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Archive for the ‘Business Services’ Category

Leah Oviedo, Founder of Investing in Women

LEAH OVIEDO’S BIO

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, http://iiwomen.com. 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, investinginwomen@gmail.com.

IN THE SPOTLIGHT INTERVIEW

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:

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 Ventureneer.com, 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.

IN THE SPOTLIGHT INTERVIEW

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 Ventureneer.com 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

IN THE SPOTLIGHT INTERVIEW

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

IN THE SPOTLIGHT INTERVIEW

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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Dr. Ruchi Dass, Healthcare on Mobiles

Dr. Ruchi Dass’ BIO

 

IN THE SPOTLIGHT INTERVIEW

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?

Ruchi: I graduated from Dental School and started my career as a Dentist hoping to ‘Bring a Smile’ to the people I served. Somewhere along the way, I realized that if I had to do more than ‘bring a smile’ to the starving millions in the world, I had to take a different path. With that realization, it dawned on me that the future of healthcare is tied to efficient use of technology in healthcare and helping medical practitioners adopt newer ways of treating disease. Healthcare is a basic necessity in life and should be accessible to people in all walks of life regardless of color, creed, wealth or political affiliation. I used this philosophy in life to guide my professional career and started working towards establishing a solo career in mHealth/eHealth.

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

Ruchi:

6:30 AM- Suryanamaskar and Yoga
7:30 AM- Get ready for work. My husband is really understanding and helpful. I finish almost half a days job in minutes with his support.
8:30 AM- Reach work and start early morning meetings. I manage 3 time zones.
6:30 PM- In My Car- “Bahadur” my chauffeur takes good care of the bumps on Indian roads while I update my blog and twitter with thoughts and ideas learnt and exchanged with my peer group.
7:30 PM- Cook dinner for my Family, Out on stroll around 9 PM
10 PM – Read My Favorite “Panchatantra Stories” with a glass of Cold Milk and Honey. In
Deep Sleep by 11 PM

PS: Blackberry keeps on buzzing, My Alarm clock ticks at night and I could hear the Tyre rub on the busy road outside. But I am already asleep!

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

Ruchi: I am addicted to my “Blackberry” – email and messenger to keep me connected with my friends and colleagues from around the world. Applications like “Not while driving”, Calmbiance, Business Card Reader and Translator are my daily buddies. I use the browser on my Smartphone or my PC to keep track of the world outside – business news, stock market etc.

4. What are your tricks for time management?

Ruchi: My mantra for time management is PPP – “Prioritize + Plan = Perfect!” You need to decide how much time you need to allocate to people around you in both corporate and personal spheres of life. Time management is the first key to work-life balance. Planning is the key to keeping the “chaos” in check.

5. Best advice received when you started your business?

Ruchi: As I embarked on this new adventure in my career, I’ve had the good fortune of being surrounded by mentors and friends who I could turn to for guidance and advice. It’s hard to pick one piece of advise when there is so much to learn when you start your own enterprise, so I will share some learnings:

One of the strongest assets to building a successful Business is the management team. Vikram Gupta, COO India Venture fund once said, “If I had a choice between an A product and a B management team or an A management team and a B product, more often than not, I should select the B product with an A management team. “

My Husband, Vikas who is a Retail professional ran me through practical examples from his retail background that helped me understand the value of customer engagement – he taught me that having a good product wasn’t going to sell if it didn’t fit/meet the needs of the customer. As an entrepreneur, it is not important to know what a customer wants, but important to “ask” what a customer wants!

David Van Eck, Eclipsys made me realize that a product or service doesn’t necessarily have to be unique, but you have to think of yourself as providing a distinct set of benefits to customers. Even if it is an advantage that will not last forever, it has to last long enough to produce significant profits over the cost of your investments.

Dr Rathan Kelkar made me aware of my motivation- is your goal primarily financial wealth, or are you primarily interested in the personal fulfillment that you will achieve through your entrepreneurial journey?

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

The internet is a great resource for information and I usually wander to some of my favorite websites to draw inspiration for new ideas and learn in the process.

6. Given the current economic climate, how has your strategy for your companies changed for the short-term and long-term?

