Crystal Harris On Being a Multipassionate “Hummingbird” Entrepreneur

Crystal Harris was born to be an entrepreneur. At age six, she decided that when she grew up she’d be both an ice cream seller and a dentist. This was a sign she understood the importance of supply and demand at a young age. Her first business was selling coffee-filter crafted angels to neighbors. This showed her that if she was passionate enough, she could find a way to monetize her interests. Not just for potential earnings, but also as a way to help others, or at least make them happy.

On Being Multi-passionate

Unlike many entrepreneurs, Crystal Harris didn’t force herself to stick to just one business. Harris learned how to set strong foundations and scale her businesses, leaving her free to chase after any of her interests. Throughout her career, she’s sold art, pottery, t-shirts, cookies, crystals, and a bra attachment for breast-milk-pumping mothers. Also, she consults in the change management field.

Harris says, “I grew up like the rest of kids being fed this idea that you would find something that you love eventually and ‘passion’ would lead you to want to do it for the rest of your life. Maybe that’s true, but it’s not been true for me. I haven’t found anything that I feel I’ll be particularly passionate about over time. But I figured out that being passionate for a time is more than enough.”

And while being a multi-passionate entrepreneur comes with many perks, such as the ability to pivot or focus on building a business you’re actually excited about, finding the time to work on everything can prove to be quite a feat. For example, it’s tough enough to manage the marketing and messaging for just one business. Handling all the responsibilities for multiple businesses at once is overwhelming. “At this point I’ve accepted that what’s best for me is to work in bursts of energy toward whatever is calling me at the time,” says Crystal Harris. “It’s a really joyful way to build a life. I call it being a hummingbird entrepreneur.”

When an Idea Catches On

When you’re a “hummingbird entrepreneur” as Harris calls herself, it’s important to know how to sustain yourself — or else all that “wing flapping” would wear you out. Beyond working in “bursts of energy,” Crystal Harris learned how to set the groundwork for growth and scaling. If any of her ideas took off, she could meet the demand. And one idea, the Brauxiliary Band, took off in a very unexpected way.

Harris says, “I was actually at Moe’s with my family when my friend sent me a text message with the picture [of Rachel McAdams pumping during a photo shoot for girls. girls. girls. magazine and was like ‘Is this a Brauxiliary Band?’ People send me pictures all the time of moms using the product, so I looked at my phone, did a double take, and was like ‘It absolutely is, and that’s no ordinary mom!”

And just like that, an already successful venture became even more so.

Harris reports, “We sold out on Amazon within the hour and our website was flooded. I was really proud of myself because with any business I start I always think about growth and scaling, so we were ready. That was a giant win for a small business like ours, and I loved that it wasn’t paid PR, that Rachel McAdams went on Amazon and bought our product just like all the other moms we’re thankful for every day.” Are you wondering what Harris’s biggest lesson was from her moment of virality? She says, “It showed me that you never know who’s watching. And you genuinely never know who’s benefiting from you taking a risk and putting your innovation out into the market place.”

Sustaining the Excitement from a Viral Moment

Going viral is thrilling for any business. But, the excitement can die down just as quickly as it came. A smart multi-business owner knows how to sustain energy and channel it into other growth opportunities. Harris says, “I think the biggest thing is always being ready to leverage whatever comes your way. After the viral photo, we had one of our influencer moms recreate it to keep the conversation going. It also got us an opportunity to partner with additional influencers in the mom and baby space that originally didn’t give us the time of day.”

She continues, “And again — we were ready to take on the growth because from the very beginning I thought of this as something that could be really big and made sure I set up my supply chain to scale.”

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The Middle Finger Project: How Ash Ambirge Found Success and You Can Too

At the age of 21, Ash Ambirge found herself parentless, homeless and sleeping in a K-Mart parking lot with less than $26 to her name. Facing rock bottom – but refusing to admit defeat – Ambirge put out an offer to the email list she curated from running a blog. She makes the first $2,500 of what would eventually be over a million running her own business. She did all of this while working and living in the backseat of her car. Fast forward to 2020. Ash Ambirge runs The Middle Finger Project ®. It’s an award-winning company and blog encouraging budding entrepreneurs to get gutsy because success is possible–regardless of the circumstances.

We spoke with Ambirge to talk about her new book, The Middle Finger Project, which publishes this week. We talked about how entrepreneurs and business owners – and those wishing to become one – need to trust in themselves and move through imposter syndrome to feel like the smartest and most successful person in the room. Here’s her advice for business owners of all levels.

The Middle Finger Project book

For the Budding Entrepreneurs

Sometimes the hardest part is starting. There are so many individuals with the skills and talent to start their own business, but fear or anxiety get in their way. Ambirge knows that feeling, but she has advice for people in this situation.

“Take a skill set that you have, any skill set, and figure out how to sell it to just one other person—without a website, without any fancy photos, without any official social media feeds. Forget all of that. None of that exists. So, how do you sell yourself now? Figure that out. Call someone. Approach a friend. Ask around. Network. Send an email that says, ‘Hey, do you know anyone who needs X?’ And make the most simple offer to the world: to help. You don’t need a degree to help. You don’t need resources. You don’t need fancy invoice software. All you need is a simple skill and the guts to say, ‘Here’s what I can do, and here’s how much it costs.’ Sell yourself to just one person, and you’ll soon find that you can sell yourself to the world. And that’s what you call having options.”

For Entrepreneurs Feeling Like Imposters

It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been in business. Even with success under your belt, the crushing feeling of imposter syndrome can still hit at any time. And when it does strike, it can feel suffocating. In the Middle Finger Project, Ambirge address these very valid concerns. Here’s a visual Ambirge recommends for entrepreneurs suffering from imposter syndrome:

“Imagine yourself in court. There’s a judge sitting there with a gavel, and the case being decided is whether or not you are competent and capable and deserving of your success. And on one side, you’ve got you as the prosecution, arguing against yourself. ‘I’m not worthy! I don’t belong here! Soon they’re going to see that I got here by mistake!’ But then on the other side you have the defense. The defense is all of the existing evidence that shows, on paper, everything you have accomplished, how you’ve helped others, the brilliant ideas you’ve had. I guarantee you that in the case of YOU versus THE EVIDENCE, the judge is going to take one look and rule in the favor of the evidence. And that’s because we cannot see ourselves objectively—none of us can.”

