Career // November 3, 2014

What comes to mind when you think of your online presence? For most, it’s all about what you don’t want the hiring manager to find online when you’re going out for that new job. The importance of how you’re represented online doesn’t stop there, though.

What about that hot new guy you just met at that networking event who goes home to do a little more digging on you to figure out if he really wants to ask you out on a date? Or the landlord of that dream apartment you’ve been looking for who wants to learn more about the potential tenant they’re considering leasing their home to? Before you hit “post” consider the impact of what someone can find and learn about you online.

Here are six tips every woman should keep in mind when it comes to managing her online presence. 

Google Yourself, The Right Way

Make a regular habit of checking in on what’s associated with your name online by Googling yourself every so often. A little hint to get the most accurate search results, in the upper right hand corner, under your Google profile image, you’ll see two boxes—one that looks like the silhouette of a person, the other that looks like a globe. By default, Google gives you personalized results when you search for anything online, based on your internet history. So in order to get the most accurate representation of what other people see when they search for you, make sure you click on the globe once your search results populate.

Purchase your personal name URL

I’m a firm believer that everyone should own their own personal domain name. Not only does it help you manipulate the results that show up when someone searches your name, it’s also just a good rule of personal branding. Domain names can be purchased for as low as $10 a year from suppliers like Google and GoDaddy. And, these days, pretty much anyone can set up a web page that your personalized URL directs to. For example, I purchased my name on GoDaddy, then I connected it to a personalized web page I created using Wix that includes important information I want people to know about me. Now when I’m Googled, it’s the 2nd search result that shows up for me, right under my LinkedIn profile.

Complete your LinkedIn profile

If you’re a MadeWoman, then surely you already have a LinkedIn profile already created. But a shell of a profile alone is not enough. The #1 personal Google search result for the majority of people is their LinkedIn profile. So make the most of it. Include a compelling and descriptive title for your LinkedIn profile. And fill out your profile completely with jobs, summaries and achievements. Make sure you also have an attractive picture, because it will likely end up being one of the first few photos people see of you when they look at your Google Image search results.

Mind what your friends post online about you

Even if it does not show up on your own profile or page, anything other people tag you in can be linked to you and found under your name online as well. Did your friend tag you in that Instagram post the night you all had a little too much fun? Well, don’t be surprised if it pops up in other places around the web as well that are connected to your name.

What you like and comment on matters too

Facebook broadcasts to all your friends and followers what you like on that platform and other social media platforms. So think twice before you hit the like button. It could come back to haunt you.

Have some personality

Yes, you do need to watch what you say and do online, but that doesn’t mean you have to reduce your online presence to a bland and boring version of who you truly are. At the end of the day, people search and interact with you online in hopes of getting to know the real you a little better. You’re already amazing offline, so managing your online presence is simply about finding smart ways to express how fabulous you are online as well.

Published in Career
Wednesday, 16 July 2014 19:13

Lifestyle | Startup Spotlight: Sarah Grear

Lifestyle // July 21, 2014

So you think you can write? But how do you make a career out of your words? It’s not just full manuscripts that are getting writers paid these days. Copywriting is the creative craft of the digital age.

Sarah Grear has created a business around her creativity and is helping entrepreneurs around the globe “unleash their voice” and take their brands to the next level. I chatted with her about her business and her thoughts on what it takes to make it as a copywriter:

Serena Watson: How do you stay creative with your copywriting?

Sarah Grear: Oh my goodness, that’s an awesome question… I know certain people, they feel the online world is so crowded and wonder how are they ever going to come from a place that’s different from what’s already out there.

So the way I stay in my creative zone is, I try to realize that as much as people think that's it’s all been done before, that’s not true. There’s always a way for you to come with your personal experiences in your life and no one else has experienced it but you.

For me, the way that I was able to tap into [my creativity] is to learn what my purpose was, what are my strengths, what are my experiences in life that no one else has gone through but me, and so that’s what has been really powerful for me. I learned to hone that for myself, to use my personal stories to connect with people emotionally and that’s exactly what I do with all my clients.

I get to know them in a very personal way, and I get to know their stories so intimately that I’m able to use their personal experiences as well, and shine a new light on it. That is really the root of where my creativity comes from.

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SW: That’s so real, because every story is unique. You talked about digging into the storyline of your customer. Can you describe the creative process you take your clients through?

SG: Oh sure. So the first step is for them to reach out to me and they usually find me either online or at network events. I also host meetups for entrepreneurs, so usually they’ll hear me talking about what I do and they’ll reach out.

