Tell us a bit about yourself! How did you get started with your current career path/business journey?
Barbara: Hello, I'm Barbara and I'm a Serial Entrepreneur. My first job, fresh out of college, was with a Technical Startup that was building Point of Sale software. I watched this startup go from 25 - 200 people and then get acquired by Oracle Corporation. I was hooked and vowed to do the same thing again, this time, with me as the CEO. That started my journey into Entrepreneurship, which I am still on to this day.
Brittany: I am an attorney by trade. I realized that the most crucial part of winning a trial is jury selection. I learned to judge a juror not by what they said, but how they operated. Over time, I realized that companies operate like scaled out juries: there's often a gap between their articulated values and the day-to-day operations. I seek to close that gap.
Malyia: I grew up in the Bronx, and even at a young age I was obsessed with fashion – my style constantly evolved. After graduating from The Florida State University, I seized opportunities to work with New York City’s leading fashion brands. Established in 2014, Made By Malyia was born out of necessity. After searching high and low for a delicate body chain to no avail, I took matters into my hands and taught myself to design jewelry. Lots of,”Where’d you get that?” followed, so I decided to remake the body chain and sell it online. Many sales later, I decided to quit her nine-to-five job as a fashion buyer in New York City to focus on Made By Malyia full time, and as they say, the rest is history. I often draws inspiration from the architecture and pulse of my hometown, New York City. I work with emerging and student designers in Africa as a mentor to teach them the business and marketing side of jewelry design. I collaborate with them on designs to help them see a design from concept to completion.
Leslie: I have worked very hard over the past two decades to become the CEO & President of Sanders\Wingo--a multicultural creative intelligence firm. I began my Sanders/Wingo career--formerly Sanders, Wingo, Galvin and Mortin Advertising, Inc. (SWG&M)--as an intern, whose job duties included tasks such as answering the phones to reconciling American Express statements. Once my intern status ended, I held in sequence the following positions prior to my current position: Assistant Account Executive, Media Planner/Buyer, Account Supervisor, Account Director, Vice President, and Partner. One Sanders\Wingo mentor for whom I am still grateful is Marta Corona--our accountant at the time--who taught me the business side of the agency.
How are you overcoming challenges during the pandemic as a business owner?
Barbara: My company has survived on Grants from the CARES Act, Sales from our pivot and our new software Product, Freeing Returns.
Brittany: Each day I remind myself that I get to CHOOSE this journey. I talk myself through any fears I have until I am able to develop a strategy that seems responsive to current events. BND's cultural awareness audits and DEI capsule courses came out of a lot of contemplation of what we're supposed to learn from 2020.
Malyia: This year has been one of my most challenging years as well as one of the years I have experienced the most positive progress. That duality has been a struggle to navigate. I have been overcoming the challenges of the pandemic, and social injustice by connecting with my community. I have been spending a lot of time focusing on where I want to take the business and how that will positively affect not just my life but those around me as well as my community.
Leslie: All things COVID-19 created (and still create) enormous challenges for me as a business owner. For example, we decentralized almost our entire operation to remote working; we dotted every ‘i’ and crossed every ‘t’ to apply for PPP funding, which came at a time when, like far too many businesses, we desperately needed it; finally, travel stoppages required we totally and immediately change how we interface with client-- from pitching new ideas to creating new business opportunities. Consequently, COVID-19 necessitated a fundamental question be asked and answered--that is, how does Sanders/Wingo create the future we want while simultaneously living in COVID times? In answering this question, we realized we had to concurrently and expeditiously (1) reimagine how our company had to work with existing and prospective clients; (2) align the products and services we offer to meet these challenging times, and in the future; and, (3) develop and carry out cohesive plans encompassing these initiatives. Even though COVID-19 compels me to work harder than I have ever worked in my life, I hasten to add these challenges have also brought the most fun I have ever had in my entire business life. Lastly, working closely with my business partners, coaches and mentors continues to encourage my growth as a leader, as a business owner and more importantly as a human being.
What behavior or personality trait do you most attribute your success to, and why?
Barbara: Optimism - I think its a must have personality trait for any entrepreneur. Its lonely sometimes and I stay optimistic, which keeps me motivated to not GIVE up.
Brittany: My success comes from my curiosity. I am able to analyze behaviors and systems and ask the questions that typically lead to improvements.
Malyia: I would say the personality trait that has been my resilience. I may not be the best at something but I will work at it until I am the best. I've always been that way, I'm either giving something my all or I am not interested. I'm very all or nothing.
Leslie: I am extremely adept at listening and understanding varying points of views. This is my superpower. This amazing gift brings more voices to the table, which enhances my ability to make decisions that include varying perspectives, which many times go unheard and ignored.
What’s a mistake you made early on in your career, and what did you learn from it?
Barbara: Early on, I was a 1-woman show, literally and realized that I cannot do any of this without my team. Now, I really on my team to complement me and to help the company scale. Being a 1-woman show, made me the bottleneck. The company cannot grow if I am the go to for EVERYTHING.
Brittany: The biggest mistake I made early in my career was being afraid to ask questions. I wanted to be capable and efficient, but didn't realize I could've done so if I asked more questions at the start of certain projects.
