Tell us a bit about yourself! How did you get started with your current career path/business journey?
Ehime: My name is Ehime and I am the founder of Sweetkiwi. Sweetkiwi makes great tasting, nutrient dense consumer packaged products using real ingredients sourced within our local community. It was born out of a health scare that forced me to change my diet, this brought about our first product, a whipped greek frozen yogurt. We launched into grocery stores a year after catering within the DMV area and are now in major grocery stores like Whole Foods Market.
Erica: I got started with food waste in 2015 while volunteering at an event. I saw good food going to waste and wanted to do something about it. I knew that wasted food would be best served to someone in need. That action is what started Umi Feeds. I've been serving folks ever since.
Octavia: My name is Octavia Warren Gilmore, and I am the Founder and Chief Creative Officer of Creative Juice. I was first introduced to graphic design at the age of 14 when my uncle gave me Photoshop and it has been my passion ever since. I was born and raised in New Jersey, and moved to Atlanta to attend the Savannah College of Art and Design. Here I obtained a BFA in graphic design.
I decided to start freelancing while in college. After graduating and starting a full-time job, I still continued growing my freelance business. This is when I began to notice the lack of diversity in the ownership structure of marketing agencies. Wanting to level the playing field, I launched Creative Juice in 2013 to help bring more diversity to agency ownership. Starting out as a one-woman shop, I quickly grew Creative Juice to an innovative marketing agency, with a team of super talented creatives, all of which I handpick.
How are you overcoming challenges during the pandemic as a business owner?
Ehime: I am overcoming challenges by being innovative and surrounding myself with different pockets of communities where I get support for my business. My team and I created an virtual version of the ice cream social which helped us recover lost revenues caused by COVID and also allowed us to connect with new consumers, socially distanced ofcourse.
Erica: I'm overcoming challenges by taking deep breathes and taking days one at a time. My attitude and approach is that everything will work itself out. Challenges are opportunities of growth. It allows me to see where I need to grow, access what's going on, and make the necessary changes. I've had ebbs and flows because some resources have changed because of COVID but the wonderful thing is those closed doors were opened elsewhere. So my business flow has been consistent.
Octavia: We have closed our office and went 100% virtual to save on overhead. We have also focused on adding additional services that we can leverage contractors to provide for our clients. I have reached out to my mentors and asked them for ideas on how we can pivot. We have also invested in some SEO to gain more visibility online.
Awa: COVID has been challenging for everyone. Running a small business while still working a 9-5 job from home is challenging by itself. Needless to say that Natural AWA was launched during the summer of 2020 in the middle of the pandemic, which was delay from our original launch date because some of our packaging and ingredients shipment were delayed.
I have learnt to go with the flow and adjust and adapt to new situations. There were times where our plan for popup shops and markets were cancelled during the holidays and that impacted our business given the fact we were relying mostly in those periods to upscale and get some exposures.
But I just tried to focus on the positive aspects and be creative and find different ways of reaching potential customers or establishing some brand awareness.
What behavior or personality trait do you most attribute your success to, and why?
Erica: My compassion. I've been told that I have a warmth about me which allows people to connect with me and support my mission. I will also say my genuine love for people and my tenacity. It's how I spread love through food.
Octavia: Resilience. Part of being a successful entrepreneur is waking up and showing up every single day. Even when you don't feel like it.
Awa: I attribute my success to my self-confidence. Despite the fact that I have been through many challenges or that there were closed doors throughout this journey, I always believe in myself and look at the bring side of things and focus on my goals. Before anyone believe in you, you need to believe in yourself first.
What’s a mistake you made early on in your career, and what did you learn from it?
Ehime: I made the mistake of ordering items in large quantities before I had done customer demos and surveys. A few months into our launch, we had to change our packaging and lost the money invested in the first one but I learnt how to better launch products and to buy in small quantities until there is a perfect market fit.
Erica: A mistake I made early in my career is not understanding people's strengths. I would find myself frustrated when I asked someone to do something and they did something else. I realized that people are much happier, myself included, when they are working in their strengths.
Octavia: Not paying attention to the numbers. I sold a really large monthly package to a client (or what I thought was large at the time) and my profit margins sucked! I couldn't figure out why we were not making any money until I really sat down and mapped out my overhead. That was a big AH-HA moment!
Awa: I under-estimated my value and my worth early on in my career. As women, we tend to underestimate our value therefore It is important to know your worth and negotiate with your employer up front. Also do not get too comfortable with the same position too long. Explore other opportunities and get uncomfortable by exploring other opportunities in different fields.
What’s one professional skill you’re currently working on?
Erica: Networking and pitching.
Octavia: How to become a better leader! I am currently taking 2 classes at HBS. Leading Professional Service Firms and Reimagining Strategy with Design Thinking.
Awa: Currently, I am working on completing my diploma in natural skincare formulation. I am shifting from a finance to beauty industry. I am improving also my marketing strategies and adapting to new technologies.
In what ways are you taking care of your personal well being and what are your #selfcare tips?
Ehime: I am very intentional with self care because it is so easy to forget about taking care of with being an entrepreneur and a new mom so I schedule self care activities into my calendar. The insight meditation app is also a great tool I use to keep myself centered throughout the day.
Erica: I am taking care of myself by taking moments to be quiet. I listen to music while I cook which relaxes me and puts me in a good mood. I go for drives alone or with my family, looking at homes, or simply go for a walk or hike in nature.
Octavia: Being at home has given me more time to focus on myself. I have been balancing my mental health by taking baths, working out, doing yoga, eating healthier, listening to podcasts, getting massages, twerking and listening to my favorite music.
Awa: I tried to put myself on the schedule and have some me time for self-reflections and selfcare. I reached out for helps and emotional support from friends and families. Because when you are not mentally stable, you are not capable of accomplishing your goals or reach your potentials. So tip number 1 is to take care of yourself by doing the things that makes you happy, that fulfill you emotionally and keep you grounded. I do some yoga which relax my mind, body, and spirit, but mostly when the weather permits, I like to go for a nature walk and hear the birds chirping and the rustling of leaves.
How are you inviting others to take a seat at the table #virtually?
Ehime: I mentor several business owners and I created a room on the clubhouse platform to share things I have learnt in my own journey that can help others grow their businesses or avoid potential mistakes.
Erica: I am inviting others to the table by observing their talents/skills and directing them to opportunities that are best fitted for them as I am made aware. Also, by showing them what's available and possible for them by the opportunities I take. Inspiration is inviting.
Octavia: Mentorship! I love to mentor and talk to other aspiring entrepreneurs.
Awa: I like to reach out and present myself to make the person comfortable to open up, then schedule a Zoom/google-meet meeting to connect.
What impact has Luminary made in your career? eg: Business Generated, Revenue, New Clients, Career Connections, Advancement Opportunities
Ehime: It has helped create a community I can receive support from.
Erica: While this is a growing relationship, I am anticipating greater professional growth and advancement opportunities.
Octavia: I have really enjoyed the connections and content I have experienced since joining the community. This community has allowed me to connect with like minded business owners while also giving me the valuable tools and resources to grow personally and professionally.
Awa: Being a new member of Luminary has allow me to gain some knowledge and get some resources to better manage my business, also it allows to connect with like minded women that are inspiring and motivating. It is great to be part of the Luminary community.