entrepreneur

What Did You Want To Be When You Grew Up?

What did you want to be when you grew up?

Chances are it’s either the complete opposite of what you’re doing now, or some elements of your current career emulate the passions and interests you had as a kid. As we age, we learn about societal norms and begin to change ourselves to fit in. We lose our way and stop doing things that we’re interested in.

I fell in love with darkroom photography around 12, but it quickly transformed into graphic design and photoshop as I could see my progress as I went. I spent hours taking photos, editing them, and making slideshows for friends and family. I freaking loved it. Creating memories with music to elicit emotion was just all I wanted to do. At one point, my entire wall was covered with pictures from top to bottom! But because I didn’t think I was good enough, I shelved it away in my adolescent years.

It’s funny how things we dabble in as children often come back to us in adulthood but in different forms. One way this has come back to me is @paxthedood. All of a sudden, I found myself taking photos, documenting moments, and editing them for hours on end. It came full circle.

Carolyn Pascual White from The Social Sipper has a similar story. Our female founder this week grew up in the restaurant industry, then dabbled in different areas of the business , and now she has found her purpose through food & cocktail styling! Her beverage blog shares fresh and easy cocktails that can be made at home. She has several successful brand partnerships, and she’s just getting started! She’s also a wiz at brand strategy and development. The Social Sipper also helps beverage brands and influencers who are struggling with social media create a visual brand so they can attract the right followers and customers!

Carolyn was the first person I met when I moved to San Diego. She’s been my friend through many reincarnations and special moments. I’m proud to say I’ve also been able to witness her growth throughout the years. As long as I’ve known Carolyn she’s been searching for her entrepreneurial purpose. She even had a semi launched business years ago that she later felt wasn’t a profitable or scalable idea so she didn’t end up following through with it.

I think those type of experiences are very important as we work towards success. Because in order to reach success we must go through trial and error. Carolyn shares in her feature how this is something she works on everyday. She states that one of the biggest challenges being an entrepreneur is fear.

“A lot of worry comes up for me about making a wrong choice or not getting everything right. I constantly have to remind myself that my success is inevitable and it's all about experimenting and growing.”

I can imagine how many of you are nodding your head in agreement to that statement! We logically know we have to take risks and chances but it can be much more challenging to actually take the step forward.

She follows that statement by saying the only way to battle through those fearful thoughts is to not wait for things to be perfect and to just begin.

If you are interested in collaborating or even learning from Carolyn she loves instagram so feel free to DM her to start a chat! You can also find her on Facebook, Pinterest, and her website, thesocialsipper.com

I can’t wait for you to get to know her today! So let’s get to it!

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What is YOUR story!? Tell us a bit about your background both personally and professionally.

Food has always been a big part of my life. Growing up in the restaurant industry, I was thrown into the kitchen as soon as I was old enough to hold a knife. And in my family, quality time has always been spent eating together (and hanging around) in the kitchen. Somehow, I still never would have guessed I’d end up working with food and beverage professionally. With dreams of being an entrepreneur, I got my MBA in International Business and Management. After graduating and not finding a corporate role that felt right, I reluctantly got a few part-time jobs while exploring industries to decide what business I would pursue. Kismet and some persistence connected me to an amazing food stylist and I found myself on the set of a commercial. It all took off from there. I developed my skills working with food for film and photography and eventually was able to ditch the part-time jobs and work as a food stylist full time. Freelance life was nice, but I didn’t have any control over my schedule and I found myself driving 2-3 hours for a job pretty often. I loved the work but knew it wouldn’t be sustainable forever, especially if I wanted to have kids someday. 

I started thinking about how to use my skills in a way that would allow me to work more flexibly. I started The Social Sipper, a beverage blog sharing fresh and easy cocktails that can be made at home. I dream up the drinks and my husband, Travis and I capture them together. I knew that with a platform, we could connect with brands and monetize. The Social Sipper now has several brand partnerships that allow us to make money at home!

How did you get your idea or concept for your business?

I was posting photos of cocktails on my personal Instagram account and saw that they were performing really well. I always thought of enjoying a beautiful and delicious cocktail as a special moment and wanted to share ways for people to make this happen at home. Since the work is so visual, I knew that Instagram would be a really good platform to share my recipes and tips on and connect with brands.

Tell us more about your business and what you do!

In addition to sharing simple and beautiful cocktail recipes, we also help beverage brands and influencers who are struggling with social media create a visual brand so they can attract followers and customers. I really enjoy the work we do with brands, so we created Beverage Curator a done-for-you content creation subscription to help beverage brands achieve better results on social media. We’re actually in the process of launching it now!

Looking back would you do anything different?

I'm really happy with the actions I've taken so far but I definitely would have started learning about limiting beliefs and mindset sooner. I love business strategy but am learning more and more that strategy alone is not enough. I'm constantly recognizing when I have limiting beliefs that are getting in my way. I try to call myself out when I find myself worrying about what others think, judging or dwelling on making the perfect decision.

What is your favorite thing about being an entrepreneur?

I love the endless possibilities. It's seriously the coolest time to be an entrepreneur with all the opportunities to have an impact and reach people online. A lot of my friends say they can't imagine not having the comfort of a consistent paycheck but I think it's exciting to know there are no limits on that number. Oh and I also really like working in yoga pants.

Share your favorite moment or moments while growing your business.

Getting our first brand partnership was a big moment for me. It happened 3 months after we started and with less than 1,000 followers on Instagram. I was convinced that I had to build a huge account to get paid so it was really exciting to prove that not to be true. It made me question the other limiting beliefs that were getting in my way which has been so valuable for me as an entrepreneur.

What about some of the challenges you face as a female entrepreneur?

I find myself struggling with pricing and talking about money. As a female, it's generally really easy for me to build and nurture relationships but I find myself in fear when I'm asking for money. It's something I'm working on.

Advice for other other female entrepreneurs or those looking to get started?

Don't wait! It's so easy to say you'll take action "once you have 10k followers" or "when you have a more professional website," etc. There will ALWAYS be another thing to do. Get out of your own way and take action as soon as you can!

What is your favorite quote?

"If not this, then something better"

How do you avoid burnout?

This is a work in progress for me. I realized that the burnout comes in when I'm doing things that are out of my zone of genius. So I am constantly evaluating what I'm excited about doing and what brings me joy in my business and try to do more of that and less of everything else.

We know all entrepreneurs work differently. How do you schedule your day?

All my days are different. When we're not shooting, I usually start my day with a workout and give myself a lot of flexibility throughout the day. I find that I'm most productive in the afternoon, so I allow my mornings to be relaxed and take time for myself.

How do you advertise your brand?

Right now, I just get the word out by sharing content on Instagram and my site.

What are your MUST have tools?! (things like organization, calendars, social media, payment platforms, business development sources...etc.)

I'm an old fashioned paper and pencil kind of gal so my planner and desk calendar are necessities for me. Otherwise, Plann for planning Instagram, VSCO for editing photos, Canva for designing graphics and Dropbox for delivering photos. I also couldn't live without Google Drive.

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Thank you Carolyn for your time and energy. I know a big take away for me was about your money mindset- especially as a female. I feel as if (at least I do) have a need to be liked and I don’t want to cause waves - ESPECIALLY when I am landing a new client. I have learned through experience and other coaches that this all about my relationship with money which comes from my childhood and learned experience.

It’s very normal for women to downgrade their packages and prices due to not feeling worthy. Hopefully with the army of female founders blossoming around the world we can make change and build confidence. We’ve been taught to not talk about money when we really should be talking about!

A few things that have helped me are:

  1. Getting to know my value and what I do for clients.

  2. Accepting that not everyone will be ok with my prices.

  3. Following through with my packages when I present them. I also always pause after I say the prices instead of trying to cover it up with jibber jabber!

  4. Being OK when I do get paid the amount I ask for (not feeling guilty)

We will have another feature on this topic in due time but in the meantime do you have comments or ideas on how to build a healthy relationship with money? If so, Leave us a comment below!

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Amazing Things Happen When You Stop Caring What People Think

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It took me a year and a half to publicly admit what I was doing in my business on my personal Instagram account. Even in conversation, I would downplay what I was creating. I remember being at a baby shower, and someone asked me what I was up to. I responded with "oh, just doing some social media consulting and finishing school"...I wonder if it was because I didn't feel I was ready to share or that I didn't have a mission statement at the time, but I tended to leave what really made my heartbeat out of the conversation.

I always highlighted my Ph.D. because it was tangible to others…but my big dreams…well, those were secret or were only shared to those in my community who I felt could understand. I was worried people would judge me, that they would think I've jumped around too much in my career, or they'd think I was stupid. A dog’s instagram? Really?

