Boss Lady: Dr. Francine Edwards

Boss Lady is a series that shares personal insights from creative women in business. This week, we chat with Dr. Francine Edwards, an Associate Professor of Mass Communications at Delaware State University. Dr. Edwards began her career in the television industry covering news, entertainment, and sports, as well as producing award winning documentaries and co-hosting live shows on the Black Entertainment Television network. Next she moved to public affairs, launching several celebrity endorsed healthcare campaigns before moving towards her passion of teaching.

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1) Having worked at BET for 11 years, what is the most valuable lesson you learned from your time there?
Robert Johnson, owner of BET, was probably the most empowering boss I’ve ever had. His advice to his employees was to step outside of your own box and to always be looking for the next opportunity. Mr. Johnson always said that he didn’t expect us to stay at BET and that when we moved on, what people in the industry would see in us is the work ethic, creativity and skills we learned from BET being put into action.

2) What has been the key to your success in the world of mass media?
I’ve always been willing to learn, be innovative and I know how to reinvent myself.

3) What challenges have you faced as a woman throughout your career?
In looking at the workforce as a whole, women of color face colorism (in my own experience what I mean is a light vs dark complexion issue because that was something I dealt with early in my career) and I also find that there is a thin line between being aggressive and commanding respect and being perceived as too forceful. I believe that I’ve broken down walls by finding that balance and being able to provide proof of my worth/value in my research, production ability, and that fact that I have had the opportunity to speak at conferences or serve in leadership roles within various organizations.

4) When did you realize teaching was a passion of yours?
I started graduate school several years after the BET show was canceled. I was in a world that was polar opposite of the corporate or government sector; supportive, engaging and I truly felt valued. I could see the impact that I was having on students and that’s when I realized my true passion and the greatest blessing was being able to continue my love for the media, just in a different way.

5) How did you approach the process of seeking out new professional opportunities?
My career just fell into my lap. After completing the Master’s program at Bowie State University, the faculty encouraged me to pursue the PhD and they provide so much support. Howard University was the ideal place for me to pursue the PhD as well and there I had excellent mentors.

6) Why did you decide to work in communications?
I can honestly say it was a life-long dream. I always wanted to be like Barabara Walters. I admired the fact that she was a groundbreaking female journalists who paved the way for so many women in media. As I got older I realized the power of the media and wanted to be someone who could educate through visual storytelling. My proudest moments are winning NAACP Imagr awards for documentary and production work, so looking back I can see the impact that I had as a journalist and producer.

7) Who inspires you?
So cliche but I have to say my mother. She was an engineer at NASA who went back to school after having a family and supporting our dad with his educational aspirations. She worked in a very male dominated world but worked hard in her union to fight for equal rights for women in the workplace. She also made it a priority to balance her career and family and never once let us down.

8) What gets you up in the morning?
Knowing that my kids look up to me and expect me to be an example and source of encouragement for them.

9) What would you tell other women looking to kick off a career in communications/media?
The truth! Today’s broadcast world or media landscape is not what it used to be! What are you going to do to set yourself apart from the next citizen journalist/producer and those who are trained in the craft? You can’t make excuses and you have to find work-arounds to any problem that may present itself to you. And lastly, think quickly on your feet or you will miss the story.

10) What do you enjoy the most about your position at Delaware State University?
Everyday I get to make a difference in the life of a young person who may otherwise not have a chance or an adult to listen to them and take them seriously. This is a space where we are supposed to encourage students to be exploratory and accept both the challenges and victories and my job is to support them through both so that in four years they are ready for career success.

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Boss Lady: Scarlett Sturgis

Boss Lady is a series that shares personal insights from creative women in business. This week, we chat with Scarlett Sturgis, the founder of WIckbox. Scarlett combined her love of candles with her entrepreneurial drive and created the first luxury candle subscription box. Wickbox curates candles to your preferences, giving you the ultimate luxurious experience. We love their motto: “One, treat yourself. Two, let your light shine.”

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1. Tell us a little bit about yourself and your career.
I was born and raised in the South. I graduated from College of Charleston with a degree in Arts Management & Hospitality & Tourism Management. After graduation, I moved to Europe for a few years (Amsterdam & London) and worked in the corporate events industry. As a daughter and granddaughter of entrepreneurs, I’ve always dreamed of having my own business. I started Wickbox not long after moving back to the Carolinas. It serves as a wonderful creative outlet and taps into my passion for home decor.

2. What prompted you to start​ ​Wickbox?
I had a dream (literally). In the dream, I was chatting with a couple ladies in the mall about how I wanted to start a candle of the month club with candles that are much higher quality than what you can find in the mall. As soon as I woke up I started jotting down all my ideas about it and had a rough business plan and a packaging vision pulled together in a couple days. At that point I had never even heard of a subscription box, but I soon realized there was a whole market out there for them and candles were an untapped part of that market.

