Sunday, 03 August 2014 19:01

Style | Start-up Spotlight: MADE Kids

Style // August 4, 2014

When it comes to kid’s fashion “cool” is the new “cute.” Fashion designer Andrew Made is ushering a new era in fashion for toddlers that takes things to a fresh, edgy place. His line, Made Kids, (You know I love that, right?) offers apparel, hats and accessories for newborns through twelve-year-olds. 100% American made, the foundation of the line is a strict adherence to quality and comfort. What sets them apart is their swag-a-licious styling that makes you slightly jealous of the toddlers rocking this street-inspired line.

After earning his Bachelor’s in finance, Andrew had a pivot moment that is all too familiar to entrepreneurs. In the wake of the financial crisis of 2008, he decided to pursue his dream of starting a fashion line and dedicated his life to making this dream come true. Today the line is sold at a variety of retailers including Traditions, in the Beverly Center. I got the chance to talk to Andrew about his vision and inspiration for this clothing line. Take a look!

MADE Kids - No Shades of Grey Collection from MADE Kids on Vimeo.

SW: What inspired you to start the MADE Kids line?

Andrew Made: It was really just my love for fashion and trying to push that culture forward. I’ve always been very fashion conscious and aware of trends. I wanted to translate that passion into the children’s fashion space because I felt that there was a big void in that space as it related to edgy and aggressive children’s wear. I wanted to give fashion conscious parents the ability to dress their children in the same style of clothes that they would wear.

SW: Where do you get your inspiration for the designs?

AM: I really get my inspiration from the things around me and my life experiences. Whether it be from music, travel, or the arts, all of my experiences sort of shape my perception of fashion and directly influences my design aesthetic. Not to mention, I have an awesome creative/design team behind me who have incredible concepts and fresh ideas. It really is a collaborative effort.

SW: You received a degree in finance but then chose to go into fashion. Why the switch?

AM: Don’t get me wrong, I learned a lot working in the finance industry and certain parts of those skill sets help me run this business and other businesses that I operate. Finance was just not my passion. When I had the opportunity to take the entrepreneurial route, I knew it was my calling. The Road Less Traveled, I guess. I just wanted to do something impactful with my life in a space that I was really enthusiastic about.

SW: How has your finance degree helped you in your business?

AM: Just from a sheer operations standpoint. For example, having a baseline understanding of accounting is critical in any business, I think. There are a number of moving parts in this business that need to be accounted for. I feel that my finance background allows me to process and understand a lot of the transactions that occur without getting lost in the shuffle. As with any start up, having a keen understanding of cash flow and burn rate is critical. Also, managing a law firm out here in Miami has also given me keen insight into business from both a finance and legal perspective. I’m definitely a sponge when it comes to learning new information and applying those principles in operating my businesses.

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SW: Why start a line for kids?

AM: It was something I saw the need for and a space in fashion that I really thought was lacking. From a business standpoint, I knew I was entering a competitive market that was littered with “street wear” brands. I loved the traditional streetwear concepts, and wanted to place my own spin on it. I felt that the children’s fashion market was a perfect place to make this happen. After receiving the positive feedback from the initial line, I knew we were onto something.

SW: What was the point when you felt you had reached success?

AM: [Laughs] I still don’t feel like I’ve reached “success”. That’s something I work at everyday. I think that’s what drives me to keep working and creating things that create an impact and have meaning. Success is a very hard thing to quantify, but as long as my family and friends are healthy and I’m able to pursue my passion everyday, I have no real complaints.

SW: Why is it important for you to keep street culture alive for the next generation?

AM: No doubt, MADE Kids is highly inspired by street wear sensibilities. It’s part of the culture that I represent as well. However, we are looking to take traditional street wear to the next level and incorporate elements of high fashion as well. We will always remain true to our roots, but we want to be seen as more than a streetwear brand.

SW: Kids probably don't get the references on the shirts, but how do they respond to the clothes?

AM: The references may predate the children, but it’s the parents that connect with the graphics and lyrics. It takes them back to a bit of nostalgia and allows them to dress their children in clothes that are both relatable and fashion forward. You'd be surprised what kids these days understand. Our line goes up to size 12 and those older kids definitely understand what’s up.

