Office Hours with Lilliana Vazquez

Style expert, author, Creative Director of Battington Lashes, founder of The LV Guide, and a staple on the Today Show: multimedia mogul Lilliana Vazquez now adds web series host to her resume.
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Vazquez hosts and is an executive producer of “Office Hours” on Better Homes and Gardens online. “Office Hours” gives viewers an exciting look into the lives of the chicest female, millennial entrepreneurs. These women not only share their stories, but also their tips and tricks to encourage more women to do the same.

Lilliana sits down with the powerhouse females that created Birchbox, Away, ClassPass and more. In this six episode series viewers start with Birchbox co-founder and CEO Katia Beauchamp’s tip for business plans then move to tips on branding, productivity, and positivity. All to help future female moguls achieve their aspirations. Don’t be fooled, this series does not bring you back to your Business 101 class. Instead it allows viewers to feel like they are engaged in a conversation among friends. Whether you are just starting your business or are years in there’s something to take away.

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Not an entrepreneur? “Office Hours” still provides insight to individuals with other career paths. It covers the simple how to, from writing a cold email to tips for coming home happy. Both of which are battles we have already or most likely will face. And it is clear these women know what they are talking about!

The bad part about this series? Its only 6 episodes long! We are so excited to see where Lilliana takes Office Hours next. Office Hours sets out to “discover the passion and purpose behind some of today’s leading millennial entrepreneurs” according to the opener and the series succeeds at doing so. One episode is all it takes to make you want to take that next leap.

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Boss Lady: Jena Baffone

Boss Lady is a series that shares personal insights from creative women in business. This week we chat with Jena Baffone, founder of the Delaware Furniture Exchange and Passionista Fashion Truck. Jena shares with us what it means to empower women to live positive and organized lifestyles along with advice for future #bossladies.

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1. Tell us a little bit about yourself and your career.
I am currently the owner of Delaware Furniture Exchange (DFE) and Passionista Fashion Truck (PFT). DFE is in its 6th year and we sell upscale, gently used, furniture and accessories for the home. PFT is a mobile women’s Fashion Truck, sort of like a Food Truck just with amazing, new, and trendy women’s clothes and accessories. In the past I have worked 10yrs for a banking industry and was a realtor for 6yrs.

2. What prompted you to start the Passionista Fashion Truck?
I felt PFT would serve as a great compliment to DFE. I didn’t want to do used consignment clothing, so I felt being mobile I can come and go with new, trendy items for women. Plus who doesn’t love clothes and accessories.

3. What is your buying process like? Do you do a lot of trend research?
I deal with trendy companies from New York & Los Angeles. I grew up with 80s fashions and have watched the trends repeat themselves at some level – I am about keeping up with the current trends but making sure it has some “staying” power. Florals, Paisley, Stripes, Lace, Suede, Fringe, Ruffles, Flair, Straight leg, Skinny each had a era of their own. In the right style these pieces you can have for a while instead of just 1 season. I like to phrase it Timeless Trends.

4. If you could go back and tell yourself one thing before you started your business, what would that be?
Trust and believe in yourself, think positive that you can do it, what’s the worst that can happen you make mistakes, mistakes are the learning process, oh and you will make them but you can also correct them.

5. What has been your most successful form of marketing? (In terms of obtaining new customers)
Even with the enormous social media world we live in today and online ecommerce sites that bombard the internet – I still believe engaging face to face with the customer is mostly successful for me. Human Interaction is key for both businesses that I have, providing excellent customer service in this aspect is still just as important. Don’t get me wrong social media is huge but both stores actually depend on foot traffic. So if you make someone feel special and engage and they like their experience they will tell two people which is where social media comes in to play. Let them say it on social media what a great experience they had coming into the store and so on.

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Jena just won the 1st year Best Concessionaire Award this week at the Delaware State Fair.

6. How do you measure success based on your efforts as and owner? Is it purely financial? Crossing off everything on your daily list?
I LOVE LOVE when people compliment on the choices I pick for the store or when I get pictures of how they re-decorated their homes thru DFE or they went to a special occasion with an outfit from PFT. I pride myself in providing something for everyone. When your customers are satisfied the financial aspect typically comes with that but don’t get me wrong you need to make money at these types of businesses otherwise you’re a 501c3 that you cant claim. LOL.

