The Funemployed: Darin Michelle

DCFunemployment: Tell the people – Who are you?

My name is Darin Michelle (full name Darin Gilliam). I am a Lead Designer for the Symmetry Agency and 19FIFTYTHREE, blogger at darinmichelle.com and foodieannapolis.com, and a lover of music and fresh baked doughnuts. (DCF: She’s also the rock star that designed the DCFunemployment logo and the soon to be revealed logo for As It Happens!!)

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DCF: What does being funemployed mean to you & what was your path to funemployment?

DM: Being funemployed, to me, means having the ability to truly enjoy your job. My path to being funemployed was realizing that after years of work for others, that I wanted to be in charge of the design style I use and the clients I work with. The path was a rocky one in the beginning but proved to be extremely rewarding as I learned to be more diligent, organized and proactive in my day-to-day design and work life.

DCF: Who was your first cheerleader?

DM: My husband. He is always encouraging me to follow my dreams and when I told him that I wanted to go out on my own was the first one to say “Okay, how can we make this work.” That encouragement is so vital to following your dreams.

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DCF: What experiences in your life prepared you for where you are now?

DM: Hmm…Working under both great and poor leadership. I left knowing what I wanted to do and what I didn’t want to do. I saw how a business should and shouldn’t be run and that was helpful. I also believe that my upbringing helped me. Through example, I’ve been taught that if you want change, you gotta go out and make it.

DCF: Where do you get your inspiration and/or motivation?

DM: Other peoples dreams and hard work are extremely inspiring to me. I get so pumped up by watching someone follow their dreams, that it makes me want to keep moving and do better. As a designer, I also get a ton of visual inspiration from Pinterest.

DCF: What does balance mean to you and how do find balance?

DM: Balance is key. As a wife, mother, friend, sibling, full-time designer, etc., finding that balance between creativity and life can be hard but is much needed. I also value the balance of work, life and me-time. I find that when I don’t have time to be by myself, relax, pray…I feel a little off and it affects everything else around me.

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DCF: What sacrifices did you have to make to get here?

DM: Money and friends! lol. I took a huge drop in pay when I went out on my own and I lost a few friends that didn’t understand that my will to work towards my creative endeavors and funemployment was going to suck time away from my social life. Some of those friendships rekindled and some didn’t.

DCF: What struggles have you faced as a women in your industry?

DM: There are a lot of creative women in Design and lately I’ve seen a boom of women in Graphic Design which is beautiful!!!! I feel that we still face not being taking seriously as businesswomen and that is hard. Sometimes, your voice isn’t heard as much as it should be and that can be extremely frustrated. It’s always refreshing to work with a group that is motivated by your talent and voice and not threatened.

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DCF: What is the early advice you didn’t listen to that you wish you had?

DM: To budget my money better. I go myself into debt super quick and it took me years to pay off. I definitely budget A LOT better than I did before!

DCF: What was your greatest failure and what did you learn from it?

DM: I don’t really count anything as a failure. I think the greatest thing I’ve been learning, is to understand how much work I can actually take on.

DCF: What is your proudest moment?

DM: The first time I designed a set of shirts and hoodies (under my previous company LITTLE by Darin Michelle) that I really loved and saw someone that I didn’t know wearing them! That is awesome!

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DCF: What’s next?

DM: On September 30 I will be launching 19FIFTYTHREE (19FT) as a brand that collaborates with other local creatives to create clothing and accessories that are geared toward the tomboy in all of us. I look forward to my design career expanding with both 19FT and Symmetry and collaborating more with artists, makers and other creators on everything from products to events.

Instagram – @darinmichelle or @19fiftythree

Twitter – @darinmichelle 0r @19fiftythree

Pinterest – Darin Michelle or 19fiftythree

Posted in Art, TheFunemployed, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

The Funemployed: Susannah Marlowe-Galan

DCFunemployment: Tell the people – Who are you?

Susannah Marlowe-Galan – owner – Alumbra Photography

I follow Jesus.
I’m a mama to two crazy little girls (and a little boy coming soon!), and wife to my handsome husband Josue.
I love salt and vinegar chips and coffee (not together, silly!), foreign language, my backyard hammock, DIY remodeling our home with my husband and our little helpers, and games of all kinds (but especially the loud, yelling, laughing kind).

I own Alumbra Photography and Unveil by Alumbra; two photography brands that are committed to photographing people authentically and beautifully and capturing seasons of life so that they may be remembered for generations to come. (DCF: Her work is AMAZING!!! She makes you look good!!)

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DCF: What does being funemployed mean to you & what was your path to funemployment?

SM: Well… having fun while employed! I genuinely love what I do. I love empowering people to see themselves as beautiful and unique, and I love documenting life’s sweetest and most fleeting moments.

SM: I studied Spanish photojournalism in college and always dreamed of being a National Geographic photographer (who didn’t?) or a war correspondent. After one year working at a newspaper, I quickly learned that I didn’t want to be in that industry long term. Around that same time, I started second shooting for a wedding photographer who encouraged and enabled me to start my own business…and the rest is history!

DCF: Who was your first cheerleader?

SM: My parents…they let me try anything. I played five different instruments and at least five sports over the years…they never said no. As for fourth of five children, they were incredibly busy running from one school, to another kid’s practice, to another’s game etc. In every new venture, they cheered us on. They challenged us to work hard, practice hard, and give it our all. My mom is an entrepreneur and because of that three of the five of us kids run our own businesses and we are all part of a family business that is launching our second product this fall!

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DCF: What experiences in your life prepared you for where you are now?

SM: Wow…what didn’t? Every experience builds on top of the next. There was no business training on photojournalism school so learning to run and operate a business around what I love has been a process, and I haven’t stopped learning!

SM: Specifically though, my training as a photojournalist taught me to treasure imperfection and to focus on the story. My fine art training taught me to take time, treasure concept and seek beauty. These two seemingly opposite approaches to photography are what brought me to where I am today as a photographer.

DCF: Where do you get your inspiration and/or motivation?

SM: I find inspiration in so many places. I love flipping through magazines, especially fashion for ideas and concepts that are new and different.

SM: My greatest motivation is my family. My husband and two little girls are my greatest treasures. I am so thankful for a business that allows me to be flexible and with my girls as much as possible, and also sets an example for them to build something wonderful!

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DCF: What does balance mean to you and how do find balance?

SM: Balance…to me it means setting priorities and finding boundaries to protect those. My priorities are my faith, my family and my work…in that order, so I try my best to allow my time to reflect that. It is constantly changing and always requiring re-evaluation.

DCF: What sacrifices did you have to make to get here?

