STRATA Success – Arwa Jumkawala

STRATA Member Arwa Jumkawala – GemKitty Jewelry

Arwa Jumkawala, Gemkitty

Arwa’s earliest memories have her crawling among multi-colored gemstones such as garnets, amethysts, and topaz of various shapes and sizes. Her parents, wholesalers of semi-precious gemstones, immersed their daughter in this vivid world.

In 2007, while living in Washington DC, Arwa decided to combine her love of jewelry design, and entrepreneurship by starting her own business. She participated in an incubator intensive that she credits as the catalyst for refining her business idea: Gemkitty Jewelry, a website where you become the designer and customize your own gemstone jewelry with a few mouse clicks.

“The vision really came together after seeing my female friends struggle to find jewelry that easily transitioned from day to night. I wanted to create a fun and easy way for them to design the perfect necklace,” says Arwa. “Also, when you’re involved in the creative process, the resulting product has much more meaning than one you just buy off the rack.”

GemKitty

Working as a pilates instructor by day and on her business by night, she officially launched Gemkitty.com’s online jewelry designer in the fall of 2009. Since launch, she’s been excited to see a steady growth in sales.

Running a start-up has been an exhilarating experience for Aria. “I’ve learned so much in the last two years; I’ve dabbled in everything from basic accounting to online marketing. I really love what I do, not only running the business, but crafting jewelry that I know is exactly what the customer envisioned.”

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STRATA Success – Keli Hazel

STRATA Member Keli Hazel – Keli’s Kreations

Keli Hazel, Keli's Kreations

Portable Jewelry Cases by Keli’s Kreations are highly innovative travel systems that keep your jewelry organized, safe and easily accessible. Each jewelry organizer is stylish, sophisticated and features four removable pads that allow you to organize your jewelry by ensemble and outfit. Packing is a snap, and your jewelry arrives just as you packed it, not in a jumbled mess. Portable Jewelry Cases by Keli’s Kreations include the hard-sided Diva Deluxe and the more compact, lightweight Diva Lite. The Diva Deluxe sells for $37.99, and the Diva Lite for $27.99.

Keli's KreatonsPortable Jewelry Cases by Keli’s Kreations are starting to catch on. They were recently featured in a story on a national website called Examiner.com. On-line articles also ran in all city-wide editions of Appen Newspapers with a reach of 100,000+. An article featuring Keli’s success story is slated to run in the February editions of Living Magazines with a readership of 75,000. In addition, Gift Guru, Robyn Spizman, has picked up Keli’s jewelry cases for a month-long feature on Star 94 radio station in Atlanta. Genesis Magazine has also expressed interest in featuring Portable jewelry Cases by Keli’s Kreations. As the word continues to spread, Keli Hazel is attracting more attention and interest with her new innovations. The marketing guru behind the success of Mr. Coffee believes in her products, as does “Everyday Edisons” who agreed that there were no similar products currently in the marketplace.

Keli Hazel is living proof that strong women can turn lemons into lemonade. After going through a divorce, the newly single mother of two decided to pursue her dream of bringing her invention to the market. However, she also had a strong desire to help other women in similar situations. That’s why she decided to donate a portion of her sales to Haven House, a non-profit organization that empowers women to rebuild their lives.

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STRATA Success – Katie Malachuk

STRATA Member Katie Malachuk – You’re Accepted: Lose the Stress. Discover Yourself. Get into the College That’s Right for You

Katie Malachuk

As a graduate of Harvard and Stanford, a consultant for a top admissions consulting firm, and the former admissions director for Teach for America, Katie Malachuk has a wealth of expert advice to share with all academic applicants. Yet her most valuable asset is the wisdom she has gleaned as an instructor at one of the nations top yoga schools. Blending her practical savvy with her keen spiritual insight, she illuminates an inviting new path in Your’e Accepted.

You're Accepted
Filled with dozens of insider tips on everything from writing The Dreaded Essay to seeing things from the admissions committees point of view, You’re Accepted equips you with first-rate tactics for honing all aspects of your application. Malachuk goes far beyond the tips in other guide books, though, by becoming your guru for the bigger questions represented by this transition. Supplying you with a whole-life philosophy, she tackles the anxiety of waiting for results, helps you identify your natural talents, provides advice for responding to loving but overbearing parents, and illuminates the road to true peace of mind in college and beyond.