7. When it comes to building your brand, what is the most valuable lesson you’ve learned?
When you connect with your customers and have a passion for what you believe in you’re building your brand. Don’t think that building is ever going to stop though branding is a constant in motion. I am a big believer in the “look for less” whether in your home or in fashion. Majority of the people would love to have that high-end leather, tufted, nailhead chair for 2K but can’t afford it. It goes the same for clothing, I want people to feel great in what they wear but not spend a fortune. Your home is about “living” as well as fashion is about “looking good” in what you wear, the two are really connected. If I can give my customer unique finds at an affordable price, I am branding my businesses.

8. Where do you hope to see the company in 5yrs? Would you ever turn in your truck for a storefront?
DFE is a bricks & mortar and PFT is mobile. Right now I have the best of both worlds within the 2 businesses right now. I was able to start PFT because of the fantastic employees I have which makes things easier. I think it’s about timing for opening a store – it may happen.

9. What inspires you and fuels your creativity?
Well both businesses are ever changing on a daily basis. I receive original items for DFE on a regular basis and it’s never the same and PFT the scenery is always changing so creativity is extremely important in both businesses. This is where confidence in your ability to think on your feet and go with your gut, just do it comes into play. Also, knowing you can tweak things along the way of the journey of owning a business helps too.

10. What advice do you have for those looking to go from employee to entrepreneur?
I once read a book that said “know a little about a lot” I think it was Rich Dad Poor Dad. Marketing, Accounting, Branding, Social Media, Time Management, Hiring Employees, Tax Codes, Ect. I feel I know enough about all of these that I stay within my strengths and hire other people to do the other jobs. Hire good people and don’t be afraid to ask for advice from specialists in their field.

11. Who is a #BossLady that inspires you and why?
There really isn’t one specific person that inspires me. What inspires me are women that over come obstacles to achieve their goals and are willing to talk with other women about their journey in how they did it. There was a women’s speaker series in my area that I attended for several years 1x a month for 6months. I had the pleasure of hearing approximately 30 of these successful women overcome such hardship and turn themselves into successful empowering women. Alison Levine, Barbara Corcoran, Goldie Hawn, Diane Keaton, Condelezza Rice, Maya Angelou just to name a few I have seen. There is one thing they all had in common – they never stopped wanting to learn.

Just for fun…

Your happy place is: Watching a Sunset not matter where
The one item you can’t live without: The internet (but it would be nice to try to live without it)
Favorite Instagram account to follow: All of them
The last show you binged watched: James Bond Movies
Cocktail of choice: Skinny Mojito – Club Soda, Tito’s, Muddled Lime, Mint
Song you could dance all day to: Diana Ross – I’m Coming Out
Trend you wish would disappear: Pattern leggings – there is something about wearing pattern things on your butt cheeks.

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Local Love: Brandywine Botanicals

A career in healthcare and experience in floral design mixed with a love of the outdoors led Robin Kielkowski to create Brandywine Botanicals. Kielkowski took an aromatherapy course to learn the basics therapeutic use of essential oils. This class made her aware of the ingredients in products and that her true passion was with the fragrance of the oils. Next came a class in natural perfumery and smelling all different essential oils and ingredients. The successful combinations became Brandywine Botanicals.

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Robin told us, “My approach to natural fragrance is one of balance and moderation. While emphasizing awareness of using natural products and how our bodies absorb what they are exposed to, I understand there is no single right answer for everyone.” It seems her customers all have their own motivation to chose a natural fragrance. While some have sensitivities to synthetics, others have a lifestyle or a movement away from commercial products, and then many just love the smell and uniqueness.

In recent years the skincare and beauty industry has shifted towards natural ingredients. Brandywine Botanical fragrances “are derived from plants and have a complexity and depth that is difficult to capture in a lab. No preservatives or dyes are added. The colors come from plants: fresh greens, warm yellows, amber and rose blush.”

Their care for customers goes even further as Brandywine Botanicals offers a Create Your Own Fragrance Event. Her inspiration behind it, Robin said, “We had so much fun testing the fragrances and learning about each one that I wanted to share this experience.” Events begin with a bit of learning about the ingredients including advantages and disadvantages to natural and synthetics, fragrance strength classification, types of essences, and what makes a balanced fragrance. Next customers sample the fragrances figuring out what combinations they like best. And a custom fragrance is created!

Currently Brandywine Botanicals is based out of Kielkowski’s home studio and sold online and in a few local shops. But she believes the company will grow to have its own brick and mortar so she can have more interaction with her customers.

Below we have rounded up a list of Robin’s favorites and her thoughts on each!

Violetta
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“Violetta takes a floral and adds a pink pepper that I found. It is peppery, but softer than black pepper and has a touch of soft juniper. Some of my fragrances fall into the ‘gourmand’ category. I love vanilla, spices, fresh herbs and citrus and include them in some of my fragrances.”