Malyia: The mistake I made early on in my career before becoming an entrepreneur was not knowing my worth. I spent alot of time seeking validation within the fashion industry. I knew at a very young age I wanted to be in fashion but I didn't anticipate I would be faced with discrimination. No matter how hard I worked, I was constantly overlooked and underpaid. Starting my brand restored my belief in self and my worth. I
Leslie: I believe ‘mistakes’ is another word for ‘experience;’ and, I have a ton of experiences. Early in my career, and for some crazy reason, I wanted to be absolutely perfect. Instead of asking for help or feedback, I tried to do everything by myself. I learned doing hard work in isolation does not equate to great work. To have the best work I can be proud of, I need my team and the perspectives from the smartest people in the room.
What’s one professional skill you’re currently working on?
Barbara: Business Finances, its the part of my business that I HATE but vow to get better at NEXT YEAR.
Brittany: I am working on improving my sales strategies.
Malyia: One skill I have been working on is creating systems to optimize my time. In the past I would spend alot of time redoing a task or templates for things because I didn't think I had the time to create a template. I recently began to create SOP's or Standard Operating Procedures. This has been a game changer for me. I have been able to hire a virtual assistant and hand her a guide to follow.
Leslie: This may sound crazy, but I am always inspired to become a better presenter and storyteller. In my view, I am no different from professional athletes, who know the importance of investing time and effort to fine tune their crafts. My clients, my audiences and the people with whom I work deserve me at my best.
In what ways are you taking care of your personal well being and what are your #selfcare tips?
Barbara: I do Tai Chi each morning, eat a Vegan diet and I strive to get at least 8 hours of sleep each night. I have sheltered in place, planned and executed my virtual wedding and try to Zoom with my girlfriends, at least once per month.
Brittany: My #1 selfcare tip is to affirm yourself. Knowing and appreciating who you are will allow you to clearly articulate your value to others. Go be great!
Malyia: I am allowing myself space to take breaks and time off as an act of self-care and for my personal well being. As an entrepreneur you are constantly in a state of producing results. As a creative entrepreneur, that pressure to produce is multiplied. I realized in order for me to create jewelry that true to my goal to empower and tell a story, I had to take breaks when necessary. I can't create if I am exhausted, stressed or overwhelmed. A few self-care tips that I live by is carving time out in the morning to have tea, and do at least 30 minutes of yoga. This gives me time to myself and allows me to own my time. I also schedule one day a week to do absolutely nothing work related. This gives me something to look forward to and recharge. Some of my best designs have come to me when I'm most still.
Leslie: I cannot overstress the importance of family. My husband and two kids--ages eight and four--keep me grounded and on an even keel. In addition, I routinely and lovingly practice #selfcare tips, which I call ‘gift to myself:’ #Selfcare gift 1: Weight training with a personal trainer four times weekly to remind myself I matter and I need to take care of myself; #Selfcare gift 2: Alone time--be it walks with myself, driving alone, going to the store solo--allows me to calmly reflect, and let go. #Selfcare gift 3: Basking in the great outdoors (and yes I wear a mask!)--be it a solo stroll, walking with my family and the dog or, sitting on my front porch and allowing the wind, birds and other natural sounds to remind me I am but a part of all things planet and universal. #Selfcare gift 4: I make time to go to the bathroom. Silly, I know. But think about how easy it is for one’s schedule to fill up with back-to-back calls, Zoom meetings, incessant telephone calls, answering emails/texts, kids, pets,... You know what I’m talking about.
How are you inviting others to take a seat at the table #virtually?
Barbara: ZOOM is my friend and I have zoom meetings with our advisory board, Board of Directors, our team, investors, our champions and family and friends.
Brittany: I host virtual roundtables each month to help businesses identify opportunities to strengthen their cultural architecture.
Malyia: I'm currently working on creating a more impactful social presence through community and social equality. Pre pandemic I engaged with my customers and supporters at in person events. I am inviting others to take a seat at the table virtually now by hosting events and participating in virtual events.
Leslie: I am always looking to connect great people with opportunities. Sometimes it is through mentorship, other times it is through making introductions. But, what I am most excited about is building new relationships + opportunities and creating new futures with friends and women colleagues I have met during COVID. There have been so many new ideas and opportunities presented to me this year. Consequently, I cannot wait to kick off 2021.
What impact has Luminary made in your career? eg: Business Generated, Revenue, New Clients, Career Connections, Advancement Opportunities
Barbara: I really like the Luminary community and rely on the Community to find resources to augment my team. I also love the newsletters and the knowledge that is shared with the community.
Brittany: Because of Luminary, I've made incredible connections and found new clients. I'm incredibly thankful for this group of highly resourceful and intelligent women.
Malyia: Luminary has been a great resource for building community and business resources. As an entrepreneur it can be a very isolating feeling at times, but now I know I can tap in to a group of like minded women for support.
Leslie: I am new to the Luminary family. However, in my brief tenure I am having lots of fun, making wonderful connections and forging life-long friendships. My plan is to not only continue connecting and working within Luminary to explore ways I can grow my business, but to also shine a light on Luminary and the great work that is happening within the organization.