Learning How to Manage Stress with Psychotherapist and Entrepreneur Angela Ficken

Angela Ficken

Angela Ficken started her career at McLean Hospital, which is one of the top ranking psychiatric hospitals in the country, and affiliated with Harvard University. She was the head social worker in an inpatient unit that focuses on anxiety and depression. During her time at McLean, she trained in exposure therapy, and became certified in CBT and DBT. Shortly thereafter, she worked at Harvard University as a primary therapist for undergraduate and graduate students. During her time there, she taught students CBT and DBT skills to help them manage a range of challenging emotions that young adults face daily.

Along with her work at McLean and Harvard, Angela had a small private practice for years before she decided to move to full time in 2013. From there, she focused her attention on working with young adults and entrepreneurs primarily after noticing that both groups struggled with anxiety disorders and stress-related issues due to life transitions and the uncertainty of what was coming next in their lives. The struggle, as they say is "real".

She spent years fine tuning her practice and building her business into something more than a standard full-time private practice. She began writing for Huffington Post as an expert, which then catapulted her into writing for other major online sources which include Marriage.com where she is a verified expert, YourTango.com, ThriveGlobal.com, and has been quoted on Bustle.com, Popsugar.com, Buzzfeed.com, Nylon magazine, StartupNation.com, Nav.com, Getstigma.com, and Justluxe.com. She has also been a guest on Onward Nation with Stephen Woessner where she talked about OCD and intrusive thoughts, as well as on the radio in Chicago and Reno speaking about stress and anxiety.

Through her writing and hearing from her clients how difficult it was finding an understanding therapist - one who could actually teach coping strategies to manage difficult emotions - she decided to create the Breaking Every Day into Slivers Not Chunks: Practical Skills to Deal With Everyday Stressors course to reach more people other than those she could meet with in her office. The course helps those who have significant stress in their lives and struggle to find ways of coping and managing their emotions.

What inspired you to start your business?

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

Where is your business based?

My private practice is based in Boston. 

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

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

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

Believe it or not, it’s been Pinterest. I generate more than 18,000 views every month and have a little over 1400 followers which can ebb and flow. I also think the articles I’ve written for and been featured in on PopSugar.com, Today.com Parenting, HuffingtonPost.com, ThriveGlobal.com, and Marriage.com, along with my blog have helped my business tremendously in terms of raising awareness. 

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

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

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

How do you stay focused? 

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

I also make social time with friends and family and personal downtime a priority. Making time for that during the week also helps with staying focused. Seeing my weekly schedule gives me a visual on what my week is looking like and how I want to manage it. 

How do you differentiate your business from the competition?

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

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

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

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

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

What's your favorite book? Why?

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

Who is your business role model? Why?

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

How can our readers connect with you? 

I can be reached via email at angela@progresswellness.com. My website progresswellness.com also has more information about me and my practice and has a contact form. You can also follow me on Instagram.co/ProgressWellness and Pinterest.com/ProgressWellness.

Q&A with Judy Hoberman, Selling in a Skirt

Judy Hoberman

I had the pleasure of interviewing Judy Hoberman, founder of Selling in a Skirt. Judy Hoberman is President of Walking on the Glass Floor and Selling In A Skirt, companies that are both focused on empowering professional women.  She is an International Speaker, Trainer, Executive Coach, Author, Radio Show host and Mentor.  

Judy also works with companies supporting their diversity and women’s initiatives in the areas of leadership, recruiting, training, coaching, mentoring and retention. She offers a complete training program that concentrates on women in leadership, the men that champion them, with a concentration on Redefining Culture.   

Judy’s mission…to help One Woman A Day by following an important philosophy-“Women want to be treated equally, not identically” ™ 

Can you tell our readers about your background? 

A wise woman told me to always look for the root cause of why we do what we do. When I was growing up in the 1950s and 1960s, many young girls were told we weren’t old enough or tall enough or smart enough to do even the smallest things. It was also the time when I was told “girls don’t do that.” Pairing “not enough” with “girls don’t do things like this” is not a winning combination. 

For much of my life, I thought of myself as a square peg in a round hole. I never truly fit in. My parents had one idea of who I was supposed to be, and I had other plans. So I did what others thought I should … until I couldn’t any longer. 

My saving grace was my grandmother who was a true trailblazer for women. She always said, “Judy, follow your dreams and don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do what you truly want to do. It may not happen today, but it will happen.” She was right. It did happen, albeit fifty years later. 

Judy Hoberman

What inspired you to start your business? 

Everything I did in my professional life found me to be the only or one of the only women in that company or industry. I had to create my own playbook to be successful. I started in construction and then finally found my “home” in Insurance that lasted for decades. Because I was female and because I built relationships, I was promoted and finally got to a top position when it was discovered that I might know what I was talking about. It was a few years later that I was asked if I would consider moving to Dallas and building a training department… which would not only provide consistency to the thousands of producers in the field, but also give some insight into the softer skills, the people skills and not base all success on technical skills and numbers. 

Where is your business based? 

My business is based outside of Dallas, Texas. We do provide our services nationally and internationally and have a team of 10. 

