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    Featuring Female Small Business Owners: 15 Women Whose Entrepreneurial Journeys Will Inspire You

    NOMADS SWIMWEAR + TAYLOR LONG

    "People can wear whatever they'd like, regardless of their size, and it's our job as a brand to create pieces for bodies of all sizes."

    About Nomads Swimwear: Through my experience as a designer, I've been exposed to the glacial pace that the fashion industry has taken when it comes to making size inclusion a priority. One of the many segments of the industry that this glacial pace is evident is the swimwear industry. Throughout my time as a plus-size model, this became apparent while on swimwear jobs where I was having to model matronly and modest swim styles made for curvy and plus-size women. I was often left wondering, who would wear these? Where are the cute brands that have extended sizing? Enter Nomads. We are bridging the gap by offering continuity across sizes in our chic, bold swim styles to show that real size inclusion is possible! It is our belief that everyone should have access to the same style of clothing, no matter their size, that is why it is so important for us to have an extensive size range of sizes XS-5X! 

    Uhm, can we just tell you, what you're doing with size-inclusivity is something that we are SO excited to see come into the clothing scene! You've got to have at least one design that is your all time fave, which is it?  

    It’s so hard to choose just one. But if I had to pick my top three would be the Bay, Current, and the Wave!

    What has it been like building a company like NomadsSwimwear? How did you come up with the idea and how did you get started? 

    It’s been a challenging and interesting but fun experience to say the least! Nomads started as my capstone collection in my final semester of fashion design school at the University of Cincinnati. It was there that I learned the fundamentals of design and was able to find the inspiration for the brand and the first collection. Coupled with my experience as a model and my exposure to the market, it became crystal clear just how necessary creating a brand like Nomads is.

    Let's get into the nitty gritty-- being a business owner in today's world can be extremely challenging. Did you ever want to give up/quit? How did you deal with this feeling + overcome it?  

    There are definitely days when I feel overwhelmed but never days when I want to completely quit and give up. On days when I feel overwhelmed, I try and take some time for myself and do something relaxing or something that brings me joy.

    How do you manage work-life balance? How has this shifted since you first started the business? 

    To be honest, I’m still figuring out that balance. As a founder of a new brand, it can be a lot of late nights and early mornings which makes it hard to have that balance, at least initially. But as we’ve grown, I’ve tried to set my hours and give myself that time to fully “clock out” and recharge.

    Your inbox status says so much about your personality, so we have to know! Are you the kind of person that has an empty inbox or the kind of person who has thousands of unread emails? 

    I wouldn’t say I have SO many unread mails, I do have a few unread marketing emails from brands. Does that count?

    Girl, you are KILLING it with your features in Marie Claire + Forbes. What has been your most memorable experience as a business owner?

    There’s been several memorable moments even though we only launched in July of 2020. Forbes was definitely up there but other memorable experiences have been being selected as a Founder of Change by American Express and the first Home For Dreams initiative recipient by Parachute Home. 

    Have you gotten any backlash from customers or the fashion industry? Have you been faced with challenges because your swimwear is size inclusive? 

    Lately I have gotten some backlash, but it hasn’t come from the industry. It has come from older women who find us via Instagram or Facebook and don’t like seeing liberated curvy and fat bodies. Whenever this occurs, I try and use it as a teachable moment and explain to them that people can wear whatever they’d like, regardless of their size, and it’s our job as a brand to create pieces for bodies of all sizes.   

    Where do you get inspiration from when designing new swimwear collections? Where does that spark usually come from? 

    Each of our destination collections are inspired by a different destination. Our  photographs we take there are how we create our one-of-a-kind prints. 

    What kind of interview would this be if we didn't ask everyone's "favorite" question? Where do you want to see Nomad Swimwear in 5 years? What's your long-term vision?

    In 5 years, I definitely see Nomads expanding into new categories like resort wear, activewear, and loungewear. Those are all categories I love designing, so I’m excited to see the brand expand over time. 

    What piece of advice would you give to female business owners just starting out? 

    Be patient and don’t give up. I think so often we hear about brands being overnight successes and that can really cloud how we think of our businesses and successes. We don’t always hear about the years in the making that led to that moment of success for the brand. And like anything, good things take time so it’s important to apply that to our own lives, brands, and entrepreneurial journeys.

