entrepreneurship

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 Entrepreneur Valeria Duflot

Photo Credit: Sebastian Fagarazzi / Venezia Autentica

Photo Credit: Sebastian Fagarazzi / Venezia Autentica

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

Can you tell our readers about your background? 

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

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

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

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

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

What inspired you to start your business? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where is your business based?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1/ Running a business with my better half.  

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

2/Not being in the middle of an ecosystem. 

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

3/Lack of resources:

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

How do you stay focused?

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

I stay focused by doing 3 things: 

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

2/ Removing interruptions 

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

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

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

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

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

How do you differentiate your business from the competition? 

We differentiate ourselves from our competition at several levels.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My favorite business resources are currently Quora and Twitter. 

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

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

Who is your business role model? Why? 

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

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

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

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

What do you have planned for the next six months? 

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

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

How can our readers connect with you? 

You can follow our work with Venezia Autentica on

Twitter: @veneziaautentic

Instagram: @veneziaautentica 

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

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

and connect with me on:

Twitter: @duflotvaleria 

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

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 Tahlia Mandie

Tahlia Mandie

Tahlia is the founder of Kakadu Plum Co., a social enterprise that celebrates Indigenous culture through food. After observing one too many matcha lattes being served, she found herself asking if Australia had its own native superfood. Knowing instinctively about bush tucker, she came across the Kakadu Plum, launched Kakadu Plum Co. and is making it her mission to put Kakadu Plum and Australian bush foods on the plates of everyday Australians and the world.

Can you tell our readers about your background?

I am originally trained as a psychotherapist and family counselor. I live in Melbourne Australia and have a strong connection to our land and culture.

What inspired you to start your business?

It was just before summer of 2016 when I observed everyday Australian’s opting for international superfood varieties to meet their health needs. It was the time that Matcha and Acai was being overly popular. I asked myself if Australia had its own native bush superfood and soon discovered the Kakadu Plum, a native Australian bush fruit that is wild harvested by Indigenous Australians and known to have the highest source of vitamin C of any plant in the world. The questions I had were 1. Why had we not known about this? And 2. Why are we not celebrating this? After aligned myself with Indigenous communities in The Kimberley region of Western Australia, I began my mission of celebrating Indigenous culture through food and encouraging all Australians to buy local.

Where is your business based?

I am based out of Melbourne Australia, but our Kakadu Plums come from Western Australia, along with our Jilungin Bush Tea. We source other products from around the country.

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

I learnt the startup lean methods from my previous tech company. Start small, don’t over capitalise and test the market first. I started with one product, Kakadu Plum Powder and only brought out our second product 12 months later. I remember those days of packing the powder on my mums kitchen bench – which she hated! It was only after some initial traction that I began to outsource this to another local company. The early days were very lean on a tight budget with minimal spend.

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

Instagram has been incredibly beneficial for us. It gave me the initial platform to raise awareness, share my story and product on a zero dollar budget. Through Instagram I built, and still do today, incredible ambassadors, friends and supporters who have been behind my story and brand from the beginning. Instagram also gave me the platform to connect with other brands and cafes to collaborate with.

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

The space I am in can be quite challenging at times because I am not an Indigenous Australian. From day one I have stayed true to my mission, my passion and belief that I am making a difference to Indigenous communities and people on a larger scale. But it was the blessing, connection and guidance first hand from Traditional Owner, Bruno Dann, that inspired me to believe in myself and not worry about what other people think. His words gave me the permission to block out the ‘noise’ from others and focus on my goal, mission and impact.

How do you stay focused?

Knowing the impact I am making to Aboriginal people by supporting them, their culture and changing perceptions one product at a time. Seeing Kakadu Plum on the menu alongside wattleseed lattes. The change is happening and I am excited to see where it goes.

How do you differentiate your business from the competition?

Out story and connection to Indigenous communities. Our customers know the impact they are making with their purchase. They are brought into our journey and movement. They become part of the story.

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

Still to this day I have had very little marketing budget. I still focus strongly on Instagram to build collaborations and brand awareness

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

Stay true to yourself and what you believe in. When someone tells you that you can’t do something, use it as an invitation to keep on going. Be passionate with everything you do.

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

I am using VSCO everyday so at the moment this is my favourite. I am loving Tim Ferirss Blog, and his podcasts. My all time favourite book is Tuesdays With Morrie. It is a book that is so incredibly grounding and inspirational. It simply is just a very powerful book.

