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

Hannah and Ariel

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

Can you tell our readers about your background?

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

What inspired you to start your business?

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

Where is your business based?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How do you stay focused?

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

How do you differentiate your business from the competition?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who is your business role model? Why?

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

What do you have planned for the next six months?

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

How can our readers connect with you?

IG: @happyboxstore

email: hello@happyboxstore.com

Q&A with Singer Jenn Bostic

Jenn Bostic

Can you tell our readers about your background? 

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

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

What inspired you to start your music career? 

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

Where do you call home?

Nashville, Tennessee. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How do you stay focused?

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

How do you differentiate yourself from the competition? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who is your role model? Why? 

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

What do you have planned for the next six months? 

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

How can our readers connect with you?

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

Q&A with Entrepreneur Valeria Duflot

Photo Credit: Sebastian Fagarazzi / Venezia Autentica

Photo Credit: Sebastian Fagarazzi / Venezia Autentica

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

Can you tell our readers about your background? 

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

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

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

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

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

What inspired you to start your business? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where is your business based?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1/ Running a business with my better half.  

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

2/Not being in the middle of an ecosystem. 

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

3/Lack of resources:

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

How do you stay focused?

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

I stay focused by doing 3 things: 

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

2/ Removing interruptions 

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

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

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

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

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

How do you differentiate your business from the competition? 

We differentiate ourselves from our competition at several levels.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My favorite business resources are currently Quora and Twitter. 

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

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

Who is your business role model? Why? 

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

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

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

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

What do you have planned for the next six months? 

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

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

How can our readers connect with you? 

You can follow our work with Venezia Autentica on

Twitter: @veneziaautentic

Instagram: @veneziaautentica 

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

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

and connect with me on:

Twitter: @duflotvaleria 

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

Q&A with Jenna Reiss

Jenna Reiss

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

Can you tell our readers about your background?

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

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

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

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

What inspired you to start your business?

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

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

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

Where is your business based?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How do you stay focused?

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

How do you differentiate your business from the competition?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who is your business role model? Why?

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

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

What do you have planned for the next six months?

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

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

 How can our readers connect with you?

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

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

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

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

 

Q&A with Entrepreneur Elizabeth Dodson

HomeZada-3-1 (2)_preview.jpg

Elizabeth Dodson is Co-Founder of HomeZada, a mobile and online home management portal that helps homeowners manage their largest asset – their home. Elizabeth’s career reflects the adaption to change from a corporate job to join an early stage startup that grew to a successful acquisition, to recently being a co-founder in her own consumer internet start-up. Her skills in sales, marketing, and partner management have supported her career growth and benefited her passion to mentor other entrepreneurs and women through various organizations. Elizabeth has an MBA from Loyola in Maryland, and a BS in Business from Stevenson University.

Can you tell our readers about your background?

My background started when working for a technology company in the commercial construction industry. This company was a young growing company and with my experience in the commercial construction tech industry, I wanted to help this company grow and provide its clients with valuable solutions to help their businesses. I realized that I enjoy being part of a growing company. I appreciated the chaos of growing and the opportunities that aligned with the chaos.

What inspired you to start your business?

While working for the construction project management software company, I realized that I had a need to manage my home in a similar fashion to these projects. I wanted an all in one solution that I could access anywhere, and it had to assist me in managing all aspects of my home. I looked for years trying to find the solution that could assist me. Yet to my sadness and frustration, nothing existed. So it was either I start this business or I continued to be frustrated with my situation.

Where is your business based?

HomeZada is based in El Dorado Hills, CA, a suburb of Sacramento, CA.

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

My two co-founders and I reviewed the opportunity for a solution like HomeZada and we agreed to join each other on this journey. Each of us has a different skill set that was needed to grow this business. We have marketing, business development, software development, product management and overall corporate management skills in our cofounder makeup. To find the right skills and partners you trust is key to starting a business. Once we had the initial people, we then set up our corporate structure. Legal incorporation of the company, determining a company name, securing URLs, business licenses, emails, etc. These were all necessary to get started.

Once all these details were set up, we each divided tasks and went to work. Like Nike says, ”Just Do It.”

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

Raising awareness can be tricky in this noisy world. HomeZada successfully uses pay per click, keywords, website, blog, social media, and building relationships with influencers. We also get our work out with our own personal contacts.

As we continue to grow HomeZada, we also partner with other organizations that want to enhance their connection with their clients. For instance, insurance, mortgage, real estate, homebuilding and other homeowner related industries are partners with HomeZada.

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

As I indicated, HomeZada continues to partner with organizations in a variety of industries. These organizations are generally very large and because they are large, they have a lot of processes. These processes and procedures often lengthen a business development cycle and do not often work well for startups. The HomeZada team has experience with large corporate processes, but many startups do not.