SW: What's next for MADE Kids?

AM: We have just released the cut and sew line this past season and are now gearing up for the release of our girls line in spring 2015. We’ve also been in discussions to release a capsule collection, so keep an eye out for that. Also, we will be at the AGENDA Shows this summer as well as well as ENK! So come check us out. Overall, We’re excited for the expansion and reach of the band. We’ve been fortunate to receive love and support from a number of athletes, celebs and their children. From Matt and Gloria Barnes to Adrienne and Chris Bosh, we are really appreciate of how the brand has been embraced. So much more to come!

SW: Where can people buy MADE Kids?

AM: Made Kids is available for purchase on our online store at We’re also sold in Traditions in the Beverly Center out in Los Angeles. We are spreading our distribution channels, so look out for us at a boutique in your city real soon.

Published in Style
Wednesday, 16 July 2014 19:13

Lifestyle | Startup Spotlight: Sarah Grear

Lifestyle // July 21, 2014

So you think you can write? But how do you make a career out of your words? It’s not just full manuscripts that are getting writers paid these days. Copywriting is the creative craft of the digital age.

Sarah Grear has created a business around her creativity and is helping entrepreneurs around the globe “unleash their voice” and take their brands to the next level. I chatted with her about her business and her thoughts on what it takes to make it as a copywriter:

Serena Watson: How do you stay creative with your copywriting?

Sarah Grear: Oh my goodness, that’s an awesome question… I know certain people, they feel the online world is so crowded and wonder how are they ever going to come from a place that’s different from what’s already out there.

So the way I stay in my creative zone is, I try to realize that as much as people think that's it’s all been done before, that’s not true. There’s always a way for you to come with your personal experiences in your life and no one else has experienced it but you.

For me, the way that I was able to tap into [my creativity] is to learn what my purpose was, what are my strengths, what are my experiences in life that no one else has gone through but me, and so that’s what has been really powerful for me. I learned to hone that for myself, to use my personal stories to connect with people emotionally and that’s exactly what I do with all my clients.

I get to know them in a very personal way, and I get to know their stories so intimately that I’m able to use their personal experiences as well, and shine a new light on it. That is really the root of where my creativity comes from.

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SW: That’s so real, because every story is unique. You talked about digging into the storyline of your customer. Can you describe the creative process you take your clients through?

SG: Oh sure. So the first step is for them to reach out to me and they usually find me either online or at network events. I also host meetups for entrepreneurs, so usually they’ll hear me talking about what I do and they’ll reach out.

It’s interesting because my business has gone global at this point. I feel really lucky that we live in the times that we do. I’ve had people reach out to me from Africa, Canada, England, Australia... it’s crazy. [Laughs.] It’s really cool.

So, I find out if they can fit what they need into one of my packages or I customize whatever it is they need. All of my projects are done in five business days or less. I call them my “writing vacations”. So there is a “Summer Vacay” package and the “Weekend Warrior.” I keep everything within that theme because I used to be a travel blogger. When we start working together it’s an interview process, just like we’re doing right now.

Then I go away and I’m just writing, I’m seriously writing. [Laughs] I get everything in that first meeting and I just take it and I run with it. I send most clients the whole first draft after our first call. So on the second call they have all the time left [to give notes]. They look everything over and we do the live edit on Google Docs… Then we wrap the project, shortly after.

SW: Nice. So intensive and in depth, I like it. Can you tell me what type of businesses you usually work with?

SG: My ideal clients are coaches. Like health, business, relationship coaches. But lately, I’ve been attracting a lot of creative musicians, event planners and graphic designers. Right now I’m working with a woman who actually owns three businesses and all in the wedding and event planning area. And I just wrapped a project with singer/songwriter Chrisette Michele for her new website called Rich Hipster.

SW: Oh that’s awesome! I love Chrisette Michele.

SG: Oh, me too. That project was definitely interesting. I’ve been attracting highly creative people lately and I’m pretty excited about it. What I ask people is if they’re ready to change the world one word at a time. And that’s all that matters to me is that they want to help and make the world better in some way.

