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

Follow Denada on the interweb:

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Posted in Art, Designer, Fashion, TheFunemployed | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

The Funemployed: Latoya Lewis

DCFunemployment: Tell the people – Who Are You?

Latoya Lewis, Founder & Executive Director of EnventU.  EnventU is a nonprofit hands-on educational program for underserved teens that explores and expands the career interests of youth through the event production industry. Students produce real-life events by collaborating in the classroom and on-site with industry professionals which fosters an environment for career guidance and mentorship.

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Here’s the Bio with ALL the info:

Latoya Lewis unknowingly tapped into a passion for event planning and design at a very young age. Initially drawn to the intricacies of the event creation process, Lewis has come full circle in not just perfecting her craft, but rendering it into an art form. Originally from Los Angeles, she graduated from California State University, Northridge with an emphasis in music, media and the arts.

Latoya began her career at Universal Music Group (UMG) in 2005, where she oversaw and purchased over $1M+ in media ad buys and advertising campaigns for a majority of today’s biggest names in entertainment. Her notably creative campaigns ranged from TV, to print, radio, outdoor and digital web presence. After a long and successful tenure with UMG, Lewis returned to event planning, her longtime calling, and dually enrolled in the Accelerated Masters of Tourism Administration program at The George Washington University (GWU). Upon completion in 2010, Lewis’ talents were sought out by the nationally recognized special events firm, Events by Andre Wells (EAW).

Lewis currently excels in all event platforms, with ongoing experience and expertise in large-scale conferences, conventions, corporate, charity and non-profit occasions; to include weddings and social events. Lewis plays an integral role with EAW, overseeing and executing complex and detailed event logistics with ease, while maintaining and managing vendors, budgets, and all bottom-line aspects of event production.

After over five years with EAW; Latoya decided it was time to bring to fruition a personal dream and start nonprofit organization; EnventU. EnventU is a unique educational initiative designed to explore, nurture, and support the career interests of disadvantaged youth through the multiple components of the event industry. Born as a result of a genuine passion for the events industry and a deep desire to make a difference in the community; Latoya vows to make EnventU the premiere nonprofit organization of the event planning industry.

A leader within her community, Latoya has devoted countless hours volunteering within inner city schools in the Washington, DC area, serving on many boards and working in the community.

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

LL: Being funemployed means you have found that “sweet spot” where your passion and your purpose intersect perfectly. You are doing what you love in life, it makes a positive impact on this world, and you are compensated for it…in many different ways! For me, the root of “funemployment” is entrepreneurship. (DCF: Love this, so well put and definitely in line with our beliefs on funemployment!)  My path to funemployment began with the BELIEF that I was meant to “run something”! I believe in many ways we create our own paths in this life. I have always known the path of entrepreneurship was for me. The first concept for EnventU began during my graduate program at George Washington University when I was encouraged to dream without limits. My assignment was to construct a business plan for my “dream business” and right then the seeds for EnventU were planted. I vowed to take that leap by 35…I turned 35 this year!! (DCF: Happy birthday!!). Once this business plan was written, it was all a matter of holding myself accountable and deciding when to “plan my work and work my plan” as my mother always says. After working for and observing an entrepreneur for over five  years, I knew my next step was to become one.

DCF: Who was your first cheerleader?

LL: My family, with my parents leading the charge, have ALWAYS been my biggest cheerleaders and support system. I have said, and always will, that I am just the product of Aletheia and Tommy Lewis and that will never change. Everything I do and all that I am is because of the blessing I have been given to be their daughter.  My father in particular was the first person I shared the revamped nuts and bolts of EnventU with. I was visiting my parents in Los Angeles when I had that “A-Ha” moment and the name came to me along with a flood of other ideas one night. (DCF: I love those moments of inspiration and clarity).  When my father drove me to the airport the next day I shared with him and he said “write it all down on the flight…every last detail.” When I landed in Washington, DC I had the blueprint of EnventU on paper. I sent my father a photo of my papers and have been building off those notes ever since.

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

LL: My time working at Events by Andre Wells, and so close to my mentor Andre Wells, has prepared me the most for entrepreneurship on a number of levels (DCF: I believe it, he is awesome and generous and I imagine would make an excellent mentor). First, by working along-side Andre I was able to observe the triumphs and challenges every business owner experiences on this journey. This allowed me to learn first-hand what obstacles I might encounter and anticipate solutions in advance.