SM: Early on in my business I was photographing weddings, and worked most weekends each summer for quite a while. Because of that I missed friend’s weddings and other summer events. I also end up working a lot around the holidays, and often even right up to Christmas Eve! Sleep is probably the next thing that has been most sacrificed! With little kids, I try to give them as much of me as I can when I’m home which often means pulling out the computer after bedtime and working late into the night.

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DCF: What struggles have you faced as a women in your industry?

SM: Honestly, not a lot, at least not specific to my industry. I have definitely struggled with men not taking my business seriously, but usually that just motivates me more!

DCF: What is the early advice you didn’t listen to that you wish you had?

SM: Oh my…I’m sure there is lots but nothing comes to mind right now! What I do wish I had done, was take some business classes or work in a small business before starting my own. I would encourage any young entrepreneur to spend time learning from someone with experience who can teach them about what it means to run a small business.

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DCF: What was your greatest failure and what did you learn from it?

SM: Maybe not taking more risks? I can’t think of one huge failure that stands out, but instead many small ones. I wish I had been more bold early in my business…more willing to share with others what I was doing and why it was awesome! I think I always worried that it would come across as self-promotion or arrogance, but in hindsight I think I missed out on connecting with and serving some people who would have been a great fit for Alumbra!

DCF: What is your proudest moment?

SM: Opening my first studio. It was so scary, and felt like I was taking a huge leap out without knowing where my feet would land. I worked so hard out of my little space, meeting and photographing clients, staying late and arriving early, and eating on the go. I remember buying our (first) house, and being able to pay for our closing costs (not cheap!) and new floors out of my income! It felt SO good and so empowering!

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DCF: What’s next?

SM: Opening a NEW studio in Fairfax, with a really exciting membership option! Details are still in the works but I will be able to share much more in just a few weeks!

instagram: @alumbraphotography
facebook: alumbra.photography
pinterest: alumbraphoto
website: www.alumbraphotography.com
Blogs: www.unveilbyalumbra.com and www.alumbraphotoblog.com

Posted in Art, Fashion, photo, Photography, TheFunemployed | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

The Funemployed: Christine Swanson

DCFunemployment: Tell the people – Who are you?

I (Christine Swanson) had an interesting and circuitous trajectory. I had a stellar beginning, earning my MFA in Film from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. I was selected by NYU faculty as the Willard T.C. Johnson Fellow, the most prestigious fellowship given to the student who has achieved high standards in his or her work. CNN identified me as one of the most promising filmmakers to emerge from NYU’s graduate film program since Martin Scorsese, Ang Lee, Oliver Stone and Spike Lee (her directing teacher) – (DCF: no pressure lol). I have developed, written and/or directed movie projects for HBO Films, Magnolia Pictures, State Street Pictures, TV One and Faith Filmworks. I am also a professor at the MFA Screenwriting Program at the University of Georgia as well as an advisor to the Film and Television program at the University of Notre Dame, my undergraduate alma mater. My upcoming feature, “Buffalo Soldier Girl,” is written by best-selling author and 2015 Texas Writer of the Year, Sarah Bird, as an original work inspired by historical facts. The screenplay is also a winner of the Meryl Streep Writer’s Lab Screenwriting Competition.

Recently I co-wrote and directed, “The Miki Howard Story” which broke network ratings as the most watched original movie in the network’s history.

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DCF: What does being funemployed mean to you & what was your path to funemployment?

CS: Doing what you love, being of service to your community and beyond and making contributions in life while being able to pay your bills (DCF: Short but it holds so much, love it!).

DCF: Who was your first cheerleader?

CS: Besides my maternal grandmother and my father, later in life, my 5th grade homeroom teacher, Mr. Jacobs, saw that I had a deep curiosity and that I asked a lot of questions. He took an interest in me, encouraged me, and inspired me. He even paid for part of my undergraduate college tuition. (DCF: What an incredible teacher!! We need more educators like this who encourage the children they work with!!).  He made me see the specialness in myself I did not know I had. Because someone else saw it and then invested in me, I started to see that in myself. I started to believe in my own magic, so to speak. That said, my children are a constant reminder that unless that “magic” can feed them at dinner time, it’s not all that “magical.” Lol. They keep me so grounded.🙂

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DCF: What experiences in your life prepared you for where you are now?

CS: I came to the U.S from Korea when I was 6 years old not speaking any English. I spent many years just observing the world around me b/c I couldn’t speak the language. So I developed a keen sense of observation that helps me as a writer/director/storyteller. Further, being half black and half Korean, growing up in inner city Detroit was a life preparing event/time in my childhood. I always I had to carefully navigate the terrains of being different/not belonging/not fitting in/ not being welcomed a lot (DCF: Sad that this is a common minority narrative, we need to embrace each other more!). That said, what I feel most about those days is nostalgia now. Nostalgia and time have a way of amplifying the good things and diminishing the bad things and I know that part of my strength, my perspective, my perseverance comes from certain hardships in my youth.

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DCF: Where do you get your inspiration and/or motivation?

CS: I get my inspiration from my faith which fuels me to be a better person and pushes me to always try to improve. I fail a lot at that. A whole lot (DCF: If we are being honest more of us do but the success is in the continued effort). But- every now and then, I get it right and I’m learning to grow from my faults and struggles. I’m learning to have compassion not only for others, but for myself. It’s a long road, self-reflection. I’m trying to be most mindful of the journey. I’m also inspired by family which includes my husband and children. They make me love, laugh and cry and are reminders of what’s most important in life. That is, the love you give is indeed the love you receive in return. That never fails. Love, that is…

DCF: What does balance mean to you and how do find balance?

CS: Balance is an elusive goal for me but for now it means, if everyone is okay in my family, I have balance. I find it by not over doing things and being in the moment when I can. It’s hard but it’s possible to find the calm in the middle of the storm and remind yourself that whatever is messed up in your life right now that, “this too shall pass.”

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DCF: What sacrifices did you have to make to get here?

CS: I was somewhat successful when I first started out in the film industry. I won a lot of awards and I got a lot of money to finance my first feature film. Then it was all downhill from there when I discovered I was pregnant with my first child. One child let to 2 then 3 then 4 (DCF: whooo you are a goddess, 4 children is impressive!!). I ended up taking a 15 year hiatus from film-making. So in one sense, I sacrificed my career to have and raise my children. But as much as I missed making films, I’m so thankful for the path I was forced to take that I wouldn’t have chosen for myself. Now, I am back to film-making and I am blessed to have four amazing children and a wonderful husband to join me on this journey called life. And I’ve discovered, the work is still there except now, there’s a lot more of it so I really didn’t miss anything. Family, is a lot of work and sacrifice but it’s one I’d do all over again but this time, willingly.

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DCF: What struggles have you faced as a women in your industry?