SW: Well, congrats on that. Actually, I was going to ask you, what project are you most proud of?

SG: [Laughs.] That’s awesome. It’s hard to say, honestly, really my latest creation is the one I’m most proud of at that moment. I’m an artist at the core and I actually got my degree in fine arts. If you’re an artist at the core, you know that there is always room for improvement in what you’re doing.

You can always want more, you can always spin it, you can always do a little bit better... You can always improve it. So the answer is every new project. Every time I have a project I feel like I grow from it in some way. And also, it’s really interesting for other people who want to be writers. I always tell them, your brain is a muscle and the more you write, the more you exercise that muscle in your brain.

SW: Whats your favorite part of helping businesses grow?

SG: My favorite part is actually that emotional connection with the writing. I realize that being vulnerable for some people is really tough, so I come in to the space with them and open that window for them to be vulnerable.

I was working on a project for a large corporation. I met with the CEO and told them I’m here to help you guys make that emotional connection with your product that you’re not making right now.

I literally saw his shoulders drop, he was so grateful for someone to say “let’s do that,” “let’s get vulnerable.” I try to just be a little more real with people. That’s the most satisfying part is to see that growth in them and to know that when I plant that seed with them now it will grow after we work together.

We make changes in them and they are not even aware of yet and I just love that. And they will come back to me six months to a year later, like “wow!” I get goose bumps just talking about it. [Laughs.]

SW: That’s great that you love what you do. That’s so important. So what advice would you give to someone who’s getting in the copywriting?

SG: For the people who want to get into the copywriting, the first book that I read was the Well Fed Writer by Peter Bowerman. I think that’s a great book to start with. The next thing I would do is [engage in] either an online network or an in-person network.

One of my online networks that I enjoy being part of is "B School” by Marie Forleo. You can interact with the Facebook group and we meet online for the course once a year. It’s a program that you go through, it’s really intense.

And then after you do those things, read some books about other copywriters that have built businesses out of it and get in system for networking. I highly recommend reading Book Yourself Solid by Michael Port. Those three things that I did changed my life, changed my business, changed everything.

SW: Last question, and this is just based on your experience after working all these different companies and seeing what they do well and what they do not as well… what mistakes do you see young businesses making in terms of branding?

SG: Not speaking the truth. Usually they come to me because they weren’t being true of who they really are and they got lost. Also, having fun. If you’re not having fun then you really shouldn't really be doing it. At all.

Not to say that there won’t be hard times. I get that, but overall, you have to be able to pull yourself out of that. You do that by... having values that you’re always going to hold yourself and everyone around you to. Branding is an experience, a direct extension of who you really are. If you can really hold true to your brand and speak your truth, you’re going to be a cut above the rest.

For more information on Sarah Grear visit her website or check out the next Unleash Your Voice: DIY Website Writing Workshop, a two day writing event! Get early bird tickets from now until July 31st!

Published in Lifestyle

April 9, 2012

We all have seen Project Runway; it’s clear that being a fashion designer is not easy. That’s why a creative powerhouse like Nikki Lund is so unique. Not only is she a recognizable star in the fashion world (most recently she was seen on Access Hollywood Live) but she also is a talented singer. This creative maven does not slow down. She is one half of “Nikki Rich” (a clothing line she owns along with Bon Jovi’s Richie Sambora) and she’s got a solo clothing line and record deal! I caught up with this fashion forward force and discovered a woman who makes her own rules.

Made Woman Magazine:
I have to ask, what’s it like to work with Richie Sambora?
Nikki Lund: It’s great. We have a really good partnership. He’s a lot of fun. He’s definitely a gregarious, creative force. I love him!

MWM: “Nikki Rich” is a sister line to WTB (White Trash Beautiful). Tell me about the decision to make a sister line and what distinction is between the two.
NL: The distinction is that White Trash Beautiful is custom and for celebrities; it’s tailored to fit perfectly. These are custom stage pieces for weddings or the red carpet. Nikki Rich is for boutiques and department stores. It’s a very affordable price point for well made clothing.

