Meet the Maker: Ellen Schaeffer of Persistent Sisters

Ellen of Persistent Sisters

The U.S. has been in a frenzy lately, with women’s issues at the forefront of our minds (and on the tips of our tongues). We couldn’t think of a more fitting time to introduce you to Ellen Schaeffer of Persistent Sisters, a line of women’s history trading cards and gifts that celebrate trailblazing women and provide inspiration, motivation and education for girls of all ages. Now that sounds like something we can all agree on. Take it away, Ellen!

 

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Ellen Schaeffer of Persistent Sisters

 

LBC: What inspired you to take the leap as an entrepreneur?

Ellen: My background is in non-profit community arts development. I wasn’t really thinking in terms of entrepreneurship, but instead about how to develop a network of sharing around the topic of women’s history.

After the 2016 election I had a strong desire for my then 11 year old daughter to have a deeper understanding of how long and hard women have been fighting for equality in all fields, including the political. My son collected baseball cards and consequently developed an impressive knowledge of athletes, and a network of similarly interested friends around the country.

Trading cards seemed like the perfect medium to spread the word about trailblazing women throughout history. But I had never developed a product before. After creating the initial set of cards, I had so many women saying to me, “We need this!” I decided to go all in, and launched a Kickstarter campaign in the fall of 2017. I then found myself knee-deep in packaging, pricing, shipping and, of course, hours and hours of research. I drew a lot of energy from the enthusiasm of the Kickstarter backers that took the leap with me.

 

LBC: How would you describe what you create?

Ellen: Persistent Sisters is an ever-expanding line of women’s history trading cards so that girls can see who they can be.

 

LBC: Where can we find your products?

Ellen: Online at www.persistentsisters.com, on Amazon, and in many fantastic museum stores and several boutiques around the county.

 

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LBC: When you first got started, how did you envision your business would be defined?

Ellen: Simply as a needed and accessible resource to empower and inspire both women and older girls, and something to be collected and shared between mothers (aunts, grandmothers, etc.) and daughters. Pocket-sized sheroes!

 

LBC: Walk us through a typical workday.

Ellen: Recently I went back to work full time in the non-profit world, and my typical workday with Persistent Sisters is now very early mornings and late evenings and the weekends. It can be a challenge to find balance.

I have some fantastic graphic designers that I work with, and have brought in other illustrators for a few sets of cards. However, the day-to-day is just me. You might find me researching, running numbers, checking inventory, packaging, illustrating…all the things. Sadly there are many days when I feel like I am so enmeshed in the minutia that I lose sight of the big picture, and don’t take enough time to spread the word about Persistent Sisters. I’m always striving to find ways to manage my time more effectively.

 

LBC: What are 3 things entrepreneurs should think through when they initially decide to start a business?

Ellen: Everything BUT the creative. Learn what the tax implications are for an inventory based business. Choose and be very familiar with your accounting system (or find someone to do it for you). And find a way to absolutely love spreadsheets! Literally every penny counts. My life would have been a lot easier if I had taken the time to develop some systems before I was elbow deep in product development.

 

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LBC: When you’re overwhelmed, what brings you back to focus?

Ellen: I try to think about why I started the business. I pick up a few Persistent Sisters trading cards and reflect on women that have helped changed the world, often facing tremendous obstacles, without support, and on their own. A couple weeks ago, my daughter and two of her friends each submitted papers for National History Day about women’s history, inspired by the Persistent cards. This is what keeps me going on the hardest days, reflecting on the impact the cards can have on young women. The future is female!

 

LBC: Tell us about the best business decision you’ve made to date.

Ellen: I joined the Museum Store Association early on, and found an amazingly supportive group of both vendors and store buyers that were willing to answer my many questions along the way. For anyone with a product that fits in the museum store market, the Museum Store Association is a small investment with big returns. (side note from Lela: I whole-heartedly agree!)

 

LBC: Please share one misstep or obstacle from your business experience. How did you bounce back or overcome it?

Ellen: Oh, so many to choose from! In my first Kickstarter campaign, I wasn’t careful enough when I calculated shipping and went way over budget. I made it work, and am careful not to repeat the same mistake.

