The Funemployed: Stephanie Kiah

DCFunemployment: Tell the people – Who are you?

Stephanie Kiah, Stephanie Kiah Art, Contemporary Fine Artist
Bio: Stephanie Kiah was born in 1987 in Cincinnati, Ohio, and had advanced training in art from an early age. In 2008, she served as an intern at the Chrysler Museum of Art in Norfolk, Virginia. She also completed her field studies at the Dallas Museum of Art and Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas, Texas as well as at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington D.C. In 2009, Kiah graduated with honors from Norfolk State University (NSU) with a B.A. in Fine Arts.

Her first solo gallery show entitled “On Earth & Above” exhibited February through April 2015 at ARTs East New York Gallery in Brooklyn, New York. Her current contemporary conceptual exhibit, In Tune, will be up through early March 2017 at NSU’s James Wise Gallery in Norfolk, Virginia. Kiah’s works have been a part of group shows and events in New York, Washington D.C., Virginia, New Jersey, California, Maryland, and Georgia, and are a part of private collections across the United States, as well as within Nigeria. Some of her more notable collectors are actress Taraji P. Henson (Hidden Figures, Empire) and Charles Allen (son of Eugene Allen, the man whose life inspired the movie The Butler.) Her art has also been exhibited at the Pfizer World Headquarters in New York City, the historic Hampton University Museum in Hampton, VA, and has been a part of the permanent collection of the Singletary Art Gallery & African Art Museum in Portsmouth, VA since 2008.

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DCF: Why do you love what you do? What makes you funemployment?
SK: I love what I do because I get to create for a living. I can express my feelings and thoughts freely using any materials I choose. I get to travel and have my works displayed across the country, and best of all I work for myself. That’s my definition of funemployment!

DCF: Who was your first mentor and how did you find them?
SK: My first mentor in the arts was a professional artist out of Richmond, Virginia by the name of Jerome Jones. I met him through my Aunt Pearl who would introduce me to professional artists as a young child to give me direction, as my talent with drawing was noticed early on (DCF: Always good to help children flourish in their talents!). He taught me tips regarding pricing art that I still use to this day and he and his family are, and always have been very encouraging of my career.

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DCF: What’s your happy place?
SK: Happiness is a state of mind, so to me my happy place is less of a physical location and more of a figurative place. My happy place can be listening to a great song or a charming poem, or simply being enraptured in a good book. (DCF: Sooo true!!) It doesn’t stop there; really the arts in general are my happy place. Spending time with family and tending to my plants is another happy place of mine (I have quite the green thumb!)

DCF: Where do you get your energy?
SK: I get my energy from listening to good music! (DCF: Makes sense, a good song will totally move your soul!)

DCF: What does balance mean to you and how do find it?
SK: I believe that balance is a hard thing to achieve, particularly for us women. Sometimes it seems as if there are not enough hours in the day to accomplish everything I set out to do. Balance is something I struggle with just about every day. I have come to learn over time, however, that self-care is key. As a workaholic, I have to be very purposeful at times about setting time aside for myself. When I feel myself getting a bit overwhelmed or burned out, I try to remind myself to take a moment to breathe, and then figure out a hobby of mine to partake in to relax myself a bit. (DCF: It’s so important to listen to that inner voice and take care of yourself!).  Always back to work the next day though.

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DCF: What sacrifices did you have to make to get here?
SK: Everyone sacrifices and that means something different to each of us.

I have sacrificed a ton of time and sleep, among other things, to get where I am now. Years ago when I was living in Brooklyn and had to scrape up pricey New York rent, there were times I ate sardine meals for days or weeks at a time. I’ve had to sacrifice the glamour of having the newest, fanciest clothes at times, or missing out on social events to in order to complete projects. Over the years I’ve called it paying my dues! Every sacrifice big or small has been worth it. I wouldn’t change a thing because everything I’ve endured (and I have endured a lot) has made me who I am today. I can’t imagine my life being any different! (DCF: Our struggles are what make us, forge us like diamonds!)

DCF: What struggles have you faced as a women in your industry?
SK: I think it is safe to say that when you are young and a woman, people at times will tend to underestimate you. However, overall I have found that when I do business with clients they do take me seriously and respect my craft.

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DCF: What is the early advice you didn’t listen to that you wish you had?
SK: I can’t think of anything.