Second, by working with one of the most well respected event producers in the city and across the country I have been exposed to the best of what this industry has to offer. The scale and scope of the projects I have been privy to lead honed my skills as an event producer and instilled in me the knowledge and confidence to start this unique program initiative not seen anywhere in our industry.

Lastly, the relationships I have made have naturally carried over to where so many of my most respected industry colleagues have turned into the biggest champions and partners for EnventU which is extremely reaffirming and humbling.

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

LL: My motivation for EnventU has always come from a deep need to have my life impact  others in a positive way (DCF: Amen to that!). I have often thought about what my eulogy would include and for me producing amazing events wasn’t enough. My father always said “When you “make-it”, reach back and help others the way someone helped you.” EnventU is my father’s words in action…to actually do something worthwhile is motivating. To provide opportunities to those without one inspires me beyond measure. I have a philanthropic heart…I’m a giver by nature. If EnventU was the only thing I did while on this earth it would be enough…and I would be very proud.

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

LL: It’s so easy to get caught up in a never ending “to-do” list; especially in a city as driven as Washington, DC. Thus, a balanced life is something I consciously strive for on a daily basis. It is always a challenge that is on the forefront of my mind. Balance amounts to a complete person…it’s everything! For me, balance means taking time out for the ones you love and the things you love to do. Whether it be a weekend road-trip, Happy Hour with friends, or taking in some live music or a comedy show; all of these feed my spirit and keep me grounded.

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

LL: Everyone sacrifices and that means something different to each of us. I have no doubt that Washington, DC is the best place to start and grown a nonprofit organization. However, I have sacrificed my core support system of family and friends in Los Angeles to do so. Granted, my initial relocation to DC was not to start EnventU. But the decision to plant roots here was heavily influenced by what was best for EnventU and that comes with a hefty price tag as it relates to my personal life.

Additionally, as the saying goes, “every entrepreneur is their first major investor”. But it goes so much deeper than financial. Every successful business owner and nonprofit founder has sacrificed their time, money, and energy to foster their dream and bring their vision to life. It’s almost a rite of passage and I’m no different.

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

LL: I cannot recall any specific stand-out struggles that I have faced as a woman. However, it is very clear to me that though my industry is female dominated, as you climb the ladder of “success” many of the individuals at the top given the most exposure are male. Thus, on this journey, when the opportunity presents itself; I will do my part to afford women the chance to not only step onto the ladder but also climb past the invisible ceiling that exists in society across far too many industries.

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

LL:  My mother is infamous for sharing many sayings and quotes throughout my upbringing. They were all so ingrained in my sisters and me that I think I follow them without even knowing. However, I wish I would have been taught the concept of “true freedom” while in college. True freedom in this life is to own our time. Time is our most precious commodity which once gone, can never be regained. In order to own our time we need to be financially free…not tied to a job or debt that no longer gives us a choice about what we do with our time. When we own our time, we own our life’s journey and experiences while on this earth which is priceless. That is a major goal for every entrepreneur but you can’t get there unless you have the financial freedom to chase your dreams freely and you can’t chase your dreams if you’re burden by debt. I learned this concept in my late 20’s and it has been life changing. I only wish I had known earlier so I could change my mindset sooner!

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

LL: I’ve always been someone that once committed, through unyielding work ethic and focus, I’ve been able to achieve what I set my mind to. I knew no professional limits and recently learned quickly that I too have one! While launching EnventU, I was/am still working a full-time job, as well as consulting on the side. This was in efforts to create an ideal financial transition for myself as a nonprofit Founder. But I was simply doing too much! (DCF: So important to recognize this sometimes).  I was worried about money, security, and the unknown as an entrepreneur to the point where I overextended myself and hit a wall….HARD! I spent months stressed, barely sleeping 2-3 hours a night, running on coffee, floating through tasks, and barely recognized myself. My work on all three-fronts suffered severely and I was left completely drained and embarrassed. I was trying so hard to create a perfectly seamless transition with little-to- no risks involved and I learned that that simply does not exists.