Ambirge continues, “We’re subjective beings. But when you put it down on paper, you can’t argue with the evidence anymore. So, what evidence do you have? What things have you done really well? What are you proud of? Spend some time and write these things down for anytime you need a witness.”

For Entrepreneurs Feeling Stagnant and Bored With Work

Have you built a successful career? If so, you might feel the weight of your work bearing down on you. The spark is out, and instead of work driving you forward, you’re wondering if it’s time to make a shift. Do you even want to do this anymore? If you’re questioning whether you should pivot away from your current work, Ambirge suggests making a bold move.


Featured image of Ash Ambirge by Heidi Hapanowicz

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How This Veteran Overcame a Military Injury to Launch Her Thriving Business

Launching a business means dealing with all kinds of adversity. But with enough effort and the right attitude, you can overcome nearly any challenge. Just ask Nneka Brown-Massey, CEO of Innovative Supplies. Brown-Massey suffered a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) during her military service.

Despite her injury, Brown-Massey launched a successful business and created badly-needed jobs for her community. We spoke with Nneka to hear her inspirational story and find out what advice she has for other business owners dealing with their own struggles.

Serving Her Country

Brown-Massey has been connected to the military nearly her entire life–her parents were also service members. “My Mom was a supply specialist and my Dad was a cook. Growing up I knew I wanted to be in the army as well.” As Brown-Massey turned 18, her parents asked her what she wanted to do. She would likely go overseas.

Ultimately, Brown-Massey decided to join human resources and shipped out to Afghanistan at age 18. She worked in the military post office to process mail and help soldiers with their passport applications.

After her tour of duty, Brown-Massey enrolled in the Basic Leadership Course at Fort Benning, Georgia. For most people, this would already be enough. But, Brown-Massey kept pushing. “I wanted to pick up additional skills so I applied for Airborne School, an unusual move for someone in Human Resources.” It took her three tries, but she ultimately qualified.

An Unfortunate Injury

Airborne School training meant participating in parachute jumps. This is how Brown-Massey became injured–she banged her head on multiple jumps. She describes the aftermath of one accident. “I was walking down my hallway and something didn’t feel right. I waved my hand in front of my face and I just saw a trail of hands following that hand.”

From that point on, Brown-Massey began dealing with the long-term issues from her concussion: light and noise sensitivity, constant headaches and fatigue. “I was so used to having a fully charged battery at all times. Now it’s more like a four-hour window.”

Concerns Over the Future

Due to her Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), Brown-Massey had to leave the military after nine years of service. She was concerned about what would come next for herself and her family. “When you get injured in the military, you qualify for disability income benefits. But for me, that’s only $550 a month and not much to live on with my 8-year-old daughter.”

She knew she needed to earn more. Brown-Massey worried about whether her TBI would get in the way of a regular 9-5 job. “I noticed that I have a lot of anxiety. What if my disability affects how I perform for someone else? Would I get let go earlier than other workers, even if I push myself?”

She was also concerned about whether employers would understand her condition and be able to accommodate her needs. “When we think dramatic brain injuries like concussions, we think of football players or veterans who got blown up in a vehicle with a roadside bomb. But we rarely talk about other ways veterans get hurt and how it affects them.”

Turning Adversity into an Opportunity

With these health concerns in-mind, Brown-Massey delayed taking a 9-5 job and instead returned to school to continue her studies. It’s during this time that she spotted a perfect opportunity. “I wanted some nice, artistic stationary to get ready for class, but I just couldn’t find anything at T.J. Maxx or Walmart. I figured there’s got to be something out there that I like, but there just wasn’t.”

At the same time, Brown-Massey wanted to support her artist friends. “I always saw nice artists posting their work on Instagram and wondered how can I get that out to more people? That’s when I realized, stationary. People always need stationary.” The idea for Innovative Supplies was born.

Even though Brown-Massey had never launched a business before, she believed her military experience gave her the tools needed to succeed. “The military spends around $1 million training their soldiers. I wanted to use my leadership skills to help my community.” This would help her avoid the common mistakes new small business owners make.

Building a Business

She started by reaching out to one artist she really liked on Instagram and together they designed their first round of notebooks. They posted the design on Instagram–Innovative Supplies was an instant hit. “Our Instagram posts went viral and received millions of views. My artist friend earned $3,000 in commissions that first year alone.”

After proving her idea worked, Brown-Massey began hiring staff to expand. She hires a lot of teenagers for her business, especially those who are at-risk and would benefit from work experience. “I want them to develop real skills: communicating with one another, learning inventory management, how to respond to customer emails. I let them run the show and just supervise.”

In her first year of business in 2016, Brown-Massey hired 15 students part-time to manage Innovative Supplies. With her initial launch a success, Brown-Massey would like to grow her workforce even more and aims to hire at least 30 students throughout 2020.

Advice for Other Business Owners

Brown-Massey had to overcome her share of challenges and doubts. “When I face adversity, I think back to the good times I’ve had and that inspires me to keep going.” She reminds herself about the first 8,000 notebooks she sold within 24 hours and how that didn’t happen by chance. If you’re ever in a tough business stretch, she suggests thinking about your past positive results and feel confident that you can do it again.

Brown-Massey also turns to her internal motivation for launching the business in the first place. “I remind myself why I started, to give students a way to make an honest dollar. A lot of students in my community may not have the opportunity to make money in a legal manner. This keeps me going during tough times.”

She challenges other business owners to think the same way. If you find motivation beyond just making a profit, it can give you the strength to overcome adversity.

Success Prevails

Brown-Massey went from worrying about whether her military injury would prevent her from finding employment to becoming a successful business owner, and helping others in her community launch their careers.

She hopes her story can inspire others dealing with adversity that they too can find the right opportunity, if they believe in themselves. We’d like to thank Brown-Massey for sharing her story and for her service to our country. We wish her the best of luck to continue growing Innovative Supplies.

