder, you have to be a good leader, so you have to find ways to believe in yourself and project that confidence to teams and those around you to keep driving your business forward.

Best piece of advice she has for female entrepreneurs:

Follow something you're passionate about! Sounds so cliche and I know common, but for me, the things I've pursued in business have resonated strongly with me personally. I founded a mobile application called Barkparks, because I wanted a tool to find fenced dog parks for my foster dogs.

Miss Collective started because I found a lack of support for women in my industry and wanted to find a way to give back to the community and help other women. It shouldn't be a stretch to get excited about the business you want to create!

Stay tuned for our next installment coming on March 15th!

Q&A with Dana Marlowe

Dana Marlowe

As the founder of Accessibility Partners, Dana Marlowe is a leading force in her disability and accessibility advocacy IT consulting firm. Dana Marlowe directs a team of skilled accessibility engineers with and without disabilities. Her firm focuses on the removal of extraneous barriers in technology, with an ultimate corporate goal to make opportunities available for every individual using technology. Accessibility Partners boasts a roster of established clients spanning from Federal Agencies, Fortune 500 businesses, retail organizations, educational institutions, and non-profits to help them test, consult, and train on accessible IT products.

Can you tell our readers about your background?

Wouldn’t you know it, but my first involvement in the digital space was when I was having a problem with a computer. Amidst my frustration, I was still excited to be in a space so focused on improving technology and making devices better for users. So, on Tuesday, a fifteen years ago I walked into a random computer store to seek help on a computer problem that needed to be fixed.

By chance, I happened to witness customers and staff using sign language in the store (cue the proverbial “aha” light bulb above my head). I immediately inquired and discovered that they also sold accessible IT products to the government to help employees with disabilities.

I soon recognized an opportunity to merge my two passions — disability advocacy and technology. Therefore, immediately I knew what I had to do. A week later, I went to pick up my computer from that store. I arrived in a business suit with my resume firmly planted in my hand. As I was later told, I sold myself to the owners. I was ecstatic to receive an offer.

Flash forward to 15 years later, and now I’m the principal partner of a company that helps make technology accessible for people with disabilities. We empower those with disabilities to gain access and communicate in the digital space when previous barriers may have hindered usage.

What inspired you to start your business?

When I was seven, I fondly remember an encounter with a friend at summer camp who was Deaf. I so badly wanted to strike up a conversation with my new friend but was unable to do so. Even as a young camper, I felt the urge that I should be able to communicate with everyone. I took classes through a local community college in sign language to springboard that communication.

I jumped from there to attending a technical university with a huge Deaf population. Majoring in communications made me realize the importance of technology in all facets of human interaction.

Where is your business based?

We are based in Washington, DC but everyone in the office works remotely. We have offices spanning the country, from Nebraska to Pennsylvania, Florida and Connecticut, Ohio and Indiana, and others. 

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

As a small company starting off in the rough economy of 2009, I recognized that our biggest investment had to come from within the human capital. I knew our employees beyond the partners had to get behind the concept that the compensation might be small in the beginning. The long-term investment came from disability advocacy. It was a risk worth taking. Accessibility Partners bought in with the intent to make the world and its technology a more accessible place.

As our success great, we shared our on-boarding plan of telework, Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), hiring staff with disabilities, and advocacy with the companies we were working within an attempt to encourage them to do the same in their workforces.

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

At Accessibility Partners, we like to practice what we preach. That comes in the way of accessible social media. We factor in how a user with disabilities would see our posts. Our communications staff will caption or provide a transcript for any audio or video we share. We also provide captions and alternative text for any image shared. Marketing is only as good as it is by the people who can read it. Accessibility Partners uses mainstream platforms, but puts accessible coding into our website and anytime we publish anything.

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

We opened our doors, relatively, in the rough economy of 2009, when most small businesses were encouraged not to begin. I knew that we had to make some smart money choices if we wanted the company to take off.

Step one was operating on an agreed-upon telework model. This was non-negotiable. Our employees are spread across the country. Naturally, communication was the highest priority. Then, I proposed the idea of BYOD—Bring Your Own Device. That put the geographic and financial limitations to a halt as our staff picked the most accessible technology choices for them. We saved a lot of time and money not standardizing, and we empowered our workers with disabilities from the get-go.

How do you stay focused?

