Meet the Ladies Whose Friendship Began With an Umbrella.

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Kerri GORMAN and Karen FOY

Founders Gorman Foy

Kerri GORMAN and Karen FOYFeatured Ladies Kerri Gorman and Karen Foy knew that starting a company with a friend was risky, but they’ve made it work to the tune of $1.7 million in annual revenue. Since meeting on a rainy day at the University of North Texas, the co-eds forged a best friendship that has successfully weathered the uncertainties of business ownership. After leaving their corporate jobs in 2001, Kerri and Karen launched Gorman Foy, Inc. – a printing and promotions business that now includes graphic design and copywriting, in addition to many other services. Gorman Foy has been profitable since its first full year in 2002 and boasts an impressive 90% client retention rate.
Immediately before launching Gorman Foy, Kerri was in sales and visuals for an interior design showroom in the Dallas World Trade Center. She was also a buyer for Harold’s, a chain of upscale women and men’s apparel stores and spent nearly ten years in the gift and gourmet business. Karen was an outside printing representative for The Odee Company – a commercial sheet-fed printer, who also specialized in digital imaging and specialty finishing. Previously, she was a sales representative for ABCO, where she sold offset printing, digital imaging, tabs and binders.

Despite successful careers, Kerri and Karen weren’t feeling fulfilled. “I wasn’t happy where I worked,” Kerri says. “And I kept hearing Karen talk about printing.” Even though neither woman admits to entrepreneurial aspirations, they decided to start a company together.

However, Gorman Foy wasn’t the ladies’ initial attempt at entrepreneurship. “Our first go at it was K&K Solutions, a custom gift basket business which Kerri and I started on the side of our careers,” says Karen. “It was craziness, outlandish hours and a lot of hard work.” Unfortunately, the company didn’t make any money, but they had loads of fun!

“It was a lot of stress, but also a lot of laughs, and I think that’s when we realized how much our personalities complement each other when it comes to business,” Kerri says.

That’s when the idea of Gorman Foy began to brew. “Our personalities and our backgrounds in printing and buying seemed like a perfect blend,” says Karen. “It just took a last nudge from our husbands for us to make that jump and we’ve never looked back!”

When pondering a name for their company, Kerri and Karen had the foresight that their business was going to grow and progress. Not wanting to be pigeonholed due to a business moniker, Karen and Kerri purposely named the company Gorman Foy utilizing “Printing and Promotions” as a tagline only, allowing for changes as their business evolved.

Like many small businesses, Kerri and Karen faced a challenge with start-up capital while trying to establish Gorman Foy. “We approached banks for a loan but were treated like little girls,” says Karen. So, each woman put in $20,000 – Kerri using a personal credit card and Karen borrowing money from her dad, which she paid back with interest.

In July 2001, with a portfolio of clients that Karen managed during her many years in commercial printing sales, the best friends launched Gorman Foy out of Karen’s house, which served as their office for the next nine months. Nine years later, Gorman Foy has progressed with the industry and its founders are proud to describe themselves as print, promotions and graphic communication experts. “We dare to call ourselves ‘enthusiasts,’ because we are truly passionate, even fanatical, about what we do,” Karen says.

“The printing business has changed over the past two to three years due to the economy. We added web design a few years ago to evolve our services,” Kerri says. “When we started, 80% of our business was printing and today it makes up 40%.”
Kerri and Karen know first-hand that owning a company with your BFF can be a great experience, but there are also logistical issues. “We can’t be pregnant at the same time or take vacations together,” says Karen. “We’ve had to switch off having kids.”

Both women are wives and mothers to two children. “I got pregnant nine months after we launched the company,” Kerri says. “The balance has gotten easier, but early on there were a lot of late nights and bouncy seats in the office.”
Today, Gorman Foy has five employees as well as several freelancers and boasts an impressive client list that spans a variety of industries.

What we learned from Karen and Kerri: “Being in business with your best friend makes for a real interesting combo.”

Live It
Karen: “You can have a career life and personal life. It’s OK to want both or just one. Don’t let society’s standards deter you from doing what you want.”

Keep It To Yourself
Kerri: “Try to do it on your own without getting any investors involved. Have a vision for what you want.”

This Featured Lady was profiled by Megan L. Reese, WORDrobe® Stylist for Her Write Image in West Grove, PA.

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Meet the Lady Who Captures All the Things We Adore

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Pamela Joye

Photography & Design

Pamela Joye, Photography and DesignDescribe your business. What is it?

Fun. Creative. Original. Artistic. Candid. Photography.

I am a lifestyle photographer with an interest in capturing a candid story of life and how it’s lived through people, places, things and all we adore. I offer portrait services for kids, pets, home and garden, and lifestyle imaging and create images for fine art.

Are there any words of advice, books or role models that really inspired and changed you?

Wear Sunscreen by Mary Schmich; Steering by Starlight by Martha Beck; The Painted Word, Tom Wolfe.

What did it cost to start your business? How did you find the funds?

I continue to take small steps and invest in the best gear I can. I won’t compromise on a less expensive product which means getting up/running takes time. And discipline. And is a process.

How long did it take to get started?

I have been photographing since I was 14 years old and spent 7 years in college with a focus on fine art photography and art history.

What do you do to take care of yourself?

I try to feed all sides of myself – eat fresh food and cook from scratch with a preference for simple, clean, straightforward items. I enjoy workouts that are fast paced and dimensional. I stretch. I exercise my mind by reading and reconnecting with new concepts. I love to walk and be in fresh air. I laugh every day. I connect with my family and close friends at least once a week and more often than not by phone as we don’t live near each other. I am rigorous with self-honesty and like to play –dressing up/down and listening to music.

What is your ultimate future dream for yourself and / or your business?

