Meet the Maker: Valerie Smith of Klei Beauty

Valerie Smith of Klei Beauty

If you’re a fan of minimalism, clean beauty, and gorgeous design, then you’re going to love Klei Beauty.  Founder Valerie Smith recently sat down with us to discuss why setting yourself apart is essential, and how she learned the hard lesson that not every opportunity is an ideal fit.  Welcome, Valerie!

 

Valerie Smith of Klei Beauty

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

Valerie: I was working in the fashion industry, feeling stuck and uninspired. I’ve always had a passion for DIY self-care projects, so I started to create Klei while working full-time. A year and a half later, it’s my full-time job and I couldn’t be happier.

 

LBC: How would you describe what you create?

Valerie: Klei is a line of self-care products, designed to be fun and customizable. The line currently includes a few clay masks and cleansers, bath soaks, floral facial steams, and facial oils.

 

LBC: Where can we find your products?

Valerie: I’m currently carried in 50+ boutiques nationwide, and sell products on my website.

 

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

Valerie: I first thought that every product needed to be made and packed by me. I’m now learning just how much that hinders growth, so I will partner with a factory in Michigan to mix and pack all of my clay products.

 

LBC: Walk us through a typical workday

Valerie: I like to start my day by making some coffee and sitting at my desk to review emails and create a task list for the day. As a small business, it’s important that I constantly work to reprioritize tasks, as every day is different. After answering emails, I’ll get started on packing orders and restocking inventory as needed. I’ll then work through my to-do list, with a few breaks to take my pup Billie outside, until it’s time to go home.

 

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

1. Start small, and don’t be discouraged by not having what you think is enough money to fund your business. Not having much to put into Klei is what really forced me to plan ahead and think about what was worth investing in, and what wasn’t.

 

2. Trust your vision and process, but be open to change. The beauty of having a small business is being able to constantly improve and change how you do things, in order to keep up with what you’re learning about your industry.

 

3. Don’t be afraid to say no to proposed opportunities. Not every opportunity is worth your time or money, no matter how much someone tries to sell it to you.

 

 

 

 

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

Valerie: Starting your own business is really scary, but in the most exciting way. When I start to doubt myself, I think of how far I’ve come in less than 2 years, and that I’m fully self-employed because of my own choices and decisions.

 

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

Valerie: Investing in new branding. Setting yourself apart in the beauty industry is hard, and I’m really excited to launch a new look for Klei soon.

 

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

Valerie: I tend to say no to opportunities that I believe aren’t worth financial investment, but I don’t think the same about my time. After one recent disaster of an in-store experience, I’m learning to value my time as much as I do my finances.

 

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

Valerie: 1. Instagram – Has led to so many amazing opportunities 2. Canva – Amazing for creating professional design templates 3. Shopify – This is the best e-comm platform, with the most amazing customer service.

 

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

Valerie: This is hard for me to answer, truthfully. I have a plan for 2019 (new branding, being carried by a large national retailer), but beyond that, it’s hard to say.

 

LBC: Share one of your guiltiest pleasures.

Valerie: Any of the Real Housewives shows.

 

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

Valerie: “Don’t yuck my yum” – Mary Murphy, my mom. Can be applied to my love for the Real Housewives franchise.

 

Thank you, Valerie, for sharing your talent with us. We’re looking forward to seeing your new look and all the wonderful things ahead for you and your company. We’re cheering you on!

 

 

Meet the Maker >> Carina Lawson of Ponderlily

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I’m excited to share another installment of our ongoing “Meet the Maker” series, featuring Carina Lawson fo Ponderlily.  For this ongoing series,  leading business owners share morsels of wisdom and give us a peek behind their brands. Carina is especially lovely and she makes some of the most beautiful planners on earth, so I’m eager for you to meet her!