It’s interesting because my business has gone global at this point. I feel really lucky that we live in the times that we do. I’ve had people reach out to me from Africa, Canada, England, Australia... it’s crazy. [Laughs.] It’s really cool.

So, I find out if they can fit what they need into one of my packages or I customize whatever it is they need. All of my projects are done in five business days or less. I call them my “writing vacations”. So there is a “Summer Vacay” package and the “Weekend Warrior.” I keep everything within that theme because I used to be a travel blogger. When we start working together it’s an interview process, just like we’re doing right now.

Then I go away and I’m just writing, I’m seriously writing. [Laughs] I get everything in that first meeting and I just take it and I run with it. I send most clients the whole first draft after our first call. So on the second call they have all the time left [to give notes]. They look everything over and we do the live edit on Google Docs… Then we wrap the project, shortly after.

SW: Nice. So intensive and in depth, I like it. Can you tell me what type of businesses you usually work with?

SG: My ideal clients are coaches. Like health, business, relationship coaches. But lately, I’ve been attracting a lot of creative musicians, event planners and graphic designers. Right now I’m working with a woman who actually owns three businesses and all in the wedding and event planning area. And I just wrapped a project with singer/songwriter Chrisette Michele for her new website called Rich Hipster.

SW: Oh that’s awesome! I love Chrisette Michele.

SG: Oh, me too. That project was definitely interesting. I’ve been attracting highly creative people lately and I’m pretty excited about it. What I ask people is if they’re ready to change the world one word at a time. And that’s all that matters to me is that they want to help and make the world better in some way.

SW: Well, congrats on that. Actually, I was going to ask you, what project are you most proud of?

SG: [Laughs.] That’s awesome. It’s hard to say, honestly, really my latest creation is the one I’m most proud of at that moment. I’m an artist at the core and I actually got my degree in fine arts. If you’re an artist at the core, you know that there is always room for improvement in what you’re doing.

You can always want more, you can always spin it, you can always do a little bit better... You can always improve it. So the answer is every new project. Every time I have a project I feel like I grow from it in some way. And also, it’s really interesting for other people who want to be writers. I always tell them, your brain is a muscle and the more you write, the more you exercise that muscle in your brain.

SW: Whats your favorite part of helping businesses grow?

SG: My favorite part is actually that emotional connection with the writing. I realize that being vulnerable for some people is really tough, so I come in to the space with them and open that window for them to be vulnerable.

I was working on a project for a large corporation. I met with the CEO and told them I’m here to help you guys make that emotional connection with your product that you’re not making right now.

I literally saw his shoulders drop, he was so grateful for someone to say “let’s do that,” “let’s get vulnerable.” I try to just be a little more real with people. That’s the most satisfying part is to see that growth in them and to know that when I plant that seed with them now it will grow after we work together.

We make changes in them and they are not even aware of yet and I just love that. And they will come back to me six months to a year later, like “wow!” I get goose bumps just talking about it. [Laughs.]

SW: That’s great that you love what you do. That’s so important. So what advice would you give to someone who’s getting in the copywriting?

SG: For the people who want to get into the copywriting, the first book that I read was the Well Fed Writer by Peter Bowerman. I think that’s a great book to start with. The next thing I would do is [engage in] either an online network or an in-person network.

One of my online networks that I enjoy being part of is "B School” by Marie Forleo. You can interact with the Facebook group and we meet online for the course once a year. It’s a program that you go through, it’s really intense.

And then after you do those things, read some books about other copywriters that have built businesses out of it and get in system for networking. I highly recommend reading Book Yourself Solid by Michael Port. Those three things that I did changed my life, changed my business, changed everything.

SW: Last question, and this is just based on your experience after working all these different companies and seeing what they do well and what they do not as well… what mistakes do you see young businesses making in terms of branding?

SG: Not speaking the truth. Usually they come to me because they weren’t being true of who they really are and they got lost. Also, having fun. If you’re not having fun then you really shouldn't really be doing it. At all.

Not to say that there won’t be hard times. I get that, but overall, you have to be able to pull yourself out of that. You do that by... having values that you’re always going to hold yourself and everyone around you to. Branding is an experience, a direct extension of who you really are. If you can really hold true to your brand and speak your truth, you’re going to be a cut above the rest.

For more information on Sarah Grear visit her website or check out the next Unleash Your Voice: DIY Website Writing Workshop, a two day writing event! Get early bird tickets from now until July 31st!

