Boss Lady: Erika Dawkins

Boss Lady is a series that shares personal insights from creative women in business. This week we talk to Erika Dawson. Erika is the owner of Bon Ton Studio, a collection of thoughtfully curated designs, wovens, and cozy goods from artisans around the world.

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

A California native and fashion school graduate, I lived overseas in Australia for six years with my South African husband prior to opening our first brick & mortar. Whilst abroad I was introduced to a friend and together we created a women’s clothing label, ANIKA. Years later I acquired the business, rebranded as Bon Ton Studio and moved back to my hometown of Healdsburg in Northern California. My career has evolved as much as I have personally. It is fun (and sometimes comical) to think about everything I’ve done and worked on.

2. What prompted you to start Bon Ton Studio?

Bon Ton Studio was the result of hitting the reset button on ANIKA. After having a clothing label known for our simple designs for everyday basics, I was ready to make the pivot from the wardrobe to the home. The concept of Bon Ton Studio quickly evolved and we still sell ANIKA in-store.

3. What inspires you and fuels your creativity?

Naturally, I’m a really observant person. There is a quote by Grace Coddington in The September Issue, where she is sitting in a taxi and says: “Always keep your eyes open… keep watching, because whatever you see out the window, or wherever, can inspire you.” Simply put, there is so much that inspires me. Sometimes it’s being on a treasure hunt at my local antique store, and other times its scrolling Pinterest, makers markets, coffee table books, or traveling. There’s always something, just keep your eyes open!

4. How do you discover and choose the artisans you work with and feature?

Items curated for Bon Ton Studio come from our travels and living abroad. We’ve been fortunate enough to have met a few artisans along the way and some we were introduced to. Our relationship is more than a simple B2B transaction. We give back to each other in a way that creates a mutually beneficial connection.

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

When you are in business for yourself, it is inevitable that you will face challenges, or roadblocks I like to call them. As I’ve grown older I’ve learned not to stress over the small stuff and have become very solution-oriented. I’m good at “fixing” things and I see myself as a problem solver. Back in October, one week before we were set to open our first brick & mortar, our entire town was evacuated due to the Kincade Fire. I had to pack up my entire home and store not knowing whether or not we would have a home and business to return to. Once we were evacuated we knew there wasn’t a lot we could do except waiting. As a business owner, it’s important to have everything in order from your bookkeeping to insurance and everything in-between. During the evacuation, I found peace of mind knowing I had everything organized in case something did happen.

6. What are the marketing similarities/differences you’ve found between owning an online store and opening your brick and mortar shop (which looks incredibly cozy!)?

Our marketing efforts for our social channels have stayed fairly the same. It is easier since we can direct followers to both our brick & mortar and online store. Differences we have noticed is our customer retention, in-person, and word-of-mouth marketing. It’s had an invaluable impact on our brand and we are focusing a lot of marketing efforts in this category in 2020.

7. What do you see for Bon Ton Studio’s future? Any upcoming projects you can tell us about?

Our first month of being open we hosted three pop-ups at the store and will continue to host smaller brands in 2020. We are flirting with the idea of taking Bon Ton Studio on the road, maybe destination pop-ups or something overseas. Watch this space!

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

There are so many women I could list. I gravitate towards female-owned/led businesses that are doing something big, valuable and meaningful. Specifically, Erin Gore of Garden Society, Christy Baird of LOHO Bride and Helena Price Hambrecht of Haus.

Just for fun!
This is how I feel about Christmas music: Totally into it. We love the Elf soundtrack at our house during the holidays!
Favorite activity to do to relax: I enjoy working out, playing with my 14-month-old daughter, enjoying a home-cooked meal with my husband and of course traveling.
Something you may not know about me is: I’m an “extroverted” introvert!
How I take my coffee/tea: At home, I do a stovetop percolator coffee for my husband and I. When I’m out and ordering in a coffee shop, it’s typically a latte with oat milk.
Currently binge-watching: I just finished season three of Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. The costume designer, Donna Zakowska, has done an amazing job throughout the series. I’m (obviously) a huge fan!

For more on Erika
Website | Instagram | Facebook

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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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Boss Lady: Olivia Falcione

Boss Lady is a series that shares personal insights from creative women in business. This week, we chat with Olivia Falcione, publisher of Modern Luxury Weddings Philadelphia, where the newest inspirations and top vendors debut in the season’s most gorgeous weddings. Olivia brings her vast advertising and sales experience, unwavering persistence, and love for all things Philadelphia to the luxury wedding industry.

