Boss Lady: Jonna Piira and Lauren Fiske

Boss Lady is a series that shares personal insights from creative women in business. This week we talk to CEO and Founder Jonna Piira and Director of Brand Partnerships Lauren Fiske of Kali, an organic feminine care subscription service that focuses on women’s overall health and wellness. “We are spreading awareness of the benefits of using organic feminine hygiene products and building a wellness community… [with] a forum to find information and learn about what’s going on in the world of wellness.”

1. Tell us a bit about yourselves and your careers.

Jonna: As Founder and CEO of Kali, an organic tampon and pad subscription service, I spearhead the company’s business development and strategic planning activities. My background started in finance in the medical diagnostics sector after getting my MBA and continued on into the tool and frozen foods industries. I have a passion for educating individuals about what they put into their bodies and helping people rethink their periods.

Lauren: My background is actually in Fashion Merchandising. I got my degree from Florida State and began working for Ralph Lauren after college. I ended up living in NYC and overseeing visual displays for the country until I left about three years ago after my son was born. This has been a whole new world for me but I have always had a love for beauty/wellness products and strongly believe in organic period care.

2. Jonna, what prompted you to start Kali and provide organic feminine care options to women?

I was going through my own wellness journey and realized that I had no idea what was in my period care. I started to do a lot of research and was shocked by what I found. I started to wonder how many other people out there didn’t know what was in their tampons and pads. Kali was born.

3. Lauren, as Director of Brand Partnerships what does your day usually look like?

A typical day for me includes a lot of time on Instagram lol. In addition to my marketing responsibilities I also manage social media. I will post content on our feed and stories throughout the day. I also find potential brand partnerships through Instagram so I will seek them out or find people based on our comments or likes. I spend a good amount of time corresponding with brands via e-mail or phone calls to organize giveaways, inbox partnerships, or events.

4. What inspires you and fuels your creativity?

We are inspired by educating people about what is in their period care and making better choices. We also love helping people add self-care into their daily lives. Bringing wellness full cycle and adding wellness into every aspect of your daily life is so important. There are so many amazing natural products that we want to share with our community.

5. Describe a challenge you faced in the workplace and how you overcame it.

We started out as very close friends and have been friends for years. Kali was growing and needed to expand. Lauren was a perfect fit to join the team. We transitioned to working together, which can have it’s potential challenges. However, with strong communication skills and building healthy boundaries, we have been able to do both without negatively impacting our long, close relationship.

6. What’s your most successful form of marketing?

Organic brand partnerships. We are able to reach a new audience in an authentic way with like-minded brands and communities.

7. Lauren, how do you find new brands to partner with and what do you look for? It’s such a great idea to put pampering products in the Lux boxes!

I totally agree! This is honestly one of the best parts of my job. I’m definitely a beauty junkie so it is really fun to discover and test out different brands. I use Instagram to find brands that share the same ethos as us. They need to be natural, organic and wellness-oriented. We love supporting female-founded businesses as well! I personally test every item… If we wouldn’t use or recommend it, we won’t suggest it to our community. There’s so much out there so we want to help people discover new brands and get trusted recommendations.

8. Jonna, what advice do you have for those looking to become an entrepreneur?

Don’t wait for the perfect moment to move forward on your idea. You just have to go for it. There are so many ways to start your research and build your idea while you are still working for someone else. Also, sometimes the most important thing to remember during the tough times…is to not give up.

9. What do you see for Kali’s future? Any upcoming projects you can tell us about?

We see Kali continuing to grow and expand to different product categories. We can’t share too much just yet, but we will share soon. Stay tuned.

10. Why is it important to give back to organizations such as I Support the Girls and Girl Up?

It’s important to give back to people in need. Some of the basic things we take for granted may not be available to everyone.

11. Who is a Boss Lady who inspires you and why?

Sara Blakely. She is very inspiring because she built a company from nothing to solve a problem in a very innovative way. She is always pushing herself out of her comfort zone and is continually investing in female-founded companies.