CS: Let’s just say all the typical workplace discrimination are generally at play. That said, I don’t approach my work as a woman per se. I’m a director so at the end of the day I have to make my day, my schedule and create great content/art. I’d love the work to speak on it’s own and increasingly, women are at the helm of more stories and they have been and will always be a force to reckon with. So, my goal is to make it better for not just for my daughter but also for my sons. To the extent my sons are loving and respectful to the contributions of women in the workplace and life in general, everyone benefits.

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DCF: What is the early advice you didn’t listen to that you wish you had?

CS:  Almost 20 years ago, I was approached to be a writer’s assistant on a hit TV show. A representative of a prestigious production company told me that I would be an asset on that show and I should come on board. Well, I didn’t because I was already directing feature films and what more could anyone want than that back then? Well, let’s just say, with the advent of another golden age of TV, I kind of missed that boat at a time that experience could have been useful TODAY.

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DCF: What was your greatest failure and what did you learn from it?

CS: My greatest failure was not enjoying the first half of motherhood with zeal and appreciation. I wasn’t always mentally “present” b/c I was thinking about other things, like being on a movie set. I wish I had known that I would indeed get back on a movie set again but that time with my children to enjoy with peace of mind, I will never get back. I learned from that to enjoy every moment I can with my children and the people I love b/c time is always passing. I don’t know how many times I’ve cried watching my children grow and move on in life. They aren’t with me forever so I enjoy them more (DCF: You’ve got to get away sometimes to miss someone). I smell the roses often…

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DCF: What is your proudest moment?

CS: I recently finished a movie about the R&B legend Miki Howard and I set out to make a movie that both she and I could be proud of and something the network could tout as a great movie. The movie turned out well, better than expected and everyone was happy with the success. I was too. That said, I am most proud when I see my children thrive and excel. Hard to explain but nothing equals the joy in my heart than watching my children thrive. NOTHING. I have cried watching my children play sports, perform in school plays, even cleaning up their rooms without being asked. My heart is tethered to them for life and my achievements in the workplace pale in comparison to watching their achievements and knowing I had a hand in that. That said, I’m not a crazy helicopter parent trying to live vicariously through them but any mindful parent will concur that you are only as happy as your saddest child. So there is a lot we invest in them that in turn could come out in some marvelous way that makes a parent so so proud all the time. I’m almost in tears just writing this. (DCF: This is beautiful, almost got me crying too and ready to call my mom!)

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DCF: What’s next?

CS:  I am excited about my next movie I am in pre-production for called “Buffalo Soldier Girl.” Inspired by the true story of Cathy Williams, who disguised as a man, rose from slavery to become the first woman to enlist in the peacetime Army and the only woman to serve out West with the legendary Buffalo Soldiers. It’s an epic western so I’m having fun exploring all the possibilities. AND I love the idea of making a girl power movie that will inspire girls and boys all over. (DCF: Sounds incredible, can’t wait to check it out!!)

You can find Christine on Twitter and Instagram: @cswanson44

Posted in Art, Film, Storyteller, TheFunemployed | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

The Funemployed: Kenya Bryant

DCFunemployment: Tell the people – Who are you?

Kenya Bryant, One in the Oven: Women’s Business Incubator, Head Vision Enthusiast and Owner

“She believed she could so she did” encompasses the vision behind One in the Oven. We carry something so important that it needs to be pursued now. It could be a dream to teach English to students in Costa Rica or a vision for a business that will change our community. We each have a vision inside of us that if pursued, even if we fail to achieve it fully the world is better off because we tried (Tim O’Reilly). One in the Oven is an incubator where women are growing in empowerment; which already exists deep inside them to fulfilling dreams and crafting reality to where life is given to their visions that are continuously placed on their hearts. It’s where women can run, succeed and establish the foundation for long term growth. It’s where passions are birthed, ideas incubated and businesses transformed from thoughts to entrepreneurial reality. There’s support, resources and mentorship to embrace every woman’s desire and move it to the next level, where she can meet an eager world’s needs. What’s your dream? What vision are you holding and how can One in the Oven help you bear it to life?

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Kenya Bryant is based in lovely Alexandria, VA where she is an Entrepreneur, Vision Enthusiast, Dream Cheerleader, Advocate, Household COO (Wife and Mom of 5 Children – best job), Friend, Spiritual Gangster (Love God), and Lover of all things Chocolate. Follow Kenya as she empowers women and their visions at One in the Oven: Women’s Business Incubator and VISION Fridays: One in the Oven Group.

DCF: What does being funemployed mean to you & what was your path to funemployment?

KB:  Who wouldn’t be drawn to an organization called ‘Funemployment’. I love that Morgan took a passion of living her best life and sharing it with the world (DCF: Thank you, life’s too short not to love it!).  Why can’t your work be something that makes you smile, laugh and bask in the pure joy of doing that things that tickles your heart. Also, love that it showcases women of purpose and power that are creating, impacting, and changing the world around them with their trade.

I got introduced to Funemployment by a like-minded shero, that’s not only a world-changer but a believer in my vision and passion. She felt that this organization would be a great love connection and if she was being honest, I probably giggle way too much with glee every time I talk about my vision—I admit to being crazy in love with it. (DCF: As you should be!!) LOL!

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DCF: Who was your first cheerleader?

KB: Wow! My first cheerleader was my Grand Dad – George Middleton (Deacon George, as he was affectionately known as). He was a very traditional man as it pertained to his views on women and their place in the home, nonetheless, he was always in my corner! Cheered me on and believed that there wasn’t anything I couldn’t do. He taught me that it didn’t matter what others thought of my dream or passion, as long as, God was in on it, then it was all good. LOL! He left a legacy of faith, perseverance and entrepreneurship. He owed three companies in his lifetime and that included the multiple jobs, volunteer positions and church offices he held. He was a man that believed, “to accomplish great things, we must not only act, but also dream; not only plan but also believe.” He didn’t carry pom-poms, but sure did carry me in his heart and would invest not only resources, but also words of wisdoms; which were more valuable than any dollar. (DCF: Amen to that!!)

DCF: What experiences in your life prepared you for where you are now?

KB: Man, it seems that life has a way of making sure you have an appreciation for your passion. I guess, if I had to pinpoint one experience, it would have to be those years, I worked as a software engineer, at a time when women and especially women of color were few and far between in the field. I had to learn to appreciate the fact that I wasn’t your “normal” engineer. I was an extrovert, fashion forward and an office clown. Not the norm at all! Yet, once I realized that my personality didn’t change the fact that I was still a “geek in stilettos”, I could have fun! Those years taught me that it’s okay to be different because that component was actually valuable to my workplace. I realize, that I’m valuable and if I make it my goal to leave a positive hand print on the space I occupy, then that space is better because I’m there.