     

    Learn more about the Small Biz Strong movement here! 

    Purchase a bracelet for yourself or gift one to a strong, small biz owner here! 

    SPOTLIGHT SERIES: Poppi + Allison Ellsworth

    "People say you can't have both, meaning and a full-time business and being a mom and I don't believe so at all! I love my time at work and I love time with my kiddos." 

    About POPPI: Allison had been looking for solace from her chronic health issues, and apple cider vinegar answered her prayers — after drinking it every day for a week her symptoms all but vanished. Poppi is a pop with natural sweeteners and fresh fruit, so you can get all the benefits of ACV without the overpowering taste! Cheers! 

    Learn how entrepreneur Allison Ellsworth got started with POPPI, and how she and her business overcame the struggles of this past year. 

    Our favorite office flavor is easily strawberry-lemon. As the founder of Poppi, you've got to have a favorite flavor! Which flavor would you say has your heart and your taste buds?

    So hard to choose between all of our amazing flavors, but I always find myself reaching for Strawberry Lemon! This flavor is close to my heart because it is one of the first flavors I came up with. You can’t ever go wrong with a cold Strawberry Lemon!

    So, tell us, how did you come up with the idea for Poppi? What sparked the idea and how did you turn it into a full-time business? 

    I came up with Poppi, when I was pregnant with my son. I was experiencing a bunch of health issues and visited many doctors, with no answer as to why I was feeling so sick. I then decided to do my own research and discovered Apple Cider Vinegar! I gave it a try and it ended up making me feel so much better!! The taste on its own is horrible though, so I made it into a drink that tasted amazinggg. I started this as a passion project and sold my tasty secret at the local farmers market, and now it’s on grocery store shelves nationwide!!

    We want all the dirt! What was it really like to be on Shark Tank in 2018?! (& not to mention, you were pregnant at the time!) 

    It was definitely a life changing experience that is for sure. I was SUPER pregnant at the time and I went to an open casting. We got the call one night that we were selected to be on the show, and I had to get there the next day. I was ready to pop at any moment, but I knew I had to be there and had to make this happen because it was a once in a lifetime chance. It ended up being beyond worth it. I had my son Theo a few days after the show! 

    Your business was set for its big debut in March of 2020, but then as we all (unfortunately) know, the pandemic hit. How did this impact your business? Did you make any major pivots during this time? 

    I think that social media and the beauty of engagement on the internet really helped take Poppi where it is now. People were stuck at home, but they were also on their phones more than ever, so with the use of social media we were able to get our name out there during a time where no one was going anywhere. We really made the most out of a difficult time and sticky situation!

    What's it like building a company like Poppi and being a mama of two kiddos? How do you manage work-life balance? 

    I’d be lying if I said it was easy. But thankfully my husband Stephen and I run the company together so that is a huge help. People say you can’t have both, meaning a full-time business and being a mom and I don’t believe so at all! I love my time at work and I love my time with my kiddos. I’m so lucky! It’s all worth it. 

    Where can we find you when you're not working on Poppi?

    At home with my family & our dog buddy! We also like to be outdoors & take the kids to the park. I am busy with Mom life and really try to spend as much time with my two little ones doing crafts, cooking in my kitchen, or taking the kids to sports.

    If you could give any piece of advice to a new female-entrepreneur, what would it be? 

    My piece of advice would be to go for it! You’ll never know until you start and I think majority of the process is just starting. Make sure it is something you are seriously in love with and fully believe in and you will go places. Everything happens for a reason and when many doors are shut on you, it will lead you to the correct opportunity!    

    What kind of interview would this be if we didn't ask everyone's "favorite" question. Where do you see Poppi in 5 years? What's your long-term vision? 

    I want Poppi to take over big soda! Anyone and everyone can drink Poppi, while enjoying the taste and not to mention the benefits. Things that are good for you can taste GOOD too. My goal is for our product to provide happiness one can at a time. We represent so much more than just a beverage. We say our drinks are happiness canned, and that’s truly what we believe! 

    We have to know, what's your biggest guilty pleasure? 