Published in Lifestyle

MW University // April 28, 2014

The best advice that I received during college: when on an interview, ask which books you should read before starting your new position. Self-help books written by CEOs and professional in your industry can be incredibly helpful when starting your new career. Books, such as Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office and Who Moved My Cheese?, are classics for those entering the workforce. Whereas a mentor can share their advice from personal experiences and answer questions, a book can offer a breadth of knowledge on the do’s and don’ts when you’re taking a leap from the classroom to the office. Welcome to the Real World, by Lauren Berger is a perfect example of a book to read when you are getting started.

Reading Welcome to the Real World is comparable to having lunch with one of your younger mentors on a sunny day with a glass of lemonade in hand. Berger’s conversational tone is notable and vibrant, and her advice is easy to implement.

The book takes a holistic approach, explaining what it takes to have a successful career. This includes how to roll calls, prioritize your work, build relationships in the office, manage your personal finances, schedule your time on and off the clock, and dress the part. Berger recognizes that the goal of the reader is personal success and this success is only possible when life is balanced and progressive. She also clearly educates her readers on office etiquette -- advice that may not be readily available on the job.

Berger’s advice is specific to today’s modern woman entering the workforce. For example, Chapter 4, “How to Work Your Personal Brand,” includes how to use social media to your benefit, including how often to post to Instagram, who to follow on Twitter, and how to define your Facebook audience. It also gives helpful advice on how to combat the “generation Y” stereotypes and how to navigate through relationships at work.  

All of the advice that Berger gives her audiences is based on her personal experiences and the experiences of the interns she helped guide with her company, Intern Queen. She has made a career out of her passion to advise those entering the workforce. She frequently references common workplace mistakes with specific scenarios and effective solutions— all very helpful! Berger has a background in the entertainment industry, and most of her clients work in similar fields. So, most of the examples are based on common occurrences in entertainment, and readers in other fields may not be able to relate to every situation. Berger’s workplace rules, however, apply to any entry-level position.

When I started my first full-time job after graduation, I experienced a culture shock. Everything I did and said in the workplace had to be premeditated. I was no longer on my own time and as one of the youngest staff members, all eyes were on me. Like Lauren Berger, I dropped the ball a few times, as is expected, but I may have avoided these small failures if I had Welcome to the Real World by my side. Berger’s vast experience working with entry-level employees makes the book well worth the read, and helpful to the ambitious women that are just getting started.

Happy Spring Reading!

Published in MW University

Love // September 9, 2013

While relationships at work can be complicated, sometimes they just happen. Maybe you met your latest squeeze at the office, or recently started a business with your significant other. Perhaps your current company has THE perfect job opening for him. Whatever the scenario, at some point, you may face the challenge of working with your man.

But is it a good idea? Some couples make a great professional team. My parents have been in business together for more than 30 years, and it’s been successful since day one. My husband and I, however, choose not to work together even though we are in a similar field.  We are completely supportive of each other’s careers, but we like to have our professional space and keep our life together outside the office.

Before you embark on that big journey of working alongside the man you also sleep next to, ask yourself (and him) a few questions.

Are you competitive with one another?
Depending on the couple, this can be bad or good. Some couples may find that competition with each other fuels them to do better, while others will feel that competition – especially from a significant other – is mean-spirited, and may lead to conflicts in the relationship. If one or both of you is at all threatened by the other’s presence in the boardroom, you’re better off not working together.

Can you accept professional criticism from each other? Whether it’s positive feedback or trying-to-be-helpful critiques, if you work closely with someone you’re involved with, you face the fact that they may give professional feedback from time-to-time. Your work self may be different from your after-work self. Do you want to hear a “good job!” from him, or will it feel forced? Will he want to hear a critique coming from you, or will it come across the wrong way? This stuff matters, so talk it out and be honest about whether you want (or can handle) that level of professional closeness.  

Will you be able to put aside personal issues at work?
The office is not a time for you two to solve issues from home or plan your weekend schedule. It’s also not a time to hold a grudge from this morning’s fight or make lovey-dovey faces at each other if you had a romantic evening the night before. If you can’t keep it professional when you’re side-by-side, becoming co-workers may not be for you.

Do you need your own space to succeed professionally?
This is your career. It is the one thing that is solely yours, and sometimes a woman just wants to keep it that way. If you prefer to remain independent and have a career to call your own, more power to you. Some couples don’t see it that way. They thrive off of each other’s mutual success in the same environment. If you can be that couple, then seize the opportunity. Additionally, having a significant other see all your ups, downs, triumphs and mistakes at work is daunting. It may be a professional environment, but your work is likely personal to you because it’s such a big part of who you are. You have to decide if you want to reveal that much of your life to him, and he to you.