Just for fun!
Favorite breakfast food: Jonna:
I start my day with homemade celery juice, eggs, and coffee; Lauren: I know I should, but I don’t eat breakfast. Does coffee count?
Last song you listened to: Jonna: It Must Have Been Love (Roxette); Lauren: Truth Hurts (Lizzo)
Current show you’re watching: Jonna: The Affair; Lauren: Gossip Girl
Next travel destination: Jonna: Finland, my home country, with my family; Lauren: Miami
The perfect Saturday includes: Jonna: an almond milk latte, a book, the gym or yoga, and brunch with friends; Lauren: Nothing (no child, no husband, no chores)

For more information on Kali: Instagram | Facebook

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Inspired by Design

I was date raped in high school. As I read the news of Jeffery Epstein (and thousands of other stories) unfold, I find myself thinking why have I never had the strength to talk about my experiences. I realized I there have been countless times for decades that I have been a victim. I found myself wondering why I have never had the courage to speak up.

I no longer feel powerless. As a single mother raising two boys, teaching them respect and accountability for their actions has been my top priority. The feminist writer Jessica Valenti, author of Sex Object, has some valuable advice: “It’s important to normalize a healthy reaction to the rejection of affection.

Thank you Leigh Ann Barnes for inspiring me to find my voice. Leigh Ann who was a victim of date rape in college found her passion designing handbags.

Let’s rewind….
Leigh Ann Barnes was sparked by a challenge from her family: create a transparent stadium-approved bag that is stylish, functional and fun. What came to be: a dynamic accessory collection providing jobs for women in-need.

Hit play….
Emboldened by the challenge, Leigh Ann harnessed her ingenuity and created a chic convertible handbag. During the creative process she realized a sense of purpose was needed that went beyond the Gamechanger Bag.

The Aha Moment: connect ideas with action, need with purpose and, ultimately unite women of all ages. The smaller leather goods could be made by survivors of abuse. Creativity, kindness and compassion through hands-on manufacturing.

Fast forward…..
Leigh Ann Barnes is defined by transparency, creating joy and making change happen. Her long-term goal is to introduce other brands to the Cottage Manufacturing Model in Los Angeles and Georgia.

The end [but really, it’s just the beginning]…..

Leigh Ann Barnes business model is more than a handbag or an accessory; it’s about recognizing and embracing that we are all equally important and deserve the same opportunities. Though Leigh Ann Barnes is only one step in the journey to these women restarting their lives, it connects ideas with action, need with purpose and ultimately unites women of all ages.

From this game changing foundation, Leigh Ann Barnes partners exclusively with accredited factories when manufacturing overseas to ensure women working abroad have a safe work environment.

In the U.S. company aspirations include growing the Survivors Cottage Manufacturing Program in Los Angeles and Athens, Georgia. The goal is to incorporate brands and manufacturers into the Program as a resource for reclaiming and repurposing their own excess materials. A duality of doing good as they support work for women in need of reclaiming and repurposing their lives.

image: @photo_flo

You can buy her bags at Neiman Marcus, via her website or her pop up shops {where you can find Leigh Ann telling her story and inspiring other young women}.  Cast your vote for Leigh Ann via the Accessories Council Design Excellence Award.

Game on.

  • Bonus for all readers. Save 25% off your purchase through September 30th, 2019. Use code #sostylate at check out.

 

 

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Boss Lady: Katy Messersmith

Boss Lady - Katy Messersmith, Designer/Owner of Katydid.com - Social Stylate

Boss Lady is a series that shares personal insights from creative women in business. This week, we talk to Katy Messersmith. Katy is the designer and owner of The Katydid Collection, a lifestyle brand that includes women’s apparel and small accessories such as hats, belts, and wallets

1. What prompted you to start your own brand?

I spent my early career as a pharmaceutical project manager and got my start in fashion thanks to a fluke event that happened during a volunteer trip to Ghana, Africa. After graduation from Texas A&M in 2000 before beginning my new corporate job, I traveled to Africa to volunteer at a prenatal woman’s clinic for two months. The airline lost my luggage, leaving me with only the clothes on my back.