MWM: Who is your favorite fashion icon?
NL: Diane Von Furstenberg. She is classic and makes an amazing silhouette. Her dresses are so beautiful and feminine. Every season is so beautiful!

MWM: How would you describe your personal style?
NL: My personal style is funky and feminine. I like a little bit of edge while being unique.

MWM: Do you have a favorite color, print or material you like to work with?
NL: As far as prints go, I love plaids. I don’t work with it all the time, but when I can cut it on a bias and lay it in a different way, I love it. It’s got a lot of different faces, it can be elegant, classy, or punk rock. I also love modal, it’s so comfy there’s nothing like it. A maxi modal dress can be dressed up or down. I like to be comfy. I also really love silks.

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MWM: How did you get started in the fashion industry? How did you keep your motivation going?
My mother and my grandmother were making patterns since I was little. They were always busy. We made so many dresses, including everything for proms. I grew up around it. Later on, I started working and managing clothing stores. For Christmas I would get fabric. I had a prior clothing line called Eccentric Symphony, and it was then that I was introduced to Richie by an old agent. He reached out to me about collaborating on a clothing line.

I keep myself motivated by staying busy. I have a lot of energy, so I am always on to the next project. I am never bored. You have to stay busy to stay innovative.

MWM: What do you think is the most confident look a woman can create for herself?
NL: I think it depends on the woman and what she is most comfortable in. You have to consider her lifestyle. I personally love a woman in a really nice tailored suit. I love to see that. It exudes power and confidence. It’s classy. But a woman looks best when her outer self reflects her inner self. You have to be comfortable and you have to have good character.

MWM: Do you have a favorite piece you’ve designed?
NL: I have a few favorite pieces for different reasons. One of them is my zipper vest. It’s edgy and it can be sexy. I’ve seen celebrities wear it in different settings. Carrie Underwood wore it --she is such an elegant and feminine girl and to see her in that bolero was awesome.

MWM: Tell us about the current Nikki Rich collection.
NL: It’s very beautiful, very elegant, very sexy, there’s a lot of flowers with different prints. It’s pretty. There’s a little boldness with the color. For the most part it is feminine; it’s affordable. Most everybody can wear it. The Spring inspirations were Indian Summer, a transformation between hot and cold, and the palette really shows that. I love seasons, and the changing of them between the clothes and the colors.

MWM: What trends are you embracing for the current fashion season?
NL: I love the tribal, native look as well as the bohemian look; it’s easy, breezy, with linens and feathers. These are things that are easy to throw on in the summer. I love the softness of dresses with lots of chiffons and tribal prints.

MWM: What is your advice to women looking to break into the fashion industry as a designer?
NL: I would say make sure you are very dedicated and committed to a career. It is a full time job; it’s a lot of work. There’s a lot of adversity. You have to follow your heart, don’t let anybody deter you. Believe in what’s right for you, your palette, your home, your mind, your look. Everything has to be s specific. It is tailored to you as a designer and visionary. It’s hard, the hours are long. It’s a difficult job. It’s not a 9 to 5. It is a lifestyle. You have to live, eat, and breathe fashion. It’s fantastic.

MWM: What are your future plans for your fashion lines? What can we expect from the coming seasons?
NL: Chunky knit sweaters, metallics, and ’70s inspired stuff. The lifestyle of blending art and music are going to be present in the shows that you will see from us. We are working on building a wall at MOCA right now, pairing with street artists and graffiti artists. It looks like it’s going to happen. It’s a very L.A. story. Richie and I support artists in all facets. It will be important for artists to have a wall where they have a place as being historic fine artists.

MWM: What do your clothes say about you?
NL: I think strength. Confidence, strength, the embodiment of self. Wear your clothes, don’t let your clothes wear you. It comes from the inside out. You can’t wear my clothes if you’re going to be slouching your shoulders.

MWM: You also design men’s clothes. What makes a man well-dressed in your opinion? Any advice on how women can help their men look more fashionable?
NL: That’s all personal. In my opinion it’s the accessorizing. It’s all about his final touches and how he puts it all together. That to me is what makes a man well-dressed, that and how it’s tailored and how he carries himself. Swag and attitude have to be on. I love all the bells and whistles on a man: his jewelry, his scent. Finding out what it is that he really likes, not necessarily what he would want to wear for you. You have to find out how to make his clothes work for you. Ask him who he wants to look like. Ask him how he wants to look. From there, help him put it together At to Z.