Katie was recently featured in The Atlanta Journal Constitution. Click here to read her article.

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STRATA Success – Brett Blumenthal

STRATA Member Brett Blumenthal – Sheer Balance, Inc.

Brett Blumenthal

Sheer Balance is a media company that helps individuals find balance and health easily, naturally and sustainably. Brett Blumenthal founded Sheer Balance in 2007 when she realized that many of her friends and colleagues constantly struggled with finding balance in their every-day hectic lives. Although the company began online, it is now expanding into other mediums, including radio, and has started to offer Sheer Balance branded products and services, including: books, workshops, seminars and coaching.

"Get Real" and STOP Dieting!

In 2009, Brett Blumenthal authored her first book: “GET REAL” and STOP Dieting! In order to get the book to market within the year, retain copyright ownership and maintain control over distribution, she self-published under Sheer Balance.

Within a short month and a half of being out to market, “GET REAL” achieved #1 Bestseller status on Amazon and shortly thereafter, received bestseller status on barnesandnoble.com. She is now working with companies and organizations to bring the book to life through specialized seminars and workshops.

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STRATA Success – Peggy Menaker

STRATA Member Peggy Menaker – Fit For Print, LLC

Peggy Menaker, Fit For Print LLC

Ladies Who Launch Strata member Peggy Menaker is the founder of Fit For Print LLC, a multi-faceted consulting firm that provides professional copy-editing for Web pages and printed material and advises entrepreneurs, small business owners and non-profits with limited budgets how to garner free local press recognition.

Peggy was featured in the Business Section of “The Progress,” a subscription newspaper covering six Essex County NJ communities. The article publicizes Fit For Print and the first anniversary of its launch.

Peggy also was highlighted in “You Can Take Us Literally” featuring members of NJ Association of Women Business Owners who have a passion for the written word. The article appeared in NJAWBO’s “Essex Quarterly” print edition.

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How To: Find and Work With a Mentor

by Amy Swift, Chief Product Officer, Ladies Who Launch
Illustration by Barbara Hranilovich

Dozens of women approach me with the question, “How can I find a mentor to help me with my business?” This is a common request because not everyone has a sister who’s a legal eagle or a father who works as an international advertising executive. As entrepreneurs, we want someone we can call on to ask a quick question but also someone to sit down with to discuss the longer, more arduous details of a deal or overall business strategy. And we don’t want to pay for any of it.

Many people who think they need a partner or vendor would actually be better served by a mentor. A mentor is seasoned in the business you’re in; they have wisdom and experience in your particular area and a vested interest (not monetary) in helping you achieve your goals. But mentorship is a two-way street. There are people who love to give advice and support to those who need it, but there are limits to how you can use a mentor relationship.
Here are some tips:

1. Finding a mentor. A mentor is generally someone who has a personal investment or interest in you. You can find a mentor through SCORE or StepUp Women’s Network, but the best kind of mentor is going to be someone who already knows you (or loves you!) and wants you to come out on top. Seek someone near and dear; if you don’t have anyone (even a friend of a friend) in your wider Rolodex, then pursue a formal relationship through a mentoring program.

2. Set reasonable expectations. A mentor is not going to solve all of your business woes. They should be used for periodic counsel, but they are not there to offer in-depth business advice (unless they offer that). Set your expectations accordingly.

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10 Tips for the Creative Entrepreneur

by Jennifer Lee,
Ladies Who Launch Incubator leader, San Francisco Bay Area
Illustration by Barbara Hranilovich

Do words like “business plan” or “profit and loss statement” make your skin crawl? Do numbers numb you out? Would you rather draw, write, and create than organize, budget, and plan?

If so, then you’re probably what I call a “musepreneur.” A musepreneur is a creative entrepreneur who uses her right-brain intuition and inspiration to launch and grow a business. Sure, maybe your feathers get ruffled when you hear the letters ROI, but that doesn’t mean you can’t artfully run a business.

The key to being a successful musepreneur is to fully embrace your creative nature. Your artistic gifts can actually help you find fresh solutions to your business challenges and enable your ventures to grow in ways you would’ve never dreamed possible.

Here are 10 creative tips to help you do just that:

1. Enlist your imagination. Use your creative intuition to paint the biggest picture of your business success (literally or figuratively). Spend some time envisioning where you want to be a year from now and have fun with it. When you’re in touch with your vision, it’s easier for the details to follow.