I know that EnventU is my passion and purpose in this life. It is rooted in love….it is God’s work through me….and through this “failure” I learned not to worry about money or having the “perfect transition” to this next phase in my life. I’m creating something so much bigger than myself…that will change lives and yield nothing but good. When this defines your life’s work, there’s nothing else to worry about. I had to surrender myself to the process….embark on that “faith walk”…trust and believe that everything will always work for the good…and I do believe that!

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DCF:  What is your proudest moment?

LL: My proudest moment to date occurred last October, when EnventU was invited by BizBash CEO and Founder, David Adler, to participate in BizBash’s DC Plan-A- Thon event.  As the premiere media publication and certified “Bible” of our industry, I have been a longtime fan of BizBash and subscribed to the magazine for as long as I can remember. To not only have my students invited to participate in this premiere event, but also to have the enthusiasm and support of many veteran industry colleagues in attendance, reaffirmed for me that this program is truly needed in our industry as well as in our communities. The evening culminated with BizBash making a spur-of- the-moment decision to elect EnventU as their official charity donation for the 2015 holiday season. I was overjoyed, overwhelmed, and so very proud.

DCF: So what are you Currently Conquering?

LL: We’re always looking to identify potential partnerships with corporations and other organizations for donations, in-kind sponsorships, as well as event collaborations in advance of our Fall 2016 program session.

Also, EnventU is just wrapping up our Spring program session which concluded with the production of Frank W. Ballou High School’s Academy of Hospitality and Tourism “End of Year Celebration” Reception on June 7. With many of our program’s participating students being a part of this academy at Ballou, the students are able to plan and produce their own event which has been an exciting process to foster.

Lastly, we’re gearing up to celebrate our one-year anniversary with a Launch Reception event on June 29th . At this event, we’ll share our progress to date with our industry peers, potential donors, and other supporters. We have tons to celebrate and I am looking forward to it.

Social Media!!

Sign-up for our newsletter on our website at Enventu.org.

Facebook: EnventU  Instagram: EnventUOrg  Twitter: EnventUOrg  Snapchap: EnventU.

Posted in TheFunemployed | Leave a comment

The Funemployed: Anchyi Wei

DCFunemployment: Tell the people – Who are you?

Hi! I’m Anchyi Wei of Anchyi Adorned – Fashion adventurer, visual designer, photographer and mom to a toddler (DCF: Who is the cutest little button!!). I see fashion and styling as art, and Anchyi Adorned is an outlet of my artistic creations. I’m also bit of a “pro” at online shopping, and want to share the fruits of my labor. The goal of the blog is to entice your creative juices – whether you’re restyling an existing piece in your closet, or putting together a new look with the latest trends. The looks are unique, bold, and fitting for women with individuality and want to stand out from the crowd. (DCF: Yassss Queen, give us all the inspiration!! I feel like I learn something new with every outfit you put on!)

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

AW: Being funemployed is about executing your passions and finding something that makes you feel alive, happy, and motivated everyday. It’s very much like dating – you may try a bunch of different options until you find The One that makes you click. Outside of my day job as a Visual and User Experience Designer, I’m always exploring outlets for my passion for fashion, art, and design. Having developed a fashion “personality” in the DC area, being a style influencer have always been something that came natural for me – but it took a long time for me to finally dive in to the fashion blogging world. (DCF: Yes, and we’ve all been waiting!)  And once I did – it couldn’t have been a more perfect match!

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DCF: Who was your first cheerleader?

AW: My coworkers Leticia and Hai, who started taking pictures of what I wear to work everyday and put it on a tumbler called “Anchyi at Work“. They were my first champions, and soon after, I’ve gained tremendous support from the DC blogging community. Although I’m known for my style, I never considered myself as a blogger – until one specific conversation with Carla Sanchez of Spicy Candy DC. Within one short dialog, I decided it was time to rebrand as a true fashion blog, and that’s how Anchyiadorned.com was born. I couldn’t thank Hai, Leticia and Carla enough for this!

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

AW: I am fortunate to have so many experiences that fall perfectly in line with what’s necessary to start Anchyi Adorned: My knowledge of the web design industry, having a husband who used to work in media and publishing, and a strong network of influencers whom I have came to know socially in the past several years. All of these have helped tremendously in building who I am today. (DCF: So wonderful when all of the stars align!).

