If you follow Made Woman Magazine on any of our social channels you know we <3 nails! Nail art allows you to show off your personality in your otherwise buttoned up work look. I know that when I look down at my fresh mani, I feel polished (pardon the pun) and like I have my sh%t together. Cuteness aside, we rarely think about the huge billion dollar industry around nail art and nail care. Beyond just polish there are nail artists, models, bloggers, and magazines that cover the hot trends in nail art. One such publication, NAILS Magazine, keeps up with all things nails and claims Beth Livesay as a Senior Editor.
Beth is a dear friend of mine, whom I’ve know since our freshman year of high school. I’ve watched as Beth has taken her talent as a writer and turned it into a very successful career. Aside from being a writer and editor for Made Woman Mag and NAILS, she has been published on the Huffington Post, Hello Giggles and was interviewed by the Los Angeles Times for her contributions to Apronology Magazine.
Now that we are grown women, I wanted to get Beth’s insight on what it takes to build a career in digital publishing and how she stays creative in such a deadline driven world.
Serena Watson: As a writer, how do you stay creative and get past writing blocks?
Beth Livesay: To be honest, I feel like I have blocks often. That's the main reason I started my personal blog (www.coutureovercoffee.blogspot.com), so that I could write about the things that interest me outside of nails. It's been a great outlet for me to find myself again creatively and to challenge myself to maintain the habit of blogging.
SW: What traits or skills help you be successful at what you do?
BL: Self-discipline is key. I work in a deadline driven environment, so there are days where I can't let myself take a break or leave if something's not done. You have to be able to self-motivate to succeed. Honesty is also vital. Communicate honestly with your colleagues and superiors so that you can manage the tasks at hand in a timely and professional manner. But also be honest with yourself. I've learned the hard way about biting off more than I can chew. There has to be a time where you are willing and able to say "no.”
SW: What is a typical day like as a Senior Editor for a beauty magazine?
BL: My day is jam-packed, which is why I really like my job (I hate being bored). I oversee social media, so I open up Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram right away. We have a daily nail art blog, which is where I start Pinning from, then I try to Tweet and post to FB immediately before reading through notifications we have received overnight. Once I am caught up on that I try to get in a daily dose of reading, if there is time. I love Women's Wear Daily, Buzzfeed, and Style.com (if it's Fashion Week). I have my editorial run-ups with the due dates right next to me, as well as my own personal to-do list. Almost everything on my to do list involves writing an article, creating web content such as blog posts or photo galleries, social media tasks, or putting together our digital magazine. If a cool product comes across my desk or something fun happens in the office like a photoshoot, then I will stop my work flow to Instagram it, but otherwise I am buckled down to my set list of deadlines and to-dos.
SW: As part of your job you get to attend fashion shows to check out the new trends in nails. You recently traveled to New York Fashion Week to see the Spring/Summer collections. What was that experience like?
BL: New York was overwhelming. I don't know if there's a way to really prepare yourself for Fashion Week. It's crazy because nail companies don't always have their schedules finalized until the last minute, and things change constantly, so I went with a loose schedule that ended up changing as I was in New York. Backstage at Fashion Week is insanity! Everyone is scrambling around frantically and the spaces are usually very tight. You have models having someone work on their hair, makeup, and nails at the same time. I saw Libertine, Opening Ceremony, Alice + Olivia, the Blonds, and Raul Penaranda, all amazing shows in their own right. There is nothing like being that close to exquisite clothing! I also was in the same room as women whose work I admire so much. I was too starstruck to talk to them. I just admired them from afar. [Laughs]
SW: It seems nail trends have gone global. We've seen influential designs from Europe and Japan but what do you think will be the next big thing in nail art?
BL: Nail competitor Chris Mans told me recently that he predicts Eastern Europe will be the next big place to look to. It makes sense to me, with so many influencers in fashion coming from places like Russia. When the rest of the industry craves something different, I think they're going to look at the shapes, lengths, and artistry from that part of the world and become very interested.
SW: You were a Creative Writing major at Pitzer College. How did that shape your writing career and prepare you to succeed in your field?
BL: Pitzer was my top choice for college because of their Creative Writing program. I loved my time at Pitzer; it was a top rate education. However, since I studied writing there, I don’t think I can say that my college career aptly prepared me for the particular job I have now. The business side of the Creative Writing major is to learn about publishing, agents, and continued education, because that’s what most writing students go on to pursue. The majority of my classes focused on writing, reading, and getting feedback, which is what I wanted and what I miss about my time in school. I work with a lot of people now who studied journalism, and that might be a better route to take if you know you want to be a magazine editor. I actually didn’t know that’s what I would end up becoming when I went to college. I just wanted to write, plain and simple. I knew it was a tough career choice, but there wasn’t any other option for me. I think if you love something, you have to have the mindset that it’s do or die. Anything else will fill you with regret. I am so blessed in that I stumbled upon this amazing career that encourages creativity, and where I get to use my love of language. No, it’s not the type of writing I was trained to execute in school, but I learned from my many experiences as a freelance writer how to editorialize and now I always have my training as a creative writer for when I write for myself. I work with artists on a daily basis, so my education has really helped me appreciate everyone’s artistic ability and empathize with the passion they have toward their craft, whether it’s making nail art or making magazines.
SW: What is the most challenging part of what you do?
BL: Unplugging. I am so used to being wrapped up in social media for work and for reading the news that it’s sometimes difficult to back away after work or on the weekends, but I believe that you have to step away for your sanity. Another challenge we face daily is not getting too caught up in competition. Sometimes it can be motivating to aim to do better than your opponent, but other times over-competitiveness can be your own downfall.
SW: What advice would you give to others who hope to turn their passion for writing into a career?
BL: Keep writing. It’s the cardinal rule. Not everything will be published and not everything you write will be good, but just keep working at it. If you love writing it won’t matter what job you have, because you can always write in your spare time. Don’t be afraid to share that writing via blogging or freelance work. Eventually clips add up. Build a portfolio and use that to get the position you want. I started out freelancing right after college while I held a tutoring job. Had I not had a substantial amount of freelance experience, I don’t know that I would have been offered my first editorial job. You have to start somewhere.
We focus a lot on the Made Women who have reached the heights of success, but the reality is that in order to make it to the top, you have to be MADE every step of the way. Which is why we also like to shine a spotlight on women who have just landed their dream job, claimed a much deserved promotion or launched a new business. One such lady, and a good friend of mine, Jasmine Alexander is a new hire at ESPN. As a producer for SportsCenter, this isn’t just her life-long dream job, it’s also your boyfriend’s.
Although she’s a new face at ESPN, Jasmine has been making a name for herself in television production for the last eight years. After graduating from USC with a B.A. in Broadcast Journalism, Jasmine moved to San Diego where she worked for NBC for two years. After that she made the trek to the east coast where she worked at Baltimore CBS affiliate station for two years. When she was ready to move on, she went back to her hometown of Philadelphia to work for ABC’s WPVI-TV, and stayed there for four years.