Bottom line? Some couples can reach “power couple” status within the walls of the same office, while others need to maintain a separate professional identity to keep the relationship thriving. There is no right or wrong way to do it, but make sure to have a detailed discussion about whether or not it’s a good idea should the occasion present itself.

Published in Love + Dating
Friday, 15 March 2013 21:33

Job Hunting | Revamping Your Job Search

Job Hunting // March 25, 2013 

If you’re searching for a job, here’s something you already know: it sucks.  There’s nothing fun about going through hundreds of job listings, tailoring your resume to each one and firing it off into the abyss, not knowing if it’s ever even going to be viewed by a recruiter.  Looking for employment is a job in itself, and it sucks up time, energy, patience, and probably a lot of your sanity.

I was just like you.  Applying to every job that even remotely related to my skillset and going months without so much as a “you’re useless” email in response.  I had basically the same framework for a resume my entire time job hunting, but I only started getting hits for interviews in the past few months.  So what changed?  After a lot of trial and error, and rewriting my resume every single time I sent it out, I finally got it to a good place…started getting calls for interviews — a victory in itself in the overcrowded job market — and just recently accepted a job offer (hurray!). I spent a year tirelessly searching for a new opportunity, and if there’s some sort of instant, miracle advice to land the perfect job, I certainly don’t know it.  But what I can tell you is that there definitely are some ways to get yourself noticed.  Here’s how I got there:

1. Fix that resume… over and over.

Do NOT just make up one standard resume and send it out for every job.  A generic resume  that can apply to all sorts of jobs is not going to convince anyone that you’re a good fit for the job in question.  You need to put in that time to read the job description and illustrate how your skills apply to it.  Be specific.  You should go so far as taking keywords in the description and literally putting them in your resume.  Recruiters get hundreds upon hundreds of applicants for each job listing.  Their eyes are going to skim over each application and look for the most critical skills.  Anything that doesn’t have them?  Trash!

2.  Think about changing the layout/format of your resume.

I added a line at the very top of my resume that specifically mentioned the job I was applying to, and then listed several sentences underneath it about how I am that person.  It doesn’t matter that my current job is something different; I can be that person you’re looking for and here are x, y, z reasons why.  Your first sentence should be compelling and confident.  For example, mine is: “Driven, efficient and customer service-oriented marketing professional with experience managing the social media presence of an online magazine.”  I was mostly applying for jobs in marketing or social media related fields.  This opening sentence flat out states exactly who I am and what I do.  When I changed this sentence from what it was before, suddenly I started getting calls.

3.  Network your face off.

There’s a reason networking gets mentioned all the time.  The more people that you talk to and let know that you’re looking for new opportunities, the more likely someone might actually refer you somewhere.  Bring it up to everyone you talk to.  Seriously!  If you work in a big company, take advantage of it and try to set up informational interviews with people in fields you are interested in.  Most execs are more than happy to talk about what they do and how they got there.  You’ll get valuable insight, and they might also keep you in mind should something open up in their department.  It’s good to have friends in high places, y’all.

4. Google yourself and change things that need changing.

Google is a beautiful thing: it makes finding things ridiculously easy. This can also come back to bite you in the arse.  I Googled myself not long ago and was shocked to see that an essay I wrote in 6TH GRADE is actually online somewhere.  When an employer Googles me, they get to read “What The American Flag Means To Me” by a 12 year old version of myself.  Lucky them.  My point is, you need to know what is out there about yourself.  If you have a public Facebook or Twitter page, you’d better believe that you’re going to be judged by it.  Either protect your accounts, or make sure that you don’t have anything up that might raise eyebrows.

5. Promote yourself!

You have talents and skills — show them off!  Buy your own website under your full name and think about starting a blog.  You don’t need to be considered an “expert” to do this.  You can write or tweet about your thoughts on things relevant to your field.  It will make you appear more credible and competent.  If writing really isn’t your thing, you can also just buy some webspace and post your bio/resume on it.  That way if people Google you (and they will), it will be one of the first things they see.  It’s worth the investment of your time, and it’s really not as hard as you may think.

And there you have it!  None of these are magic keys to a new job, but if you utilize all of them, you’re definitely going to increase your chances of meeting your goals.

Let me know if I missed any great tips that have helped you.  And happy hunting!