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Mission: Entrepreneur: Jen Griswold’s Pursuit to Help Veterans become Entrepreneurs

Jen Griswold is the author of Mission: Entrepreneur and CEO of a company with the same name. She grew up in a small town in Montana where her father owned a Cessna 172 small plane that her family always flew. So when Griswold was considering her post-secondary education, the U.S. Air Force Academy (USAFA) seemed like a great option; she entered the academy. Griswold became an Aircraft Maintenance Officer and soon found that it suited her better than being a pilot.

“As an Aircraft Maintenance Officer, I was given a lot of responsibility at a very young age. At 22, I was managing a flight line full of 250 Airmen and highly specialized aircraft. And I loved it!” She met her husband who was a pilot in the Air Force Academy.

Her and her husband couldn’t start a family if they continued to serve. Griswold had to make a tough decision: Should she start having children or stay with her career?

Griswold says, “It wasn’t a job that fit well with raising kids, since the work was 24/7. I knew both my husband and I would be faced with the very likely chance that we would both be deployed at the same time. At the time, 2005, the operations tempo in the Middle East was very busy and our airplanes were constantly overseas…so I left Active Duty after six years of service. I transitioned to the Air Force reserves, and I am in my 19th year of service at the Pentagon as a Lieutenant Colonel.”

Reentering the Workforce

Griswold had two children in two years. While she attempted to embrace stay-at-home motherhood, she found she missed working and began looking for a part-time job. She says, “With a Master’s degree and a lot of management experience, I was very disappointed to find that the part-time options for someone like me were low-paying and were not jobs that would travel well with our transient, military lifestyle.”

So Griswold, a child of two entrepreneurial parents, decided to start her own business. She says, “my bedroom was next door to [my parents’] office growing up, so I witnessed them build a life that allowed them the flexibility they needed. I figured I could do the same.”

Her first attempt at being an entrepreneur was successful! Griswold started a home staging and decorating business; this was the catalyst that would propel her from solopreneur to author, speaker, and founder of Mission Entrepreneur.

jen griswold mission entrepreneur

She says, “the empowerment I gained was priceless. I proved I could turn my hobby of decorating into a viable business, even with a busy husband and two very small children. And it got me thinking — how could I help other women empower themselves through entrepreneurship?”

Griswold’s family moved from the west coast to the east coast after four years of running her own business. That made it impossible to manage her business from far away. So, she sold her business. In closing that door, a new opportunity arose.

She says, “One of my best friends from growing up offered me the chance to partner with her in a new skincare direct selling business called Rodan + Fields. I didn’t know the first thing about skincare. But, I figured I could learn.  It excited me to share with other military spouses like me, who were in need of mobile, flexible jobs. By that time I had become aware that 90% of military spouses were under- or unemployed, and yet 90% reported they wanted to work.”

The Start of Mission Entrepreneur

For female veterans and military wives, there’s a big gap in employment opportunities. Griswold makes it her mission to change the mess of transitioning from transient military lifestyle to civilian life and work. Since 2010, her community’s grown to approximately ten thousand women. Griswold estimates two thousand of those budding entrepreneurs are in a military family.

But her wish to encourage female veterans and military wives didn’t stop with her direct selling business. In fact, it only motivated her to do more to help women with military ties to Cover of Mission Entrepreneurgrow and succeed. First, Griswold started a blog for military entrepreneurs. Later, she decided to turn those stories into a book — Mission Entrepreneur.

Griswold says, “I wrote the book as a handbook for any military spouses who were like me and wanted to solve their own employment problems through starting a business. When I was in the beginning stages of my business, I always wished I had a mentor to help me through all the scary decisions of starting up. And [I designed] this book to be a form of mentorship for the military spouse entrepreneurs — I call them ‘milpreneurs’ — that needed some support and encouragement.”

Griswold still wasn’t satisfied with the impact she was having on military families. She decided to do more and founded a company with the same name — Mission Entrepreneur — so she could help women create careers that suit their lives.

Griswold says, “At Mission Entrepreneur, we are a one-stop shop to help busy women turn their passions into a business and achieve portable business success, through inspiration, education & training. We also love providing a community of support with a service mindset to help women thrive.”

Griswold never would’ve known she’d join the Air Force all those times she rode in her father’s plane. She couldn’t have imagined the difference she’d make in female veterans and military wives’ lives in the future.

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From Veteran to Publisher: Alexa Bigwarfe on Founding Kat Biggie Press

Alexa Bigwarfe, founder of Kat Biggie Press, grew up in a family of military veterans. Growing up, however, she never thought she would enlist. In an interview for this article, Bigwarfe says, “I always joked I would never join the military or marry a man in the military, and I wound up doing both.” After enlisting, Bigwarfe became an Intelligence Officer in the United States Air Force. She provided other service members with quality information so as to help protect them and enable them to do their jobs.


alexa bigwarfe air force


Bigwarfe’s career as an Intelligence Officer was an exciting one. But Alexa and her husband wanted to have children. They worried her demanding career would interfere with growing their family.

“I saw many service women have to deploy when their baby was only four to six months old. And I couldn’t fathom leaving behind an infant…So, my husband and I decided it was time for me to leave, and I separated from Active Duty in August of 2007 when my son was four months old.”

Bigwarfe knew she wanted a similarly demanding career post-active duty — just one that wouldn’t force her away from her family.

Life After the Air Force

“I absolutely loved my career and wanted to do something related, so I was able to find a position in my State Homeland Security Office. I continued to work in counter terrorism planning and emergency management for another three-and-a-half years, when I opted to try and see what life would be like raising my two small children. In April 2011, I became a stay-at-home mom with a 4-year-old and a 1-year-old,” say Bigwarfe.

Bigwarfe then jokes, “Ask me which job was harder!”

While one might think transitioning from counter terrorism planning to stay-at-home mom would be easy, that wasn’t the case. Bigwarfe learned that she was expecting again just a month after leaving her job. As soon as she understood she was having a third child, she found out she was actually pregnant with twins! Soon, she’d have four children under the age of five. Those emergency management skills would come in handy!

However, as Bigwarfe and her family came to terms with their new future, they learned devastating news. Her babies’ diagnosis was a fatal syndrome occurring in identical twins called Twin-to-Twin Transfusion Syndrome. Bigwarfe spent the rest of the year on bed rest. Doctors monitored her as she went in and out of the hospital.