MWM: Any other words for the other Made Women other there?
NL: Dare to be different. Dare to be yourself. Rock what you got. Women -- it doesn’t matter what size you are. Feel confident, feel sexy. Just dare to go the extra mile to make yourself feel hot.

To get the latest on this hot designer, visit or catch up with her on Twitter at

Published in Fashion
Monday, 10 October 2011 08:43

Spotlight | New Hire - Maya Holmes

October 10, 2011

In previous months, our “Made Woman of the Month” picks have spotlighted established entrepreneurs--women who have come up over time and made their mark in their industry. But what about those of us who are just starting? Shouldn’t the new chicks on the block get some recognition? We think so!  This month, we decided to put out a call for a MW who had recently received a promotion or job offer.  After searching high and low, we chose a young lady with a great story. 

This month our “Made Woman of the Month” is… Maya Holmes!  This 25 year old Sacramento native recently secured a job at FOX 21 News at KQDS-TV.  In fact, she has only been working there a week.  We wanted to honor her achievement and highlight a young woman taking the next step in her career. Congrats Maya! 

Maya is working for FOX 21 News as an On Air General Assignment Reporter.  She works with a news team, reporting on everything from an Applefest to the mayor creating jobs. She reports live from the studio and on location in front of thousands of people and works under tight deadlines. Maya says that she loves her job and has “learned more in one week at the news station than [she] did in four years of college.” Gotta love that on-the-job training. Maya is not only #winning, she is also pretty fearless - having left her home, family, and friends in sunny California for Duluth, Minnesota. She didn’t let starting over in a new place stop her from nabbing her dream job. Her success is owed to her vision, persistence, and drive. Maya says “I have always felt my destiny was to be an On-Air Reporter.  It feels really good and unreal at the same time.”  I’m sure being on your momma’s DVR will have that effect. 

Maya’s success is even more noteworthy in light of the depressed (and depressing) job market in the U.S. With lay-offs, unemployment and cutbacks, most “career paths” are starting to look like battlefields. According to Maya, securing her new job wasn’t easy. She says that she was “actively and faithfully applying for three and a half months.” Before this position with FOX, she was freelancing. To get the reporter job Maya sent in her cover letter, resume, and reel to Fox. She then had an over the phone interview. The process may have been intense, but Maya offers these words of wisdom to other job hunters: “I think consistency is key. Treat a job hunt like it’s a job. Get up early and apply every single day to as many places as you can. It’s exhausting, hard, frustrating and all other types of ugly feelings, but it’s necessary and will pay off big time.” Job seekers and  up-and-comers hunting for their dream job should gain hope from Maya’s story. Much can be achieved by just going for it.  Maya knows this make-it-happen attitude is what has helped her in the past. She says “if you want a particular position, go for it! Who cares if you're not “qualified” (but be realistic). For some employers it's more about character, chemistry and determination than just experience.” 

It hard out there for everyone right now looking for a job.  Even Made Women. But when you see one of us, like Maya, take those oh, so important steps toward the future they always envisioned for themselves, you must believe her win is your win. So whether you are on your 20th day of job hunting or your second year, remember this: 

“Don't fret, obsess and assassinate your character or experience over jobs you don't get. If the job was for you, you would have gotten it. There were some jobs I really wanted and did not get. When time passes, you look back and realize working there would have been a big mistake and the path you're on now is where you need to be. “- Maya Holmes, FOX 21 Reporter, and Made Woman. 

Published in Business

August 15, 2011

Company: EMI Interior Design
Company size: 3

Erica Islas has design in her blood. The daughter of a contractor, she grew up going with him to job sites around Los Angeles. It was at these sites that she developed her deep respect for architectural design. Fascinated by how things are built, these experiences stayed with her and prompted her to take drafting classes in high school. She later studied design at Santa Monica College. A true #MadeWoman, she had big dreams for her future - but with everyone and their mama picking up a paint brush and calling themselves interior designers, it’s not easy to become a star in the world of design. So how did Erica go from a young girl in west LA with lofty dreams of design to a rising star with one of the most extensive resumes on HGTV’s Designers’ Portfolio? This was one of the many questions I had when I got the opportunity to chat with this creative maven.