I worked with a local seamstress in Ghana to design a replacement wardrobe of colorful local fabrics and found my calling. When I returned to Texas, I placed my designs on eBay which sold like lightning and so I began to create more as well as reselling other brands and designs on eBay.

After a few years of selling on eBay, someone offered to create a website for $200. I took them up on the offer and while initially, the business was retail only, I received multiple requests daily if I would sell my bags wholesale. Realizing the huge opportunity to be one of the first companies to wholesale online, in 2004 I changed my retail handbag website to a wholesale handbag website, which catered to small boutiques nationwide that couldn’t afford to travel to markets and trade shows across the country.

As the company grew, I realized I didn’t want to quit my corporate job to just sell other people’s bags for the rest of my life so I decided to start my own brand and call it Katydid! Today we not only sell bags but women’s hats, clothing, luggage tags, phone rings, earrings, swim cover-ups and more. We are truly now a lifestyle brand.

2. Looking back is there anything you wish you knew before you launched?

I was very savvy and was very interested in learning anything I could to help the business grow, but I wish I would have had a business mentor in the early years. The early years I spent a lot of time trying to figure out things on my own and teaching myself while a simple friendship with a business mentor probably would have gone a long way. Today, I have many successful friends or mentors in business and they always help when needed.

3. Describe a challenge you faced as a business owner.

There are many challenges when you own your own business! Keeping up with the ever-changing fashion demands and trends is for sure a challenge, especially since the world is now online and consumers expect “fast fashion.” You don’t have as much time to plan like in the past, you have to act quickly.

4. What is your business’ most successful form of marketing?

Since we were one of the first companies online 18+ years ago, we have a very large customer newsletter list. Email marketing is our most successful form of marketing, but we are looking into heavily expanding into social and influencer marketing which we fill like will surpass email marketing at some point in the near future.

5. What inspires you and fuels your creativity?

I love that the business is at a place where we can truly give back and help make a difference in the world. Whether that be helping employees through rough times or donating money to different charitable causes or individuals in need.

6. What advice do you have for those looking to go from employee to entrepreneur?

Be prepared that owning your own company is a lot of hard work, but also one of the most rewarding things as well. A lot of blood, sweat, and tears as I call it. Diversity is key in a business today. I learned the hard way that you can’t put all your eggs in one basket and rely on a handful of accounts or platforms. For instance, if you are a brand, you have to sell online via a website, do social selling via Instagram and Facebook, sell offline at events or trade shows, on third party marketplaces, retail and wholesale and so on. You must be everywhere now!

7. Who is a boss lady who inspires you and why?

Sara Blakely! – She saw a niche for a new product. She developed the product and she went essentially from store to store until she got her big break and she scaled with the right people. And she loves to empower other women.

Find out more about Katy and her collections
Website | Wholesale Website | Instagram | Twitter | Facebook

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Local Love: GoGo Books

Local Love: GoGo Books, Kid's book truck in Wilmington, Delaware - Social Stylate

There are food trucks and fashion trucks, but did you hear about our local storybook truck?

GoGo Books is a Delaware-based mobile story book shop that offers a curated selection of children’s literature ranging from classic storybooks to teen novels amid thoughtfully crafted children’s-wares. Their goal is to create a novel experience focused on the joys of story-telling with a touch of whimsy and charm. Below we chat with Kate Keeper, the owner and founder of GoGo Books.

1. Why do you love what you do?
So many reasons! Books, illustrations, and stories have always encouraged me to live my life in the most magical and fantastical way possible. I love what I do because I am constantly reminded of that magic every day by being surrounded by those things. I also love “setting things up” and aesthetics so operating a store where everything needs to be arranged and merchandised constantly is just supremely satisfying. I also enjoy having complete control over my time, work ethic, and (for the most part) outcomes/income generation, it holds me accountable and fulfills me in ways that being an employee never did. I love all of the various opportunities to get creative and innovative. The discounted books are a definite plus. But most of all the people/socializing and getting out in the community and meeting kids and caregivers from all over with varying interests is just so life-giving and joyful!

