IWD: Advice from Female Entrepreneurs

International Women’s Day (IWD) is celebrated each year on March 8th. It’s a focal point in the movement for women’s rights and is all about celebrating women’s achievements while correcting inequality. In honor of such a meaningful day, Goodsey is highlighting its many female sellers who are thriving in their businesses. Read on below to learn about where these leading ladies found inspiration and how they tackle challenges in their industries.

Finding Inspiration this IWD

Laura Woellner, President & Founder, White Elm

I was inspired to create White Elm after looking through my closet and realizing that I owned a whole lot of tote bags, but none of them had the pockets or the quality to make a really great go-to bag. Sometimes I thought about how I needed a separate bag as a diaper bag and one for travel. So, I developed a high-quality bag with plenty of storage and organization that’s versatile enough for all aspects of my life as a busy mom. I designed my first bag in 2013 and have been refining the brand ever since. 

Linda Tong, President & Founder, KindNotes 

The idea for KindNotes started in 2007, when receiving a personal letter was rare for some in a world of technology. I was always into handcrafting gifts, so to celebrate my boyfriend-now-husband’s birthday, I wanted to express my love for him. I wrote little notes and put them all in individual envelopes so that it feels like he’s receiving a letter. He loved it. I thought that not many are into crafting or they may not have the time, so I decided to share KindNotes with the world. KindNotes are jars filled to the brim with 31 handcrafted messages enclosed in mini decorative envelopes for the recipient to open one per day, or anytime they need a little pick-me-up. It was originally for those in relationships, but quickly grew into other categories such as inspiration, friendship, get well, birthday, sympathy, and more. Being able to spread kindness and smiles is so rewarding and I want to continue that with our high-quality and carefully handcrafted gifts. 

Alexis Austin, CEO & Founder, Curio Press  

Curio Press was started so I could work from home while battling chronic illness. I could not work but had the skills and decided to turn my love of design, printing, and papers into my full-time job. We started out super small and without any capital but now have four employees and my husband and I are about to buy our first house! 

Amy Schofield, Founder, Mixify

Mixify Beauty began as a fun alternative to a traditional bachelorette party and developed into a quest to integrate the art of craft into our modern lifestyle. I think of Mixify not as a beauty company, but as offering our customers the opportunity to connect with family and friends through designing their own signature artisan nail colors, lip gloss, or perfume with our create-your-own cosmetics kits.

Rachelle Parker, Founder, Pure Parker

Natural products have always been something dear to us. When I was on the hunt for natural gift products and there seemed to be a lack on the market, I started creating for my friends and family, and later let everyone benefit from it. I can’t bare to see people spending money on chemical-laden skin care.  

Jennifer Brogee, Founder, Meeting Place Coffee

My family and I have owned a coffee shop since 2003, and we’ve always loved gift baskets because of the message of love and care that they convey. Every Christmas we would put together some coffee, tea, and chocolate into gift bags that we would sell for the holidays. Our marketing specialist, Ridley, encouraged us to list our gift baskets online and we were happy to sell about 10 the first holiday season. As time went on and the bakery side of our business grew, I thought, why don’t we offer what we bake every day in a gift basket? I walked through our bakery and picked up wrapped baked goods, arranging them in a chocolate brown cardboard tray. Our Breakfast Gift Basket was born, filled with house-made coffee cake, mini breads, and of course, coffee. We first posted the Breakfast Gift Basket online five years ago and have been growing ever since! 

Bethany Therrien, Founder, Melange Collection

Initially, I was inspired to start a business that allowed me to be creative, to feel like I was working on something with purpose and had a lot of flexibility for spending time with my kids.  But, the true inspiration came later when I visited Peru for the first time. I really underestimated how much of a difference it makes in the lives of women to offer them the opportunity to work. I am now re-inspired every time I visit an artisan community. 

Dawn Kikel, Founder & CEO, Arcadia Home

I founded Arcadia Home in 2001 following years of travels around the world for business and pleasure. Captivated by the artisan-made goods I discovered, I wanted to be closer to the world of handmade items, and to help grow the market for handcrafted designs. So, Arcadia Home was born. The company has continued in its passionate promotion of craft and handmade design ever since.  

Ellie Clougherty and Kristen Malinowski, Co-founders, KAMARIA  

We started KAMARIA to let survivors of sexual assault know they aren’t alone. KAMARIA means “moonlight” in Swahili. Our message is: be the light that changes the tides. The tides we reference are social tides. We want to normalize reaching out, talking about trauma, and restoring the dignity of survivors in small ways so eventually their voice can be heard in big ways.  