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

Honestly, I started my business with a business card and a thought. I resigned from my position and had no idea what I would do. I asked myself, if I was starting all over, what is it that I would want or need? It was a female mentor or coach. There weren’t any for me when I began and when I started to show signs of success, I became the company and country mentor and coach. It was time to turn those tables around. Once I had that idea, the very first thing I did was hire a coach…and yes she was female. It was the greatest investment I have ever made. 

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

The most effective way of raising awareness for my business is word of mouth. I ask for referrals, testimonials and reach into my network and let them know what I’m doing and where I can use their help and support.  Having a business is not the time to be shy about asking for help. 

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

The biggest challenge at first was that we were in the height of the recession, so dollars were tight. I had no clue that dollars were tight. This is what I heard and I either listened or not. It reminded me of starting out in Insurance when my manager told everyone that the two most difficult times to write business was in July-vacation month and between Thanksgiving and New Year’s.  Do I need to say what my two most productive and profitable times of the year were? It was the same with my business.  We were in the height of the recession, so people weren’t spending money on bringing speakers in, so I did training. They weren’t doing training, so I did coaching.  It didn’t matter what they didn’t do, I found what they did do and continued that way. 

How do you stay focused? 

I must be very strict with myself since I am a shiny object person. I have a strategic triangle that I use. A triangle has 3 sides and in each side is one of the 3 services that I offer-speaking, coaching and training.  If it doesn’t fit in one of those sides, I can’t do it. If I want to do something else, I have to remove one of my services and add that.  I have to remind myself that a triangle has 3 sides so there are only 3 services I can offer. Not only does this keep me focused, it also gives me the ability to say no… 

How do you differentiate your business from the competition?

I am focused on women in leadership, emerging leaders, men who champion them and redefining culture. We encourage diversity and have a diverse team. We not only walk the walk, we talk the talk.  The entire team has been in business for decades, have experienced being overlooked for promotions for numerous reasons or have been or wanted to be a champion for women. We have the stories and the experience. 

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

I think that raising awareness and marketing are very similar and go hand in hand. We use social media platform to reach our networks and connect and reconnect.  We are very active on social media so that our networks are ready to help promote what we are doing and planning. As I mentioned before, we ask for support. We all practice servant leadership and we give in all ways and always. That favor is returned most often without even having to ask. 

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

The first thing I would say is understand your why. Why are you planning to do whatever you are planning to do? Know your market and the problem you will solve. Remember that you can’t help everyone…even if you want to. And most importantly, find a mentor or a coach. One of my guests on my radio show said she always has two mentors-a man and a woman so that she gets different perspectives. I love that and recommend that as well. 

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

One of my favorite books is Power Questions by Andrew Sobel because it confirms the fact that being named the "Question Queen" makes great business sense.  He gives you reasons why you should and shouldn't ask certain questions and identifies a question that, when I ask it, the response is  "No one has ever asked me that question before" and the conversation continues on an entirely different level. I find that asking questions shows you are interested in, not interesting to your prospect, client, friend, partner, spouse etc. 

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

I love LinkedIn.  It’s not simply a social media platform. It gives you access to thousands of “your people” whether by company, title, position or group. You can connect and reconnect and introduce your connections to each other. Since many of my market are LinkedIn users, it makes it that much easier. 

Who is your business role model?

Why? Brene´ Brown.

She is brilliant and speaks to you, not at you. She has a wealth of knowledge and is a speaker that I see, watch, listen to and read about. She is also a celebrity crush of mine and I know I will meet her in person sooner than later. 

What do you have planned for the next six months? 

For the next 6 months, we are creating a movement through our foundation Walking on the Glass Floor foundation. Its stated purpose is: To support and empower women by sourcing, publishing, and distributing educational materials for women in leadership and organizations that support women in leadership.  

Women are desperately needed and wanted at higher levels in companies, non-profit organizations, governmental institutions, new businesses, and on boards. More than simply a nice idea, our foundation is a collaboration of women and men supporting women regardless of age, culture, or industry. This IS going to be a movement.  

Through the Walking on the Glass Floor Foundation, we also are developing partnerships with companies and organizations committed to women in leadership. The goal is to sell 1 million books and donate a portion of the proceeds back to charities, foundations, social causes and scholarships and create events for women in underserved communities. It’s very exciting for everyone involved. 

How can our readers connect with you?  

https://www.linkedin.com/in/judyhoberman/ 

https://twitter.com/SellingInASkirt 

https://www.facebook.com/judyhoberman 

https://www.facebook.com/sellinginaskirt/ 

https://www.facebook.com/Walking-On-The-Glass-Floor-403061066758257/ 

https://www.instagram.com/sellinginaskirt 

Q&A with Female CoFounder Karlyn Tupper of Tenacity Jeans

Photo Credit:  Skerpon Photography

Photo Credit: Skerpon Photography

Karlyn is one of the co-founders of sister-owned company, Tenacity. Tenacity is a USA-made denim jeans line specifically designed for active women. She received her bachelor’s degree in Communications from the University of Connecticut where she also played lacrosse. When she’s not working on the business, you can usually find her coaching or refereeing on the lacrosse field, spending quality time with family & friends, or at the dog park with her pup!

Can you tell our readers about your background?

