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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Boss Lady: Elissa Bloom

Elissa Bloom, executive director of the Philadelphia Fashion Incubator - Boss Lady - Social Stylate

Boss Lady is a series that shares personal insights from creative women in business. This week, we chat with Elissa Bloom, the executive director at The Philadelphia Fashion Incubator, where newly emerging fashion designers grow their brand in a designers-in-residence program. Elissa “brings a unique and fresh understanding to the world of fashion and business.” 

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself and your career.
I grew up in Boston and am an alumnus of UMASS Amherst.  I always had a love of travel and have lived in London, Los Angeles, Paris, and New York before moving to Philadelphia in 2008.  While in New York, I worked in product development at Bloomingdales and traveled on many international buying trips to Asia and Europe to finalize samples and attend trade shows.  Once I learned about manufacturing and production, I launched my fashion brand – Elissa Bloom New York, a line of colorful and functional accessories that sold in departments stores, boutiques, spas, and museum gift shops.  When I moved to Philadelphia I started teaching fashion entrepreneurship at Drexel and Moore and I was amazed at all the fashion talent in Philadelphia and became inspired to help women build their fashion companies in Philadelphia.

2. What is The Fashion Incubator and what is your role there?
The Philadelphia Fashion Incubator is a one-year residency that teaches the business of fashion to six emerging fashion designers.  Throughout the program we offer space at Macy’s Center City, dynamic workshops on the business of fashion, selling opportunities, business resources, mentors, trip to NYC along with exposure in the fashion eco-system of the city…all to support designers in building and growing their businesses to the next level of sustainability.

3. Last year marked Philadelphia’s first Women’s Entrepreneurship Day and also the city’s first WED conference. As the WED Philadelphia Ambassador, what changes do you hope to see in the women’s entrepreneurial community?
It is an exciting time for female entrepreneurs in Philadelphia.  There are more business resources (co-working spaces, mentorship, education) available to support women in launching and building their companies in the region.   What I would like to see more of is investment opportunities for women-owned companies.  In addition, more networking opportunities for women from various sectors to connect and collaborate together.

4. As a woman passionate about supporting other women, what do you think of the conversations happening in our culture right now?
There is a strong paradigm shift taking place with women becoming more fearless in speaking their truth, strong in standing up for others and themselves along with being courageous in stepping in their power to lead themselves and others.

5. Who is a Boss Lady you admire and why?
My favorite boss lady is Donna Karan.  I recently heard her speak and she is the ultimate female entrepreneur – combining her extraordinary talent passion and vision to build her Donna Karan empire, sell it and then reinvent herself by launching Urban Zen and giving back to the global community through teaching and showcasing talented artisans from around the world.

6. What advice do you have for those looking to go from employee to entrepreneur?
Develop your product/services, do extensive market research and launch as a side hustle before leaving your day job.  Know that entrepreneurship is a roller coaster of a ride and you will have many highs and lows along your business journey, to create an advisory board and support yourself and your goals with a strong team. Focus on the next three months, build slowly and if you love what you are doing it will never feel like work.

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Boss Lady: Olivia Bossert

Boss Lady - Olivia Bossert - Lifestyle Photographer - Social Stylate

Interview with Marketing Photographer Olivia Bossert

Boss Lady is a series that shares personal insights from creative women in business. This week, we chat with Olivia Bossert, a UK-based photographer who works with brands (like Barbour and Joules!) to help grow their audiences, sell their products and inspire their followers. In addition, Olivia offers coaching services to fellow photographers and hosts a podcast with tips for other creatives.

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself and your career.
I’m a 26-year-old Swiss and British female fashion photographer, based in the UK. I first picked up a camera when I was 15 and accidentally stumbled on the website Flickr.com whilst working on a school art project. I have no idea why, but photography had never really occurred to me as an art medium. I’d always been creative, and loved fashion, but struggled to find a place for myself in those industries. That all changed when I found photography.