    I have a sweet tooth.. so donuts! Haha. I’m gluten free though so it’s incredibly hard to find good ones. My favorite donuts are from a place called Sidecar in Southern California. They are amazing!!!

    We all have that one moment in our entrepreneurial journey that sticks out as being a truly memorable experience. What's your's?

    When I was selling my product at the farmers market in Dallas and a Wholefoods buyer happened to be there shopping! She tried Poppi (Mother Beverage at the time) and she was instantly in love with the taste. That experience was a stroke of luck and I am forever grateful! We wouldn’t be where we are without that right place right time moment.

     

     

    Learn more about the Small Biz Strong movement here! 

    Purchase a bracelet for yourself or gift one to a strong, small biz owner here! 

    CUT & ICED: CARA HANSON

    "I never dreamt I would be a small business owner, but slowly and surely I got certified and licensed and before I knew it, I was officially in business." 

    Learn how entrepreneur Cara Hanson got started with CUT&iced, and how she runs her business while being a mom of three kiddos. 

    Let us just put this out there, we are OBSESSED with your cookie designs. You've got to have a favorite design or recipe you've made so far. Is there a cookie or set that stole your heart?

    Thank you! I do have some favorite sets for sure…they are always the ones that are hardest to let go out the door haha. An early favorite was one of the first sets that I had creative license from the client. Her son was turning three and his birthday was a “snorkel and sea” theme. I made these super fun jellyfish cookies that I am still in love with more than a year later! I also made an Amalfi Coast themed wedding set last summer for a small elopement style ceremony (oh, covid…) and I loved making those too.

    We need to know where your love for making cookies came from! Were you that little girl who always baked in an easy-bake oven?

    I never had an easy bake oven, but I did enjoy being in the kitchen.  I have always enjoyed baking more than everyday cooking, but the cookie love honestly didn’t come until the very end of 2018 when I stumbled upon it through a demo class with my local Mothers of PreSchoolers group.  I took a class at the beginning of 2019 from local cookie celebrity Aime Pope (@thepaintedpastry), was instantly obsessed and never looked back!

    What was your "ah-ha" moment, when you decided to pursue your journey as a small business owner? What inspires you to keep going? 

    After practicing cookies for several months and having what seemed like a never ending stream of friends and acquaintances inquiring about events, the cogs started turning and my husband surprised me by suggesting I go for it and start a business. I never dreamt I would be a small business owner, but slowly and surely I got certified and licensed and before I knew it I was officially in business.  There are definitely some days, especially when I am up in the wee hours of the morning flooding cookies, that I wonder “why am I doing this?” but then a set comes together or my son comes downstairs and gasps at the cookies I made overnight and it renews my motivation.  My kids inspire me all the time and my inner motivation to continue to learn, improve, and grow keeps me going as well. 

    The pandemic definitely changed plans for many people. How did it impact your cookie business? Did you make any major pivots?  

    Prior to the pandemic, I was booking out 6-8 months and many orders were for multiple dozens.  My kiddos were in school and preschool, so I had some day time hours to work and things were running fairly smoothly.  In the early days of the pandemic all my orders cancelled.  I actually spent the time taking online classes myself and working on new skills and techniques that I hadn’t had time to try due to being so busy.  I focused on building a website and rebranding to celebrate my first business anniversary which helped bide the time when I wasn’t making cookies.  By the end of the summer, I got back to taking orders again, but things had shifted.  Most orders were for a dozen or less (no big parties, etc.) and I also had my kids home full time now, so it sort of worked out for the best on it’s own.  One of the biggest disappointments was all of the cookie workshops I had scheduled for 2020 getting cancelled.  I was an educator before I had my children and I was so excited to share my new love of cookies in a workshop format.  I am still trying to figure out how to pivot that piece of my business, but I have some exciting things in the works, hopefully being announced soon!

    Don't hold back, we want the honest truth... what has been the most difficult part of being a small business owner? 

    Gosh, mostly it has been really fun, but I think the most difficult part is probably the emails and communication.  I think people often forget that small businesses are often one person.  Due to my residential kitchen license, I am unable to hire employees outside the residence, so it is always just me, myself, and I.  And that one person is not only running the business side of the business, but baking all the dough, icing all the cookies and on top of that being a full time mama and wife.  It’s a lot of plates up in the air and when you get that one email or Instagram message that doesn’t have the best tone, it’s difficult to not take it personally.  I will say though that I have some of the most understanding and patient clients and for that I am so, so grateful!!