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

AW: I am greatly motivated by the many kick-ass women out there who have hustled and build a brand for themselves like you Morgan (DCF: Awww you motivate me too, I respect your hustle and hard work!). For style inspiration, I get most excited from photos of runway shows, Fashion Week street style, and magazine editorials. My style is not very pedestrian, so I tend to look for over-the-top looks to spike my creative juices (DCF: I don’t think you could be pedestrian if you tried love and that’s what makes you so fabulous!!).

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

AW: Balance is achieving happiness while effectively prioritizing the important things in your life (DCF: Couldn’t have put it better myself!). I admit, this has been a struggle for me and I’m still finding ways to achieve it. With a full time job, raising a family, doing photography and design work on the side, AND managing a blog – everyday it seems like there’s never enough time to do what needs to be done. What has helped me is to rethink my priorities, and understand that it’s okay to not have to do everything.

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

AW: Sleep! There never seems to be enough time for it. And unfortunately for my husband – our “couple time” to catch up in the evening is now replaced with laptops and non-stop screen time. I am working on recuperating on both, and, as mentioned above – finding that balance.

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

AW: Fortunately the fashion industry is very woman-friendly. For my day job, however, I am surrounded by men and the barrier is definitely there. I’ve learned over the years to speak up more – something difficult for me as my culture taught the opposite growing up. Also I learned to stop overthinking and overanalyzing, and just “do”.

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

AW: I should’ve started the blog earlier! (DCF: All good things to those that wait, and it was worth waiting for!!).  Now I look back, life before kids seemed like an eternal vacation and I didn’t even realize it. Finding time to work on the blog now is difficult, however, mentally I am much better equipped to do this now than earlier.

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

AW: Fear of failure is my biggest failure! (DCF: Amen sister, that struggle is so real!). I have pursued many ventures without my full effort because I was afraid it wouldn’t work.  In reality, that alone is what made it not work.  Every pursuit is a learning experience, though – and what I learned is to just own up to what I am good at, and execute! A million great ideas don’t mean a thing without execution.

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DCF: What is your proudest moment?

AW: Being chosen by Washiongtonian as a Style Setter, and DC Modern‘s Women of Style were both great honors (DCF: and well deserved!!). I knew then I had made a little dent in the style scene and was very proud of it. More recently, of course, it would be all the encouragement and compliments I received when Anchyi Adorned went live. I am so grateful of all the support and love from everyone – including you Morgan! (DCF: Totally my pleasure!! Love you and this community and truly enjoy supporting others, especially rock stars like you! That’s why I started this series!!)

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DCF: So what are you doing next?!?

AW: I’m continuing to refine the blog into the go-to destination for the fashionably unique, trend and shopping tips, and abundance of creative inspirations. I have yet to throw the bangin’ launch party it deserves – so that’s definitely coming (DCF: Can’t wait!!) ! I’m also looking forward to collaborating with brands and becoming even more involved with the fashion industry, now legitimately as an influencer.

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DCF: So how can people follow you??

Anchyiadorned.com – please sign up for email updates and follow on Bloglovin‘ in the footer of the website.  I’m @anchyi on Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat and Pinterest. On Facebook you can find me here.  Thanks!!

Posted in Art, Designer, Fashion, TheFunemployed | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

The Funemployed: Alison Carney

DCFunemployment: Tell the people – Who are you?

My name is Alison Carney, my artist name “ace ono.” The way I describe it, essentially, is my vibe is similar to Yoko Ono, but not. I’m my own individual, but one that embraces peace, love, and art in my daily practice. I am a recording artist/songwriter by day, artist liaison/stylist/creative director/producer/magical creature by night and I live by the mantra “art and love only.”

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

AC: To me, being funemployed is finally being in a place where I am doing what I love for a living, and I am actually LIVING. I am coming to a place where I can really begin to enjoy my life and my art because everything I do encourages, sustains and almost forces both.

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DCF: Who was your first cheerleader?

AC: My mom and grandmother hold the tie for that one. But my grandmother loves to sing so she always encourages my artistic side.