Ruchi: While we live in a global economy, it is important to understand trends in the local geography where you intend to do business. While the world is reeling from a recessionary/pessimistic economic climate, India is thriving from a booming economy. Our short-term strategy is aligned to the needs of the current business opportunities that we are pursuing in various parts of the world, while our long-term strategy is aligned to our mission and values and is not impacted by the current economic climate.

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

Ruchi: In India, it is rare to find a specialist practicing medicine in rural areas and so a patient in need of specialist care needs to travel a long distance to the city. To the villagers this meant loss of income and significant inconvenience. We deployed a mobile health solution that connected patients in a rural population to specialists in urban areas and significantly reduced their travel burden. Impacting the lives of thousands in the village was a proud achievement for me as a physician, entrepreneur and a fellow human being!

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

Ruchi: I am a poised person naturally. I don’t do much to stay balanced. My Mom says, “A person who is at peace with himself, discerns peace all around”.

9. Two books you would recommend highly to our readers (and why?)

Ruchi: Go Kiss the World- Author- Subroto Bagchi- You will learn that professional success is not an elusive feat. If you have larger than life aspirations, this book is a must read”.

Engaging Leadership- Author- Chris Parker- Gifted to me by a very dear friend, this book is very good read. It talks about how to engage large number of people to bring about radical change amongst a wide population whilst minimizing time wasted in politics, anxiety, negative stories and other internal battles. It is exceptionally well documented and based on some of the latest discoveries and thinking in strategic marketing, leadership, neurology and psychology.

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

Ruchi: Money can buy you a little happiness (occasionally!) – I would splurge a portion of the bonus on a good book or something else that would make me smile and stash the rest for a rainy day.

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

Ruchi: Initially, when “mobile health” was not a buzz word, I was not paid for my involvement as a consultant on such projects. We used to go to villages where people were hungry for the right information and didn’t have access to basic healthcare facilities. We implemented pilot projects in villages to connect them to mainstream centers of care. This work gave me a sense of personal fulfillment and kept me energized!

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

Ruchi: My parents have influenced me the most. The values they instilled in me while I was growing up have not only helped me advance in my career but also become a better human being.

To learn more about Dr. Ruchi Dass’s work, click on the link below:

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Philippa Gamse CMC, Websites That Win International

Philippa Gamse’s BIO

Philippa Gamse

IN THE SPOTLIGHT INTERVIEW

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?

Philippa: Probably all my working life – I don’t do well with routine, commuting, business dress every day, and especially not well with reporting to superiors who may or may not like me or understand what I do (can you tell I’ve had some bad experiences?)

I’ve always felt that the only really valid review is from clients who either hire me again or refer me to others (75% of my speaking business is with repeat or referral clients).

 

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

Philippa: I don’t do well with “typical” days as I’m not good at routine. However, I do try to catch up with news both international and Web-related in the morning, before checking e-mail. Since many of my clients are in Europe and on the East Coast, they’re well into their days by the time I wake up in California.

I also have a very Mediterranean body clock – I like to take off in the afternoon, and then work into the evening – my brain does best in the morning and evening.

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

Philippa: The Sudoku game – keeps my brain agile. Also, I really like my contact manager – it’s called “Chaos Intellect”. I used to use ACT! which was a great program when it started, but then morphed into a monster.

4. What are your tricks for time management?

Philippa: wish I had some! I do know that it’s a great idea to stop and take a walk when I feel my brain getting really tired (I’m lucky enough to live in the middle of a vineyard with great views of the Monterey Bay!)

5. Best advice received when you started your business?

Philippa: “You can’t pay with exposure at Safeway” – it can be very tempting as a consultant to offer free advice, either to impress a potential client with your knowledge, or to help someone. And people looking for speakers are constantly offering “exposure” to their audiences in lieu of a professional fee. Sounds good, but there are no guarantees . . .

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

Philippa: I was working for a national nonprofit, helping their state chapters to start using online technology. When I got my green card, I knew I wanted to stop working for someone else, and go out on my own – I’m not really employable!

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

Philippa: My sources these days are almost all online – newsletters like eConsultancy and eMarketer, and brainstorming in LinkedIn groups and some e-mail lists that I belong to.