Brenda Kirkpartrick and Lauren Calabrese, Founders, WineBlock 

We got over the embarrassment of “wine smile” or “wine mouth” as its commonly called. Sometimes, we’d be attending business meetings or out with friends and were continually embarrassed by the stains on our lips and teeth caused by the tannins in red wine. We researched solutions to avoid the dreaded purple-hued smile and found none that were proactive or easy to use on the go. We decided to enlist the help from both a green chemist and flavor chemist who helped us create our clear, all-natural and plant-based formula. WineBlock is the World’s first wine stain preventing lip and teeth balm. Our sister product, CoffeeBlock, which helps to prevent the yellow stains your favorite cup of Jo leaves behind, will launch later this year.  

Tiffany Kaplan, Owner, Global Crafts 

I always knew I wanted to jump into an entrepreneurial venture. When I bought Global Crafts, I had no idea this dream would come true in such a big way. Each day is all about stepping into uncharted territory. The challenges of our business go well beyond the typical of operations, systems, and sales and marketing. These are things every business deals with. But, nothing compares to the daily stories of survival and perseverance that we hear from the artisan communities with whom we are honored to work. 

The business model at Global Crafts is fair trade, or ethical and socially responsible commerce. It takes a different lens than one might typically have in business: patience and understanding. Understanding and acknowledging that someone in a remote village tried their best. It might not be what the expectation was on the U.S. side, but we honor that effort and find a way to work with what we have. Because, in the end, each product we bring to market was lovingly crafted and is a true one-of-a-kind.   

Working with handmade products and small artisan groups around the world is both invigorating and challenging. Our inspiration is the courageous women around the globe who are breaking barriers and making positive change for themselves and their communities.   

Brenda Propis, Tammy Rothman, Susan Rudman, Founders, Karma Keys 

Three best friends who had a vision to spread positive vibes and messages in the trendiest way possible created Karma Keys. Approximately five years ago, one friend moved to a new home where the previous owner had left thousands of blank house keys. We brainstormed ideas of how we could use these keys in a positive way and that is how the idea of starting a business venture together began. Our goal was to allow for all females, toddlers, tweens, teens, and women to confidently express themselves and enjoy fashionable jewelry that is affordable. Staying motivated wasn’t a problem because we enjoy what we do and we are always mindful of this goal.  

We each had professional careers prior to working together and deciding to become entrepreneurs. Fortunately, we were able to apply skills from our prior experiences in accounting, education, psychology, and marketing to create a business where we empower young women to be themselves. 

Jenny Mann, CEO/Founder, Strüng

My guitar string jewelry line, Strüng, started while I was on the road touring with my band, Blameshift. I started making jewelry out of my guitar player’s broken strings and next thing I knew, we were selling more jewelry after shows than CDs! This proved I had something special that connected people to music in a different way. What I love most about Strüng was it was created in such an organic and honest way and I think that’s what makes our brand truly “rock ‘n roll.” 

Sierra Steifman, President, The Floral Society 

My mother inspired me to start my business. She owned a small business most of my life and I spent a lot of time in her shop as a kid.   

Sandra Pohle, Founder, Embellish by Sandra

After spending over 20 years in the corporate world in sales and account management, I wanted to do something for myself. As a hobby, I started making items that had a focus on wine and entertaining and found it to be fun and therapeutic. So, I reached out to local stores and applied for pop-up markets to get myself out there. I continued to grow my opportunities and my hobby turned into a business.

Krissy Morse, Founder, Krissy K Designs

I have a sister who is a professional, trained artist. After watching her in her art life, l was driven to learn to paint and thus began my self-taught path, which ended up with me learning to love painting with acrylics. I am now firm in my realization that l was born to create nature and wildlife art.

Claire Chew, Founder, Luxepets

One fall, I decided last minute to spend Halloween in upstate New York with my sister and her family, a Norman Rockwell picture weekend made even more perfect when I was serendipitously upgraded to business class on the way home. Somewhere between New Jersey and the midwest, I struck up a conversation with my seat mate. He was a VP at Steve Madden. I at the time was still working as a creative director. Through friendly chit chat, we talked about design, business, and out of nowhere, I told him I also designed jewelry to honor deceased pets. I had just lost my soul dog Sophie to liver cancer a few months ago and was grieving deeply. 

Five hours later, I walked the planks to the gate with a deal memo for $10,000 scribbled on a cocktail napkin and Luxepets was born. 

Lizzy SimanTov, Founder, Lizush

When I realized the soap chains sell “soaps” with synthetic ingredients in them, I decided to do something about it. After researching, reading, and experimenting, I created Lizush and started creating 100% natural soaps and 100% natural bath and body products.

I became passionate about healthy products and am happy to see more people sharing the same passion with me.