I finally ripped off the bandaid mid-April 2019 and got an incredible response. Facebook messages, DM's, comments, and texts came in. Other women reached out and shared they wanted to learn how I got started, and if I could help them become an entrepreneur too. I received recognition from those who I was once intimidated by. I received support from friends and family, which was has been so needed while growing a brand. And I even gained more founders to interview!

Amazing things happen when you stop caring what others think.

Shauna Parisi also endorses the phrase above as she mentions it in her FFS feature. Shauna shares that while growing not only one but TWO businesses how this mindset of not caring what others think has been instrumental in her growth. Shauna also shares that taking the leap of faith and trusting that she would land on her feet allowed her to explore further, dream bigger, and live a life by design. When you start doing YOU and listening to YOUR needs and wants your confidence will rise. You’ll get out of your head and into your heart.

Shauna is the founder of A Million Thanks and is now a running her own health and wellness business in affiliation with Arbonne International. Although part of her job is selling products that she loves, it is only a small portion of what she does. Her day is spent serving others helping them reach their highest potential. This is the work she loves and was born to do.

If you’d like to learn more on how you can get involved with A Million Thanks check out their website here. If you’re interested in joining Shauna’s team or for mentorship and connection the best way to reach out is through instagram or email: ShaunaParisi@gmail.com.

This week you'll notice a few new questions added to the FFS series! You'll find new answers on specific tools these entrepreneurs use, insight on how they schedule their day, advice on avoiding burn out, and even their favorite inspirational quote to add to your motivational bank.

Without further ado…Shauna Parisi everyone!

What is your story! Tell us a bit about your background both personally and professionally.

I grew up in Orange County, California, and I always think it's funny to tell people that all of my schools - from preschool through college - were within a five-mile radius of the house I grew up in. But don't worry, I've gotten out quite a bit! 

I have always had a passion for serving and helping others, and I strongly believe each of us were created for a purpose. When I was in high school in 2004, I started a military benefit non-profit organization called A Million Thanks, with the goal of collecting and distributing one million letters of appreciation to our service members around the world. I had no idea that a small idea would turn into something so huge and something that still exists today, 15 years later. 

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I continued building A Million Thanks throughout high school, gaining so much priceless life experience along the way. Before my 16th birthday, I stood with President Bush in the Oval Office. Before my 17th birthday, I co-created a military support network with the Pentagon and Department of Defense, and before my 18th birthday, I stood in the board room of General Motors and gave a presentation to its executives on the power of corporate social responsibility. 

I went to Chapman University and studied public relations and advertising with a film minor, with the goal of getting into entertainment marketing. I knew A Million Thanks would always be part of my life in some way or another, but I had my eyes on a different career. However, after a couple internships, agency work, a lot of commuting to LA, and realizing in the entertainment industry, there's always someone willing to do your job for less pay, I decided to change directions. 

I decided to still pursue marketing but in the restaurant industry. I started out working for my family's restaurant group in the corporate office and eventually transitioned out on my own, working for various corporate and franchise restaurant groups. Because the industry is so small, I was able to work my way up very quickly, becoming a Director of Marketing by the time I was 25. 

At the end of 2018, my husband and I were offered roles to travel around the world for four months on a short-term contract with Semester at Sea, the study abroad program we met on as undergrads. We couldn't turn it down. So I took a giant leap of faith and resigned from my corporate marketing job and we traveled the world together for four months. And when we returned home in January of this year, I knew it was time to get back on the grind. However, I just didn't feel like going back to what I was doing before. I wanted more options, more time freedom, the ability to travel and have a flexible schedule, and the opportunity to make a difference in others' lives.

So I took another leap of faith and the night before I turned 30, I quit corporate.

I decided to start my own health and wellness business in partnership with an amazing company that's been around for 39 years. Plus, now I get to devote time every week to A Million Thanks!

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What is your favorite thing about being an entrepreneur?

Oh my gosh, there's too many things to even count! I guess probably first and foremost is getting to use my gifts to serve others. I think a lot of times when we are tied to a company, we tend to be so concerned about our own performance that we forget our purpose. Being an entrepreneur, I get to focus my day-to-day on what I can do to help others. Aside from that, I love the flexibility, getting to take days off in the middle of the week, and being part of a business that is all about not trading time for money. Did I mention flexibility?

Share your favorite moment or moments while growing your business.

I think for me, it's anytime I'm able to see the impact my business organization has made on others. A lot of times, you don't get to see the fruits of your labor, but I feel very blessed that between A Million Thanks and my Arbonne business, I  get to see my team's impact daily. From granting the wish of a new fishing kayak to an injured veteran to watching one of my team members finally get to quit their second job because their Arbonne business is allowing them more financial options - these are the moments I live for!

What are some of the challenges of being an entrepreneur?

For me, it's procrastination. I've always worked well under pressure, but it's never comfortable. I've really had to learn how to leverage my time, prioritize, and not leave things until the last minute.

What about some of the challenges you face as a female entrepreneur?

I feel very blessed that I actually haven't come across any major challenges as female entrepreneur. I work with mostly women in my Arbonne business, and every single one has empowered and inspired me in some way and on a daily basis. I always say this business is for ourselves but not by ourselves. We get to do life together, not just business, and that has been a huge change from an often stressful and oppressive corporate culture.

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How did you get your idea or concept for your business?

During high school, we were all required to do community service and were provided with a variety of options that we could participate in. Nothing really jumped out at me or tugged my heart strings, so I considered creating my own option. It was just a couple years after 9/11, so our military was still very heavily in the news. I remember asking my dad one night if there was something I could do for our military to let them know all of us at home were thinking about them. He jokingly said, "Sure, why don't you collect a million thank you letters to send to them!" And I just went with it. I had no idea what I was doing, how I was going to get the letters (let alone get them overseas), or where to even start. I had no connection to the military at all, but I was confident this is what God wanted me to do, so he would provide a way to do it.

Tell us more about your business and what you do!

A Million Thanks was founded to be a place of appreciation for our military, where people all across the country could send in their letters and we would get them into the hands of our service members overseas. But as with any business, and non-profits alike, you are required to pivot with the market. So now, in addition to sending thank you letters overseas, we also grant wishes to injured veterans, and we fund higher education scholarships to children of fallen military. We are essentially a one-stop-shop for military support. 

Because A Million Thanks has a full-time Executive Director aka my husband, I'm able to devote time to growing my own business. Now on a daily basis, I get to help people get healthier, choose products that are better for them, and mentor and lead teams to do the same and make an income from anywhere in the world. I love it because not only do I get to watch people's lives change drastically from the inside out, but I get to introduce people to a business opportunity that's all about residual income, time leveraging, and creating options for building a life by design.

Looking back would you do anything different?

I don't think I would do anything differently, because I know everything that happened along the way happened for a reason. I think if anything, I would have wanted to be more mindful. Anytime you start a business, it's such a whirlwind and time goes by so fast. I know there were a lot of times I missed what was going on around me, because I was so deep in the weeds.

Advice for other other female entrepreneurs or those looking to get started?

What if you stopped thinking "What if this doesn't work?" and started asking yourself "What if this DOES work?" Are you happy with where are you now? How about in one year from now? Five years? What if you could be part of something that not only changed others' lives but changed your own? Stop being afraid of what others might think, because their opinions are none of your business and they won't pay your bills either. There is so much potential for you, so just jump in!

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What is your favorite quote?

“Your income is determined by how many people you serve and how well you serve them.” - Bob Burg the Go Giver

How do you avoid burnout?

Personal growth and development! Your business only grows as much as you do. You have to constantly be learning, be growing, and ask for mentors to pour into you. And then turn around and do the same for others.

We know all entrepreneurs work differently. How do you schedule your day?

Most days start out at the gym, but I don't get up early for that. I used to get up at 4:30 to hit the gym before working a 10 hours a day. I was so glad to kiss those days goodbye! I get home, make breakfast, get ready, do a devotion, and get to work. I like to take a lot of breaks, which is easy since I work from home. It keeps me on track to take breaks!

What are your MUST have tools?! (things like organization, calendars, social media, payment platforms, business development sources...etc.)

I use a lot of social media for both of my businesses, so I'm pretty active on that. I also use Voxer for all my communication, which I love. I'm pretty basic when it comes to organization and calendars, I mostly just use my phone with a LOT of reminders haha. I'm a visual person so I love using Zoom for video conferences so I can see who I'm talking to. And all the books - sometimes audio and sometimes paperback!

How do you advertise your brand?