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

Podcasts. There is such a wealth of inspiration and information through Podcasts. From learning different social media techniques, to business strategy to simple stories from CEO’s and founders. The latest podcast I have listened to is Tim Ferriss interviewing Joe Gebbia, Co Founder of Air BnB. It is 2 hours of stories, lessons, inspiration and wisdom.

Who is your business role model? Why?

I don’t want to pinpoint to one role model as I am inspired by so many different people in different ways. Different people bring different values and insights. The people that stand out to me however are Steve Jobs, Hugh Jackman, Daniel Flynn

What do you have planned for the next six months?

Keep going, keep hustling and continue to share my story and products. I have something that is currently under development that further relates to my social impact cause and mission… but can’t reveal this one just yet. J

How can our readers connect with you?

www.kakaduplumco.com

www.instagram.com/kakaduplumco

www.instagram.com/facebook

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

Facebook

Pinterest

Twitter

 

 

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 C2 Cofounders

C2

Clarissa Shetler is a board-certified family pharmacist and has been in practice for more than 20 years. She has spent the last five years studying the emerging research surrounding the health risks of everyday chemicals used in skin care cosmetics and the alternative sources and benefits of nontoxic, advanced plant botanicals to formulate safer, powerful skin care for you.  She feels that both an outside and inside approach to health including quality nutrition, exercise, mindfulness along with clean, nourishing skin care reduces the cumulative toxic burden to the body is a critical component to disease prevention and health promotion.

Christine Falsetti has always been passionate about life, family, and friends. After experiencing cancer in her family, she began to take a closer look at the toxins in her environment and was horrified by the potentially harmful ingredients she found in her daily life, particularly in her family skin care products. She began looking for safer skin care options only to be disappointed by their performance and frustrated by misleading marketing. Christine believes women and their families deserve quality products that perform, without comprising their health.

Can you tell our readers about your background?

We are both female scientists and have a strong background in chemistry. Clarissa is a Doctor of pharmaceuticals/chemistry and Christine was a NASA scientist and engineer. Our backgrounds were synergistic when we were evaluating various skincare solutions. We are determined to develop effective, clean and non-toxic products and to educate people on what to look for in the products they use every day. We also have business/marketing backgrounds and have a marketing consulting firm called KodaCon, Inc.

What inspired you to start your business?

We both have personal stories that helped drive our passion to find a good skincare solution. Christine’s son was sadly touched by cancer and passed away at an early age. Clarissa has a childhood skin condition called ichthyosis (fish scale skin) in which dermatologists only had a recommendation of Crisco lard. One day during a hike, we started talking about our skincare choices and what was out there. Due to our own personal experiences, we had already peeked inside other brands and saw the dark side of the ingredients in many products. On that hiking day, we decided that we could do something better -- something clean.

Where is your business based?

·      Northern California – Silicon Valley

·      Los Gatos, CA

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

We researched skincare for 4 years before the launch of C2 California Clean. It was important that we understood the landscape of the beauty/skincare business. We tested numerous products and took an investigative look at the ingredients in the products. Soon, we were contacting the scientists and labs of the ingredients that we liked and started to collaborate with them. The ingredients are the foundation for all products and most companies haven’t evaluated their own formulations for decades (since 1905s). At the same time, we contacted the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a non-profit dedicated to informing consumers of safe products.  We had products evaluated through their verified program and started to work with them. EWG has an app called Skin Deep that evaluates the safety of the ingredient profile and gives a rating for products.  

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

Talking to people and networking has been the most effective way to evangelize C2. People want to hear authentic voices who are passionate about what they are doing. At C2, we want to truly change lives and help people live a cleaner and healthier life. We know “going clean” doesn’t happen overnight, and we are letting people know it’s okay to take baby steps. The first step is to reach out and ask questions. That is why our door is always open to talk with people – via email, phone, text, or social media.

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

1. Developing awareness: We know that we can’t talk or educate everyone, so we need to build up affiliates and brand advocates to promote C2. We also feel that getting into distribution will help to promote our brand. We are launching an affiliate program in 2018 and also working with domestic and international distributors.

2. Finding the right message that resonates with our audience: We are nerdy scientists and we have to remember that not everyone wants to know all the details, so we had to test out various messages to engage our target market. Our messaging is always evolving and the more we talk and listen to people the more we learn.