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

AC: So many. I don’t know. I think every single experience you have more or less preps you for your “moment.” Like, I wouldn’t be where I am without what happened yesterday…or five years ago. I believe it’s all in preparation.

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

AC: These days, myself. I am one of the beautiful brings in this world that struggles with depression, so the highs and lows that I feel push me. The light at the end of a low recharges me. The knowledge that my story can help others pushes me to keep going, literally. I feel really blessed to be able to heal myself and others with the gifts I’ve been given.

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

AC: Balance is kind of an unfamiliar thing to me, but not in a bad way. I just don’t look for it…or maybe try super hard to find it. Sometimes I am fully drowning in my art and I love it. Sometimes I am utterly drowning in my life. I love that too, but one couldn’t call that “balance” really. I’m just surviving and doing it in a way that feels so beautiful rather then forced. I feel really lucky.

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

AC: Finances, for real. There isn’t as much security in this thing as most would wish. So it gets scary at times…but that’s been my sacrifice. I don’t live an extravagant life, but it’s become a really special journey learning that life can still be amazingly beautiful even with unexpected sacrifices.

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

AC: Exactly that. Being a woman. In MY industry. at times there is a lack of respect, so you have to face it head on or get eaten alive. This industry isn’t for the soft. I am pretty soft, but I’m definitely not sneaking away from the industry simply because often men and even women can be disrespectful and dismissive of your quiet power.

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

AC: “Don’t ever listen to or succumb to others opinions of you.” I didn’t listen. I should have. (DCF: AMEN SISTER AMEN!!)

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

AC: I stopped believing in myself at one point. That was a failure on my part, and I learned that I was ridiculous for ever thinking I didn’t deserve success and happiness doing what I love. Not only do I deserve it, I’ll have it because I won’t ever count myself out or doubt my gifts again.

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DCF: What is your proudest moment?

AC: Proudest moment right now would have to be that I set a goal for a certain number of months of celibacy (for the purpose of refocusing myself and my energy), and I met my goal. During those months I learned how to channel sexual energy in other ways, sharing loving energy from the stage that people can actually feel inside of them. I want people around me to feel loved…wanted…amazing. I’m good at creating those feelings. I’m better now that I value the preciousness of that gift.

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DCF: What’s next?

AC: I have a new project coming out soon called “”i bet you think this song is about you”” and I’m pretty excited about it. I also recently started an artist liaison entity called “”artand❤️only”” because I want to spend some real time and attention making the experience that artists have when they perform stellar.

Lastly, I am getting back into styling and creative directing as it pertains to photography, film, & tv. Just wanting to jump back into some of my other passions.

Find Alison @iamalisoncarney on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

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

The Funemployed: Lorra Rivers

DCFunemployment: Tell the people – Who are you?

My name is Lorra Rivers, owner/creative director of LORRARIVERS, LLC. LORRARIVERS is a fine leather handbag and accessories company. Professionally trained as an interior designer, I received my Bachelors of Science degree in Interior Design with a minor study in Architecture from Howard University in 1987.

I’ve been a practicing interior designer for nearly 30 years and an entrepreneur for 22 years. In 2011, I started down the path of fashion accessories, honing my handbag design skills and business acumen for this industry. I officially launched the brand in 2015 landing a coveted brand feature on the hit FOX drama series, Empire (DCF: Cause they are FIERCE).  The journey continues.

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

LR: Being funemployed means the freedom to express the creative passion within me and make a living at it.

My path to funemployment started when I was 28 years old. I knew that within the residential interior design profession, in order to make substantial earnings, I would have to start my own business. So, after 7 years of experience under my belt, I ventured out on my own and never looked back. It’s been 22 years and counting!

DCF: Who was your first cheerleader?

LR: My absolute first cheerleaders were my parents. They saw my creative potential as a child and nurtured it with creative toys such as pottery wheels (DCF: I used to love throwing pots, so fun!!) and weaving looms. They’ve never wavered in their support of me or my dreams. My Dad is still cheering me on from Heaven and my Mom continues to be my rock.

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

LR: Having been in business for 22 years now, I’m well-seasoned on the amount of sacrifice, patience and perseverance required to sustain a business. With each challenge comes growth. With each circumstance comes wisdom. The obstacles will always be there, but so will the amazing rewards. It’s a daily practice, but staying grounded in faith and knowing that I have something beautiful to contribute to society, keeps me in the game. It’s what gave me the courage to start a new venture at this late stage in my career. (DCF: I wanted to bold this whole paragraph, so true!)