2. What is the most rewarding about being the founder of GoGo Books?
I’m still so new so I don’t feel like I have reaped any typically “rewarding” things yet! My ego definitely enjoys the “ohhhs” + “ahhs” when people find out that this is my business + that I created and operate it at 27 (debt free!!) but really the most rewarding thing is the ability to work for myself entirely and know that my successes are all mine (and the failures too)!

3. Describe your favorite memory from GoGo Books.
Again, still very new so everything feels very present day and in the moment + nothing really feels like a memory yet. I think so far though I have had a few times when I’m driving to an event and just start crying/laughing (somewhat maniacally) about how this is all happening. I love that feeling of just disbelief that this is my job.

4. How did people react to you leaving nursing to start the GoGo Book truck?
Very mixed. I think most people thought it was absolutely absurd. Nursing was my third degree; I went back to school for it after graduating with a double major (English + Bio), so I sort of felt like people thought I was abusing the privilege of having the opportunity to get higher education (twice). Luckily I have learned that other people’s reactions are ultimately about them and not me, so I didn’t really concern myself with them. My husband and mom were really supportive and my workplace (The Birth Center) was as well.

5. Do you get invited to come to schools to sell books? Where are your usual stops?
I launched at the end of the school year so I pretty much missed that boat. I did do an event with Ursuline Academy and it was a smashing success and the kids/caregivers/teachers were all amazing to work with. I hope to do more schools in the fall. I don’t have any usual stops yet. This year is all about trial and error so I can figure out what works and what doesn’t. I’m already learning where I do best and where I flop so taking all of that into account and evaluating it is helping me to plan future events. I really want to get into collaborations with local businesses like coffee shops/lunch spots/etc. to pair up for weekday stops. I’m really into planning programming like storytimes/crafts/process art/sing-a-longs but need space for those. I bring a lot of people out, so it’s really a matter of finding a mutually interested business who wants to pair up.

Local Love: GoGo Books, Kid's book truck in Wilmington, Delaware - Social Stylate

6. What ignites your creativity?
I actually really struggle with this. I have a horrible complex where I have to be “in the mood” to do things that I’m trying to better understand and ultimately overcome. Usually getting outside and just experiencing life fires me up. The further I distance myself from the internet/my phone the more creative I feel as well.

7. How do you decide what books to bring into the truck?
Painstakingly! I pored over catalogs from publishers/read reviews/and did a lot of judging by the cover. There are thousands of books published every week in addition to the “backlists” of thousands of previously published titles. It took me about 6 months to fully curate my initial stock. Since then I have been keeping ongoing order lists for newly published titles that I update weekly which keeps it relatively simple for reorders. The best compliments I get are the ones regarding the curation and uniqueness of my stock!

8. What was the first book you remember being read to you and by who?
I don’t really remember the first book that was read to me. But my first memory of a story was this story my dad would tell about Winnie the Witch who (in the story) lived in the woods across the street. She would invite all of the kids over on Halloween and make us pumpkin juice in her cauldron and make all of our candy fly and swirl around. I was obsessed and would make him tell it every day. My first bookish memory though was that my mom and I would read the Jolly Postman by Janet and Allen Ahlberg.

9. What was your all-time favorite book as a child?
Wowwww. So hard to answer. Probably Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine.

10. What do you want to see happen in the future for GoGo Books?
My main goal, for now, is to collaborate with local businesses to get some regular hours like I mentioned above. Ideally, I would get out of the weekend event circuit and start operating more like a regular retail store with set hours, just one that is in a different location every day. I have had a lot of requests for franchising so eventually could look into that. I’d love to take a booktruck road trip one day and see how it does in other cities/states!

11. What do you enjoy doing in your free time:
Reading of course! Getting outside, taking walks, doing random crafts and never cleaning up after them

12. Favorite genre to read:
Picture books, historical fiction.

For more on GoGo Books visit: Website | Instagram | Facebook

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