Word of mouth! I've never paid for any advertising for any of my businesses. For A Million Thanks, I used a lot of PR strategies and relied on participants and supporters to spread the word. For Arbonne, it's all social media and word of mouth and my team who does the same!

Thank you Shauna for your contribution to the Female Founder Series! I know that your story will impact so many people. I can relate to procrastination being a challenge for me as well. You mention coming back to your why and asking yourself what is stopping you from reaching your goals - I think this is a great way to re-align and get things accomplished. For example, there are a lot of things we don’t want to do or we don’t have immense passion for but we gotta do them. One way to combat this is to get to the root cause of why we don’t want to do it. Once we know we can start to move forward.

I think because we live in a world that is covered in instant gratification it can be challenging to work on something that feels more tedious or that there isn’t a reward right when you finish. Setting up small wins with projects or mini goals to hit can help move you along!

Additionally, people procrastinate because they are afraid to fail or don’t know where to start. In entrepreneurship, sometimes you just have to start and take a leap of faith. Shauna speaks to this in her feature as well. And truthfully, you might fail a few times but it’s the only way to learn and evolve in your business. xo

Looking to get involved in the female founder series? Leave us a message below and someone will contact you shortly!

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The Best Leaders Rise By Lifting Others Up

I had a client not too long ago name Sally*, she ran a small startup.  While we were working together she hired an employee, Linda*, to run all daily operations and create an internal training and strategy department. There were two things that Linda was responsible for #1 being the CEO's right-hand man and #2 communicating and teaching employees what the CEO truly wanted to do.

The biggest issue we kept running into was Sally's unwillingness to delegate and empower others to take on new responsibility. In one of our sessions, Sally admitted that she was worried that the pieces of her company were going to be given away by sharing the inner workings of her mind. "But Nikki, this is my baby! I have to run everything to make sure things go as I plan- I don't have time to train the employees!" So she'd be up all hours of the night and then complain about how little money she was making for how hard she was working.

Linda was the first to go. After that one by one employees began to quit, clients left her, and she felt like she was back at square one. Sally never took the time to teach her employees. She never took the time to understand their strengths so that she could delegate tasks in the business in order to scale it.

John Maxwell says, "Good leadership isn't about advancing yourself. It's about advancing your team," and Ashley Kalinauskas, CEO/Founder of Torigen does precisely that. She shares in our FFS feature how a team is EVERYTHING to getting a startup off the ground. Ashley tells us that some of her favorite moments while growing Torigen is watching her employees become more confident taking on new tasks which in turn creates growth for everyone!

Torigen is an incredible and innovate company that provides a personalized cancer vaccine to veterinary clinics around the country. After a lump or bump is felt by a veterinarian, they send the tumor sample in to their labs. If the tumor comes back from pathology as malignant, then they move forward and create a series of vaccines that are designed to stimulate the immune system against the cancer by isolating the tumor cells and providing a specific CD8+ cytotoxic T cell adjuvant.

Torigen found that 8 million companion animals are diagnosed each year with cancer, and nearly 90% of them do not get further cancer care by an oncologist. Which is why Torigen was created! Their goal is to create a safe, effective and affordable treatment option that can be provided by local veterinarians and in turn help millions of patients.

So many times inventions or companies emerge from immediate need, loss, or convenience. It is clear that there are so many dogs that could benefit from this treatment! Torigen works exclusively through veterinarians, but if you know a pet with cancer, or have a pet recently diagnosed, Torigen would love to be put in contact with your veterinarian to see if this therapy can be applicable for your pet.

To reach them you can check them out on their instagram, facebook, and their website.
Without any further ado here is, Ashley Kalinauskas, of Torigen.

What is YOUR story!? Tell us a bit about your background both personally and professionally.

Torigen is the result of my graduate research at Notre Dame where my former professor and I launched the company in 2013. Since then, we have been focused on helping the millions of companion animals that have been diagnosed with cancer. I have a mini-goldendoodle named Dave, who can be Pax's twin, and he always keeps me on my toes!

How did you get your idea or concept for your business?

My former PI was focused on researching personalized cancer immunotherapies for use treating human prostate, ovarian and breast cancer. He had been working on this technology through multiple iterations when his own yellow lab, Sadie developed oral squamous cell carcinoma. 

Sadie was only given less than a month to live because the cancer had extensively metastasized. He was a veterinarian by degree, but a research professor by trade when he decided to utilize the personalized cancer vaccine on Sadie. Sadie was the first clinical patient after nearly a decade refining our process with mice and rats-- she was also the inspiration after she was successfully treated for us to research how many dogs develop cancer each year. 

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Looking back would you do anything different?

Running a company is difficult! I think that every step helped build us to where we are today, but looking back, I wish we would have moved a bit faster and raised additional capital earlier in the company's formation.

What is your favorite thing about being an entrepreneur?

I love being able to do it all! Everyone at Torigen wears multiple hats-- I can go from financial planning, to cell culture and business development in one afternoon. I like to dream big, but then to put down attainable goals as to how we will accomplish each of these tasks. I also enjoy leading a team that is focused on making a difference!

Share your favorite moment or moments while growing your business.

In August, 2018 we were named the top animal health innovation! That was a huge achievement and milestone for our company! I think that some of my favorite moments involve seeing my employees progress and be confident taking on more tasks. When you help an employee grow, that is the best feeling!

What are some of the challenges of being an entrepreneur?

So many! I describe every day as being thrown from a plane without a parachute and having to assemble it before you hit the ground. You never know what is coming your way-- but hard work and planning ahead can really help prevent any mishaps or surprises!

Another big challenge is financing. There are so many angel and early stage VC groups that are looking for great technologies to fund. However, we probably pitched to over 30 groups before we received our first term sheet. You have to find individuals that are willing to take on risk, but who will be your partners moving forward.

Advice for other other female entrepreneurs or those looking to get started?

START! A lot of great ideas never get off the ground floor because they do not have a dedicated team pushing them to succeed. Its important to get things going. If you have an idea and a team that believes in what you do-- the capital will follow!

Thank you Ashley for all the incredible work you are doing! We all want our furry babies to live as long as possible! The work you do is truly inspiring.

Do you have something you’d like to share? Are you a female founder that would love to inspire others? Message us in the form below to get started!

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The Power of Patience

I find it ironic that the theme of this week’s founder series is patience and when I was writing this I had almost zero. Rushing around, yelling at cars, eating too fast just to get shit done because I’m up against a big deadline. I had planned a bunch of stuff prior to knowing about this deadline so of course life likes to load ya up all at one time! The funny thing about this is that I think that yelling at the cars to move faster or half heartily throwing a post together then the more I’ll be able to pack into the day. But, because I haven’t taken the time to slow down and be mindful I end up doing more work. There are more mistakes in my grammar, more projects that are started and unfinished (like the dishes in the sink and laundry on the bed), and the less present I am in general.  Also- side note- when you slow down and have patience you’ll notice how NOT a big deal the things you’re stressing about truly are. 

Can you think back on a time that you said something without really listening to what the person was saying? Or what about launching a program or offer from your business only to realize you weren't ready to manage it or scale it? Or rushed through an Instagram post just to get content out there? Have you ever bought a piece of home decor just to have something rather than waiting for the thing you REALLY wanted?

I've been all of the above. I've spoken thoughtlessly, launched too quickly, bought way too many fake plants, posted, edited, reposted, and then deleted because I moved too quickly. Something I've been working on in my own life is slowing down before making decisions. Now, I'm a huge researcher of all things, so in many ways, I do educate myself before I decide to move forward, BUT I often tend to make moves without thinking it through.

It seems as if learning patience is a common theme for most entrepreneurs as Allison Katz of Gift Spawt explains that it took time to understand how to even get started as a business owner and then to officially launch their brand.

She does a great job sharing how patience in her business was a key element of success! Allison and her co-founder Mariana created, Gift Spawt, a one-stop-shop for sending gifts and puppy care packages to dog friends near and far. With snuggly stuffed toys, stylish accessories, dog gift sets, and greeting cards, they’ve got something special for every pup and occasion. They love supporting their dog parent community and spreading joy to people everyday.

Allison describes what steps they took as a brand to launch their online business efficiently and effectively. In our interview, she also provides insight to those who are looking to get started and some mindset tips to keep your eye on the ball!

I originally worked with Allison and Mariana many moons ago for my 10k milestone giveaway on @paxthedood. The two of them created @dogswithstuffedanimals which is an instagram account that highlights adorable dogs with stuffed animals. That specific account is very successful and it seems only natural for them to start selling products themselves!