We overcome this issue by staying focused, managing the corporate process with the organization, and continuing to build our brand with homeowners directly. We also balance the number and size of partners that we do business with as smaller partners can easily secure a relationship with HomeZada that can be effective immediately.

How do you stay focused?

Focus is key to what we do. We leverage a few tactics to keep us focused. First, we know who we are and what our strategic mission is. It is easy to deviate from your mission when people are asking for all kinds of options. Our team is confident in our no’s and we also help provide workarounds for these types of situations where folks are asking us to create something completely different than what HomeZada offers.

The next tactic that keeps us focused is that we have regularly scheduled meetings on topics that require updates. Meetings can often be burdensome, but with the correct structure, all team members can be on the same page and offer solutions if a problem arises. Our meetings have a rhythm and process that we can easily get through them quickly.

The third tactic we leverage is using technology to keep us focused. Whether we use Jira for development management or Salesforce for partner management. We use solutions that can quickly keep us organized and informed.

How do you differentiate your business from the competition?

The challenge with HomeZada is that our competition for most homeowners is - do nothing. Assisting homeowners in understanding what their options are for home management and introducing them to HomeZada and how it works is critical to our differentiation. Our biggest opportunities are education and awareness. 

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

We have several marketing strategies that work. All aspects of digital marketing and our partner opportunities together are HomeZada’s most effective way of getting awareness and education out to market.

HomeZada is quick to test specific marketing programs, measure these programs and learn what works and what does not. If the program works, we can continue with the program. If the program does not, then we stop performing that specific program.

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

This was a hard question to answer because I feel like there are so many pieces of advice to give entrepreneurs depending on the stage of their business.

But the one piece of advice I think can work for everyone is to find a team that can support and assist your company in growing. Whether these are partners in your business, staff or contract staff that can help you perform the tasks in business or fellow entrepreneurs who meet regularly to help you stay focused on the business. Building a team around you is instrumental in growing your company. Like any team sport, you have players playing different positions on a field, you have coaches, trainers, and so many other folks that are needed to win a game and bring fans to their seats. Remembering this concept and knowing when to ask for help is critical to growing a business. You do not have to go it alone.

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

I consider myself a constant learner of all things. I once had the opportunity to sit in on a presentation from an IDEO partner. This partner explained that when you learn from multiple and different sources, you can gain more awareness. He also stated that something unusual or least expected could lead to a new and fresh decision-making experience.

Like the IDEO partner, I read a lot online from all different types of sources and I read a book almost every week. I surround myself with different types of people from all different types of backgrounds. I basically embrace knowledge.

So my suggestion is to keep your mind open and learn from as many possible situations and sources. You never know when something might apply to your business.

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

My Microsoft Surface is my favorite business tool. I can use it for work, to access the internet, and as a tablet to demonstrate HomeZada at tradeshows. It is light an easy to carry anywhere. I was an early adopter of the Surface and it has been a dream solution.

Who is your business role model? Why?

I think Sara Blakely is an amazing role model for entrepreneurs. I appreciate what Sara has accomplished and what her values are for herself and her company. Sara was frustrated, sought out a solution (aka a problem solver), and went out and built a company. She will tell you it is not easy, and she will do all of that with a smile on her face. She will embrace the good and the challenging and realize that you can learn from anything.

I believe that if you are open enough to the situation, you can gain perspective. You may not always like it, but you will gain something no matter what. I believe that Sara Blakely may also believe in this concept.

Not to mention, Sara Blakely pays it forward. She has gratitude for her situation and built a program called A Leg Up to help others get more exposure. I mentor folks today and I look forward to the day when HomeZada can offer programs like Spanx’ A Leg Up Program.

What do you have planned for the next six months?

We plan on continuing to scale HomeZada by targeting homeowners, securing more partnerships, and securing the next funding round.

How can our readers connect with you?

@frankizada

https://plus.google.com/+ElizabethDodson22

https://www.instagram.com/edodson2/?hl=en 

https://www.linkedin.com/in/edodson/ (Introduce yourself. My parents raised me to be polite and shake hands. Even on LinkedIn you can introduce yourself while connecting with me. I look forward to meeting everyone.)

Q&A with Entrepreneur Stacey Kehoe

Stacey Kehoe Headshot -

Stacey Kehoe is the founder of Digital Marketing agency, Brandlective Communications Ltd, since launching her business 6 years ago in London she has developed over 400+ business brands, given them visibility on Page 1 of Google search and utilized social media to double their inbound leads.  The Federation of Small Businesses named her one of 2016 London Entrepreneur’s of the Year following the launch of her business magazine. With a Podcast, Membership website and Book set to launch in 2018, she is one to watch.