2. Create a Right-Brain Business Plan. Your business plan doesn’t have to look like a traditional plan. What’s key is that you’re clear about your goals and that you have them on paper. My Right-Brain Business Plan is a collaged accordion book. The front has inspiring images to connect me with my big vision. The back holds details like financial targets, milestone dates, and marketing goals.

3. Play with the Post-it Note project plan. If detailed project plans overwhelm you, try planning with Post-it Notes instead. Write each task on a Post-it Note. Use different colors to categorize. Then begin arranging them on a large piece of paper attached to a wall. You can draw rows on the paper to show weeks or months and start sequencing the notes on a timeline. The cool thing is your plan isn’t set in stone. You can easily move the notes around as you gain more clarity about what’s next.

4. Track your progress (with flair, of course). When you’re juggling many creative projects (as most musepreneurs do), it can feel like you’re not getting anything done. Rather than getting frustrated, acknowledge that you’re moving forward even if it’s one baby step at a time. A great way to do this is to find a beautiful bowl, and each time you complete something from any of your projects, drop a bead into the bowl. Before you know it your bowl will runneth over!

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Incubator Relaunch: A Brand New Course

Some of you have taken a Ladies Who Launch Incubator. Some of you have never taken one but are curious. Well, we have big news! The entire Incubator program has been updated and refreshed with new transformative exercises, growth tools, and information specifically designed to generate real forward movement and clear goals. It will absolutely change the way you approach launching.

The Incubator is for the following people:

• Those who want to launch something but don’t know what
• Those who own a business but are feeling stuck as they try to take it to a new level
• Freelancers and anyone in private practice who needs to figure out how to monetize her services and get more referrals
• Partners who need to connect the dots in their business relationship and also get clarity on where their collective vision is headed
• Any woman with a passion or interest in birthing an idea or project who is ready and willing to take a leap and explore what could be waiting for her

This is the who, what, where, and how of business and launching. Get ready to be amazed and see major forward movement!

If any of the above sound like YOU, the new Incubator is definitely for you. Ladies Who Launch has influenced over half a million women-owned businesses, but our goal is to move 30 million women-owned businesses to new heights. Want to come with us?

Click here to see where and how to enroll in an Incubator near you.

What Is Twitter, and Why Should You Care?

by Katy Tafoya,
Ladies Who Launch member, Los Angeles

The first time I encountered Twitter was at the South by Southwest Interactive conference. They had computer monitors set up throughout with these obscure messages detailing what someone or other was doing. I didn’t get it, and honestly, I didn’t have any desire to get it. I thought it was just some geek thing. (Isn’t that how all these fun social media applications come about?)

Recently, I’ve noticed folks “tweeting” (that’s twit-speak for “updating” via Twitter) on their blogs. I’ve also noticed more and more bloggers talking about Twitter and how it was working for them both personally and professionally. That did it. I decided that I had to find out for myself. So, of course, I posted about it in my blog asking for someone to explain it to me.

That’s when it became clear to me that Twitter isn’t so easy to explain. But … it is easy to learn. More than one person told me that to get it, you just have to do it. In fact, a common response to “what in the world is this Twitter thing?” seems to be “much like sex, you can’t explain it, you need to experience it to get it.”

No Really, What IS Twitter?

Twitter is a micro-blogging platform. I like to think of it as a cross between blogging and IM’ing, publicly. Basically, you have 140 characters or less to tell your group of “followers” (twit-speak for “friends”) what you’re doing.

Your followers can be your friends, your co-workers, your clients, your customers, or anyone else who thinks you’re worth following. Your followers could be your favorite stores, small or large businesses, your favorite authors, environmentalists, your friendly Ladies Who Launchers, or even presidential candidates. You have complete control over whom you chose to be friends with and who you allow to follow you.

Yeah, But How Can It Help Me With My Business?

Think of social networking as your sales and marketing time. The more you put into it, the more you’ll get out of it. Twitter as a tool can be made into whatever you want it to be. If you want to do giveaways, you can. If you want to use it to hand out coupon codes, you can. Basically, Twitter allows you to directly connect to your clients and customers. It’s all about having conversations with clients, not at clients, through authenticity and transparency.