 

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LBC: What are 3 essential resources in your business toolbox that you can’t do without?

Ellen: Microsoft OneNote keeps me organized. And the library! I try to include lesser-known women, and sometimes that takes a little digging. Lastly, I would say my daughter and her access to other middle-school aged girls. They’re my ad hoc focus group and their feedback has been invaluable.

 

LBC: Imagine that we had a time machine. If we blasted ourselves forward a few years, where would we see your company?

Ellen: My dream has always been for the Persistent Sisters trading cards to spark a little network of girls sharing their own dreams and visions for their future. Recently I started including blank make-it-yourself trading cards, encouraging people to share those on social media and maybe trading them with each other. There are so many more trading cards to make, but I’d also love to find ways to build and engage a community.

 

LBC: How have your interactions with Lucky Break influenced your business?

Ellen: Lucky Break provided me with some invaluable resources. I learned so much, from product descriptions to pricing strategies to line sheets. And I know there’s a lot more that I haven’t tapped into.

 

LBC: What benefits have you seen from taking classes, working with a mentor, and/or building community around your business?

Ellen: There has only been an upside. Finding resources for all of the aspects of the business where I lack knowledge allows me to stay focused in the areas that I feel more comfortable. Additionally, objective feedback is so important. Because I am primarily a one-woman show, I have sought out workshops and other learning events that allow me the opportunity to hear what others think.”

 

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Thank you, Ellen, for sharing your talent with us. We absolutely love what you’re doing with Persistent Sisters, and we look forward to all the wonderful things ahead for you and your company. We’re cheering you on!

 

 

Meet the Maker >> Fotini Tikkou of Fotini Tikkou Illustrations

Fotini Tikkou

I’m excited to share another installment of our ongoing “Meet the Maker” series, featuring Fotini Tikkou. If you are new here, our Meet the Maker series celebrates some of our favorite leading business wisdom and a peek behind some of our favorite brands.

 

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Meet Fotini Tikkou of Fotini Tikkou Illustrations

 

LBC: What inspired you to take the leap as an entrepreneur?

Fotini: Being able to make a living from what I love (creating art) was always a dream of mine. Things just happened on their own really. I started sharing my work online and people’s response was really overwhelming. That’s when I realized that people would pay to have my work in their homes so I just grabbed the opportunity and worked hard to build my online shop.

 

LBC: How would you describe what you create?

Fotini: I would say my work is colourful, optimistic, and straightforward. Diversity and inclusion are recurring subjects in my work, too.

 

LBC: Where can we find your products?

Fotini: I sell my work online through my online shop. There’s also a selection of my prints and stationery in different shops in Europe and the US.

 

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LBC: When you first got started, how did you envision your business would be defined?

Fotini: I didn’t know much about starting a small business so I had to do a lot of research and there was also some trial and error. My vision for my business though was quite close to the way it’s functioning today. I wanted my shop to be friendly to my customers with a personal touch. I wanted it to give me a significant amount of income without tying me down too much so that I would have the freedom to work only on projects I really loved doing.

 

LBC: Walk us through a typical workday.

Fotini: Everyday is different. I’m afraid I’m not that good at keeping a strict schedule – having a toddler doesn’t help much either. I have always been a night owl so during the evening is when I’m most productive. I’ve always liked the serenity that comes with working late at night when the rest of the world is sleeping. There’s much less distraction then. Usually, I do admin work in the morning together with handling my social media or answering emails.

After I pick up my daughter from daycare at around 15:30 I spend the rest of the day with her til she goes to bed at around 21:00. After that, I will usually sit down and work on my projects at home. I also have my own studio close by where I work on my pottery and on packing my e-shop orders. So some days I work from my studio and others from my home. Practically I would say that even though my schedule is not fixed I end up working pretty much all day except when I’m with my daughter. Luckily I happen to have a very supportive partner who always has my back when things get too demanding with work.

 

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LBC: What are 3 things entrepreneurs should think through when they initially decide to start a business?