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DCF: Where do you get your inspiration and/or motivation?

KB: From my gentle giants – kiddos (3 sweet, powerful and yes tall rock stars). They motivate me to never give up. I want to build a legacy that creates a platform for my kids to stand upon. My ceiling will be their floor. (DCF: What a beautiful image and legacy!). I tackle hurdles, tall buildings and take audacious leaps of faith, everyday because of them. They are watching and I want them to see what perseverance, believing in the unreasonable, taking audacious leaps of faith and having a lot of faith and prayer can do!

DCF: What does balance mean to you and how do find balance?

KB: Balance to me means belly laughs, pedicures, quiet moments at home with the family, road trips with my road dogs and lots of prayer. LOL! Lots of that:-)

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DCF: What sacrifices did you have to make to get here?

KB:  I had to make my faith bigger than my fears and that meant I had to take risks and be willing to be vulnerable with my vision. I had to sacrifice that place we create that allows us to hide. I had to sacrifice the opinions of others and press through no matter what.

DCF: What struggles have you faced as a women in your industry?

KB:  Being a women with vision is hard! You have to enter the room with the confidence that you belong there and what you have to say matters. I struggled with the battle between being aggressive or assertive (DCF: This is a hard balance to achieve). I realized I don’t have to bully anyone into listening to me. If I assert myself and back it with passion, tenacity, some rocking heels and banging red lip stick….I could rule the world!

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DCF: What is the early advice you didn’t listen to that you wish you had?

KB:  To do this work sooner. I was afraid that it wouldn’t matter to others and I’m discovering it MATTERS. Women walking out their vision and living that out matters! (DCF: Never too early, or too late, right now is always the right time!)

DCF: What was your greatest failure and what did you learn from it?

KB:  I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit and I tried to branch out into business a few times and each experience taught me something new. But, the one failure in business was the café, me and two partners took over. We were nervous and didn’t trust our own skills, so we kept old team members on and they destroyed equipment and stole money. It was crazy, but those mistakes taught me some valuable lessons of trusting the gifts and skills given to me. To listen to that God voice that says you are more capable, driven, determined than you think. Intuition is a gift…listen to it!

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DCF: What is your proudest moment?

KB:  Relaunching One in the Oven on January 24th 2016; which was also my daughter’s 13th birthday. I couldn’t stop smiling! And on that first day I had over 100+ likes on my FB and tons of words of encouragement! What a day! After that launch, I realized that this work really mattered, so I create a Virtual Vision Launchpad – VISION Fridays private group where now over 400+ women cheer each other on, dream and birth forth vision.

DCF: What’s next?

KB:  Ah! I’m currently on OITO’s blog, new Master Discussion Group Series for the Fall and some cool Vision Storming experiences – Books in the Park, Wine & Vision Talk just to name a few. Looking forward to what’s on the horizon for OITO.

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Can check out One In The Oven on:

FB: @moredetermined   IG:@kenyasbryant    or Email: womensbusinessinc@gmail.com – Come join the movement of women, bosses and sheroes doing amazing things with their visions and dreams.

Posted in Business, GirlBoss, TheFunemployed, Women | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

The Funemployed: Noor Tagouri

DCFunemployment: Tell the people – Who are you?

Noor Tagouri, Newsy , Anchor

Since launching the viral #letnoorshine campaign in 2012, Noor Tagouri has gained international attention as one of the most talked about young adults in the country. Determined to become the first hijabi journalist on commercial television in the United States, Tagouri has embarked on a unique journey to achieve her dream, breaking down significant barriers in the process. She has since become an associate journalist for CBS radio in Washington D.C, graduated from one of the top journalism schools at the age of 20, become a local news reporter in the DC metro area for CTV News, and has traveled all over the world as a motivational speaker.

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With more than 300,000 social media followers, Tagouri has gained significant support for her efforts to break normative stereotypes and has established a strong platform to encourage others to realize their own potential in a multi-cultural society. From weekly YouTube videos to YouNow livestream discussions, to creating the #journeywithnoor bracelet that promotes accomplishing goals and creating pen pals, blogging for the Huffington Post, Tagouri is successfully creating an inviting space for people to celebrate their individuality and embrace diversity. Her latest endeavor is a collaboration with the streetwear brand Lis’n Up Clothing and the launch of #TheNoorEffect — a line of women empowerment clothes aiming to combat sex trafficking.

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As a first generation Libyan-American, her passion for storytelling stems from the desire to expose cultural injustices and combat the challenges facing women on a global scale. Her extraordinary rise as a young journalist and budding cultural figure is proof of what can happen if you dare to ask the right questions. As she continues to break down barriers, Tagouri inspires others to do the same, to let their own light shine.

DCF: What does being funemployed mean to you & what was your path to funemployment?

NT: Being funemployed means living your purpose, and doing what you absolutely love and are passionate about! I found my passion for story telling at a very young age. About 8 years old. I loved telling stories and asking questions…and after years of writing and tv camps, I went on to interning for a newspaper, then writing for it, interning for a radio station, then working two jobs there, then interning for tv, and working at different tv stations until I got to where I am now! (DCF: If you hustle hard you can definitely do anything!)

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DCF: Who was your first cheerleader?

NT: Both of my parents. 100%. They knew from when I was young this was my passion and pushed me into it. My dad especially pushed me into journalism and encouraged me to become a fearless story teller.

DCF: What experiences in your life prepared you for where you are now?

NT: I think honestly, just coming across certain people with different stories, and all of the jobs I’ve taken on. Putting on the hijab was a huge part of it, because I was struggling with self identity, and when I put it on, it made me embrace who I am and be unapologetic in living my life as a Muslim Arab American and a journalist. (DCF: No one should ever be made to feel bad for who they are!)

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DCF: Where do you get your inspiration and/or motivation?

NT: The incredible people I surround myself with and the amazing followers on social media I have who send me stories of their journey and how our movements have inspired them too. (DCF: Sounds like the inspiration goes both ways which is incredible!)

DCF: What does balance mean to you and how do find balance?

NT: Sleep? haha.  Balance is making sure to find time for yourself and loved ones. To meditate. Read. Watch Netflix. Eat good food and travel for yourself, and make sure to always make time for that during your chaotic work filled life. (DCF: Amen to that!)

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DCF: What sacrifices did you have to make to get here?

NT: Hm..I know I’ve sacrificed some friendships and relationships which at the time seemed like good things in my life, but now I know that those were sacrifices that needed to be made to make my journey better and to get here.

DCF: What struggles have you faced as a women in your industry?

NT: I think being a Muslim, hijabi, woman is kind of a double whammy…not only do I need to prove myself as and work twice as hard in a male dominated industry, but I have to also work to dispel the stereotype of the so-called “oppressed Muslim woman.” But it doesn’t take much when I’m around, because I am loud and I talk a whole lot. haha. I think the hardest has been when I’m out on stories and get harassed for how I’m dressed. (DCF: It frustrates me how ignorant some people continue to be!!)

