Tag: interviews

Real-Life Curvy CEO: Cynthia Harris of Diva Plus Consignment, LLC

Cynthia Harris HeadshotI first met the subject of today's Real-Life Curvy CEO series at the Shopaholics Suite I co-hosted last fall with several other area bloggers. Well, this fall Cynthia is bringing her own signature event to the DMV and I thought that presented the absolute perfect opportunity to feature her and her business here at Curvy CEO!

Cynthia Harris HeadshotTell me about your business, Diva Plus Consignment. Diva Plus Consignment is an online and mobile (pop-up) consignment boutique that caters to the curvy women in sizes 14 and up. At Diva Plus Consignment Boutique you will find vintage and the latest trendy fashions and styles in clothing, shoes, handbags, and accessories at affordable prices.

What inspired you to start your business? How did you first begin? Diva Plus Consignment was birthed from my love and passion for fashion. I lost weight, and I was in between sizes, I did not want to buy a new wardrobe until I reached my goal, but I still wanted to be fashionable. I went to the local thrift and consignment store but was saddened by the lack of their plus size inventory. I became more passionate than ever to provide a place where plus size women could purchase quality “new-to-you” clothing and accessories without spending ridiculous prices to look and feel good about their curves.

I started by having plus size swaps. Women would bring in their new and gently used items and swap them for “new-to-you” items; an inexpensive way to update your wardrobe.

How long have you been in business? I’ve been in business since July 2013. I had my official launch in July 2014.

If someone wanted to consign with you, what would they need to do? Do you work with consigners from outside of the DC metro area? Interested consignors in the Washington Metropolitan area can contact me via 202-607-1575. We would schedule an appointment to meet with you and pick up the items clients wish to consign. During the first appointment we go over the terms of consigning with Diva Plus Consignment, LLC. We explain our policies for determining what items we accept for consignment. A limit of 20-25 items would be accepted at one time. The items would be in rotation for sale for 90 days, during which time they would go through scheduled markdowns until sold. After 90 days, items not sold may either be picked up, or donated to a charity. We do not accept out of town consignors at this time but we are working to expand our policy to include out of town consignors very soon.

Diva Plus Consignment Logo What has been the key ingredient in your success thus far? I think the first key is FAITH! Faith in God and faith in my products. I also believe that I am in partnership with my clients. A partnership that is a synergistic blend. My consignors have an opportunity to turn their cluttered closets into cash, and the buyer gets to update their wardrobe on a budget. The consignment partnership becomes mutually beneficial to all parties.

What has been the most challenging thing about being an entrepreneur? The most surprising? The most rewarding? For me the most challenging thing about being an entrepreneur has to be -- being a one-woman show; I’m responsible for doing everything. I am the public relations person, the social media person, and the inventory clerk. You name it; I’m it. I do have a support system, however at the end of the day I’m responsible for my brand.

The most surprising is the growth of small businesses in the plus size industry. When I began this journey of resale of plus size clothing, the number of businesses that catered to the curvy diva was few.

The most rewarding thing about being an entrepreneur is doing what I love. Fashion is my passion. I love to see my curvy sisters bring it. No more tent dresses. I love to see a woman transformed in her clothing and her attitude.

What’s next for Diva Plus Consignment? Near term we’re hosting the “I Love Myself” fashion show where men and women will rip the runway showing confidence, which is the best fashion accessory, no matter the size. It is my mantra -- Good things start from within! The show will be on Saturday, November 14th, 2015 from 3:00 to 5:30pm at Signature Blue Events in Beltsville, MD. Tickets are $15 General Admission & $20 Very Important Diva (VID) Admission. The next thing is to continue to grow Diva Plus Consignment to become elite go to plus size consignment boutique, give back to my community of women through continued partnerships.

How can my readers keep in touch with you? I’m on Facebook and Instagram as Diva Plus Consignment. I also have a website, www.divaplusconsignment.com. If they would like to speak with me they can reach me at (202) 607-1575. Anyone interested in attending the fashion show can purchase tickets on the website under the Events tab.

Yes, as Cynthia mentioned, you can purchase tickets directly from the Diva Plus Consignment website...OR, you can enter to win two free tickets from Curvy CEO! Just scroll down and enter below!

Good luck!

Real-Life Curvy CEO: Stephanie Dillard of PlushSizeWear.com

One day I was surfing the internet looking for cute workout wear when I saw a t-shirt that absolutely stopped me in my tracks. It said, "I Can Do All Things Through Christ...Even Cardio." I was instantly sold! I knew that I had to reach out to find out who was the creative soul who came up with this cute - and accurate - line of plus-size workout apparel. My search led me to Stephanie Dillard of PlushSizeWear.com. I'm thrilled to have had the opportunity to interview her for today's Real-Life Curvy CEO. Be sure to read all the way to the very end for deets on a cool giveaway!