     

    What is it like running a super successful business like CUT&iced and being a mama to three kiddos? How do you manage that work-life balance?

    Thank you!  It is a lot and if someone has the answer to the work-life balance, let me know!!  In all seriousness, my day time hours are for the kiddos.  The reason I even went down the business road with my cookies is because I can work in the evenings and the early morning hours while my kids are sleeping.  Our mornings are spent homeschooling, afternoons are for play, chores, lots of outdoor time, etc. and then after we clean up from dinner and I get them all tucked into bed, then the cookies come out.  Sometimes when an order needs finishing up, I’ll work on it during the day time hours, but I really try hard to be present with them during the day.

    What to do you do to relax when you're not baking and creating gorgeous cookies? 

    Hmmm…I actually take on non-business cookies (like art collabs and such) which makes it fun for me.  Otherwise, I love hanging out with my husband.  We have been making good sport out of traversing our way through Netflix during the pandemic haha, but we also enjoy board games.  I also love a good self care night…foot soak, face mask, etc.   

    What is the best piece of business advice you've ever been given? 

    Set boundaries and stick to them.  And it’s ok to say no.  In the beginning, I said yes to every order, every opportunity and a couple of them almost broke me.  Now more than ever with having even more on my plate, sticking to my boundaries is so important.  The beauty of being your own boss is you get to set the rules!  

    What piece of advice would you give to another female business owner that is just starting her journey?  

    Good question!  I think it would be don’t make hasty decisions.  Do your research and know your field.  And have fun!!  Owning your own business is hard and exhausting, but it should still be fun because you are doing something you believe in and are passionate about. 

    What kind of interview would this be if we didn't ask everyone's "favorite" question?! Where do you want to see CUT&iced in 5 years? What's your long-term vision for the business?

    That is a tricky question.  Ideally I would love to have a little cookie empire in five years, but while custom cookies are trendy now, who knows if they will be a thing of the past in five years.  Hopefully they are bigger than ever!  I would love to be able to teach workshops regularly and maybe even develop my own line of merchandise or products.  The sky’s the limit right?

    www.cutandiced.com

    @cut.and.iced - FB and IG

    cut.and.iced@gmail.com

     Learn more about the Small Biz Strong movement here! 

    Purchase a bracelet for yourself or gift one to a strong, small biz owner here! 

    Rashelle Whiteharris + Women's Collective Box

    "It feels like I am putting together gift baskets for friends each time a new season starts." 

    The journey with Women’s Collective began in March of 2020. Having experienced, firsthand, how women, their ideas, and their products flourish within communities that value their voices and empower them to succeed, Rashelle felt inspired to harness the soul-stirring energy that comes from women supporting each other’s dreams. Learn how entrepreneur Rashelle Whiteharris got started with Women's Collective Box, and how she and her business overcame the struggles of this past year. 

    We want to tell you just how much we LOVE the community you're building of strong, entrepreneurial women! Tell us how you came up with the idea for Women's Collective Box and how you got started. 

    I wanted to start a business that helped support small, women-owned businesses. I wasn’t sure exactly what that was going to look like at the beginning. My first idea was actually to start a magazine, but I really wanted to find a way I could get products directly into consumer’s hands and that’s how WCB came about.

    What has it been like building Women's Collective Box in the middle of a global pandemic? Did you have to pivot, or how did the shut-down affect your business? 

     We launched about three days before the pandemic really hit Michigan so in a sense I haven’t really known what it’s like to run this business not in a pandemic. At the beginning it was terrifying, there was so much panic around what was happening that we saw sales drop overnight. There were definitely many discussions at the beginning about not going forward but my desire to help small, women-owned businesses was stronger than ever. We were really lucky that our business was already based online so for the most part, our main business didn’t need to pivot. Obviously, we pivoted on items that were included in the box so they made sense with staying at home and we started to do partnerships with other women-owned businesses to provide classes and at home things to do. 

    It can't be an easy decision to choose which female entrepreneurs to feature in your box every quarter! How do you do it? 