If you are interested in collaborating as an influencer or sending a package to a friend please contact Allison at info@giftspawt.com. Make sure to check out their website and buy your pup some fun and adorable goodies. Giftspawt packages each gift which makes it personalized and unique for each recipient. You can also follow them on Instagram at @giftspawt or on their Facebook page which you can reach by clicking here.

Without further ado, Allison Katz, everyone!

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Allison with some of their ambassadors in LA

Please tell us a bit about your background both personally and professionally. 

I am originally from Charlotte, North Carolina and went to school at UNC-Chapel Hill (Go Heels!). After graduating from college, I wanted to explore life outside of NC and moved to NYC with some friends. While I started off working in entertainment PR, I later transitioned to the healthcare field and headed to DC for graduate school. 

Although city living was fun and exciting, it was also stressful and lonely at times. One of my coworkers suggested that I should get a dog and even came with me to bring Riley home in 2012. Since day one, he's been a total mama's boy (and I mean that in the best way possible) and the center of my world. Little did I know that when I started an Instagram account for him in 2015, that it would be a turning point in my life personally and professionally.

It was through IG that I became friends with Mariana, my now business partner, who also happened to have a cockapoo named Riley. We decided to start @dogswithstuffedanimals together, which gave me a creative outlet that I didn't have in my day job. I also felt a sense of empowerment turning an idea into a reality and taking on a leadership role.

At the same time, I was missing my family and friends in North Carolina and decided that I wanted to move closer to home. For the past 1.5 years, I have been living in Chapel Hill, NC, working in digital marketing for medical practices, and growing Gift Spawt. Although it was a risk leaving my life in DC and a job I had for 9 years, I am so glad that I took a leap of faith and allowed myself to try something new!

Co-Founder Mariana & her dog Walter

Co-Founder Mariana & her dog Walter

How did you get your idea or concept for the brand?

Mariana and I had been exchanging gifts for our dogs for holidays and birthdays. While the presents were small (a toy, treat, or card), it was so fun receiving a package from a friend and surprising Riley with his pawmail. 

We noticed that other dogs on Instagram were sending their friends gifts as well and how happy it made everyone. From there, we decided to create a site for the dog community that promoted friendship and celebrating special occasions -even when you can't be there in person.

Looking back would you do any thing different?

Not at all. In the past year, I've learned so much, and challenges and missteps have always guided me in a better direction.

What is your favorite thing about being an entrepreneur?

The ability to create opportunities for myself and taking personal responsibility for my decisions. I'm also able to maintain a fairly flexible schedule, which allows me to have a good work-life balance.

Allison & her dog Riley

Allison & her dog Riley

Share your favorite moment or moments while growing your business.

Seeing the messages that friends write for the gift cards has been awesome! You can tell that so many humans and pups have formed genuine relationships with one another, and it really reinforces the power of the dog community. 

I also loved meeting-up with some of our IG friends, while traveling this past year.

What are some of the challenges of being an entrepreneur?

Because so much of what we do is tied to social media, email, and being online, I often find it difficult to unplug and be away from my phone or computer. But I have started to set aside device-free time each night, so that I can truly decompress and be more engaged in my relationships and experiences.

Advice for other entrepreneurs or those looking to get started?

Patience, planning, and research are essential to executing an idea. When we decided to start Gift Spawt, I bought a 2000 page book on Amazon about creating and running a small business. There were so many steps to take before we could even begin developing the website, and I just gave myself the time and space to get organized, ask friends and family for help, contact support teams (especially with tech questions), and search for answers online.

How do you advertise your brand?

Currently, we only promote Gift Spawt on social media (Instagram and Facebook). We owe so much to our amazing brand ambassadors, who have supported us since the very beginning!

What a fun idea! I can’t wait to learn more about GiftSpawt on our podcast interview this summer. If you have questions about getting involved in the Female Founder Series (FFS) please drop us a comment below or send us an email!

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4 Powerful and Inexpensive Ways to Launch Your Business

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Have you ever had one of those phone calls that you just didn't want to get off the phone? Because the conversation flowed so seamlessly, and even though it was the first time you've talked to this person, it felt like the 500th? That's how my conversation with Maneesha Mukhi went yesterday. It was as if the words coming out of her mouth were ones that I think daily.

It was a pleasure learning more about Maneesha, who is the founder of AskEllis, which helps individuals and businesses connect with experienced immigration attorneys (and other resources). They craft a lot of high-quality content to help folks along any stage of their immigration journey. So whether they are looking for ad hoc information or trying to fill out their paperwork themselves, Ask Ellis has something for everyone.

We discussed things such as her why and how important owning that intention is to scaling her business. We both identified how lonely it can feel growing a business as a soloprenure (especially in New York City in January! Brr). We talked about utilizing mentors which can be helpful to a certain extent, but can also misguide us away from our real intention. We also chatted about how much we downplay our successes and how important it is to celebrate all wins along the way. AskEllis has been featured in FastCompany and Oprah Magazine- Those are HUGE WINS for this growing startup!

I asked Maneesha about what advice she would share with entrepreneurs just starting out, and she had 4 critical insights on this question. Make sure to read through today's feature to get those steps!

There are a few ways folks can reach Maneesha & AskEllis. If you are looking to schedule a consult with an attorney and you know which one, you can hit the "Schedule a Consult" button on the attorney's profile. If you are unsure of next steps, you can schedule a quick call with the Ask Ellis Concierge (via their website) - they always have same day slots available. Lastly, you can just send them a message through the form on the "Contact Us" page. You can find additional information about AskEllis on their Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, and Instagram.

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Please tell us a bit about your background both personally and professionally.

Culturally, I am a bit of a mutt! My father was a diplomat for India so I grew up in 6 countries across 3 continents (Asia, Africa, Europe). I always wanted to come to the U.S. for college and was thrilled when I got accepted. After college, my career choices were largely driven by visa constraints so I ended up working in corporate America for a decade. I finally got my green card in 2013 -  it gave me the kind of work freedom I did not have before. I quit corporate America shortly after and haven't looked back. I worked at a nonprofit for a year, advocating for domestic violence survivors of South Asian origin. After that, an opportunity at a tech start-up popped up and I thought it would be a great learning experience. Fast forward a couple of years - I finally took the plunge and launched Ask Ellis (with a different name).

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How did you get your idea or concept for the brand?

Ask Ellis is a deeply personal venture. Having grown up in 6 countries, I am no stranger to visas. I came to the U.S. as an international student almost 20 years ago. It took nearly 10 years, 3 green card applications and a lot of anxiety to get my green card. Last month, I finally became a U.S. citizen. Along the way, I realized that there was a big hole: immigration information online was sparse and often inaccurate. Finding a reliable attorney was overwhelming. So I decided to create the solution.

Tell us more about your brand and what you do!

Ask Ellis helps individuals and businesses connect with experienced immigration attorneys (and other resources). We craft a lot of high quality content to help folks along any stage of their immigration journey. So whether they are looking for ad hoc information or trying to fill out their paperwork themselves, we have something for everyone.

What is your favorite thing about being an entrepreneur?

Learning. You never stop learning as an entrepreneur. I never enjoyed the classroom setting growing up and I always thought it was because I didn't enjoy learning. I realize now that I love learning, but I learn by doing and am a very hands on person.

What are some of the challenges of being an entrepreneur?

When you work for yourself (especially in the beginning when there isn't a team), working alone and being self-motivated ALL the time can be hard. I addressed this by using a co-working space (which isn't feasible for everyone as it is an added cost - but if it will help you work better, it may be worth the investment). Another challenge is figuring out how to allocate your limited funds and time - what should you invest in, what should you outsource vs. doing yourself, etc. There are so many more challenges, but these were 2 big ones for me.

Advice for other entrepreneurs or those looking to get started? (4 powerful and inexpensive ways to launch your business)

  1. Be patient!

  2. Trust your gut! Everyone will have an opinion on how you should run your business. I wasted a lot of time by not trusting my gut and listening to people that I thought knew better than me. Don't get me wrong - some people will offer you valuable advice, but let too many cooks in the kitchen and you will constantly be pivoting and doubting yourself.