Fotini: I think they should think about the ‘Who,” the “What” and the “How” principle. “Who” meaning who they are and who their audience is; knowing who will buy your work is important to help you choose the right products for your shop. “What” meaning their identity, how they would like to be defined as a business. That would make people relate to it much easier. And last but not least “How” meaning what methods they are going to implement to attract possible clients and how their whole business will function. All in all my advice would be to plan and organize your business as much as possible before you launch it. There’s going to be a lot of details that you will have to re-adjust but having a good plan beforehand will help a lot.

 

LBC: When you’re overwhelmed, what brings you back to focus?

Fotini: That is something that happens quite often lately. Juggling all the different aspects of being a freelance illustrator and a small business owner can be quite overwhelming. When I feel that I’m about to burn out I try to shut down a bit. Get off social media, slow down my production, say no to projects and take some time off without doing anything business related. It’s not always possible but even a day or two off can really help.

 

LBC: Tell us about the best business decision you’ve made to date.

Fotini: I think opening my online shop was one of the best decisions I’ve made.

 

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LBC: Please share one misstep or obstacle from your business experience. How did you bounce back or overcome it?

Fotini: When I started out, I obviously had no idea how exactly to do things. There’s always a learning curve with everything. I remember calculating shipping costs gave me a bit of a headache. Dealing with the post was tricky and as I offered a tracking and a non-tracking option at first there were some incidents with lost or damaged packages. Even though I made clear in my e-shop that I would not be held responsible for damages by third parties, I did have to reimburse customers and make up for the damage. I solved this by offering only a tracking option for more peace of mind and also by reinforcing my packaging, especially for longer destinations.

 

LBC: What are 3 essential resources in your business toolbox that you can’t do without?

Fotini: The only thing that I cannot imagine doing my business without is Instagram. That is my number one business tool. Without Instagram, my business would definitely be very different. I’m not even sure my e-shop would exist. Instagram gave me immense visibility which translated into a big buying audience. 98% of my customers come straight from my Instagram account and that is where I do all my marketing and promotion of new products. Without consolidating a significant audience that would be willing to buy your work, launching a shop would be a quite risky move.

 

LBC: Imagine that we had a time machine. If we blasted ourselves forward a few years, where would we see your company?

Fotini: Hmm…that’s a tough one cause these days so many things happen unexpectedly. It’s hard to predict the future. Obviously, I would love for my business to do as well or even better than how it’s doing today even though that’s a bit of an intimidating thought for me as having a small business is only part of what I do for a living. I need to be able to work on the rest of my projects as well as creating art.

 

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LBC: What’s one thing you would eat if you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life?

Fotini: Seafood

 

LBC: What’s your favorite quote and who said it?

Fotini: “Don’t wait for a miracle to happen, make it happen” – I don’t know who said that.

 

LBC: If you could hire someone to do just one thing that you loathe doing, what would it be?

Fotini: Shopping for clothes.

 

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Thank you, Fotini, for sharing your talent with us. We absolutely love what you’re doing with Fotini Tikkou Illustrations, and we look forward to all the wonderful things ahead for you and your company. We’re cheering you on!

 

 

Meet the Maker: Sarah Villafranco of Osmia Organics

Osmia Organics

I’m excited to share another installment of our ongoing “Meet the Maker” series. We are with Sarah of Osmia Organics and she is revealing morsels of business wisdom and a peek behind her artisan brand. I hope you’re buckled up for this one because Sarah is a powerhouse and her energy is infectious!

 

Meet Sarah Villafranco of Osmia Organics

 

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LBC: What inspired you to take the leap as an entrepreneur?

Sarah: I was feeling uninspired by the practice of emergency medicine, which was a very cool job but did not leave me feeling like I had contributed to people’s long term health in any meaningful way. I had recently lost my mom to cancer and had our second daughter, and I took a class making soap just to shake things up – it worked. I fell in love with the science and art of making soap and skincare and spent a few years developing the line. When it came time to commit and decide whether to start a business, I heard my mother’s voice say “Do what you love, honey,” so I took the leap.

 

LBC: How would you describe what you create?