    This is one of the hardest parts for me because I just want to include everyone! The biggest things we focus on is if the entrepreneurs have products that fit with our aesthetic and if they can keep up with our quantity demands. We were actually able to launch our online marketplace in the Fall so we had another opportunity to feature more entrepreneurs! 

    Every entrepreneur measures success differently, what does your success meter look like? By the number of boxes sold? The number of female business owners supported? 

    Success for me definitely has to do with the number of female business owners we have been able to support. Like I said before, we launched the marketplace a lot earlier than planned because I couldn’t wait to support more businesses. I also view if a box is successful or not by how much growth our brands in the boxes have received and if our community continues to support those brands after the season is over.

    How do you manage your work-life balance, especially being a mama of three? 

    I don’t. LOL I am still working on this, but it has been more challenging because we pulled our kids out of pre-school/daycare when the pandemic hit so for the entirety of my business I have had all three kids at home with me and we are just doing our best to do what we have to. Going into this business I knew the first few years were going to be demanding so it doesn’t bother me to spend late nights and weekends working on business things. I try to get a little bit of balance by planning certain nights for family things so there are times when I can give them my full attention. 

     

    From what we have seen, you are a one woman show right now. Which is insanely impressive by the way. Which parts of running your own biz do you love, and which do you not enjoy as much?

    My favorite part is curating the boxes for each season, I love picking the designer and products to fit my vision and then getting to see it all come together when I assemble boxes. It feels like I am putting together gift baskets for friends each time a new season starts. I also love the social media aspect of it, we have a very active FB and Instagram community and engaging with the WC sisterhood has brought me so much joy. 

    The least enjoyable part of running the business for me is handling a lot of the back end processes like the billing for boxes and customer service. It’s those non-glamorous things that entrepreneurs don’t talk about that you have to do to have a business but aren’t quite as fun.

    Do you plan to continue running things on your own or do you have plans to make additions to your team? 

    I have big goals going forward for WC and that definitely includes adding more women to our team in 2021. I actually just hired our first part time employee to help with our ambassador program so I could focus more on the parts of this business I love and it has been so helpful!

    So, if you could have dinner with anyone dead or alive, who would it be? 

    That is such a hard question, but I think I would pick Jen Hatmaker. I love her books and podcast and I have so many things I would ask her. She also just seems like she would be such a fun person to chat with. 

    What kind of interview would this be if we didn't ask everyone's "favorite" question? Where do you want to see the Women's Collective Box in 5 years?  

    I am a dreamer so I have so many goals and ideas for our future, but I always tell
    everyone my long-term plan for Women’s Collective was never to be just a box. I want it to be a place for women to come together and thrive and I hope that in the future WC can have spaces to actually do that in person. 

    And lastly, what is the best piece of advice you've been given thus far that has made a difference in your business?

    That you can never please everyone. I struggle with this a lot still and it’s a great reminder that there is always going to be somebody that doesn’t love what I create and that is okay.

    These women are strong, badass babes that appear to be living their absolute dreams. Which we are, BUT we also struggle -- more than you probably even realize. Building a business is one of the hardest things you can do on it's own, let alone through a global pandemic. I want to encourage small business owners today, and say that WE SEE YOU. We see ALL of you.

    The pivots, creativity, flexibility, blood, sweat and tears that small business owners put in over the past year are undeniable and these stories must be shared and recognized.

    It's time we encourage the women we all know in our lives, who are pouring their heart and souls into their businesses. It’s time we recognize the strength and resilience they put in over the past year and continue to do each and every day.

     

    Learn more about the Small Biz Strong movement here! 

    Purchase a bracelet for yourself or gift one to a strong, small biz owner here! 

    Mimi Striplin + The Tiny Tassel

    "My sister gave me a pair of tassel earrings I wanted for my birthday. She suggested I try to make a pair, which I took as a challenge and that was the start of Tiny Tassel." 

    The Tiny Tassel is a jewelry and accessories brand inspired by the vibrant colors of Charleston, SC. With happiness at the heart of the business, each collection includes hand-made and curated pieces in bright colors and classic prints. The Tiny Tassel has expanded and opened its first flagship store at 46 Spring Street, Unit B, Charleston, SC 29403. In addition to The Tiny Tassel brand, the store will carry hand-made items from other local Black women owned businesses.