Published in Job Hunting

Job Hunting // October 22, 2012 

An interview is essential not just for the employer, but for you, the candidate. Just because you may be in need of a job doesn’t mean every open position is right for you. The interview process is your opportunity to find out if a position at a particular company makes sense for you and your career goals.  
The key to finding the right career fit is to ask intelligent questions that require the interviewer to provide you with more information than you can find in the job description or on their company website.

Just as cites that there are only three real questions that matter to recruiters and interviewers, I believe that there are only three real questions that matter to the person being interviewed. Here are three essential questions every Made Woman should ask when she’s in the hot seat:

  • Are there opportunities for advancement or growth within this position and the company overall? – Most Made Women have plans to climb the ladder, so you’ve got to find out immediately if that’s even a possibility. If the company is small with just a few permanent positions, odds are there isn’t a lot of room for upward mobility. Likewise, if you’re a specialist in your field (for example, I am the only public relations specialist at my company), find out where there might be room for you to continue to advance, ie: might you eventually become a manager or director?  
  • What type of person do you hope to see fill this position? – This is my favorite question to ask at an interview. Usually interviewers are impressed that a candidate is showing thought for the best interest of the company. It will also get them to tell you what they want before you reveal too much of yourself. If they are looking for an outgoing, outspoken candidate and you’re typically more introverted and don’t like to put yourself out there (or vice versa), that’s a good sign that the job isn’t for you.
  • What is the company culture like in terms of work/life balance? – No matter how ambitious or how dedicated you are, everyone needs time off for travel, family or R&R. The interview is a great opportunity to find out what a company or position is like after hours – if they have after hours. You can usually tell just in the way the interviewer reacts to the question if the work/life balance is there or not.

When preparing for an interview, plan on asking these three questions (or something similar, depending on what’s most important to you!) of the interviewer. The most surefire way to land your dream job is to interview the employer as they go through the process of interviewing you. So think up those need-to-knows, relax during the interview and dazzle the employer with thoughtful, savvy questions.

Published in Job Hunting
Thursday, 02 February 2012 15:27

Day 2: Finding Your Passion

February 2, 2012

"How do you know that it’s your purpose? It feels like you’re supposed to be there… you feel most like yourself." -Oprah

You’re a Made Woman. You’ve got the perfect career, a great set of friends and an impressive social calendar. You know what you want and how to get it. You’ve got it all together, right?

Or maybe not…  Maybe you’ve been working in a career that makes you feel lukewarm or you have an idea of what you want to do but are not sure how to get there. You’re feeling a little underwhelmed and, dare I say it, stuck. You’ve done all of the things you’re supposed to do – go to school, get a good job, buy a nice car – but you still feel like something is missing. You’re living a great life, but maybe you feel like you’re living someone else’s life.

I’ve been there.

I’m a firm believer that we all have unique talents and strengths to bring to the world. We have specific passions that totally light up our worlds. But all too often we shove those passions deep down inside and venture out on careers and lives that are less than fulfilling.

What makes finding your passion so tough is that it doesn’t always fully reveal itself to you. Your passion may come to you in glimpses. A feeling of contentment as you stroke a paint brush across a canvas. That wave of calm that washes over you when you help someone understand a complex problem. The feeling of complete you-ness as you rally your peers to a cause. I call these glimpses your “times of ecstatic engagement.” Those times in your life that reflect your very best, the very happiest you when you feel most peaceful and like yourself. It’s truly amazing when it hits you.

The first important question to ask yourself when on the hunt for your passion is: When was the last time I felt most alive?

Think back on your life. When was the last time you felt like your most turned-on, alive self? What were you doing during that moment? Is there a way for you to manifest that feeling in your everyday life?

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Here are four more important questions to ask yourself in order to start digging deeper into what makes you tick.

1. What do you want your life to stand for? When you’re 95 years old and looking back on your long life, what would you be most proud that you accomplished?
2. What are your core values? We all have values that are unshakable. They are our absolute deal breakers. For example, freedom, fulfillment, and creativity are extremely important to me. If those things are not present in an opportunity, I don’t even consider it.
3. What would you do if you could not fail? Imagine money, time and resources are not a concern. You will absolutely succeed at what you set out to do. What would it be?
4. What are you ah-mazing at? We are all incredible at something. What do you bring to the table? What do people thank you for the most?

Thinking through these five questions will give you a good glimpse into the life you want to create for yourself. You now have a list of possibilities of what truly drives you. You’ve probably noticed some reoccurring themes or ideas on your list. Take the time to narrow your list down and start thinking about how you can start creating your most ideal life.