DCF: What was your greatest failure and what did you learn from it?
SK: What I consider to be one of my greatest failures or disappointments, turned out being exactly what I needed in order to achieve my greatest career advancements, like when I wasn’t accepted into grad school straight out of undergrad. I was devastated and I’m sure I cried for days because all my career prospects required a master’s degree in my field (At the time I wanted to be a studio art professor.) I actually was trying my hardest to avoid being what I am now – a professional visual artist. I wanted the stability that came along with having secure and steady employment and not the unpredictable and at times unstable life of a visual artist. God had other plans for me though! After a year or so of trying with all my might to abandon art, I felt life undeniably pushing me back towards my craft. I took the clue and decided that if I were to get back into my art again, I would need to move somewhere new in which I could find inspiration. That was when I decided to move from Richmond, VA to Washington, DC, and boy did I find inspiration. That was the start of my career as I know it today. I often say I didn’t choose art, it chose me and I truly feel that way. (DCF: Glad you listened when God moved you!!)

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DCF: What was your proudest moment to date?
SK:  I have a few very proud moments. One was in 2013 when actress Taraji P. Henson (Hidden Figures, Empire) purchased two of my paintings at an inaugural ball for Obama. It was also great when I had a chance to meet the legendary Dick Gregory, and to display my acrylic portrait of him at an event in his honor. He also signed the back for me which was pretty cool.

My proudest moment, however, is my most recent body of work entitled In Tune. It is a series of contemporary conceptual work which highlights and seeks to open dialogue regarding many of the perils of U.S. society. Each piece, both visually and by title, is also based on popular music. It is a very powerful and timely exhibit(DCF: Sounds like we all need to take a trip to Norfolk!!)

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DCF: What are you Currently Conquering
SK:  Currently I have a collection of my work entitled In Tune on exhibit at James Wise Gallery on the campus of my alma mater, Norfolk State University. There is an artist talk scheduled for February 24th to discuss the collection. The In Tune exhibit will be up through March 3, 2017. Also, I am a part of a group exhibit entitled Women/Color: Women of Color Working with Color, which will be up through March 16, 2017 at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore Mosely Gallery.

You can get details for both exhibits on the homepage of my website StephanieKiah.com.

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Social Media!!
Website: www.StephanieKiah.com
Facebook: Stephanie Kiah Art
Instagram/Twitter: @StephanieKiah
YouTube: Stephanie Kiah

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The Funemployed: Kia Weatherspoon

DCFunemployment: Tell the people – Who are you?
Kia Weatherspoon, President of Determined by Design
Kia Weatherspoon’s path to interior design was unplanned. Shortly after 9-11, while serving in the U.S. Air Force, she was deployed to the Middle East. In a shared space with fifteen other women, Kia needed a sanctuary — but she lacked privacy and a sense of comfort. So when military supply issued troops sheets for their tent city living quarters, Kia didn’t put them on her cot. She took some string and attached it to the top of the tent to create three sheet walls around it. That was the first space Kia created — one not dictated by extravagant finishes and furniture. It evoked an emotional reaction and a lasting memory. When Kia left the military in 2004, she knew she wanted to create spaces.  After 10 years of diverse design experience in hospitality, multi-family and high-end residential markets, Kia founded Determined by Design to create interior spaces that enable the progress of people and their neighborhoods. Driven by a commitment to establish exceptional interior design as a standard for all, rather than a luxury for few — Kia seeks out opportunities to empower those who do not have access to well-designed spaces. She believes in service-based leadership, demonstrated through active involvement with several professional organizations. Kia is known as a fixture in the district’s design community, a nationally recognized speaker and a trailblazer for design equality. (DCF: Love everything about your bio and journey!)
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DCF: Why do you love what you do? What makes you funemployment?
KW: That’s an easy question! I love what I do because everyday I get to impact peoples environments. I get to create interior spaces that not only look good, but they show those who wouldn’t necessarily have access to interior design that they are deserving of a space that can change their lives. What’s funnier then that? (DCF: Great way to take your skill and calling and use it to make people’s lives better.)

DCF: Who was your first mentor and how did you find them?
KW: My first mentor, that’s a tough one. I would have to say my first military superintendent in the U.S. Air Force. While his name escapes me 16 years later the lessons are still prevalent today. One, attitude reflects leadership. Two, attention detail matters on even the smallest task. Third, service before self. It has to be about other first. (DCF: You can definitely see how those lessons shaped your path. You may forget their names but the lessons are what you were meant to carry forward)

DCF: What’s your happy place?
KW: My happy place, hmmmm anywhere that has some of my closest friends and family. Oh wait, and Anacostia Park first thing in the morning. (DCF: Home is where the heart is every time)

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DCF: Where do you get your energy?
KW: You know…I am doing what I love everyday. It doesn’t feel like work, so I don’t need to recharge. I’m just motivated by constant growth and seeing progress so that gives me energy.

DCF: What does balance mean to you and how do find it?
KW: When I figure it out I will let you know. LOL! (DCF: The struggle is real girl!! But yes keep working on it as we all are!)

