Wendy Armbruster Bell

Bell focuses on women\'s issues by bringing breastfeeding back to the mainstream.Member of the Vancouver, BC, Incubator

My business is … Snugabell Mom & Baby Gear Ltd., which sources, designs, and produces mom and baby products that are fun, fashionable, and “frumpless”! Through lighthearted humor, we are trying to bring breastfeeding—the most natural and beneficial thing we can do for our babies—back into the mainstream as it once was 100 years ago. We are also committed to raising awareness around the demand for donations (both breast milk and monetary) at your local breast milk bank.

My dream is … to be content, to love what I do, and to be successful enough to work hard, play hard, and spend quality time with my family on MY terms.

I launched because … after having my second daughter, I didn’t want to go back to my job of 21 years at a telecommunications company—a job that, over the years and after a merger, just wasn’t the same anymore.

One day you’ll see me … on Oprah!

Ladies Who Launch has helped me … meet and network with incredible women, stay inspired, stay connected, and learn, learn, learn! I love the “put it out there and it will come to you” magic of Ladies Who Launch.

Want to connect with this member? Then join our free online Social Network!

Petite Fashion Expert Christa MacLellan

Member of the Toronto Incubator

My business is … Petite Fashionista, a multimedia Web site that is dedicated to petite fashion and the celebration of petites of all shapes. It’s the everyday fashion destination for women 5’4″ and under.

My dream is … to develop Petite Fashionista into the #1 trusted brand in the petite market (up next: a weekly Internet video show, shopping events, a clothing line, and a book).

I launched because … I found something that I couldn’t wait to do every morning when I woke up!

One day you’ll see me … in Vogue magazine, in a five-page interview about how I put the glamour back into being petite.

Ladies Who Launch has helped me … network with amazing women, determine what it is I want, and just go for it!

Josie Maran

Owner and Founder, Josie Maran Cosmetics

Meet Josie at the Ladies Who Launch Speaker Series, where she’ll be discussing how to launch a product, on July 9 in Los Angeles. Click for more info.

Whether you realize it or not, you’ve seen Josie Maran countless times. Not only was she the face of Maybelline for nearly a decade, but ever since she started modeling at age 12 she’s graced the pages of nearly all the top fashion magazines, has appeared in movies, TV shows, music videos, commercials, and video games and even did a stint as the Guess girl. Now her latest big project, motherhood, has inspired her to give back: In the fall of 2007 she launched Josie Maran Cosmetics, a fully non-toxic, organic, biodegradable line of makeup that is, as she calls it, her “chicological” contribution to the beauty world. Everything from the products to the recycled packaging to the soy ink on her labels passes the green glove test. With write-ups in such publications as Elle, Allure, Glamour, Lucky, and People, Maran is about to show the world that she’s not just another pretty face.

What we learned from Josie: Always keep the big picture in mind so you can keep growing. Even if you stray a little, you need to have a clear picture of where you’re going so you don’t get lost.


“After sitting in the makeup chair for so long I knew there was nothing out there that was glamorous AND really good for you. So I decided I’d just have to make it myself.”

Believe in Your Brand

“I based my brand on my own personal style. I wanted something that was feminine, earthy, and chic. My goal is to show that you don’t have to sacrifice your sense of style just to be green.”

Talk to the Pros

“I had no idea what I was doing—all I really had was the dream. Then I got really lucky and was introduced to a woman who has a huge makeup line; she took a meeting with me and told me how she did it. She pointed me to a great product development place, a great designer, and even some labs. We just had the one meeting, but she was really supportive after that.”

Love Thy Mistakes

“I’d never owned my own business and I’ve learned soooo much since I started. I appreciate the bad days because you learn from your mistakes. So I get to learn a lot! I also know that the good days are right around the corner.”

Just Do It

“I think Richard Branson said it best in his book Screw It, Let’s Do It. I totally jumped in blindly. I had a dream and believed I could do anything, but that was all I had. I didn’t even picture 90 percent of what I find myself doing now. I just did it step by step. I started by taking all my favorite makeup products to the lab and telling them that I wanted the same thing only without all the bad stuff.”