Creating photobooks and art that tell stories of people, places, things and life in way that makes you smile or toggles a memory – something you can relate to.

Who has supported your most / least in your journey?

My husband; my family; my best friend of 35 years; my coach.

What is the single biggest thing you would say an entrepreneur has to be armed with in order to succeed?

There are three things I feel you need: relentless tenacity, clarity and business savvy.

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Meet Kim Seybert: Her Chic Table Linens Caught Neiman Marcus’ Attention

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Kim SEYBERT

Founder and President, Kim Seybert

Kim SeybertWhen Kim Seybert used her fashion design experience to start a home accessories company, no one was sure it would succeed. After all, Kim introduced hand-beaded, embroidered table items to an industry that offered only white tablecloths and rectangle placemats. Kim’s fresh perspective infused rich color and texture into the traditional home objects arena. She introduced the concept of “style for the home” and shifted the perspective that tabletop accessories had to be conventional or only used for the most special occasions. Kim’s designs have been featured in Elle Décor, Coastal Living, Southern Lady, Canada’s Style at Home, Modern Bride, InStyle Weddings, Gifts and Decorative Accessories, Brides, Gotham and Everyday with Rachel Ray, Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar.

Kim spent the majority of her career as a fashion designer, specializing in beaded and embellished evening gowns and cocktail dresses. When her travels took her to India and China, Kim learned unusual techniques such as beading, rouching, hand dying and rattail design. In 1996, the company Kim worked for went out of business, so she began freelancing and interviewing for new jobs. At the same time, she felt it was time for a change and wondered, “What would I like to do?”

During her career limbo, Kim was also redoing her apartment. She applied her niche design experience to objects in her home and adorned pillows, placements and throws with beading. Kim also needed Christmas gifts, so she gave hand-beaded coasters. Soon, people wanted coasters for themselves, so Kim made samples and had a party for friends and family at her home. According to Kim, “When they placed orders, it helped with my confidence.”

Kim wanted to apply her design sensibility to an under-expressed medium – home objects. Her idea was to create items that brought life, femininity and color into the home every day and weren’t just used for special occasions. In the beginning, Kim sought advice from a women’s economic group who advised her to get funding from friends and family. For Kim, this wasn’t an option, so she used her personal credit cards and started small.

Napkin setSoon, Kim’s company gained momentum. When Henri Bendel held an open viewing day, Kim showed her samples to a buyer who gave the entrepreneur her first order. Once Kim got her manufacturing in place, she sold to Neiman Marcus whose buyer bought her line for all their stores. “Neiman Marcus was an early supporter and is still offering my items in their stores today,” Kim says.

Neiman Marcus initially placed a few styles to see if Kim’s items would sell. At the time, Kim’s beaded home objects were very novel because until she entered the market, all that stores sold were traditional table accessories. Adding to the salability concern was that each of Kim’s placemats retailed for $70. “We didn’t know if people would buy because my idea was so new,” Kim explains.

People did buy, positioning Kim as the pioneer of fashion for the table. “It was fun and satisfying because no one had ever used ornate decorative items every day before,” Kim explains. “Now the emphasis is on setting a beautiful table whether it’s Tuesday or a holiday.” By combining her personal philosophy and extensive design experience, Kim created a supremely stylish collection for modern living.

Every company experiences its own ups and downs, but being in a luxury market creates distinct challenges. “Of course, after 9/11, we saw a dip in business, but last year’s economy problems were unexpected,” Kim explains. “People cut back and only bought necessities. I got a reality check and knew I had to make it work. I look at my business like my checkbook and don’t spend money I don’t have.”

Kim Seybert – Designer Lifestyle Accessories incorporated in 1998. The founder describes her business as innovative, design-driven and willing to try new things and runs her company with the philosophy that her products should speak for themselves. “I love where we are as a company,” she says. “By loving the products and staying true to who we are, people will also love our products and the company will grow.”

The company is committed to giving back to the community, donating products for charitable events as well as supporting DIFFA and God’s Love We Deliver. The Kim Seybert line is available in the US and internationally at Barneys, Bergdorf Goodman, Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue.

What we learned from Kim: “Focus on success! Don’t waste time and energy worrying about aspects of your business that you can’t control.”

Small Packages
“I like my story. I didn’t have money to fund my launch, so I started small. That’s not such a bad thing.”

Believe and Achieve
“Going back and working for someone else wasn’t even in my realm of thinking. For me, failure was not an option.”

This Featured Lady was profiled by Megan L. Reese, WORDrobe™ Stylist for Her Write Image in West Grove, PA.

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Sigrid Olsen, Founder Sigrid Olsen Art

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Sigrid Olsen, Founder, Sigrid Olsen Art

Sigrid Olsen

Founder – Sigrid Olsen Art

The news was six months in coming, but when Sigrid Olsen received the official word that her line of clothing was being dismantled by Liz Claiborne after nine years, she knew it meant starting all over again. Since that January day in 2008, Sigrid has successfully redefined her brand with Sigrid Olsen Art, a studio art and design business located in Rocky Neck, Massachusetts. Her story is one of inspiration, growth and resilience, having also survived breast cancer in 2005. Today, at age 55 she is an artist, entrepreneur, author and speaker, as well as offers yoga and art infused inspiration retreats. She has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, The Boston Globe, Delaware Today, The New York Times, Daily Candy Boston, Forbes, WWD, Boston Magazine and The Worcester Telegram.

Sigrid Olsen’s clothing line existed for fifteen years before being acquired by Liz Claiborne in 1989. Her signature was designing for “real women” using bright colors and simple, classic designs. Sigrid stayed on as the creative director for her line and it flourished. In 2005, when her business was at the top if its game, Sigrid was diagnosed with breast cancer.