DCF: What sacrifices did you have to make to get here?
KW: I don’t feel like I have sacrificed anything meaningful. I think I know my journey is bigger than me, so everything feels like its a part of the plan or road to success.

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DCF: What struggles have you faced as a women in your industry?
Man:”Have you ever thought about having a man represent you on initial business meetings?”
Me: “Why?!”
Man: “You’re so young and pretty people probably don’t take you as seriously.”
This is one of many examples. I just choose everyday to not let my femininity be diminished by anyone. My greatest strength is that I am a black woman in business for myself. (DCF: Wow I mean I know it happens, it’s happened to me, but it’s still shocking to me!)

DCF: What is the early advice you didn’t listen to that you wish you had?
KW: I’m a pretty good listener, so there isn’t one thing that I wish I would’ve listened to. I think I know ultimately I need to make decisions for myself. I had a prominent magazine editor tell me I was starting my business too prematurely, and I should go back and work for a firm for five years. If I didn’t know myself I would have listen to her.

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DCF: What was your greatest failure and what did you learn from it?
KW: I don’t know if I believe in great failures. I think failure stops your from making progress. Nothing, has ever stop me from progressing.

DCF: What was your proudest moment to date?
KW: My proudest moment, was when a domestic violence survivor told me “When I walked into this room I realized change was possible for me,” in reaction to a space I designed.

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DCF: So what’s next??

KW: On the design table we have a 131 room hotel, 2 affordable housing projects in Baltimore, MD, and 1 new hire! (DCF: That is AMAZING!! Get it girl!!)

Follow Kia here:
Determinedbydesign.com

Twitter.com/detrmineddesign

Instagram.com/dbd_kia/

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The Funemployed: Andrea Weinberg

DCFunemployment: Tell the people – Who are you?

Andrea Weinberg, CEO of The Andi Brand

We make innovative handbags to support awesome humans in their quests to be good to themselves.  I love of adventure, my fellow humans, Earth and beyond.

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

AW:  Funemployed to me is a mindset and understanding that I am the master of my own destiny and my own day to day. My path to funemployment was a corporate sales job, which allowed me to flex my entrepreneurial spirit and let my freak flag fly. And by “freak flag” I mean, the ability to express and share vulnerabilities. I once heard that humans form close bonds by sharing vulnerabilities, because this endears us to each other and also creates trust. After a year trying desperately to be super professional in an effort to close a deal, I gave up and decided to just enjoy as best I could, whatever meeting I was going on. And so I would talk about whatever was on my mind! From boy problems to getting kicked on the subway, I would open up even if (actually especially if) it was my first time meeting someone. I think people found it refreshing and building those strong relationships not only earned me deals and commissions, but the flexibility to make my own schedule, work from home, and eventually to have the confidence and resources to start my own company.

DCF: Who was your first cheerleader?

AW:  I was born with cheerleaders. I am extremely lucky to have been raised by overly doting parents who have always believed in me.

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

AW:  My first job out of college was working as a project manager for a company based in the US with operations in India. Essentially, our teams in a few different cities in India were going through scanned paper documents and gathering/indexing information. After 3 months of training and at age 22, the company sent me to India by myself to meet the people that I was and would continue to be working with. I was so scared to travel by myself, but going to a completely new place and working with a really good operation overseas with excellent values and quality assurance practices opened my eyes to the possibilities that accompany a globalized business world and the best ways to make these possibilities reality. Additionally, my background in sales and formal international business education have been extremely helpful as well. (DCF: Sometimes the greatest opportunities are the things we are most afraid of.)

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

AW:  From heartbreak and disappointment. I can’t quite explain it but all of the most significant developments in the design of the signature ANDI bag correlate to a time over the past 5 years when I was feeling especially down, but then turned my attention, focus and interest toward building something that I love.

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

AW:  Balance is the ultimate aspiration! I am constantly searching for it and sometimes I catch a glimpse. I make the effort to meditate twice a day (20 mins in the am and 20 mins in the early evening) and also to exercise. The goal is to maintain a grounded perspective so that I don’t take myself too seriously (once I start taking myself too seriously, it all starts going downhill…).

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

AW:  Blood, sweat and tears! No joke, from wandering through the industrial wasteland of Brooklyn to find a box factory, to carrying 50 pounds on my back to get supplies to our manufacturer en route from Columbus Circle to Jefftown on the L train in freezing rain, crying in the face of the most frustrating circumstances, but always committing to keep moving forward because I am just so curious to see what happens next. Also, side note – crying is the best. (DCF: I totally agree, there is something so wonderful about a good cry!)

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

AW:  I think the greatest struggle is not being taken seriously, especially on the production side.

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

AW:  Ask for references – from everyone!!