Lastly, you’ll also want to pinpoint the situations that don’t light you up. If you are stuck in a situation that is just not you, study it. Figure out precisely what is making you uncomfortable. Sit with that discomfort until you can clearly articulate what is causing you to feel that way. Knowing what rubs you the wrong way will help immeasurably on your journey to discover your passion. It is just as important to know what you hate as it is to know what you absolutely love.

Don’t focus on not having it all figured out just yet.  The most important thing is that you’re taking the steps to get there. And that’s what makes you a Made Woman in my book.

This article was part of our series "30 Days of Made: Love Yourself". Each day we released updates of videos, poetry, images, and original content, all based on the theme of loving yourself. Click the link to read more! !

Published in Current
Monday, 21 November 2011 08:50

Opinion | The Truth About Law School

November 22, 2011

Ahhhh, the Juris Doctorate degree. So prestigious, so desired. Maybe you have dreamed of getting that degree since you were a child. Maybe you are considering law school because of the potential earnings. At a good firm, (in which you will be working most of your life) you stand to make 6 figures. You can buy all the things you dreamed of having, pay off some loans and you get to be the person in the cocktail party that says, “I’m an attorney”. But, what you may not know is that the law school landscape is rapidly changing and becoming what many in the legal field are calling “oversaturated”. In the New York Times’ article, Is Law School A Losing Game? they discuss the declining number of legal firms, inflated projections of post-graduate salaries, and even went as far to say that the “Juris Doctorate degree is the new B.A”. Ouch. Whatever reasons you have, law school is not for everyone who applies, and dare I say it: not for everyone who is fortunate enough to be accepted into a law school.

As someone who went through the dreaded 1L year (1L=first year of law school), I saw plenty of people leave after their first year: I was one of them. After graduating USC faster than expected (3 ½ years), I was like most college graduates: No job, broke, and up to my neck in school loan debt. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with myself. Then I had an epiphany: Apply to law school. I thought, “I like to argue, and hey, what else am I going to do?” So, I began the process of applying and to my surprise: I was accepted to a pretty decent law school.

Everything isn’t for everyone, and law school is no exception. Even for the most intelligent, most dedicated person, law school is by no means “easy”. It’s the type of professional program that commands every single moment of your life for 3 years. From studying, to networking, to reading, to writing and reading some more--law school becomes your life. If you are not comfortable with the idea of law school becoming your main priority for 3 years, law school is not for you. During your first year of law school, your schedule is handed to you. You are literally being told what to do and when to do it for at least one year.

Above all other things, law school really is not for the person who has unfulfilled dreams outside of law. When a person comes to law school with unfulfilled dreams, the result can be devastating to a person’s spirit. It is such an isolating experience and if a person is not fully invested law school and committed to practicing law, their mind can drift to the “what ifs” of life. Law school is not a supportive environment when one lacks focus; in fact, the environment can become downright hostile.

If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably picked up some kind of self-help book and read about other people “finding themselves” and “the journey”. I can say one thing for sure: everyone’s journey is different. We all would love to have some money in the bank, but from personal experience, being a Made Woman is about doing what you love. If you love law and are prepared for the task at hand, DO IT. If you don’t, it is okay to say hey, this isn’t for me. Have faith that the money will come even if you don’t cart a briefcase to court. Find a path that is uniquely your own and you will be so fulfilled that money will just be the icing on the cake: not the only reward for all of your hard work.

Published in MW University
Tuesday, 08 November 2011 07:30

Entrepreneur Spotlight | Lisa Marie Todd

November 8, 2011

When I met up with Lisa Marie Todd at her West LA jewelry studio, I thought I’d be sitting down with a former In Living Color fly girl turned jewelry designer. How cool to sit down with someone I grew up watching on one of the most iconic shows of our time? What I didn’t know was that I’d be interviewing a true business mogul. In addition to her Marie Todd jewelry line, she has multiple real estate ventures in the works, a production company and Marie Todd candle lines. And she even has plans to expand the Marie Todd brand to include fragrance and body product lines. I’m still trying to figure out when this woman sleeps!

With her insane schedule, you would think I’d have to rush through a short list of pre-approved questions, or be squeezed into a short window of time. On the contrary. Our conversation felt more like a (#Made) big sister putting her little sis up on game. I learned a lot from our chat and I hope you do too:

Lindsey Day: Tell me a bit about your background.   