3. Understanding the best way to market: Marketing is changing as we speak. Social Media, Videos, Texting, and Email have helped with brand awareness but getting sales conversion is a bit more tricky. We are constantly testing various marketing strategies to build sales. 

4. Building sales: Of course, getting sales is the most important part of going into business and we feel that talking to people and making connections has helped our sales tremendously. There is so much information out there and as a founder, people want to hear from you and why you started the brand. Talking to people will allow you to find out the big issues at hand and which products can help them.   

How do you stay focused?

There is nothing better than getting feedback about your product and how it helped someone. Those comments tell us that we are on the right track and what we are doing is really changing lives and helping people. Also, negative feedback is important because you can hear how you can improve and change the future customer experience. Checklists and being transparent with our team has helped us move forward together as a unit.

How do you differentiate your business from the competition?

There are oodles of products in the skincare world and we have learned that many people get overwhelmed by all the choices. We also want our customers to feed their skin with amazing ingredients – not junk food for the skin!

C2 is a brand that wants to simplify your life by giving you a skincare regimen that is easy-to-follow and offers you the best ingredients to nourish your skin. We also have a product line that addresses wellness for the whole body and is safe to use on the entire family.

There were three main ideas that we thought of when we started to create C2: 

1) Clean: a product line that wouldn’t compromise your health

2) Effective: a skincare system that actually works and shows results

3) Simple: a regimen with simple steps

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

Our most effective marketing strategy is “getting involved.” We are participating in events, seminars and most importantly talking to our customers one-on-one. Start with your friends and family.  People want to hear from the founders and understand why you started the brand. And being nerdy scientists actually worked in our favor, because people knew we understood the how the products worked and why. We are starting to promote C2 solutions by science, discovery and the genuine concern for our audience. We really listen to our customers and take their input to heart.

We also are promoting our brand internationally and working with the US Trade and Commerce Department. The advice and information are free and you are assigned to a representative who can help with matchmaking and global resources.

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

The best advice is to start to knock on doors. Send out emails to other founders, ask questions and attend shows and events. Meeting other founders is the best way to get first-hand input on what is working and what isn’t. We collaborate with other non-competitive wellness companies and share information.

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

Clarissa: EWG Skin Deep is an awesome app and I use it all the time when I am shopping. It’s so useful in the stores and I get the instant answer. My second choice is the texting app.

Christine: Number 1 is Text Messaging –fast, easy and fun way to stay in touch with everyone and Number 2 is IMDB- It is the best source for movie, tv and celebrity info.  I often check it when we are watching a show to confirm who an actor is or to find out who someone is and why they are familiar.

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

Business Tool: Google drive has really evolved and has become an important tool for our team. We will also start to use it to save all our docs and assets.

Resource 1: EWG has been an amazing resource for information and data on product safety.

Resource 2: US Trade and Commerce has been a wonderful resource for global exportation.

Who is your business role model? Why?

Clarissa:  Charles F. Feeney. An entrepreneur, husband and father -- who truly has a giving heart. He worked hard his whole life and then in his golden years he gives away the last billions of his fortune to charity. He is considered the James Bond of philanthropy.

Christine:  Oprah Winfrey. Her story is the iconic American dream of climbing the ladder of success from abject poverty to one of the most successful and respected business people in our country. For me though the really inspiring thing about Oprah is what she does with her time and money. She is a generous philanthropist and a crusader for human rights. Oprah has used her celebrity to better the lives of millions.

 What do you have planned for the next six months?

We are working to get our products into select stores and spas,  and we are working on some new products based on customer feedback and pain points.

How can our readers connect with you?

We love hearing from anyone who is interested in making the leap to a healthier lifestyle. They can contact us at: hello@c2caliclean.com or 800-317-2029 to ask questions, get information or just chat!! We are also aligned with other wellness companies who share our same vision, such as, Kavella Hair products (Founder: Ashely Feinberg) and Freedom Deodorant (Founder: Ira Green).

 

Q&A with Voiceover Artist & Entrepreneur, Kelley Buttrick

Kelley Buttrick

Kelley Buttrick, an award-winning voiceover talent heard in national television and radio ads, corporate videos, TV promos and radio imaging, is trusted by clients like Disney, ESPN, Country Crock, Pampers, IBM, Carnival, Target, Michelin, and Clinique. In the VO industry, she is known for her box-smashing marketing efforts. To hear Kelley’s demos and work, please visit kbvoiceovers.com.

Can you tell our readers about your background?  