10 Ways Twitter Can Help Your Business

1. Allows you to communicate directly with your clients and customers as well as others in your field or niche.
2. Offers up brand recognition every time someone sends you a public message.
3. Attracts new clients through conversation and community.
4. Allows you to manage your own reputation and helps you keep track of your name/brand and what people are saying about you.
5. Through Twitter you have the chance to expand your network beyond your current circle of friends and acquaintances (the very definition of “networking”). You can meet new customers, new friends, or even mentors.
6. You can automatically set your Twitter account up to send out a message every time you’ve got a new blog post (using TwitterFeed) or you can manually promote your new content.
7. By posing a question to your followers, you can get answers to almost any question, whether it be about cooking, manufacturing, the Internet, or software. It’s almost better than Google, because you get answers in real time based on personal experiences and recommendations.
8. On top of simply posing questions, you can use Twitter to conduct research or interviews for your products, books, or articles.
9. Notify customers when you’ve having a contest, sale, promotion, or event, or anything you want them to know about.
10. Helps your SEO and search-engine rankings since most tweets are written in shorthand, using keywords.

Why Would I Want to Waste My Time With This?

As I outlined above, Twitter can be good for business. It’s all about building community, sharing your knowledge and expertise, getting your name out there, and being accessible.

Just remember, like many forms of social media and new technologies, Twitter can be addictive. Remember how we used to check our e-mail only a couple of times a day? Well, now many of us can’t sit through dinner or a movie without pulling out the Blackberry or iPhone. Twitter can be like that. When something great, not so great, funny, interesting, or embarrassing happens, you can’t wait to reach for Twitter and announce it to everyone you know. Yes, even while on vacation or at a conference.

Twitter Tips

• As with all social media services, even if you’re not yet ready to use it, do register your name—you never know when you might need it later.
• Don’t make it all about you—community is about the give and take.
• Do embrace the community and share your knowledge or links you find helpful.
• Do ask questions and be active; have fun with it.
• Do check out the followers of your friends and their friends. That’s how you build your own group of followers.

For more information on Twitter basics, check out the online Twitter Handbook by Coach Deb and Warren Whitlock or ProBlogger’s How to Use Twitter blog post.

Katy Tafoya is a member of the Los Angeles Incubator and the owner and editor of ConstantChatter.com, an interactive online women’s community and blog.

Ladies Who Launch is asking you … have you tried using Twitter? If so, share your experience with us in the Comments section below!

If you can’t beat ’em, tweet ’em! Join the Social Networking group!

How To: Think Like a Financier

by Christine Comaford-Lynch

illustration by Barbara Hranilovich

Before you approach a potential source, have a sense of what they’ll ask you. Three hints: opportunity size, competition, and marketing and sales strategy will figure into their questions.

As an entrepreneur you know that laser-like focus is what it takes to create something from nothing. Your relentless persistence often turns a “no” into a “maybe” and a “maybe” into a “yes.” Your ability to repeatedly muster the guts to take outrageous risks and ignore reality has been key to your success.

But that’s not enough when it comes to funding for your business. In fact, you often need to reverse your mindset and demonstrate your ability to be very realistic very quickly.

I’d love to tell you that financiers are eager supporters of entrepreneurs and can’t wait to write you a fat check. But this often isn’t the case. Cynicism and skepticism reign supreme. It’s hard to get a read on what those sitting across from you are really thinking. Remember the scene in “Annie Hall” when Woody Allen’s character is saying one thing to Diane Keaton’s character and thinking another? I am often in meetings where the financiers are saying one thing but their faces show something else. Once the meeting is over and the entrepreneurs are gone, they verbalize what their expressions meant.

If you want to get the best terms from the best sources, you must be able to think like a financier. Consider it an exercise in controlled schizophrenia. Heck, it’s better to walk a few miles on a polished marbled floor than to be tossed out on your butt on one. Why not skip the pain of your hindquarters smacking on cold stone?

Here’s how the most difficult financiers will screen for market size, competition, and marketing and sales strategy. In the following scenarios, I list the questions you’re likely to be asked and translate what the financier is probably thinking. I also include what the financiers will do to follow up on your answers. Better to be prepared than to be blindsided.

Financier Issue No. 1: Tiny Market Size

1. What’s the size of the primary market you’ll sell to? Secondary? Tertiary? State the projected growth rates of each today, tomorrow, and over the next three years.