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DCF: What is the early advice you didn’t listen to that you wish you had?

NT: To not be friends with certain people. I’m pro now at keeping only certain people in my life. (DCF: Amen to that, you have to protect yourself).

DCF: What was your greatest failure and what did you learn from it?

NT: hmm that’s tough. I don’t know if I’ve had an obvious clear failure that sticks out. Just a lot of little ones I’ve learned from. I guess the main lesson would be to trust in whatever happens and know that when you seek guidance and have good intentions, whatever is best for you will happen.

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DCF: What is your proudest moment?

NT: I’m really proud of the Forest Haven documentary I produced. It was a team of me, my cousin and my editor, and a story that I worked endlessly on investigating for 4 months. and I felt like it came out great and it reignited a fire I have for story telling. I had to take the leap of quitting a reporting job at a local station and doing the documentary on my own.  (DCF: Looks like a leap well taken cause it’s a great piece.)

DCF: What’s next?

NT: I just started working as an anchor for Newsy!! And I’ve been working on a clothing line with Lisn Up Clothing, the profits go to combat sex trafficking. I’m also touring as a motivational speaker and working on some incredible upcoming projects.

Follow:  Twitter    Facebook    Youtube      Instagram     Snapchat: NTagouri

Posted in Art, News, Social Media, Storyteller, TheFunemployed | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

The Funemployed: Kimberly Kong

DCFunemployment: Tell the people – Who are you?

My name’s Kimberly Kong, and I’m the lifestyle blogger behind Sensible Stylista. I first started blogging in 2011 because I wanted to learn more about social media (DCF: Way to take the plunge right in!). I had just graduated from Juilliard with my Master’s degree in Piano Performance, and I felt like my career needed a pick-me-up. I was trying to, in essence, become my own manager by learning the ropes firsthand. and I knew the internet was where the party was at. After posting for a solid month or so, I started to really get into it! Fast forward 5 years, and here I am posting about life + style at least 4x a week.

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DCF: What does being funemployed mean to you & what was your path to funemployment?

KK: I’ve always been about funemployment. Like I mentioned above, I’m a musician so I feel blessed to practice art on the daily. Blogging is simply yet another creative outlet for me! Passion is everything in my opinion (DCF: Amen sister!!) . I wake up excited to tackle the morning every day because I absolutely love what I do. I really can’t see it being any other way. Life’s just too damn short! (DCF: Couldn’t agree more!)

DCF: Who was your first cheerleader?

KK: I know I probably should pick one, but I really can’t decide between my mom and my dad (DCF: nor should you have to!!). Both of them have been so supportive over the years. They’ve been there for me through thick and thin, providing inspiration and pumping me up at every turn. They’ve just always been amazing role models – my father’s a world champion martial artist and my mom was a beauty-queen (Miss Korea + Miss Asia) and fabulous opera singer so I feel like I have a lot to live up to. (DCF: I imagine you had a very interesting and awesome childhood)

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DCF: What experiences in your life prepared you for where you are now?

KK: I feel like I’ve been prepping all my life. I’ve been playing piano since I was 5 so I’m used to working long hours. I put in a good 6-8 hours daily for years, and I still practice that much when I have concerts coming up. The work ethic I developed definitely helped me blog consistently (DCF: Consistency is everything!).

DCF: Where do you get your inspiration and/or motivation?

KK: This is going to sound super cheesy, but my dreams keep me motivated. I have a inspo board with photos of items/people/events that inspire me, but when I feel super dejected, I think of my parents and the many sacrifices they’ve made for me – it helps me get back on my feet because I want to make ‘em proud.

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DCF: What does balance mean to you and how do find balance?

KK: Balance – what’s that? Haha, just kidding…ish. I stay balanced by exercising regularly and spending quality time with my family and my adorable Maltese pup. Honestly, I spend the majority of my time working, but that’s what makes me happy because work for me is basically play. I do binge-watch Netflix shows while gorging on Chinese food once a month to stay sane though (DCF: So glad to know that we are not alone in this!). Unhealthy delivery food is my Achilles heel!

DCF: What sacrifices did you have to make to get here?

KK: I’ve sacrificed my social life for sure. I try to go out as much as possible, but it’s tough because I juggle three jobs + doctoral degree. My friends are super understanding though! (DCF: Good support is so important).  They may not see me as often as they’d like, but they know I got their backs when it comes down to it.

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DCF: What struggles have you faced as a women in your industry?

KK: I’ve definitely struggled with various misconceptions. Many believe that fashion bloggers are spoiled princesses who like to brag about their “enchanted” lives – they hate on the free swag we get and assume that everything’s handed to us. What they don’t understand is how much work goes into what we do. (DCF: PREACH!!!).

DCF: What is the early advice you didn’t listen to that you wish you had?

KK: “Comparison is the thief of joy.”  When I was younger, I spent a good deal of my time comparing myself to others, and it depressed me to no end. I’ve learned to focus on my journey and my journey alone! I mean, what’s the point anyways? There’s always going to be someone out there who’s better than me at whatever if is I’m doing, and their achievements don’t diminish my own.

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DCF: What was your greatest failure and what did you learn from it?

When I was 9, I played a HUGE concert for a gigantic audience (5k+ people) and messed up pretty badly. I totally freaked out and contemplated running off stage, but I regained composure and kept going! Even though it’s been a bajillion years since, I still get panic attacks thinking about that performance. I’m glad it happened though. It helped me realize that mistakes were inevitable, and that I wasn’t a lesser person for making one. It’s about how you pick yourself up, not how hard you fall. Am I right?

DCF: What is your proudest moment?

In blogging, hosting a v-day segment for Fox News and in music, soloing with the National Symphony Orchestra at the Kennedy Center.

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DCF: What’s next?

I’m super excited to be one of the faces for Trollbeads’ “Hello” campaign this upcoming Fall. I also have a ton of other really cool collabs coming up on Sensible Stylista! I’ll be partnering up with ModCloth, Steve Madden, Bobbi Brown and more.

Follow:  Instagram: SensibleStylista   Facebook: Sensiblestylista    Twitter: SensibleStylist   Pinterest: Sensiblestylist   Google+: KimberlyKong   Blog: SensibleStylista

Posted in Bloggers, Fashion, Music, TheFunemployed | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

The Funemployed: Ciera Gallub

DCFunemployment: Tell the people – Who are you?