My work experience and education are in PR, media, and marketing but I also have a double minor and a background in acting. Voiceover is a marriage of both my passion and my experience.

What inspired you to start your business?

I was inspired to start my voiceover business because the job combines my acting background and marketing experience. I wanted wake up every day excited to work but also to provide an example for my daughters that a woman can run a successful business and a household simultaneously.

Where is your business based?

While my professionally-equipped VO studio is located in a soundproof room in our basement, I work with clients worldwide.

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

Voiceover is much more than having a “good voice.” To succeed in this field, one must wear many hats. From the moment my first demo was produced, I began planting seeds through networking and mass marketing, then cultivated those seeds through personalized relationship-building. I’m still reaping the benefits of those first plantings from back when I started KB Voiceovers in 2010.

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

Perhaps the most impactful way I’ve raised awareness of my business is the skill and professionalism I deliver in every voiceover session. In essence, my work speaks for itself and my passion for my craft comes through in every VO project I voice. More than 70% of my business is generated by repeat clients and referrals from those clients and my colleagues.

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

One of the biggest business challenges I’ve faced centers around the fact that I’m awful with bookkeeping. For the first year, my records were kept in a notebook with figures penciled into the “in” or “out” column. Even after training in Quickbooks, I realized that I was losing money (and my mind) trying to do my own accounting. One of the best moves I ever made was to hire a bookkeeper. It just so happens that Missy of M2M mobile bookkeeping is another mom running her own business, and I love that.  There was a learning curve since voiceover accounting can be a bit tricky, but Missy quickly got a handle on it.  I don’t know what I’d do without her.

How do you stay focused?

Because my workday is very similar to that of a plate-spinner at the circus, it’s difficult to stay focused. A friend suggested I try the Headspace and Calm apps. When I have 10 minutes, I’ll do a full-on Headspace meditation, but most days, I’ll grab three minutes here or there, between VO sessions and do deep breathing with Calm. It helps me focus on the task at hand.

How do you differentiate your business from the competition?

The voiceover industry is highly competitive. Differentiation is key. While I’m incredibly collaborative and will even create marketing opportunities together with my competition, what separates me is that my background gives me a big picture perspective and genuine understanding of what it’s like to be in my clients’ shoes. In addition, my experience and reputation help to distinguish me in an ocean of other female voiceover talents.

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

My most effective marketing strategy has been to make every effort personal. Working alone in a 4x5 soundproof VO booth with only your clients’ voices in your headphones, it’s difficult to make a personal connection. When I’m networking, I go to an event genuinely interested in learning other people’s stories. When I’m voicing live with clients, I take a personal interest in each person in that session. When I’m doing broad-stroke marketing, I do everything I can to make it feel less “mass” like writing a personal note on each postcard.

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

Look before you leap. Dreams are the stuff memes are made of, but this is real life, so do your research, plan your strategies, take action and evaluate. Then, do it all over again before taking each next big leap.

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

The Google Calendar app is a vital tool for my voiceover business. A client of mine recommended I try it. In January 2017, I switched and have never looked back. It’s easy, intuitive and works across my phone, computers, and iPad. I’m still old school when it comes to my handwritten to-do list, but Google Calendar keeps my VO session schedule in check.

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

My favorite business tool is my Neumann TLM 103 microphone. I hired an engineer to help me with my first voiceover home studio and was a little shocked at the amount of money it was going to cost to purchase the mic. When I said I’d read about other less expensive mics that might be fine for my voice, he said having this Neumann microphone would let people know that I was in the game to win. It was great advice. Not only is this microphone ideally suited to my voice, having a Neumann mic in my studio has helped with my marketing and differentiation. It’s also the only piece of gear I’ve never had to upgrade.

Who is your business role model? Why?

My mother is my business role model. She was an English and art teacher and, prior to that, worked as a graphic designer in an ad agency. When my little brother came home with an “F” on a colored-in ditto sheet because his tree trunk wasn’t brown and the leaves weren’t green, she did her research and found many elementary schools were losing their art teachers. She planned a strategy to put art education into the hands of classroom teachers. She took action by turning a bedroom into a studio to film a series of educational videos for classroom teachers to teach art across mathematics, science, social studies, and literature. My mom then devoted the next couple of decades to marketing and perfecting her art education program. She married her skills with her passion.

What do you have planned for the next six months?