2. What prompted you to start your own business?
The need to create, mostly. I’m wired to make stuff, all the time. When I left school, I knew I wanted to study fashion photography, so that’s what I did! After finishing, I ended up focusing on the magazine I’d co-founded, “Atlas Magazine” before eventually coming straight back to where I’d started: with photography. I worked for a few companies here and there and interned as well, but the moment I was able to work for myself, I took it. I absolutely adore being my own boss, choosing the work that I take on, and running my own schedule. I wouldn’t have it any other way!

3. Your blog and podcast are huge resources for other photographers and for businesses. How do you decide what information to share so you aren’t giving away too much?
Thank you so much! That means a lot. Honestly, I don’t really hold anything back. I believe that there is more than enough work to go around for everyone. In sharing what I know, I help others, which in turn raises up the industry as a whole, and ultimately creates more work in the long run. The more you give, the more you get back. I also just really, really love sharing. Connecting with other creatives and talking about work, creativity, and life is so inspiring to me, that I wouldn’t have it any other way!

4. Earlier this summer you wrote a blog post about your decision to stop photographing weddings. Was it hard to walk away from that side of the business?
Honestly, it wasn’t. I knew very quickly that wedding photography wasn’t the right choice for me, so I walked away. Sure, I had a moment of doubt here and there, but whenever that happened, I went back to myself and got super clear about where I was going and what my goal was: to make my career as a fashion photography succeed. Going back to that goal made walking away from weddings very easy.

5. What is Olivia Bossert Photography’s most successful form of marketing?
It varies if I’m honest! Sometimes its Instagram, sometimes people find me through a Google search and read a blog post. Sometimes it’s through Pinterest. Sometimes it’s word of mouth. I think that all the marketing I do works together quite well. There’s no one thing which is better than the others.

Boss Lady - Olivia Bossert - Lifestyle Photographer - Social Stylate

6. With iPhones, editing apps, and the popularity of Instagram everyone seems to think they are a photographer. Does that affect your business at all?
No, it doesn’t. I’m highly skilled. I know how to manually take a great image. I can manipulate light, I’ve spent years honing my craft, working on composition, creating my own editing style. I love that everyone has such immediate access to photography these days! It’s wonderful that everyone gets to be so creative. But just having access to a smartphone doesn’t suddenly make you a photographer. My clients book me for my vision, my style, and for me as a business owner and person.

7. For those trying to build their personal brands, it can be hard to think of photos to take, especially when we aren’t traveling or doing anything super exciting. Any content suggestions or tips?
I’m going to make a shameless plug here, because the ebook I just released, “How To Take Beautiful Instagram Photos” has a whole chapter dedicated to popular Instagram themes and lots of ideas of photos to take! I’ve created a discount code, just for BossLady readers: BOSSLADY001.

But to get you started, I suggest trying this exercise: Pick a theme. Perhaps it’s the color blue. Grab your camera or smartphone, and head out for a walk for an hour. Along the way, keep an eye out for the color blue. What do you see? Do you notice anything new? Take photos along the way of anything and everything which inspires you. You might come away with nothing at all, but you might also randomly take an image which you otherwise never would have! It can open your eyes to something totally new.

8. If you could go back and tell yourself one thing before you started your business, what would that be?
To trust myself. To go with the flow. To not worry about what other people might think, and do what works best for me, not what I think other people want me to do.

9. What inspires you and fuels your creativity?
Nature, without a doubt. Going somewhere new. Getting out of my comfort zone. But also, fashion! I love clothes so much. They inspire me massively.
In terms of fuel for my creativity: I need space. Time to myself. Time to reflect. Calm. Quiet. Time away from work can be hard, but always fills my creative fuel tank right up! Surrounding myself with other creative people who inspire me, that’s also incredibly inspiring.