Jasmine says that she likes to take things “one dream at a time” and her latest dream meant moving over to sports production and working for ESPN. She’s taking what she’s learned from covering national news and translating it over to the beloved, fan-based content ESPN is known for. I caught up with Jasmine and we chatted about her new position and her career trajectory.
Serena Watson: Let’s take it back. What made you want to go into journalism?
Jasmine Alexander: I’ve wanted to work in journalism since I was seven years old. I grew up in a household where the Today show was always on TV. I just looked at that programming and thought “Wow, I would love to tell people stories.” I’ve always been obsessed with journalism and writing. I would [write] a little family newsletter, I would try to interview my brother with my tape recorder. Pretty much, what I wanted hasn’t changed at all since I was seven.
SW: What was one highlight or big story you covered at ABC?
JA: A highlight for me would be when I went to chicago, and spent 2012 election night at President Obama’s headquarters. I was there with my anchor, Rick Williams, and I was producing his live shots as we were waiting for the results of the election. There was a moment when I was on the platform standing next to journalists that I respect, waiting for President Obama to be celebrating winning or announcing that he had be defeated. It felt great to be apart of the coverage of that night. And personally -- knowing where my family comes from and what a huge moment it was for my grandma and my dad, who come from segregated Alabama -- it felt bigger than work.
Jasmine Alexander (center) during 2012 Election Night coverage in Chicago
SW: A lot of people don’t know what goes into producing a great segment. Can you walk us through what it’s like to put together a news segment?
JA: I was producing Action News at 5, which is the evening news. You start the day at home, watching the news and getting a feel for what’s going on in the world. At work we start the day with a morning meeting, where we divvy up what stories are going to go into what show. In Philly there’s a 4pm show, a 5pm show and a 6pm show. So all of the producers and executive producers discuss what interests them, what they want to lead their show with and which reporter should cover that story -- on yesterday’s bank robbery or murder. After the meeting, I go and surf the internet and see what else is going on in the world nationally that I might want to include in my show. Around 12:30pm we meet again as a newsroom to discuss the progress of all the reporters and change the line-up. After that meeting, I start putting the show together -- writing all the teases, picking video and any graphics. At 5pm I go in the control room and I booth the show, which involves keeping it on time and also adding breaking news as it happens.
SW: I’m assuming that that’s a lot of pressure to get everything done in a day. Was the transition over to sports somewhat related to that, or was it all part of the plan for you?
JA: Transitioning into sports for me was about pursuing another passion of mine. When I was at USC, I was really interested in sports journalism but I was a little intimidated to get into that field because I didn’t think that I knew enough stats and figures. I figured I would just stay over here in news because I’m not “sporty enough” to go into that world. The transition for me was realizing that I was selling myself short. So I wanted to… stop being a punk (laughs). I said to myself, “Jasmine, if this is really what you want to do, if this is really what interest you, why aren’t you doing it?” I had some great mentors that really helped me get to that way of thinking. I had some great conversations with people who encouraged me to go for what I want. News was a dream as well. In Philly, I worked at the station that I grew up watching - I worked with the anchors that I grew up watching. So that was definitely something that I wanted to do. But I was at a point where I wanted more and I wanted to stop shying away from sports journalism and dive in.
SW: I think thats something that happens to a lot of people, letting fears get in the way of your dreams.
JA: I think with any job, you look at it as if you have to know everything. But what you have to realize is that everyone is learning and if you go into journalism or sports or medicine, you can’t go in thinking you know everything. You have to go in wanting to learn and being curious. I think that is important and not discussed enough. And that’s why people run away from things because they think “Oh, I don’t know enough” and really you just need to want to know. That’s what makes anyone good at any career -- the hunger for learning.
SW: What are some of the major difference you are seeing between producing the news and producing sports?
JA: With news you have this responsibility to tell the stories of the world and with sports I feel it’s a little more personal because you’re speaking directly to fans. There’s something about speaking to fans that just gets you more fired up to tell that story. Even if I’m not a fan of whatever team or athlete, I know how much that team or athlete means to the people at home. So it’s fun trying to get into the head of a person who loves Kobe Bryant or someone who loves the Cowboys and trying to tell their story the best way possible.
SW: Can you describe what producing a sports segment is like?
JA: I’m doing a lot more of dealing with hosts and analysts: having a lot more conversations with NFL insiders and NBA analysts to find out what stories they are following. They gather so much information that I have to listen and figure out what’s the best story here. It’s a lot more focused on a couple stories everyday and making them the best possible. It’s really a collaboration between me, our talent, our host and our reporters.
SW: What are some trends in the production that we can look forward to?
JA: There’s really a push to incorporate a diversity of opinion and thoughts to cover the sports. A diversity of voices to cover sports so that you don’t hear the same story told from the same perspective. I think it’s important to have women apart of the conversation, [and] people of color -- because we all have different perspectives of teams, the players and how to talk about them. So it’s definitely a priority and we’re starting to see the results of that way of thinking.
SW: I found when I worked in sports that things were somewhat of a boys’ club. Is it that way at ESPN?
JA: Not at all, I can say that everyone is really welcoming. It feels like it’s not about a “boys’ club” it’s about a “fans’ club” we're all just fans of sports and we all listen to and respect each other. I don’t feel like I’m treated differently. Someone gave me some good advice and said, “you don’t allow yourself to be treated differently, you don’t allow yourself to be put in a box.” I don’t go in there thinking “ Well, I’m just the woman so I need to stay over here and do the woman’s role.” No, I show up to be a segment producer, I bring all of my thoughts, all of my opinions -- everything that makes me unique to that job -- and I leave it on the table.
Jasmine Alexander (second from the left) with Kevin Hart, Regina Hall and Will Packer.
SW: I like that. Any other advice for aspiring producers?
JA: For journalists in general, I would just say consider producing. I don’t think enough people realize what a great opportunity it is. I think a lot of people want to be on TV. If you learn a little about producing you’d learn what a great field it is and how much you get to do. I would also say, my path was meant to be but I do wish that I had been in sports sooner. Always go for what you really want. It’s important to be honest with yourself and not to be afraid. The worst that could happen is that someone tells you no or you don’t like it, and then you do something else. But always go for what you want and it will work out.
Jasmine is a great example of really committing to a dream and going for what you want. We wish her the best at her new job and will continue to watch her succeed in her field!
Walking distance from my condo is the cutest little bakery. I pass by it every time I take my dog for a walk. I’m always so tempted to go inside and buy one of those 3 tiered cakes that they have on display in the window. I remembered that once upon a time I was a pastry chef and I could probably make that cake myself. Yup, like most 80's kids I used to whip up the finest of delicacies in my Easy Bake Oven. I’ve come a long way from my little amateur oven, but I’m sure I can still make sugary magic in the kitchen. I’m 26 years old, I can bake a cake. I mean, it can’t be that hard, right?