[caption id="attachment_9836" align="alignleft" width="206"]Stephanie DIllard modeling my FAVORITE shirt from the collection! Stephanie DIllard modeling my FAVORITE shirt from the collection![/caption]What inspired you to begin Plush Size Wear? Its very simple! I was sick of seeing cute fitness wear, that wasn't in my size. Sick of seeing cute slogan t-shirts, than didn't represent how a plus size women feel in the gym.

Did you have a background in fashion? If not, how did you find the resources (information, skill set, funding, etc.) to get started? No, I don't have a background in fashion. I found my resources from other entrepreneurs and a ton of research. I started with very little funding. My goal was to NOT use loans and start off my funding by myself. It mostly came from our saving and a very supportive husband.

What has been the most rewarding things about being an entrepreneur? The most challenging? Knowing that its mine and NO one can take that from me. That has to be the most rewarding so far. The challenging part is staying motivated. It isn't easy starting a business from the ground up. Getting discouraged, when Plush Size isn't growing or shining they why I think it should. It’s my baby and I want the world to see how beautiful it is.

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What advice would you give to someone who wants to delve into plus-size activewear? I would tell them to DO YOUR RESEARCH! Know the market you’re going after and know what [your ideal customer is] like.

What is next for Plush Size Wear? I'm in the process of recreating Plush Size and making it more stylish. Style doesn't end just because you are in the gym. When I’m working out, I like to feel beautiful and strong. Knowing I just Killed That Workout!

plush size teeIs there anything else you’d like to share? For companies or women who are just starting, please stay focused on your dream and goals for your brand. Do all the research you can and DON’T spend money on things that won’t push your brand in the right direction!

How can Curvy CEO readers keep up with you and your brand? They can follow us on , Twitter and Facebook at "plushsizewear" and our website is wwww.plushsizewear.com.

Want some PlushSizeWear of your very own? You're in luck!! I've teamed up with blogger boos Kymberly Nichole of WellFitCurves and Kristina Denise of Curvy Girl Chronicles to host a loop giveaway on Instagram for not one, not two, but THREE t-shirts from wwww.plushsizewear.com. Want to know how to win? It's simple!
loop giveaway image
1. Head over to my Instagram account (@curvy_ceo) and "like" the image above and leave a comment.
2. Head over to follow @curvygirl_chronicles, the next person in this loop.
3. Then, go follow @Kym_Nichole.
4. When you get back to me, you're done!

Be sure to enter by 11:59 PM on Friday, October 2. The winner will be announced on October 3!

Good luck!!!

Join Me for #CurvyGirlChat Tonight at 7:30pm (ET)

CurvyGirlChatCurvyGirlChat You may recall that a few months back, I featured plus model Kristina Denise as one of our Real-Life Curvy CEOs. Most recently, she returned the favor by featuring yours truly as the Curvy Girl of the Month on her blog, Curvy Girl Chronicles. *beams* Anyhoo, tonight at 7:30 pm (ET) we will be hosting #CurvyGirlChat to discuss, well, just about anything relating to curvy girl fashion - being that it's a Thursday night, we can definitely dish about Scandal, How to Get Away with Murder, political fashion (after all the midterm elections were just two days ago), you name it! Please join us on Twitter and use the hashtag #CurvyGirlChat.

Tweet with you soon!!

Your Style is Your Brand: An Interview with Stania Romain of Miss Sassy LLC

One of the absolute best things about blogging, one thing I never even counted on or expected, was all of the new people I was blessed to meet on this adventure. One such person is Stania Romain. Human Resources professional by day and wardrobe stylist and motivational speaker by night (and weekend!), Stania is truly making a name for herself through her company, Miss Sassy LLC. And sassy, she is! Stania was good enough to take a few moments to share some of her key insights in the areas of fashion, image, and personal branding.

photo 1 (3) When did you first fall in love with fashion and style? I can remember being about 7 years old. Most of my clothes were made by a seamstress at that time and I was usually styled from head to toe by my parents. Yes, the stylish life of a West Indian child! When did you decide that you needed to share this love through blogging? About 4 years ago, I decided that I needed a central location to share style tips, inspiration and my natural passion and expertise on style and shopping. How did you come up with the name "Miss Sassy"? I wanted a name that was catchy and with the 'S' initial to match my first name. The name was a good description of how I felt about myself and when styling others. I always encourage others to 'Stay Sassy.' How would you describe your own personal style? Definitely into classic looks, being effortlessly chic and flavors of vintage. You can't lose with that photo 3 (2)combination. Although trends freshen things up, it's good to be able to build your wardrobe around items that will always show your personality and keep you versatile. In addition to sharing your own style on the blog, you also coach business students on professional attire and teach self-esteem workshops for young girls. What would you say are the top three tips that you share when speaking to each of these groups? With my background as a Human Resources professional, I've seen a lot of dos & don'ts while recruiting and on the job. That combined with an eye for style has motivated me to empower others to obtain a more professional image. Business etiquette is also a great portion of my presentations to students.The self esteem workshops are a way for me to influence the youth into becoming confident young women, in and out of the workplace. My top three tips for business students are usually: (1) Your style is your brand. (2) Your work is your brand. (3) Your attitude is your brand. [pullquote]My top three tips for business students are usually: (1) Your style is your brand. (2) Your work is your brand. (3) Your attitude is your brand.[/pullquote] For youth, I help them determine their talents and how all of their characteristics make them special and valuable. That foundation must be established before anything else like style, can be polished. What can we expect next from the Miss Sassy brand? Projects that are tailored to building and maintaining a positive and attractive image. The ultimate goal of Miss Sassy LLC is to become an image consulting brand. How can my readers keep up with you? Visit my blog - and subscribe! - at www.miss-sassy.com. I'm also on Instagram (Miss_Sassy_Style), Twitter (MissSassyStyle), Pinterest (MissSassyStyle) and Facebook (MissSassyPage). Please be sure to stop by Stania's website and social media pages - you won't be sorry!