I like to stay grounded by mentally staying present in the here and now. But it’s not just on the now, I strive to be forward thinking in my focus. One question that always shapes my next thought is: “What will folks be talking about next year as it relates to disabilities and technology?”

On another level, I hone in on our team’s successes and look for future ones. The internal monologue is always going, but sometimes I need a burst of energy. Personally, I try to stay focused when working by rocking out to my Indie music.

How do you differentiate your business from the competition?

Without a doubt, our customer service. We always have our finger on the pulse of each project, and try to understand our company’s corporate culture. Each client engagement is personalized, and I try to help them find the unique way accessibility fits into their company’s practice. Even after we’re done, I love to reach back out.

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

Word of mouth is very strong for marketing my accessibility consulting firm.  We attend a variety of conferences and present on numerous topics about accessibility, disability employment, and similar themes. We use a tailored web advertising campaign, including Google Adwords. On a person-to-person basis, we hand out business cards and marketing materials. In order to make sure our promotional materials are in the best format for everyone, we made sure we took some extra steps. First, we emboss all of our paper in Braille with our website and telephone number. On the back of our card, we provide our contact information in larger font for those with low vision. In addition, we’ve made sure that our cards have good color contrast and clear font.

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

I value my strong social support network now but realize just how necessary they help you through the stress of tough times in a business. It’s easy to talk to friends about your personal life, but business is an interesting grey area. I wish I had taken advantage of them when I started Accessibility Partners. Diverse advice is so valuable with a start-up, and a varied set of insight could have saved me weeks of stress if I just had another perspective.

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

I found that the book “Made to Stick” by Chip and Dan Heath really helped me with my idea formation and making process. It helped me break down ideas to their core, or simplicity as they call it. It is a realistic book that offers sound advice-anyone can benefit from it. I jump around from blog-to-blog, so I could pick a favorite, but my favorite app is Slack. It keeps me accountable and informed, and works really well for remote purposes. At Accessibility Partners, we also use Skype for tandem testing with screen share, and their instant messaging interface is always more accessible than others.

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

Surprisingly, the one tool I use every day isn’t a piece of software but a standard pad of paper. I doodle on this every time an idea springs into my head. There is something comforting about putting an idea onto something tangible-like it is already real and possible.

Who is your business role model? Why?

I couldn’t be more inspired by Frederique Irwin. She is the creator of Her Corner, a nationwide women’s business accelerator incubator of dedicated space and advice for female business owners. She has two values that I try to emulate: she is supportive, but she also holds others accountable. She’ll listen to your business struggles and empathize, but give actionable advice. And you better follow-up on it. I like how she can see an issue and use it as a springboard for growth. She’s not stagnant either: Frederique has updated her business practice and life plan with the times.

Tina Tchen was the Assistant to President Barack Obama; Chief of Staff to First Lady Michelle Obama; and Executive Director of the White House Council on Women and Girls. She is my role model as well because of her tireless work to promote progressive values and put women at the forefront of a nationwide conversation where their voices hadn’t been heard as loudly before. She has promoted technology education for women and worked for workplace fairness with respect to wage parity.

My biggest personal inspirations are from various times throughout history, but they include Harriet Tubman, Madeline Albright, and J.K. Rowling. All powerful women who looked injustice and unfairness in the face, and made their mission their own.

What do you have planned for the next six months?

Our regulations have been recently updated in our industry. A lot of the disability laws of the past are being taken to the web, as e-commerce is replacing a lot of the brick and mortar stores. We are hoping to help our clients become familiar with these newly revised laws, and use them to their competitive advantage to be more inclusive with their product and service offerings. Accessibility Partners plans to accomplish this through auditing services led by our team with disabilities, as well as helping reshape our clients’ accessibility postures through better marketing language that shows inclusion in practice. 

How can our readers connect with you?

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Access_Partners
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/dana-marlowe-115aa01/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AccessibilityPartners/

Q&A with Entrepreneur Alexis Courtney

Courtney Family_preview.jpg


After taking her daughter in for a haircut, Alexis Courtney was very excited about Cookie Cutters Haircuts for Kids. As a mother and teacher, she didn’t know much about owning a business, but she wanted to learn more. She became a multi-unit franchisee of the brand until 2014 when she and her husband acquired the brand. Now, Courtney is the franchisor and COO of Cookie Cutters Haircuts for Kids, the fastest-growing kids-centric hair salon.