Truth is, it is hard to bake cakes. It takes an immense amount of patience, attention to detail and culinary skill to pull off creating those beautiful and tasty things. As the Executive Pastry Chef for Davio’s Northern Italian Steakhouse in Atlanta, Chef Kathleen Miliotis not only bakes cakes, but she kicks all kinds of ass in the kitchen as the woman in charge of one of Atlanta’s premier Italian restaurants. She oversees the entire production of pastries and desserts, including creation and execution, recipe and menu creation, supervising, training, managing the pastry staff, and community involvement. She has been in the pastry game for over 10 years and received national recognition for her work, including The New York Times naming Miliotis as “a rising star, her French dessert so venerable they belong in the Louvre." We were stoked to get to chat with Chef Kathy about culinary school, her career as a pastry chef and one of our favorite topics, CAKE!
Jasmin Martin: Why did you want to become a pastry chef? Did you bake a lot when you were growing up?
Kathleen Miliotis: I wanted to be a culinary chef but my sophomore year at Johnson and Wales I took a class on intro to baking which introduced me to the world of artistic baking and pastry, such as how to blow sugar. Not just making your typical pies or donuts! I learned about sugar artistry, chocolate and so much more. It changed my course..I had to take two extra years to get my bachelors degree in baking and pastry!
JM: Can you talk a little bit about your training? Where did you go to culinary school?
KM: I attended Johnson and Wales in Providence, Rhode Island…..it was a very intense program with strong teachers. Before I got there, I thought I already knew everything but there was so much too learn. Pastry is an art it’s not just a hobby…it’s a career so you have to take it seriously. My first chef job was at the Jarrod Coffin House in Nantucket. I was the pastry chef there in 1998 and I was only 21 years old. It was all hands on deck. I made cobblers cheesecakes, country style…it was great experience. I had to learn and teach myself what the guests were asking for. I made my first wedding cake using rice paper, it was a very vintage wedding.
JM: In recent years people have become more familiar with pastry chefs thanks to reality TV shows like Cake Boss and Ace of Cakes. It seems like there is a lot of stress in the kitchen! What is the most difficult thing about being a pastry chef?
KM: The most difficult is time management and getting stuff done on time. Everything is dependent upon time in the kitchen. Pastry is chemistry, you can’t rush it. Everything has to be precise. It’s really is a science.
JM: As the executive pastry chef for Davio’s what is a typical day like for you? How big is your staff?
KM: Walk in, see what my day entails – bread production first, then pastry production based on what parties we have that evening or the next day. We make everything in house – from our breads, buns, tart dough, everything is made from scratch in our kitchen by four people including myself.
JM: What inspires you as a chef? How do you make your desserts stand out?
KM: Staying on the trends. What our guests enjoy, seasonal, bold flavors… Sometimes you see something beautifully plate but there is no flavor. I am big on flavor and taste and keeping it simple yet beautiful.
JM: As a female pastry chef, do you feel like you’re a minority in your field?
KM: Maybe two years ago yes but once I became a Les dames I realized that there are so many powerful and strong woman who are in this industry that stand together – I see more female chefs in the kitchen now and it’s very a powerful thing.
JM: When you dine at other restaurants, what are you looking for in their dishes? And desserts?
KM: What’s in season, unique ideas, sauces or something I’ve never heard of before. I think of myself as a risk taker. My key ingredients to any dessert are crunch, salt and sweetness and its very important how they are used. I love dining out and seeing what my competition is and the creativity out there, it makes me a better chef!
JM: What is your favorite dessert to make and why?
KM: My rendition of a Kit Kat Bar using peanut butter and chocolate I love recreating childhood favorites like my ice cream sandwiches which were a big hit…and of course our adult flavored popsicles for the summer!
JM: What do you do to stay on top of industry trends?
KM: I think its really important to look at other menus, cookbooks and even some from ten years ago which are still relevant. I love researching by looking at magazines, top ten restaurants in the US and what are their chefs making or trying to do differently. I get inspired by new media like Pinterest or Instagram, they are great tools for fun ideas.
JM: I’m sure one of the most difficult things to create as a pastry chef is a wedding cake. As much as we love to look at them, we know that pastry chefs must have a love/hate relationship with crafting them. Do you enjoy creating wedding cakes?
KM: YES… You're making the bride’s dream come true. A wedding cake is a piece of artwork. It’s very time consuming and they are many steps involved including many intricate details from fondant work to airbrushing but the final product is worth it!
JM: What’s next for you as a pastry chef?
KM: The Food Network! Another dream of mine is to someday own a café or brasserie and to be an Entrepreneur.
I'm still not much of a pastry chef. I admit, I burn cookies every time I bake them. But if you’re ever in the ATL and your sweet tooth won't let up, drop in to Davios Northern Italian Kitchen for a little something special from Chef Kathy.
From the time we’re little, we’re told that we can grow up to be whatever we want to be. We can be actresses, princesses CEOs or MVPs - the possibilities are endless. But what about those little girls (and boys) who don’t have the chance to thrive, chase their dreams and reach their full potential - what happens to them? How do you tell a child that they’re dreaming too big or that there isn’t a lane for their aspirations?
Autumn Williams is living proof that there is no profession too complicated and no dream too big. A Stanford School of Engineering graduate -- a field that doesn’t have many women or women of color -- Autumn found it necessary to be a part of something that not only believes in empowering youth, but also encourages their aspirations. At 25 years old, Autumn is the Senior Entrepreneur of Changemaker Schools for Ashoka, the largest social entrepreneurship network in the world. Autumn uses her passion for education reform and social justice to help cultivate the next generation of leaders, thinkers, movers and shakers. Autumn is a good friend of mine and I had a chance to chat with her and learn more about this exciting new take on education.
Jasmine: What exactly is social entrepreneurship?
Autumn Williams: By definition, a social entrepreneur is an individual with innovative solutions to society’s most pressing social problems. At Ashoka, we select, connect, and multiply multiple individuals’ work and ideas in over eighty countries around the world. In my specific work within Ashoka, I select and recruit schools in the U.S. that are doing innovative work in cultivating what we call changemaking skills: leadership, teamwork, empathy, and problem solving. The idea is that we can change the narrative around education by creating the platform for these schools to be thought leaders in education. We’ve found that this same work is happening around the world as Ashoka selects these Changemaker Schools. What I’m especially excited about is what happens when we put these schools and school leaders in conversation with each other. I’m thrilled to learn about what’s working in Nairobi that can work in Watts.
JM: What made you want to want to work with Ashoka?