Green 411

“The three worst things to look out for in body products are petrochemicals, fragrances, and parabens. For moisturizer, I recommend organic Argan Oil. There’s nothing like it. As far as shampoo goes, I’ve tried everything and have yet to be satisfied. Looks like I’ll have to start making that too!”

Boss Lady

“It’s really challenging because I have to be the boss and pay the bills rather than just have fun with my employees. I have to constantly be honest with myself and other people, treat it like a business first and worry about being nice all the time second, which is really hard for me. Also, since I haven’t been to business school it’s hard to always look at the bottom line and know when to cut back. I put all my money into this company, so it’s been a really good reality check about what money means to me and how it affects what I do.”

Passion Is the Best Research Tool

“I’ve always been very conscious and green so I was really passionate about researching how to do this. I also had 17 years sitting in the makeup chair as a model, so I knew everything that was out there. The idea came about because I knew I wanted to do something to promote health and eco-consciousness, and I was a known entity in the fashion world, so creating my own line of makeup made the most sense. Plus, I really just hated all the toxic makeup that I was wearing for so long.”

Finding Balance

“Being away from my daughter is both good and bad. I spent my first year with her and I actually enjoyed my time away from work. Now it’s hard when I have to be away from her for too long. And I know that if I didn’t have a family I’d be at work for twice as long, so she really forces me to have balance by pulling me away.”

You Vs. Your Brand

“The company is built on my values of being socially and personally responsible. I hope if I ever sell the business that they keep those values. I’m as green as I can be and so is my company.”

Biggest Challenge

“Timing. Getting the distribution and the products organized. So much goes into each product—labels, packaging, etc.—and because it’s organic it has a shorter shelf life. You have to ship it off at precisely the right time.”

Biggest Obstacle

“There are so many right now. I guess the biggest obstacle though is making a lot out of a little.”


“If you’re going to put more stuff on the planet, make sure it’s sustainable. Practice eco-preneurship. Also, be more aware of what you put on your skin!”

Next Up …

“I’m working on becoming the green Martha Stewart. I want to do home and apparel and then baby clothes and toys and gardening. It’s a whole ecopire. Or greenpire. Something like that!”

This Featured Lady was profiled by Jen Sincero, an author, columnist, and Ladies Who Launch Incubator leader based in Venice Beach, CA.

Romy Taormina and Carla Falcone

Co-Founders, Psi Bands

Many women know that pregnancy will ultimately give them a little bundle of joy, but for Romy Taormina and Carla Falcone, it also gave them a booming business venture.

Their company, Psi Bands, was born out of both women’s morning sickness. While Romy was helping with Carla’s baby shower, the two rejoiced in their discovery of acupressure bands and how much they helped, but bonded over the fact that despite their efficacy, the bands weren’t so pretty to look at. Surely, they thought, someone could be doing a better job with this uber-useful accessory. With the help of third partner Pieter Schouten, who brought engineering and design to the table, Psi Bands was born.

What we learned from Romy: “Grow at a manageable pace. Don’t go for the gusto, because the gusto could put you out of business.”

Style Meets Function

Romy: “We wanted to make bands that were stylish and more functional. The products that were on the market weren’t even waterproof. These are acupressure bands that have been scientifically proven to relieve not only nausea from morning sickness, but also nausea from motion sickness, anesthesia, and chemotherapy. For a product to help relieve motion sickness, you need them to be waterproof. We wanted our bands to be not only waterproof and comfortable but we wanted to be able to adjust the amount of pressure that is being applied. And we wanted to customize the fit. That’s why we created a watch-style band.”

Filling in the Gaps

“Carla and I both have business backgrounds and had worked at PR and advertising agencies. We realized we needed additional expertise, and that’s why we brought in our third business partner, Pieter. He has the engineering and design component that we lacked. Pieter is a product designer by trade, this is what he does, so we started with the napkin sketches and talked about the inadequacies of competing products.”

What’s in a Name

“‘Psi Bands’ is a play on words. ‘Sigh’ as in ‘breathe a sigh of relief’ and ‘PSI’ as in ‘pounds per square inch,’ which is a unit of pressure.”