Lisa Marie Todd: I was born in Palo Alto. I went to the University of Santa Clara. Then I moved down here and had a number of jobs [laughs]. My major was Communications. So I came down here and worked at a television production company for a while, worked at an ad agency. And then ran into a friend in San Francisco who used to be my dance partner and he says, “Why aren't you performing anymore?” I said, "oh, I'm working and doing this...." and he said, “no. you need to get back into it.” So I got back into it and started working, and started doing commercials, started doing some acting, and then In Living Color came along.

LD: How long were you with In Living Color?

LMT: From the pilot through two seasons, so a good two years and change. That was a great experience.

LD: You worked with J. Lo? I’m sure people ask all the time....

LMT: I worked with Jennifer, she was wonderful. It was an interesting time, because the sketch comedy was amazing. Keenan was amazing. And it still holds up. I don't think we knew what we were a part of when we were doing it, because I kind of went to work and went home, but it's kinda cool to look back at it. It was a great experience.

LD: How did you go from that to making jewelry?

LMT: I was looking for something to do that was creative, and I had always worked with my hands. I picked up a book one day on jewelry-making and I’m going through it and I’m like God, that's really cool, so I found a class. And it just became a passion, and a passion turned into a hobby, and a hobby turned into a business and so, that's where I am now.


LD: That’s a huge step to go from a hobby to a full-on business...

LMT: Yeah, I just had a passion for it, and I felt that my daughter [who is now 15 ½] was at a certain age and I could push it. And there had been experiences in my life that...I’ll say “great losses,” that--you realize if you want to do something you'd better do it, because you may not be here anymore. And so, that really put a fire underneath me. And seriously, like 2009 I just said listen, if I'm going to do it let me do it.

LD: That’s something I think a lot of readers can relate to, including myself!

LMT: That period between 26 and 28 is reevaluation time. And you'll start weeding people out and you'll start...feeling what you really want and what you don't want. We usually know what we don't want, but we don't always know what we want. I completely remember that. It happens again, I hate to tell you [laughs], but it's better, because you have a bit more perspective. 

LD: What inspires you and your design?

LMT: I find inspiration in everything. I'll literally walk around with my iPhone and see a shadow and go, I may do something with that!

LD: What type of woman is Marie Todd Jewelry made for?

LMT: She's a modern woman, independent, strong. She has a strong sense of herself. I try to start with a big picture--some women don't like big jewelry, maybe big things overwhelm them. Other women want to be seen when they walk in a room. I take one design and mold it. Sometimes we have moods. You may want to be quiet, and you just want that little earring, or necklace, that little touch. Sometimes you’re going out and you want to make a statement. So I keep all of those things in mind.

LD: I’d imagine that it’d be challenging to learn the ins and outs of the jewelry business.

LMT: I'm learning as I go and it's a great journey. I’ve been fortunate to meet a lot of people along the way who have been in the business and want to give information. There are a lot of people who have directed me: "you need this, go see this person, do that, go call this person." Early on I worked with a woman from Thailand and I said to her, “gosh, it's so refreshing to meet somebody that wants to tell someone something and isn't scared you're going to go off and steal their ideas or something.” And she said, “what you make, someone else will like and they won't like my stuff--and vice versa. The way I look at it, there's food for all.” And that always stuck with me; that we're our own competition. We should look at what other people are doing just to know what the market is, but it's us against us. Yourself against yourself.  Even now, if I can help somebody or guide them, I do.


LD: What makes your line different?

LMT: I certainly think my jewelry is modern and timeless, and something you can put away and come back to--you want those kind of pieces. I think it's affordable. It's not super inexpensive but it's not outrageous, so most people can afford to have it. I like that. I get sometimes that people say it looks more expensive than what it costs, which is good; the value of it. So I would say those things are huge selling points. And there's a lot of love that goes into it, and energy.

LD: What’s your favorite piece and why?

LMT: I love the Paisley collection. I remember designing it, and it's kind of Indian, kind of Moroccan. I wear those a lot. It just feels good. It was fun when i was playing around and designing it, and people tend to gravitate to it. And it's different, you know, it has many influences and I love all that. At heart I'm kind of a hippie chick [laughs], being from the San Francisco Bay area.

LD: Tell me more about your candle line.

LMT: I started off with one candle, but since then I’ve created eight fragrances, and I have a men’s candle line that's coming which is really fun. There are three of the original scents that men just loved and I was like, "hmm, men need candles too.” I want a woman to buy it for a man to share it with him. And I want men to buy it because he wants that ambiance for his woman. They’re very masculine--there's nothing floral or anything about them. They've got some punch to them without being offensive. That's my thing: when people smell them I say okay, do ANY of these fragrances offend you. And I have yet to have anybody say yes [laughs].