Femme Fatale Collection

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

LR: Inspiration can be very elusive at times. So, I stay constantly connected with my surroundings because I never know what will spark something within. I thoroughly enjoy communing with nature and allowing myself to daydream. Permitting myself to clear my mind of life’s clutter frees me to be more focused, see more abstractly.

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

LR: At this mid-stage of my life, I’ve experienced a lot and I’ve made quite a few sacrifices. What keeps me in balance is God and family. I’m highly driven, and have accomplished many great things in my career. But, I recognize the importance of stepping away from it all every once and awhile. I’m currently in a loving relationship with an amazing man. His support along with my family and friends, keeps me grounded. They keep me sane.

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

LR: Sacrifice has taken the helm since 2008. The economic downturn in 2008 forced me to lay off my designers in order to keep my business alive. It meant having to go back to a one-woman operation. It was such a difficult decision, but a greater sacrifice was looming.

In 2014, I sold my home of 17 years. It was my designer showplace in the city! I worked from there, entertained from there, celebrated amazing milestones from there. But, it was time to let go and I did so reluctantly. I needed the capital that this home (aka investment) would provide me so that I could put this new venture of handbag design/manufacturing on the map. This ultimate sacrifice has opened up so many doors. I just had to let go and let God. (DCF: Sometimes you gotta go out on a limb!)

Jade Hobo

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

LR: In my first career as an interior designer, I initially struggled with gaining respect from my male counterparts. I worked primarily with male contractors, so seeing me as an equal took some work, but they came around. As a minority woman, the constant struggle was having to validate my professional experience. Over time, this became less problematic.

I’m new to the fashion arena, but I know that the primary struggle is establishing brand recognition. Fortunately, I have a history as a designer, so the validation step is much easier to achieve. At this point, my resume of work speaks for itself. (DCF: As it should! Let your work shout your praises!)

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

LR: I don’t know that there was any particular early wisdom imparted to me that I ignored. But, to spin this question, the reason I got into the handbag business almost didn’t happen because of resistance on my part. My design mentor suggested that I pursue this business after viewing my custom pillow sketches. It was my vision to expand my interior design business into furniture and accessories. So, I resisted and supported my resistance with facts about why I wanted to pursue my path. After several irrefutable points from him as to why I should pursue handbag design, I finally conceded. It was the best advice that I almost didn’t take!

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

LR: Not to sound cocky (DCF: Girl go ahead and blow that horn!), but I’ve been very blessed to achieve most things that I put my mind to. I’m a logical thinker/strategist. If I want to pursue something, I assess my current situation, skill level and access to support. If it all aligns, I go for it. If not, I table it for a later time. I’m a controlled risk taker. (DCF: Nothing wrong with calculating your risk!)

DCF: What is your proudest moment?

LR: I would have to say that my proudest moment is happening now. I’m experiencing a series of proud moments as I journey down this new path of handbag designer. I had a successful career as an interior designer with some notoriety, but didn’t get the exposure I felt I deserved. Now, so many doors are opening for me thanks to my amazing team. I’m so proud that I’m finally on the way to making Lorra Rivers a household name!

DCF: What’s next?

LR: Currently, the LORRARIVERS team is gearing up to launch our first Kickstarter campaign (DCF: Which is live now, see above) to raise funds for the fourth bag in the premier Femme Fatale Collection. To date, we’ve placed three handbag designs in the marketplace: Nikita clutch, Raven backpack/satchel and Chantal tote. It’s now time to introduce the Jade hobo. A sample of Jade was produced a year ago and she is appearing to be very popular with her utilitarian, yet modern edgy style. Unlike the other bags in stock, she will be produced in a color other than black for this first run. We’re very excited about getting her to the marketplace!

DCF: So how can people follow you and what you are doing??

Twitter: @lorrarivers1
Facebook: lorrariversbag
Instagram: @lorrarivers
Tumblr: lorrarivers.tumblr.com
Pinterest: lorrarivers
Website: www.lorrarivers.com

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