Real-Life Curvy CEO: Sasha Ballard, Miss Virginia Plus USA

Sasha-Miss Virginia Plus USA

In August 2014, Seattle will serve as the host city for the inaugural Miss Plus USA pageant. Among the field of contestants is my friend, Sasha Ballard, who will be representing the Commonwealth of Virginia. When I learned that she would be participating in the contest I thought she would be an ideal candidate for the ever-popular “Real-Life Curvy CEO” feature. So, let’s learn more about my girl, Sasha!

Tell my readers a little about yourself. Although I was born in Anchorage, Alaska and raised mostly in Washington D.C. and Maryland, today I reside in Virginia. I earned a Master’s Degree in Federal Program Management from Trinity Washington University and a B.A. in Mass Communications from Virginia State University. I’m a proud member of the illustrious Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. and work as a Contract Specialist under the elite Fellows Management Program with the Federal Government. Recently I have started to work as a professional full-figured model. I maintain a deep passion for mentoring and changing lives. As such, I am currently working to establish an organization that will strive to help today’s youth build confidence, self-sufficiency, cultural awareness, and leadership skills.

Sasha-Miss Virginia Plus USA

What inspired you to enter the Miss Plus USA pageant? At first I was not going to enter the competition. I had never done anything like it before and really was not sure what to expect and if I could successfully accomplish what was required. I had heard about it through a friend of mine, but wrote off all interest in participating and gotten off of social media for months. I had occasionally thought about looking in to it again because it was on my heart. The very first day I logged back onto Facebook, it was the first thing I saw. I prayed about it and took it as a sign to proceed.

What are the official issue(s) you hope to represent during your reign as Miss Virginia Plus USA? My platform is Post-Partum Depression Awareness (PPD). I am teaming up with Postpartum Support International; one of the largest women’s organizations dedicated to helping women suffering from perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. After I had my daughter in 2012, I had severe PPD. I felt there was a need for more events, programs, and initiatives for women dealing with PPD. There was especially a need for minority women to start talking about it.

I am working on finalizing a PPD initiative dedicated to urban mothers and children. My vision is to start dispelling one of the many taboos about mental health in our communities. I want to provide more resources in engaging women with their children and how to overcome a variety of circumstances that may be present before, during, and after pregnancy. I would like to create more opportunities for urban women to receive help without judgment and provide a key element of alternative educational methods and pregnancy prevention for young women.

[caption id="attachment_7870" align="aligncenter" width="442"]image credit: missplususa.com image credit: missplususa.com[/caption]

What has been the most surprising thing about preparing for the national competition so far? The most challenging? The most rewarding? The most surprising thing about preparing for a national competition is all the work involved. I have a new respect for people who do this. The most challenging is the balance act and making up in your mind what you really want out of it. Not taking anything personal was another big one. One of the most rewarding has been seeing how many people support you openly and even secretly. Due to my diligence and hard work, I was able to get a variety of sponsors in different things, so being able to meet different people and network and talk about your platform and who you are as a person is by far the most rewarding because you never know who you will meet and leave an impression on.

Win or lose, what do you hope to take home from your experience at the national competition? I hope to take home a valuable network of women who can pour and add greatness in to my life and allow me do the same for them. This is a huge investment monetarily, but even bigger emotionally. What I stand to gain is far greater than what I have spent.

How can my readers support you in your endeavor to take home the national title? Oh wow, there are so many things your readers can do to support me!

Email me encouragement and stories they would like to share at therealsashanicole@gmail.com - especially if they can relate to PPD or have anything they would like to share. It is great to have support in anything you do in life. They can also send me a Facebook friend request at “Sasha Nicole”. As I am coming to a close on tying the loose ends for the programs and initiatives I am doing to impact the DC, MD, VA area, they can follow the impact God has anointed me to make in the area.

[pullquote]The Miss Plus USA contest features another familiar face - former Real-Life Curvy CEO interviewee, poetess Shelly Says So aka Michel Washington who will be representing Maryland! Good luck to all of the 2014 contestants - we know that the DC metropolitan area will be WELL represented![/pullquote]Anything else you'd like to share? To keep going! There will be many people who may try to discourage your ideas and dreams, but keep going. The biggest thing that has kept me going is my understanding of the destiny laid out for me. I believe in achieving greatness. I continually try to do everything I can to stay motivated and focused on what God has placed in my heart. The more you can eliminate distractions not worthy of your time, the more destinies you will discover and achieve.

