Keeping Small Businesses Competitive through Sharing Best Practices of Global Leaders

Archive for June, 2018

Leah Oviedo, Founder of Investing in Women


Leah Oviedo

Leah Oviedo is a business owner in Encinitas , CA . She is the founder of Investing In Women, a free business resource site and grant program, Her services include Press Release writing, Social Media Strategy and Logo Design.

Self employed since 2006, she started Mercado del Mundo, an online boutique featuring clothing, exotic silks, jewelry and fine art from various artists. Coming from a family of successful women business owners she wanted to give back and encourage more women to become financially independent. To contact Leah directly email,


1. A la Oprah, What did you know for sure when you decided to embark on your business?

Leah: I knew that I wanted to start a business that would not just be profitable for me, but make a difference for others as well.

Take us through a typical day, from the moment you wake up til calling it a day.

I get up early and take a walk than return home to eat breakfast. I dress up for the day, because working my pajamas makes it too tempting to go back to bed!

I get online and start working on both of my websites. I return emails, check up on a few networking sites and research new business resources for iiWomen. I take an hour or two for lunch non business errands. Most of my work is completed online so I spend the majority of my time sitting in front of the computer. In the evening I usually attend online networking chats or webinars. My favorite days are when there is a live networking event to attend. While I enjoy online networking, it is not as much fun as meeting people in person.
Some days I work until 8 pm, but stop myself from working later so I do not burn out!


2. What are your tricks for time management with all of the responsibilities you have?

Leah:  I write up a priority list with the most important actions in a week first. I always add deadlines for each task so I am motivated to finish on time.


3. Best advice received when you started out in your business?

Leah:  Read everything before you sign. There are some very shady deals out there that can cost you a lot of money and time!
The best advice I can pass on is don’t be afraid to ask. If you want to grow your business you will learn that asking for help and advice is easy and has great results.


4. When did you know for sure that your business plan was going to work? (a ha moment)

Leah:  It was actually about a year after I wrote my plan. The day I awarded my first business grant was the moment I knew that I was growing a successful business. I’ve also realized that your business plan is not set in stone, you will make changes and add new goals as your business grows past your original plans.


5. What resources do you turn to for direction, advice, fresh ideas?

Leah:  I have formed relationships with several other entrepreneurs that I have collaborated with over the years. They are always there to give me feedback and support. I also find the news and the Q&A tool on Linked Into be great for finding new information.


6. What’s next for Mercado del Mundo/Investing in women over the next 6 months? 3 years?

Leah:  Over the next 6 months, Mercado del Mundo will add new artists. Investing In Women will have awarded our second and possibly 3rd business grant. Over 3 years, Mercado del Mundo will represent more independent artists and designers as well as fair trade and co-ops. The goal for Investing In Women is to award 100 grants in the next 2 years, so 3 years down the line I hope to include international grants as well.


7. What’s been your proudest achievement as a woman? as a business owner?

Leah:  Awarding the business grant has been the highlight of my entrepreneurial career. When I first started out with Mercado del Mundo my proudest moment was the first sale I made for our first independent jewelry designer.


8. If you could do anything in your business differently, what would it be and why?

Leah:  I would have saved up more cash in the beginning so I would not have been as stressed out the first year. This would have made running a new business easier. However, it has all worked out!

Thanks for inviting me to be your first interview!

Social Media For Leah Oviedo:

Melinda , CEO of Happy Quail


Melinda Marchiano

Melinda Marchiano established her business, Happy Quail, in 2009 at the age of fifteen. Her reasons for starting her business were not usual. Melinda became CEO of Happy Quail so that she would be able to publish the story she had written while she was recovering from cancer– without the harsh editing of a big publishing house. Believing her story needed to remain intact in order to truly help others with cancer, Melinda’s Happy Quail published Grace in October 2009. This first edition won two 2010 International Book Awards. In January 2010, Melinda began working with Greenleaf Book Group on her second edition, Grace: A Child’s Intimate Journey Through Cancer and Recovery which Happy Quail published in October 2010. The second edition is a finalist in the 2010 ForeWord Book of the Year Awards (winners to be announced in June.) Melinda is a passionate childhood cancer advocate, speaking at schools, cancer centers, cancer fundraisers, as well as churches and business events. Her associations include 2011 Livestrong Leader, United Way Youth Grant Recipient for her program Literacy & Advocacy Challenge, Imerman Angel, and dancer with the Civic Ballet of San Luis Obispo and San Luis Jazz.