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

AW:  Oh man, I am really struggling with this question – and not because I don’t trip up or get rejected and not to sound like peggy positive pants, but I don’t really believe in failure. There are definitely things that didn’t go my way but that was just because it was a path that wasn’t meant for me. And I guess that is what I have learned from my failures – to believe in my path and to move forward on it, not to look back or dwell on what didn’t happen. (DCF: This answer is exactly why I ask this questions, our failures shape and mold us and I think everything happens for a reason so I love how you look at it!)

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DCF: What is your proudest moment?

AW:  Getting asked to be featured on The Funemployed! (DCF: Awww thanks!! And yes you are living your truth, that takes courage) Wow – I am a role model?! That makes me feel pretty good. Also, last fall, my grandmother came to visit and we went to see my best friend perform in a show at the Duplex. After the show, we walked with friends and family to a restaurant around the corner and ANDI bags were displayed in one of the windows at the Equinox in Greenwich Village. My grandmother (and the rest of my family members) stopped and basically had a photo shoot in front of the window. I was mortified at the time, but my aunt sent me one of the pics of my grandmother and it is my favorite. Getting to see her pride makes me feel really proud. I also really really love when I spot ANDIs being carried by strangers on the streets of NYC and getting emails from customers expressing how much they love their bags.

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DCF: What’s next?

  • We have a very cool collaboration with Equinox coming out this Spring and a very colorful collection hitting this summer, inspired by the Great Barrier Reef (I was there in fall 2016 and it took my breath away – I really hope we can all work together to save the reef! – DCF: Glad you got to see if because we are rapidly losing it so I love that you are bringing attention to it) and partially constructed from recycled plastics. I also have a few new styles coming including a mini bag, city wallet, and mommy accessories.
  • We also are working on a number of social impact initiatives focusing on our message of Be Good To Yourself, Be good to Each Other (we are in this together). We are donating about 500 totes around Valentine’s Day to women in need stuffed with goodness including feminine hygiene products, soaps, Kleenex, makeup etc.
  • Digital Marketing Strategy – we are working on getting our story and our message out there and really building a community focused on GOOD!

Follow Andi’s Adventures Here:

Website: www.theandibrand.com

Facebook: TheAndiBrand

Instagram: @theandibrand

Twitter: @theandibrand

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The Funemployed: Ashlee Tuck

DCFunemployment: Tell the people – Who are you?

My name is Ashlee Tuck and I’m the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Will Drink For Travel. Will Drink For Travel is a travel site that combines my love of traveling and seeing new places with my love of unique and native spirits. It’s a view into the wine, beer, and spirits I’ve encountered while traveling. (DCF: For all of us with travel more on the list for 2017 Ashlee is goals so take some notes and get to seeing the world, first through her eyes then hopefully on your own!!)

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

AT: Funemployed means doing whatever you love and makes you happy, whether it’s through a being an entrepreneur, having a full-time job or a part-time side hustle. When looking for a new job about 5 years ago, I evaluated what my interests were (travel) and thought about careers and places I could work that could combine the two. Since I am a travel blogger, I read a lot of pieces from my counterparts that say to quit your job and travel the world, but that is not always possible or realistic for many people. I actually enjoy the work I do and the steady paycheck that accompanies it. While I work full-time, I’ve found a career that incorporates my love of travel, so heading down this path has been a win/win for me. In retrospect, it was a pretty great idea!

DCF: Who was your first cheerleader?

AT:  My first cheerleader in my Funemployed adventure was my friend, Fabian. When I first told him my idea to start the site, he thought it was a great idea and has encouraged me ever since. He often has bigger dreams for the site than I do!

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

AT:  I think having jobs that I’ve hated in the past has given me the awareness to know that what I’m currently working on makes me happy. I’ve learned that once doing something no longer serves you or makes you happy, you need to move on to the next thing. (DCF: So true, it’s very important to know when to let go!)

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

AT:  Not wanting to fail keeps me going. I am naturally competitive with myself, so I always take a look at what I’ve accomplished in the past and try to up the ante. I also look to see what other travel bloggers are doing and how they are growing the narratives of their brands. It’s always very inspiring and motivating to watch as their brands expand based on the work they’ve put in. (DCF: That’s a great way to both support and learn! Everyone wins.)

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

AT: To me, balance means listening to the wants and needs of your mind and body. I don’t believe in being strict in any area of my life because I think it will cause me to go too far in the opposite direction. I try my best to balance work, play, food, exercise, and every other aspect of my life. I’ve noticed that when I don’t have a balance in all areas, repercussions show up in other ways, like an expanded waistline, low monthly number for the site or not spending any time with my family and friends. I usually try to find balance by planning and prioritizing my life.