Please stay tuned and follow me down this path to help our communities and young women. I am going to do my best to not let you guys down!

Real-Life Curvy CEO! Safiya Jafari Simmons


I'm so excited to bring you this next featured entrepreneur, Safiya Jafari Simmons, owner of Safiya Jafari Simmons Consulting. She is a new acquaintance of mine, but is already proving to be a true source of inspiration and encouragement. When I learned more about her story, I knew that I had to feature her as a Real-Life Curvy CEO!

1. Tell me about your company, Safiya Jafari Simmons Consulting. Safiya Jafari Simmons Consulting is a boutique communications and strategy firm in Washington, DC. We specialize in, as our motto says, "Giving Voice to Your Vision™." We aim to help purpose-passionate clients develop compelling messages, and then make sure they get those messages in front of the appropriate audiences through strategic communications, PR and media relations work. We also offer operations strategy, helping small businesses, individuals, nonprofits and organizations run more effectively and efficiently. Our mission is to support and empower others to do their best work!

2. Did you always know that you wanted to be an entrepreneur? My husband would say he always knew, but I didn't. My father has always been an entrepreneur, often with more than one venture at a time. So I grew up in a home where if there wasn't a road, you were expected to blaze one. I've had a number of fantastic (and frightening!) employment opportunities, but I always came back to consulting. Being self-employed enables me to invest my time in my husband and children and in the organizations, people and issues that encourage and inspire me. And, as I've grown, I've realized that I've needed each of my employment experiences in order to really appreciate and understand this season.

3. What has been the most surprising thing about being an entrepreneur? The most challenging? The most rewarding? I am consistently having "pinch myself" moments when I can't believe that I'm doing what I'm doing, going where I'm going, or meeting who I'm meeting. That's always a welcomed surprise every time I think about it: you can be fulfilled in your job; it's not just a necessary evil of adulthood.

The most challenging? The most challenging is definitely the amount of faith it takes. To do this, and do it well and successfully, I am constantly checking my anxieties, worries and concerns at the door. I know that the talents I have, the gifts I have, they were instilled in me for a reason - to do exactly what I'm doing now for these precise clients. So when things get tight - money, pipeline to clients, or project deadlines - I reassure myself that I am exactly where I am supposed to be right now. This is all orchestrated and ordained. All I have to do is trust my God and work the plan; the rest will be taken care of!

The most rewarding? The flexibility that I have. I am finally in a space where I can invest as much in my husband and kids as I have in previous bosses and jobs. It is priceless to be able to land a client interview or op-ed in the morning, watch my children perform at school, and then network and court new business before putting the kids to bed. That feeling -- that I've invested my 24 hours in things that are important to me - is absolutely the best feeling.

safiya quote

4. How do you negotiate all of the various hats your wear - businesswoman, wife, mother? It's never easy, but having a supporting partner - a man who believes in me, my dreams and my abilities to an unbelievable degree - and a strong faith are the only way I can accomplish anything. And I try to remember that if I take care of home well and consistently (my first and most important job) then doing the other things will be easier and that much more fulfilling.

5. What advice would you give to another young woman who is thinking about going into business for herself? Don't run into self-employment with reckless abandon, no plan, and simply to escape the 9-to-5 grind. I work more hours now than I did in all of my jobs. Continue to strategically entertain traditional opportunities that can equip you to be your best you and build your network and skillset. Put a plan in place, and then work that plan. I learned a tremendous amount at every job - the good, the bad and the painful - and I needed each of those experiences to prepare me for this. Also, get a mentor or a sponsor who is fully invested in and who completely believes in your ability.

6. What is your vision for Safiya Jafari Simmons Consulting - 2 years from now? 5 years? 10 years? There's a scripture in the Bible that says, "The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps." I think the plain version of that is, "if you want to make God laugh, make plans!"SJS Logo Having said that, if it's my path, two years from now, I will have fully established the foundation of the Safiya Jafari Simmons Consulting brand, from areas of expertise, to consistent clientele and consultants, to identified audiences and network pipelines. Five years from now, I endeavor to have a small, full-time staff to manage our dynamic and growing clientele, and I hope to have established myself as a public speaker and executive coach. In 10 years, I will have shepherded SJS Consulting from a boutique practice to a full-fledged firm with a philanthropic arm as well. My firm will be known as a hub for creative strategists, thoughtful communicators, and knowledgeable and reliable subject-matter experts who are passionate about amplifying the work of our clients.

7. Is there anything else you'd like to share? Making the leap to self-employment taught me one great thing about myself: embrace every aspect of who you are. For a very long time I wondered why I could be so loud, or assertive, or opinionated. Why was I so different? I wasn't UNpopular growing up, but I wasn't a cool kid. I always wondered why. But everything I need to fulfill my purpose was instilled in me from before my birth. That means that every trait, talent and ability - whether I understand it or whether the world appreciates it - plays a vital role in me making my mark. Embrace all of you. Love all of you. And watch everything come together for your good. It's a promise!