1. What prompted you to start your website?

Melinda: I started my website to raise awareness about childhood cancer and to share my book/story.

How do you manage areas of your life (school, hobbies, sports, family time, friends) that are most important to you?

I prioritize and try not to spread myself too thin. The most meaningful things come first… like faith and family.


2. You’ve been so successful with your book and helping others through your site.. What else would you like to get involved with over the next few years?

Melinda: Thank you, Edith. I hope to become closer to and more involved with childhood cancer organizations such as Alex’s Lemonade Stand, St. Baldrick’s, and CureSearch.


3. What’s been your proudest achievement?

Melinda: Beating cancer.


4. If you had the opportunity to bring all members of your school into one room, what message would you share with them?

Melinda: I love this question Edith. I would share that life is precious, and we must not waste a single moment. Be good to one another and fulfill your potential because our time here is short.


5. Who has been the most influential person to you?

Melinda: My mom has been most influential because of her strength, faith, and character!


To purchase Melinda’s inspiring book, click the link below.

Social Media For Melinda Marchiano:

Janet Giampietro, Creative Consultant, Designer and Social Media Strategist

Janet Giampietro’s BIO

Janet Giampietro

Janet Giampietro is a Creative Consultant + Social Media Strategist.

With over 20 years of creative development experience, Janet has extended her creative thinking to social media strategy. Janet utilizes her extensive communications and marketing background to help startups, small businesses and nonprofits enter the social media sphere, build their communities and integrate their messaging. As a consultant to, Janet has developed and managed its social media presence.

Janet was the Founder and Creative Director of Studio Francesca, a design and communications firm that developed award-winning materials for companies and nonprofits. She has produced communication materials for JPMorgan Chase, Pfizer, The Wall Street Journal/Dow Jones and The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Janet also served as creative consultant to the nonprofits: Abilities!, IDA-NY, and Agenda for Children Tomorrow (ACT). Her work has been recognized in national publications including Print, ID, CA, Non-Traditional Design and Idea.

Janet has been active in Literacy Partners and School Power Lunch Programs in New York City. As an adventure traveler, she has visited many developing countries and believes in giving back. After five years of serving the Young Heroes Foundation in a pro bono capacity, Janet is currently its President and QOO.


1. Oprah Winfrey has been inspiring us each month with her unique approach to life and to creating our very best lives so, as a tribute to her, A La Oprah, what did you know for sure when you decided to be a solo business practitioner?

Janet: In many ways, it’s a good personality fit. As a previous small business owner and freelancer, I’ve been my own boss. I like challenges, adventure and managing my own time.


2. Take us through a typical day with your schedule from start to finish.

Janet: With no crises looming, a typical day is: Up at 7am and doing 20 minutes of Pilates 3xs a week before digging in. Between 8 // 8:30am, I’m easing into the first few hours with admin, answering email, reading current news/feeds, then moving onto returning calls. Then it’s onto the actual project work, meetings, conference calls or whatever for the bulk of the day. My social media and blog updates are scheduled at the end of the day, 3xs weekly. A lunch break is a necessity even if it’s a half hour walk.

3. What are a few of your “can’t live without” applications on your personal computer/smart phone?

Janet: On my MAC, there’s CS4, MS Office, Quickbooks, iTunes. I’m working in the cloud more and more with clients. On my iPhone – apps: NPR News and NPR Addict, NYTimes, WSJ Mobile, Dragon Dictation, HootSuite, Facebook, and myPantone.

4. What are your tricks for time management?

Janet: Knowing one’s personal strengths and weaknesses is the best impetus for planning. I work best doing admin/answering emails etc. in the morning, catching up with news and feeds. Creative/strategizing happens later in the day for me. With a few exceptions, social media time is scheduled between 6–7 3xs a week. That’s reading/updating my accounts and updating my blog content or finding new blog topics. For me, that has to be scheduled, dedicated and finite time.