AW: In different shapes and forms throughout my life, I’ve always been passionate about creating change. While at Stanford, I founded a student organization called STEMgineers Shifting Gears. STEMgineers was originally an initiative to encourage middle school students’ curiosity in science, technology, engineering and mathematics through a spring break program. After I was tired of being the “only one” in classes, research groups, and conferences, I started doing some research on the state of American education and saw that middle school was when many young people lose interest in STEM and when mathematics and science are taught differently. I had the idea to travel to Los Angeles during my spring break and lead an afterschool program. A few of friends liked my idea and came with me to teach what they were learning and researching in a way that middle school students could understand. Every lesson was project-based and we fed the students all organic food. That program grew and I now work with middle school and high school students during the spring and summer. The lessons are still project-based and the instructors are still college students. Although I was on track to continue my work in aerospace after graduation, I really enjoyed working in and researching education reform and wondered how I could make this a full-time gig. I wanted more of an opportunity to create, shape and lead a movement that was close to my heart. It’s so rewarding to be involved in every aspect of your own project. After my work with Mayor Villaraigosa’s Partnership for Los Angeles Schools, one of my best friends and I were talking about social entrepreneurship, changemaking, and the work that he was doing at Ashoka. I became interested in the intersection of social entrepreneurship and education and an opportunity at Ashoka presented itself where I could further explore that intersection.
JM: You graduated from Stanford University with a degree in Engineering. That’s impressive for not only women of color, but women in general. What do you see as the disconnect between women and the field of engineering?
AW: I think the fact that we say it’s impressive is the problem. It shouldn’t be rare for any demographic to be rare in any sector, but unfortunately that’s the reality in many spaces including STEM fields. I think that shifting the way people view the industry has a lot to do with how we talk about it. That’s the disconnect - continuing to see it as a one-off career choice or seeing the female engineer as an anomaly. We have to make sure young people and adults know there’s no such thing as a typical engineer or scientist and no such thing as a typical career for a woman to choose. I think once we take away the “rare factor” and make it more of a normal occurrence and something that’s attainable, then we’ll start to see a change. That’s only the tip of the iceberg, but I hope that one day it won’t be surprising to hear a little black girl say she wants to be a rocket scientist.
JM: I hope so too! What has been the biggest risk you’ve taken professionally and how has it paid off?
AW: I think the biggest risk I’ve taken has been my transition from engineering to education and social entrepreneurship. When I was toying around with the idea of pursuing a field very different from aerospace, I talked it over with my mom. She asked me if I was uncomfortable. When I said “of course I am” she replied, “then go for it!”. Trying something new and different has been so rewarding for me. I really learned from her that we often grow the most and thrive when we’re in a new place that’s uncomfortable. I don’t regret pursuing something unknown or challenging myself to be greater. So I’m looking forward to taking more risks and hopefully thriving in that space.
JM: Your work with Ashoka is admirable and inspiring. What’s one piece of advice you would give to young women aspiring to work in the field of education and social justice?
AW: It’s going to sound so cliche, but just do what you’re passionate about. Don’t find yourself in a job because it’s safe or what you’re “supposed to be doing.” Choose a career that ignites the fire in your belly, something that makes you feel good everyday. It’s important to love what you do because sometimes work will require a lot of sacrifices. When you’re passionate about what you do, those things you do for work won’t feel like sacrifices. In addition to being in love with work, it’s also important to remember to set time to metaphorically go back to the well. Make it crucial to replenish your energy and keep yourself mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually fulfilled. Don’t work so hard or so much that you don’t have anything left to give yourself.
JM: Your work is so inspiring and you’re helping to change lives. What inspires you?
AW: I’m inspired by so many things, but if I had to narrow it down I would say I’m inspired by two things. One, I’m inspired by seeing young people give themselves permission to be catalysts for change. It warms my heart to see youth not wait for some adult to tell them the can change something. Despite so the world of inequality and injustice we live in, there’s something magical about watching young people being the change they wish to see and finding hope and light in adverse situations. Secondly, I’m inspired by women. I’m blown away by the strength and tenacity of women to exist in spaces where we aren’t expected to. Women are innately powerful and I love watching us use our power to not only survive, but to thrive.
For more about the work that’s being done with Ashoka and their initiatives, visit Asoka.org.
Powerhouse Roxana Lissa has one of the most fascinating Made Woman stories I’ve heard to date. A true rags to riches story, Roxana arrived in the U.S. from Buenos Aires in 1992 when she was only 21 years old. She had graduated with honors from Argentina Business University but didn’t have much when she came to this country. Young but determined, she didn’t let the “take no prisoners”, American workplace intimidate her. Roxana moved from one global PR firm to another, killing the game at every stop. In 1996, it was time for her to make her first big power grab and open her first business, RL Public Relations + Marketing. Roxana quickly took center stage in the PR industry, becoming a pioneer with her work in the Hispanic market. That same year she was featured on the cover of La Opinion’s business section -- the nation’s leading Hispanic daily.
RL Public Relations is now the largest independently owned Hispanic PR agency in the U.S., with a client roster that includes Nike and Verizon Wireless to name a few. In 2003, the agency opened a New York office and launched sports marketing arm Sportivo. Lissa is considered a visionary and mentor in the Hispanic PR field and was recently honored in PR Week’s first 40 under 40 issue. Not too bad for a Buenos Aires transplant who came to this country with pockets full of only dreams and determination.
For this interview I met with Roxana on location at her newest business venture, Iobella -- a stylish and innovative body-shaping spa for women. A few minutes into our conversation, I realized that I was completely in awe of her. This woman is unstoppable! A cancer survivor, with two small children and a growing PR firm that has huge corporate clients lining up, Lissa’s reasoning for opening a second business? She wanted a new challenge. Inspiring to say the least.
Serena Watson: So let’s start here. Tell me a little bit about your background?
Roxana Lissa: I’m from Argentina originally, Buenos Aires. I came here when I was 21 years old. I studied public relations in Argentina. I was engaged to an American here, we ended up getting divorced later. I’ve always lived in Los Angeles and I’ve always done Public Relations. That has been the core of my career. I’ve worked for different agencies, global PR firms and I’ve developed an expertise in the Hispanic, Latino and multicultural markets. I opened my agency back in 1996. We have offices in Los Angeles and New York. We represent a lot of Fortune 200 and 500 brands, from Proctor & Gamble to NIKE.
SW: What was your first job in PR?
RL: My first job in PR was in Argentina, for a non-profit foundation. I was in college so I was 19. When I came here I started working at a small PR Agency, called Cooper Communications. It was great. I was an intern working for free, and I didn’t care. I took a bus there everyday, because I didn’t drive. The true immigrant story, I didn’t have a car, I didn’t know how to drive, I had $500 in my wallet.
SW: That’s amazing, look at you now. What was the transition to living in the US and being in the American professional world?