Shalini Shamtani, Chief Joy Architect, Open the Joy
Imagine you check your six-month-old child into the hospital for what you perceive to be a simple fever, but instead find out that your child has been diagnosed with a rare disease for which there is no known cure?  No mother or family should have to endure this, but it was from this traumatic personal experience, and many months spent alongside my child at the hospital, that “Open the Joy” was born. 

After my daughter’s diagnosis, I became resolved to change the hospital atmosphere to a more positive one. My mission became to lessen the emotional suffering that hospitalization creates for families by spreading as much joy, hope, love and laughter to as many hospitalized children as possible.

I first started by creating the Spread the Joy Foundation, www.spreadthejoyfoundation.org which delivers Joy Boxes filled with toys, books, arts and crafts and other activities to hospitalized children at their bedside. The foundation consults with Child Life Specialists and Child Therapists to choose the perfect items to put into each box.  In the last two years, over 3000 Joy Boxes have been delivered to the 19 children’s hospitals, and the foundation has developed into a $100,000 organization.  

The hospitals demand for Joy Boxes was so great, and the reaction of benefactors was so positive, that I launched Open the Joy (www.openthejoy.com ) specializing in therapeutic activity kits for hospitalized children or kids recovering at home.  “The Feel Better Collection” was such a novel concept, that at the product launch at NY NOW 2019, the Feel Better Kit won the award for the Best New Product 2019 (selected from 400 applicants).

Although the Feel Better Collection is brand new to the market, it has gained a lot of market attention and was picked up by goodsey.com as the first “Feel Better” product ever designed for kids-  a true alternative to flowers and teddy bears. The “Feel Better Collection” will be hitting major hospital gift shops in early 2020.

 At Open the Joy, me and my team are pioneering a new business model—one that sits at the intersection of retail and philanthropy. We are social entrepreneurs at heart, and for every Feel Better Kit purchased, Open the Joy continues to donate to hospitalized children across America. After all, that’s why they call us the “Feel Better Company!”

Ashley Johnson, Founder, The Earthy Child

Make your work space your own. Social media has great ideas out there but at the end of the day, the environment you work in needs to inspire you and your team. It doesn’t need to be Pinterest-worthy or look like everyone else’s cup of tea.  

For me, I have found that during the day I need lots of windows to look out and see the mountains and landscapes of nature. During the late night hours when I’m finishing gift sets, I like to have Italian lights strung around the studio for a soft glow. I feel relaxed and cozy as I work, which means lower possibility of burnout. Having indoor plants or flowers in our workspaces is something I enjoy, especially in the winter months.

Addressing Business Challenges

Laura Woellner, President & Founder, White Elm

Things are changing all of the time. It’s important to learn to adapt and to overcome obstacles whenever issues arise. Business is an ever-evolving machine that changes from one minute to the next, and you have to change with it to keep succeeding. I try not to get too comfortable with the way things are and know that customer needs change, the economy changes, as well as myself. I always give my best and pivot when I have to. 

Linda Tong, President & Founder, Kind Notes 

What makes us different from others is not only the high-quality materials we use, but that we genuinely care about the details and presentation, spending a lot of time and effort in each jar. We want to create a special gift. Our jars are not simply strips of colored paper tossed in a jar – every note is inserted into a linen-textured mini decorative envelope to bring back that warm feeling of receiving a letter in the mail.

There are 31 notes in each jar with the idea of opening one a day for a month long, but we do hear stories where the recipient gets too excited and opens them all at once. What’s great is that everyone can enjoy KindNotes in their own way, all at once, one per day, or anytime they need a positive reminder. 

Alexis Austin, CEO & Founder, Curio Press  

The stationery industry has become increasingly saturated over the past few years. We stay as competitive by offering great service and adorable designs on high quality papers. We also have kept everything in house. All the printing, production, and shipping are done in my Missouri studio. As a recovering perfectionist, I want to have total control and make sure all the orders we ship are perfect! 

Amy Schofield, Founder, Mixify

We address challenges by staying true to our niche. Our success lies in listening, and responding, to our customers. We’re not competing with big-box retailers. Staying niche allows us to focus on what is important to us and our customers: quality, creativity, conscious consumption.  

Rachelle Parker, Founder, Pure Parker

Our products are high-end and are kept at affordable prices. We feel everyone deserves a chance to go natural. Challenges are addressed by staying calm and always putting our brains into the customer’s thought process — what they want, when they want, etc.  

It happens on occasion a product arrives having being ruined in transit, which is super disappointing for the customers (and also for us, since products cost). The first thing we do is send out a replacement – customers deserve 5 star service from us! 