Ciera Gallub, Pelonkey, Operations Unicorn (DCF: Love your title!). Pelonkey is your one stop shop for everything entertainment! If you are planning an event or a party, sign up for free and shop online at Pelonkey.com; if you are the entertainment, sign up for free and use Pelonkey.com to secure your bookings, manage your schedule, and promote yourself!

I am happiest with the sun on my face and great company by my side. I have a hard time sitting still in all manners of life. I love genuinely getting to know people and learning what makes them laugh. A hot cup of tea can calm me down in seconds, and I love all things beige. On a more serious note, I graduated from Christopher Newport University with a BA in Communications & Leadership, and I have been working with my sister, Nicole, in DC ever since!

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DCF: What does being funemployed mean to you & what was your path to funemployment?

CG: I love chasing after a dream and creating something from the ground up, bringing structure to empty space, and learning how to wear all of the hats and learn all of the skills in the process. When I graduated, Nicole had me help her with her DJ business at first, kind of like a personal assistant. Quickly, she began giving me more and more responsibility until I was promoted to COO of Pelonkey about 2 years ago (DCF: Work it!!).  It has been a roller coaster of a ride, but the most fun with my awesome sister as my partner.

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DCF: Who was your first cheerleader?

CG: My mom has always been my biggest cheerleader, not necessarily pushing me in any direction, but always there for me no matter what outcome my decisions had (DCF: I like it, support with minimal influence, sounds like a great mom!). She is a fiercely loving woman and always puts others’ needs and cares ahead of her own.

DCF: What experiences in your life prepared you for where you are now?

CG: I am used to working fast-paced environments and interacting with people at all times. It it not conducive for me to be alone – there is so much to do! I have always loved being active and busy, and thank goodness, because that is the nonstop life of an entrepreneur (DCF: Amen to that, always hustling!).

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DCF: Where do you get your inspiration and/or motivation?

CG: These answers are pretty varied yet simple – a good night’s sleep, hot tea, being a part of a really awesome team and getting to work with really awesome people everyday, knowing so many amazing peers that help encourage me along the way, a good hard workout, cookies, trees (yep, I just love them), dancing, enjoying the little seconds that you “click” a picture of in your memory – so I suppose just life, the little things (DCF: Aka the things we will actually remember).

DCF: What does balance mean to you and how do find balance?

CG: I have never been good with balance. I find balance when I have a feeling of satisfaction at the end of the day – whether it’s accomplishing big work goals, spending a romantic evening with my lover, having bonding nights where you feel like you genuinely connected with someone, those fulfilling moments – that’s when I feel balanced, when I am able to truly appreciate what was accomplished/happened that day.

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DCF: What sacrifices did you have to make to get here?

CG: I am trying to swallow the lesson right now that I can’t have it all – perfect skin, a great night’s sleep every night, a super tight relationship with absolutely everyone that’s important to me, an extremely successful business, a super athletic body – I can’t do everything everyday. I can’t give my full, undivided attention to everything everyday. And that’s okay. Learning how to say no is so hard, but so necessary. (DCF: You can absolutely have it all, just not all at the same time lol, so I agree!)

DCF: What struggles have you faced as a women in your industry?

CG: In the tech world, I have honestly not experienced many struggles at all merely from being a woman; however, in the events and entertainment world, women are not taken as seriously as men. Most of them are seen as more sexual beings, not business people. It is something Nicole and I are very mindful of when we dress/present to people in the entertainment industry.

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DCF: What is the early advice you didn’t listen to that you wish you had?

CG: Save your money! Working on a startup is a huge investment of not just time, but money (DCF: Sooo true).

DCF: What was your greatest failure and what did you learn from it?

CG: I lent a large sum of money to someone I thought was a friend, and they ghosted as soon as they got it from me. You cannot rely on other people to all be good and wonderful – not everyone has that mentality. Love all, but do not let yourself become a doormat. (DCF: There are some great people in the world but bad people exist too so yes love all but protect yourself!)

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DCF: What is your proudest moment?

CG: I was extremely proud when we launched Pelonkey – three and a half years of hard work, and then we were physically able to see it all pay off!

DCF: So what’s next?

CG: We are currently raising money for Pelonkey and seeking investors who have some sort of connection to the events/entertainment industry. It is an exciting new chapter for us, and opportunity for someone else!

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You can find Ciera at Pelonkey at or on their blog.  Find them on social @pelonkey on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pelonkey, Inc. on LinkedIn.

Posted in Events, Music, TheFunemployed | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

The Funemployed: Stephanie David

DCFunemployment: Tell the people – Who are you?

My name is Stephanie David and I’m the founder and CEO of POPNOD, a marketing strategy studio that champions brands with purpose. In 2013, I took the plunge (DCF: whooooo, sometimes you gotta take the leap) and left corporate life at Microsoft, where I led teams in business development and partnerships. Inspired by a memorable trip to Thailand, where I witnessed the powerful work of a humble family rescuing elephants, I decided that I wanted to help the powerful stories that matter be heard. Our team at POPNOD helps brands grow through marketing strategies and creative campaigns that amplify their stories. We are based in DC, but our clients include fashion and lifestyle brands in DC, Nashville, and LA. This is my dream job, because I’ve always loved storytelling!

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DCF: What does being funemployed mean to you & what was your path to funemployment?

SD: Being funemployed means living life with purpose and vitality, no matter what everyone else is saying or doing. I’ve often fallen into the trap of comparing myself to others, even more so when I first started my business. I realized that it is my unique journey that defines who I am. My journey to now has not been a straight-forward one: I received a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering, supervised a manufacturing floor, met with international dignitaries, helped win large Navy contracts, did technology sales, and now running my own marketing business for fashion and lifestyle brands! The one common thread? Everything was done with passion and intention, and that’s how it feels to be funemployed.

DCF: Who was your first cheerleader?

SD: My parents. They came to the U.S. from the Philippines in search of a better life. My father joined the U.S. Navy because he wanted to see the world. I remember as a young child, looking at his old Polaroid pictures of Rome, Pompeii, Jerusalem, etc. and being so enamored by the exotic places he’s visited. It was because of him that I was inspired to seek out a world that was much bigger than I can ever imagine. My mom had ingrained in me a disciplined, strict work ethic while I was growing up. At the time, I hated it but that discipline and perseverance have stuck with me ever since. They have always been my cheerleaders. My mom still shares articles and photos of me with her friends to this day!

DCF: What experiences in your life prepared you for where you are now?

SD: Even though my journey seems unconventional on the surface, I bring with me everything that I’ve learned in each of my experiences. Through my work in business development and partnerships, it’s learning the importance of developing meaningful human connections. Through my work supervising people on a factory floor, it’s inspiring people and cultivating a positive culture every day. Through sales, it’s delivering rich experiences and upholding transparency, honesty, and accountability. As a matter of fact, my life experiences have molded our team’s manifesto.