RL: You know, that was one of the things I was very happy about, my training in Argentina was amazing. So I could compete easily with the professionals here. [My education] was kind of like a doctorate in Public Relations. It’s much more thorough and comprehensive in terms of the subjects. Here’s it different. You study communications, you study journalism, but it’s not quite like that in Argentina.
SW: So flash forward a few years and you had worked at a few different agencies including Helan Althen and Manning, Selvage and Lee. You started your own agency and things were going well. What made you want to do fitness?
RL: I think after doing PR for so long, I needed a new challenge. I knew I didn’t want to be a bigger PR firm and open more offices. And then the fact that this program is very effective and really gets results for women – I’ve always felt like an advocate for women. I meet a lot of women -- there are more women in PR than anything. So if I can do something to help women feel amazing, from the inside out, I think I want to do that.
That’s kind of what inspired me. Not necessarily the fitness business, per se, that’s not what drew me, what drew me was being a supportive place for women. You come here to lose inches, but we treat women with respect and this is a place where we pamper them. We have to go through so much as women. With kids, and jobs, and all those things.
Three years ago I went to Argentina and I tried this [program] over there and I loved it. I was like “oh my God, this is great.” I did 10 sessions in 3 weeks and my results were amazing. I was able to reduce inches. And I loved it so I said “You know what, I have to bring this concept [to LA.]” It took a year and a half to put it together. And then in November 2012, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Luckily, I’m in remission now but I had to do everything; Chemotherapy, surgery, radiation – the whole thing.
SW: You’re a busy girl. How do you juggle all of this?
RL: It’s hard, it’s hard. First of all, you have to hire the right people. My manager here, Nicole is amazing. The first step so you don’t get completely overwhelmed is to rely on your staff. So you have to have an amazing staff that believes in your vision, and that believes in you. And at the same time can execute and carry out your vision. With my involvement but I can’t hold their hand. I need to have independent thinkers, good leaders that can carry out my vision. That’s kind of how I do it.
SW: Some of your clients are Fresh and Easy, NIKE, Verizon Wireless – all huge national brands. They come to you and ask you to add a dash of color, so to speak, to their campaigns. Can you talk about diversity in marketing and if you think it’s getting better?
RL: I still think there is a long way to go. There are many companies that are doing an amazing job with diversity. Verizon Wireless is one of them. Proctor and Gamble has made amazing inroads. Dominoes Pizza, for example, is another client of ours that has done an amazing job. But I think there is still a ways to go. In terms of having senior people and also advancements in the workplace. But I think it’s getting better, I think more and more companies value diversity. If you look at some of the companies that truly are successful, they have strong, diverse teams internally and that drives the company. And it starts at the top.
Now you see a trend called the total market approach. A lot of the companies are integrating and only doing one advertising campaign to target the multi-cultural markets. I think it’s a new thing and people are testing to see if it’s going to work. I think when you talk about the Hispanic market; it’s a little bit different. Language plays a big role. Again sometimes its separate, sometimes it not integrated. For example, we work with Nike and Nike is all integrated. That’s who they are as a brand.
SW: Talking more specifically about the Hispanic market and speaking directly to them, what are some of the strategies that you apply that are unique to that market?
RL: I think for the PR campaigns we develop, I think relevancy is very important. There are certain things that are more culturally relevant than others. We just finished a big event Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) it has become more of a mainstream celebration. But it’s anchored in Latino culture. This is the type of things where you can promote certain brands that have the right association while tapping into something that the Latino community is going to love. So sometimes a client will give me a general marketing campaign and ask, “can you just translate.” Sometimes that works but usually we have to look at it and say we need to make it more relevant. And that’s what we do.
SW: What was your most memorable campaign?
RL: The most memorable and the most fun was this series of concerts that we did for five years for Miller Genuine Draft and it was called Solo Con Invitation. It was so much fun. It was a series of intimate concerts – no more than 1,000 people -- with top Latino acts. I think this was one of those core programs that became a memorable program that people still talk about because it was just very unique and very cool.
One of the cool programs that we are doing right now is for “Got Milk.” We are doing the Breakfast Challenge with schools in California to make sure kids drink milk with breakfast and to highlight the importance of eating breakfast before you go to school. We try to do good programs that are going to have a good message in the end.
SW: What’s next for RL Public Relations + Marketing?
RL: Right now my goal is to also work with more entrepreneurial companies, not necessarily the biggest companies. Maybe before I was more focused on that but now I want to be more geared towards entrepreneurial brands that have a purpose. So changing the focus a little bit.
I can wish Roxana well on her goals for both RL Public Relations and with Iobella but I know that with her track record she can do whatever she sets her mind to. Oh, and I’m definitely planning to try out the Iobella workout and let you all know how it works! Stay tuned for my review and keep up with Roxana Lissa here.
God blessed all women with hips, thighs, boobs, tummies and arms that we curse every time they don’t fit neatly into an outfit or resemble Beyonce’s. Kirstin Klingshirn, an over 10 year radio vet and an on-air personality from Atlanta’s hit radio show The Bert Show, has a different approach to body image. She doesn’t want women to hide who they are. Instead, she wants women to stop shaming themselves for not having the perfect bodies and love the ones they do. With the #SuitYourself campaign, she helps to encourage women to embrace their bodies with pride by putting them front and center in a swimsuit (eek!) and uploading the picture onto social media (double eek!).
We sat down with Kirstin to talk self love, support systems and why the hell we have to show it all in a bathing suit, the official uniform for #SuitYourself.
Jasmin Martin: We see skewed images of beauty everyday in magazines, music videos and billboards. All of them Photoshopped. How do you think a campaign like #SuitYourself will shift the standard of beauty and what is considered beautiful?
Kirstin Klingshirn: Beauty is subjective and always will be. #SuitYourself isn’t so much a mission to shift the standard of beauty, I would say it’s to expand the standard of beauty. It’s more to encourage women to love their bodies and to quit being so hard on themselves and each other. We just want women to know no matter what their shape or size, they should love themselves. Magazines will always be airbrushed and photoshopped. But we don’t live in magazines. We live in the real world. And that’s why it’s important we stop comparing ourselves to those images, because they just aren’t real. That’s why posting the pics of real women was so important.
JM: Why is the bathing suit the outfit for #SuitYourself? Why bear it all?
KK: This campaign was brought to The Bert Show table by our former phone screener, Marisa, who was inspired while shopping for swimsuits. Most women, including myself, feel the dread of swimsuit season and finding the perfect bathing suit. We wanted to remove the dread and instead replace it with a love of one’s body. No more tears in dressing rooms, it was time to focus on being positive rather than negative. It’s so easy to tear yourself down when looking in the dressing room mirror rather than build yourself up. We wanted to change that.
JM: #SuitYourself is not only a campaign about self confidence and positive body image, but it also is a collaboration of women coming together to support each other. How does this support system help women feel more confident?