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

AT:  As a travel blogger, being away from home a lot is a sacrifice that many people don’t see. And while most of the time I am in an amazing destination, I do miss important events for family or friends and it can sometimes weigh on me. But I love what I do and wouldn’t change it for the world. (DCF: I used to travel for work and while it was a lot of fun, people only see the glamour and not the struggle that sometimes goes with it like missing out on important things at home).

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

AT:  As a black woman travel blogger, we aren’t always taken seriously or have to fight twice as hard to be recognized by the travel industry. If I look to see who are on media trips or have sponsorships with major travel brands, it is most times men or white travel bloggers. Don’t get me wrong, I am not being discouraging of other travel bloggers but I believe it is time for brands to diversify their media partners, which in turn will diversify their audiences. We need to be included in the conversation and have a seat at the table. (cue Solange). (DCF: Girl play all the Solange for that one!)

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

AT:  At my first job out of college, I expressed to my mentor how I wasn’t feeling fulfilled. I felt like what I was doing didn’t matter in the grand scheme of life and I was just another company employee. She told me that while I needed a job to pay my bills, it didn’t necessarily have to be where I look to for happiness. She told me that many people work full-time jobs but have outside activities that fulfill their other interests. She told me that my happiness comes from me and I couldn’t look to a job to find it. I don’t hate my current career, but I now have a better understanding of what it means to have something other than employment to feed your soul. (DCF: Sounds like she gave you some great advice, glad you learned how to hear it! I needed to hear that too lol).

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

AT:  I wouldn’t say I’ve had one huge, particular failure. However, I will say that sometimes I lack the discipline I need to accomplish goals I have for Will Drink For Travel. A lot of it comes from not properly planning, so it’s an area I am constantly working on being better in. (DCF: The struggle is real! Keep pushing girl! You are doing great work!)

DCF: What is your proudest moment?

AT:  My proudest moment (so far) has been appearing on Great Day Washington twice discussing my travels to Martinique and Zambia. Additionally, one of my blog posts was found by and republished on Matador Network, which is a major travel website and a huge win for my brand.

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DCF: What’s next?

AT:  I am currently working on making Will Drink For Travel a go-to travel resource for people who really want to experience their destinations in a unique way. This will include travel guides, working with tour companies and providing other useful travel information. I am in the process of finding brands whose goals align with Will Drink For Travel, so if you work for or know someone who may be interested in partnering, please let me know!

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Website

Facebook: willdrinkfortravel
Instagram: @willdrinkfortravel
Twitter: @DrinkForTravel
Snapchat: @DrinkForTravel
YouTube: Will Drink for Travel TV

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Posted in Bloggers, DCTravelBlogger, TheFunemployed, Travel | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

The Funemployed: Maria Jose Abad

DCFunemployment: Tell the people – Who are you?

Maria Jose Abad: Fashion & Style Blogger and creator of MariaOnPoint.com, a personal style and fashion blog that provides styling ideas and shopping information for petite women. MariaOnPoint.com also shares recommendations and answers for those who are seeking to look stylish on any budget. I understand the peculiarities behind finding the right size and fit for petite women and I will do my best to share as many details about these key elements when writing a post. You’ll often find me mixing high-end designers with low-end basics from trendy fast-fashion stores. My style is feminine, classic with a little edge.

Outside of MariaOnPoint.com, I provide on-air style advice on Univision and Telemundo, and work full-time in public relations. I’m originally from Ecuador and live in New York City while often traveling to DC and LA.  I also work full time at Qorvis MSLGROUP, PR agency.

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

MJA: I love my full time job in PR, I have the best colleagues and mentors and my clients are fun, never a dull moment.

I also love being able to run my fashion and style website and work on my passion for fashion. I like meeting like-minded individuals who want to explore other paths in life and collaborate with each other. (DCF: It’s great to be able to wear many hats and flex your creative muscles!)

DCF: Who was your first cheerleader?

MJA:  My parents are always there and always will be.

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

MJA: My parents constant encouragement and how they always pushed me to achieve anything I set my mind for and never settle. My boyfriend has been a big influence as well as he pushes me every day and never lets me gives up. (DCF: Surrounding yourself with awesome people is always a great experience!!) 

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

MJA:  In my PR job, I always see at the people that have mentored me since the beginning and where they are and I get motivation to keep working hard to reach my goals and to try new things.

In my blogging world, my blogger community and how hard everyone works.  Quality over content always.

