Archives for the month of: October, 2014

paconfimdonna decarolis headshot

As a lawyer turned entrepreneur I was intrigued when I heard about Donna and her position as the founding dean of Drexel University’s Close School of Entrepreneurship.  The Close School is the first degree-granting school of entrepreneurship in the country. De Carolis states the program “provides pathways to entrepreneurs” and that her hope is that whether it is through simply taking a class or getting a full degree, all students will get exposed to and experience some degree of entrepreneurship.

I spoke to Donna about the importance of networking for entrepreneurs since networking is my career path. Donna discussed the “myth of the solopreneur.” She stated that networking is extremely important but it is also very important for entrepreneurs to have their own network or informal board they can rely on and turn to for advice. Since I was interviewing Donna in connection with her involvement with the Pennsylvania Conference for Women this year, I had to ask her about the value of women networking with other women. Donna stressed the idea of figuring out your networking goals. She said while there is a commonality and support networking with other women, it may make sense to diversify your networking. I mentioned to Donna that as an entrepreneur I find it helpful to surround myself with other entrepreneurs, because they “get it.”  Donna stressed the value of having diversity in the people you talk to outside the entrepreneurial space and keeping your contacts open.  She mentioned having people in your network who are older, retired and in the corporate world as well.  You “get different things from different groups,” she said.  Donna also indicated it is helpful to stay involved in trade associations in your industry and schedule coffee meet-ups with colleagues to build relationships.

With regard to innovation in corporate America, Donna states that innovation is a process and that the people likely to be hired and move up are the ones who know how to get things done beyond just a good idea. Companies need employees with people skills, negotiation skills, planning skills, networking skills and business skills to innovate within a corporate environment. Donna’s vision is to teach those involved with the Close School to be resilient, and to “pivot.”

Entrepreneurship is a “habit of mind,” De Carolis says.

Of course, near the end I had to ask Donna about “Shark Tank.” As it turns out, a student from the Close School will be appearing on the show promoting an app called “Scholly.”

Donna recommended three books for Entrepreneurs:

The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution by Walter Isaacson

Worthless, Impossible and Stupid: How Contrarian Entrepreneurs Create and Capture Extraordinary Value by Daniel Isenberg

The Icarus Deception: How High Will You Fly? by Seth Godin

In an October 6th, 2014 Philadelphia Business Journal article titled “How one Woman is changing the world of entrepreneurship education,” writer Stan Silverman stated “De Carolis and her team are driven by a cause, by the belief that entrepreneurship education will change the course of their students’ lives.”

I thought this was a fitting way to close my interview.

 

Advertisements

emjohnphoto

Were you able to pre-pay for your college education at age 17? This young entrepreneur just might.

In 2011 after working 12 years as a litigator I decided to launch my own business and become an entrepreneur. It is fun, all-consuming, and challenging. Many days you second guess your decisions and worry about failure. It would never occur to me as a teenager to attempt this path. But that is just what Emma Johnson, founder of Em John jewelry did. In this interview, we learn the key to her positivity and success on the heels of her upcoming presentation at the October 16th Pennsylvania Conference for Women. She is one impressive young woman.

How did you come up with the concept for Em John Jewelry?

My mom is on Good Morning America every week for a segment where she promotes five different products for sale. I love shopping and I follow trends in magazines and social media, so I often recommend brands and product ideas to her. Of course once she puts them on TV, I always ask how they did. Jewelry seemed to be very, very popular. So I’d say, “Boy, I wish I had a jewelry line.” And she said, “You absolutely can. Just start one today.” And I did. That was back in June 2013!

Was your purpose in starting the business to pay for college or did you decide that after you had already started the business? Tell me more about the Em John College Challenge!

There’s a heated debate today about the value of higher education: Is College really worth it? Assuming an average cost of $200,000 to earn a degree, I wondered how else that money could be spent.
Would I be successful if I used it to start a business out of high school? If I incurred student loan debt, would my chosen profession enable me to pay it off in a reasonable amount of time? Or what if I could earn enough money through Em John Jewelry to pre-pay for college before even applying?
It’d make an amazing application essay if it clicked, and would save my family a ton of money if I worked before college instead of during and after to cover the mounting costs of tuition, room and board.
Every Em John purchase not only brings a burst of sunshine to your day, but it also supports the Em John College Challenge.