8. How can my readers keep in touch with you? I welcome your readers to check out my website (the new site will launch soon!) at www.safiyasimmons.com. They may also check out my blog at www.radicalnewu.com. I would welcome their emails at safiya@safiyasimmons.com.

Clearly, Safiya is a dynamic force - please be sure to visit her sites and check her out online!

Real-Life Curvy CEO: Plus Model Kristina Denise

KDenise Qristyl Frazier Presidential inaguration showI met today's Real-Life Curvy CEO at the District of Curves Full-Figured Fashion Show a few weeks back. When I learned of her multi-faceted career - modeling, journalism, blogging, etc. - I just knew that I had to feature her in this popular segment! So, ladies, here is Kristina Denise! 1. What inspired you to become a model?KDenise matrix   First, thank you so much for this profile, I'm excited to be featured on Curvy CEO.   A number of things inspired me, my young nieces, the online body confidence movement, and my desire to do something fun and different. As my nieces approached their teens, they become more body conscious.  At 12 and 14, I was already hearing them talk about their bodies or say people at school called them fat. Neither girl is anywhere near plus size. (Note: One of them is a size 00.) So, I had them in the back of my mind when I stumbled across the body confidence movement online. I would see people on blogs and Instagram embracing their curves and I wanted to be an example to my nieces and girls and women everywhere, as someone who embraced her curves and looked fierce doing it!   Is it something you always aspired to or that you embarked upon accidentally? I've always secretly harbored the desire to model but didn't pursue it until I made it a New Year's resolution about a year and a half ago.  I wanted a fun New Year's resolution, not my usual, I promise to go to the gym commitment, so I attended my first model call 2 weeks after New Year's Eve - and I booked it! I booked Curves Rock Fashion Weekend and I've been in love with the runway ever since.   2. How have you balanced your modeling career with your writing career?   Modeling is my passion project and when you have passion for something you make a way. I mostly write for my day job as a Communications Specialist so when I'm not at work I have time to pursue other passions, such as modeling and my newly published blog, Curvy Girl Chronicles.  I also rely on my Google and Outlook calendars. I make lists for everything! It's the only way to ensure I get it all done. 3. What have been some of your favorite modeling jobs? KDenise Qristyl Frazier Presidential inaguration showRipping the Runway is by far my favorite! I love the energy, meeting the designers, and the behind the scenes fast pace of a fashion show.  One of my favorite shows was DC Fashion Week's Presidential Inauguration Fashion show.  This was the first time they had plus size models and designers and there was a lot of pressure for the "Curvy girls" to show them what we were made of and work the runway! It felt like we were breaking barriers and we definitely turned it out!  I walked for Curvysta and for Qristyl Frazier. Qristyl Frazier was on Project Runway Season 6 and Season 2 of All On The Line with Joe Zee. [Ed. Note: An interview with Qristyl also appeared on Curvy CEO in November 2011. You can read it here!] 4. What has surprised you most about modeling? What has been the most challenging? The most rewarding?   I think I was most surprised at the varying ways people describe plus size.  The fashion industry considers size 8 and above plus size. I  started modeling as a size 18/20, I 'm now a size 14/16 and some people say, you don't look plus size. Yet the fashion industry says size 8 and above is plus size.   Most challenging - dealing with rejection, I book most shows but not every single one. I just have to remember It's fashion, not personal. It's definitely a business and if I don't make it through one door, I create a window and hop through that. It's one of the reasons I created my blog to expand my brand as a model and writer and to champion the body positive movement. [pullquote]It's definitely a business and if I don't make it through one door, I create a window and hop through that.[/pullquote] The most rewarding? When people say I've inspired them to feel good about their bodies or inspired them to reach for a dream or goal they previously thought was unattainable. 5. What advice would you give to a woman who wished to break into the plus-size modeling industry and who, like you resides outside of New York and Los Angeles? Research, Research, Research.  Learn what you're expected to bring to model calls, learn the agencies and designers and don't be afraid to travel. I can't tell you how many times I've been to NY for model calls. 6. What's next for Kristina Denise? Promoting and building my blog, Curvy Girl Chronicles, which can be found through my personal site - www.KristinaDenise.com. My blog brand is "Body Confidence, Healthy Curves, and Inner Beauty." I launched my blog May 1; it dropped at midnight, kind of like Beyoncé's album.  Of course, since I'm not King Bey, the world didn't know about it in 10.5 seconds, so I've got to do a lot more promotion to get the word out *lol* So, thanks for this profile. 7. How can my readers keep in touch with you?   I can be reached on Twitter at @_KristinaDenise, Facebook www.facebook.com/KristinaDeniseModel and, of course, you can check out the gram @Tinapics1 and, last but not least, visit www.KristinaDenise.com to follow my modeling adventures and blog!  