Knowing that Erica is a wife, mother of two, sister of three and owner of a growing business, when I spoke with her I expected to hear the voice of a stressed out madwoman. To my pleasant surprise—and deep respect—Erica is completely poised and gracious.  Wow… a living, breathing example of a woman balancing a career and a family, all while staying calm. It can be done, people!  So, how did she get to where she is? She started out working for firms for a few years, but she soon felt the need to branch out on her own. Erica felt she had good ideas that weren’t always accepted by the higher-ups. “They were always like yeah, that’s good but…no,” she laughed. The oldest of four girls, Erica is a natural leader, but still, it took a bit of encouragement from her mentor before she could actually take that momentous step to start her own firm. Having someone that believed in her ideas gave her the gumption she needed to open EMI Interior Designs, full-service residential interior design and build firm, in 2000.

Flash forward to 2011 and where is Erica now? She recently graced the stage of the Dwell on Design Conference held in LA, which she calls the “cherry on top of her career.” She is featured online at HGTV’s Designer’s Portfolio and on TV with HGTV's Designer's Challenge. Her work has also appeared in the LA Times and Real Simple. She is also a member of Culver City’s Chamber of Commerce.  I’ll say it once again: #Made.

So what makes Erica's work so unique and successful?  Let us count the ways:  She juxtaposes manmade materials—glass, metals—with natural materials—wood, stone—in order to make unique statements. Her elaborate tile designs, that you really need to see to believe, also help to set her apart. Her architectural background and contractor’s license give her another edge, since she has an understanding of design from the inside out. She draws inspiration from nature, museums, and even other artists.   Her timeless creations, unique use of color and focus on function help  her to stand out in a world filled with talented competition.

Perhaps the most inspiring part of Erica’s success is that she continues to grow and give back. She went out and got her contractor’s license, which is rare for any designer to have…especially a female. She continues to invest time in networking in order to meet other people in her industry. She has also worked on various charitable projects, including Upward Bound House, a hotel converted into a home for homeless families in need of support from the community. Erica design a room in the house so that it doesn’t have a sterile, halfway house feel. She also works on the Good Shepherd Charity Design project, which opened in Downtown LA on July 1st. She was one of thirty designers to work on the project; creating a safe, welcoming atmosphere for single, homeless women to get back on their feet.  She also works to make her business eco-friendly by using sustainable materials.  It’s important to Erica that her impact on the word is always positive.

In the years since she set out on her own as a young business owner in need of encouragement from her mentor, Erica has gone on to become a mentor to her own employees, a leader in her community, and a star in her field. She says the goal is not to reach success and become complacent but, “to learn, to take, and get bigger and better.” She encourages designers who are just starting out, as well as women in other fields, to do internships: “You learn concepts in school, but sometimes you can’t apply them in the workplace. Don’t throw away 4-5 years.”  She also says it is important to start every project thinking that it’s going to be great, and that keeping this mindset is what has helped her to create such stunning designs.

Getting to this point in her career wasn’t easy for Erica, but through her hard work, the support of her husband, mother, and sisters, along with the knowledge instilled in her by her father, she has become a trailblazer. There’s a lot that can be learned from inspiring women like her.  We’re all faced with challenges on the way to accomplishing our goals and getting to where we want to be in life.  It’s easy to sometimes feel overwhelmed and like taking a break from it all.  Stories like this can help to motivate us – show us that it CAN be done.  You CAN have it all.  You can have a career, a family, and you can have it all without losing your damn mind along the way.  It’s not going to be easy, but women like Erica show us that as long as you are determined and work hard, anything is possible!  It was an honor to get to chat with her.  She left me feeling encouraged and newly determined.  I hope you can take away some of the same feeling from her story and apply it to your own life.  Never give up, made woman! 

Published in Business
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