Bigwarfe says, “The girls were born at just over 30 weeks. Kathryn was very sick with a heart condition and undeveloped lungs, and little Charis was a one-pound, ten-ounce, micro preemie. Kathryn would live for two days. Charis spent 12 weeks in the NICU, and then we were finally able to bring her home in March 2012.”

alexa bigwarfe twins

Dealing with Grief

Bigwarfe started blogging under the pseudonym Kat Biggie to deal with her grief and stress of parenting a baby with specialized medical needs along with her other two young children. She needed a safe space to vent her frustrations, her angers, her fears. She found that space in writing. People wanted to hear her story.

“I found that the articles really resonated with people, and many people were searching about how to help someone who lost a baby or child, as well as the people who lost a twin.”

When her youngest daughter Charis was 18 months old, one of Bigwarfe’s friends experienced a stillbirth at 37 weeks. Bigwarfe says, “I was in a better place by then, but as I watched my friend, I remembered what those first few days, weeks, and months were like. I started kicking around the idea of trying to help other moms see that even though this is the worst thing that has ever happened, they will see sunshine again.”

The Start of Her Entrepreneurial Career

She knew she wanted to do more. So, Bigwarfe reached out to fellow bloggers, writers and other moms she knew had experienced loss. She wanted to create a book that would help other women who were also grieving. It was called Sunshine After the Storm: A Survival Guide for Grieving Mothers. On the experience, Bigwarfe says, “I self-published the book and really found I enjoyed the publishing process.”

Later, with her children older, Bigwarfe partnered with another mother to write about their experiences of motherhood in Lose the Cape: Realities from Busy Modern Moms & Strategies to Survive. Buzz for her new venture and a potential new business followed publication. Additionally, Bigwarfe created a Lose the Cape podcast and website.

alexa bigwarfe family

Bigwarfe says, “One thing led to another, and I started offering services to help people produce and publish their books. Write Publish Sell was born, and not long after that, I decided to launch my own publishing house, Kat Biggie Press. The business grew around my desire to help other people in pain do something good with it.”

And, she didn’t stop there. Bigwarfe also founded a nonprofit. She says, “I started donating copies of my book and sending books to grieving mothers, free of charge. First it was just a book, then I added comfort items. I decided that I needed to raise money to pay for this initiative, and I founded a nonprofit to support Grieving Mothers – Sunshine After the Storm.”

She continues, “I found myself running three businesses…but at the heart of all of it, I was serving mothers and trying to make a positive impact on the world.

Kat Biggie Press hasn’t yet published more female veterans But, Bigwarfe wants to work with some who want to share their story. She says, “I am very proud of my service and very proud of my status as a veteran, and I would love to be the publishing partner of other female veterans.”

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How Kaitlyn Pierce Transitioned from a High School Dropout to Biz Owner and Product Inventor

Entrepreneurs are a hearty bunch. They need drive, determination, and moxie to handle the learning curves and setbacks most business owners deal with. But does that mean that entrepreneurs Kaitlyn Pierce, Creator of Binka Bearneed not worry about their mental health? Far from it! According to a recent study done at the Universities of California (Berkeley and San Francisco), 72% of the entrepreneur respondents self-reported concerns with their own mental health.

Should these mental health issues hold individuals back from building a business or inventing a product? Absolutely not.

Meet Kaitlyn Pierce, mom of two, founder of Pierce Social, a social media agency, and inventor of Binka Bear, a toy which helps toddlers and young children wean from their pacifiers. When Pierce was 16 years old, dropped out of school to ease the extreme anxiety she was experiencing.

The Decision to Quit School

“At the time, I didn’t totally understand what I was feeling or why, I just knew I did not want to be in rooms full of people, no matter what,” says Pierce. “To this day the sound of an alarm clock triggers severe panic in me because to me it was the beginning of my struggle to get through the day.”

As a high school student, Kaitlyn Pierce missed over 100 days of school in only two years. She says, “I was non-functional in school and basically in life. I couldn’t go to class or participate.”

And on the days she did attend, she spent most of her time crying in her guidance counselor’s office. Obvious that the traditional educational system wasn’t working, her guidance counselors and her mother urged Pierce to quit school, obtain a General Education Diploma (GED), and attend college, if possible. While her struggles with anxiety didn’t immediately disappear, a huge weight was lifted off her shoulders. Pierce was now better able to take care of her mental health.

Of the decision, Pierce says, “I could have more freedom to make choices for myself. It should have been my first clue I would need to be my own boss one day.”

In fact, she was able to obtain her GED within a month or two after quitting school. She then began taking courses at her local community college.

Pierce says, “I really enjoyed learning. That was never my problem. I just needed to have more control over how and when it happened so I could learn the coping skills I needed to deal with the anxiety I had.” But attending school was still no easy feat for Pierce, and she needed to put in a lot of effort to manage her anxiety so she could move into this new chapter of her life.

She says, “I had no help getting to school. If I wanted to go to college, work, and start my life, I had to find a way to get there. I took the bus to campus every day for over a year before getting my first car at 18. I had to work to pay for it while I went to school and tried to figure out what I was even doing. Dropping out set me up to be the person I am now, the person who will find a way to make anything happen!” It also helped her understand how working through the anxiety offered greater rewards than simply letting it hold her back.

“My anxiety made it feel impossible at first to get on the phone with anyone, especially potential clients,” says Pierce. “I hated phone calls and without them I wouldn’t have the business I do now. I had to learn to have confidence in myself and how to move on when I am triggered.”


Educating Herself

Kaitlyn Pierce, Binka Bear and BookKaitlyn Pierce chose tenacity over anxiety. She still struggled with feelings of panic and overwhelm, but she worked through and didn’t allow the feelings to stand in her way. One thing that helped her was her self-taught interest in building websites and blogging.

She says, “I used to sit at my neighbor’s house and build websites on their computer until we got one of our own at home. My blog was focused on our community at the time, and I was using the new social media tools showing up to promote it. Because of that, I was approached by a local branding company and hired on the spot to help with social media and web development. I never finished my degree, but gained more experience doing the work than I could have dreamed of.”

After having her second child, Pierce was looking for more freedom and flexibility to be home with her children. She returned from maternity leave determined to make some life changes. Says Pierce, “I launched Pierce Social in July of 2016 and worked on it after bedtime and in the evenings until I was able to replace my income.”