Real-Life Curvy CEO: Leah Lakins of Fresh Eyes Editorial Services

Leah Lakins 3

Leah Lakins 3Today, I am thrilled to present this interview with one of my sisterfriends, Leah Lakins. Recently, she took me and a host of others by surprise by sneaking off to Brooklyn to follow her dream of taking her company, Fresh Eyes Editorial Services, full-time! When I learned about this bold move, I knew that I *had* to feature her in my Real-Life Curvy CEO Series.

Tell me about your company. Fresh Eyes Editorial Services began from a dream I had in 2006 when I was working as a book editor at ASCD (formerly the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development). I loved working behind the scenes as an editor, and I always envisioned myself working as my own and having the freedom to work with authors from the ground up. I landed my first client, the National Alliance of Black School Educators, in 2007 and began moonlighting with various independent authors and educational nonprofit organizations over the next six years.

Over the years my work has gone from strictly print editorial work to helping organizations launch their social media presence. After working in the nonprofit publishing world for nearly 11 years, I took a bold leap of faith at the end of 2013 by taking Fresh Eyes from the moonlight to the daylight and making it my full-time gig.

While I’ve enjoyed all of the editorial opportunities I’ve been blessed to have, I really love working with first-time authors who are new to the publishing arena. Nothing makes me happier than working with new authors and helping their voices to shine.

What inspired you to pick up your life in Washington, DC and venture to New York City to launch your own business? My dream to live in the Big Apple started back during my junior year as an undergraduate at Morgan State University in Baltimore. Morgan had a great lecture series that year and one of the speakers was the former Essence Editor-in-Chief, Susan Taylor. I was so mesmerized and inspired by Ms. Taylor’s presentation that I decided that evening that I would be an English/Journalism major and one day I would pursue that dream in New York City. For me, making it to New York was the equivalent of the Olympics for a writer and editor, and as the old song goes, “if I could make it there, I could make it anywhere!”

When I graduated Morgan in 2002, the economy was still pretty shaky after 9/11 and venturing out to New York at that time would have been more risk than I was willing to take. So I opted for beginning my editorial career in Washington, DC instead. I always imagined DC being just a short pit stop on my way to New York. Now I didn’t know my “short” pit stop in the DC Metro area would be nearly 12 years (Ha!), but I know without a doubt that I wouldn’t be sitting in my home office now in Brooklyn without all of the great experiences, colleagues, friends, and mentors that I was blessed to have along the way.

leah lakins - fresh eyesAt the top of 2013, my eyes were actually focused on moving back to my beloved Baltimore, buying a rehabbed brownstone, and calling it a life. I temporarily moved in with two of my good friends in Annapolis to save up for a down payment and was all set to become a homeowner. But after a few life shake-ups personally and professionally towards the end of the year, I said, “Leah, let’s get real.” (Hey, if I can't speak truthfully to myself, who will?) “We can go home to what is safe and familiar back in Baltimore or we can finally do this thing and move to New York.” So I took my down payment and made the investment into my new future in the Big Apple instead.

I officially became a Brooklynite on January 8th, and business has been BOOMING right along with my move to New York. I just finished my first ghostwriting assignment (I’ll be sooo glad when I can spill the beans about this project! Soo excited!) and I have a few other exciting writing projects in the hopper for the spring. So far New York is definitely agreeing with me!

What has been the most rewarding thing about being an entrepreneur? The most surprising? The most frustrating? I really love having the freedom to create my own schedule. Last Monday and Tuesday, I spent most of the day finishing up a grueling deadline. Then on Wednesday, I decided to spend the day with a new friend viewing the Jean Paul Gautier exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum and finished out the night listening to Q-Tip spin at a local club in Brooklyn. And then I spent most of Thursday morning sleeping (I just turned 35. I’m not as spry as I used to be!). I really love having the freedom to work as hard as I want to and enjoy my new city, too.

This new freedom also requires a bit of discipline too, which has it’s own challenges and frustrations. My friends and family are just assuming that I’m partying 24/7 now that I live in New York. Not so! Now that I’m my own boss I have to tighten up on my Facebook time, my Netflix and Hulu viewings, and personal calls during the day. I’m ashamed to admit that a few days in the beginning it was nearly 3:00 and I’d spent most of the day answering a few e-mails and binge watching “Say Yes to the Dress.”

I now start my day at 9:00 am with an accountability call with one of my dear friends. By 10:00 am, I either watch a sermon from my former pastor in Alexandria, Virginia, Rev. Howard-John Wesley (his sermon titled “Wait for It” is one of my current favorites) or a clip of an innovator or creator that I love. (I’m currently obsessed with Questlove’s mini-documentary on his first night as the band leader for “The Tonight Show” and Oprah’s soul-stirring story about how she used the power of surrender to garner her role in “The Color Purple.”) By 11:00, I’ve set my agenda for the day and I begin working. Some days, it’s simply sending out queries and setting up meeting for potential work. Other days, I am deep in the trenches with editing, proofing, or writing. I’m still getting a handle on staying committed to my schedule and saving the latest episode of “Blood, Sweat, and Heels” for my night time viewing, but it’s getting a little easier. [pullquote]Leah's Inspirational Links!