LD: Busy woman. What else do you have in the works??

LMT: Ultimately, [Marie Todd] is going to be a lifestyle brand, so I’m trying to create products that I love personally, that I want to share. So, I love candles. I love lotions and potions so I'm working on a fragrance and body product line right now. So I’m taking baby steps. I'm not making a ton of it, but baby steps to build the awareness, and I'm blessed that I can do all this stuff.

LD: Is Marie Todd your first entrepreneurial venture?

LMT: No, I have real estate things I do, I have a production company now that we did a pilot with, so that's another area that's bubbling right now. There's a film I'm working on now that I had a meeting about, it's based on a short story. It might be controversial but, oh well. I just feel like why not. If there are things you want to do and try, try them. If it doesn't work you can try it a different way but at least you tried doing it.

LD: What is your business philosophy?

LMT: A. being flexible. you have to be flexible because stuff isn't always going to work out. I've learned how to think on my feet, and if something's not working I'm not the type of person to go well that's so and so's fault or to stay on that. It's about, “how do we fix it?” Nothing irritates me more than someone saying, “well, he did that!” I’’m just like, “I don't hear you, I don't care--fix it.” Then, after the fact if you want to go talk to them about it then go ahead. Let's fix it and move on. We can't stay there. 

Also, making time for yourself and your family and the business, finding that balance. It's a struggle. I have a teenage daughter and this is probably the time she needs me more than anything else these next few years. Not that she didn't need me before, but it's different now. And I'm just very aware of that and I enjoy spending my time with her. And if I'm working here and it's getting overwhelming, I'll go walk and I’ll see a cute dog or something. You know, you just trick your mind out of what's going on and you do come back better. Taking that 10, 15 minutes to get out of your head is important.

LD: What advice do you have for young up-and-coming women on pursuing their dreams?

LMT: Research what you're doing before you do it. Don't just jump in. If you can work in the industry, fine. If not, who cares? I didn't work in jewelry before but I think certainly researching and talking to people. At the gut level if you think you should be doing it or you should try it ,just do it. Don't even think twice. Don't listen to people saying, “Oh, you can't do that, oh the economy's bad.” Go do it. Because you don't know where it's going to take you. And on the journey you may think you're going from a to b but it goes a, z, p...[laughs], back and forth. Maybe you start off thinking that's what you're going to do but you meet something or someone or see something.... Just know you'll end up where you're supposed to be. So just start. Don't sit back and wish and hope. Wishing and hoping doesn't make anything happen. Just start. Just go. See what happens. Because it's a fun journey, I gotta tell ya.

Published in Entrepreneurship

November 8, 2011

Imagine your favorite boss sitting you down in her office, leaning over her desk, and giving it to you straight. This is what reading Basic Back: The Essential Guide for Getting Ahead at Work (and in Life) felt like. Former head of Hearst magazines, Cathie Black, shares personal anecdotes, thoughtful analyses and priceless advice. And what better woman is there to take advice from? Not only is Cathie Black married and a mother of two, but she was also the first female publisher of a weekly consumer magazine, has been a president and CEO, and has helped launch the O, the Oprah Magazine... all while practicing philanthropy.

This book doesn’t just revel in Cathie’s many accomplishments or tell her life story. Instead, it focuses on detailing her career, from her time working in ad sales, to working with Gloria Steinem, to eventually winding up at Hearst; with tales of her hard work, wins, and losses in between. With case studies and chapters covering everything from leadership, fear, risk, and the future of women in business, Cathie helps us realize our goals in the professional world while reminding us that a truly fulfilling life is the 360 degree life (an all-encompassing one).

As someone who usually enjoys fiction or creative nonfiction, this business-oriented, advice-giving read was one I surprisingly couldn’t put down. Just like we all need black basics in our closet, we need this book in our collection. So many of the pointers it includes will stay with me for the entirety of my career--I even keep it in my desk at work. Every time I look up from a marked page, I feel empowered and more motivated than ever before. Cathie reminds us that success is out there for the taking, and no matter who you are or where you come from, it can be yours -- so long as you’re willing to earn it. Thanks Cathie, for setting the bar high and giving it to us straight!

Read an excerpt of Basic Black: The Essential Guide for Getting Ahead at Work (and in Life) here!

Published in Lifestyle
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