I was born and raised in Syracuse, NY and graduated from West Genesee High School. In 2010, I headed off to UConn and took the opportunity to play alongside my sister (again!) on the Women’s Lacrosse team. After graduation, I returned to Syracuse where I worked in digital marketing for about 4 years. I left the corporate world this past March and decided to go all in with Tenacity. Being able to commit full-time to the company has allowed us to make this idea a reality and provide a quality product in the marketplace.

What inspired you to start your business?

My sisters and I were walking off of the lacrosse field and were talking with our teammates about how discouraging it was to find jeans that fit our active build. We always had to buy a size up to fit our muscular butts and thighs, only to be left with a gaping waist. Quickly we realized we weren’t the only ones that struggled to find a pair of jeans that complimented our shape and provided a confident fit. Since we couldn’t find them, we decided to design them!

Where is your business based?

Tenacity originated in Syracuse, NY, but is operating out of the greater New York City area.

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

Research, research, research. Once we established the concept, we started asking teammates, active women, and coaches if they found it difficult to find jeans that fit. When the majority of the women said they have the same issue, we knew we had found our niche market. We performed extensive competitor research only to find there were very few brands that provided an athletic fit and confidence-boosting jean for active women. From there, we began contacting U.S. based denim manufacturers, designers, fabric suppliers, etc., and had our first prototype made.

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

Social media influencers and word-of-mouth! Selecting influencers to try a pair of Tenacity jeans not only provides a pair of jeans that are designed specifically with their body type in mind, but it naturally increases brand awareness as well. Secondly, do not underestimate the power of networking! Connect with other people, brands, and organizations with similar values and find a way to collaborate to help one another achieve success.

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

Facing the unknown everyday! Destiny is truly in your hands when you are living the entrepreneurial life. It can be very challenging to define your tasks and channel your focus. I embrace the hustle, the opportunity to learn from others, and connect daily. Stay disciplined and passionate; everyday is a new chance to learn, grow, and share your message.

How do you stay focused?

I stay on a routine! Starting off my day with a solid workout helps me channel my energy and focus. I'm a huge advocate for to-do lists and mini breaks throughout the day; both of these help me to stay disciplined while still maintaining a healthy balance in my day.

How do you differentiate your business from the competition?

Our team. Aside from our specifically engineered design, our team is how I differentiate Tenacity from the rest of the market. My sisters and I played sports and stayed active throughout our entire lives. Our hustle has shifted from the field to the business and I anticipate that level of intensity maximizing Tenacity’s potential.

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

Social media marketing and events. Keeping followers engaged on Instagram and other social channels with new content, blog posts, and product offerings is a key driver for our traffic. Jeans shopping is rarely easy, so we've focused on hosting or joining events to get Tenacity jeans in the hands of consumers to touch, try, and feel. We've really enjoyed teaming up with local brands for joint pop-up shops!

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

Don't lose sight--Don't lose sight of your mission, don't lose sight of your goals, don't lose sight of your passion, and don't lose sight of your strengths. Being a new entrepreneur is challenging and everyday brings something new, so stay focused, believe in yourself, and embrace the journey.

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

My favorite app is Instagram. I'm able to stay connected with friends, family, and other brands. Insta always gets my creative juices flowing and inspires me with new ideas almost daily!

My favorite blog is Camille Styles! Camille and her team have a ton of creative content with a wide variety of inspiring topics and ideas. Light and enjoyable reading, check it out!

My favorite book right now is Present Over Perfect. Not sure about the rest of you, but I certainly need a reminder from time to time to be more in the moment, focus less on perfection, and more on embracing the imperfections.

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

My favorite business resource is other entrepreneurs. Books, articles, conferences, etc., are all extremely helpful, but to learn from someone who has experienced or is experiencing the start-up journey has been worth its weight in gold. Real conversations full of authentic insight and genuine thoughts is rejuvenating.

Who is your business role model? Why?

My father. He is a small business owner with several successful products that bring solutions to a niche market. He's intelligent, business savvy, and has always been present for our family while simultaneously running a successful business; his rewarding work-life balance truly inspires me.

What do you have planned for the next six months?

In the next six months we plan on diversifying our Tenacity line with various colors and styles! I am moving to the greater New York City area to expand our market reach and will be bouncing around there at events and other marketing opportunities!

How can our readers connect with you?

If you’re looking to learn more you can check out our site www.tenacityjeans.com, email me with questions or comments at info@tenacityjeans.com , and/or follow us on social @tenacityjeans & @ktupps27 .

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Q&A with Female Entrepreneur Ayesha Barenblat

Ayesha Barenblat

Ayesha (@abarenblat) is a social entrepreneur with a passion for building sustainable supply chains. Remake is the world’s first platform that leverages technology and visual storytelling to build human connections between shoppers, brands and makers around the world. Remake unlocks the hearts and minds of shoppers to advocate for a better life for the people who make our clothes.

Ayesha is passionate about where things come from, who made them, and what their lives are like. She has spent the last decade working with brands, governments, and nonprofits to improve the lives of makers in global supply chains.

She led brand engagement at Better Work, a World Bank and United Nations partnership to ensure safe and decent working conditions around the world. She was head of consumer products at BSR, providing strategic advice to brands including H&M, Levi Strauss & Co., Marks and Spencer, Nike, The Walt Disney Company and Pou Chen on the design and integration of sustainability into business. She holds a master’s in public policy from the University of California, Berkeley.

