The Funemployed: Sanura Williams

DCF: Who Are You?
My name is Sanura Williams and I am the owner and founder of My Lit Box, a monthly book subscription box committed to highlighting writers of color. (DCF: Which I subscribe to and love getting every month so join us!!)

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DCF: Why do you love what you do? What makes you funemployment?
SW: I love what I do because I’m a lifelong, avid reader (DCF: Me too, reading is life) and when I’m working on My Lit Box I feel extremely grateful to be able to focus my efforts and energy towards something I’m extremely passionate about.

DCF: Who was your first mentor and how did you find them?
SW: I’ve been fortunate enough to have met amazing women in my lifetime who may not have been mentors but impacted me in ways beyond measure and most of them were teachers and professors I encountered during my academic career. But today my biggest supporters have been my sister and best friends who have been sounding boards and constant encouragement in those moments of self-doubt. (DCF: So important to have trusted advisers that can help you navigate!)

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DCF: What’s your happy place?
SW: My happy place is anywhere that’s quiet with a good book (DCF: because a good book can take you anywhere in the universe!) and Paris, France which is my favorite city. When I find myself in a quiet place with a good book IN Paris, that is heaven on earth!

DCF: Where do you get your energy?
SW: I get my energy from (1) taking the time to myself and recharging. I am a big advocate of self-care and I always make time for it and (2) from witnessing the successes of other Black women. Owning a business can be challenging. You’ll face obstacles that will have you question if you’re doing what you’re supposed to be doing. But then I see a woman just like me making it happen and I clear those obstacles out the way and get back to work. (DCF: You sounds like my soul sister!! I really believe in both of those things as well.  We cannot help others if we do not care for ourselves first and I LOVE seeing other black women win, it reinforces my belief that we can all win!!)

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DCF: What does balance mean to you and how do find it?
SW: Balance to me is the ability to address everything that requires my attention without shortchanging anyone or anything and this is something I’m still working on. But something I’ve found to be key in finding balance is establishing boundaries and not only sticking to them myself but making sure others adhere to them as well. (DCF: Boundaries are so important and I wish we did better about teaching people about creating and respecting them, it would help us ALL.)

DCF: What sacrifices did you have to make to get here?
SW: The biggest sacrifice I’ve had to make is giving up the things that I want to do for the things that I have to do. Passing on an invitation to Sunday brunch in order to design and schedule an email. Skipping an after work happy hour to come home and schedule social media content for the next day. Until I get to the point there I can expand my team, these are responsibilities that fall in my plate that I must tend to and because I believe in my business I will tend to them without a second thought.  (DCF: Been there and it’s tough but it also makes you appreciate the simple things and those times with friends when you do get them). 

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DCF: What struggles have you faced as a women in your industry?
SW: From my experiences so far, I can’t place my finger on any particular struggle I’ve faced within my industry that I would attribute to being a woman.

DCF: What is the early advice you didn’t listen to that you wish you had?
SW: I wish I had taken seriously the importance of a network. I’m an introvert so I shied away from a lot of social interaction well into early adulthood and felt as if I would be okay without fostering relationships with others. As I stepped into the world entrepreneurship I began to realize that I missed out on golden opportunities and in hindsight, I wish I hadn’t used being an introvert as a crutch or an excuse for not establishing meaningful connections with others.

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DCF: What was your greatest failure and what did you learn from it?
SW: This is a tough question to answer as I feel that I have yet to “fail” at something. (DCF: I like to believe the real failures are never trying not the occasional set backs that we all face in life.)

DCF: What was your proudest moment to date?
SW: In all honestly, simply starting my business. It’s not a dollar figure or anything like that. It’s simply doing something I never saw myself doing in a million years. I never thought I’d be Sanura, the entrepreneur so I am very proud of that.

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DCF: What are you Currently Conquering?
SW: As My Lit Box is approaching its one-year anniversary this April, I am very proud of the community we’ve managed to build and I want to keep growing. On the 1st of every month, a new theme is announced and everyone is welcome to join. If you love books, look a surprise in the mail every month, and you have a desire to support writers of color, then My Lit Box is for you!