5. Best advice received when you started your business?

Janet: Tailor the business to your strengths and don’t try to do too much.

6. When did you know for sure that starting a consulting firm was the right path for you to take in your career?

Janet: I had been considering consulting for a while. With the economic situation as it was, people were flocking to social media for networking and engagement. Many people were (are) unclear as to what to do in that space and others were (are) terrified of it. I saw social media as changing the way forward, and felt that I had skills and advice to offer small businesses and nonprofits getting started in it.

7. If given an extra hour each day to seek new ideas and brainstorm, what are some sources you turn to?

Janet: I read a lot of travel essays and nonfiction on international politics. In both cases, these types of books open up my mind to different possibilities, lifestyles and methodologies. I like doing research and scan many news feeds daily. I also mine my social media accounts for news, trends and thought patterns.

8. Given the current economic climate, how has your strategy for your consulting firm  changed for the short-term and long-term?

Janet: In this current economic climate, I’m still untangling the new NEW, so these strategies are evolving.

What’s been your proudest achievement as an entrepreneur?

Continuing to learn and grow, and find new ways of expanding and applying my creative/marketing background.

9. If you could re-start your business, what would you do differently and why?

Janet: Since this is a relatively new venture, I’m still doing analysis and adjustments. I’m sure there should have been more research, and better planning.

10. What are some of the ways that you achieve balance in your life?

Janet: Travel is both my escape and refresher. It’s one of the few ways for me to truly disconnect. When that’s not possible, I love to exercise – I’m a walker and hiker. Family and friends are my anchors.

11. The one book you would recommend highly to our readers (and why?)

Janet: I’ve most recently read DIFFERENT: Escaping the Competitive Herd by YoungMe Moon. I reviewed it in a recent blogpost. The author has a strong storytelling style and stresses differentiation, not as a marketing tool, but as a mindset – similar to a design thinking state of mind. The book is a refreshing and informative read.

12. If you received a surprise bonus equal to half of your monthly salary, what (if anything) would you spend it on?

Janet: A fabulous bit of adventure travel – somewhere in Africa.

13. What are some of your most rewarding charitable involvements and why?

Janet: I’ve done pro bono creative work for a charity founded by a friend called Young Heroes, which provides food and hope for Swaziland’s orphan families. Young Heroes’ founder, Steve Kallaugher, has recently entrusted its management to me.

My involvement is rewarding for many reasons, but two specifically: In a very small way, I’m contributing to a project that may have a profound effect on someone’s life. And secondly, I’m learning new skills and expanding on existing ones.

14. Who has been the most influential person to you as you’ve advanced in your career?

Janet: Geri Stengel, founder of and a serial entrepreneur. She has consistently reinvented her talents and built upon her previous successful ventures. She’s quite a motivator.

To learn more about Janet, please visit her website by clicking the link below:

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Brittany Bergquist, Co-Founder of Cell Phones for Soldiers

Brittany Bergquist’s BIO


1. How did you first become involved in the non-profit sector?

Brittany: We first became a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit organization in 2004 when I was thirteen years old and my brother Robbie was twelve.

Robbie and I were watching the morning news and heard the story about a young soldier from Natick, Massachusetts who had rung up a cell phone bill of more than $7,000. His cell phone company had shut off his service and we thought that this just wasn’t right. We asked our parents, “Why should he be worried about paying his cell phone bill when he really should be worried about keeping himself safe?”

We decided to raise money to pay his cell phone bill. We had a car wash and bake sale and when the cell phone company decided to waive his bill, we investigated and found that this soldier wasn’t the only one who was having difficulty paying high cell phone bills.

That’s when Cell Phones for Soldiers was born. We had the idea to collect and recycle used cell phones – everyone has one lying around the house. I contacted cell phone recycling companies to see if one would pay us for the cell phones that we would collect. I found one and we work with them to create drop off sites for used cell phones. Currently we have around 15,000 collection sites across the nation. With the funds raised, we purchase prepaid international calling cards that troops can safely use on landlines in the Middle East and elsewhere. So far, we have distributed more than 2 million cards to troops around the world.