Only four months after starting the company, she was able to give her notice.  And Pierce, officially, became a self-employed business owner.


Inventing a Product

Launching a business is a monumental feat, but Kaitlyn Pierce didn’t stop there. Just shortly after starting her social media agency, Pierce set the ball rolling to invent a product that she’s moved all the way through the manufacturing process. But, how does an individual take that large a leap? There’s a massive jump from owning your own business to also being a product inventor.

Pierce says, “Binka Bear is one of those things that I think I was just meant to do. The idea came to me when I was trying to wean my oldest from the pacifier. I had no idea how to get the pacifiers she loved so much away from her at almost 3 years old. We found a fun idea of putting them in a stuffed toy and the wheels began turning. It worked so well for us I knew if I could make it a process and a product it could help so many other families. ”

Though, while Kaitlyn Pierce knew how life changing Binka Bear could be for other families, she had absolutely no clue how to move from idea into manufacturing a real product.

She says, “I had no idea how to even begin so I didn’t. Not for another 18 months.” Then, on Thanksgiving night of 2017, she couldn’t keep the idea to rest any longer. Pierce says, “From there it never stopped growing and developing!” Now, Pierce has living proof of her idea.  Boxes of bears are sitting in her home, waiting to be matched with their future children. Her dream became a reality. Now, one small idea that helped her child is able to help children all over the country.

Regardless of the bumps in the road Pierce has faced, she’s still confident that dropping out of school to manage her anxiety was the best decision for her. “I’m grateful to not have the student debt so many of my friends have. Not having a degree has made certain things more challenging.  But, it’s been the path that was best for me.  And, I’ve spent a lot of time educating myself in other ways.”

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Haciendo su marca - Mujeres influyentes propietarias de negocios: Mei Wang

Cambiando de tema y salvando vidas: cómo instapath impulsó y construyó un negocio

“Necesitamos hacer una biopsia”: palabras que pueden hacer que la audición de un paciente se salte un latido. Una biopsia extrae células o tejido de un área sospechosa del cuerpo. El doctor entonces estudia estas células para ver si una

Making-Her -Mark-Influential-Women-Business-Owners-Mei-Weng-Instapath
Crédito: Instapath

La enfermedad, como el cáncer, está presente. Los pacientes esperan con esperanza y temor a que sus biopsias vuelvan a ser "positivas" o "negativas".

Sin embargo, pocas personas se dan cuenta de que la primera biopsia puede no proporcionar a los médicos la información deseada. De los 5 millones de biopsias realizadas en los Estados Unidos para diagnosticar el cáncer, se debe repetir 1 millón. Esto puede causar más estrés y potencialmente demorar el tratamiento de un paciente por meses.

Cuando Mei Wang era un Ph.D. estudiante de ingeniería biomédica / médica en la Universidad de Tulane, se sorprendió al enterarse de que las biopsias fracasan con tanta frecuencia. Ella y un grupo de compañeros de doctorado. los estudiantes investigaron el problema

La razón, concluyó, era la forma en que se realizan estas pruebas. La mayoría de las biopsias utilizan una técnica de imágenes conocida como una evaluación rápida en el sitio (ROSE). El problema con esta técnica es que captura solo el 1 por ciento de una biopsia total. Este pequeño porcentaje es lo que normalmente conduce a la inexactitud. Una inexactitud que puede requerir que se repita el incómodo y costoso procedimiento.

Una vista microscópica

Crédito: Instapath

Wang y sus colegas propusieron un nuevo enfoque. Utilizan un microscopio digital que toma una imagen de la biopsia completa a una resolución subcelular a los pocos segundos de la extracción, lo que mejora la velocidad y la precisión del diagnóstico. Wang creía que también podría aumentar la probabilidad de que el paciente regresara para recibir tratamiento. Cuando presentaron sus datos en diferentes conferencias médicas en todo el mundo, los médicos y la comunidad médica se interesaron de inmediato.

"Todos dijeron que deberíamos seguir adelante porque este era un problema clínico importante", dice Wang. "Algunas personas de la industria se acercaron a nosotros durante la conferencia y dijeron que estaban interesados en lo que estábamos haciendo".

Con esa motivación, Wang y sus colegas fundaron una empresa llamada Instapath, que ahora tiene su sede en Austin, Texas, para convertir su idea en un producto. Rápidamente, Instapath ganó varios concursos de lanzamiento por su concepto, incluida una competencia de lanzamiento internacional, que recibió $ 30,000. La compañía también recibió una beca de transferencia de tecnología para pequeñas empresas (STTR) de la National Science Foundation (NSF) por $ 225,000 para realizar su investigación y desarrollo.

Superar el voto negativo

Todo esto haría que Instapath parezca un slam-dunk. Después de todo, habían encontrado una solución a un problema médico urgente. Sin embargo, Wang descubrió que una gran idea no necesariamente es un gran negocio. Esto es especialmente cierto en una industria tan compleja como la asistencia sanitaria. Mientras que la necesitar y el solución eran evidentes para ella, la negocio No entró en foco. Así que se dispuso a entrevistar a más de 200 médicos y participantes de la industria de la salud.

Sorprendentemente, muchos de los primeros médicos a los que se acercó se mostraron molestos con la idea. Muchos tipos diferentes de médicos están involucrados en el tratamiento del cáncer. Como resultado, la necesidad de biopsias mejores y más rápidas no fue de igual importancia para todas ellas.

Avanzando tras una serie de comentarios negativos, finalmente, encontró al personal médico más interesado en su tecnología: radiólogos intervencionistas. Estos son subespecialistas de radiología que utilizan procedimientos guiados por imágenes mínimamente invasivos para diagnosticar y tratar enfermedades.

"Cuando empezamos, estaban bastante bajos en nuestra lista", dice ella. "Comenzamos a atacar a los neurólogos y cirujanos de cáncer de mama".

Si bien esta última pensó que su tecnología era "agradable de tener", fueron los radiólogos intervencionistas quienes sintieron que su trabajo se vio más afectado por los retrasos frustrantes en la calidad de la biopsia.