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DCF: Where do you get your inspiration and/or motivation?

SD: Traveling and exploring new places inspires me (DCF: Travel is so important!!).  Traveling has always opened new perspectives for me, especially through the people we meet and the stories we hear along the way. Our clients, at the end of the day, are also my ultimate inspiration and motivation. I’m truly grateful to have worked with brands that have amazing stories behind what they do. In some cases, they don’t realize how powerful their stories are (DCF: Storytelling is so magical, we learn so much about each other and the world through sharing). It is at the point during our session with them when I see their eyes light up, their A-HA moment, and sometimes emotions building up as if they’ve discovered something they never knew about themselves … those are the moments that motivate me every day.

DCF: What does balance mean to you and how do find balance?

SD: To me balance is finding happiness in all parts of my life. It’s easy to get consumed by work, especially when it is something you enjoy. However, it’s important for me to stay healthy – physically, mentally, and in my relationships with friends and family. At the end of the day, those are the things that really matter.

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DCF: What sacrifices did you have to make to get here?

SD: Having worked in large Fortune 50 corporations for 11 years, I miss being part of a large team, the kitchen and hallway talk, and the closed-door conversations. Especially in the early stages, entrepreneurship is a lonely profession (DCF: So true!!). However, being in a lonely profession forced me to reach out to people and develop new relationships. My former government-centric, Washington, DC-based world became filled with a community of passionate business owners, creative individuals, and other game-changing people from across the country.

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DCF: What struggles have you faced as a women in your industry?

SD: I feel like my entire career has been about breaking the stereotypes about women. From being one of the only women in my Mechanical Engineering classes, to supervising a male-dominated manufacturing environment, and to meeting with international dignitaries from countries where women are treated differently – I’ve embraced every opportunity as a challenge. Yes, gender inequality still exists, but I’ve been meeting more women each day who are breaking barriers and saying f*it. I am inspired by the many female business owners we’ve come across, and am drawn to their anything-is-possible attitudes! (DCF: Amen to that!!)

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DCF: What is the early advice you didn’t listen to that you wish you had?

SD: Don’t let what people think about you – positive or negative – shape who you are. My husband was always the voice of reason! (DCF: So important to have that voice helping to guide you! Sometimes we get lost in our own heads).

DCF: What was your greatest failure and what did you learn from it?

SD: This is a tough one. There have definitely been a lot of struggles, mistakes, and obstacles in my life, but I wouldn’t call them failures. To tell you the truth, they’ve opened new doors and perspectives for me.

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DCF: What is your proudest moment?

SD: Within two months of starting POPNOD, I was floored to find out that I was named one of “10 Female Entrepreneurs Who Inspired Us in 2013” by Business News Daily (DCF: A great read and honor, well done!) . I was recognized alongside women that I admire: Angie Hicks of Angie’s List, Mona Bijoor of Joor, and Kathy Savitt of Yahoo. It was at that point I thought, “Hey, I must be on to something good!”

Also, we love our clients like family and friends. When we see them get picked up by an awesome retailer or creating a lot of buzz, we get smitten! Their successes are proud moments for us!

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DCF: What’s next?

SD: At POPNOD, we thrive on creating fun and meaningful experiences as we work with our clients. Based on positive feedback, we recently launched new sessions and offerings to help clients cut through the marketing overwhelm.

This fall, we also have some exciting projects in the works. We’ll be partnering with art galleries in DC to host a series of events that marry DC’s most talented designers with artists for an elevated experience. Stay tuned! (DCF: We’ll definitely be watching out for this!!).

Follow Us:

Website: https://popnod.com
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/popnodshop/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/popnodapp
Twitter: https://twitter.com/PopNod

Posted in Entrepreneur, Founder, GirlBoss, TheFunemployed | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

The Funemployed: Arielle Weinberg

DCFunemployment: Tell the people – Who are you?

My name is Arielle Weinberg. I’m the founder of Arielle Shoshana, D.C.’s first niche fragrance boutique! That means unique, artisan fragrances you don’t find in department stores. (DCF: You’ve definitely succeeded with unique scents like burning leaves, a new personal favorite – don’t knock it to you smell it – and Lady Vengence).

DCF: What does being funemployed mean to you & what was your path to funemployment?

AW: “Funemployed” is a job that’s so fulfilling that it doesn’t feel like work. I’m currently very lucky to find myself funemployed at Arielle Shoshana!

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DCF: Who was your first cheerleader?

AW: My dad was the first person who encouraged me to open a perfume shop. I wasn’t convinced at first. I’d just clawed my way through a Natural Sciences degree at Johns Hopkins University, so I was hoping to work on the chemical side of the perfume industry.

DCF: What experiences in your life prepared you for where you are now?

AW: I had the enormous privilege of working at two different perfumeries in New York. I paid close attention to what they were doing well, and what could be done differently. That information was absolutely invaluable when opening our own shop later on. One of my dad’s favorite sayings is, “A wise man is one who learns from everyone.” Every single person has something important to teach you.

DCF: Where do you get your inspiration and/or motivation?

AW: The perfumes themselves. Their stories and their beauty. Perfume is wearable art; I think of the shop as my own little art museum.

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DCF: What does balance mean to you and how do find balance?

AW: I don’t think I have a good answer for this question yet! I’m in the shop 6 days a week, so I don’t think I’m particularly balanced. My cat is probably the main source of any balance that I have. Who knows what time I would get home at night if I didn’t have to feed her?

DCF: What sacrifices did you have to make to get here?

AW: I miss New York sometimes. NoVa is a very different pace! But you have to go where the demand is. New York definitely didn’t need another perfume shop! And now I’m only 20 minutes away from my family, which I absolutely cherish.

DCF: What struggles have you faced as a women in your industry?

AW: Perfumery has been a male-dominated industry for the vast majority of its history. In the last two decades, the perfume industry has been shamed into becoming a little more diverse, but it’s still very difficult for anyone other than a white French male to become a perfumer. I consider it my responsibility as a shop owner to push the pendulum forward by actively seeking out female perfumers and brand owners.

DCF: What is the early advice you didn’t listen to that you wish you had?

AW: Be yourself, but be the best version of yourself. The most polished, the most gracious, and the most competent. Don’t be self-deprecating in professional settings.

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DCF: What was your greatest failure and what did you learn from it?

AW: After making it to the final round of applications, I was rejected from perfumery school. It was crushing, but it was an important moment of truth. I was trying so hard to become a perfumer, but I just wasn’t a very good scientist. It’s very painful when your goals and your skill set don’t line up. It’s important to push yourself, not to play it too safe, but it’s also important to acknowledge and value your natural skill set.

DCF: What is your proudest moment?