After learning that she had DCIS (ductal carcinoma in suti), a pre-cancerous condition in her mammary glands, Sigrid underwent two lumpectomies that didn’t get rid of all the cancer, a bilateral mastectomy and reconstructive surgery. To regain her upper body strength and range of motion, Sigrid turned to yoga and Pilates. Her trainer created a post-mastectomy Pilates routine that she is now sharing with the world through an instructional DVD for breast cancer survivors. Sigrid and her instructor were featured in the August 2008 issue of Pilates Style Magazine.

While Sigrid’s clothing line was still owned by Liz Claiborne, her experience with breast cancer inspired her to reflect and return to her artistic roots. In 2005, she formed Sigrid Olsen Art, LLC, bought a domain name and a Mac, and took iWeb lessons to learn how to design and launch her own website. Sigrid sold her original artwork and her designs on cards, ceramics and journals. She eventually opened Sigrid Olsen Art Gallery in Rocky Neck, home of the Gloucester artists’ colony.

Sigrid OlsenIn 2006, after launching over 50 stores in three years, Sigrid’s division began to lose money just as Liz Claiborne shifted its attention to younger brands like Kate Spade, Lucky Jeans and Juicy Couture.

So, as Sigrid’s health improved, her apparel line’s profits continued to decline and, despite sales of almost $100 million, it was selected by Liz Claiborne as one of nine different brands to be put under “strategic review.” These brands were sold, licensed, dropped or kept at the end of the review period. Sigrid’s was dropped. Although she knew six months prior that this was a possibility, finally hearing the news in January 2008 was both a disappointment and relief. Sigrid knew that she had to regroup, but was stymied by the fact that Liz Claiborne retained the legal rights to her name and asserted a non-compete stipulation that prohibited her from designing clothes until 2010.


During the summer of 2009, Sigrid opened the seasonal Isla Beach House, also located in Rocky Neck. Isla Beach House is a shop that reflects Sigrid’s trademark island-casual vibe and offers colorful knits and maxi dresses, statement necklaces made by her daughter and woven nylon totes from Mexico, all priced under $200.

In addition to her art and design success, Sigrid and her sister, a yoga instructor, host week-long, inspirational yoga retreats in other countries. Sigrid’s husband actually noticed that hotels were offering yoga retreats and commented, “You could do something like that.” Sigrid limits the participants to fewer than ten people in order to create a unique experience for each one.

She has also published a cookbook, Cooking with Color which includes 27 easy, healthy, delicious and beautiful recipes for meals that can be prepared in 15 – 20 minutes. Sigrid displayed all the food on her own hand-painted ceramics and took the photographs for the book herself. She has a proposal for a project called Sigrid’s Style – Living an Inspired Life and books speaking engagements. In 2009, she was featured with Jane Pauley’s on the “Smart Talk for Women” lecture series. Sigrid may even design clothes again once the non-compete expires in 2010.

What we learned from Sigrid: “Creativity stems from finding your inner silence, recapturing your true self and letting go of the voices in your head. Also, having fun with other women is important when you’re experiencing a transformation.”

Hire to Your Weaknesses

“Start small and do whatever you can manage, but don’t lose your focus. Trust your instincts. When you can, hire experts to handle those aspects of your business that get in your way. Do what you do best.”

Promises, Promises

“Always deliver more than you promise. Make it a course of business to under promise and over deliver. We say it and do it by going the extra mile. When you’re an independent business person, it’s easier to do than when working for a major corporation.”

This Featured Lady was profiled by Megan L. Reese, WORDrobe™ Stylist for Her Write Image in West Grove, PA.

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Myra Janco Daniels, Naples Philharmonic Center Cultural Complex

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Myra Janco Daniels, Naples Philharmonic Center Cultural Complex

Myra Janco Daniels
Founder, Chairman and CEO,
Naples Philharmonic Center Cultural Complex

Long before Mad Men grabbed the attention of Americans by chronicling the lives of the ruthlessly competitive men and women of 1960’s Madison Avenue advertising, Myra Janco Daniels was showing everyone how it was done. While in her mid-twenties, Myra entered this male-dominated industry when she launched Wabash Advertising in Terre Haute, Indiana. Within one year, she built it into a million dollar business. As an entrepreneur and pioneer, Myra was the first female to run a national advertising firm and the first woman associate professor of business at the University of Indiana. She was also the youngest female to win the National Advertising Federation’s “Advertising Woman of the Year” award in 1965 – while under the age of 40. Myra is currently the founder, chairman and CEO of the Naples Philharmonic Center Cultural Complex. Her memoir, Secrets of a Rutbuster: Breaking Rules and Selling Dreams, came out in 2009.

RutbusterWhen Myra was attending Indiana State Teachers College, she wanted a job at the Terre Haute Star newspaper. Unfortunately, she was bluntly told by the editor, “We don’t need any paper dolls.” Furious, Myra walked into Meis Department Store and, after writing an assignment on the spot to prove her talent to the advertising manager, landed a part-time job as a copy girl earning $7.34 per week.

One day, the advertising manager informed Myra that “a new man from New York was coming.” He asked if Myra could make sure all the ads got in the paper and on the air. Once she agreed, Myra realized two things: she could soon be out of a job and this was her big chance.

Myra had a plan. The store never used real artwork in its ads, so she put together a double page spread for junior dresses. The ad pictured a girl in one of the dresses sitting on the rim of a glass of lemonade, waving a straw. The caption said, “Junior Dresses – Cool as Lemonade.” The store sold out of all 700 dresses. The next day, the store owner arrived with the ad, demanding to know, “Who did this?” Myra fessed up and the owner responded, “We don’t need that man from New York.”