In the next six months, I’m planning on updating my commercial demo with the more modern, conversational sound I’m booked most for these days and expanding my voiceover offerings to generate more television promo work. I’m also about to launch a fun blog where guest bloggers and I turn song titles into business advice for entrepreneurs and creatives called the Business Practice Playlist.

How can our readers connect with you?

If anyone would like to connect, I can be found on:

Q&A with Twin Sister Entrepreneurs, Rebecca & Rachel

Rachel & Rebecca

 

Twinnks, created by twin sisters Rebecca and Rachel, is a modernized t-shirt bra that solves all of the most common “brablems”. Not only does it have the molded, seamless cups for comfort and support, but it goes a step further and smooths out the edge of the cups, making it invisible under clothes. Eventually, they hope to expand into all things basic: t-shirts, undershirts, tank tops and more.

Can you tell our readers about your background?

We’re the youngest of four girls (I know...our poor dad), born and raised in Birmingham, AL. In 2015, after months of talking about this idea for a new bra, we finally decided to go for it.  We’re almost two years into development and plan to officially launch at the end of 2017. In the meantime, we both still have our full-time jobs (Rachel in marketing, Rebecca in insurance). In fact, up until this point, we have been keeping our identities on our website and social media pages under wraps because we didn’t want to risk having our work see it. But the opportunity to be on Fem Founder is worth it, so we’re throwing caution to the wind.

What inspired you to start your business?

Getting dressed. But really, it started with a mutual frustration for bras that claim to be “invisible under clothing” but after a short period of wear would show the visible cup lines (which we refer to as the “VCL”). We read countless articles as to why this happens: wrong size, you’re washing it too much or too little, you’re wearing it too much, you should get professionally measured every 6 months, the list goes on and it fueled us to start Twinnks. The reason it happens is simple: there’s an abrupt transition from the bra cup to the skin, so after the slightest wear, the line shows. We had a very clear vision of how a bra should be constructed to fix it and it didn’t exist.

Where is your business based?

Online, but we both live in North Carolina.

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

In our initial research, we came across MakersRow.com, which is an online network that connects entrepreneurs with factories (very helpful, we highly recommend). From there, we contacted several manufacturers to see if they could make a prototype for us. We found one in San Francisco that really understood the idea and we’ve been with them ever since!

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

Social media, hands down—especially Instagram. Not only is it a great way to build a brand and raise awareness, it also allows our potential market to get to know us and our personalities.

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

Coming into a very competitive industry with no experience in product development. In the beginning, we were overwhelmed because there’s so much to learn and we had no idea where to start. There is a ton of information out there about starting a company, but we realized that we’re never really going to learn until we do it. So we hired the factory, started on development and asked a lot of questions along the way (our designer can vouch for this). Now look at us, we’re product development geniuses.

How do you stay focused?

By constantly thinking about the end goal. We both have a really strong work ethic, so even though we still have full-time jobs, we’re extremely determined to make Twinnks a success.

How do you differentiate your business from the competition?

For starters, we’re women, which is a rare find in this industry. Most bra companies are run by men who seem to love lace, tiny bows and push up cups. That’s cute and all, but we’re not about the frill. Our focus is on functionality, comfort and, of course, making it flattering. Second, we’re committed to relating to our customers rather than talk down to them. There are a lot of brands that position themselves as experts and treat customers like students. That’s not our style. We’re extremely new to this world and we won’t pretend otherwise. Lastly, we’re actually building this company from the ground up. Everything is self-funded: no GoFundMe page (although, nothing against it) and no venture capitalist hurling money at us.

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

Social media without a doubt. We knew what we wanted our tone and aesthetic to be early on and started planning our posting-schedule four months before launching. We’re currently taking an Instagram marketing class through ilovecreatives.com. The creator, Jennifer Puno, grew her Instagram following from zero to 80,000 in one year so she’s good.

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

  1. This is cliché, but patience is a virtue. It's so easy to get caught up in the eagerness to launch, but it's so important to focus on the product and get it to where you want it to be, rather than where it's “just passable”. In reality, it probably won't happen according to your timeline and that's usually for the best

  2. Use your support system and reciprocate. We were pleasantly surprised at how supportive everyone was, and not just our immediate friends and family. Our generation has the reputation of being entitled and unwilling to work, but we couldn't disagree more. Millennials have great work ethic, we just insist on working for something we actually care about. And what's even better, there's so much support from people (even strangers) in the same situation, so become a part of the comradery! There are a lot of startup communities out there that help connect like-minded people, whether it's for collaborations, feedback, advice, promotion, really anything. Groups like Rising Tide Society and SocietyGal are great places to start. Put yourself out there.

