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

Callista Gifford-Dehart

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

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

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

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

www.bluecoralswimwear.com

Can you tell our readers about your background?

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

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

What inspired you to start your business?

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

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

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

Where is your business based?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How do you stay focused?

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

How do you differentiate your business from the competition?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who is your business role model? Why?

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

What do you have planned for the next six months?

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

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

How can our readers connect with you?

Facebook: Blue Coral Swimwear

Twitter: @SwimBlueCoral

Instagram: @SwimBlueCoral

Q&A with Makeup Artist, Angel Johnson

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

Angel-Johnson

Can you tell our readers about your background?

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

What inspired you to start your business?

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

Where is your business based?

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

Angel at work

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

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

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

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

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

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

How do you stay focused?

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

How do you differentiate your business from the competition? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What's your favorite business tool or resource?

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

Who is your business role model? Why?

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

What do you have planned for the next six months?

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

How can our readers connect with you?

Readers can find me at:

Memphismakeup.com

Instagram.com/memphismakeupdotcom

Instagram.com/facesbyangelbaby

Facebook.com/memphismakeupdotcom

Facebook.com/angelthemua

Twitter.com/memphismakeup1

Email: info@memphismakeup.com

Q&A with Natalia Vargas

Natalia Vargas

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

Can you tell our readers about your background?

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

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

What inspired you to start your business?

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

Where is your business based?

My business is based in Bogotá, Colombia.

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

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

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

Natalia Vargas

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

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

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

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

How do you stay focused?

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

How do you differentiate your business from the competition?

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

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

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

Natalia Vargas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who is your business role model? Why?

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

What do you have planned for the next six months?

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

How can our readers connect with you?

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

New Book Release: Publicity Jumpstart

Hi Fem Founders, 

Happy Independence Day Week!

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

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

Kristin Marquet PR

4 Ways to Start a Successful Gig Economy Business

Dog Walker - Gig Economy

By: Lucy Reed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. Create a Website

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

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

4. Use Your Network

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

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

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

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

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

Ashley-Victoria Smith

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are you working on any exciting projects now?

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

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

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

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

Yes, and of all them, it’s #Girlboss.

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

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

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

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

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

Q&A with Entrepreneur and Therapist Angela Ficken

Angela Ficken

Can you tell our readers about your background?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What inspired you to start your business?

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

Where is your business based?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How do you stay focused?

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

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

How do you differentiate your business from the competition?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who is your business role model? Why?

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

What do you have planned for the next six months?

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

How can our readers connect with you?

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

 

Q&A with Aida Yodites

Aida Yodites

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

Can you tell our readers about your background?

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

What inspired you to start your business?

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

Where is your business located?

My business is a based out of Murrieta, California.

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

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

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

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

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

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

How do you stay focused?

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

How do you differentiate your business from the competition?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who is your business role model and why?

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

What do you have planned for the next 6 months?

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

How can readers connect with you?

Readers can connect with me on:

facebook.com/Delicate Seams

Instagram/delicateseams

Linkedin/Delicate Seams, LLC

Q&A with Kate Bagoy

Kate Bagoy

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

Can you tell our readers about your background?

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

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

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

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

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

What inspired you to start your business?

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

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

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

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

Where is your business based?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How do you stay focused?

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

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

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

How do you differentiate your business from the competition?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pay yourself first and pay yourself well.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who is your business role model? Why?

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

What do you have planned for the next six months?

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

How can our readers connect with you?

Visit me online at katebagoy.com or sixfigurefreelancers.com

http://instagram.com/kbagoy

http://facebook.com/kbagoy

http://twitter.com/kbagoy

http://pinterest.com/kbagoy

http://linkedin.com/in/katebagoy

 

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

Hannah and Ariel

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

Can you tell our readers about your background?

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

What inspired you to start your business?

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

Where is your business based?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How do you stay focused?

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

How do you differentiate your business from the competition?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who is your business role model? Why?

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

What do you have planned for the next six months?

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

How can our readers connect with you?

IG: @happyboxstore

email: hello@happyboxstore.com