As one of the most accomplished women in advertising during the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s, Myra built her reputation selling product benefits to the customer, searching out the truth, identifying problems and generating creative solutions. Her diverse variety of clients ranged from coal mines to candy bars. At one point early in her career, Myra was earning $10,000 annually, which made her the highest paid woman in Terre Haute.

In the early 1960’s, Myra headed to Chicago, was snagged by the ad firm of Roche, Rickard, Henri, Hurst, Inc. and was chosen to serve as its first female executive vice president. In 1965 she was named the National Advertising Federation’s “Advertising Woman of the Year.”

While in Chicago, Myra met Draper Daniels, the ad executive behind the iconic Marlboro Man campaign and after whom the Mad Men character Don Draper was based. Myra and Draper forged a powerful partnership, with Draper gaining controlling interest in Roche, Rickard, Henri, Hurst, Inc. He changed the company’s name to Draper Daniels, Inc. and the pair landed accounts with Colgate Palmolive, Maytag, Motorola and Consolidated Foods. After the successful business merger, Myra and Draper eloped and their personal merger lasted from 1967 until Draper’s death in 1983.

In addition to her success in the advertising world, Myra has many accomplishments in the education field. She earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in business and communications from Indiana State University and pursued doctoral studies in marketing management at Indiana University. Myra also held a six-year associate professorship in marketing and advertising at Indiana University, taught the MBA program in marketing and directed an internship program in publishing.

Myra is currently the chairman and CEO of the Philharmonic Center Cultural Complex in Naples, Florida, which includes the Philharmonic Center for the Arts, the Naples Museum of Art and the Naples Philharmonic Orchestra. She founded the complex in the mid-1980s after coming out of early retirement. In 1986, Myra became the first Florida woman to be designated a “Woman of Change” by the American Association of University Women.

What we learned from Myra: “Associate with people who know things you don’t know, who have skills you don’t have, who have done things you haven’t done. Surround yourself with people who know more than you do and they’ll make you look good.”

Born to Lead

“In the 1960’s, I didn’t know there was a difference between men and women. I always thought of myself as an ad person, not an ad woman. When I was starting out, the closest that women got to management was as a secretary. I was a horse of a different color, I always wanted to be a leader.”

Redefine Failure

“Always learn from failure. Don’t run from it or deny it. Redefine it – not as a calamity but as a necessity. Success is often a liar. Failure is what keeps us honest.”

Be Indispensable

“At one firm, I was shocked to learn that my predecessor made twice what I was earning, but I didn’t go to the board. I made myself so important that the company couldn’t function without me. It worked. I ended up making more than twice what the other guy did.”

This Featured Lady was profiled by Megan L. Reese, WORDrobe™ Stylist for Her Write Image in West Grove, PA.

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Farshid Moussavi, Foreign Office Architects

5 Steps to Creating A Powerful
Attraction Marketing Plan for 2010

Laura West No doubt you’ve heard about the Laws of Attraction from everyone from Oprah Winfrey to your local bookseller. Laura West, Attraction Expert and Business Coach will show you how to finally harness the power of attraction into creating success in your business. Even with attraction you need to do more than go with the flow you need a focused plan.
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Farshid Moussavi

Farshid Moussavi

Co-Founder, Foreign Office Architects

Imagine being eight years-old and on vacation with your family in England while your home country of Iran is in the midst of a revolution. It’s 1979 and your parents make the decision to enroll you in a UK boarding school to keep you safe while they return to Iran. Not only are you young, alone and having to adjust to being in a foreign country’s boarding school, but all the classes are taught in English, a language which you now have to learn. For Featured Lady Farshid Moussavi, this was her reality.

Farshid describes this period of her life as, “not an unhappy time” and continued her international education, studying architecture in Scotland, Holland, Italy, England and the United States, where she earned her master’s degree from Harvard University. At age 26 she and her husband opened a practice, Foreign Office Architects. Farshid started teaching at the Architectural Association International School for Architecture in 1993 and won an international architectural design competition in Japan in 1995, at age 30. Her firm’s work has been showcased at venues including the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Max Protetch Gallery.

The win was widely published and Foreign Office Architects received industry acclaim; however, as Farshid explains, “Unless you have a commission, you’re always starting from a blank canvas. When doing competitions, you lose many and win few. It gets demoralizing.”

Describing her company culture as creative, demanding, ambitious and friendly, Farshid makes it a point to surround herself and her employees with people from other places so they can share experiences, learn from each other and approach discussions from differing angles.

In fact, Farshid deliberately designed her company to reflect diversity of thought. Foreign Office Architects embodies the concept of being unfamiliar with a certain context, and the creative freedom that allows. According to Farshid, “When something is foreign, you don’t know the rules so you aren’t constrained by them. You are distanced from the way it’s usually done. It’s unfamiliar so you challenge yourself.”

Yokohama Ferry Terminal in JapanAs a result, the London-based company is known as one of the most creative design firms in the world, integrating architecture, urban design and landscape in their projects. Having won many critically-acclaimed and award-winning international projects, the most notable is the Yokohama Ferry Terminal in Japan, which was completed in 2002.

On American soil, Foreign Office Architects was commissioned in 2006 to design the new Cleveland Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) building. The structure will be in the University Circle, the city’s cultural center, anchoring a planned arts and retail corridor adjacent to Case Western Reserve University. According to Farshid, “Foreign Office Architects is delighted that its first major project in the United States, and its first museum anywhere, is the design for a new building for MOCA Cleveland.”

Farshid’s vision for MOCA is to develop a concept that will accommodate diverse art forms, include ample and inviting public space, work within and contribute to an exciting urban area, and maintain high environmental standards – all while ensuring that the building will serve the needs of future generations.