“Today there is a long unhappy story of how our fashion is made and where it ends up. I want us to reimagine this story. I founded Remake because I truly believe in the good that comes from human connections. The modern shopper wants to know more, and the maker is better off when we use our voice and shopping dollars to advocate for her wellbeing.”

Can you tell our readers about your background?

I have spent over a decade drawing attention to and addressing the well-being of the women who make our clothes. I've provided sustainability advice to retailers ranging from Levi Strauss and Company, Nike, Gap to Target and Walmart and driven dialogue and engagement across unions, brands and local governments to improve working conditions in the fashion industry.

What inspired you to start your business? 

When Rana Plaza fell down it was the biggest industrial disaster of our time and over 1100 makers lost their lives, in our quest for cheap clothes. I realized as the death toll climbed, that in all my years of working on the inside of the fashion industry to improve working conditions, we were not moving fast enough and that there was a seat absent at the table. The seat being all of us as consumers. And that to prevent more tragedies like Rana Plaza we needed a groundswell of consumers saying no more. This was my inspiration for starting Remake. 

Where is your business based?

We are based in San Francisco, California but our movement is global. From Paris, to London, NYC to San Francisco an increasing number of fashionistas are embracing our message of breaking up with fast fashion and buying fewer better things. It's been powerful to see the drumbeat of feminists across the US and Europe wanting to wear their values and for their clothes to support our sisters at the other end of the supply chain. 

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

After Rana Plaza fell down, I had a lot of conversations with my extensive and incredible network of mentors and colleagues, #girlbosses who had been fighting side by side for social justice in the fashion industry. Their advice and faith in me is was empowered me to take the plunge to start my own business. One of the first steps I took was to assemble a really good board and advisory board. My board was instrumental in helping me find pro-bono legal help to set-up my non-profit status, to get going on fundraising and setting our initial strategy. 

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

Live events such as our Wear Your Values event, film screenings, and workshops has been one of the best ways to raise awareness. I realized quickly that social media was a powerful tool to amplify our message but that the real converts and super users come from our live events. 

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

Addressing the human rights abuses within the fashion industry is dark and complex whereas shopping is fun. I found that people tune out depressing news during flash sales. It become imperative that our message moved away from naming and shaming and instead comes from a place of hope and inspiration. Our Humans of Fashion series gets people to think about what we wear to be an extension of our values  and this is both powerful and uplifting. Our Meet the Maker series rather than painting the women who make our clothes as victims, instead traces the similarities of her life to ours. She too is a feminist and a #girlboss. 

How do you stay focused?

It's hard! I only check email at the end of my day. I've found that the constant back and forth on email is not optimal especially during the morning which is my best thinking time.

As a team, we use Slack, which is faster and more efficient to getting through to-dos. I revisit our strategy at least monthly to keep focused on our goals of engaging and acquiring more users. 

How do you differentiate your business from the competition? 

Unlike other labor activist groups we come from a place of hope and inspiration. Rather than telling you which brands to boycott, we provide you with beautiful, fashionable slow fashion alternatives. Rather than a focus on the pain-centered narrative of sweatshop victims, we bring you the human stories of the hard working women behind our clothes. Our stories are about her hopes and dreams, her messages to you. Fundamentally our movement is about building empathy and human connection between the women who make and buy fashion. 

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

At every live event, we have super users, Remake Ambassadors, who become engaged and excited to spread the message to their friends and community. Our Ambassadors have been our best and most powerful marketing strategy.

Instagram as a way to put the human face and have the conversation across the fashion supply chain from celebrities, to designers, consumers on the streets to makers in factories, has also been our fastest growing and most engaging platform. 

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

Stay focused and believe in yourself. You will get lots of wanted and unwanted advice, so be sure to filter it. Really listen to your customers and iterate early and constantly. Stay closely connected to your customers needs. 

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

A recent book that I really love is a fiction piece called " A Harvest of Thorns" that reimagines the Tazreen factory fire and what would have happened if the victims had had their day in a US court. Its written by a human rights lawyer and is a great way to understand the complexity of the issues as well as connect in a human way. 

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

I am a big fan of Slack because it cuts our email traffic way down, kept us on task and is an easy way to share tools and resources and chat across our globally diverse team. I also really like MailChimp for managing our user lists and newsletters. Its easy to use and the software is intuitive. 

Who is your business role model? Why? 

Daniel Lee, the executive Director of the Levi Strauss Foundation is my role model and mentor. The foundation focuses on some of the biggest issues of our times: HIV/AIDS, worker rights at home and globally. I adore Daniel because he is both pragmatic and practical, inspiring and a big picture thinker yet solid in the execution of his ideas. As a corporate foundation, he's always pioneered in taking on issues of the most marginalized and stigmatized communities and despite all of his success he remains humble and approachable. 

What do you have planned for the next six months? 

We are back from taking some fashion design students to Sri Lanka to get to know the women behind the label. Over the next few months we will be editing and screening the film up and down the US and having conversations with millennials on how to join our movement. In addition, we will be adding more slow fashion to our platform to make the discovery of ethically made clothes easy. Stay tuned.  

How can our readers connect with you? 