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

First, hello! And thanks for inviting me to be on the Social Stylate blog! To take you back a bit, I am born and raised in the Philadelphia area and I went to college at Penn State University. While I studied public relations in college, the majority of my career has been in advertising sales and publishing. After graduating at PSU, I got my first start in magazine ad sales as an Account Executive at Global Traveler magazine, based in Yardley.  This is where I really learned the ins and outs of sales and I immediately knew it was for me. I then started at Modern Luxury, but in their New York City offices, where I worked solely on the NY market publications, including Manhattan magazine and Beach magazine (in the Hamptons). While I loved living and working in New York City, I was happy to come home to Philadelphia, where I ended up at Philadelphia Style magazine. I left Philly Style briefly for an opportunity at Sparks Marketing Group, where I worked in event partnerships and sales. However, it didn’t take me long to come back to the publishing world. I was thrilled to re-join the Philadelphia Style team in September of last year and to take on the Publisher position of our newly launched bridal publication Modern Luxury Weddings Philadelphia.

Outside of work at the magazine, I stay busy ( and constantly entertained) with my very active 3-year old son Gabriel. I appreciate spending time with Gabe, along with my family and friends. Other things I love? Strong coffee, red wine, exercising, traveling, trying new restaurants in the city and, of course, weddings!  

2. Describe your current position at Modern Luxury and how you got to where you are today.

In my current role at Modern Luxury, I am the Publisher of our bridal publication Modern Luxury Weddings Philadelphia. Focused on the sales side of the magazine, I work alongside our team to ensure that we are building partnerships with the top luxury brands in the wedding industry here in Philadelphia. We create advertising programs for brands that include print, digital, social media, and event exposure. I feel grateful to work in the bridal category, as Philadelphia is made up of some of the most talented and passionate professionals in the entire wedding industry. In addition to weddings, I also am involved in the advertising and sales for our sister lifestyle publication Philadelphia Style magazine. I have been working in publishing & advertising sales for almost 10 years now, with a strong focus in the luxury market. I have learned to understand the needs and expectations of clients and the audience in the luxury publishing space. I believe my experience & knowledge in this industry has brought me to where I am today. Also, learning that persistence is key and that if you don’t ask for it, the answer will always be no.

3. How has media convergence impacted the creation of advertising campaigns for Modern Luxury?

I think when industries and trends change, you have no choice but to change with them! With the shift towards digital and social media, we of course, had to adapt to ensure that we could offer our partners integrative programs that allow for them to connect to our audience across all platforms.  While our print publications continue to be a big focus for us, we can accommodate the needs of our clients with our exceptional digital capabilities and strong social media networks. But might I say that I still personally believe that there is nothing better than the touch and feel of a magazine versus a swipe on a screen!

4. Were you able to experience luxury travel during your time with Global Traveler Magazine? If so, describe your adventure.

Yes, I was! I was able to travel quite a bit and stay in multiple luxury hotel properties in the US and abroad. I would say my trips to the United Arab Emirates are most memorable. It was my first experience flying international business class, which I’d fly everyday if I could!  I was very impressed by Dubai and would love to return for leisure.

5. What inspires you and fuels your creativity?

As a mom and role model to Gabriel, he is really my inspiration and motivation. I am inspired by him daily to set a good example and to show that as long as you’re willing to put in the work, you can achieve whatever you set your mind to!

In terms of my creativity, I am fueled by fashion, music, traveling, and art – particularly photography. I am also inspired by our own magazines, by learning what’s new and exciting with the people and brands of our own city. Lastly, I am a sucker for Pinterest. I could make vision boards all day!

6. Why did you decide to take the position of Director of Strategic Partnerships at Sparks for Big City Moms? What was your most memorable moment from that experience?

As I had been in publishing for the majority of my career, I was excited to take on a new challenge in the events and sponsorship space. Also, as a mom myself, I could really relate to the audience of Big City Moms and understand their needs and expectations. My most memorable experience would be seeing the final product of our work with our Biggest Baby Shower Ever events, which are held in multiple cities across the country. The events had such a great energy and were really enjoyable to be a part of.

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

While she may not be your typical ‘boss lady,’ I really admire Jennifer Lopez. She is extremely successful and always seems to be taking on new challenges in her career. I think in any industry, in order to grow, you have to be willing to step out of your comfort zone and challenge yourself. She seems to have that down! She also stands out to me as someone who stays current with the changing times, but still true to herself. I think being able to adapt to change, while still owning ‘your brand’ plays a big part in the longevity of your career and/or business.  She also still manages to balance life as a mom, stay in amazing shape and somehow, never ages! #teamjlo

Just For Fun

Favorite kind of coffee beans: While I love coffee, I can’t say that I know too much about beans!  I can say that I love a strong, dark roast with just splash of milk, one in the morning and then a pick-me-up cup around 3pm.

A perfect night at home includes: a funny movie, a glass of wine, cheese, sweatpants, and Gabriel

If I could learn a new skill, it would be: Calligraphy! I have been really wanting to take a calligraphy class recently

Best movie involving a wedding: I’d say it’s a tie between My Best Friend’s Wedding and Wedding Crashers

My favorite place to vacation is: Italy and Spain are two of my favorites.

   

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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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