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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The Secret to Successful Social Media Marketing

The Secret to Successful Social Media Marketing - Social Stylate

During a time where millions of people are using social media to create a following or build their brand, the use of social media marketing is growing at a rapid rate. There are many moving parts that go into creating content for a client. Here is a small glimpse of what goes into a successful social media marketing campaign.

Identify your client. It’s important to discover what sets your client apart from everyone else and have an understanding of their wants and desires. A retail client’s goals could be to share information about products, gain new followers, drive sales, increase audience engagement, and maintain a relationship with their current audience. Once goals are established, it will be easier to brainstorm ideas for posts.

Maintain a connection between audience and brand. Have you ever followed a friend who only posted selfies or pictures of their pets? It’s lovely to see your friend’s beautiful face and you adore their fluffy fur babies, but that gets to be repetitive and stale. Variety is a necessity in order to maintain a fresh and appealing timeline of content. Something important to note that co-founder of Social Stylate, Lauren Golt says, “Everyday brands are competing for people’s attention and they’re being overstimulated and inundated with other accounts and brands. You want to offer something original and unique to you.” Having a balance of photos, diffusion posts, community posts, graphics, videos, and reposts ensure the entire audience is engaged.

Do your research. Understanding the market is a very important step when mapping out any successful social media marketing campaign. Make sure that you’re giving proper credit, paying for images, and using content in a legal way while not misusing hashtags or reusing any ideas. Use resources such as magazines, marketing blogs, and marketing publications to stay up to date with what’s working best and what’s trending on each social media platform. Knowing what your client’s audience responds well to will help guide you when cultivating a plan.

Utilize your inner perfectionist. When creating a caption or email blast, make sure to hit every point quickly and succinctly. Attention to detail is important to avoid typos. Even if you have a prescheduled post, make sure to double check it once it goes up. It is also important to utilize hashtags because they allow other people who aren’t following your page to find your content. In an article published by Sprout Social, titled How to Use Hashtags on Every Social Media Network, found that “posts with at least one hashtag have 12.6% more engagement than those without.” Hashtags are a great way to boost the activity on your post, increase engagement, and gain more exposure to new audiences.

For a greater understanding of your client’s mission, discover what makes them passionate about their business. Lauren says, “I like working with clients and meeting with clients to get these natural, organic moments when it’s just them doing what they love or products in their natural environment.” Using your client’s drive and motivation combined with the previously mentioned tools will create a successful platform for planning your social media marketing strategy.

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Boss Lady: Ridha Sekhri

Boss Lady is a series that shares personal insights from creative women in business. This week, we talk to Ridha Sekhri, creator and co-founder of Twelve and Twenty Eight, a thoughtful and personalized graphic design company that treats your business with the same care and passion as if it were their own. Strong dedication to her values, a meaningful connection to people, and an unending search for creative inspiration are what sets Ridha apart when creating brand designs with Twelve and Twenty Eight’s clients-turned-friends.

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself and your career.

Hello! My name is Ridha and I am a self-taught graphic designer thriving in the windy city Chicago. Having a degree in Computer Science never satisfied me as I could never visualize myself hiding behind lines of code but rather behind captivating visual designs and bespoke brands. After a short stint in the corporate world, here I am 5 years into this field of graphic design, making the world a more creative place in my own little ways.

2. What about graphic design attracted you to it?

The fact that I get to express myself through visuals. Build art around a concept. The idea of establishing a connection with the audience through thoughtful and creative problem solving was and still is so enticing!

3. Before Twelve and Twenty Eight, you did freelance graphic design. Describe your experience as a freelance graphic designer.

Freelancing was a good way to start this journey. My priority back then was to take up a variety of graphic design work, different gigs with different clients – small startups, big corporations, independent business owners and the likes so as to build a portfolio, a platform to showcase my skills and hone them. Along the way, doing random work I have found my niche which is branding for unique small businesses and creative entrepreneurs. This journey has been an asset, rooting me to my mission which is to work not just for but together with my clients to build their brands with love.

4. What inspires and fuels your creativity?

Talking to fellow creatives, reaching out to them and asking them questions. Being curious, having an urge to learn from the best, and expanding my horizons fuels me. Other than that, looking at the amazing work being done by these much-accomplished designers is a real morale booster.

5. You volunteer with Start Small Think Big, how did you find this organization and what do you like about it?

My experience was amazing! Through Start Small Think Big, I got an opportunity to help individuals who have business ideas but do not have the means to make it happen. I used my design skills to help out 3 unique business owners with branding and identity designs and bringing their visions to life. This organization is doing a great job in creating a setup for qualifying individuals to get financial, legal, marketing, and advertising assistance.

6. How important is design and branding to a new business?

Extremely important! There is a lack of awareness about how important it is to have proper branding for a new business. Branding is not just a good looking logo, it is much beyond that. It is a language that visually sets a tone for your business, the work you do, connect with the audience you want to target, and more importantly how you want your business to come across. Careful initial evaluation of the above is what I make sure that I do so that all the eventual designs for the brand are cohesive and speak for the brand in unison.

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

My close friend and coincidentally my client Smita Kishore, co-founder of Simply Smita – handmade, organic and socially conscious skincare products. She is such an inspiration in my life! Her business is so rooted in positive intent through consciously sourced, organic ingredients and a commitment to the environment, sustainability, fair-trade, and service. A rare find!

Just for fun:

What is your favorite activity to do when you want to relax and destress?  Creating cool typography designs, reading a gripping fiction novel or catching up on my favorite shows.
Favorite dish:  Something that has spinach and cheese! Chocolate dessert without a doubt!
Last song you listened to:  Dancing With a Stranger by Sam Smith and Normani
Best memory from Panjab University:  The time when I first met my best friend who is now an irreplaceable part of my life.
If you could learn any skill, what would it be?  I would love to learn to care less about what the world thinks and be immune. Wishful thinking!

To see more of Ridha’s awesome work, follow her on Instagram and Facebook!

 

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