I’ve been surprised at how easy it has been to talk with people about being a freelance editor and striking up conversation for potential business opportunities. I was chilling out at a spa in Brooklyn last week and just struck up a conversation with a gentleman who also happened to specialize in editorial and communications work. We had a great conversation about optimizing social media in a whirlpool room. So I’m learning that opportunities are ALWAYS available.

What do you envision for yourself and your company a year from now? Five years from now? In the next year, I would love to work with more New York-based clients and to gain more exposure in the New York editorial market. Most of my clientele now are from my DC network, so I would definitely love to be more connected in my new city.

Five years from now I definitely want to have my own publishing house that specializes in representing young, new voices. I also would love to have a network of positive, uplifting blogs for women. Sort of a Huffington Post for the Spirit.

What advice do you have for those who are thinking about pursuing entrepreneurship? My number one advice is to SAVE as much money as you can. I was blessed that I was already saving money for more than a year for a down payment for a home, so when I decided to switch gears and move to New York, fortunately I was able to then use that money for my moving expenses and my first few months in the city. Having a financial cushion was helpful in that I could take some time and get adjusted to the city without having to hustle hard immediately. It was also nice to have that cash to get my business cards, get a new printer, and a new iPad for business purposes.

Number two: Tell people what you are up to. As soon as I decided that I was going to move to New York, I e-mailed everyone in my professional circle in early November to let them know I was planning to freelance full-time in the New Year. I also told a good friend that I was looking for an apartment. Fortunately, as soon as the New Year hit, I was blessed to find a great and affordable apartment in Brooklyn (Thank you, Jesus!) and I actually had a great problem on having TOO much work to do by the beginning of February. Some of the assignments were small one-day jobs and others were two-week assignments, but they all added up to my biggest freelancing month EVER.

This is all so exciting! How can my readers keep in touch with you? They can find me through my business' website - Fresh Eyes Editorial Services - and Facebook page - https://www.facebook.com/FreshEyesEditorialServices. They can also find me at my personal blog - My SoulFlakes.

Thanks again! I'm honored to be featured on your blog!!

Thank YOU, Ms. Leah Lakins! I am so delighted that I'll be able to say I knew you way back when....Please go and check out my girl online...you won't be disappointed!

Real-Life Curvy CEO: Fashion Designer Cassaundra Bourne

head-shot-1 This week's Monday Morning Memo resonated with a lot of people, as evidenced by the many, many retweets. Today, I'm so pleased to present this interview with custom clothing designer Cassaundra Bourne. I even model an item she gifted me...and be sure to read to the end of the interview so you can find a discount code! Tell me about your company, CCB Custom Dress. CCB Custom Dresses is a culmination of my many years in the fashion business. I started sewing when I was around age 8, making clothes for myself. I progressed to making clothes for myself and then for my friends. I never even thought about being in the fashion business, sewing was just something that came naturally to me. It was my friends that recognized that I had talent and it was their constant encouragement that got me to my first interview. I went on the interview to prove them wrong but when I brought garments that I had made for them to the interview, I was hired on the spot. I worked for an Haute Couture boutique for 5 years where I honed my craft but the most important thing I gained was a passion for well-fitting clothes. I am not label obsessed but I think that clothes should fit correctly not matter what size you are. I don’t think that you have to spend a lot of money for great fashion but what you wear should fit like it was made for you. I recognize that standard sizing is a cruel necessity. Each designer has their own way of manipulating their sizing to keep the numbers small but consumers are left feeling lost and confused when they wear a different size with each designer. I am convinced that size doesn’t matter but fit does. I understand that most women do not fit standard sizes and so that was the guiding force behind CCB Custom Dresses. I created a collection of timeless garments (dresses & separates) that are perfect for women of all shapes and sizes. I offer free custom sizing so that women can include their measurements and have each garment custom fit. Do you design all the clothes yourself? I designed my entire collection based on timeless silhouettes that can stand the test of quickly changing trends. [pullquote]True style is wearing clothes that tell the story about who you are; fashion is a state of mind not a great outfit.[/pullquote] How did you first get into designing clothes? What inspired you? I started designing as a teen when I couldn’t find what I wanted in stores. I am inspired by clean simple lines. I believe that the clothes you wear are a form of communication. You tell a little story about yourself with your clothes. I am a simple straight forward person and I dress that way. I don’t think simple has to be boring but if you wear simple clothing you can accessorize with a theme and include trends. I don’t want my clothes to argue or compete with my accessories. How does your clothing line cater to the needs of the full-figured fashionista? I am a full-figured woman and I understand the needs of women with curves and that influences my design. While I am designing, I always think about what body type can wear this dress or how can I make a style more comfortable for a woman with curves. What are some of your best tips for finding clothing that makes you look and feel your best? I think the single most important fashion tip is honesty. Know your body and what silhouette best compliments your shape and wear clothes that fit correctly. True style is wearing clothes that tell the story about who you are; fashion is a state of mind not a great outfit. Where you ever (or are you still) balancing your business with a 9-to-5 "day job"? What are some tips you recommend to budding entrepreneurs who are also balancing multiple careers? I count it as a blessing that I work-full time on the thing that I love to do. On my path to developing my collection to the point that it is a full-time job, I had to balance my true passion with earning a living. Starting a business is like dating, you make sure you know the person and you have fundamentals in common before you get married. Starting a business is the same way, research your passion, find an internship in the field or a mentor, and make sure that you have a solid financial plan before you quit your primary source of income. How can my readers keep in touch with you, online or otherwise? I do my best to participate in social media via Twitter, Facebook, and my own blog. Anything else you'd like to share? I feel like I am on a bit of a mission to help women let go of the size trap. I want women to recognize that you are not the circumference of your waist, a number on a scale, or a size on a label; you are who you allow yourself to be. Well, there you have it! Here I am in my very own custom made maxidress with a 3/4 length sleeves and a boat neckline... ccb1 ccb2 ccb3 Want your own custom made dress? Visit CCBCustomDress.com and use code CURVYCEO25 at checkout and save 25% off your entire order. (Note that this code cannot be used with any other sale, coupon, or promotion and expires 5/31/2013.)