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

This is hard because there are so many good ones for both business & personal use.

Blogs: Instagram’s Business Blog is a great source for content inspiration (they literally have “inspiration” as a category). Also, Buffer and Entrepreneur.com’s blogs are great for startups and strategy.

Apps- It’s lame to say out loud, but pretty much all social media apps (you have to stay in the know!). We also use Later to schedule posts and Google Drive.

Podcasts- you didn’t ask, but we are podcast fanatics so we’re throwing it in there.

●      How I Built This is amazing. It’s really inspiring to hear how some of the most successful companies got started.

●      The Art of Charm (both a blog & podcast) ties personal development and social skills into successful business relationships. Let’s be honest, incorporating human behavior into anything is so interesting. We are a crazy species.

●      My Favorite Murder- We can’t talk podcast without mentioning this. A great go-to when you need a break from reality. We love true crime and the hosts are hilarious.

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

We’ve already mentioned it, but MakersRow.com is a great one. Also, since we work in separate places, Google Drive has been extremely useful. Peoplemap.co is an Instagram tool that we use daily. It lets you comment, filter, build lists and analyze Instagram from a desktop. 

Who is your business role model? Why?

It's hard to pinpoint one but we have serious admiration for Whitney Wolfe (founder of Bumble). After being sexually harassed and suspended as Co-Founder of Tinder, she walked away with her middle finger up and started a competing app that empowers women and she's killing it. It’s inspiring.

What do you have planned for the next six months?

Perfecting and launching our product. We’ve worked so hard preparing for this moment and there’s finally a light at the end of the tunnel. Following our own advice from question #10, we will not launch just to launch. Above all else is the quality of the product so the first batch will go to our test audience to ensure it successfully solves the problem before selling it. We’ve mapped out our marketing strategy so once we’re certain it’s ready, we will H-U-S-T-L-E.

How can our readers connect with you?

Website: www.twinnks.com (*make note of the two N’s, using only one will get you a pornographic surprise)

Email: info@twinnks.com

Instagram: @twinnks_co

Facebook: @twinnks

Twitter: @twinnks_co

 

Q&A with Entrepreneur, Eileen Zimmerman

Eileen Zimmerman

As a seasoned business traveler, Eileen Zimmerman found herself wishing she could take advantage of the beautiful pools and spas at some of the hotels she stayed at but didn't have a way to pack her wet bathing suit for the flight home.  Searching for a solution, Eileen was disappointed by the lack of high-quality, beautiful, wet bags on the market so she decided to create her own. 

As colleagues, friends, and family members saw her wet swimsuit bag they began to ask her to make them one too, and Eileen knew she was on to something.  Designed to protect your purse, suitcase, or gym tote from wet and soggy items while on the go, Wander Wet Bags™ are super cute, eco-friendly, powerfully water-resistant, wet swimsuit bags.  With gorgeous prints on the outside and waterproof lining on the inside, Wander Wet Bags™ let you live in the moment and look polished at the same time.

Can you tell our readers about your background? 

I started my career in sales and moved into software product management after business school.  My first job out of college was cold calling businesses door-to-door selling long distance phone service. It was probably the hardest job I've ever had but it gave me the confidence to walk into a room and talk to pretty much anyone.  Later, as a software product manager, I learned how to work with a team to create products people want and need to use.

What inspired you to start your business? 

After fifteen years in the corporate world, I left my job when my eldest son started kindergarten.  I wasn't sure what I wanted to do next but I knew I needed a more flexible lifestyle. I had made myself a wet swimsuit bag a few months earlier because I couldn't find a cute one that I wanted to carry with me at a spa or resort pool. A few family members and friends had asked me to make them one, so the business just kind of grew out of my newly found free time and ability to see the market opportunity.  

Where is your business based?

Wander Wet Bags is based in Encinitas, California, just north of San Diego in the heart of the surf culture and the Southern California lifestyle. 

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

The first thing I did when I started to get a sense that there was so much interest in my Wander Wet Bags was to test out my idea with people I didn't know.  I decided to make a few bags and see if any of the surf shops in downtown Encinitas would be willing to buy them.  Using my cold calling experience from my first job out of school I simply walked into the shops and asked to speak with the buyers.  One of the biggest stores said they were interested and wanted to buy some and test them out.  This feedback told me that I was really on to something and I decided to move forward with the next step of turning my idea into a business.