  3. Celebrate the little wins.

  4. Before you start, create a simple budget. Here are the essentials to get started (in my personal opinion). Most people need a website, so you will likely have to purchase a domain (this can be as cheap as $10 on GoDaddy depending on the name you want.) You want to make sure your business is legit, meaning you want to incorporate it legally. You can use a site like LegalZoom to help you with this. Have someone create a logo that represents your brand - you don't have to break the bank to do this. You can go on Fiverr or CrowdSpring and get this done at a low cost. Lastly, get business liability insurance - this is to protect you in case there are ever any claims against you/your business products/services. Early on, there are many resources you can use for free. Take advantage of them. For example, you can create a beautiful website on Wordpress - they have free and paid templates that will make your site look professional. Canva is another resource I absolutely love for creating graphics (e.g. for Facebook covers, social media posts, etc.). Mailchimp is a great tool for building your email list (free up to 2,000 emails). Hootsuite is great for automating your social media feeds - helps you plan ahead.

Share your favorite moment or moments while growing your business.

My favorite moments are notes of gratitude or encouragement that I receive from people that find what they need on Ask Ellis. I recently received an email that said, "Speaking to [attorney on our platform] was a breath of fresh air, thank you so much".

How do you advertise your brand?

The only paid advertising we do is Google AdWords. We have experimented with Facebook Ads, but it's not something we do regularly (yet). Word of mouth has been great for us. We have a strong focus on SEO to drive organic traffic to the site.


Looking back would you do any thing different?

Early on, I tried to do too many things at once. I was building a marketplace, trying to grow a community and create an amazing content platform - at the same time. These are all large undertakings. If I could go back in time, I would focus on one piece at a time. By splitting my focus, I actually slowed myself down.

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Is there anything else you'd like for us to know?

I strongly believe in collaboration over competition. We try to help anyone that comes our way, even if that means sending them to a resource outside of Ask Ellis. I care more that people are being served than who is serving them.

I hope you enjoyed Maneesha’s interview as much as I did. Look for our upcoming Podcast this summer where we will dive deeper into some of these topics such a budgeting, getting out of your own way, and trusting your gut.

If you are interested in participating in the Female Founder Series drop a line below and someone will contact you shortly!


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Did you know that having an attitude of gratitude can help you live your best life?

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It’s funny how the universe works and I love watching it’s magic unfold! I met Beth Devine through a brand partnership that Pax did a few months ago. Beth was hired by the brand to do marketing and social outreach and so we were connected as part of the collaboration.

The more we talked the more we realized how much we had in common and that our main goal in our professional career was to help other women succeed. Currently, Beth is the Founder and Principal of Devine Solutions Group, LLC. She is a digital marketing and business development expert who almost exclusively works and collaborates with women entrepreneurs. 

She founded her agency on the premise that women deserve to have a one-source solution to go to and obtain the knowledge required to achieve the financial independence they require and the work/life balance they deserve.

If you are a business owner/entrepreneur who is looking to increase your online brand presence Beth is the right contact for you! She can help your business generate more leads, establish a new web design, and do a stellar job with SEO. She is a skilled content writer and social media manager. Beth also provides excellent business insight and mentoring to her clients. As for collaboration opportunities, she is always looking for ways to support other entrepreneurs and establish relationships long term.

You can reach her directly by emailing info@devinesolutionsgroup.com or call her at 833-9DEVINE (833-933-8463). You can find her on Linked in, Facebook, Instagram, & Twitter!

I am so excited to introduce Beth to our LOTP community and for our relationship to continue to blossom in the years to come! Without further ado…Beth Devine everyone!

TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF PERSONALLY & PROFESSIONALLY.

We deliver top tier digital marketing services to those who require and up-leveling of their brand and their business. I believes that every woman deserves to have a profitable business on her own terms and in the confines of her own time.

I live in Tracy, CA with my husband Robert and our two teenagers, Ellie and Sean. Robert works at Lawrence Livermore National Lab and manages radiation safety for the National Ignition Facility (NIF). We have two German Shepherds, Fargo and Zami who keep me vacuuming regularly. I enjoy boating on the Delta every Spring and Summer as well as tour on Robert's motorcycles.


How did you get your idea or concept for the brand?

Based on 25 plus years of sales, marketing and business development, I know that the name of a company and its purpose should be reflective in their brand. The most personal and intimate part of any one's being, is their name. Your name is your brand. So, since Devine really is my last name, why not build a brand around it and highlight what that word in and of itself means to others and then pull it back to the root of who I am.  Prior to founding Devine Solutions Group, I spent over 20 years as a retail operations professional for some of the biggest name brands nationwide. Since then, I spent over a decade as a successful VP of Business Development for a civil engineering and land surveying firm. My entrepreneurial spirit came alive again when I founded Impact MMA, where I was only one of two female sporting event promoters, duplicating what UFC started, but on a smaller scale. After Impact MMA, I entered into telecommunications as a marketing and business development executive and once again delivered the results that inspired me to create Devine Solutions Group.

Tell us more about your brand and what you do!

Devine Solutions Group is a premier digital marketing, business development and implementation agency that supports small to mid-sized business owners.

Our purpose is to assist our clients with turning their business potential into a profitable reality. We do this by creating and implementing top-tier digital marketing and business development services. We are committed to assisting clients with building your business and their brand, so they can achieve the financial independence they require.

In addition to frequent public speaking engagements, training business owners on branding, marketing and business strategies, I am a frequent contributor to publications including Fit Small Biz, Business Connection and Best Hosting Pro.


Looking back would you do any thing different?

I would have learned how to let go of fear, anxiety and doubt A LOT earlier in my life, but I didn't know how to do that. I knew deep in my soul that I had so much potential and that something was holding me back.  I had to get out of my own way because I was holding me back. 

By putting in the self-work and understanding the root cause of the "hold-back" issues, I was able to give myself permission to receive success and let go of the self limiting beliefs. Once I did this, the right people just starting showing up and my business and life took off in a direction I knew I deserved. 

If anyone is interested in the full story of how I did it, I encourage them to contact me for insight and support. I look forward to paying it forward and inspiring others to do the same, so they can  too can have the chance to living their best life.

What is your favorite thing about being an entrepreneur?

Having control of my time and being able to deliver the required services anytime and anywhere, via a mobile lifestyle. Working with super smart people who have a high degree of integrity and skills and of course, being able to plug-in to my community and contribute to the greater good of others.

Share your favorite moment or moments while growing your business.

My favorite moments are when I look at my vision board and I literally see a pattern of the images coming to fruition. It is so rewarding! In the middle of my board I have an image that says HAPPY CLIENTS and I look at it and experience that reality every day! Living in gratitude sets the stage for successful manifestation.

What are some of the challenges of being an entrepreneur?

The biggest challenge at this time is that about 70% of the time, I am a technician who is actually producing the work. This is normal in the first few years of a new business, so I get it. 

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As the business builds, I will be hiring professionals who can deliver the end product better than I can. The ultimate goal is to position the agency to be process dependent and not so much person dependent. That is when your business is really working for you vs. you working for your business. I am super excited about my plan to achieve this too.

Advice for other entrepreneurs or those looking to get started?

What ever business you want to go after, create a viable business and financial plan. PERIOD! Use it as a tool to drive your business and course correct when you have too. 

Stay close to your purpose and your passion, then create a business around it, so you can add value and monetize at the same time. Make sure your new business is financially viable first and foremost. Plan your work, then work your plan.

How do you advertise your brand?

Well, obviously we have a signifiant social media presence that is coupled with very strategic and effective SEO, but I will tell you that I spend about 30% of my time networking, speaking and connecting with others. 

The majority of our leads actually come in through referrals. I look at the digital space as what I call "tip" money. Nothing will ever trump the power of an eyeball to eyeball, belly to belly meeting and personal relationship building.

How can clients reach you/Collaborate with you?

Any business owner/entrepreneur who requires an increase in online brand presence,  more leads, new web design, SEO, content writing, social media management, etc. — or just needs some insight or some mentoring, they can reach me directly by emailing info@devinesolutionsgroup.com or call me at 833-9DEVINE (833-933-8463). 

As for collaboration opportunities, I am always looking for ways to support other entrepreneurs and establish relationships long term. For such inquiries, use the same method to reach me by email or phone.

Anything else you would like us to know?

We are always looking to add talent to our Group, so if you feel that you have a service that supports our client avatar, which we can discuss when you call, we'd love to talk you and discover how to incorporate you into Devine Solutions Group and assist you will building your business!

One of the biggest things I’ve learned being an solopreneur is that I can’t do everything alone. Just like the saying “it takes a village” when raising a child the same message can be viewed when growing a business. It is such a gift to be surrounded by like minded women were I can pick their brain on different aspects of my business, become inspired by others, and collaborate with powerful women around the world.

A big take away from Beth’s interview was the notion of letting go and reflecting on how much I hold myself back due to things I haven’t dealt with or how we let past experience dictate who we are today. I am taking the steps to truly break these limiting beliefs by personal development and exploration of myself.