You can follow or write me on twitter @abarenblat and join our movement across social media by following #remakeourworld. 

Q&A with Tangela Walker-Craft

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Tangela Walker-Craft is a wife, homeschooling mother, and blogger.  She’s the founder and President of Simply Necessary, Incorporated in Lakeland, Florida. Tangela is the inventor of the patented GoPillow, which she licensed to Kushies Baby (Canada/USA).

Can you tell our readers about your background?

I’m a graduate of  the University of South Florida with a degree in English (Creative Writing).  I have a background in Technical Writing, Accounts Receivable Collections, TeleMarketing Sales, and Language Arts instruction.  I taught Language Arts for 7 years before deciding to be a work-at-home mother.  I’ve been married to my husband (Ernest Craft, III) for over 25 years.  I homeschool my daughter (Emari). 

What inspired you to start your business?

After my daughter was born, I breastfed her for two years. Due to my own breastfeeding needs, I invented and patented the BEST multipurpose breastfeeding and travel product that a mom or caregiver could ever have – The GoPillow! I had the idea for the GoPillow because my daughter was born with a head full of black, silky hair. Each time I would breastfeed her, the back of her neck along her hairline would perspire and my arm would be damp. I decided that I needed an arm cover of some kind.

The original intent of the pillow was for cradling babies for breast or bottle feedings. I also knew it would be an excellent travel pillow. The idea for adding the privacy blanket came later. It was added after I was caught in a crowded area during a rainstorm at Disney World in Orlando, Florida. My husband took off his shirt and gave it to me to use as a privacy cover so that I could nurse our daughter more discreetly. We realized that a privacy blanket or cover would separate my pillow from any other nursing pillow on the market. The blanket turned the pillow into a multipurpose product.

Where is your business based?

Simply Necessary Incorporated is based in Lakeland, Florida.  (The licensee of my product, Kushies Baby, operates out of Stoney Creek, Ontario, with a location in Niagara Falls, New York.)

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

I filed for a patent for my invention. While my patent was pending, I went through prototyping, fabric sampling, packaging selection, etc. and finally got the GoPillow ready for market. I founded Simply Necessary, Incorporated to market and distribute the GoPillow after my patent was approved.

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

I used social media to to promote my business.  Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube were very effective marketing tools.  However, television news interviews helped me to reach the broadest audience.  I was able to share my company and product in several television news interviews, as well as on a few national talk shows. 

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

The biggest business challenge for me to overcome was being an unknown inventor.  When I introduced my invention to the product market I was completely unknown.  I also had to overcome working on a tight marketing budget.  I used social media, my creative writing skills, and my background in sales to get the attention of different media outlets and the buying public.  Once the GoPillow began to gain some traction, I was able to show Kushies Baby how much people liked the GoPillow.

How do you stay focused?

Everything I do is directly influenced by the fact that I am a wife and mother.  I know every positive accomplishment will make life better for me and my family.  That’s what keeps me focused.

How do you differentiate your business from the competition?

Simply Necessary, Incorporated was founded to market and distribute my invention.  The GoPillow is wearable and more portable than competing products.  Its uses can be adapted to the age of a baby or child.  It can be used hands-free.  Breastfeeding and bottle feeding moms can use the GoPillow.  The GoPillow’s blanket is retractable, allowing for it to be tucked out of the way when not being used.  The GoPillow is perfect for air travel because its compact and fits on the arm of many airplane seats.

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

My marketing strategy is based on treating potential customers and business partners the way I’d want to be treated.  If I’m marketing my product to a customer, I try to include answers to questions that I know I would ask if I was the customer.  When marketing to a business I try to show them why working with me is better than working with a competitor.

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

I would advise new entrepreneurs to do their homework.  They should know who their competition is, and know why they’re a better alternative.  A new entrepreneur should always be an expert on their product or service.  It’s essential to have an “elevator pitch”.  That means they should be able to summarize who they are and what they have to offer in two minutes or less, about the time it would take to make a pitch on an elevator ride.

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

My favorite app is Twitter.  It doesn’t matter if you’re a celebrity or a hermit, you have the same opportunity to communicate to a worldwide audience on Twitter.

Other than my own Simply Necessary Inc. blog, I enjoy the Allrecipes (http://allrecipes.com) blog because I like to cook and the Visit Florida (http://www.visitflorida.com/en-us.html) blog because I love visiting new places in my home state.

My favorite book is the Bible; it’s a manual for my life as a Christian.

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

I couldn’t function without my iMac computer and Google.  None of what I’ve accomplished in business would have been possible without my computer and Google.  All of my initial business contacts were made through email, Facebook, or Twitter messages.  I prefer being able to utilize multiple windows at the same time on my computer monitor.

Who is your business role model? Why?

Sarah Breedlove was born in 1867.  She became known as Madam C.J. Walker before she died in 1919.  She created specialized hair products for African-American hair and was one of the first American women to become a self-made millionaire.  When I decided start my business I told myself if Madam C.J. Walker could accomplish what she did in the perilous times that she lived in, I should be able to do the same.

What do you have planned for the next six months?

I plan to continue to promote the Kushies GoPillow through social media.  I hope to post new videos on YouTube promoting the Kushies GoPillow.  I also want to add new posts to the Travel page of my Simply Necessary Inc blog after visiting as many new places as possible.