AW: It would have to be the Arielle Shoshana launch party. We made our rent in one evening, and everyone went home smelling amazing!

DCF: What’s next?

AW: We’ve just passed the 8 month mark since opening, so we’re coming up on Arielle Shoshana’s first birthday! One year of making D.C. smell a little better.

We would love to see you on our website (arielleshoshana.com), Instagram (@arielleshoshana), Facebook (/arielleshoshana), or Twitter (@thescentsofself)!

Posted in Art, GirlBoss, TheFunemployed | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

The Funemployed: Virginia Arrisueño

DCFunemployment: Tell the people – Who Are You?

My name is Virginia Arrisueño and I am the owner and designer of DeNada, a DC-based knitwear apparel and accessories brand for men and women. I received my BFA in fiber art from the University of Maryland in 2002 and transitioned from fine art to designing in 2005, when I founded DeNada. The brand blends contemporary elements with traditional knitting techniques to offer unique, handmade pieces. Our merchandise offering includes a variety of knit and crochet wraps, shrugs, and tops, as well as scarves, gloves and hats. I draw on my Peruvian heritage a lot when designing DeNada knits, and work alongside skilled Peruvian artisans to bring each collection to fruition. I work and live in Washington DC with my husband, artist Kelly Towles (another great DC talent!), my son, and our two dogs, Mia and Kobi.

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Photo by Emma McAlary

DCF: What does being funemployed mean to you & what was your path to funemployment?

VA: Being funemployed means doing what it takes to follow your passion. For me that has always meant not being afraid of failure. Truly living your most authentic life can be scary, because it usually means living unconventionally, and that always means taking risks. When I started my career I wanted to be an artist, which is the opposite of a traditional 9 to 5. But I went to art school and when I graduated I truly felt like I had all of the tools to succeed, and I went for it (DCF: and we are so glad you did!). As my career progressed, I realized I wanted to try something different and I transitioned from fine art to designing.

DCF: Who was your first cheerleader?

VA: My parents were my first cheerleaders. They immigrated to the states from Perù. Growing up, I saw how hard they worked to create a life for themselves and for me and my siblings (I’m the youngest of four!). They instilled such a passionate work ethic in me from a young age, and I always felt so encouraged by them to follow my dreams and to work towards my goals to the fullest extent possible. My parents were also the inspiration for what I’m doing now. My father always loved the arts and my mother has always had incredible sense of style. They are my cheerleaders and my inspiration! (DCF: They sound like wonderful people, you reflect them well!)

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Photo by Emma McAlary

DCF: What experiences in your life prepared you for where you are now?

VA: Studying art and being an artist early on in my career gave me the artistic backbone that it takes to bring each DeNada collection to life. Designing our knitwear takes me back to my roots in fine art, which was my first love and my first dream before stepping into the world of fashion. My experiences as a young artist are at the core of DeNada’s aesthetic, the core tenets of which are minimalism, functionality, style, and ease.

DCF:  Where do you get your inspiration and/or motivation?

VA: Family has always been really central to my life. My husband is a fellow artist and has supported me throughout my entire career, from when I was pursuing art to when I decided to start DeNada. He and my son, as well as my parents and my siblings are what keep me grounded, motivated, and passionate about making DeNada succeed (DCF: It is so important to have those people that keep you rooted).

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Photo by Moonrise District

DCF: What does balance mean to you and how do find balance?

VA: To me balance means living harmoniously. I have a 4 year old son, own a small business, and also take on creative projects outside of DeNada; I’m always busy! Finding balance between business and personal time takes work, but making time for family and for just living in the moment is a priority. Productive mornings are key for me when it comes to balance. I wake up really early, I run, and try to get the absolute most out of each day. Staying active is integral to the way that I maintain personal balance.

DCF: What sacrifices did you have to make to get here?

VA: Any free time I have that is not spent working is spent with my family. Family is the most important part of my life, and I love what I do, so it isn’t a huge sacrifice in the grand scheme of things. But my social life is definitely affected by my busy schedule. If I want to go out to dinner or do brunch with friends, that’s something that I have to plan out in advance.

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Photo by Emma McAlary

DCF: What struggles have you faced as a women in your industry?

VA: I have faced struggles that unfortunately are really common for women in any industry, but especially for women who are entrepreneurs. When DeNada first started it was essentially just me, along with much help from my wonderful husband, Kelly. But for the most part I built this brand from the ground up and I have always been intensely motivated and passionate about making DeNada successful. And while I have always received support from family and friends and from many fellow artists, there are always going to be people who don’t like women who are “too” intense or “too” passionate. All of our products are handmade by skilled artisans in Perù. While I love working with such talented people there, I have also been faced with a lot of “machismo.” We’re doing a series on our blog now called #ChangeMakers (DCF: Love it) and all of the women we interviewed talked about this double standard a lot. This concept of being considered “too much of something” is mind-boggling to me, but I look past it and carry on.

DCF: What is the early advice you didn’t listen to that you wish you had?

VA: When I was a kid my mom used to always tell me to enjoy my childhood, and to not stress. Looking back, I wish I had reveled in that childhood freedom a little bit more. I get it now.

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Photo by Moonrise District

DCF: What was your greatest failure and what did you learn from it?

VA: I can’t pinpoint a specific failure. I try my best not to look at mistakes as failures, but rather as opportunities for growth!

DCF:  What is your proudest moment?

VA: When I see people wearing DeNada products on the street or on Instagram, or hearing from one our retailers that our products are selling well. Seeing that my designs are valued is an amazing feeling. It’s wonderful to have people who are excited to contribute to the brand from customers to team members who are excited about the work we do here.

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Photo by Moonrise District

DCF: So what are you Currently Conquering?

VA: DeNada has always been known for its Autumn/Winter collections. I have wanted to do a Spring/Summer Collection for a long time now. I decided to step outside of my comfort zone and debuted our first ever Spring/Summer Collection at the beginning of this month (DCF: Soooo excited to check it out in person and worried I’m gonna buy everything cause it looks so good). I want to expand DeNada to be a brand that offers collections year-round, and it’s finally happening! The Spring/Summer Collection features light, airy, and open designs created with a cotton-blend fiber. The new collection is all about knitwear that’s perfect for summer but still has the signature DeNada aesthetic. Includes a range of lightweight shawls and jackets that are effortlessly stylish outerwear for summer nights, and a selection of knit & crochet tops perfect for any daytime look. All styles are handmade in Perú by amazingly skilled artisans whom I’ve been working with since starting DeNada back in 2009. Shop the collection online at here or stop by our studio to shop in person at 52 O ST NW on Mondays, Wednesday, and Fridays from 12pm-4pm.

DeNada-VirginiaArrisueno-Walking-PhotobyEmmaMcAlary

Photo by Emma McAlary

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