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

Perhaps in unexpected ways, Instagram has definitely been a powerful tool to get the word out about Wander Wet Bags.  It is so easy to tell a story through photos and to leverage other users' images to add to your own story and create relationships with other brands that share a common vision.  Less about driving immediate sales, Instagram has helped me create a lifestyle brand through visual storytelling and get that story in front of similar partners, influencers, and retailers that want to collaborate.

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

My biggest challenge so far has been an issue with my first manufacturer.  On my first big run, my manufacturing partner lost hundreds of my bags during the shipping process.  It was a lot of money for me, and I remember thinking that many people would quit after such a loss.  I decided that I would keep going and that I would not let this setback take me down.  "Keep Going", has been my mantra every time I face an obstacle that seems daunting at the time.

How do you stay focused?

When you are running a business there is always a list of 100 things that needed to get done yesterday.  It is easy to get caught in the bustle of the day to day and lose sight of the bigger picture.  I use the Self Journal by Best Self Co. to set quarterly goals and outline what I want to achieve every three months.  It is so rewarding to look back at the end of a quarter and see how far I have come.

How do you differentiate your business from the competition? 

I differentiate Wander Wet Bags by staying authentic to why I started the business and who I started it for.  Wander Wet Bags have gorgeous prints, are made with high-quality fabrics, and are sewn with a pride in craftsmanship that you don't often see in consumer products anymore.  In the drive for fast fashion, many companies choose to use cheap zippers, for example or don't reinforce their stitching so their products fall apart.  The women that buy Wander Wet Bags command a higher standard of both style and durability and that is where I focus my business.

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

Going back to staying focused, we get a lot of feedback about additional potential uses and target markets for our Wander Wet Bags.  We hear again and again that we should create a line for children.  While I absolutely agree that the market for kids is large, there are already so many products focused on the market for baby gear that is covered in kid prints.  Staying focused on making something upscale specifically just for stylish, strong women have helped set us apart from the competition.

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

Be courageous. 90% of entrepreneurship is taking calculated risks and doing things that most people find uncomfortable.  Trust your instincts!  If a partnership doesn't quite feel right to you don't do it.  Conversely, if you are scared to take action on something that will move your business forward, be brave and do it anyway.

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

Favorite App - The Momentum Dashboard plugin for Chrome.  I love the gorgeous photography combined with inspirational quotes every time I open a new tab in my browser.

Favorite Blog/Podcast - NPR's How I Built This Podcast with Guy Raz.  I love hearing the real stories from entrepreneurs who have made it.  I have my favorites that I listen to when I hit a wall and need to remember that other entrepreneurs have gotten through these same issues and made it to the other side with success.

Favorite Book- "Delivering Happiness" by Tony Hsieh, best known as the CEO of Zappos.  I love reading about how "All in" Hsieh was willing to go to ensure Zappos' and his team's success.  I am inspired by how laser-focused Zappos is on perfecting their customers' end to end experience.

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

Shopify is my favorite business tool right now.  It is really incredible how far I've been able to take my company with such a small investment on the technology side.  Their platform is so robust and the features are so well thought through I am able to expand my business with additional functionality through their third-party apps whenever I need to.

Who is your business role model? Why? 

Sara Blakely is my idol.  I remember my dad sending me an article about her back in my long-distance door to door sales days.  He told me there was a woman, not much older than I was, who had used her cold calling skills to get in the door at Nordstrom and other large retailers and sell her women's' shapewear product.  I so relate to her feelings of, "This is not my movie," when she talks about selling fax machines door-to-door at the beginning of her career.  I hope to meet her someday soon and swap stories about getting kicked out of buildings by security guards.

What do you have planned for the next six months? 

For the next six months, I am building out my sales and marketing plans to dominate the luxury wet swimsuit bag market in Summer 2018.  I have new prints coming out that I am really excited about.  I look forward to expanding the select resorts, spas, and boutiques we currently work with in the USA and around the world.

How can our readers connect with you? 

I always love to hear feedback and ideas from customers and prospective partners.  You can learn more about my journey and purchase Wander Wet Bags at www.wanderwetbags.com, on Instagram @wanderwetbags, and on Amazon.  I can be reached personally via email at eileen@wanderwetbags.com and on Twitter @eileenzimmerman.