Between being an international business owner, teacher and mother, there’s little time for a break, but for Farshid, the break has been teaching. She enjoys the freshness of thought provided by the students, which helps her generate business ideas. Teaching also gives Farshid perspective from outside the walls of her company. Since projects can take years to complete, she “can get too close” and needs to seek an outside viewpoint. Through teaching, her perception is enhanced.

In fact, Farshid is recognized as an outstanding and committed teacher, and has served as a visiting professor at UCLA, Princeton, Columbia and at architectural schools throughout Europe. In 2006, Farshid became a tenured professor at Harvard Graduate School of Design where she published The Function of Ornament, based on her research and teaching at Harvard. She has just released a second volume titled The Function of Form.

World Trade Centre Design

Foreign Office Architects, together with a group of their contemporaries formed United Architects to submit a design for the World Trade Center in 2002 following 9/11. In 2012, the world’s eyes will be on London for the Olympics, as well as on Farshid’s company, with Foreign Office Architects having played a central creative role in the master planning of the Olympic Park.

What we learned from Farshid: “Women need to believe in themselves. We have many skills for making successful businesses and creative ventures, plus we look at things differently. Women should have no fears and be fearless. ”

Balancing Act

“My biggest personal challenge is dividing my time among being a principal of a company, teacher, mother and woman. All these roles are enjoyable, but it’s about finding the right balance. I’m always planning and being efficient so I can make the most out of one moment to the next.”

Just Be You

“Men and women are not the same anywhere. The older I get, the more I just become a woman and can just be me. It’s less of an issue. I don’t have to speak, act or dress like a man, even though the world of architecture is 90% men. It’s refreshing.”

Be Unpredictable

“We’ve been successful because we try to listen, look and develop ideas through what’s happening around us and also add personal style. As a result, we’ve developed a certain skill. We strive to be less predictable and more interesting.”

This Featured Lady was profiled by Megan L. Reese, WORDrobe™ Stylist for Her Write Image in West Grove, PA.

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Sasha Lazard, Classical Crossover Artist

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Sasha Lazard

Sasha Lazard, Classical Crossover Artist

www.sashalazard.com
www.themythofred.com

Featured Lady Sasha Lazard is a classically trained opera singer who rebelliously pioneered her own musical style by combining operatic arias, jazz and Russian folk with a modern rock beat. She also recently launched The Myth of Red Salon – a creative series that fosters collaboration by great talents and encourages the mixing of genres and modes of artistic expression. In 2006, Sasha’s version of “Angeli” was featured in a Victoria’s Secret Angel campaign. This talented soprano has released five albums and performed at venues such as Carnegie Hall, The Whitney Museum, the Boom Boom Room and Catherine the Great’s Summer Palace in St. Petersburg, Russia.

A graduate of Bennington College, Sasha knew after her first month as an intern at ABC News that she was in the wrong place. The gifted opera singer never seriously thought she could make a career out of her talent, so she followed in the footsteps of other family members working in journalism. However, after spending time in an office setting Sasha felt trapped, so she left the newsroom to earn her master’s degree at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.

While on the west coast, Sasha found herself drawn to string players and forged friendships with instrumentalists. Sasha even began performing in a rock band with a cellist she knew, infusing her operatic vocal style with the beat of the music. She was intrigued and inspired by this new musical experience.

Sasha’s pursuit of her signature sound was interrupted in 2000 when a music producer heard her sing at a wedding. He wanted to turn Sasha into the next Celine Dion. Although she again felt out of place, this time trying to become a pop singer, Sasha gave it a shot. At one point, she returned to New York to sing back-up for a different producer and continue her education to become a Top 40 hit-maker. However, Sasha’s vocals inspired the producer to give her an opportunity opening for his performances.

While honing her craft in New York, Sasha took voice lessons from a famous opera coach. After one session when she was dressed in a crazy outfit for a party later that night, the coach commented, “Look at how you’re dressed. Listen to how you sing. Your destiny is for something else.” Sasha eventually rebelled against the constraints of the tight-laced opera scene, leaving behind her established career as a classical performer for a contemporary opera-fused electronic sound.

Described as one of the most innovative and extraordinary talents on the international music scene, Sasha was offered her first record deal in 2001. With an edgy sophistication and a desire for artistic freedom, she succeeded in creating a sound that has afforded her the opportunity to perform in venues around the world.

Sasha’s creation of The Myth of Red Creative Salon Series stemmed from her annual apartment holiday party (“a groovy happening”) where an eclectic mix of guests played piano, guitar and sang. Sasha realized that she had many talented friends and wanted to provide a way for them to be heard. Today, The Myth of Red Salon is held at the elegant National Arts Club.

Eventually, Sasha aspires to be established enough to make a huge impact through charity work. She also wants to help in her “own small way” by discovering new artists. Sasha also hopes to someday establish The Myth of Red record label.

Sasha is currently performing her concert series at the Standard Hotel’s Boom Boom Room and is working on another album. She and her husband are expecting their second baby later this year.

What we learned from Sasha: “When I realized I wasn’t going to have a Celine Dion voice, it felt like a setback; however, it was kind of a blessing. You never know what your path is going to be. The alternative can be better. I’ve learned from that and have such faith that it’s for a reason.”

Love it, Try it

“When you know what you love to do, you have to give it a shot. You have to try. It takes extreme perseverance.”

Expecting the Best

“Three years ago I was getting ready to sign a record deal with EMI for the duet album Siren when I found out I was expecting. I feared that everything was going to fall apart and that the label wouldn’t want to sign me. But I never sang better than I did when I was pregnant. It was so meant to be.”

Surround Sound

“You have to surround yourself with people you trust, with those who have the same vision. It’s all about choosing the right people to be on your team. Collaborate. Find the people that can.”