How do you balance school and running your business?

Before school, during school and after school! I respond to emails during science (ha) and free periods. After homework, it’s all Em John — responding to more emails and packaging daily orders. Saturdays are spent at a college course in the morning and then running trunks shows at local stores in Manhattan in the afternoon. Sundays are for homework and planning the week ahead!

I’ve attended a few of your mother’s “Spark & Hustle” conferences and have so much respect for her. What is the best advice she has given you since you started the business?

She tells me all the time that it’s up to me. Yes, I can ask for help, and I often do. She’s been the best resource for help and she’s introduced me to so many brilliant business people. But she always comes back to saying the same thing — that is it up to me. Nobody is going to make my business a success. Nobody is going to do the work for me. If I want this to work, it’s up to me.

I help people with networking for a living. How has networking helped to grow your business? This includes online networking. I see you encourage people to post Instagram photos with your jewelry for example. And all social media is not equal. What specific social media outlets have been best for your business?

Social media is hugely powerful. Anyone can promote a product through the right sites. For me it’s definitely Twitter and Instagram–mainly Instagram. I only have 2,500 followers — we aren’t talking Kardashian numbers here! — yet through my posts I’ve gotten dozens of stores to place wholesale orders and tons of daily orders on my site. Instagram is an awesome way to reach my audience. The response has been a very pleasant surprise.

You first pitched “dot” to propel your jewelry into retail. What is the best advice you can give someone about pitching their brand? How did you make the initial connection with dot to get the opportunity to pitch them in the first place?

Do your research and then just ask. It’s that simple. You can’t tell a store owner that her shop is perfect for your products if you’ve never been there and you don’t know the merchandise, the customers and the vibe. I shopped in the store. I had a good feeling for the customers. So when I emailed the owner to introduce myself and to ask for an appointment, it was very genuine. She had only recently opened the store. I had just started my line. We were taking a plunge together. Nothing beats authenticity. Project confidence, but don’t pretend to be something you’re not.

You will be speaking at the PA Conference for Women on October 16, 2014 in Philadelphia. What is one takeaway you want the women to gain from your presentation?

Don’t overthink it because that can lead to fear. You’re so worried about dotting every I and crossing every T that you never take the plunge. That’s not good. And, most of all, make sure you can make money. You will never know if something works till you try it so that means “less thinking, more doing.” Get it out there for people to see and try. Know what everything costs so you can price for profit while knowing what your value is to your market. I realized I’d get wholesale and retail orders so each bracelet is $14, which allows me to profit at both while delivering good value to my customers.

How would you describe your brand in 3 words?

Fun. Happy. Fresh.

Tell me about “Every wrist carries a wish.” Is that your tagline? How did you come up with it?

When I look at my wrist and I think of the charms, I wind up dreaming about all sorts of things. Jewelry — and charms, especially — have a way of doing that to us. We touch them and we dream. We look at them and we dream. It may not be intentional, but it happens. That’s a great thing!

In the Huffington Post article from September 9, 2014 about your business you mentioned the importance of soliciting customer feedback. Can you give an example of how some feedback has helped you grow your brand?

I started with fabric bracelets and then moved to rubber beads. That’s because my customers had trouble tying the bracelets themselves. They also had to remove it for the shower, gym or pool. Jewelry shouldn’t be that difficult. So even though I loved the fabric ties, I listened to that feedback and I quickly shifted to beads. Sticking with what you love, even when customers are saying they want something else, can kill your business. It doesn’t mean you have to change every single time someone makes a suggestion, but you want to be open to hearing feedback and evaluating it honestly. Our sales have soared since making that change and the manufacturing is so much more efficient too.