Prototype to Physical Product

“Pieter went to his computer and sketched it out, then we hired an engineer to create the design file. The design files are then shared with the manufacturer, who we found through personal relationships. A lot of our success has been based on who we know or asking for help. We went through several prototype revisions and fine-tuning, making sure that all the t’s were crossed and the i’s were dotted until we were pleased. That’s when we launched into production.”

Then, the Production Process …

“The production process is when the engineer comes into play, because he specs it out spatially, then the design file is sent to the manufacturer. Pieter works directly with the manufacturer testing different materials—what works well, what molds together well. We had to hire a fulfillment center, which we also found through word of mouth. Once the product was shipped from overseas it was sent to the fulfillment center, and then directly to our retailer. Our first account was Longs Drugs: 500 stores.”

Networking at the Mommy Group

“Carla had her first baby and was in a mommy’s group, and one of the moms sitting next to her happened to be the daughter-in-law of the president of Longs. The woman told her father-in-law about the product and he put the buyer in touch with Carla. From that point we set up an in-person meeting, met with two buyers, rolled into two different departments of their store, and that all was based on a prototype. We have an MSRP of $14.99-$19.99. We are rolling out into 5,000 Rite Aid stores this month. And we will be on QVC.”

Waiting on the FDA

“Getting FDA clearance was our biggest challenge. We are not a typical start-up company, in that we have a Class II medical device. We have to adhere to certain government regulations. We are an FDA-cleared product.”

Money, Money, Money

“Our initial investment was probably $150,000, which came from investments and home equity lines of credit. We split the cost evenly. We financed it for quite a while and then it got to a point where we got a bank line of credit. It’s our goal within the next six to nine months to start paying that money down, but right now it’s important to keep putting any money that we do earn back into the company.”

The Patent Truth

“You can patent a design, but you cannot patent an idea. Anybody can create an acupressure device, but our design is unique and that’s what’s patented.”

Sharing the Vision—Or Not

“Our biggest mistake was partnering with people who did not have the same long-term vision we share. For example, we are on our third Web site programmer, and we finally feel like we found the right one. The Web site is an evolving platform, and we need someone who will continue to grow with us.”

A Balancing Act

“It’s a juggling act. I primarily work when the kids are in school, when they go to bed, and on the weekends. I try to balance that with trying to make sure that my relationship with my husband is strong, so I need to know where to draw the line; if it’s not urgent it can wait until the next business day.”

Believe and You Will Achieve

“The personal gratification I feel is on many levels. I have extreme empathy for people who suffer from nausea after experiencing such very difficult pregnancies of my own. Being able to provide people with something they feel good about wearing, not only from a fashion standpoint, but also from a physical standpoint, is great. I was taught as a child that if you put your mind to something you can accomplish it. I enjoy that I am a role model for my children.”

This Featured Lady was profiled by Kristin Herold, a freelance writer and entertainment reporter in Los Angeles.

Organizing Tip Of The Week 6.12.08

It’s Time To Kick Our Boots Into Storage!

Since the warm weather has arrived here in NYC I am sure it is starting to get warmer elsewhere as well. With temps on the rise it’s now time to place your boots on hold till the fall. In order to keep them organized and also in good shape for next year you will want to place all your boots in an area where they can stand up right or lay flat with nothing on top of them. You will want to either buy boot stands (which you place inside the boots so they keep their shape) or you can simply place tissue paper or newspaper inside them. If you’re crammed for space I recommend buying an under the bed storage unit that slides under your bed or couch (Tupperware brand makes a few). This is where you can lay your boots that have been stuffed on their sides for summer storage. Another option if you have some extra space such as a basement (not an attic too hot for the leather it will damage your boots) you can buy a shipping box or plastic storage container that is the right height for your boots and stand them up inside the box for safe storage.

Your Organizer –

Lisa Augustyn


(Click here to register or purchase tickets)

Handbag Designer 101 invites you to compete in the Second Annual Independent Handbag Designer Awards, the only handbag competition of its kind in the world. Win a chance to present your handbag at a high-profile New York event and compete for one of six Awards for Handbag Design Excellence, international recognition, a variety of coveted prizes, and a chance to have your handbag go on a marketing press tour.