This Featured Lady was profiled by Megan L. Reese, WORDrobe™ Stylist for Her Write Image in West Grove, PA.

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Preeti Vasudevan, Artistic Director, Thresh

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www.threshdance.org and www.dancingforthegods.org

Choreographer and artistic ambassador Preeti Vasudevan bridges cultures, continents and centuries as easily as other dancers might execute a plie. The original works performed by her New York City-based dance troupe, Thresh, have earned international acclaim for their fresh juxtaposition of traditional dance forms from her native India with modern theories of movement and expression. And now, she’s connecting Eastern and Western perspectives through an interactive educational initiative that includes a research and development center in Chennai, India and the Web site, www.dancingforthegods.org, which is a comprehensive online resource for the traditional Indian technique of Bharatanatyam.

Having begun training in Bharatanatyam at the age of four-and-a-half and studied modern dance in New York City, Japan and London, Preeti exemplifies a new kind of artist and entrepreneur who mixes and matches a plethora of international ideas and experiences in all new ways. Since forming Thresh in 2004, Preeti has channeled her struggle to define her artistic and cultural identity into work that has garnered acclaim in the international dance community. In March 2009, her stage production, “The Absent Lover,” which she adapted from a fifth-century Indian play, “Vikramorvashiyam,” was one of 10 finalists chosen from 209 productions to be performed at the prestigious META Awards in New Delhi. The production won three awards, including best choreography.

As passionate about teaching as she is about performing, Preeti found herself longing to reach more dance students and educators than she was able to with her individual workshops. She and her husband spent two years in India gathering resources related to Bharatanatyam. The resulting Web site and DVD-Rom is the first step in what Preeti envisions as an ongoing dialogue between India and the U.S. and includes a curriculum for teaching Indian dance in American schools, which she developed in conjunction with the New York City Department of Education. Preeti will spread her message even further when she presents a workshop at the National Dance Education Organization’s annual meeting this June.

Having already distinguished herself as a visionary artist, educator and entrepreneur, Preeti clearly has a few lessons to teach others about the importance of balance, and not only when it comes to the art of dance.

What we learned from Preeti: “Routine is very important. So you think, ‘So many hours a day, I dedicate to this, and no more.’ You have to learn to say, ‘No,’ more. And you have to learn how to say, ‘Stop,’ and, ‘I’m sorry, I couldn’t do it today. That’s it.’”

Deciding Where to Hang Out Your Shingle

“I’ve always felt that…when you are embarking on your business, and for me, it’s the art business, you need to be right in the thick of it all, because you’re constantly bombarded by great creativity. There are few cities like that in the world, and for dance, basically, it’s New York City.”

Not Indian Enough

“I went to a very established dance management company in New York. They looked at my work and said, ‘It’s really good.’ I thought, ‘Oh great, I’ve got myself an agent.’ But they said, ‘We can’t take you on.’ I said, ‘Why not?’ And they said, ‘Well, you’re not Indian enough, and we already have an Indian company.’ And I said, ‘Do you say that to American companies? I’ve already got an American company.’”

Don’t Box Me In

“Presenters and organizers need to find that box they can define you by, so that they can market you. I said, ‘I’m not part of the Diaspora. I’m not doing fusion. I’m not prettily playing with Indian movement. I’m actually doing new work.” That wasn’t enough. That was really one of my major struggles.”

Learning to Think Like a Company

“Once you decide to form a company, the level of engagement is completely different…You’re not just looking to see if you want to make a new dance. That should have been taken care of awhile ago…You have a very kind of focused vision as to what your company is going to achieve, and how you differentiate between you, your work, and others, which is an ongoing process.”

Serve the Work, Not the Company

“We’re a very low-key, hire-oneself, fire-oneself kind of company, where we’re keeping the logistics and expenditures to a basic minimum, so that the work can get moving. So, when we bring people in, artistically or otherwise, they come in more on a project basis. It’s a very project-based company so far. Eventually, I’d like to set up a core team of permanent members, but right now, they come according to projects.”

Creating Time

“I think the key words are time management. If you can train yourself to be disciplined on the non-artistic, non-creative side, then you can get a lot of work done. But if you don’t, then it can affect your creativity, because your time is haphazard.”

Know When to Hold ‘Em

“I could have done this grant, but it would have been a very bad grant, so instead, I said, ‘I didn’t prepare enough, so I can’t do it this year.’ And I just let it go. It’s been very good….It helps you focus on the projects that you want to do. When you talk to people, you’re a lot more focused and a lot more passionate, and you’re not all over the shop.”

An Artist in Training

“Training never stops. I still continue to train in different ways — I feel, at this stage in my life, I need a particular kind of training. Five years ago, I was looking for something else — just so you don’t become stagnant. And you must also be very open to what’s happening. You continue evolving with the society. You don’t just get locked in a particular kind of time bubble.”

Bridging the Gap

“The ultimate goal, which we are slowly developing right now, is to build a bridge between India and the U.S. to do with technology and movement education. So, we’re building that large bridge now.”

The Role of the Artist

“What is the issue today that people have? It’s communication — global communication and cultural communication — and I feel that the performing arts plays a huge role in trying to bridge that.”

This Featured Lady was profiled by Sarah Tomlinson, a freelance writer in Los Angeles.

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Ariel Fox

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Founder, Sticker Sisters

There’s a reason Disney didn’t make Middle School Musical; seventh and eighth grades are a pre-teen tempest-in-a-B cup most of us would rather forget. Ariel Fox was no exception. Barely escaping eighth grade with her self esteem, she credits zines, handmade booklets written by others who didn’t “fit in,” for saving her sanity. Hoping to give back to this community of writers and readers, she was considering starting her own zine when she came across a group of girls who were selling stickers depicting strong female characters from children’s books. Ariel ordered some. But when they never arrived, she decided that rather than call the Better Business Bureau, she would just start a better business.