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

Philippa: Actually, I have a long-term strategy for my business as a whole, not just the consulting. I am actively exploring other sources of income as the economy affects the speaking industry – I’m currently taking some voiceover classes to see if some work in that field might be viable for me (I do have this classy British accent!)

Also, as the Internet is constantly evolving, it’s important for me to retain my focus on helping small and medium-sized businesses, and what’s appropriate for them. For example, we’re hearing a lot about mobile applications now – my role is to translate for my clients what they can realistically do, and what makes sense for them since they’re not big corporations with deep pockets and massive IT departments.

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

Philippa: I was selected to be the sole expert (and cover photo!) for the UPS “Compass” magazine’s feature story on “Ways to Make your Website Sizzle”, which was distributed to over 1million businesses in Fall 2009.

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

Philippa: I wish that I’d created product (audio, e-books, etc.) a lot earlier – I’m just starting to create these, and it’s very exciting. I’m also hoping that it will be a great way to get my name out.

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

Philippa: I try to walk most days, I take a Jazzercize class, and I volunteer at the local animal shelter where I play with the cats / kittens, and try to give them some love. It’s not their fault that they ended up where they are . . .

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

Philippa: I recently read “Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell – it’s really thought-provoking about what’s actually behind the achievements of people like the Beatles and Bill Gates, and how certain circumstances have a major impact on our likelihood to succeed.

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

Philippa: Wow – where to start? I’m just recovering from major surgery, and have been stunned at all the things that my insurance managed to wriggle out of paying for, so it would be prudent to save it in case of future need.

On the other hand, I love to travel, I like good wine, and so spending it sounds quite inviting!

14. What is some of your most rewarding charitable involvements and why?

Philippa: As I mentioned above, I volunteer at the local animal shelter. I’m amazed at some of the truly awful things that people do to their pets (one woman brought in her beautiful 7-year old cat because she had a new sofa and the cat didn’t match the colour!) These animals are mostly in situations that humans have created, and I want to help give back to them a bit.

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

Philippa: I don’t think there’s any one person – I’ve been lucky to have many mentors, advisers, and people who’ve helped to sustain and develop me along the way.

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Erika Taylor Montgomery, CEO and Founder Of ThreeGirlsMedia & Marketing

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 Erika Taylor Montgomery

IN THE SPOTLIGHT INTERVIEW

1. What prompted you to start your Business?

Erika: I was tired of seeing how PR agencies took advantage of clients with fat monthly retainers, which almost always ended up benefitting the agency, not the client. I also realized that most PR agencies were set up to work with medium to large corporate clients, leaving a huge hole for the 80% of American companies that are small or micro businesses. I thought I could create a better PR model to serve those smaller clients, working on an hourly or project basis, and guaranteeing PR results for their hard-earned money.

Scenario: you meet a business exec who is looking to fund a business that already has had enormous positive implications for the community. He wishes to offer $25,000 to a business that is innovative in its thinking. He has 10 minutes available to speak with you.  What do you share with him about your work?

Three Girls Media & Marketing Inc is an award-winning, boutique PR agency specializing in both traditional and social media. We serve small business – often the companies that need PR the most, but can least afford it. That’s 80% of businesses in the U.S., so there’s a tremendous market there for PR services.

Three Girls’ model is unique. Unlike most PR agencies that work on monthly retainers, we work on an hourly or project basis for our clients, providing them expert PR services for a reasonable cost. In the height of the recession we were flexible and developed a new Al la Carte PR Menu allowing clients to order individual PR services such as press releases or media advisories, Facebook & Twitter management and blog writing on a per-service basis. Our Al la Carte Menu continues to be extremely popular and sets us apart from the way other agencies work.

Three Girls is the only PR agency in the nation to literally guarantee editorial media coverage to our clients – in writing. We’ve exceeded our guarantees 100% of the time, and on average, 40-50% of the media coverage we secure is in Top or Mega-tier outlets with audiences of 250,000 to 1 million, respectively.

We have an amazing track record of success and fill a critical need for small businesses nationwide, making Three Girls Media and excellent investment.