How can our readers connect with you - Social Media Handles?

Q&A with Author & Influencer, Whitney Geathers

Whitney Geathers

Whitney MG is an author and influencer from Orlando, FL. Inspired by her daughter and the importance of representation in media and literature, Whitney prides herself on making sure each piece of work she releases gives children and adults confidence in knowing that they are truly magical! 

Can you tell our readers about your background?

My name is Whitney Geathers, I was born and raised in Orlando, FL. I graduated from the University of Central Florida with a degree in Elementary Education. I taught 6th grade language arts before moving to Indianapolis in 2015. I have always had a passion for books, especially children’s books.

What inspired you to start your business?

When I was pregnant with my daughter, I knew I wanted her to have books that represented her. Books that helped give her confidence in who she is and the things that make her who she is. I started writing my first book Numbers Naturally, I found an illustrator and decided to self-publish it. I didn’t intend for it to be a big deal, but after I released it, and having received so much positive feedback and support, I knew I wanted to continue writing books and create my own brand. Whitney MG

Where is your business based?

My business is based in Indianapolis, Indiana, but I’m often in Florida as well.

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

I started by business by publishing my first book. I started creating accounts specifically for my business and created business cards. Once my book was released I started promoting myself as Whitney MG and eventually created a website. 

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

I’m still very new and have so much room to grow, but social media has been a great resource for helping to promote my business and reach as many people as possible.

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

My biggest challenge has been learning the industry and learning what works and what doesn’t as far as the content of my work and marketing. I’ve been able to overcome these challenges by reaching out to other authors, researching, and always asking questions. I even ask friends and family what their concerns and/or challenges are and I try to keep those in mind as I brainstorm ideas.  

How do you stay focused?

It’s difficult sometimes, but I found that having a notebook/planner handy, and designating a small amount of time daily towards my business has helped me stay focused. I also keep my goals in mind as motivation.

How do you differentiate your business from the competition?

There are many children’s books on the market, but what sets my books apart is that my books typically offer informative content. With my education background I always try to incorporate education into my books while making them fun and diverse.

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

Instagram has been extremely effective. I’ve been able to reach so many people through hashtags and promotions. 

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

My best advice would be to never give up. It may seem like everyone else is doing the same thing but even if 100 other people have a similar product as you, there is always someone who needs YOUR product and not someone else. So don’t give up. Stay positive. 

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

My favorite app is Instagram because I love expressing myself and my thoughts through pictures and being able to see all the other creative minds that showcase their talents on Instagram as well. I always feel inspired when I find good profiles. My favorite book at the moment is actually a children’s book called “What Do You Do With an Idea”, because the message is for adults as well. I get ideas every day and some of them I act on, others I don’t but the important thing is to never let a good idea get away. I always keep a notebook close by to write any ideas I have just so I don’t forget them later.

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

My favorite business tool is email. It may seem super old but I do so much of my communications through email. I get them straight to my phone so it’s easy for me to respond no matter where I am.

Who is your business role model? Why?

My business role model would have to be Alex Elle. She is a writer and encourages readers on a daily basis. I admire her for always staying positive, but also expressing when things get real or difficult, and showing that bad days happen and that’s okay but there are always positives in every situation. 

What do you have planned for the next six months?

I plan to start working on my next book, of course. But I’ll also be supporting my husband’s career as well. 

How can our readers connect with you?

You can find me on Instagram and Twitter @bywhitneymg or via email at bywhitneymg@gmail.com also my website, whitneymg.com.

Q&A with Mariah Caver, Amor Swim

Mariah Caver

Mariah Caver designer of Amor Freedom, hails from Atlanta, GA. She began designing at an early age and it has now blossomed into an eco-friendly luxury clothing line. Amor Freedom has just recently released the Amor Swim Collection providing swimwear for women of all shape and sizes to feel beautiful available at AMORSWIM.COM

Can you tell our readers about your background?

My Name is Mariah Caver, and I am a lover of fashion. My love for fashion started at a very young age I would style my dolls' clothes; by the time I got to middle school, I would go to the Dollar store and buy the sewing pack which came with the thread needles colors, measuring tape, and soft ball to make different outfits and things for myself.

What inspired you to start your business?

The inspiration behind starting my business came from me wanting to give back to the world in a way that was relatable for me and people like me. That was fashion for me. Fashion is a way to express yourself ! Style is a reflection of your attitude and personality. So being able to create clothes that allow the women to look and feel AMAZING is my inspiration. #Womenempowerment

Mariah Caver

Where is your business based?

We are online currently based in Atlanta, and are looking to expand to MIA and LA... but we ship worldwide.

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

The first step I took during the process of starting my business was the sketches of course, and from there, I allowed the name of my line to fall into my lap, then I hit the ground running with production, and the rest was history. 

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

The most effective way of raising awareness for my clothing line has definitely been instagram.

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

Finding the eco-friendly fabric that feels amazing and still looks great. 

How do you stay focused?

The passion I have for design and being able to produce a product that can help with pushing a socially conscious world through fashion.

How do you differentiate your business from the competition?

The fabric AmorSwim uses is Eco-friendly , all the fabrics we use are made with recycled bottles.