With a simple computer program and some sticker paper, she launched a product line of four stickers: Girl Power, Girls Can Do Anything, Punk Rock Isn’t Just For Your Boyfriend, and Visit Our Power Room. No financing, no business plan, no marketing strategy ; just a desire to help girls feel good about themselves. She asked thirty girls writing zines to help promote the business and she also distributed fliers herself. Orders poured in, often paid for with cash concealed in an envelope.

Ariel had her ups and downs but continued to build Sticker Sisters out of her basement all through high school and from afar while in college. These days the company has expanded to offer t-shirts, school supplies, shoe laces, Band-Aids and more, all because of Ariel’s passion for helping girls believe in themselves, proving Ariel had the guts and the gumption to start a business and really stick to it.

What we learned from Ariel: Start slowly, but start. Right away. Don’t wait until the time is “right.” The best way to learn is on the job.

Stuck in the Middle

Eighth grade was the worst year of my life. I was surrounded by cliques and back-stabbers and I never fit in. And I didn’t want to. I found friends by reading zines. There was sort of an underground community of zine readers and writers and as I connected more and more with girls who were open about their feelings I decided I wanted to return the favor and write my own zine. But instead I started Sticker Sisters. I was hesitant to bare my soul in a zine but with Sticker Sisters I could help girls in a way that was more comfortable for me.

Low-tech Launch

I launched Sticker Sisters with nothing more than my computer and some sticker paper. I asked my zine friends to talk it up and I also printed fliers and a little catalog. I was so excited when orders started coming in! It was so satisfying to think that girls from all over the country were embracing my messages, displaying them on lockers, doors, and pencil cases. It was just a great feeling.

Passion for the Post Office

One thing that’s particularly unique about me is that I’m a big fan of the post office. I have always been fascinated with how it works. I also love postal accoutrements- envelopes, padded mailers, stamps. There’s something about it all that I just want to be a part of. So preparing peoples’ orders, packing them up, and taking them to the post office was an incredible job perk for me.

Sticker Expansion

All through high school I grew the business, adding buttons, magnetic words, shoe laces. I was getting lots of orders but I was still too young to open a business account so I had to have my mom do it. I was also getting a lot of press in local papers and teen magazines like YM. I sent out one press release with stickers and a shoe lace attached to it. That was a big attention getter!

Hiring Help

During my senior year I finally had to hire help. Then when I decided to go to college in LA I had someone run the business for me while I was at school. She did a great job but when she moved out of town I almost closed up shop. I realized though that Sticker Sisters was such a part of me that I had to keep it going. I hired some of my mom’s high school neighbors. I didn’t pay a lot of attention to the business for a while and sales decreased which made me realize that I would get out of it exactly what I put into it.

Re-booting the Biz

After graduation I moved the business to LA where I was living. I was in my early twenties, far removed from that unhappy twelve year old I once was, and I wondered if my products were still relevant. But the turning point was a conference for girls held in LA at which I was a vendor. Hundreds of pre-teens came to check out Sticker Sisters and I experienced first- hand the positive reactions young girls had to my products. It was a revelation. Girls will always need encouragement and support and I want Sticker Sisters to be there to give it.

This Featured Lady was profiled by Ladies Who Launch Associate Editor Susie Lacey.

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Alondra de la Parra

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Founder, Philarmonic Orchestra of the Americas

www.poamericas.org

 

In celebration of Women’s International Day, Alondra de la Parra, Founder and Artistic Director of the Philharmonic Orchestra of the Americas, will conduct her world-famous ensemble in a thrilling show on March 5, 2009 at 7:00 in New York City that you won’t want to miss, especially because Ladies Who Launch members can buy tickets for $20.00 off! Alondra is one of the most charismatic, talented performers you’ll ever see and her concerts sell out in a flash. Don’t miss this chance to enjoy an evening of music you’ll wish would go on and on. Use promo code SOWC. Click here for more information.

Since Alondra’s original Featured Lady story ran in March 2007 she has continued to enchant audiences around the world. Recent highlights include concerts with the Houston and San Antonio symphony orchestras, appearances with the Singapore Sun Festival Orchestra and Actor Geoffrey Rush, touring Mexico with the Philharmonic Orchestra of the Americas, and conducting them in a tribute to Gloria Estefan at the 2008 Latin Grammy Awards. Alondra was also honored by New York City for her tremendous contribution to the arts. In May 2008 she became the youngest member of the Latin Grammy Awards board of trustees. In anticipation of another exciting performance on March 5 we’re re-running Alondra’s story so you can get to know her before you see the show!

Sometimes talking about your dreams as reality can help to make them come true…

Take Alondra de la Parra. She started introducing herself as the artistic director of the Philharmonic Orchestra of the Americas, before there was a Philharmonic Orchestra of the Americas.

That’s one of the ways the now 26-year-old Mexican conductor and pianist launched the orchestra’s debut at The Town Hall in New York in 2004. Today the non-profit continues to perform music from North, Central and South America and showcase emerging talent from these regions.

Dreams and Disappointments

Alondra: “I grew up in Mexico City. When I arrived when I was 19 in New York, I had studied piano and music composition in Mexico and had the dream of coming to New York and learning from the best musicians possible. When I got here, I realized how difficult it was not only for me, but also for others in my country and other countries in Latin America, to come to major cultural cities like New York and have not only the opportunity to learn, but also to be showcased and perform.