10. Who is a #BossLady you admire and why?
Oh gosh, so many. My best friend, Anna Clark, she’s an incredible creative and human being. Estée Lalonde for being such a powerful woman. I’m loving Alex Beadon right now. Her podcast is incredible. And my mum and grandmother, always.

Just for fun…
Favorite time of day to photograph: It’s so cliché but it has to be golden hour.
One item I can’t live without: not an item, but my dog.
Photographer idol: Paolo Roversi
Cocktail of choice: I don’t drink!
This Disney princess hair I most covet: Rapunzel, always.
If I could be anywhere in the world right now, I’d be in: right where I am, now.

More about Olivia
Website | Instagram | Podcast

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Boss Lady: Hart Huguet Hagerty

Boss Lady is a series that shares personal insights from creative women in business. This week, we chat with Hart Hagerty, the founder of HART, a jewelry line of “understated statement pieces.” (We’re obsessed with her tassel earrings!) All of Hart’s creations combine her love of Asian aesthetics and her bohemian side for the perfect everyday statement. Hart’s jewelry is the perfect finishing touch to any outfit!

Hart-BossLady-Social Stylate

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself and your career.
After majoring in Chinese, I moved to Shanghai where I worked as lifestyle/fashion editor for a couple of years. I started my brand there on the side, and ended up putting it on the backburner when I moved to NYC after 5 years grinding it out China. I lasted only 1.5 years in NYC working for other companies… I really missed Charleston and working for myself! So I moved back home in August 2016 and the rest is history.

2. What prompted you to start HART?
My desire for independence (having my own work schedule), constant wanderlust (any excuse to travel the world), and creative expression. I also love the challenges of running my own business. There’s a learning opportunity at every corner.

3. Looking back is there anything you wish you knew before you launched?
I wish I had hired my assistant earlier. As soon as you can afford it, hire HELP. Don’t feel guilty about delegating — it will only free up time and energy for you to further grow your business.

4. Describe a challenge you faced, either as a designer or a business owner.
Navigating international tax law, import/export and trademarks hasn’t been easy. I can’t recommend highly enough to invest in the best lawyers and accountants you can find. They will save you money in the long run. I feel a lot of peace of mind knowing that super smart people are working on my business. That is priceless.

5. Where did the inspiration for your signature tassel earrings coming from?
Tassels are the perfect “everyday statement earring”. They exude bohemian chic, a sense of fun and are also timeless, classic and appeal to a wide array of people. I noticed a big gap in the market for well-made, lightweight and well-priced earrings. So I went for it!

6. What is HART’s most successful form of marketing?
My intern’s main role is essentially to send earrings to bloggers/influencers as gifts. They have really helped us spread the word! Possibly even more importantly though… I believe excellent customer service and good product has been our biggest generator of sales. A huge portion of our sales are repeat customers who love the brand and the quality of the earrings. You can market the magic all you want, but if you don’t treat your customers exceptionally well and create quality products, then you’re going to fail.

7. Who is a Boss Lady you admire and why?
On a local level, Deirdre Zahl of Candy Shop Vintage. Deirdre is incredibly generous with her advice, time and support. Nationally… Oprah. I love her message of mindfulness and prioritizing being a good person over being good at business. In short, don’t be a dick to others and be grateful for all the little wins along the way.

8. What advice do you have for those looking to go from employee to entrepreneur?
To quote Nike… “Just do it.” Start small. Start somewhere.

Just for fun…
Cocktail of choice: dirty gin martini
Best show to binge-watch: currently, Comedians in Cars getting coffee
Favorite thing about living in Charleston: biking or walking in my neighborhood downtown.
Describe your perfect Sunday: sleeping in late with my fiancé, a walk or surf on Folly followed by lunch at Taco Boy. And then evening tennis with my girlfriends at Colonial Lake!
Person you’d most like to see wearing your earrings: Alexa Chung (we just sent some to her! fingers crossed!)

HartCollage-BossLady-SocialStylate

More on HART
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