3. How do you make Wickbox stand out among other monthly subscription boxes?
Personalization is key! It makes a big difference that subscribers have the opportunity to complete their scent profile and we handpick their candles to match. It takes the fear out of buying candles online that you can’t smell first. Also ensuring that each candle we send out is in a beautiful, on-trend container definitely helps us stand out to those subscribers who value aesthetics and love home decor. And of course the quality of the candles is top-notch.

4. What is your most successful form of marketing? (In terms of sales.)
Instagram has been my most successful form of marketing. I’m a visual person, as are many of our subscribers, so having a beautiful Instagram feed is a great tool to drive sales.

5. Where do you hope to see Wickbox in 5 years?
I hope to see Wickbox helping women in crisis in a big way. I feel called to help women who are facing crises like homelessness, financial struggles, domestic violence, and more, and I would love to use Wickbox as a vehicle to help fuel that mission. We are already doing that on a small scale but I would love to increase those efforts exponentially as we continue to grow.

6. ​Are there any aspects of running your own business that you absolutely hate? Love?
I don’t really enjoy the monotonous admin types of tasks, but I absolutely love curating our candles each month. It’s so fun to hunt for beautiful candle containers and luxurious scents that make the homes of our subscribers feel warm and inviting — like a retreat they can’t wait to relax in.

​7. ​What tools, apps, best practices etc. do you use to stay organized?
I’m really starting to get into automating tedious tasks through applets in IFTTT, and Tailwind is great for scheduling Pinterest and Instagram posts.

8. What inspires you and fuels your creativity?
Traveling inspires me and fuels my creativity like nothing else. I love to experience new cultures including the unique design aesthetics in different parts of the world and the stories behind them. In my home you will find decor pieces from my travels around the globe, and those souvenirs continue to inspire me long after my trip is over.

9. Who is a #BossLady that inspires you and why?
I love the business Kendra Scott has built centered around philanthropy and family. Her business gives away so much to various charities every year, and it’s an inspiration to see how a business can experience rapid growth while simultaneously sowing into the lives of others.

10. What advice do you have for those looking to go from employee to entrepreneur?
Make sure you do your research on how to have a successful launch because you want to make sure you capitalize on the initial buzz as much as possible. Also, having a side-hustle is perfectly fine until you can afford to make it full-time. That’s how I started with Wickbox.

Just for fun…

​Favorite show to binge-watch: Friends will always be my go-to as new shows come and go
Style icon: Serena from Gossip Girls
Cocktail of choice: Scarlett O’Hara or Mojito
The perfect Saturday includes: Exploring a new city on foot or by bike, grabbing lunch at a local market, and browsing through home decor boutiques.
If I could be anywhere in the world right now, I’d be in: Japan during cherry blossom season – I’ve traveled a lot but this one is still on my bucket list!

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Boss Lady: Jennifer Steiner

Jennifer Steiner - Adorn Goods - Boss Lady - Social Stylate

Boss Lady is a series that shares personal insights from creative women in business. This week we chat with Jennifer Steiner, co-founder of Adorn Goods boutique in Centreville, Delaware. Jennifer shares with us what it means to empower women to live positive and organized lifestyles along with advice for future #bossladies.

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself and your career.
I studied Communication and Art History in college. Everything I’m about and ever known has one theme…aesthetics. I was lucky to grow up with a father who is a mastermind of 18th century architectural design and lover of Philadelphia high style antiques and a mother whose house was always a home and was impeccable. I learned quickly quality over quantity.

I started working on the curatorial staff at Delaware Art Museum as an intern right out of college. I remember my first project was to design a rug out of garden hoses. I thought if I can make a rug made of hoses look good…well I may have potential. From there I went on to special events and then advertising. After I was married, I decided to start the interior design program at Moore College of Art and Design. Then came children and all my time went to them! I feel so lucky to be able to own a business and still pick up my kids from school.

2. What prompted you to start Adorn Goods?
A love of all things beautiful…whether it’s a gorgeous vase, an essential oil that brings you a few moments of relaxation and mindfulness, or the most delicious jar of homemade jam you are so proud to serve your friends and family.

3. How do you decide what brands/lines to carry?
Everything we carry we love and want for ourselves. It’s hard to find the unique, but that’s what we strive for! We want people to love everything and find something they love…truly enjoying their shopping experience.

4. As a retailer, what lessons have you learned that you didn’t know prior to opening the store?
The time it takes to keep things energized and fresh!

5. How do you make your store stand out against competitors?
By offering unique lines with a mix of nostalgia and passion.

6. Where do you hope to see Adorn Goods in 5 years?
The addition of an online store, increased event space and hopefully doing what we are doing now, with the same amount of passion.

7. As a working mom, do you have any tips on creating a balance?
Do the best you can…it’s all good!

8. What inspires you and fuels your creativity?
It’s simple, being in nature and mindfulness.

9. What advice do you have for those looking to go from employee to entrepreneur?
There’s always a way…especially for women business owners. Join a support group or local women in business club.