If you would like to be featured as a female founder or are interested in collaborating in some way please write in the form below which will send a ping my way.

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How Hitting Rock Bottom Can Inspire Your Creativity

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We all have a story, a story that has brought us to this exact moment in time.  For Jennifer Nyguen it was a mix of different experiences that designed her current situation. Jennifer states that one of the biggest experiences that has shaped her current moment was one that stemmed from tragedy and blossomed into something beautiful! 

I’ve found a theme with all the women that I’ve interviewed so far. Their dogs have all been pivotal in moving forward into the next phase of their life. Their dogs have instilled courage, patience, and confidence in taking the leap into their passions and interests.

Dogs teach us every day to be present. They teach us that life is short, so enjoy it to the fullest. They teach us to lean into what drives us and what fills us up. For me, Pax invited me to spend more time in my creativity something that I had put away since my childhood. Jennifer’s story is very similar. With the support of her family, friends, boyfriend, and of course Bear- she has been able to take her passion to a whole new level! Without further ado- I am so excited to share the launch of Good Boy Bear! If you’d like to learn more about her brand please reach out to her via instagram at @goodboybear or through her website https://www.thegoodboybear.com/ . Jennifer can also be reached through email hello@goodboybear.com or on Bear’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/thegoodboybear/

Additionally, I originally planned to have my last female founder blog post a few weeks ago. However, I received such interest that we will be continuing the series indefinitely- if you are interested in being featured please drop a message in the contact form below! ENJOY!

Tell us a little about yourself personally & professionally.

I am 30 years old, born and raised in Dallas, Texas! I went to the same all-girl school my entire childhood, so I marinated in a close-knit community of bright and creative girls. But I was very ready to get out of the bubble and explore the world on my own by the end of high school. My parents were both dentists (they escaped from Vietnam during the war and came to America with nothing), and my brother was finishing up dental school in California, which is what inspired me to move there for college. I went to USC and got my BA in Neuroscience with an arts minor in Communication Design, and went straight into dental school there after that! Photography and graphic/website design were hobbies of mine throughout high school and college, so that came in really useful for building Bear's brand. I learned and grew so much living on my own in LA, but I knew it would be best for me financially to move back to Dallas after I graduated, to be near my family again too. So I packed up and moved home in 2015 and joined the family practice. Those couple years after moving were a dark and difficult time. I missed my friends, California, I had just gotten out of a terrible relationship, my student loan debt was (and still is) unimaginable, late 20s and living with my parents, and dentistry was a whole different level of stress I'd never experienced. Thankfully my best friend moved here with me, and I had my family to teach me all the ins and outs of running the business. I slowly picked myself up, moved into my own place.

After many failed dating attempts, I met someone special, but he tragically passed away about 5 months into our relationship. It was rock bottom for me. I don't even know what drove me to start looking for a puppy (probably Instagram)! because I barely had time to even take care of myself, but I did months of research and finally took the plunge. It was the best decision I ever made. Bear is my healing and guiding light, he teaches me so much about the world everyday, how to slow down, appreciate the little things, wake up and see all the good in the world, no matter how dreary it is, give unconditional love to everyone, including myself and those who may not deserve it. After he started gaining a following on Instagram, I realized how special he was, and wanted to spread his goofy, loving energy as far and wide as I could. It grew into this incredible creative outlet. I am so grateful to be in a great place today, mentally and physically, with Bear and my overwhelmingly supportive boyfriend, friends, and family!

How did you get your idea or concept for the brand?

Bear's brand was something that I envisioned pretty early on, but had ZERO knowledge about where to even begin. Seeing all the comments on his instagram about how happy he makes people made me want to create products that they could have in person as continued reminders. He's such a cartoon character in real life, so I just wanted to be able to embody that.

Tell us more about your brand and what you do!

His brand is all about the simple things, the simple pleasures in life. A soft, cozy piece of clothing to relax in, a sip of hot coffee on a chilly Sunday morning, a smile on someone's face. It's been so fun doing the research, product design, being creative with his content, and communicating and networking with amazing people (like Nikki)!! Momager life takes up a lot of time, but it is extremely rewarding :) On top of that, we're so happy to be able to give back some of the profits to animal welfare organizations.

Looking back would you do any thing different?

Nothing at all, I find so much value in making mistakes and learning from them.


What is your favorite thing about being an entrepreneur?

Being able to make and be fully accountable for all my decisions. And between running my practices, and running Bear's business, I am still able to have a pretty flexible schedule where I can carve out time for myself and my loved ones.

Share your favorite moment or moments while growing your business.

Going out and exploring new places while shooting content with Bear has been so fun. And the amount of support and love he receives from people around the world is unbelievable. I try my best to transmit and convey all that love to him.. if he only knew!

What are some of the challenges of being an entrepreneur?

As an introvert, it was difficult at first to open up and start communicating with others openly and directly (strangers on the internet that you're emailing with back and forth, collaborating, negotiating, etc.)- but it definitely became easier over time. Showing myself on his Instagram is a daunting thought, and even launching the brand-- it was scary! Wondering what people are going to think, the possibility of receiving criticism on something you put so much of your heart into, but at the end of the day, I just try to remember that being vulnerable isn't a bad thing.

Advice for other entrepreneurs or those looking to get started?

Research, research, research! I spent hundreds of hours googling answers to the million of questions I had because I didn't personally know anyone with experience in producing merchandise, especially in this kind of space. I remember going to a coffee shop in late January with a pen and paper, blank google doc open, and I just started making a list of every single question I had, a rough outline of what I wanted to accomplish, how much money I had available to put into this, a timeline of when I wanted to complete each step, all the permits and licenses required, and went from there! Staying organized and having all of my information and research in one place helped me stay on track. I still have so many questions, but am just learning along the way.

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Thank you Jennifer & Bear for your time and energy! I know I learned a ton from your interview whether that was about yourself and how you launched Bear’s merchandise line or what to do when I start my own! Are you interested in being featured on LOTP? Drop us a line below and let us know! Can’t wait to hear from you.

xo, Nikki

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One woman's success does not detract from your own...if anything it inspires others to start living the life they always imagined!

Rounding out my final female founder interview series is Lea Mayer. Lea (pronounced Leah not Lee hah!), is the creator, owner, designer, customer service rep, and production line for Lulu and Lea.  She has a degree in Textile design and a background working in apparel design. 

When I first starter Pax’s account I was asked to be in my first collaborative giveaway and I was invited by Lea! I had no idea what I was doing and kept ask her questions about what to do and if I was doing everything right. She was always so sweet to answer and it ended up being a great experience for everyone!

When starting new things it can be really overwhelming because there is just so much information out there and things to do. It’s such a joy to be able to have such a strong community of like minded people! In our interview Lea mentions that just diving in is really the solution to the overwhelm and that overthinking can delay one from living their most fulfilling life! Thank you so much Lea for your time - it was such a blast to learn more about Lulu and Lea!

Make sure you follow @shopluluandlea and give your pup a beautiful gift!

Please tell us a bit about your background both personally and professionally.

I have lived in the Philadelphia area most of my life.  I grew up outside of the city in Southern NJ.  Growing up I always had a passion to be in the design world.  As a little girl I would watch HGTV and always thought I would be an interior designer.  I later really learned to love fashion design as well.  When looking at colleges, design programs were my focus.  I landed at Philadelphia University (now Jefferson University) in their Interior Design program.  The first year was whirl wind of architecture classes and as much as I found it interesting and certainly challenging, it didn't feel like what I really had a passion for.  I switched to textile design and fell in love.  I absolutely loved not only the design aspect but the technical as well.  After graduating I worked as a CAD designer for Bed Bath and Beyond, then moved to their subsidiary Harbor Linen as their first in house designer working on contract custom bedding and drapery.  I really enjoyed it but again didn't feel a strong passion for it.  That lead me back to fashion to try to find a career I could love.  I worked for a well known apparel brand in Philadelphia working in their design department.  It felt like I landed the dream job and I was so excited to dive in.  After three years of giving that job literally everything I could possibly put into, and admittedly letting it affect me in ways I won't get into I decided it was time for a serious change.  I left without a plan but knowing I really needed a positive change and inspiring work environment.  At the time I had an instagram for Lulu, my puppy, and loved the community that I had never expected to find there.  I also could never find accessories for her that were my taste or quality that blew me away so I decided with my new found freedom to start Lulu and Lea based off this idea.

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How did you get your idea or concept for the brand?

Just as above in my background it just felt like a void in the market.  I am willing to pay a higher than average price point to get high quality well designed products for nearly anything so why not dog accessories!  I really wanted to create something special that no one else was doing.