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

MJA:  I have a full time job and that is my priority but I also have a blog and want to give the best of me so if there’s a week that I was too swamped with work and couldn’t think of new good content, I take a step back, recharge and come back the next week with the best I can. I love taking pretty pictures of places I go to, food I eat but sometimes you just have to put the phone down, enjoy the company and appreciate what you have. (DCF: Totally agree!! #ResolutionGoals)

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

MJA:  To get a college and masters degree and eventually the job I have, I had to leave my home back in Ecuador and be away from my family and the best friends I could ever ask for. I know I made the right decision but I miss them every day. (DCF: Unfortunatly sometimes knowing a decision is right doesn’t make it any easier.)

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

MJA:  Knowing that men are usually paid more than women and seeing how certain men get ahead faster and not all of them are necessarily more qualified has been a struggle. This only means I need to work extra hard and continue to push hard to be equally compensated and rewarded.

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

MJA:  Not going abroad for college, I really regret that. (DCF: Wish it would be a requirement because it is a GREAT educational tool.)

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DCF: What is your proudest moment?

MJA:  When I went to another country myself, met with all male clients, led the meeting, negotiated contract and ensured we continue working together. (DCF: I feel pride just hearing about it! #GirlBossPower)

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DCF: What’s next?

MJA:  I’m currently networking more with my blogger community, learning from them and slowly collaborating with brands. I’m picky. I don’t want to promote brands unless I believe in them. (DCF: Amen to that!!)

Maria On Point  Instagram: @Mariajabad  Facebook: MariaOnPoint  Bloglovin  Pinterest  Twitter.com: mariajabad

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The Funemployed: Meka Mathis

DCFunemployment: Tell the people – Who are you?

Meka Mathis, Owner of Skin Beauty Bar located on Capitol Hill. A boutique beauty bar that offers facials, waxing, massage, microblading, teeth whitening, and eyelash extensions. (DCF: This holiday season we could all use a little self love so #treatyourself!)

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

MM: Funemployment to me is loving your job. Not considering your job as employment but a passion. (DCF: Preach!)

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DCF: Who was your first cheerleader?

MM: My Mother. (DCF: She got it from her momma!)

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

MM: My education at Parsons School of Design and living is NYC for years prepared me for where I am now.

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

MM: Reading inspiring articles on women owned businesses. (DCF: Woot woot, we are a fan of those too!)

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

MM:  Balance means a separation from work and my personal life. I find balance on vacation.

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

MM: My personal life and finances are sacrifices that I had to make.

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

MM: People do not take me seriously (DCF: That struggle is so real!).

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

MM: My mother told me you have to spend big money to make big money.

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

MM: Greatest failure was not buying my retail space.

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DCF: What is your proudest moment?

MM: When I was featured in Instyle magazine.  I have my own skincare and lip gloss line.

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IG: skinbeautybardc
FB: skinbeautyloungedc
Twitter: skinbeautybar

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The Funemployed: Tanya Semsar

DCFunemployment: Tell the people – Who are you?

Tanya Semsar,  Owner of Refine Boutique
Refine Boutique offers appointment-only shopping sessions to the women of the DMV. Born and raised right outside DC, I had a vision for a space dedicated to simple shopping, period. I’ve had seven years of retail experience, combined with a degree in Communications specializing in Public Relations, and a strong interest in the fashion industry, and thus, Refine was born.

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

TS:  Funemployed is waking up every morning and being excited to go to work (DCF: Such a great way to start the day!). Growing up I worked many different avenues of the fashion industry to gain the knowledge I have used at my own boutique. Working retail is hard but I always loved being surrounded by clothes. I eventually had the opportunity to start my own boutique so I took the bull by the its horns and today I couldn’t be any happier.

DCF: Who was your first cheerleader?

TS:  I have always dreamed to about owning my own store. It was my boyfriend who pushed me to pursue my dreams. Everyone else did not believe it was a good idea (DCF: haters gonna hate) but without my boyfriend’s constant motivation and support this dream would have never become a reality.

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

TS:  My retail experience was key in preparing me for my own boutique. How to handle customers to merchandising the floor was all learned from working at different stores. Real life experiences are the best tools to teach me what owning a boutique would truly be like. (DCF: Can’t beat hands on experience!!) 

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

TS:  My motivation comes from my love of clothes. I can flip through magazine and surf the internet for hours just looking at outfits. Like a sponge, I soak up anything fashion. This passion motivates me everyday so going to work is fun for me. I love getting in new items, having to figure out how to dress a client or what item will work best for the store. Nothing makes me happier and motivates me to make the store the best it can be.

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

TS:  Balance is achieved when I am stress-free and happy. Things do not always fall into place but if you can stay positive everything eventually works out (DCF: Amen to that girl! Sometimes you just have to trust that things will return to balance). I find balance by giving myself some “me time” and working out.

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

TS:  I had to give up my social life (and still do) to make sure my business is running smoothly. It stinks to miss out on events that my friends and/or family plans but Refine is my baby and still needs a lot of attention to make sure it is perfect.