Jennifer Brogee, Founder, Meeting Place Coffee

To address a challenge, you have to recognize it. So, I try to monitor our numbers and compare revenue and margins year over year. My husband is a former Marine, and they have the slogan: “improvise, adapt, and overcome.” I try to implement that strategy by addressing challenges head on. For example, shipping costs are a continual battle, and yet customer expectations keep getting higher. We have been working on reducing packaging sizes and weight in order to keep shipping costs as low as possible, while offering free shipping. 

Bethany Therrien, Founder, Melange Collection

The biggest challenge in the handmade industry is the turn-around time for orders. By the time most people are placing holiday orders, our production has to be finished. This requires a lot of estimation of the themes and quantities that customers will want well in advance. I think this is a process that has gotten easier over time, but it really comes down to being optimistic and aiming high. 

Dawn Kikel, Founder & CEO, Arcadia Home

Personally, I like change so any challenge is interesting to me. Our current challenge is figuring out how to bring more of the artisan world to our customers through image and video. 

Ellie Clougherty and Kristen Malinowski, Co-founders, KAMARIA  

Just like diversity in leadership makes a team effective, diversity in sourcing, manufacturing, and designs makes it easier to pivot when challenges arise. We work with factories all over the world. 

Brenda Kirkpartrick and Lauren Calabrese, Founders, WineBlock 

 WineBlock is a new and unique concept. We use platforms like social media to put a name to what wine smile is and that WineBlock is the solution. 

Tiffany Kaplan, Owner, Global Crafts 

The challenges in our industry are so absurd they sound funny. We do a lot of “fixing” when product arrives. One year, ornaments arrived with long, untied strings and no loop. The producer group didn’t have the reference of the Christmas tree to understand the need for a loop. We sell beautiful, handmade baskets and we were striving for consistency in color for the U.S. consumer. Our team requested the baskets to look exactly alike, which seemed simple enough, only to realize that in that village, it would mean only one family would get the work. 

We are working this challenge by helping our buyers see that the variety in color is what makes these market baskets so beautiful and unique. The fair trade business is all about perspective and shifting yourself to imagine being in another’s shoes. Every challenge is a good reminder of our desire to help each other thrive. 

Brenda Propis, Tammy Rothman, Susan Rudman, Founders, Karma Keys 

The biggest challenge in our industry is competition as well as coming up with new ideas for products. We always keep our pricing low and are constantly looking for the next new trend.   

Jenny Mann, CEO/Founder, Strüng

I always try to accept challenges as they come. Owning a small business is full of challenges and hardship but it’s also full of opportunities to learn and grow. I try to always look at challenges as a way to make my company better and to improve.  

Sierra Steifman, President, The Floral Society 

When we’re designing products and making decisions about how they’ll be made, we always come back to the question about what is the highest quality product we can make. Our goal has always been to make the highest quality products that you only have to buy once.

Sandra Pohle, Founder, Embellish by Sandra

There will always be challenges, no matter what you do in life. It’s how you decide to manage them. You can get creative in your solutions and find a way to get through or you can say “why me?” and feel bad for yourself. While sometimes it’s easy to want to give up, being persistent and determined will be worth it in the long run. 

Kris Morse, Founder, Krissy K Designs

Even the not-so-wonderful comments are constructive as they will move you to change and evolve your style. You must constantly be aware of your competitors and stay ahead of the curve with styles and services that are cutting-edge and fresh. 

Claire Chew, Founder, Luxepets

I think the landscape is changing in how we purchase. From a product development standpoint, I try and stay in my lane, without paying attention to trends. I look at what’s going to help someone most with their grief, how can I deliver it in a heartfelt way — an affordable way — that will touch someone’s heart. Our products have been selling for over 10 years and continue to do well. It comes from the heart, it’s quality and timeless. We care deeply and it shows. 

Lizzy SimanTov, Founder, Lizush

I find sometimes that waiting for the drying process or the hardening process is challenging, especially with new products we’re trying out and can’t wait to see the results. For example, one of our best sellers — the handmade soaps — need to dry for at least three weeks.

Shalini Shamtani, Chief Joy Architect, Open the Joy

I believe that never giving up is the key to success. If something seems like too difficult a challenge for today, I say sleep on it. Tomorrow — from another angle — that same challenge can present itself as an opportunity. 

Ashley Johnson, Founder, The Earthy Child

When it comes to bath and body care there are many labels that claim “natural” with long complicated lists of ingredients. We wanted to make our products simple as possible, with truly natural ingredients that are familiar and pampering.

It’s important to us that our customers feel comfortable and educated with what they’re putting on their bodies. We work to give our customers total transparency in our product lines and to educate them to stay away from companies who green-wash their products.

Be sure to visit goodsey.com to shop these amazing companies’ products for all of your gifting needs. Whether it’s for International Women’s Day or any day of the year, Goodsey has something for everyone!

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