Nuevo modelo de negocio

Sin embargo, hubo otra sorpresa. Si bien los proveedores de atención médica estaban interesados en mejorar el diagnóstico, las instituciones que pagarían por la tecnología, las compañías de seguros y

Fuente: Instapath

hospitales - tenía otras preocupaciones. Querían un procedimiento que fuera más eficiente y que pudiera realizarse con menos personal. Wang, como muchos empresarios, tuvo que apaciguar a los diferentes constituyentes: el personal médico que influiría en la decisión de compra y los administradores del hospital que tendrían que firmar la venta.

"Sin esas entrevistas, no tendríamos un producto que se vendería y no sabríamos a quién le estábamos vendiendo", dice ella.

Una vez que los problemas y las preocupaciones se enfocaron, cambió su plan de precios y modelo de negocio. Ahora, al lanzar Instapath, Weng se centra en el hecho de que la tecnología "aumenta el rendimiento de los procedimientos de biopsia y permite que más pacientes sean tratados por serie de biopsias por día".

Es una diferencia sutil, pero crítica. Una diferencia que marcó la diferencia entre tener una gran idea y tener un gran negocio.

"Cuando inicias un negocio, a menudo te encuentras en el valle de la desesperación", dice ella. "Pero aprende rápidamente cómo girar, porque necesita comprender lo que a su cliente le importa y atraerlos".

Nota del editor: La historia de Lauren es una de las series en curso que celebran a mujeres propietarias de negocios. Echa un vistazo a algunas de las otras historias inspiradoras de esta serie: Cómo construí mi propio negocio después del cáncer y Lanzar tu propio negocio como madre trabajadora

Haciendo su marca - Mujeres influyentes propietarias de negocios: Lauren Leblanc-Haydel

Ganando la gran batalla de camisetas de 2010


Lauren Leblanc-Haydel tenía algo que la mayoría de las madres solteras con tres niños pequeños amarían: la seguridad laboral. Después de seis años como personalidad en el aire en una estación de radio de Nueva Orleans, consiguió un puesto como directora creativa del Louisiana Farm Bureau, un trabajo sólido que le brindó beneficios, un teléfono e incluso un automóvil de la compañía.

Pero Haydel quería más. "Tenía la creencia de que podría crear una vida mejor para mis hijos", dice ella. Entonces, cuando llegó su reembolso de impuestos del 2009, sabía que quería comenzar un negocio con los $ 2,000. Aún así, ella estaba un poco confusa en qué El negocio sería. Al principio, pensó en vender maquillaje. Finalmente, se decidió a hacer camisetas, una idea que su jefe en el Farm Bureau creía ridículo, considerando que había una gran cantidad de vendedores que vendían camisetas a turistas que acudían a Big Easy. "Todos pensaron que estaba loca", dice ella.

Obteniendo 'Fleurty'

Sin embargo, Haydel tenía la firme convicción de que podía sobresalir con camisas con cuello en V y otros cortes amigables para las mujeres que reflejaban, como ella dice, "la cultura de Nueva Orleans". Todo se unió cuando estaba sentada en su porche. y un nombre para su compañía vino a ella que encarnaba el espíritu y entusiasmo que esperaba capturar: Fleurty Girl.

influyentes mujeres-dueños-de-negocios-fleurty-girl
Fuente: ClearWare

Corrió a su computadora y registró el nombre de dominio. Si bien la compañía aún no tenía un plan de negocios, tuvo un buen comienzo: después de lanzar el sitio de la compañía, ella vendió sus camisetas dentro de los 30 días.

Sin embargo, no era una historia rápida de ricos a ricos. Haydel tuvo que hacer muchos compromisos para perseguir su sueño, como mudarse a una casa más pequeña y hacer que sus hijos abandonen sus habitaciones individuales. Ella trabajaba de 14 a 18 horas diarias. Pero el mayor desafío llegó poco después de que abriera su primera tienda seis meses después. Casi inmediatamente, se encontró siendo demandada por la National Football League. Los Santos de Nueva Orleans estaban listos para aparecer en la Superbowl. Haydel fue uno de los muchos empresarios que vendieron camisetas adornadas con el eslogan del equipo, "Who Dat?" La NFL hizo llover pedidos de cese y desistimiento.

"Una mujer que tuvo la oportunidad de hacer una mejor vida para ella y sus hijos al celebrar la ciudad donde creció", Haydel conversa con Harry Connick Jr.

De pie en su terreno

Haydel no tuvo problemas con la idea de enviar un pago de regalías a la NFL, pero se vio atrapada en un tira y afloja con otra compañía que también afirmó ser propietaria de la frase "Who Dat?". Los orígenes de la frase se discuten en y Alrededor de Nueva Orleans, pero había existido durante décadas. Para los fanáticos del fútbol local, se convirtió en una abreviatura popular de "Quien diga que dey vencerá a los dem Saints" cuando los fanáticos cantaban para su equipo en el Superdome.

Haydel, quien originalmente vendió camisetas de un edificio que rehabilitó después del huracán Katrina, fue algo así como un tornado. Con su comprensión astuta de los medios de comunicación, logró obtener una avalancha de publicidad cuando la NFL vino tras ella.

Las historias aparecieron en la portada del periódico local, el Times Picayune. Apareció en programas de televisión nacionales, que disfrutaron de la historia de David y Goliat de la madre soltera de 4 pies y 11 años que representa a una de las ligas deportivas más grandes del mundo.

Los abogados se ofrecieron a representarla gratis. El senador por Louisiana, David Vitter, le envió una carta a la NFL diciéndoles que se retiraran. La NFL finalmente lo hizo, emitiendo a Haydel una disculpa en el trato.

Haydel dice que las personas, especialmente los de Nueva Orleáns de mentalidad independiente, admiraron al local que se mantuvo firme. Sin embargo, se enfadó contra la creencia común de que la controversia y la publicidad de la demanda de la NFL hicieron su negocio. Ella dice que el traje la golpeó en un momento en que no tenía dinero y casi la hundió.