Fresh Cardamom
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“Fresh Cardamom contains cardamom but this familiar spice is blended with florals, patchouli and sandalwood. It is interesting because the fragrance becomes soft and clean smelling as it evolves on your skin. It is one of my most unique fragrances.”

White Garden
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“The Brandywine Valley is full of beautiful gardens. White Garden was inspired by summer gardens in full bloom. It is full of heady, white florals like jasmine and frangipani and tamed with moss and vetiver. You just never know when an idea will pop up.”

Almost Summer
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“Almost Summer is one of my favorites and it always gets rave reviews. I wanted something simple and a little nostalgic for summer. There is nothing like citrus combined with florals. For this fragrance I added orange blossom. If you’ve ever been in an orange grove when the trees are blooming you will understand how the breeze carries their fragrance. They bloom in early spring….almost summer! A bit of sandalwood and vanilla take me back to the warmth of early summer at the beach and add a certain depth to the blend. I will wear this year round when I need a lift!”

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Boss Lady: Kate Hersch

Boss Lady is a series that shares personal insights from creative women in business. This week we chat with Kate Hersch, founder of August Morgan, an amazing line of hand-embroidered linen cocktail napkins. Kate shares with us what it means to empower women to live positive and organized lifestyles along with advice for future #bossladies.

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1. Tell us a little bit about yourself and your career.
I live in Austin, Texas and am a wife to Robert and mother to Lily and Gus. I generally work from the morning after drop off at school until 4 when it is time to pick kids up and begin the evening routine of dinner, homework, sports, etc.

As a family we love to travel and eat. You will never starve in the Hersch household!

I graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a BFA in Art History. After graduation I went to work at Sotheby’s in New York. I was in the Bid Department in Client Services. I was the person on the phone bidding for clients in the salesroom.

At Sotheby’s my friend introduced me to needlepoint. I was hooked. I never get on a plane with a piece of needlework. Unbeknownst to me, needlepoint would kick start another career…..

2. What prompted you to start August Morgan?
When I moved to back Austin I would frequently go to thrift stores and see old needlepoint pillows. I knew the amount of work that went into them I decided to “rescue” the needlepoints.

I then began August Morgan as a pillow company. I took vintage needlework and had them remade into a new pillow with a canvas back, invisible zipper, and down insert. The pillows were modern with a tip of the hat to the past. They were sold in stores across the US, in Barneys NY and on Anthropologie’s website. I loved creating these, but they were time consuming and produced a small profit for a lot of work.

I then came up with four designs for embroidered cocktail napkins, and now we have over 40 designs. The napkins, like the pillows, were traditional with a twist.
Now I have my clothing line that is like my pillows and cocktail napkins; traditional with a touch of whimsy.

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3. You (semi) recently added clothing to your product assortment. Do you find that more challenging to sell/work with on an e-commerce platform?
I actually think it is easier to sell clothing than cocktail napkins online. There are some serious e-shoppers out there!

4. How do you make August Morgan stand out against competitors?
I don’t worry about competitors, but I do fiercely protect my own designs. My cocktail napkins are constantly being copied and I have a great lawyer. We send out cease and desist letters a few times a month. This is expensive but worth it to me. I won’t let anyone take the glory for my hard work and creativity.

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5. What has been August Morgan’s most successful form of marketing? (In terms of obtaining new customers)
Finding Instagram tastemakers to promote my dresses.

6. When it comes to building your brand, what is the most valuable lesson you’ve learned?
Not to be trendy, as that is not my personal style and it should not reflect my company. To be true to my vision and taste.

7. Where do you hope to see the company in 5 years?
More clothing and more fun. A broader lifestyle company.

8. What inspires you and fuels your creativity?
Watching other women create, succeed and work hard.

9. What advice do you have for those looking to go from employee to entrepreneur?
Just do it. Do not care what anyone else thinks and says if you want it bad enough.

10. Who is a #BossLady that inspires you and why?
I admire Aerin Lauder for her personal style and how it is reflected in her beautiful products.

Just for fun…

Your happy place is: My annual winter trip to Jamaica with my family and two other families.
The one item you can’t live without it: my dogs! Golden Retrievers are the best!
Favorite Instagram account to follow: @awkwardfamilyphotos
The last show you binge-watched: The Crown
Cocktail of choice: Vodka soda with a lime. Preferably Stoli. I’m old!
Song you could dance all day to: This week it’s Wish I Knew You by The Revivalists
Trend you wish would disappear: Active wear when one is not exercising. Let’s leave that at the gym and dress for the day.

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