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

I would definitely say the most effective strategy would be Instagram; it’s an amazing tool to use to reach people all over the world.

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

Nobody will see your vision but you, so follow your heart and your dreams and make it happen no matter what people say.

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

My favorite app would have to be my google app, my favorite blog is definitely Pinterest, and my favorite book is tied between "Think and Grow Rich" and the "48 Laws of Power".

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

My mother and father would be my favorite business tools lol I ask them EVERYTHING when it comes to the right business moves.

Who is your business role model? Why?

Jay-Z is definitely my business role model. He didn’t allow the world to box him in and limit him to just being an artist.

What do you have planned for the next six months?

The other half of Amor Freedom will be launching which is the Freedom streetwear for women and men. So definitely be on the lookout for that.

How can our readers connect with you?

You guys can go to the website for the swimwear at AmorSwim.com and for the apparel you can go to AmorFreedom.com.

My social media account is @rriahb_ AmorSwim and social media account is @Amor_freedom AMOR.

Website: Amorswim.com

Q&A with Entrepreneur and Swimwear Designer Callista Gifford-DeHart

Callista Gifford-Dehart

Blue Coral Swimwear LLC was founded in 2014 in Delray Beach, Florida with the idea of creating unique, fashionable, stylish, and trendy designer swimwear that flatters women of different shapes and sizes.

Founder Callista Gifford-DeHart released her first line the following year.

Since then, Blue Coral Swimwear has released and created designs and built a brand that fits women who want to make a statement on the beach. 

Blue Coral Swimwear proudly declares that every woman is beautiful and original – just like our swimsuits.

www.bluecoralswimwear.com

Can you tell our readers about your background?

Callista: I grew up working closely with garments at my parents' Dry Cleaning and Sewing business. After earning both my Bachelors in Textiles and an MBA, I focused on developing a fashion brand that all women can relate to.

Since graduation, my career background has consisted of retail, merchandising, textile testing, and manufacturing.

What inspired you to start your business?

Callista: Throughout my life, I have been obsessed with fashion, namely women’s swimwear.

Growing up, I took various trips to Florida with my family, and the first thing I wanted was a cute bathing suit. That typically meant a trip to Tarpon Springs. That was one my favorite place to visit, so I could get everything I needed to complete my ensemble.

When I moved to Florida in 2012, I lived so close to the beach that it fueled my passion for women’s swimwear. What I found was that if I wanted unique swimwear it was impossible.  So I decided to take matters into my own hands, and in 2014 I started developing Blue Coral Swimwear.

Where is your business based?

Callista: Although I live in South Florida, my business is in Batavia, New York. That’s where all my products are handmade. Being a native to that area of New York having my products created close to my heart means a lot to me.

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

Callista: I began development in 2014.  Within a year I had a logo, website, registered my business, and sketched my first line.  It was a hard year working during weekends, and at night, while working full-time during the week.  But Blue Coral Swimwear went live in 2015 and I’ve been building it ever since.

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

Callista: Social media has played a HUGE part of raising awareness for my brand.  It allows me to shape my message.  I also put my products in the hands of real women as brand ambassadors to help show what one of my bikinis could look like on you.

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

Callista: There are so many challenges as a business owner that you are not prepared for. The biggest frustration for me involves the people who call themselves designers, but don’t have an original thought.  Knock-offs designs in fashion are a typical hurdle a true designer must get around. 

I’ve also had to try and figure out who to trust and separate personal feelings.

Beyond that, building a thick skin to know that as long as you keep pushing you’ll make out in the end.

How do you stay focused?

Callista: I have always been extremely driven and keep myself busy. When I need to focus, I listen to music. The greater the variety, the more creative I get. If I need to calm down and concentrate then I listen to classical.

How do you differentiate your business from the competition?

Callista: My unique designs separate me from everyone else.  I think outside-of-the-box, and strive to make sexy, classy, and artsy pieces any woman would want in their closet.

Another thing that makes me different is quality.  My background in the textile testing industry pushes me to create swimwear that will last longer than a season.  Many don’t notice this, but I look at every stitch, strand of spandex, and piece of fabric to make sure it’s the best quality a woman can wear. 

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

Callista: Creating a strategic brand ambassador program has been a huge contribution to growing my business. These ladies understand me, my message, and best represent my company.  Otherwise, it’s been networking and participating in relevant shows in the industry.

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

Callista: I would tell aspiring entrepreneurs to not expect things to happen overnight. Everything takes time, and that slow and steady wins the race.

Another important thing is for you to stay true to who you. Authenticity matters.  If you wouldn’t buy the item, then it’s not worth selling.

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

Callista: If I had to choose a favorite app, I would probably choose Instagram. Sounds very cliché, but I like the creativity you can put into it. I love seeing everyone’s adventures and what makes them who they are.

I don’t read blogs but instead I listen to Podcasts. I love listening to “Straight up with Stassi” from Vanderpump Rules. The people there call it like it is and are straight up honest.

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

Callista: That’s a tough one. I’m always reading different business articles online from various sources. I really do like LinkedIn because I feel you can get a lot of useful information, as well as refer to other professional’s experiences. Otherwise, I like to read different books about successful entrepreneurs (Zappos and Zac Posen are two recent books I have read).

Who is your business role model? Why?