Tell us more about your brand and what you do!

I have taken my background in textile design and really made my knowledge and love of textiles what makes my brand special.  Lulu and Lea products are always made of high quality fabrics that are sometimes a little unexpected, like when I did velvet or our new eyelet or embroidered styles for spring.  I really like to take really special fabrics and allow them to be what elevates my fairly simple designs.

Looking back would you do any thing different?

Hmmm!  I don't know I'd do anything different.  I am a firm believer in everything happens for a reason and I think although the path has not been easy I have learned so much about the business, and myself, along the way.


What is your favorite thing about being an entrepreneur?

I love the creative freedom and the ability to take risks.  Designing for corporate companies always felt restrictive to me.  There was always someone there to tell you that it wasn't good enough, a good design, idea, etc.  With being an entrepreneur I love having the freedom to try.  The person saying no may have been right but I think there is something really valuable about learning for yourself.

Share your favorite moment or moments while growing your business.

Oh gosh, that's hard because I've had many!  One, I find it so rewarding as I grow and continue to succeed, especially when so many people in the beginning couldn't see my vision.  Second, and more importantly, I have to go back to the connections I've made.  Instagram is where I built my business from and the people I have made connections with there is invaluable.  People, most people, are so wonderful and want to support you and help build your dream.  I love when a customer tags me and they are just in love with the styles they've just received.  Thats the best moment.

What are some of the challenges of being an entrepreneur?

I think balance.  Balancing life and owning a business can be a struggle... Especially a very small business, my staff is myself and I just hired a part time assistant.  So it can be hard to put down the work and separate that from my personal life.  Especially in a world where everyone is used to Amazon prime and such immediacy.  It feels like you need to be present 100% of the time.

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Advice for other entrepreneurs or those looking to get started?

Just dive in!  I think we can be our own worse enemies and the more you sit around and think about what you want to create the less likely you are to just do it.  Diving in can be scary but you learn so much along the way.

Is there anything else you'd like for us to know?

As I'm filling this out its International Women's Day and I just think women need to support each other more! It's easy to feel competitive and protective of your work but I think everyone has something valuable to bring to the table. I heard recently, and I cannot remember where, that one women's success does not detract from your own and that really resinated with me.

Lea is absolutely right! One woman’s success does not detract from your own abilities. It can be challenging to start a new project when social media promotes so much comparison. But, there is room for all of us at the top & I’d love to have you contribute to leader of the pax! Fill out a form below so we can get started!

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How surrounding yourself with like-minded people can boost your confidence!

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Imagine my absolute delight in getting to interview Christina Conlon. Christina is the upbeat, joyful gal behind the creation of DailyBarker. When she’s not pouring her heart into this community, you can find her traveling with her entrepreneur husband, training their new Golden Retriever puppy Nash, or having coffee with friends. Christina currently lives in Nashville, TN with her husband and pup.

It was such an honor collaborating with Christina. Not only did I get to virtually meet the sweetest girl I also pushed myself outside my comfort zone. I was intimidated by her account since she has such a massive following that I was a bit anxious and concerned she would’t be interested. (Don’t worry- I’m working currently on this worthiness problem). Christina inspired me because she was doing a lot of the things I was also passionate about. Things like cultivating community, educating her followers, and sharing information based of her interests.

I decided oh, what the heck and wrote her anyways. I wrote her a direct message explaining who I was and that I’d love to interview her for my female founder interview series. Surprise! She wrote me back and she sent me the most energetic email to follow up - I could feel her gregarious warmth through her words. We instantly became little pen pals and began chatting about more than just dogs.

Through the course of our email chain Christina shared with me about several tools and resources she uses to stay organized as an entrepreneur- things like Evernote (which I’m currently writing in) and Linktree for the Instagram bio link which allows you to showcase multiple links or blogs. What a blessing it is to have another gal in this space to talk with!

So, what’s the lesson here? Stop viewing people on a similar path as you as your competition. They are ON YOUR TEAM! Connecting with another female entrepreneur can actually boost your confidence. With someone else doing something similar you can learn from them and WITH them! How else do you get better and gain confidence? THROUGH LEARNING! There is enough room for ALL OF US to do what we love. I am so grateful to continue meeting such passionate, intelligent, hard working, beautiful, kind, and giving women. Real women. Such an honor. On to the interview shall we?

What is your business name?

DailyBarker

Please provide your social media handles below (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc).

Instagram (@dailybarker), Facebook (@thedailybarker), Twitter (@thedailybarker), Pinterest (@dailybarker)

Tell us a bit about your background both personally and professionally.

I am originally from Indianapolis, IN, I met my entrepreneur husband right when I graduated college and my whole world changed. Not only because I met him and fell in love, but I also met Beau ("his" turned "our" Golden Retriever). I've always been a HUGE fan of pups, but meeting Beau changed my heart in the best ways.

Before we got married, we moved to San Diego, CA and are now settling into our new home in Nashville, TN with our Golden puppy, Nash. We live a pretty crazy life (we both run our own businesses) but I'm so grateful for it!

How did you get your idea or concept for the brand?

When my husband and I unexpectedly lost our Golden Retriever, Beau, at the end of 2015, our hearts were beyond shattered. Beau was our best friend and he did everything with us. I’d find myself scrolling Instagram, seeing the sweetest pups, and some how, that gave me peace. That’s when I decided to start the DailyBarker Instagram account. It warmed my heart knowing that just one post every day on DailyBarker could help bring joy to others in similar situations — or even others who just loved seeing cute pups each day on their Instagram feeds.

Tell us more about your brand and what you do!

DailyBarker has become a collaborative community on Instagram and through our blog (dailybarker.com). On our Instagram channel (@dailybarker), I feature one photo daily from an account that has either submitted their photo or that I personally found on Instagram. Our submissions have grown significantly through the years and it has been so exciting to watch how excited the community gets when they see their photo as our daily featured photo.

For the DailyBarker blog, we have just about 40 contributors that come together to share their creative passions. Our contributors are from the US, Canada, UK, and Australia! I work with each contributor throughout the year to brainstorm blog content ideas, schedule out our yearly calendar (which is constantly being tweaked), and once the blog is live, promote it across the DailyBarker social channels.

When I started thinking about a blog, I knew it couldn't be "The Christina Show" - I'll be the first person to admit, my life is not that exciting, nor do I know everything (who does!). I thought the best option for this blog would be to create a collaborative space, where people from all walks of life could come together, share their passions and love for dogs, and encourage each other. After all, that's what the Instagram channel is - so collaboration just felt right.

Working with our contributors has been hands down, the most special part of this journey. I had wanted to start the blog for about a year, but I had no idea the great relationships I'd get from actually doing it. I ADORE (and that's no exaggeration) every single person I get to work with and am so grateful for their contributions to the community - but mostly their friendships. I just love them all.

Looking back would you do any thing different?

Yes and no! For the first 2 1/2 years of DailyBarker's existence, no one know who I was! Meaning, the community didn't know who the "person" was behind the account - that is until we launched the blog in June 2018. Looking back, I wish I would have put a "face" to the brand sooner. I'd tell my friends randomly about DailyBarker and they wouldn't believe me. So I'd have to log onto our account to "prove it". I'm sitting here laughing at all the weird looks they gave me when I'd show them.

As for the growth of DailyBarker, I've never pushed for more than I can take on and I am proud of that. It's easy to bite off more than you can chew and grow too big, too fast. I never wanted that. When DailyBarker started, it was from such a sweet place of joy, I never wanted it to turn into a stressful "to do" on my list. Until June, I was the only person who did anything with the account. Now of course, we have our contributors and a good friend of mine who tackles our blog editing and scheduling.

What is your favorite thing about being an entrepreneur?

Getting to meet and work with so many amazing people!

Share your favorite moment or moments while growing your business.

My favorite moment was the day we launched the blog - but for a few reasons! When I started DailyBarker, it was when we lost our Golden Beau. From the day Beau passed away, it took my husband and I 2 1/2 years to open our hearts and home to a new puppy. The day the DailyBarker blog launched was the same day we brought our new puppy Nash home. I wish I could say that timing was planned, but it wasn't. I felt like it was such a sweet "full circle" moment. (Looking back, I do not recommend bringing home an 8 week old puppy the day you launch something this big, but by the grace of the good Lord, I made it through, haha!)

What are some of the challenges of being an entrepreneur?