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

TS:  Fashion is a female-dominated world. I find that the biggest struggle I have faced is when another business owner isn’t willing to help because they think its competition. We should be empowering one another to help each other be the best we can be.

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

TS:  Properly keeping track of my finances is something I wish I did right the first time (DCF: YES!!). I have definitely changed my ways after year one 🙂

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

TS:  This whole journey has been a roller coaster of trial and error. All the advice and knowledge you can gain can never prepare you for running your own business. There will always be a mistake and all you can do is learn from it, move on and not repeat history. (DCF: Say it again people, there will always be mistakes, accept it!!)

DCF: What is your proudest moment?

TS:  Honestly, it is every time a client comes in with an outfit they bought from the store. They are just so happy and I couldn’t be prouder to know that I helped them!

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DCF: What’s next?

TS:  Currently I am working on a Fashion Show and Shopping Event. Something fun for the women in the area and a way to make our Nation’s Capitol a bit more fashionable. (See below!)

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Instagram: @shoprefine
Facebook: Shop Refine
Twitter: @shoprefine

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The Funemployed: Sarah Bayot

DCFunemployment: Tell the people – Who are you?

My name is Sarah Bayot and I am the founder and designer of Kicheko Goods, a socially conscious jewelry brand based here in the District. Kicheko’s aesthetic is pretty distinctive – mixes of materials that combine to form a modern, boho, elegant and yet unrefined vibe. Meaning “smile/laughter” in Swahili, every purchase of a piece sends one child to school for one month. Kicheko is currently working with Mango Tree School in eastern Congo. When I am not working all hours on the business, I can be found listening to a podcast, teaching barre at Dailey Method on U Street, or finding something good in the neighborhood (read: food + drink).

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

SB:  I’m so happy to be in a time where this concept is less of a unicorn and more within reach (DCF: No it’s totally still unicorn, we can just all be unicorns now if we want to be!!) whether funemployed is your side gig or your full-time. I think funemployed is being able to find joy and life in your work. When you are funemployed, your primary drive is not solely a paycheck but a sense that how you are spending your time, talent and energy is worth it, dipped in meaning, and connects the dots. Funemployed also should include snacks. Many snacks. (DCF: Yes to all the snacks!).

My path to funemployment continues to evolve and is definitely non-linear. It began with my first job at the age of 14 working for a law firm that mainly handled debt collections. That was a big lesson in knowing what you do NOT want to do. I went on to do a number of jobs and internships that bolstered my communication, administrative and people management skills. Throughout that time, I always kept a creative curiosity for design, the arts, fashion and the intersection where it makes positive impacts for communities. Studying International Relations + Development, that helped shape that arc of interest in fashion + community development for sure. But I had no idea what kind of career options existed in that realm.

My path to Kicheko grew organically and honestly out of a need to create. From 2010-2013, I worked as an office manager for a nonprofit where we expanded properties and nearly doubled the staff in the time I was there – I learned a great deal and stretched myself but also desperately needed something creative, something not admin. I took sewing classes, a metal-smith workshop, and started creative projects randomly and regularly with a group of girlfriends. I got on a kick of making fabric covered studs and loved sourcing fabrics to the point where I wore them so much that friends started buying them. When I received an order for 500 pairs of earrings, funnily enough from the same nonprofit I was working for at the time, that’s when I decided to go for it and make this a business. This small and prolific product was what launched Kicheko and from there, I’ve continued to grow my techniques, design eye, and skills.

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DCF: Who was your first cheerleader?

SB:  A sprinkling of friends from various parts of life were my first cheerleaders – mostly all female too haha. Girl power! I had a couple friends from childhood who were also starting their own businesses – musicians, journalists, home renovation, etc. My coworkers were also very encouraging though cautiously optimistic. How can I not mention my husband. He was an incredible partner during this time – providing literal support, serving as a sounding board, and advocate for the business.

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

SB:  My parents immigrated to the U.S. in the 80’s and while they found a good faith community that embraced our family, it was struggle from day one. Showing up everyday to learn a new culture and assimilate to be able to work and provide a quality of life for themselves and their children – that example showed me that my life would be one filled with hard work. I knew nothing would be handed to me and that it was important to set goals, work hard towards a vision and love others along the way. In some ways, this kind of underdog experience is one that I now embrace. I like being the underdog – it’s motivating! (DCF: A very wise women recently said your most motivated when your account is overdrawn or you just got fired, being the underdog is a strong force!)

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

SB:  I look at the art, fashion, literary and culture landscape and I sit in fucking awe of the body of work that all of these humans have created and that we are still creating. To be able to contribute something to that body of work whether that is meaningful to one person or meaningful to many, gah!