Callista: Coco Chanel is not only my favorite designer, but also my favorite business woman. She built her empire from the ground up and truly captivated the world with her fashion. She was so ahead of her time.  She pushed the fashion industry to its limits. That work eventually paved the road for what you see in stores today.  

What do you have planned for the next six months?

Callista: After Miami Swim Week, I will be taking a well-deserved vacation in August with my husband, so that’s something I am really looking forward too.

Once that’s over it’s back to the grind.  I will be releasing my 2019 line slowly on my website, and then start sketching and coming up with new designs for next year.

How can our readers connect with you?

Facebook: Blue Coral Swimwear

Twitter: @SwimBlueCoral

Instagram: @SwimBlueCoral

Q&A with Makeup Artist, Angel Johnson

Angel Johnson is founder of Memphis Makeup Artists, INC (memphismakeup.com). Her love for beauty goes back to high school where she first wanted to pursue a career in cosmetology. However, life led her down a different career path as a corporate accountant. In February of 2018, she managed to bridge her corporate world and her first love with the launch of Memphis Makeup Artists, INC. 

Angel-Johnson

Can you tell our readers about your background?

Yes. I am affectionately known as Angel, the Makeup Artist. I have been a freelance makeup artist in Memphis, TN for the past 4 years. I mostly travel to locations doing makeup for weddings, films, and events. I love it! But that’s my weekend job. I am also a Financial Consultant M-F. I have been a corporate accountant for the past 13 years but I don’t have a passion for it. I’m currently on a mission to leave corporate America for good. 

What inspired you to start your business?

I have always had a passion beauty and fashion. I became a freelance artist after doing a relative’s makeup for prom. I enjoyed it a lot! Memphis Makeup Artists was born out of a need to streamline the administrative work so I could focus more on doing what I love…making women look and feel beautiful. 

Where is your business based?

My business is based in Memphis, TN but our service area is worldwide. 

Angel at work

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

I started my business in my head a couple years ago. It took lots of research and planning before I could see anything tangible. Makeup artistry is a booming career for freelancers with a lot of ambiguity still. And Memphis did not have anything that looked like a glam team. Once I decided what I wanted it to look like, I registered with the state as a corporation, obtained my business license, and opened a bank account. 

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

Social media. Plain and simple. Beauty brands are getting so much traction via social media platforms like YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook. I followed suit. And it works. Customers enjoy engaging and interfacing with brands. It builds trust and that’s very important as a makeup artist. 

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

My biggest challenge has been wearing too many hats. It causes burn out quickly. I would recommend outsourcing whatever you can as fast as you can. My work experience aided me in building a backend office that is streamlined from beginning-to-end due to systems integrations. But I had to quickly pick up marketing and sales, customer service, and human resource skills. Get help!

How do you stay focused?

I stay focused by keeping long-term visions for my business and my personal life front and center. I am an advocate of vision boards, post its, or whatever is needed to keep goals in your face so that you don’t lose sight. Also, with the economic boom occurring in Memphis, there is this urgency looming over me to become a household name as quickly as possible. That motivates me to keep going.

How do you differentiate your business from the competition? 

I differentiate my business by offering something no one else in Memphis offers. I have a team of professional makeup artists with diverse skillsets and backgrounds. Being a team, we also have greater capacity and can handle large scale events in house. 

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

SEO. Search Engine Optimization has helped Memphis Makeup Artists gain first page listings on Google, Yahoo, and Bing. These leads, unlike social media leads, have a much higher conversion rate. Meaning they are ready to purchase!

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

Be resourceful. I have utilized many free programs to help with business needs. I used a local college for market research. They provided me a report that would have cost me thousands. Utilize organizations such as SCORE, SBA, and your local chamber of commerce to help bridge the gap between where you are and where you want to go. 

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

My favorite app is Facebook. I can promote business, engage clients, book appointments, and keep an online portfolio of my work in one place. 

My favorite blog is my own! I just started a couple weeks ago but it is another way to engage clients and increase SEO. However, I am an avid listener of the podcast/YT channel The Rich Dad Channel.

My favorite book is the Bible for it’s many lessons and wisdom. 

What's your favorite business tool or resource?

My favorite business tool is Intuit QuickBooks. I can keep tabs on my financials easily. It helps me to make quick business decisions. 

Who is your business role model? Why?

My most notable business role model would my mentor and fellow makeup artist Nikki Chanel. She is a full-time professional and celebrity makeup artist. She also trains and develops other artists. I aspire to that. My most influential business role model is a former employer. There I learned the power of efficient systems and setting standard operations and how that helps to provide a great product. 

What do you have planned for the next six months?

Because we are a startup having just launched in February, I am still primarily focusing on building the brand and the business. I will focus heavily on building working capital, marketing and marketing materials, and nurturing relationships. All of those will be relied upon heavily in 2019. I am currently working my final contract as an accountant which ends January 2019. And I will say goodbye to my security blanket. 

How can our readers connect with you?

Readers can find me at:

Memphismakeup.com

Instagram.com/memphismakeupdotcom

Instagram.com/facesbyangelbaby

Facebook.com/memphismakeupdotcom

Facebook.com/angelthemua

Twitter.com/memphismakeup1

Email: info@memphismakeup.com