KK: That was one of the highlights of #SuitYourself. There was tremendous comraderie that came from posting a swimsuit picture and knowing women would be uplifting, not judgmental. Being a woman is hard, rewarding, but hard. We should make it a little easier by being supportive of each other.
JM: Although you work in radio, people sometimes forget that you’re still a public figure and have to make appearances. Do you feel the pressure to look a certain way?
KK: If I’m being honest, no. I go to work in no makeup and super casual clothes, unless we have a guest in studio. Then I’ll make sure I look what I consider to be presentable which I think is the professional thing to do. I love getting dressed up for events, but I wouldn’t say there is a pressure attached to that because I enjoy doing my hair and makeup when it’s necessary. There’s so much pressure when it comes to being on-air that there’s just none left when it comes to my appearance!
JM: #SuitYourself is a great campaign because it helps to boost self confidence for females from all walks of life; young, old, mom, single, svelte or bootylicious. What’s your favorite success story from someone who decided to join the #SuitYourself challenge?
KK: My favorite moment from #SuitYourself was going to Instagram on the first day of the campaign and clicking on the hashtag. I was moved by the sea of pictures. Women from all walks of life, overcoming their fear of posting a swimsuit picture (and yes, that fear exists.)
JM: Do you think there’s a double standard in fashion and beauty between men and women? (Ex. a man can be overweight and hairy and it’s funny, but an overweight, hairy woman is labeled disgusting and rushed immediately to her nearest wax salon.)
KK: I do think more is expected of women than men. I don’t think men are exempt from beauty standards, but I definitely believe women feel more pressure. That’s obvious when you see the amount of ads targeting women.
JM: Why is it important to love your body the way it is?
KK: Because you are more than your body. And if you want to make changes, just remember to love yourself along the way.
As someone who struggles with body image I truly appreciate Kristin’s work. You can check her out on the radio on Q100 Atlanta through the I Heart Radio app and get involved with the #SuitYourself campaign by searching the hashtag #SuitYourself on Instagram and Twitter or by visiting TheBertShow.com.
There’s a new school of professionals who are taking over these days. Young men and women in business who are clearly a part of the changing guard in their respective industries. They're bringing new ideas and fresh perspectives to the game and large corporations are taking notice. Made Woman Zoe Zeigler is one of these trailblazers. A USC graduate, she started at Toyota fresh out of school and has risen in the company to her position today as Assistant Manager, Integrated Marketing. Never one to let grass grow under her feet, Zoe divides her time between her demanding day job, her newly launched blog and her leadership position in one of New York’s hottest women’s organizations.
SW: I know you started at Toyota as an intern and you’ve been with the company for ten years. So, what is a day in the life like for you now?
ZZ: It varies based on what type of projects I have going on, but typically if I’m launching a campaign, I work very closely with my in-house marketing team and 360i, the digital ad agency we work hand-in-hand with. During the day I’m setting the strategy for the campaign based on insights and research, and coming up with the creative outlets we want to use to execute on that strategy. There’s also the actual production on the creative, for me that’s a lot of overseeing website development, going on photo shoots, and traveling to oversee commercial shoots. Once we have the production figured out, my role is about making sure we are hitting our objectives and numbers, that we are optimizing and making sure the campaign is running smoothly. Along with the marketing part of my job, I also oversee the PR for all of our corporate marketing initiatives. That includes everything from media relations to serving as a spokesperson from time to time myself, talking to different media outlets about what we are doing at Toyota from a brand perspective.
SW: That’s really interesting, the marriage of those two things. I mean it makes perfect sense that it would go hand and hand, but I haven’t heard that too much. Digital marketing is usually pretty compartmentalized in large corporations.
ZZ: Yes, it really is. At Toyota I was very hands on with my career trajectory. I started in marketing as an intern and I came on full-time after graduation. Over the next few years I sought out different roles that would help me learn both the PR side of the business as well as the marketing arm. I was learning a lot of good stuff. There aren’t a lot of truly integrated communications people who know PR and know digital marketing. So I always felt like while I was doing the PR side of my job, I would have ways to showcase my unique expertise when I moved back to marketing. When I moved to my company’s New York City office, from Los Angeles, I kind of made a new role for myself and it really worked out. It wasn’t supposed to be a permanent role for me, but I really showed the value of how we could make this a more integrated group, and they offered me a full time position and a promotion within a year of coming on the team.
SW: Wow, that’s impressive.
ZZ: Yeah, it was really important for me to really defend what I wanted before anyone else.If you wait around for people to ask what you want to do, you are never going to get to do it. You really have to be proactive. I feel – especially as a professional woman and as a woman of color in the corporate world – you have to raise your hand and make it known what you have an interest in. And then find ways for people to support you in aligning yourself with that. Which I found was very important in my career.
SW: Interesting, that’s a unique path. So which one are you more in love with? Do you like digital marketing more or PR?
ZZ: I don’t know… It’s a tie. In addition to my role at Toyota, I am the Executive Director of an organization for women of color in communications called ColorComm. I really took that role because I have a passion for supporting other women in business and communications, and I wanted to find a way to continue to hone my PR skills in a different way. And I really like having an outlet for doing that outside my job while doing a lot of integrated marketing work at my job. I really can’t pick or choose one. I really like both.
Zoe pictured in the center wearing white, surround by other female executives at the first ever ColorComm Conference
SW: Dope. Can you tell me a little more about ColorComm?
ZZ: Yes. The organization just launched in New York about a year ago last August. The mission of the organization is to connect like-minded, women of color in the industry of communication -- whether its marketing, journalism, PR or social media -- and help us all get to the next level by supporting each other. Every month we have various events, where we bring out influencers and focus on making valuable connections. Jacque Reid just did an intimate dinner with us, and we talked about her career in Journalism and how she supports women of color in the industry. This year we also launched our first national conference with key-note speakers like lauded journalist Soledad O’brien and Desiree Rogers, CEO of Johnson Publishing and former White House social secretary—these women are leaders in our space but also supporters of the organization as well. My job at ColorComm is to lead the overall strategy and direction for the New York chapter, and to amplify the organization and its profile by helping to get media coverage and helping to plan events.
SW: Wow! You’re a busy girl! [Laughs] Do you think that participating in women’s orgs is important to career development?
ZZ: I just think that -- especially being in corporate America – there’s still not enough of us at the very senior positions. And even in an industry like communications, where I feel like there’s a larger majority of women than men, when you get to the senior level it’s still mostly men. So, if we’re not committed to supporting each other, giving each other opportunities, and making sure we advocate for one another – who really is?
SW: So you are a woman of color in the corporate world. What challenges come from that?