2. For most successful entrepreneurs, there is no typical day so give us a sample of your schedule from start to finish.

Erika:

  • 7-7:30am – Wake-up
  • Hit the treadmill for 45 minutes
  • Coffee!
  • Check Email
  • 9-9:30am – Daily phone meeting with Sr. Director of Publicity
  • Calls and emails with clients and prospects
  • Noon – Networking luncheon or lunch meeting with prospective clients or business power partner
  • Back to the computer for client work in the afternoon
  • Calls and emails with clients and prospects
  • 6-6:30pm – End of workday – Family time

3. What are your “can’t live without” apps on your desktop/cell phone?

Erika: Bay Area News (The San Jose Mercury news app)
Scrabble!

4. What are your tricks for time management?

Erika: You must put things on a calendar and stick to the scheduled time. If you schedule a consultation and it’s supposed to be 30 minutes, keep it to 30 minutes! Let people know how much time you have to speak at the beginning of a call and don’t be afraid to end the conversation when time is up.

5. Best advice received when you started your business?

Erika: Get it in writing…a solid contract is worth 10,000 words.

6. Given the current economic climate, how has your strategy for your company changed for the short-term and long-term?

Erika: In the height of the recession Three Girls was flexible and developed a new Al la Carte PR Menu allowing clients to order individual PR services such as press releases or media advisories, Facebook & Twitter management and blog writing on a per-service basis.

Our Al la Carte Menu was originally designed to be a short-term solution for the economic climate, however it continues to be extremely popular today and at least 80% of our business is now based on the menu, making it a long-term win. It also sets us apart from the way other agencies work.

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

Erika: I’ve had several proud achievements. Three Girls and I have won many awards, including the prestigious YWCA TWIN awards for women in business which will be given out in May.

I’m always extremely proud when we secure nice media placements for our clients. It’s like getting the excitement of Christmas several times a month!

I’m also proud of staff achievements, such as my mentorship of our now Sr. Director or Publicity, Emily Sidley. Emily started with Three Girls almost 5 years ago as an intern. I’ve worked closely with her to build her skills and confidence and have promoted her through the ranks over the years. She’s now and invaluable part of our team.

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

Erika: When I started Three Girls, I worked 16-18 hours a day, 7 days a week. As the company matured, I realized that if I didn’t achieve some form of work-life balance I’d go crazy, or drop dead of a stress induced heart attack, so I made some big changes.

I always take at least 1 weekend day completely off – no computers, no email, no cell phone, no texting, no work of any kind!

I also stop working around 6-6:30 each night so I can have dinner and quality time with my family.

9. Your top 3 book recommendations for our readers (and why?)

Erika: I’m actually writing two books right now. The first which I’m co-authoring with best selling author Anolia Facun (Yes! The Secrets Work and Game Changers), is called Silicon Valley Life – Journeys & Transformations Beyond Technology and is due out July 1st. It’s a compilation of stories from newsmakers and entrepreneurs who share their thoughts about the ‘spirit’ of Silicon Valley – what makes this area unique.

The second book I’m writing is called Easy Do-It-Yourself PR – A Step-by-Step Guide to Public Relations for Small Business and Entrepreneurs, and is due out this fall. It will be the perfect guide and workbook for entrepreneurs who want to do their own PR and need simple step-by-step instructions to do so, with a lot of examples for them to utilize.

10. If you had an exceptional month and earned double of your average month, what (if anything) would you spend it on?

Erika: Bonuses for employees – they deserve it, no question.

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

Erika: Three Girls does quite a bit of pro bono work. We’re currently supporting My Hope Chest, a non-profit organization that provides funding for breast reconstruction surgery after mastectomy to women who have survived breast cancer but are lacking insurance or the financial means to gain their desired reconstruction. It’s a cause that’s especially close to my heart as I’ve lost my grandmother and an aunt to the disease.

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

Erika: My husband who is also Three Girls’ CFO. He’s always been an excellent sounding board and advisor.

13. What’s your advice to someone interested in starting their own business?

Erika: I’d offer 2 bits of advice:

  1. The advice that was given to me when I started out – get it in writing every time. Have solid contracts that specifically outline your services and what you will – and will not – provide.
  2. Promote, Promote, Promote! You have no idea how many small business owners/entrepreneurs I talk to who have spent a ton of money on a website and collateral, and then have no money left over to actually promote the business. Make PR a core part of your business plan from the outset.

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