Sarah: We make organic and natural soap, skincare, bath products, and scents. More importantly, though, we create opportunities and inspiration for people to care for themselves intentionally, weaving small moments of sensory luxury throughout their daily routines. We create a community of people who want to tap into their own power to feel well and joyful. My favorite thing to create is conversations about beauty that go much deeper than surface-level, encouraging people to redefine beauty for themselves, even if that definition includes a few wrinkles or strands of silver hair. And, of course, we create a whole lot of fun.

 

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Meet the Maker: Leah Klasovsky of Leahlani Skincare

Leahlani Skincare

I’m excited to share another installment of our ongoing “Meet the Maker” series.  Here, we share morsels of business wisdom and a peek behind some of our favorite brands. This one is particularly special Leah Klasovsky of Leahlani Skincare.

 

Meet Leah Klasovsky of Leahlani Skincare

 

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LBC: What inspired you to take the leap as an entrepreneur?

Leah: Realizing that my body was out of balance, I set out on a quest for healing. Fate led me to Spa Luna, a holistic esthetician school on the Island of Maui. With no prior knowledge of skincare and never having had a facial in my life, I felt a strong pull to trust my intuition… so off we went.

My husband and I packed all of our belongings and moved from Oahu to Maui to embark on this new journey. In life, we have so many defining moments… moments that change our very existence. My experience in the year I spent on Maui did just that, it changed my life.

For the next few years, I immersed myself in the world of holistic skincare and soaked in as much knowledge and advanced education as I could. I became a Spa Director at the Hilton Spa on Kauai and also had the privilege of having my own private esthetician practice. Working one on one with my clients during this time proved to be my most valuable education. I have had the honor of touching hundreds of precious faces over the course of years in my practice, each face told a story of skin longing to be heard and longing to be healed. I quickly learned how valuable my hands truly are, and what powerful healing tools they make.

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Where are they now: Angela Heitz of Angel Minaro

Angel Minaro, after Brick House Branding + a rebrand

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Are you wondering what happens to my Brick House Branding alumni post-graduation? What they do with the momentum and new-found knowledge? Curious about where they take their businesses in the year following all that hard work?

 

I’m back with another installment in my “Where Are They Now?” series and I’m doing-cartwheels-excited to show you the serious waves my BHB graduates are making!

 

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SAY HELLO TO ANGELA OF ANGEL MINARO

This week I’m thrilled to catch up with my Brick House Branding graduate Angela of Angel Minaro. Angela really embraced my message to niche, niche, niche (and niche some more), and she turned a good brand into a great brand. The transformation is stunning! Welcome, Angela! We’re so glad to have you here.

 

 

Lucky Break: Why and when did you originally launch your company?

Angela: At college, I specialized in product formulation and so I had always dabbled in making skin and body care products. I had dreamed of having a skincare store but never really did anything to realize that dream. In 2009, my now-husband and more than a few friends and colleagues got let go from their jobs. It seemed to be commonplace at the time. I felt a deep anxiety that I needed to have something to fall back on if indeed I ended up with the same fate, so I went to work and started seriously formulating and creating skincare products that I could market as a serious business. In 2011 after a lot of hard work, Angel Minaro launched and I was so very proud of it.

 

 

Angel Minaro, before Brick House Branding and rebrand

Angel Minaro, before Brick House Branding and a rebrand

 

 

Lucky Break: At what point did you know it was time for a rebrand?

Angela: After a few years in business, I really wasn’t seeing any progress or results. I had a few accounts here and there and a few sales. I was working very hard but the business wasn’t profitable, so I knew there was something missing. I don’t think I ever really knew that I needed a rebrand until I took Lela’s Brick House Branding class.

 

While taking the class, I shockingly realized that I didn’t really know what a brand was and how deep branding is. I began to realize that that was at the root of the problem.

 

 

 

Lucky Break: Please share a significant realization about the brand development process that you discovered while in Brick House Branding.

Angela: For me, the brand development process was very emotional. I realized that I didn’t have a brand identity or an ideal client. It was very gut-wrenching to me when I got to the realization that I had worked so hard for so many years and that I would literally have to start again. I had to get to this point emotionally though to realize that I couldn’t hold on to the past and to be willing to move on.