Hacia adelante y hacia arriba

Con firme determinación, su negocio siguió y siguió creciendo. Hoy en día, la multimillonaria Fleurty Girl no solo vende camisas, sino también vestidos, joyas, libros, regalos de boda, arte y artículos para el hogar. Muchos tienen un estilo local único, como los "Pendientes con borlas de abanico de Mardi Gras".

influyentes mujeres-negocios-propietarios-lauren-leblanc-haydel

El año pasado, Haydel abrió su séptima ubicación en el Aeropuerto Internacional Louis Armstrong. Al mismo tiempo, compró al vendedor minorista de camisetas de Nueva Orleans, Storyville. Storyville también recibió una orden de cese y desistimiento de la NFL en la gran batalla de camisetas de 2010. Además de comprar la línea de diseños de camisetas de la compañía inspirada en Nueva Orleans, contrató a los tres empleados de su competencia.

Para colmo, el mismo año, Haydel se casó con Ryan Haydel de Haydel's Bakery. Haydel's Bakery es una institución Big Easy de tres generaciones. Esta unión los convirtió en una pareja poderosa en la ciudad. Haydel dice que su idea de ser una pareja poderosa es que ambos trabajen 10 horas al día: Ryan llega a casa oliendo a pastel de rey, y sus brazos están cansados de doblar las camisetas.

Nota del editor: La historia de Megy es una de las series de cuatro partes que celebran a mujeres propietarias de negocios durante todo el mes de marzo. Echa un vistazo a las otras historias inspiradoras de la serie: Cómo construí mi propio negocio después del cáncer y Lanzar tu propio negocio como madre trabajadora

Haciendo su marca: Mujeres influyentes propietarias de negocios: Megy Karydes

Lanzar tu propio negocio como madre trabajadora

Como directora general de marketing en el enorme Merchandise Mart de Chicago, Megy Karydes sabía que quería un cambio. Pasaba casi todos los meses viajando, supervisando algunas de las más grandes

influyentes mujeres-dueños-negocios-megy-karydes
Megy Karydes en Chipre, agosto de 2018

Ferias comerciales en el mundo.

"Sentí que estaba en el punto en el que había hecho todo lo que tenía que hacer", dice ella. "Ya no me sentía desafiante".

Con dos hijos menores de dos años, Karydes dejó su trabajo y lanzó su propio negocio. Karydes Consulting es una corporación C en Chicago. Ofrece servicios de marketing, comunicaciones, relaciones públicas y relaciones con los medios a empresas corporativas y sin fines de lucro.

Al mismo tiempo, también lanzó su carrera como periodista. Aprender a equilibrar ser un periodista, un consultor de marketing y relaciones públicas y una madre es mucho. Así es como lo hace Megy.

Haciendo la transición

Comience por identificar a su público y su propuesta de venta única para que los clientes potenciales sepan lo que puede ofrecer según el tipo de trabajo que desee, dice Karydes. Cuando decidió comenzar su propia compañía, lo primero que hizo fue enviar un correo electrónico a toda su red de contactos para informarles.

"Tan pronto como envié ese correo electrónico para que la gente supiera lo que estaba haciendo, inmediatamente firmé a dos clientes".

Durante la última década, el negocio de Karydes ha crecido para incluir a clientes importantes como The Morton Arboretum, Union of Concerned Scientists, Heartland Alliance, McCormick & Company spice y Meredith Corporation.

Vetando potenciales clientes

Su consejo para los propietarios de nuevos negocios: afine tanto el tipo de clientes que quiere como lo que no quiere. Es importante entrevistar a los clientes potenciales para asegurarse de que sean adecuados para usted. Tanto como al revés.

Aunque Karydes quería enfocar gran parte de su trabajo en organizaciones sin fines de lucro, muchos no tenían un presupuesto lo suficientemente grande como para hacer que algunos clientes potenciales encajaran bien. Para garantizar la viabilidad comercial y satisfacer su necesidad de trabajar con organizaciones sin fines de lucro, Karydes comenzó a centrarse solo en organizaciones medianas a grandes con presupuestos de un millón de dólares o más.

"Es importante para mí determinar eso desde el principio", dice ella. "No quiero caer en la trampa de simplemente aceptar a un cliente y descubrir cuando comenzamos a trabajar juntos y no estamos de acuerdo".

Para investigar a los clientes potenciales, Karydes comienza preguntando "¿Qué estás tratando de lograr al tratar de contratar a alguien como yo?". Para hacer su trabajo correctamente en los medios y las relaciones públicas, Karydes necesita acceso a fuentes, imágenes, videos de B-roll y la capacidad de ponerse en contacto rápidamente con un ejecutivo si un periodista quiere hacer una entrevista.

Si Karydes siente que tiene la experiencia para trabajar y ayudar a un cliente potencial a lograr sus objetivos, entonces formula las siguientes preguntas:

  • ¿Cuán disponible estarás para mí?
  • ¿Cómo prefiere que lo contacten?
  • ¿Estás preparado para proporcionarme el material necesario para hacer mi trabajo?

“Estas preguntas son tan básicas. Pero cuando haces las preguntas, les incumbe a ellos comprender que solo puedo hacer mi trabajo lo mejor que puedo si obtengo de ellos lo que necesito ", dice ella. "Casi se olvidan de eso. Casi sienten que si contratan a alguien como yo, pueden entregarme todo y lavar sus manos para no tener que trabajar más. Ese nunca es el caso. Necesitamos ser un equipo para que esto funcione ".

"Si los ejecutivos son difíciles de contactar, porque viajan constantemente o no revisan sus teléfonos, me dificulta mucho más hacer mi trabajo", dice Karydes. "Eso es un problema. "Si tengo un reportero que necesita hacer una entrevista, entonces he perdido esa oportunidad y potencialmente he alienado a ese reportero".

Gestionando la maternidad

Megy y su hijo, Alex.

El hijo de Karydes, Alex, que ahora tiene 12 años, tenía solo 10 meses cuando comenzó su propio negocio. Su hija, Chloe, que ahora tiene 14 años, tenía menos de 2 años.

Dirigir su propio negocio le ha dado a Karydes la flexibilidad para trabajar el tipo de horas que quiere y aún estar disponible para sus hijos.

“Tuve la suerte de que mi madre pudo cuidar a mis hijos a tiempo completo mientras trabajaba. Me doy cuenta de que no es algo que sea común, pero fue tan integral para mí ", dice.