Being an entrepreneur, you have to figure out everything on your own. I definitely annoy my poor husband when I ask him questions, but it's how I learn (by asking). I'm so grateful I have him to ask though! Even though I'm sure he wishes I would Google more things. ;)

Being an entrepreneur, you experience the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. One day, you'll feel like you're getting it all right, the next day (or even that afternoon), you'll feel like everything is failing. That's normal. ;) This is why it's important to be surrounded by others in the same boat as you!

Advice for other entrepreneurs or those looking to get started?

Don't be afraid to be awkward or fail (because you will in some way and GUESS WHAT, life goes on!), surround yourself with other like-minded individuals (don't walk the entrepreneur road alone, because it can be lonely), create a daily schedule for yourself and do the best you can to stick to it, don't be afraid to push yourself out of your comfort zone, make friends in your niche, have fun and take time for yourself every. single. day.

How do you advertise your brand?

All our growth has been organic! I haven't done any advertising for DailyBarker! Of course, that will eventually change, but I'm so proud of how far the community has come on it's own!

How can clients reach you/Collaborate with you?

You can follow DailyBarker on Instagram (@dailybarker) and send me a DM! I check every single one or you can send an email to hello@dailybarker.com.


Something about Christina’s interview catch your eye? Have questions about starting to grow your Instagram or becoming a content curator? Make sure to join our tribe for updates, news, coaching & more!

How being a dog mom inspired a business idea for Ripley+Rue founder Jeannie North

What if I could tell you that you could start a business from literally anything? What if I could tell you that there is really only one ingredient to making that business successful? Would you believe me? That’s exactly what Jeannie North did. All she did was follow her passion of making accessories & apparel for her dogs and now she’s an unstoppable force producing clothing for both dogs and humans!

I feel very grateful to have the opportunity to interview such incredible female founders…these founders aren’t just bad ass women, they are passionate, kind, generous, forward thinking innovators, and most of all creators of community!

Over the next few weeks I will be highlighting several female founders who share insight on their success, their struggles in balancing a one man show, and what they would tell future business owners.

When you begin the journey of being an entrepreneur, it’s definitely a bit daunting and a lot of living in the grey. It takes guts and trust! Growing a business is a wild ride! This week LOTP interviews Jeannie North, owner of Ripley + Rue.

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Jeannie is also the founder of International Doodle Dog Day which began in 2016! On this special day, doodle dogs and their parents go to a meet up specifically made for doodles! This year it will take place on Saturday, May 4th. The first year had about 10 major cities celebrating and this year they have have over 40 major cities wanting to be involved from around the world!! To find out if there is a romp in your city or to create your own you can visit https://www.internationaldoodledogday.com/. Make sure to tag #internationaldoodledogday @internationaldoodledogday on May 4th to get featured on their page!

I absolutely LOVE her collections and have purchased several bandanas both customized and standard from her. She has also made my family custom @paxthedood hats. Is there anything this girl can’t do?!

ENJOY JEANNIE’S INTERVIEW BELOW AND MAKE SURE TO CHECK HER OUT AT @RIPLEYANDRUE ON INSTAGRAM!

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Tell us a bit about your background both personally and professionally.

I'm Jeannie, designer + girl boss + stay-at-home dog mom. Dogs + design are my true passion. I’m an Omaha native, but spent most of my 20’s in the SF Bay Area. After graduating college, I began my career in marketing and design, then a couple years later went back to school for web development to improve my skill set and start a new career as co-owner of a design and web agency with my husband when we moved to Omaha. After only 5 months of launching Ripley + Rue on Etsy in 2016, I stopped taking clients in my design biz and went full time on this new venture and hired an extra hand to help me sew, then expanded to human apparel and my own .com website! Since then, I haven’t looked back and know this is where so many years of searching lead me to right where I was supposed to be.  I’m goofy and weird (and proud). You can usually find me working in my slippers and listening to podcasts or dancing around to music in my shop...and talking to my dogs (I mean who else am I supposed to talk to all day 😜)

How did you get your idea or concept for the brand?

Ripley + Rue are my two doodles! I started making accessories for them, and they are my inspiration.

Tell us more about your brand and what you do!

Ripley + Rue is more than just a job for me, it’s my true passion. We are a dog accessories boutique that creates adorable and witty dog bandanas as well as human apparel for obsessed dog parents. All products are original designs handcrafted in the U.S. by the R + R team. We currently ship hundreds of products to pups around the world and we also are now carried in several stores across the US and CAN.

Looking back would you do anything different?

I think I would tell myself to work a little less, and enjoy life a little more. It took me 3 years of owning this business to have a work-life balance.

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What is your favorite thing about being an entrepreneur?

Freedom - to make what I want to make and see other's enjoy it. Knowing I make people and dogs happy with each bandana or product they wear.

Share your favorite moment or moments while growing your business.

So many!! Being featured on Buzzfeed, adding a really big client to our list (can't say who yet), and being featured in our local Chamber's video promos for Omaha. I'm so grateful for all the success and growth opportunities I've had.

What are some of the challenges of being an entrepreneur?

Self-doubt is a major one. Overworking yourself or burnout. I'm a chronic work-aholic and it becomes an issue for my personal life as well. Succeeding is an addiction to me. Worrying about competition. Just take one day at a time and know that you are only capable of so much.

Advice for other entrepreneurs or those looking to get started?

Be passionate about what you are doing, and you will succeed. Be unique, and let your brand be an extension of yourself! Show up! Show yourself in your brand and let people know you and trust you and see what you are all about.

How do you advertise your brand?

Instagram is probably my most prominent. But some facebook as well and email marketing.

How can clients reach you/collaborate with you?

They can email me at jeannie@ripleyandrue.com!

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When you read interviews like this does it make your heart skip a beat? Are you ready to take your dreams of being a business owner more seriously and learn more?

Make sure to sign up for LOTP news & boss babe inspiration!

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Name

How sweet it is to be Swell Gelato for Dogs!

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When Debbie Hendrickx from, Swell Gelato For Dogs, wrote me several months ago about an upcoming trip to San Diego to market her gelato I knew we had to go. Being an ice cream fanatic myself I assumed Pax followed in that passion. After meeting Debbie and trying the gelato myself I wanted to learn more about her incredibly delicious small business!! Being an entrepreneur I am always looking to connect with other founders - especially female founders. In a way they start to feel like co-workers. It’s fascinating to learn about how other people build their businesses and what drives them to get up everyday and keep at it! Below is a transcribed interview that I had with Debbie. Her contact information is included so make sure to check her out and try some gelato!

Please tell us a bit about your background both personally and professionally! 

“Growing up in Belgium I've had 2 passions my whole life. One came on when I was a teenager : fashion. The other I truly believe I was born with : dogs. I was lucky enough to have a career as a corporate buyer in the fashion world for 18 years but not nearly as lucky as when it came to an end. The closing of that first chapter allowed me to dip a toe in the second. That toe-dip quickly escalated to a full immersion and now my life is constantly covered in gelato and dog hair and I've never been happier.”

Please provide your social media handles below (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc).

FB :@swellgelatofordogs , IG @swellgelatofordogs Twitter @doggelato

How did you get your idea or concept for the business?

“After my retail career ended in 2016 I wanted to just take the summer off from work and stress and only do things I liked. I love gelato making and I love dogs and the idea to make gelato for dogs literally hit me in the middle of the night. Swell was one of my favorite yet greatly underused words so Swell, gelato for dogs was born. I bought a gelato cart and spent my summer in the local dog parks thinking it was just going to be a temporary and fun summer thing to do.”

Tell us more about your business and what you do!

“I make my artisanal gelatos for dogs just as if I would make them for my family and friends. I use simple yet only the highest quality ingredients and taste-test everything along the way. The result is a luxurious dessert that our furry friends can truly appreciate. It's probably a little over the top but I consider our dogs not only our best friends but also our family.”

Looking back would you do any thing different?

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“Growing up, I never thought I'd end up in the USA and 15 years ago, I would have never guessed where I'd be 10 years ago. 5 years ago I would have not begun to imagine that I'd be making gelato for dogs and who knows where I will be in 10 years. So, the short answer would be no, because every step we take gets us to exactly where we are today.”

“It's all encompassing. It's financially uncomfortable . It's constantly living in the unknown.”

Advice for other entrepreneurs or those looking to get started?

Be financially prepared but don't be afraid to take a chance

How do you advertise your business?

“I love being part of social media dog central communities. It's like a family of kindred spirits that all have such amazing love for their pets. As often as I can I try to get out and meet the dogs and their owners . I let word of mouth do most of my advertising but sometimes I dabble in social media advertising.”

How can clients reach you?

“info@swellgelato.com”

Is there anything else you'd like for us to know?

“Buy your pup a gelato, they will think you are so swell.”