 

I had to figure out who my ideal client was and get to know her inside out. Her wants and needs, likes and dislikes, everything!

 

It dawned on me that I needed my brand to resonate with my ideal client as strongly as my old brand did with me. It had to be all about her, and all of a sudden it clicked for me what branding was all about.

 

 

Angel Minaro, before Brick House Branding + a rebrand

Angel Minaro, before Brick House Branding and a rebrand

 

 

 

Lucky Break: What professionals did you tag in to help with the process, and what pieces of the branding puzzle did you DIY?

Angela: I hired the same graphic designer who designed my old labels to work on the new labels and boxes because we have a really good working relationship. This time though, I was armed with all the information I needed to convey what I wanted from her. Not just… “Make it pretty”! I didn’t have that before.

 

Gilah Press and design printed the labels and Custom Boxes Corp printed my product boxes. They were so helpful.  I got the super talented Madam Scodioli (a referral from Lucky Break Consulting) to take my product shots and as you can see, the difference is crystal clear.

 

I will be writing my own product descriptions, and this is purely due to financial reasons but as soon as I can swing it, I’ll be tagging in a professional to do that.

 

 

 

Lucky Break: What was the biggest obstacle you encountered during the rebranding process?

Angela: Trying to figure out my brand identity and time!

 

First of all, I had to come to terms with the fact that I didn’t really have a brand, and then trying figure out my brand identity was hard and took me a long time. I also had a timeline for completing the rebrand, but I’m learning fast that life gets in the way and that’s the reason I still haven’t officially relaunched. But I’m still pushing through. If you want it bad enough, you have to keep going, and that’s what I’m doing.

 

As painstakingly slow as the progress has been, I look at where I started and where I am now and I’m really proud of how far I’ve come.

 

 

Angel Minaro, after Brick House Branding + a rebrand

Angel Minaro, after Brick House Branding and a rebrand

 

 

Lucky Break: How has your own perception of your brand evolved since graduating from Brick House Branding?

Angela: Honestly I feel more confident about my brand. It is more cohesive. I feel more comfortable pitching to my ideal client because I believe my pitch. I know what I’m offering and who I’m offering it to. The old brand really wasn’t speaking to anyone and was completely all over the place.

 

 

 

Lucky Break: Are your products are being received differently by others since the rebrand? How has their reaction evolved?

Angela: It has been received very well. The feedback I’ve had from the focus groups has been overwhelmingly positive and most importantly the reactions and feelings that I’m trying evoke with my products seem to be happening. The rebrand has been having a more emotional response than the…“Your products are good” response!

 

 

 

Lucky Break: Can you share a recent win that you’ve realized because of the rebrand?

Angela: A few upscale wedding industry professional have inquired about including my products as gifts to their clients. I’m really excited but also feel a bit intimidated.

 

 

 

Angel Minaro, after Brick House Branding and a rebrand

Angel Minaro, after Brick House Branding and a rebrand

 

 

Lucky Break: How did Brick House Branding experience help shape your branding process?

Angela: It was my road map. It literally helped me realize that I didn’t have a brand and that I had to start from scratch. Once that happened, I found that it was a complete guide that helped me figure out what I was offering, who I was offering it to and how to do it…very well!

 

I’m always referring to the Brick House Branding curriculum when I’m working on any aspect of my brand.

 

 

 

Lucky Break: What do you wish you had known at the beginning of the brand development process? What advice would you give to someone who’s getting ready to start the brand development process?

Angela: I wish I knew how emotional it would be. I would say to someone who’s getting ready to start the brand development process that they should come in with an open mind and be ready for some really hard and intense physical and emotional work.  But it’s so worth it!!!!

 

 

Thanks for catching up with us, Angela. We can’ t wait to see what comes next for you and Angel Minaro… We’re cheering you on!

 

 

If you’d like to build a stronger, smart brand in 2019, then I hope that you’ll consider joining me in the winter semester of Brick House Branding. This 9-week brand development mentorship dissects awesome brands and then helps you build your own, brick by brick, with me working right alongside you to cheer you on and ensure that you’re on the right track. Enrollment opens on October 2!