To participate in the open call, you are required to upload one digital jpeg image in any one or more of the following categories:

  • Best Student-Made Handbag
  • Best Handmade Handbag
  • Most Socially Responsible Handbag
  • Best Green Handbag
  • Audience-Selected Handbag
  • Best Handbag in Overall Style & Design
  • Submissions will be accepted until April 15, 2008.

    The staff of Handbag Designer 101 will review all submissions at a Prescreening Event in late April. At this Prescreening, HB101 will choose five finalists in each category who will be judged on the merits of their submitted designs. All finalists will be invited to participate in the Second Annual Independent Handbag Designer Awards that will take place on June 18, 2008 at the New York Historical Society in New York City. (Note: Finalists or their representatives are responsible for their own transportation to the event.)Finalists must provide the handbag shown in the photo submitted to compete at the IHDA. The finalist’s handbags will be on display on the evening of the event. Over 500 members of the fashion industry, including press and retailers, will attend the Independent Handbag Designer Awards.

    A fashion panel of esteemed and influential handbag design experts, editors, stylists, buyers, and professors will judge the designs presented and select a winner from each category who will receive the Best Handbag in each respective category and determine who truly stands out as an Independent Handbag Designer.

    These finalists will have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to have their bags featured in a window display at Henri Bendel, and to participate in a trunk show to promote and sell their lines at the store. In addition, the winner of the Best Student-Made Handbag will receive an apprenticeship with the Henri Bendel accessory design team.

    The winner of the Best Overall Handbag in Style and Design will have the chance to showcase their award-winning handbag collection with a free 10×10 booth (a $6,000 value) to 120,000 fashion industry influentials at the WWDMAGIC Accessories Show in Las Vegas, August 27-30, 2008.

    This winner will also garner the opportunity to have their bag featured and sold on Bag, Borrow or Steal.

    Qualifications per Category:

    Best Student-Made Handbag: Students who have successfully started their lines while still in school

    – Currently attending high school or university
    – Bags must be under student designer’s own label
    – Major in Design is optional

    Best Handmade Handbag:
    Sewn, crocheted, knitted or any other material where the designer themselves is making their bag by hand or machine

    – Bags must be made by you, by machine or hand
    – Bags must be under designer’s own label
    – Mass manufacturing on any level is not acceptable

    Most Socially Responsible Handbag:
    Bags that meet certain ethical and moral standards in regards to production, employment, and philanthropy and have impacted the local culture of the country of manufacturing

    – Bags must be under designer’s own label
    – Bags that are made where a portion of the proceeds are given back to that country of manufacturing
    – Bags must be made by local communities to create jobs
    – Bags that have helped improve the quality of life in the local culture in the country of manufacturing

    Best Green Handbag: Bags that are made out of sustainable, recycled, or organic materials

    – Bags should be made from 100 percent organic cotton, hemp, bamboo, or other raw materials, OR 100 percent recycled materials (could be recycled cloth, recycled soda bottles, recycled vinyl, etc.), OR one of the new corn-based fibers, or in some combination
    – All components-metal zippers, buttons, clasps, snaps-should be made from recycled metal or reused pieces
    – The bag should be recyclable at the end of its life
    – Any dyed fabric should be done with a nontoxic dye that doesn’t use toxic fixing agents

    Audience-Selected Handbag: Handbag designer selected by Handbag Designer 101 and Bag, Borrow or Steal voters, based on finalists of the preliminary judging panel

    Best Handbag in Overall Style & Design: Best executed handbag overall in style and design

    – Bags must be under designer’s own label
    – Bags must be unique in their overall style and design

    Deadline: All entries must be received by 11:59 p.m. on April 15, 2008.
    Entries submitted without full information filled out will be disqualified.

    To register proceed to the application form.

    To purchase tickets for the event click here.


    Click here to view the 2007 IHDA Finalists and images from the 2007 Independent Handbag Designer Awards.