Teach Me Your Way: Curvy CEO’s Interview with Tiffany Griffin of ComoWater.com

Tiffany Griffin of ComoWater.comI hope you are all getting excited for this Saturday's Work Your Curves event! I know that in addition to the workout with Chickaro Martin, I'm really looking forward to the cooking demo and food tasting with Tiffany Griffin of www.comowater.com. As I am an absolute beginner when it comes to cooking, I was delighted to have the opportunity to chat with Tiffany about her recommendations for how to get started in the kitchen. Check out our interview below! What inspired you to start your website? I began my website in 2010 on my birthday. I was inspired by a question I had been asked semi-continuously for almost two decades, “How did you make this?!?!” Not one to typically measure, more often than not, I had no answer for my friends and family for whom I had prepared food. So, in 2010, I decided to start documenting my kitchen adventures. It started as a “service” for my loved ones, a repository of sorts, and it grew from there! How long have you been "a cook"? Literally since I was about 5 or 6! When other kids were watching Saturday cartoons, I was watching PBS (no TV Food Network back then!). Julia Child, Jacques Pepin, The Frugal Gourmet, Ciao Italia, I loved them and they inspired me. How cool to create I thought, and I’ve been hooked ever since. [pullquote]Be gentle with yourself. Wherever you are in the spectrum of living a healthier lifestyle, remember not to judge yourself too harshly....We can all do more to be healthier. So focus on the things you do right, on what you are doing now, and treat yourself with the same empathy and patience that you would treat your best friend.[/pullquote] As someone who is not a cook, I'm wondering what are some beginning steps for someone just starting out? I would say, 1. Learn from someone “real,” from someone who’s not a chef. Chefs, even when they try really hard to keep things simple, tend to be pretty complicated. I think that’s why a lot of folks resonate with Como Water. Everything I prepare, I prepare in a home kitchen with minimal special tools. 2. I would start with simple dishes that take less than 30 minutes or so to make. Think to yourself, "What’s my favorite side dish?" Start there! :D And 3. Take a cooking class. They are really fun and help build community, which is always a good thing in my opinion. What are some of your favorite tricks and tips to make what might ordinarily be an unhealthy meal one that is more nutritious (e.g., ingredient substitutes, cooking techniques)? Being a vegetarian, you have to find ways to extract as much flavor as possible from your ingredients. For me, this usually means—1. Cooking your spices and 2. Roasting or caramelizing your veggies. Folks want to eat food that tastes good. And so, I try to emphasize taste as much as health and wellness in my dishes. You’d be amazed how much more flavor you can get if you cook spices and/or roast/caramelize your veggies. You seriously will not miss meat or fat. Also, to get a great cheesy flavor without the dairy, I use nutritional yeast! It’s pretty awesome stuff ;) Tiffany Griffin of ComoWater.comHow can my readers keep up with you online or otherwise? Oooo, la la, I’m so glad you asked! You can find me of course at my website, www.comowater.com. I’m also on facebook (www.facebook.com/comowater), twitter (@como_water), pinterest (@comowater, and instagram (@comowater). If all else fails, shoot me an email at tiffany@comowater.com. Is there anything else you'd like to share? Actually, one thing. Be gentle with yourself. Wherever you are in the spectrum of living a healthier lifestyle, remember not to judge yourself too harshly. We are all trying to be better people—to ourselves and to others. We all have vices. We all have hangups. We can all do more to be healthier. So focus on the things you do right, on what you are doing now, and treat yourself with the same empathy and patience that you would treat your best friend. When negative thoughts come into your mind, stop them, take a step back, and show yourself some kindness. It’ll go a long way in the end! Trust me.