Translation: That’ll stump them!

2. Why did you select these markets, and why in this order? What makes you think you can penetrate them?

Translation: What makes you so special?

3. You say you’re solving painful problems for your potential customer. What is the prevailing industry business model? What are the projected switching costs for the customer?

Translation: Bring it on, kid.

4. What is the selling cycle? What proof do you have? Do you have a long selling cycle for a premium product and a 50 percent shorter cycle for a “starter” or lower-end product? How is each relationship established? Sustained?

5. Who are the key purchasing decision influencers? What’s the average selling price? What are their budgets? When do they need to formally cost-justify a purchase? How do they do this?

What happens next: The financier will have an associate or intern research and verify the market sizes that you stated. They’ll also have them scan relevant blogs and collect industry news articles relevant to the available market.

Financier Issue No. 2: Tons of Direct Competition

1. What’s your competitive analysis: today, tomorrow, for the next three years?

Translation: All right, let’s get this over with. Yawn.

2. Which competitor was in the market first? What are they doing wrong? Where are they vulnerable? What’s their business model? How is it broken? How is yours better?

Translation: They better have a quadrant! I want a competitive quadrant!

3. What barriers to entry have you established? Intellectual property? Exclusive strategic alliances? What other types of protection do you have?

4. Rank your competitors by:

• First-mover/early-to-market advantage
• Product range, selection, and features
• Customer base, brand equity, ability to retain and attract new customers
• Capitalization and access to future capital
• Access to influencers, key executives, and their intellectual firepower

Translation: Heh, heh, heh. Might that be the rosy glow fading from their cheeks?

What happens next: The financier will have an associate or intern search a database like VentureOne to identify emerging competitors. They’ll also have them scan relevant blogs and collect industry news articles relevant to the market and product definition. Last they will confirm the competitive landscape and research existing and potential competitors.

Financier Issue No. 3: No Marketing or Sales Strategy

1. Who’s your target customer?
2. What specifically is your marketing strategy?

Translation: Bet they’ll miss the three key areas: marketing communications, product management, sales support, and, my favorite, lead generation/lead qualification.

3. What’s your branding strategy vs. the competition’s?
4. What are the details of your offline and online campaigns?
5. What’s the cost of your marketing and promotional programs in year one, post-financing? Year two? Year three?

Translation: It better track to sales. I hate marketing spend that exceeds sale.

6. What’s your sales strategy?

Translation: Please don’t say direct sales only. I couldn’t take that! And if they mention strategic partners, they better have something solid beyond the dreaded Letter of Intent. How about something specific, something binding?

7. Do you have distributors, intermediaries, or agents in various market channels?

8. What are your projected customer acquisition costs? Have you structured joint marketing ventures? At what cost? Will you have an affiliate program? At what commission rate?

Translation: I promise I will press the ejector seat button if you say, “Our service will be so viral we won’t need to pay to acquire customers!”

9. What customer data are you capturing? How strategic is customer database information? How will you use it?

What happens next: The financier will have an associate or intern search news sites and blogs that may shed light on the marketing and sales strategies of your competitors. They’ll figure out what channels they are selling through, how they are collecting a loyal following, how to potentially raid their customer base or how to assess whether customers will willingly go to a competitor.

The bottom line with a cynical or jaded financier is to be prepared. By having crisp answers to the above questions, and by having detailed backup in the event the financier wants to delve deeper, you’ll gain respect, and, if not financing, then often a referral or two to a more likely financing prospect.

Christine Comaford-Lynch is CEO of Mighty Ventures , an innovation accelerator which helps businesses to massively increase sales, product offerings, and company value. She has built and sold five of her own businesses with an average 700 percent return on investment, served as a board director or in-the-trenches advisor to 36 start-ups, and has invested in over 200 start-ups as a venture capitalist or angel investor. Christine has consulted to the White House (Clinton and Bush), 700 of the Fortune 1000, and hundreds of small businesses. For four free business-boosting podcasts, visit http://www.mightyventures.com/gift.

Ladies Who Launch is asking you … do you have any advice to share regarding dealing with financiers? If so, share it with us in the Comments section below!

Now that you can finesse the financiers, can you manage the money? Our Development Budget Worksheet can help!