“That idea got stuck in my head and also the fact that very little Latin America orchestral music was performed in the U.S. It was always the same four or five pieces that would get performed. There was a disconnection and a gap there. I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be amazing to make an orchestra that only focuses on that music and focuses on opening doors for young performers to come to New York and grow?'”

One Thing Leads to Another

“What happened was the Consulate of Mexico requested I put together a concert featuring Mexican music. I basically put the idea together  to make a huge 65-piece orchestra at Town Hall and they said, ‘You’re crazy. We were thinking very small. A three to four person type of thing.’ So because I already had all of the project thought out, the next thing was to find sponsors.”

Pitching Her First Sponsor

“I was at school at the Manhattan School of Music doing my piano degree and conducting another orchestra as well, and there was going to be a festival of Mexican art. I thought it would be great to put this concert into the Mexican festival. I called (Spanish language media company) Televisa, which has been our major sponsor from the beginning… I called them and said, ‘I’m the artistic director of this orchestra and would like to request your sponsorship.’ But the orchestra didn’t exist.'”

Creating an Orchestra While in College

“It came through – they helped us build buzz. That was how the first concert happened. The audience was so pleased… we got good reviews… it was amazing. My teacher Kenneth Kiesler, who has been a very important influence in everything I’ve done, said, ‘You must be crazy if you’re not going to make this an ongoing thing.’

“From there it was looking for more sponsors… basically anyone who was interested in the orchestra became involved with it. I started to create a board of directors. We got all the legal things in place… all this while I was in school. It was a lot of not sleeping, a lot of work, no vacations, because I was all the time trying to do this.”

From Then to Now

“We have five concerts scheduled for this year with support from major figures from the music scene like Paquito D’Rivera and Tania Leon and many other people. All of a sudden, we’re like a toddler orchestra. And the PR  has been amazing! We’re planning our first tour to Mexico sponsored by Deutsche Bank.”

A Different Kind of Concert

“It’s not about just coming to our concert, listening to the concert and going home. It’s about meeting us, making friends with us, having a relationship with the orchestra. I usually talk at the concerts and involve the audience directly. We’re going to start an arts and education program where we’re going to go to schools in the five boroughs to educate children in areas of music making and composition.”

‘I Don’t Want to Watch from My Seat for the Rest of My Life’

“I was a very curious kid and always amazed by music and musicians. I always thought that making music seemed like the most incredible thing someone could do. I was so impressed with musicians. How can they do that? How can they make those beautiful sounds? How can they communicate so much without words? I thought… ‘I don’t want to watch them from my seat for the rest of my life and think that I would have loved to do that.'”

Support from Parents

“My parents always took me to a lot of concerts. It was my Dad who said, ‘Why not be a conductor?’ My mother is a sociologist and my father studied film and does work in a printing business. They are strong-willed people… when they have their mind on something, they go do it. My mother is a perfectionist. I inherited her obsession for detail and improvement and hard work. If you don’t know how to do something, and you work hard, you figure it out. You don’t have to be a natural for everything you do.

“There are a lot of things you can stretch yourself to do that you don’t think you can do. A lot of people told me I would never be a musician, I would never be a pianist, I would never be many things.”

Lesson from Conducting Coach

“I’ve been really blessed with good teachers, especially Kenneth Kiesler, who was the person who basically turned me into a conductor. Having someone so accomplished who believes in you – that really helps.

“He always has the most healthy point-of-view to put your mind in a state where it can grow.  Basically put yourself aside, that’s key. You have to take care of yourself, but also put yourself aside and serve the music and serve the musicians. Forget a little bit about yourself while you are there.”

Greatest Challenge

“The hardest thing for me is not to let go, not to stop or give up. It’s not easy… you’re opening a new path. Sometimes you’re like, ‘What am I doing? Why don’t I turn around and take one of the streets that are already built?’ To remember why I’m doing it, sometimes it’s tiring. What’s been great about this orchestra is it hasn’t let me give up. Because each time I think, ‘This is it’, then something incredible happens by itself… a major step in the orchestra… so of course it keeps going.” 

Music Makes the Back-Office Bearable

“We did our first POA Young Composers’ Competition, which has been truly one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done. It’s a young composers’ competition that reaches out to young composers to submit a piece for the orchestra. We got together a world-renowned panel of judges. We got entries from over 11 countries. We just decided who the winner would be. We can’t announce it yet, but the fact that this person is going to have an opportunity to have their music performed here, that motivates me to do all the back-office things that I don’t like doing.”

Favorite Music at the Moment

What I would really recommend right now is any of Osvaldo Golijov’s music. For popular music… my brother is a pop singer and I think I listen to his music the most. His name is Manelick de la Parra.”

Bedside Reading

“I have a very simple book that my teacher introduced to me. It’s called ‘The Tao of Leadership’ (by John Heider). Whenever I’m stressed out and I don’t know how to figure out things, I read a little bit, a couple of pages. They’re like lessons sort of… you can apply them to wherever you’re at. It makes you look at things from a relaxed and focused perspective and look at things a different way.”

Words of Advice

“If the mission is clear and it’s a noble mission, then everything grows out of that. Work on your mission, work on your goal, make sure it’s solid and stands on its own. That’s really what you’re going to be selling, pushing for and getting involved in… that’s what people want to get involved in. I see a lot of people wanting to do things, but they don’t have a clear mission and clear direction, and sooner or later that’s not going to work.”

Be Happy about Hardship

“It comes from my grandmother, but my father always says it, too. Your enemies are your best friends in the sense that… whenever there’s someone who wants you down or wants to hurt you or stop your way, it’s actually great because it’s when you get to step up yourself and go over that obstacle. Every time there’s something difficult my father gets very happy… he says, ‘That’s great that someone doesn’t like you because they’re actually doing something very good for you.’ It’s all about learning and growing.”

 

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