As a member of the Sr. Mgmt Staff in a mid size NPO, I can appreciate that the leaders wear several hats in accomplishing day to day responsibilities. Please share with me how you manage your multiple responsibilities.

As a sophomore in college, I have had to delegate the many responsibilities of running a non-profit. We are still very active in Cell Phones for Soldiers. We travel for media appearances, speaking events, to collection sites and help as much as we can with the day-to-day operations of the charity.

Robbie and I have help from our parents who are both public school teachers. We also have assistance from the recycling company who collects all of our phones. They help us with the day-to-day emails and phone calls.

Our recycling partner, ReCellular, in Ann Arbor, Michigan, has been very supportive of our program.

2. What are your favorite tools (tech or otherwise) for managing areas of your life that are most important to you?

Brittany:  I would have to say that my phone is my favorite tool for managing my non-profit. I’m able to answer emails, check and update Facebook and contact donors and volunteers no matter where I am.

3. Best advice received when you began leading your NPO?

Brittany: “Don’t worry about what others say about you, you know that you’re doing the right thing and should be proud of your efforts.”

That was told to Robbie and me by our parents. As young people starting a non-profit, we sometimes felt that we weren’t taken seriously by some adults. Our peers were not always supportive of our efforts either. We had to toughen up and not let negative comments keep us down.

My parents knew that it was difficult for us, but they encouraged us to stick with it and I’m so glad they did. We wouldn’t be able to support troops like we are without having been given that support. We just set a goal for 2011 – to distribute 750,000 communication tools to troops. We wouldn’t be able to pull that off without great advice like that from our parents.

4. What’s been your proudest achievement at Cell Phones for Soldiers?

Brittany:  My proudest achievement at Cell Phones for Soldiers is that we have been able to send over 114 million minutes of talk time to our troops while keeping more than 8.3 million cell phones out of landfills.
It’s an achievement in multiple ways since not only are we supporting our troops on a daily basis; we’re also keeping hundreds of tons of toxic chemicals found in cell phones out of our landfills and water supplies across the country.

Receiving thanks from troops we are able to reach and support also is what makes this all worth while. We receive letters and emails all the time thanking us for the calling cards. Knowing that we have reached so many already and have the opportunity to reach so many more moving forward is what makes me proud.

Reaching our goal for 2011 and sending our troops 750,000 means to call home will definitely be my most proud moment so far. I’m just keeping my fingers crossed that we will reach our goal!

To donate your old cell phone (or just money), click on the NPO’s logo to the left!

Social Media For Cell Phones For Soldiers:

Sandy Dumont, The Image Architect

Sandy Dumont’s BIO

Sandy Dumont


1. Oprah Winfrey has been inspiring us each month with her unique approach to life and to creating our very best lives so, as a tribute to her, A La Oprah, what did you know for sure when you decided to embark on your business?

Sandy: I knew with absolute certainty that I wanted to help people change their lives by making changes to their image, just as I had done at age 17 when I got my red dress.

When I was 16, I walked across the stage of my high school auditorium to give a piano recital. From behind the stage, two boys shouted, “Hey Boney Maroney, where’d you get that haircut?” I sat down to perform and blanked out completely. I hated the way I looked so much I wanted to drawl in a black hole and disappear. My mother had made by dress, and it was a drab ugly color and terrible style. My mother cut my hair, and it looked like I had stuck my head in the blender. There wasn’t anything about myself I liked.

A year later it was graduation and my birthday, so I went shopping for a new dress and experienced an epiphany. I found a perfect red dress that made me feel special. When I looked at myself in the mirror, in that exquisite moment I could see my own self peeping through. I had found the real me. My new red dress changed the way I saw myself and felt about myself.

I scoured the pages of Glamour Magazine and taught myself how to do makeup; I went to a hairdresser and used my hard-earned babysitting money to get a decent haircut. And, of course, I wore red a lot. Then the most astonishing thing happened – for the first time in my life, people told me I was pretty. They saw me. That dress and my new found self image gave me the courage to move to Washington, DC and enroll in a two-year fashion school. In demand long before I graduated, I became one of the top fashion models in town. Top designers and fashion coordinators shared their secrets. My life was changed forever – and I had changed profoundly. The “grey mouse” was gone forever, and in her place was a self-assured fashion model – whose signature color was, of course, red.