Can you tell our readers about your background?

I grew up in New Zealand where we have a very easy-going lifestyle.  I enjoyed school although was never academic and no-one expected much from me.  For that reason, I didn’t attend university but instead worked to save enough money to spend seven months traveling through South America and Europe.  I caught the travel bug so decided to settle in London to work in the corporate travel industry where I could continue to feed my addiction for traveling to unique and obscure places.

What inspired you to start your business?

I started my business for two reasons.  The first was that I was made redundant during the 2007-2008 recession.  I worked in the corporate travel industry for financial institutions, and that whole industry disappeared in a matter of months, so I knew I needed to move into a sector that was adaptable and able to grow no matter what sort of economic conditions were on the horizon.  The second reason was that I discovered a passion for helping SME’s discover the power of digital.  After my redundancies I found myself freelancing for a few sales agencies who were not keeping up with technology.  My fear of not keeping up with emerging trends and business practices that had contributed to those redundancies was prevalent, so I pushed these agencies to embrace social media and digital advertising.  After two years, I was being approached my other businesses who wanted help transitioning into the digital world, so I decided to launch my first business, Brandlective Communications Ltd.

Where is your business based?

My digital marketing agency is based in London, UK.  Although we now serve businesses throughout the USA, Europe, and Australia.

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

I had a very organic transition into starting a business.  I was working on a full-time freelance contract so was familiar with being self-employed when I began receiving enquiries from companies which had seen my work.  These business owners asked me to begin freelancing for their company’s, and before I knew it, I had a growing portfolio of clients.  I then incorporated the business (while still on a full-time contract), and invested all of the profit from my additional freelance work back into the company for working capital.  Managing time was very difficult during this stage, but it allowed me to build my own confidence and stability before I ended my full-time contact and worked solely with my own agency.

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

Without a doubt, it has been social media.  Pushing my views, ideas, opinions, and content in front of an audience is so simple with social media and allowed me to build a reputation within the marketing field.  I also did a lot of networking and have found over the years that it is a combination of both offline and online.  Everything rolls around in a circle. I can use digital marketing and social media to build awareness of what I do and to leverage speaking engagements and networking opportunities.  Many of my relationships are still built in person at these events or speaking opportunities, and then I continue to build trust and loyalty through the content I produce across the digital landscape. 

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

The biggest challenges for me have been around recruiting the right people. As a small business, I always feel short of time, so recruiting and training, but also having the patience to allow people to grow into the business has always been a struggle for me.  I'm impatient and want instant success which is unfair and stems from my own impatience rather than other people incompetence.  My big ongoing challenge is being able to work ‘on’ my business, not ‘in’ my business.  I do find I still get sucked back into day-to-day work which I find frustrating.  It is something I have very focused on achieving over the next 12 months.

How do you stay focused?

Focus for me stems from being organized and planning.  These are two things that do not come naturally.  I really do have to work hard at it.  I always try to overdeliver to clients so that keeps me focused.  If I know we have promised a deadline to a client I will ensure we have the procedures in place to deliver.  It is that strong desire to overdeliver on clients expectations that keeps me focused on what I need to achieve within the business.

How do you differentiate your business from the competition?

Brandlective’s purpose statement is: To give visibility to those that think differently.  

We love to work with brands that have big goals, are a little bit wacky, edgy or bold and like to do things out of the norm. We differentiate our business from competitors by focusing our advertising on this type of business owner (rather than a specific industry).  I also have a passion for businesses who have traditionally operated offline and are looking to make big changes in their businesses to embrace digital.  This also sets us apart from other digital marketing agencies as many don’t like to touch these ‘old-school types of businesses’.  And, finally, I think our clients would say it’s our no-jargon, down-to-earth, direct communication approach is attractive.  I often speak to clients who say they are just so grateful to be able to spit-ball ideas with us, and that we can come back and present them with a simple non-tech / no-jargon filled strategy that they can actually understand.

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

It has actually been word of mouth.  We do a lot of digital advertising to raise a awareness of our brand and build our credibility, but our growth has stemmed directly from referrals, and I believe that comes down to the culture of our business and how invested we are in the clients we work with.

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

Persevere.  In my opinion, there is nothing truly special and unique that allows one person to be more successful than another other than perseverance.  If you have a strong belief in what you are doing and feel like you can make a positive influence on your audience, then don’t give up.  Just persevere - you will have a breakthrough, and all things will come together.