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Meet Carina Lawson of Ponderlily

 

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

Carina: As a motivated woman with big dreams, a blossoming career as a business analyst, and a family who I love more than anything, I found myself being pulled in all directions. I was caught in a never-ending cycle of being busy, successful, and exhausted. I wanted a planner that was made sustainably, helped me create a sustainable schedule, and that was also stylish. I’ve always wanted to create a product that helped women with their life-balance and something that fulfilled my creative side, too. After managing other people’s organizations for many years I thought that with my passion for stationery and sustainability combined with my experience in operations management gave me a wonderful opportunity to start my own business.

 

LBC: How would you describe what you create?

Carina: I help women with full lives make smarter, meaningful decisions about how they spend their time. I use ethically sourced materials to make planners and diaries that bring attention to routines and rhythms that bring intention – to even the busiest days.

 

LBC: Where can we find your products?

Carina: You can find our products in our online store and in select retailers in the Middle East and England.

 

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

Carina: As a luxury stationery brand for people with full lives seeking to create more space for intentional living.

 

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LBC: Walk us through a typical workday.

Carina: I take my children to school, head to the library to work on Ponderlily for a couple of hours. I then go into my 9-5 job, while my family runs the day-to-day operations. I pick up my children from school during my lunch break, give them a snuggle and catch up on their day. I head back to work until 5. This is all possible because thankfully, my family runs the day-to-day operations at Ponderlily while I’m at work and my work/kids’ school/home is only 10 min from each other! Once my children are in bed, I continue to work on my business for a couple of hours. I don’t work on Fridays. During the high stationery season, I take time off work to dedicate myself 100% to Ponderlily.

 

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

Carina: 1. Validate your idea –  do a lot of research with what you consider your ideal clients. Send them questionnaires, have them look through your prototypes, and get their feedback. We have to put the customer at the center of this process.

2. Consider your finances – your business finances should start and stay separate from your personal finances. And pay yourself a salary from the minute you make your first sale. I think it makes things a lot more real when it comes to making decisions about your business.

3. Find your tribe – find the people who’ve been there, who’ll cheer you on when you’re doing all the things and hit a major milestone in your business. Your friends and family may not get what you do so it’s important that you surround yourself with entrepreneur friends to cheer you along and provide you with advice when needed.

 

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

Carina: The vision I created for my business. I remember why I started and who it’s for: I can only serve my customers from a place of calm and not chaos. I recognize that if I’m operating from a place of overwhelm, I won’t be able to make the best decisions for myself or my business so I take breaks, take deep breaths, and take a good walk to put things back into perspective!

 

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

Carina: Working with an experienced branding agency to help us with our branding. I knew we needed to have a strong visual presence and working with Aeolidia has been one of the best business decisions I’ve ever made.

 

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

Carina: I didn’t look into a contract as closely as I’ve been trained to do – I let my entrepreneurial passion get the best of my trained business analyst brain and I made a huge oversight: I didn’t question why there wasn’t a deliverable schedule in the contract. Production for our first batch of planners was delayed and this mistake cost me dearly. However, I learned a lot from this experience: approach my business like a business, bring people on who’ll be active partners and not talk down to me because I don’t have experience in the industry, and trust my instincts – if something doesn’t sit well or doesn’t seem right…it probably isn’t.

 

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

Carina: Asana, G-Suite, and One Note.

 

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

Carina: You’d probably see our company in more high-end department stores.

 

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

Carina: Phenomenal! The team is incredibly professional, Lela knows her stuff and genuinely wants to help your business flourish – every question gets answered and we wouldn’t have a wholesale program without Lucky Break.

 

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

Carina: I learned everything I know about the stationery business from classes I’ve taken online. I’ve also had mentorship sessions, especially related to production. I’m very grateful to a growing online community in creative groups I’m a part of who share their knowledge when I have questions.

 

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

Carina: Sushi.

 

LBC: Share one of your guiltiest pleasures.

Carina: Popcorn!

 

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

Carina: I really don’t like my own cooking. My repertoire in the kitchen has become quite boring and working 9-5 AND running a business on the side makes me tired…and hungry. I’m not gonna lie but I often visit my parents and my in-laws at meal times on weekends (and with Tupperware in hand) just so I can bring their food back home.