10. Who is a #BossLady that inspires you and why?
My friend Debi Brooks, who runs a major non-profit, she also a mom, a cook, baker and everything maker : )

Just for fun…

Your happy place is: Anywhere in nature.
The one item you can’t live without it: Salt and chocolate.
Favorite Instagram account to follow: Ugh….
The last show you binge-watched: Big Little Lies!
Cocktail of choice: Dirty Martini
Song you could dance all day to: Crazy In Love by Beyonce and September by Earth, Wind, and Fire.
Trend you wish would disappear: Any trend…I alway try to stick with the classics.

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Boss Lady: Bree Wellons

Boss Lady is a series that shares personal insights from creative women in business. This week we chat with Bree Wellons: interior designer, owner of Dilwyne Designs, and co-founder of Adorn Goods boutique in Centreville, Delaware. Bree 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.
After graduating from Syracuse University, I moved to Sydney, Australia to work at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Public Relations. When the Games finished I began working for an advertising firm, where I was exposed to endless creative businesses. Living in Australia for a few years was an amazing experience filled with travel adventures, tons of design inspirations and I met my husband! Once we moved back to the States I enrolled in an interior design program and was hired by a local designer. In 2009 I started my own interior design company, Dilwyne Designs, which focused on residential and small corporate clients. All of these experiences led me to wanting to open a unique retail shop.

2. What prompted you to start Adorn Goods?How do you decide what brands/lines to carry?
Working in the interior design field and many years of foreign travels introduced me to countless product lines. For many years, I’ve dreamed about opening a shop where all of these creative sources would be available. My business partner, Jennifer Steiner, and I were lucky enough to find the perfect building to buy and renovate in the historic town of Centreville, Delaware. Adorn Goods feels more like a home than a business, which has been well-received by our customers.

3. As a retailer, what lessons have you learned (that you didn’t know prior to opening the store)?
Managing your inventory, interacting with your customers and having a good sales team are most important. Paying attention to what categories of products sell the best will also help steer your business.

4. How do you make your store stand out against competitors?
We like to view Adorn Goods as a modern day general store. You can pretty much get whatever you need for your home, fashion accessories, body products, gifts and food. We want our customers to feel relaxed and inspired in our shop and know that we’re consistently adding products that are unique and different. Our love of fine foods prompted us to include an epicure room where we sell grab and go meals from local chefs. We also offer a private event space and host numerous gatherings.

5. Where do you hope to see Adorn Goods in 5 years?
We want Adorn Goods to be viewed as a one of a kind shopping experience. We also look forward to growing our bridal registry business.

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6. As a working mom, do you have any tips on creating a balance?
Ha! I don’t know if there’s ever a perfect “recipe” for this question. All you can do is try your best and know you’re setting a good example for yous kids by following your dreams. Family life and business needs are always shifting, so just enjoy the ride! My family is very large and we all live close together. Family get-togethers are always totally entertaining with our cast of characters.

7. What inspires you and fuels your creativity?
Adorn Goods is really fulfilling my creative juices. I love meeting all of the interesting people and artisans who find our shop. Owning a store is a special way to connect with creative people and other businesses.

8. What advice do you have for those looking to go from employee to entrepreneur?
Starting a small retail shop is a big risk and can be scary. I like to believe that if you’re dedicated and focused on your business plan and mission, things typically work out for the best. Yes, there will always be bumps in the road and you have to be willing to try new things but, if you’re passionate about what you do, it offers many rewards!

9. Who is a #BossLady that inspires you and why?
Mary Celeste Beall and Kreis Beall are inspirations to me. They so graciously lead Blackberry Farm in Walland, Tennessee, along with their amazing team. Over a year ago Sam Beall, the proprietor of Blackberry Farm, tragically died at the age of 39. Mary Celeste is Sam’s wife and Kreis is his mother. Just a few weeks after Sam’s passing, Jennifer and I attended a Martha Stewart event at Blackberry. Both Mary Celeste and Kreis hosted our group and were the definition of strength, authenticity and elegance. The Beall family has created a one of a kind southern experience at Blackberry Farm. Sam’s vision will live on through is wife, mother and the exceptional Blackberry team.

Just for fun:

1. Your happy place is: Charleston, South Carolina and Lewes, Delaware
2. The one item you can’t live without it: Tata Harper Volumizing Lip and Cheek Tint
3. Favorite Instagram account to follow: The Dogist – Love the owner’s quotes about their dog’s personalities!
4. The last show you binge-watched: The Handmade’s Tale – so well done! Now on to Game of Thrones current season.
5. Cocktail of choice: My friend Debi’s Ginger-ritas. Yuuuuummmmm!
6. Song you could dance all day to: It’s summertime ,so all things Bob Marley!
7. Trend you wish would disappear: High waisted pants! SO not flattering!

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Top photo by KELLI WILKI. Middle photo by LAURA NOVAK.

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