Can you tell our readers about your background?

I was born and raised in Salt Lake City, Utah. I received a scholarship to play Water Polo and swim at Slippery Rock University in Pennsylvania. After graduation, I returned to Utah and started my teaching career as a middle school math teacher. After eight years of teaching math, I became a business owner of Cookie Cutters Haircuts for Kids. From 2006 to 2014, I opened and ran five stores. In 2014, I had the opportunity to purchase the franchise and become the franchisor with my husband, which we did.

What inspired you to start your business?

When I became pregnant with my second child, my husband and I realized the income I was making would go straight to daycare when the new baby was born. I wanted the opportunity to be in charge of my time and income and I started looking into opening a business.

Where is your business based?

My business is in South Jordan, Utah.

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

While researching business opportunities I started thinking about my skills and what I could offer. I didn't feel my skills were unique enough to build a profitable business around them. I then started looking at existing businesses I could purchase but didn't find the right fit. My two-year-old daughter was in need of her first haircut and there was a children's hair salon about 20 minutes from my home. By the end of the haircut, I knew I wanted to be a part of the business. As a teacher, I felt confident in my ability to work with people. I researched the company for a few months and decided I would open a Cookie Cutters Haircuts for Kids.

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

When I opened in 2007 word-of-mouth was the most effective way to build my business. I was able to spread the word by being involved in every community event possible. My concept is still community driven and with social media, we are able to build a community online, as well.

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

Staffing has been our biggest challenge. I have overcome this obstacle by building an atmosphere of teamwork and respect. I hire every stylist who applies and watch to see if our store is a good fit for them. My stylists appreciate a safe work environment where they can grow and feel valued. 

How do you stay focused?

In order to stay focused I play the "sticky note" game created and taught to me by Demir and Carey Bentley from Lifehack Bootcamp. I plan my day in 50-minute blocks. For each block of work, I write the task on a sticky note. While working on the task I do not allow for any distraction. When the task is done I crumple up the sticky note, give myself ten minutes of free time and then start the next task. I play this game for three hours a day and get more accomplished in those three hours than I would all day trying to multitask and being interrupted every 5 minutes. My team knows I get my work done in the mornings and they know to call me the last ten minutes of each hour if they truly need me. 

How do you differentiate your business from the competition?

When you own a franchise the only true difference from your competitors are the people. We have worked hard to find people who want to contribute to their community and are willing to be a part of a large partnership of owners across the nation.

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

Recently our most effective marketing has been Facebook. We want our content to be educational and helpful for parents. We want our owners to engage and celebrate their clients with before and after pictures. We have been lucky to be a part of many social media posts from our clients who share about their great experience at Cookie Cutters Haircuts for Kids.

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

My best piece of advice for new entrepreneurs would be to have a strict morning routine. The first 30 to 60 minutes of your day is crucial, and should not involve devices of any kind. I highly suggest 15-20 minutes of meditation to get your mind in the right place. Waking up and going straight to your phone or your computer will put you in a place where your business owns you instead of you owning your business. 

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

My favorite book is "The Power of Habit" written by Charles Duhigg. This book allowed me to look at the world in a much different way. Our mind is our strongest muscle and we strengthen this muscle through habit. Not all habits are good for us and therefore we may need to rewire or rework our largest muscle to course correct. The fact that we can course correct and or overcome any obstacle is fascinating to me.

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

My favorite business tool is Asana which is a project management site. I have been able to build multiple projects and attach the necessary participants through Asana. I'm able to keep in touch with my team outside of emails and I can roll out new initiatives to my franchisees. Asana has an amazing app which makes work easy when I'm not in the office.

Who is your business role model? Why?

I am an avid reader and when asked who my business role model is it would currently be Mel Robbins. Mel is well known for her book "The 5-second rule." She is a firm believer inhabit and the training of your mind. 

What do you have planned for the next six months?

Over the next six months, I will train 20 new franchisees. We recently became the #1 children's hair salon in the country, with the number of salons we have open. In 2018 we anticipate another 40 store openings. I will be traveling to multiple store openings across the United States and Canada. 

How can our readers connect with you?

 I would love to meet and/or speak with any of your readers. Linkedin is the best way to connect with me. https://www.linkedin.com/in/alexiscourtney