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

My favorite app is Audible.  I know its a simple one, but I am obsessed with podcasts and audiobooks.  I’m currently listening to The SHED Method by Sara Milne Rowe - an absolute gem for any business leader.

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

My favorite business tool is probably Zapier.  I love automation!  Anything that can make my business or personal life a little bit easier gets a gold star from me.  I love Zapier because it allows multiple business tools speak to each other and automates so many things that save me countless hours in my business.

Who is your business role model? Why?

My biggest role model is my former boss.  She encouraged me to leave and start my own business which I think was so selfless and shows such fantastic leadership.  She is also successful in her own right and has built multiple businesses - a total inspiration.

 What do you have planned for the next six months?

I am currently writing a book so I’m working with my publisher to get that finalized and launched within the next six months.  The Vault, my new podcast, and membership website are also due to launch by mid-2018.  Additionally, I have planned some travel in Asia for some charity work.  We have partnered with B1G1 to make impacts around the globe and contribute to the 2030 UN Sustainability Goals.

How can our readers connect with you?

You can connect with me via LinkedIn or Twitter or email me at stacey@brandlective.com

www.brandlective.com

https://www.linkedin.com/in/stacey-kehoe-b8b25319/

@StaceyKehoe

@Brandlective

Q&A with Entrepreneur, Nicole Faith

Nicole Faith

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

https://10caratcreations.com

https://nomadbusinessdirectory.com

Can you tell our readers about your background?

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

What inspired you to start your business?

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

Where is your business based?

Everywhere there’s wifi!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 How do you stay focused?

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

 How do you differentiate your business from the competition?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who is your business role model? Why?

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

What do you have planned for the next six months?

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

https://10caratcreations.com/business-with-a-bow/

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

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

https://10caratcreations.com/book

How can our readers connect with you?

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

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

Q&A with 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 Freelancer and Entrepreneur, Linda Coss

Linda Coss

Linda Coss is a freelance marketing writer who brings over two decades of marketing expertise to every assignment. Known for writing high-quality materials that are done right the first time, Linda specializes in writing for both digital and print – including websites, brochures, blogs, newsletters, sales letters and much more. To learn more about how Linda helps organizations in a broad range of industries reach their goals, visit her website at www.PlumtreeMarketingInc.com.

Can you tell our readers about your background?

I earned my Bachelor’s Degree in Economics at UC Irvine, where I graduated with honors. Prior to launching my freelance copywriting business over 11 years ago, my career included close to a decade working in various capacities in the marketing field. In addition to a great deal of writing and editing, my broad marketing background includes product and project management, print production, publishing, branding and positioning, research and analysis, and more.

What inspired you to start your business?

I started my business to create my dream job. As a freelance marketing writer, I work with clients across a broad swath of industries, located both near and far. I love the challenge of finding the perfect words for each project. Sometimes the goal is to make an emotional connection with prospects and help them start to feel and experience the benefits of making a purchase. Other times the goal is to present information in an interesting and understandable a way as possible. Either way, I have the privilege of doing work that I thoroughly enjoy, working with wonderful clients, and truly learning something new each day. 

 Where is your business based?

My business is based out of my home in Orange County, California.

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

I started with the structural issues: I formed a corporation, created a website, opened a bank account, ordered business cards, etc. Then I reached out to everyone I knew and asked for referrals to people who could potentially use my services.

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

Over the years three of my most successful marketing tactics have been business networking, search engine optimization, and posting free ads on Craig’s List.

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

My biggest challenge happened very early on: I launched my business shortly before a worldwide recession! I overcame this by persevering, discounting my fees, and living very frugally in the lean months.

 How do you stay focused?

This might sound counter-intuitive, but I stay focused by taking regular breaks to get away from the computer. I find that if I don’t, I get headaches from looking at the computer screen all day. And these headaches make focusing very difficult!

How do you differentiate your business from the competition?

While most marketing consultants take more of a full-service approach, I differentiate my business by focusing exclusively on writing and editing. One of the benefits of this is that it enables me to team up with other marketing professionals who offer synergistic services (such as planning, graphic design, website development, etc.). I actually do a lot of “virtual team member” work for others who want to position their business as being full service but don’t actually need to keep a full-time writer on staff.

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

Do such incredibly good work, and provide such amazing customer service, that customer retention is not an issue, and clients are happy to sing my praises to their colleagues who might benefit from my services, too.

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

Have savings to fall back on if the ramp-up takes longer than expected!

What do you have planned for the next six months?

I just got married at the end of February. Because I want to focus on getting my marriage off to a great start, I’m not planning any major business initiatives for the next six months.

How can our readers connect with you?

Telephone: 949-699-2749

Email: Linda@PlumtreeMarketingInc.com

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/lindacoss/

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