Pennsylvania Conference for Women

The Pennsylvania Conference for Women is a jam-packed day of top-notch speakers and panels. But what about the networking? With over 7,000 women attending this sold-out day do not miss your opportunities to make connections and a make great first impression. Here are 5 tips to help you through the day:

1. Registration is between 7:30-8:30 AM. Arrive by or before 7:30! This is really the only time of day (besides the keynotes) where everyone is in the same place. Take advantage of meeting a few new women, going by the expo tables and having some quality conversations. This is the time to split up from your friends!

2. Make sure you wear your name tag provided or bring your own and don’t take it off all day. This is the best way people can remember you. We’ve all been there. You strike up a great conversation with someone and after 5-10 minutes you realize you cannot remember their name and feel it is not appropriate to ask again. It is easy to steal a glance at a name tag. Make it easy for people to follow up with you. And bring plenty of business cards.

3. Get involved! Make sure you live tweet and post photos during the day. I am part of a team that will be doing this for the conference. It is a great way to engage with new people, make some new connections and maybe even gain some engaged followers who like what you have to say. @PennWomen #PennWomen

4. Bring snacks. This one may sound basic. I don’t know about you but if I’m hungry I get very grumpy and don’t relish in starting conversations. It is a long day. Make sure you keep your energy up and are able to put forth your best self all day long.

5. Finally, follow up. Tell yourself no later than the end of the weekend following the conference you will reach out to anyone you wanted to follow up with that you met at the conference and start the process of building a relationship. Be sure to be specific when connecting about where you met and even what you discussed if you can recall.

pnlogo

Note: Sorry for the longer lag time between posts! Please bear with me as I recover from several surgeries and some complications.

Whenever I speak to individual clients or groups about Networking, the biggest concern seems to be time. How much time do I need to spend on networking? How do I fit it into my day?
So here are 5 things you can do that take 15 minutes or less to help build your network everyday:

1. Schedule a phone one on one: Follow up with someone you met with a 15 minute exploratory phone call to learn more about each other and your businesses. If there is a lot of synergy, you can always set up a one on one for coffee or lunch but it is a great first step to help you prioritize new contacts. You can’t meet with everyone! After the call if you have promised to do something like make an introduction-do it right away. Networking is about following up as well as following through.

2. Write a recommendation or testimonial for someone in your network: Don’t wait to be asked. If someone has helped you with your business, provided great service or helped you out in some way write an unsolicited testimonial. You can do this through LinkedIn recommendations or a lot of people also have a testimonial page on their websites and you can write something for them there.

3. Make an introduction: Look through your Linkedn contacts and think about some people who might benefit from knowing each other. The connection could be based on similar industries or interests or could be people that could be good strategic partners for each other. But it could be even more simple than that. Maybe you have a friend that is going to Hong Kong and someone else in your network mentions they are going there for the first time. You could connect them to discuss everything they should see/do when they visit. Recently I connected my husband with a corporate attorney I met through one of my talks when I learned he was an avid tennis player looking for people to play with. My husband is always looking for strong players as well so I thought this was a great reason to connect them. The connection does not necessarily have to be for a business-related purpose. Remember, people do business with those they like and trust (and the same goes for who they refer to other people). Building strong relationships is always of value.

4. Complete/Update your membership profiles: A lot of us join membership based industry and other networking organizations. Start going through one site per day to see if you have a profile that is complete with a picture, all your social media links, and a few lines about your work. If you meet other members at events you want them to be able to find you easily to connect. Additionally, lots of people try to refer or use people in their organization. They will look at the member directory to see who is a florist, plumber, photographer etc. Make sure that info is readily available and easy to navigate. If the website also has an online member event calendar take a few minutes to post any events or promotions with your business as well.

5. Utilize Twitter: Take a few minutes to follow people and retweet to help build followers and community on Twitter. You can view the most popular hashtags on the homepage and add one of those hashtags to your tweet to join the conversation and gain more exposure for your tweet. You can also search for Twitter chats on various topics of interest to get to know new people and share your expertise. Here is a link to a great article on Twitter Chats which includes a list of some of those that are already out there. Feel free to start your own as well. http://socialfresh.com/twitter-chat-how-to/

Please tweet me at @AreYouNetworked to tell me what you do to build your own network!