Travel is always my happy place – my place of reset, widening my aperture, and for getting the creative juices flowing. (DCF: #TravelMore is definitely a mantra this year).

My friends and creatives in this world. Their work and tireless can-do-ism is fueling. I love being a part of the creative economy in DC.

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

SB:  Balance is debatable. I am trying to look at this question from a perspective of wholeness. Do I feel whole? Each week, I ask have I fed my mind, my body, my spirit, my need for community? If there’s a gap in one or more of those areas, I try to pay attention and meet that need. It’s definitely more art than science.

And I also have to account for my business with this question because as a product-based business, my peak season is Sep-Dec so there’s not much social life or really, sleep, happening in this season. That’s ok – that’s the rhythm.

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

SB:  Not having a stable and guaranteed income was a tougher sacrifice to navigate. Money is a tool and we are taught that money is an indicator of success. The first month out on my own when I didn’t get those biweekly paychecks, it was a startling realization, “oh shit, this is real. I decided to do this.” Money can be such an emotional instigator. Not having guaranteed income or as much income as I would have liked in the beginning dented my confidence at times and I needed to learn to disassociate my sense of purpose and determination in building Kicheko from those slower times.

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

SB:  In my business, there are a lot of female designers and female-owned businesses so it’s great to be in good company. But initially, I was very green to this and felt alone building my business in what seemed at times isolation. Doing my first set of markets was a breath of fresh air getting out into the world and meeting other business owners and makers. It helped make what I was doing more real and to this day, in-person market events are vital to my business – the feedback and community formed is invaluable. I still have patches of isolation (I think that comes with the territory) but make efforts to reach out, stay connected and be open to meeting others.

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

SB:  Work with an accountant and bookkeeper! I decided early on that Quickbooks, Google Sheets and me could take this on. But it can get very hairy and be its own part-time job. The time that it takes to keep up with bookkeeping and accounting detracts from energy spent on design, marketing and business growth.

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

SB:  Doing too much. When I started Kicheko, I designed jewelry and handmade scarves as well. Sewing each scarf was incredibly time consuming and I quickly realized I could not keep selling/making both scarves and only button earrings. Plus my scarves weren’t great. My aesthetic and collection needed to grow and that meant narrowing focus to a point of view and specializing.

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DCF: What is your proudest moment?

SB:  In 2015, Kicheko’s second year, I traveled to LA with a couple of girlfriends and pitched TOMS Marketplace to carry Kicheko Goods. It was the most articulate I’ve ever expressed the story and brand. I felt I prepared the best I could. When I got back to DC, negotiations began and they placed an order for their holiday collection. It was a large order and during this 90+ day experience, I had two major proud moments. The first was when friends helped me prepare all the earrings and necklaces to be shipped off. On a hot summer day, we prepped all the boxes and shipped them off to LA. It was such a good feeling to know that everything was completed and ready to go out into the world. The second proud moment was getting the check from that order. It was such validation! I jumped on the bed a bunch!

DCF: What’s next?

SB:  This holiday season, we are launching our first brand video to tell the story of who we are, who the Kicheko woman is and what we’re about. It was a process that required us to dig deep, travel thousands of miles and I am very excited to see it all come together. My goal is that this communicates more concisely who Kicheko is and convinces everyone to become part of the community!

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Instagram: kichekogoods
Facebook: KichekoGoods
Twitter: Kichekogoods

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The Funemployed: Baille Gelwicks

DCFunemployment: Tell the people – Who are you?

My name is Baille Gelwicks, Founder of Cadence Event Planning. Never missing a rhythmic beat, Cadence Event Planning was founded on the idea that there is a steady rhythm to the poise and perfection of creating an event. We are a full service event management firm with diverse experience in military, government, fashion and the arts. We believe that a successful event is not only well planned and executed, but is unique. Therefore, we pride ourselves on creating experiences that leave lasting impressions.

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The Funemployed: Amina Ahmad

DCFunemployment: Tell the people – Who are you?

Hey! I’m Amina Ahmad, owner and sole operator of Handmade Habitat, an all natural soy candle and beauty goods company proudly based in the District. I grew up in a hugely DIY family. My childhood was filled with sewing doll dresses, painting murals on the walls of my bedroom and blurring the lines between art and the space and ways in which I lived. I graduated from the University of Maryland with a degree in Environmental Science and during college, I started making eco-friendly candles, the foundation for what my business is today. Today I call Takoma Park home where I live in the most perfectly imperfect apartment with my husband, Brad, and pup Rosie. In 2015, I co-founded the Unofficial Hand Lettering Society of Silver Spring and over the pst four years have worked with artists and vendors producing events around the DMV.

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