2. Take us through a typical day, from the moment you wake up until you call it a day.

Sandy: My day begins with a breakfast of bacon, eggs, toast and green tea. It’s the only part of my day that is predictable. Some days I’m traveling to another city to do a workshop or keynote. Last week I returned from a 2-week speaking tour in Europe. I always arrive the day before, since flights are cancelled so often these days. I once missed an evening keynote in New Jersey because flight after flight kept getting cancelled. It was awful, and I never want that to happen again. When I’m in town, I may go to a client’s premises to do a three-hour staff workshop; other days I may do an all-day Total Image Makeover workshop in my studio. This is for two people, and it begins at 10am and is finished at 5pm. I provide lunch, and we break at 12:30 and eat while chatting about color and other things.

When I’m not doing workshops I’m in my office writing articles or working on my book. I write monthly columns for several publications. I’m also an active volunteer, so sometimes I have a board meeting with the local Chamber of Commerce. I’m also president of the SE Virginia Chapter of the National Association of Women business owners, so there’s a monthly meeting to attend and a monthly board meeting; and loose ends to tie up in between.

I usually leave my office around 5:30pm and begin thinking about dinner. For many years I was a gourmet cook, even attended Cordon Bleu School in London, but now I’m interested in simple, healthful meals. My husband grills something and I cook the vegetables.

3. What are your tricks for time management with all of the responsibilities you have and all of the demands placed on your time?

Sandy: I wish I could tell you I have a system, but I don’t. I have an assistant who looks at my daily 250 emails and sends me the ones I need to look at and answer. For the rest, I just do things as they need doing.

4. Best advice received when you started out in your business?

Sandy: An early mentor told me to do only the things you love doing, and that’s what I do! I love my business, so it doesn’t seem like work.

5. When did you know for sure that your business plan was going to work? (aha moment)?

Sandy: When I lived in Belgium, it became clear that Belgians were reluctant to wear the colors I suggested. They only felt good in grunge colors! That’s because they’ve been invaded since the days of Julius Caesar, followed by nearly every country in Europe. They have discovered that it is safe to dress to blend into the background, and in a primarily wooded environment, earthy grunge colors will do it! I have been told by many a client that they would rather look ugly than wear bold colors.

As a result, I designed a series of props to enable them to “look and see.” That’s an expression I use to signify that you’re no longer choosing colors from the “heart and soul”, but from the results in the mirror. It’s a powerful thing, and it enabled me to become an even better image consultant. I’m very thankful for this experience.

6. What resources do you turn to for direction, advice, fresh ideas?

Sandy: My affiliation with the National Speakers Association has helped me more than anything. Through their many extraordinary workshops, I have educated myself in the arena of Search Engine Optimization, designing newsletters and websites, marketing, and so much more. I recommend it to anyone who wants to succeed as a small business owner, not just as a speaker. Within NSA, there are also local Mastermind groups for brainstorming with associates.

7. What’s next for your business over the next 6 months? 3 years?

Sandy: In my spare time, I’m working on my book for businesswomen. It will be the culmination of everything I’ve learned about image.

Within the next two months, I also intend to produce a set of DVDs so that companies can use them to help improve the image of their staff.

My dream is to have a limited line of makeup within one year. Within three years my goal is to expand my school, The Impression Strategies Institute, to an even greater reach. This will mean training others to teach my courses.

8. What’s been your proudest achievement as an entrepreneur?

Sandy: Being chosen by the Belgian State television as their image consultant when they were launching their “new look.”

9. If you could re-start your business, what would you do differently and why?

Sandy: The only thing I would do differently is to produce products much earlier. It is necessary to duplicate your efforts.

10. What are some of the ways that you achieve balance in your life?

Sandy: I try to make time to have a “date” with my husband once a week. I also like walking and going to the Pilates studio for regular workouts.

11. If there was one piece of advice or suggestion (about anything) that you could provide to all of our readers, what would it be?

Sandy: I would pass on that wonderful advice given to me many years ago: Only do what you love doing and it will never seem like you are working!

To learn about the services provided by The Image Architect, click the link below:

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