ZZ: Well, I learned early on that I need to be proactive about my career trajectory, but one of the challenges when you are in a large organization is that it’s easy to get swallowed, and easy for people to not notice you. Even if you are doing good work, you can stay unnoticed and without a promotion for a long time. So, I’m very conscious of trying to make sure I’m telling the right people about what I’m doing. It’s not about bragging; it’s about making sure people know how you are contributing to the organization in very subtle ways. Also, like I said, you aren’t waiting for people to tap you on the shoulder, but you are raising your hand and letting people know what you have an interest in, which is really important.
SW: It seems like you really know how to navigate the corporate world. What made you decide to start your blog Curlz And The City?
ZZ: After thinking about it and saying I don’t have the energy, time or resources for like two years. I finally decided to move forward and do it. I’m very interested in doing marketing and PR for beauty, fashion and lifestyle brands and I was trying to find ways to connect myself closer to those industries without having to switch jobs.
It’s a fair assessment to say that Zoe Zeigler is a bad ass who is tapping into all areas of the communication industry and making a name for herself in the process. We are sure to see more of this Made Woman as she advances and takes other female professionals with her to the top.
For Dr. Michele Colon you would think being a podiatrist with a thriving practice would be enough. But being made is all about wanting more out of life and working hard to get it. So this consummate professional didn’t stop there. Michele took her knowledge and experience as a podiatrist and started her own line of women’s shoes, 34 Minutes. The market for footwear is a crowded one, but Dr. Michele Colon has honed in on the one thing missing from the shoe racks: shoes with style and comfort.
Now Michele has two businesses and the creative outlet she always wanted. I wanted to find out what made her diversify her entrepreneurial efforts and how she manages it all. We sat down to chat and I was impressed with her poise and graciousness. She’s a doctor and a business owner for goodness sakes! Check out my interview with her below:
Serena Watson: Lets talk about your educational background. I know that you went to Cal for undergrad, and then you went to University of Miami for med school. Why did you choose Podiatry?
Michele Colon: Well, I chose Podiatry because I really love the profession. We get to do a little bit of everything related to the foot, including surgery. I knew that I wanted to be a mom, and I wanted to be able to work and so, that was another thing that really drew me to Podiatry. It was one of those fields that allowed flexibility, I could really structure it and make my own schedule. I really made it into a 9-5 practice and I’m able to be home with my daughter in the evening, so it really worked out for me.
SW: So after four years of med school and another two years of physical training you had your private practice. Why did you decide to go ahead and create the 34 Minute line?
MC: Well, what I was noticing over the years, was so many women asking me, if I could fix their feet so that they could wear their high heels. I started looking at the shoes that they were wearing and what type of problems they were having, and noticed that there weren’t many options for them. They didn’t have [options with] a stylish look and feel but that would address those issues with comfort; a little bit wider, a little bit more stable, a little bit more arch support. So I started looking into designs of my own, created my prototype and assessed it. I decided that I could help a lot of women by creating more comfortable shoes for them.
SW: Your line of shoes is intended for women in business, entrepreneurs. What is the mission behind the line in your own words?
MC: The mission is to show women that they don’t really have to suffer. You always hear the saying that beauty is pain. I really want to change that idea and show [women] that they can actually have both. You really don’t have to suffer, you can still look good and feel good at the same time.
SW: OK, so we talked about finding the right shoe, what are the worst shoes for women's feet?
MC: The worst shoes are actually the really, really flat shoes. Take an Ugg style boot for example. It’s completely flat, has no arch support. Or a flip flop or the type of sandal that’s completely flat. Those are actually the worst shoes because they don’t give any support so they kind of wobble.
SW: OK, got you. I’ll keep that in mind. Can you talk a little bit about the harmful effects of wearing these types of shoes. The really flat ones, or even the really high heels over time.
MC: Yeah, studies have shown that women who only wear high heels and wear them for years and years will actually have effects on their feet later. Their Achilles tendon starts to get tight and then contracted and then when they wear flats, they’re very uncomfortable and have to end up wearing a little bit of a heel all the time. When people wear the really flat shoes all the time, they end up getting a lot of problems like heel spurs, bunions, hammertoes and deformities like that. When the foot doesn’t have that any support and it moves too much from side to side, the toes work in a way that they’re not supposed to. They kind of grip the floor. Picture your toes gripping the floor and turning into little monkey fingers, that’s actually the shape of your toes when they get older and when you wear those type of shoes over the years.
SW: Yikes! Good to know. So, I read about this a little bit on your site, but why 34 minutes?
MC: We took the name because 34 minutes is the average amount of time before high heels start hurting a woman's foot. I get so many reactions from women when they hear that like, “I can only wear my high heels for five minutes.” Which is funny because there are some shoes that as soon as you put them on, they hurt. So, [34 minutes] was an average of over 4,000 women who answered a study conducted by a podiatrist.
SW: What makes the 34 Minutes line different from other shoe brands?
MC: When I was researching shoes and designing my own prototype, what I found was shoes were usually too narrow in the front, they squeezed the toes too tight causing some of the deformities. So I have a little bit wider base for a shoe box, I have some really supportive materials through the arch set and I have a really nice arch support inside every shoe. A lot of people said they would get store-bought arch support and put it in their high heel, but it would slip around and wouldn’t fit properly. So we built that into every heel. Also, our heel is a little bit more sturdy, and a little bit chunkier so it could give a little bit more support rather than a really pointy stiletto.
SW: Can you describe the process of going from design to production on the shoe?
MC: I had to create my own prototype, frame, dimensions, all of that, and have that made somewhere. Once I had my prototype made, I was able to take that to the factory and ask them if this was something they could duplicate and then they worked on the design back and forth with me. Luckily, I found a factory in the U.S. -- it’s actually here in Los Angeles. So I’m able to drive over there any time I want and work with them. Once we got all of the designs worked out, ordered all of our products and materials, we were able to start production. It was about a two year process.
SW: Where do you get your inspiration for designs?
MC: I actually work with my sister who is an artist and fashion designer. We work together on the styles and she is amazing, she can come up with so many original designs and then from there we decide which ones will work, which ones we want to modify and that’s pretty much the way we work together on that.
SW: That’s really cool that you guys are working together. What is the response that you’re getting from women who try on your shoes and can can wear them longer than 34 minutes?
MC: Oh my gosh, it’s so awesome to see women try them on for the first time because almost every time the first thing they say is “ohhh” or “ahhhh” or they make some type of little noise that’s just like that. Like they’re surprised by the comfort they feel when they put the shoe on. Some of the shoes they’re trying on are 4-inch heels and they’re just amazed that they can be that comfortable. After they purchase them or wear them for a while, I just get a lot of emails and comments back from them saying, “I love my shoes, I can’t wait to buy my next pair” and “I told my sister” or “I told a friend about them” and it’s really lovely comments like that from everybody.
In her desire to help her patients beyond their regular doctors visits, Michele Colon has discovered another successful business for herself. Can’t be mad at that! She is just another example of how reaching for more can bring about huge change and much success beyond your wildest dreams. For more information on Dr. Colon and her shoe line visit 34minuteshoes.com!