Su consejo: dado que encontrar una guardería asequible (y segura) puede ser difícil y consumir mucho tiempo, es importante hacerlo desde el principio.

"Es más fácil decirlo que hacerlo, porque nuestro país no necesariamente valora ese tipo de rol", dice Karydes. Debido a esto, ella sugiere involucrar a sus hijos en su trabajo cuando sea posible. Para Karydes, eso significaba traer a sus hijos, incluso cuando eran bebés y niños pequeños en viajes de negocios. Ella hizo esto especialmente cuando estaba escribiendo historias de viajes.

"Durante mucho tiempo ni siquiera sabían sobre los menús para niños", dice ella. “Fuimos a tantos restaurantes que simplemente les permitimos probar la comida de nuestros platos. "No podían leer el menú, así que ni siquiera sabían que las comidas de los niños eran una opción que los había convertido en comensales mucho más aventureros".

Más importante aún, ha ayudado a abrir a sus hijos a diferentes culturas y otras formas de vida. Incluso si es sólo en otro barrio en Chicago.

"Es un buen recordatorio para ellos de que no viven en una burbuja", dice ella. "Pero son parte de una comunidad más grande".

Nota del editor: La historia de Megy es una de las series de cuatro partes que celebran a mujeres propietarias de negocios durante todo el mes de marzo. Echa un vistazo a las otras historias inspiradoras de la serie: Cómo construí mi propio negocio después del cáncer.

Haciendo su marca - Mujeres influyentes propietarias de negocios: Michelle Mekky

Cómo construí mi propio negocio después del cáncer

"No creo que hubiera tenido el coraje de comenzar mi propio negocio si no tuviera cáncer", dice Michelle Mekky, CEO y fundadora de Mekky Media Relations.

Crédito: Michelle Mekky

Michelle Mekky soñaba con ser dueña de su propio negocio, pero el riesgo financiero siempre fue demasiado grande. Durante años, había ocupado cargos directivos en varias empresas de relaciones públicas. Ella era una empleada leal, dice, que trabajaba tarde por la noche y los fines de semana, ejecutando campañas comerciales internacionales.

Ella había estado trabajando durante 80 horas a la semana, criando a dos hijos y postergando sus exámenes anuales. Cuando finalmente fue al médico, le dijeron que habían encontrado algo, posiblemente una masa fibroide.

"Pero me dijeron que probablemente no era nada", dice Mekky. Pero después de ver a un oncólogo en la Universidad de Chicago, a Mekky se le dijo que solo había un 10 por ciento de probabilidades de que el crecimiento fuera benigno.

Mekky se sometió a una cirugía de siete horas y se despertó para saber que tenía cáncer de ovario y una histerectomía completa. “Fue una experiencia tan traumática para mí, pero fue el punto de inflexión. No empecé de inmediato un nuevo negocio. "Pero poco a poco me llevó a despertar que tenía que tomar más control sobre mi vida y seguir un nuevo camino".

Después de volver al trabajo, cambió de agencia con la esperanza de encontrar un mejor equilibrio entre el trabajo y la vida. En menos de un año y medio más tarde, fue despedida de su nueva posición.

"Fui a casa y miré a mi familia", dice Mekky. "No sé cuál fue más difícil, recuperarme del cáncer o que me dijeran que acabo de perder mi trabajo y que tengo que decidir qué voy a hacer a continuación".

Vida despues del cancer

Durante los siguientes siete días, el marido de Mekky le preguntaría: "¿Pensaste en un nombre para tu negocio?"

"Finalmente dije que tal vez solo necesito hacer esto".

Ella fue a ver a un mentor para averiguar por qué, con más de 20 años de experiencia en el negocio, se sentía tentativa. Mekky sabía que tenía conexiones dentro de la industria y podía lograr grandes cosas. Su mentor le hizo una pregunta simple: "¿Qué lo está frenando?" Luego, el mentor de Mekky le escribió un cheque por $ 10,000, como préstamo, y le dijo a Mekky que comenzara su negocio.

"Pensé que si ella creía tanto en mí, sería mejor que fuera a buscar un banco y abrir una cuenta comercial", dice Mekky. "Fue el nacimiento de Mekky Media".

Construyendo su negocio


Mekky usó un modelo de lienzo delgado para reflexionar sobre su propuesta de valor única y cómo podría proporcionar soluciones a los problemas de los clientes que estaba viendo. Ella creó una corporación S y contrató lo que dice que fue la clave para comenzar su negocio: un gran contador y abogado.

Mekky realizó una investigación competitiva sobre lo que otras personas en la industria decían sobre ellos mismos. A partir de ahí, tuvo que descubrir cómo podía destacarse en un campo lleno de agencias y consultores. Sabía por años en la industria que su atención personal y su narrativa creativa la hacían destacar.

"Rápidamente me di cuenta de que la gente contrata a personas", dice Mekky. “No necesariamente contratan un negocio. Es la persona detrás del negocio que la gente está contratando ".

Ella condujo a un crecimiento del 800 por ciento en su negocio en dos años, dice ella. Este crecimiento generó una invitación a unirse al Forbes Agency Council, una organización bien conocida de empresarios y ejecutivos de agencias de publicidad, creativas, públicas y de relaciones con los medios.

Mekky pronto comenzó a captar clientes como Abt Electronics, organizaciones sin fines de lucro como Susan G. Komen Chicago y GiGi's Playhouse, así como empresas e individuos en las industrias de servicios de hospitalidad, fitness y servicios financieros.

En noviembre de 2018, Mekky recibió el Premio Stevie 2018 para Mujeres en los Negocios con una medalla de bronce como Emprendedor del Año.

"Siempre tuve el error empresarial en mí, pero siempre sentí demasiada obligación de mantener a mi familia, pagar las cuentas y esto era demasiado arriesgado". Tener cáncer me obligó a hacer algo fuera de mi zona de confort y ahora también puedo cuidarme y crear el entorno que siempre quise crear ".

Michelle Mekky acepta su premio Stevie

Nota del editor: La historia de Michelle es una de las series de cuatro partes que celebran a mujeres propietarias de negocios durante todo el mes de marzo. Echa un vistazo a estas otras historias inspiradoras en la serie: Lanzar tu propio negocio como madre trabajadora.

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