    Can we just say, the bright colors of your business make our souls happy! As the founder + designer behind The Tiny Tassel, Which piece have you designed that always brings a smile to your face and dare we say- your favorite?

    Thank you, our goal is to bring a little joy to everyone that wears The Tiny Tassel! The brand was founded with our Signature Tassel Earrings, which will always hold a special place for me. While I can’t pick just one piece, our seasonal pieces like Easter & Valentine’s styles have been my favorites, and of course everything pink!

    You started your business after you were gifted a pair of earrings from your sister. Describe why that was your "ah-ha" moment and what your journey was like going from a concept to an actual business? 

    I was working in retail at the time, and my sister gave me a pair of tassel earrings I wanted for my birthday. She suggested I try to make a pair, which I took as a challenge and that was the start of The Tiny Tassel. I started by creating an Etsy Shop for my hand-made tassel earrings and attending pop-ups around Charleston and The Tiny Tassel grew from there.

    The pandemic has really shifted how entrepreneurs do business. How did it impact The Tiny Tassel? Did you have to pivot during this time?

    When the pandemic hit, I was forced to pause and think about how to work smarter and dig into what I could work more intentionally at. As an online shop, I focused on ways to increase site traffic, retain customers, and reach new spaces virtually. I began by taking a deep dive into the digital tools we were using, which led me to revamp TheTinyTassel.com making it more accessible and efficient. I also increased our email marketing and focused on elevating The Tiny Tassel’s presence on social media. The lessons I learned during the pandemic are now applied to the business every day.

    We saw that you've been featured on incredible platforms like People Magazine and PopSugar (to name a few!). We think that's AMAZING, but we want to know what your most memorable entrepreneurial experience has been? 

    Thank you! On Monday, The Tiny Tassel flagship store opened in downtown Charleston. I’ve always dreamt of opening my own boutique and it has been one of the most memorable experiences in the 5-years of The Tiny Tassel! We were also featured by Jill Martin on The Today Show last summer (on my birthday!) and that was an unforgettable experience and life shifting for our company.

    How do you manage running your business with everything else in life? Can you talk to us about work-life balance?

    The Tiny Tassel is an extension of my life, and I find joy in what I do. I don’t think there will ever be a perfect work-life balance and have found when I try forcing that it just backfires. I carve out time to create rhythms in my day that include quiet time, enjoyable meals, social time, and most importantly rest. It’s taken me a very long time to apply this daily but when I do, I know that I’m at my best which flows into what I can contribute to our company. 

     

    Here's a tricky one, if you could only eat one food for the rest of your life  what would it be?

    I have such a sweet tooth and would be happy with birthday cake! Who doesn’t love a good slice of cake? 

    Let's get serious-- we know that being an entrepreneur isn't all sunshine + rainbows (even though so many would like to believe it is!). Wha tis one of the toughest challenges you've overcome as an entrepreneur? 

    No two days are the same. Finding rest and working intentionally was such a challenge for me. There’s such a myth in our society that busy = success, and I have lived that and so easily was caught in the “hustle” that I thought was necessary to create and grow a business that I love. All of the long days and nights now make me extra grateful to know that I can have a healthy work relationship while maintaining a successful business.  

    What kind of interview would this be if we didn't ask everyone's "favorite" question. Where do you see The Tiny Tassel in 5 years? What's your long-term vision? 

    My hope with continuing to grow The Tiny Tassel is that we will be able to contribute to the success of other small businesses owned by women of color. With all of our recent growth, it means nothing to me if I’m here by myself. In 5 years, I hope that I can look back and see that we’ve created accessibility for others into this space and are still finding joy in what we do. 

    What is one piece of advice that you wish someone would've given you when you started on your entrepreneurial journey, that you would give to a new female entrepreneur?  

    Be direct, work smart, and rest! With these three things in mind, you’ll always be exactly where you should be in business and in life.

     

     Photographs of Mimi taken by Aneris Photography

    Learn more about the Small Biz Strong movement here! 

    Purchase a bracelet for yourself or gift one to a strong, small biz owner here!