Cold, sweet ice cream smashed between two yummy cookies may just sound like a great summertime snack to you, but for Natasha Case, Founder of Coolhaus, ice cream sandwiches have become dessert gold. A young entrepreneur and student of architecture, Natasha has relied on her instincts and passions to fuel her business and take her to the next level. What started out as making ice cream with her then girlfriend and later business partner, Freya Estreller, has turned into a multi-million dollar enterprise, with retail stores in LA, Austin, Dallas and New York and distribution nationwide through grocery store chain, Wholefoods.
It always fascinates me when Made Women are able to take start something on a small scale and turn it into a dream career. As Coolhaus’ founder, Natasha went from selling her unique brand of ice cream from the back of an old ice cream truck to now having a coffee table book called Coolhaus Ice Cream book, partnerships with huge brands and more. I met Natasha recently at the Tribe Talk event right here in LA and was excited to pick her brain a bit and see how she made it all happen:
SW: You didn’t always make ice cream. Tell me a little about your architecture background.
NC: I went to Berkeley for my undergraduate, I studied architecture and design. I studied abroad with Cornell in Rome. Everything they do in Italy had a huge influence on me in terms of quality, from the tailor made suits, to the food, to the architecture, and really realizing that, the best ingredients make the best product. And then I came back, finished Berkeley, and then I went to UCLA for grad school for architecture.
SW: I know that you have used some of the things you have learned about architecture to inspire design with with Coolhaus and that’s what you studied. So why ice cream? Why food? Why not just architecture all the way?
NC: I had a really fun idea that food... kind of opens up the discussion a lot more. Food is something everyone can relate to. It’s comforting, it’s fun, it’s memorable. I got more intrigued in my own architecture work knowing that.
You have to bake architectural models and I always thought, if I was making this model of cake it would never get boring. So food is fun, and then there is this light at the end of the rainbow because when you are done you can eat it. So it’s always just been a passion/hobby for me, eating and cooking. And then I had the idea of how can you combine architecture with that? What are the ways they overlap? How can you use one to talk about the other? That’s what initially inspired the concept of what we’re doing now with Coolhaus. And a lot of our flavors are named after architects and designers so it’s about building awareness and making it accessible and fun. I call that Frachitecture…. But I still very much consider myself part of both of those worlds.
SW: Right, that’s awesome. It’s just incredible how you started something new and different and it just took off. How big was your team when you guys started out?
NC: Really we started with me and Freya and now we’re over seventy people company wide.
SW: Wow, and also you recently made the Forbes Thirty Under Thirty and Zagats Thirty Under Thirty as well. Congratulations. Were these your biggest accomplishments as an entrepreneur? If not, what was?
NC: To get an acknowledgement or award like that is great but for me the accomplishment is getting into markets in Guam or reaching people with a product that I never thought we were able to reach and running the business properly and being able to reward and bonus the corporate team and also the team on the ground in the trucks and stores. Those are the things that matter to me a lot more. I mean I’m so excited to be acknowledged and that means a lot. But it’s not like, “Oh, that’s my goal is to get Thirty Under Thirty.”
SW: I’m sure it wasn’t easy to go from selling from a refurbished ice cream truck to being in 1500 grocery stores. What has been the biggest challenge through it all?
NC: I think surrounding yourself with the right people -- anyone will tell you -- is the hardest part. Because you [are dealing with] different personalities, and skillsets... And really finetuning to make sure that you have the right team in place and that everyone’s skills are being optimized. The other thing is financially scaling. It’s hard to make the jump from three Wholefoods in 2011 to now over two thousand grocery stores nationwide. Cash flow in a company like ours that is obviously very seasonal is tough. There are times when it’s difficult and how you’re gonna get through it? What kind of precautious do you have to take. You really have to plan, be aware of your budgets. That’s definitely a challenge too.
SW: I know that Freya was your business partner and she worked on the finance and operations side. What was it like for you two as entrepreneurs, co-founders, and significant others? That had to be a lot going on.
NC: Yeah, it’s a lot. I think that while it worked, it worked great because we were able to talk about the company and evaluate it all the time. Then you start to hit a glass ceiling when you say okay, there are limitations to also being romantically involved. It’s not a purely professional relationship and it becomes time to bring in an expert, someone that you don’t have that emotional complication with. So I think it was an amazing thing to do in the startup phase for the company to mature. But I think for the next step, it made sense for Freya to move on and she had other passions she wanted to pursue. So, it all worked out in the end.
SW: That’s great. Your story is very unique, I know that you drove that old ice cream truck to Coachella to launch your product. What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs that are starting out?
NC: We like to say “action not perfection.” If you want to get something out there, don’t be afraid to test the market. The market will teach you a lot about what works and what doesn’t. Don’t feel like you’re always going to have to be perfect before you launch. Because the real test is reality.
SW: You found so many other ways to monetize beyond just ice cream scoops, so can you talk about the other ways that Coolhaus does business.
NC: Yes, so the book, e-commerce that has grown to bars and other clients now, in addition to grocery stores and foodservice accounts. So, you know, I’ve been coming up with a variety of products and a variety of market channels.
SW: You also talked about partnerships, which ones are going on right now?
NC: We’ve done a big thing with Dexter the Showtime show last year. We did a pre-packaged sandwich and various event activations around it to promote it [along with] various media. This year, we have our partnership with the LA Forum. We have a special sandwich for them. It’s red velvet vanilla because they painted the Forum red. We are working on a partnership with Wholefoods and their Whole Family foundation which is in the very early stages. We have a lot of big brand activations. We are doing something with Jeep.
SW: So, how do you come up with new flavors and new ideas for that?
NC: Sometimes we are inspired by dishes we have in savory restaurants. Sometimes clients commissions us to do something interesting like make a flavor themed by a movie or a show. We did a Spongebob flavor, a 2012 flavor for the movie 2012. Sometimes we just want to push the envelope. We were the first to bring bacon ice cream to the masses and then suddenly people started doing bacon desserts. So we thought, “Okay, what’s the next flavor we can do to push the envelope?” And we came up with chicken and waffles.
SW: What’s your favorite flavor?
NC: It really depends on the day. I love our summer flavors right now Sweet Corn and Blueberry. I love the fried chicken and waffles. Our ___ are fresh and they have a touch of brown sugar.
SW: My last question for you, I know you started a company at a young age, what advice or feedback did you receive that kept you going and allowed you to get past your inexperience?
NC: I think you can walk through a wall if you don’t know it’s there. Sometimes not knowing about something makes you take a risk that you don’t even realize you’re taking and that risk can be your secret weapon because you’re going to disrupt the market and give something really cool and unique.
Love this Made Woman’s story? Join us on August 29th for a Twitter chat with her! Tweet us your questions for Natasha using the hashtag #MWChat!