 

 

Thank you, Carina, for sharing your talent with us. We absolutely love what you’re doing with Ponderlily, 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!

 

 

Lucky Break-April 2019 Calendar

April 2019 Calendar

The Lucky Break April Calendar is here.  You’ve heard the saying, “April showers bring May flowers.” Here at Lucky Break, it is raining cats and dogs with all sorts of happenings.

April 2019 Calendar

Lucky Break April 2019 Calendar

The LBC Team is headed to Ventura, California for Craftcation- a business conference for makers!  It is our absolute favorite event to attend and this year is no different.  Lucky Break Team Member Angie will be teaching her Chalk Lettering Workshop and I’ll be leading a branding workshop as well a salt scrub workshop.

The Think Tank Early Bird Pricing ends on the 5th, so snag yours today!

BHB Open Enrollment begins this month for our Late Summer Semester.  Make sure to grab your seat before this class sells out.

Speaking of branding, make sure to mark your calendars for April 17th, 12:30pm EST as I lead a free Facebook Workshop on branding. Be sure you are following Lucky Break Consulting on Facebook!

Get all the deets by downloading our April Calendar. Use our trackers to help you monitor your metrics, as well as note some focuses for the month.

Make sure you are following along on all we have cooking this February via our mailing list as well as on Instagram! @lelabarker and @luckybreakconsulting

 

April 2019 Calendar

Where are they now: Sarah Samere of James Vincent Design Co.

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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 SARAH OF JAMES VINCENT DESIGN CO.

This week I’m thrilled to catch up with my Brick House Branding graduate Sarah of James Vincent Design Co.

 

 

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

Sarah: I started my company in 2013 after the birth of my first child. I was not a fan of the clothing that was available for babies/children and decided to make my own. Several people told me that I should sell the things I was making for my daughter so I took my last $40 (hard times during that part of my life) and bought fabric, opened an Etsy store and when the first piece sold, I used the profit to buy double the fabric, and so on.

 

 

Lucky Break: At what point did you know it was time to further explore brand development?

Sarah: A friend of mine had introduced me to Lela Barker via Periscope and I would listen to her daily while I worked from my home studio. As a momprenuer I wanted to soak up all of the knowledge I could on how to build a better company, and Lela quickly became like a mentor to me. After hearing so many other people comment on how she helped them take their businesses to another level via branding I decided to take my tax return and jump on the Lela train. There were SO MANY other small shops popping up at this time and many were basically knocking off what I had been doing. It was breaking my heart as well as hurting my business. I knew I had to do something big to set my company apart from all of the knock offs. Lela made it clear to me that branding was the only way to do this.

 

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Lucky Break: You didn’t necessarily undertake a “rebrand” in the traditional sense… there was no renaming of the company, no new logo, etc. Instead, we focused on refining your product collection, understanding what the brand is all about, and raising the bar on the product photography.  How has that helped the brand?

Sarah: I started my company making rompers. As a small business, I needed money not only for my business but also to put food on the table, so when people would send me special requests to make custom pieces or “you should make this or that”, I would say “okay” to everything, and ended up overextending myself. I lost sight of what my brand was all about. Lela, via Brick House Branding, helped me get back in my lane, and take my company back to the bare bones of where it started and why my customer base fell in love with my company in the first place. I stopped trying to be everything to everyone and simplified my product collection.

 

Lela helped me narrow my scope & figure out what my story was. Through a LOT of research, I was able to locate a local photographer who was new to the area and whose photography gave me life. Thank the gods that she was willing to work with me and that we had a mutual love for each other’s talents. Her photography helped me take my brand to another level and set my brand so far apart from all of the copycat brands that I was being suffocated by at the time. Her photography style compliments my brand vision so well, I never would have guessed how much of a difference that would have made for James Vincent Design Co.

 

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