DCF: Let’s get Social (Media)!!
Website: www.mylitbox.com
Instagram: MyLitBox
Facebook: MyLitBox
Twitter: MyLitBox

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

The Funemployed: Melissa Kullen

DCF: So, Who Are You?
Melissa Kullen, Zengo Cycle, Master Instructor

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DCF: Why do you love what you do? What makes you funemployment?
MK: I love that I make exercise fun – for everyone involved, myself included! I have taught a wide variety of group exercise formats over 23 years in the fitness arena, and Zengo is by far the most FUN! So many people search their entire lives for something they truly love, and then hope they may be fortunate enough to make a living out of it – that’s what I’ve found. Lucky me. (DCF: It’s always such a blessing to do what you love AND make a living off of it! #Goals)

DCF: Who was your first mentor and how did you find them?
MK: Zengo founder, Marc Caputo truly helped me make the transition from “personal trainer” to “motivational coach.” The voice, the passion and purpose with which he first built Zengo Cycle has gifted me the ability to take the workout from a physical to a mental workout. That was a game changer. (DCF: Such a major difference that sounds subtle but powerful!)

DCF: What’s your happy place?
MK: It probably goes without saying that Zengo is my happy place. Or on the rare occasion that we are all home together, there’s no where I’d rather be than lounging at home on the couch with my kids, husband and dog. (DCF: Family gives it all meaning!)

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DCF: Where do you get your energy?
MK: Taking care of my body is a priority, and consistency is key. I have a healthy routine, I eat well, but never deny myself something little to satisfy my sweet tooth. These choices create a lifestyle and fuel the energy that support my craft. From there, simply walking through the door at Zengo gives me energy. Teaching gives me the space and time to recharge. There may or may not be additional hidden batteries tucked inside of me somewhere!

DCF: What does balance mean to you and how do find it?
MK: Balance, for me, means staying present. I live for the day; I can’t worry about the what ifs – because that can bring you down quickly. Of course, balancing the day to day stuff with 3 kids, a husband (my 4th kid) and a job is always challenging in giving enough attention to where it is needed. But again, it’s all about balance. One day, one task, one accomplishment at a time. Allow yourself room to slip, learn and grow.

DCF: What sacrifices did you have to make to get here?
MK: I have had to sacrifice giving time and energy to other interests of mine like refinishing furniture, crafting and sign language interpreting. (DCF: I want to learn sign!! Such a great skill)

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DCF: What struggles have you faced as a women in your industry?
MK: I consider myself fortunate to work in an industry filled with powerful women, so while I haven’t necessarily faced any personal struggles, I’d like to think that I’ve inspired others to believe in themselves and discover strength that has allowed her (or him!) to overcome some of their personal struggles.

DCF: What is the early advice you didn’t listen to that you wish you had?
MK: I wish I had listened to the “be nice to your body” advice early on. I am sure all those years of high impact aerobics, step, and plyometrics will catch up to me at some point. Zengo just feels good – it provides me with a low-impact, yet super challenging exercise format. Oh yes and it’s fun. Did I mention that yet?

DCF: What was your greatest failure and what did you learn from it?
MK: I don’t think of things as “failures” (DCF: Which is exactly why I ask this question!), and don’t typically use that word. Instead, life is all about experiences. You learn. You grow. You evolve. Everyone has a story. My story has moments and events that were big turning points; but I don’t define them as failures. It’s in those moments that you discover true strength. You never know how strong you are until you have to be.

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DCF: What was your proudest moment to date?
MK: I am extremely proud of the woman I am today. Forty-three years old, mother of 3 awesome kids (ages 16, 14 and 5 – yes you read that right!), married for almost 20 years and have a kick ass job. Lucky me. (DCF: Sounds more like awesome design than luck!!)

DCF: Currently Conquering? 
MK: The past few years at Zengo Cycle have consisted of massive expansion projects. We now have five beautiful studios in the DMV area. So now is the time to focus on nurturing our communities and the amazing group of instructors. Our instructor training program is unparalleled, allowing us to provide our clients with an experience unlike any other. Zengo is an experience first, and a workout second. It’s about the connection, the community, the empowerment, and the love that Zengo breeds.

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Let’s Get Social (Media)!!

Website: Zengocycle.com (first class is FREE);

Instagram and Twitter – @zengocycle

Facebook: Zengo Cycle

Locations in Bethesda, Cathedral Commons, Logan Circle, Kentlands and the Mosaic District in NOVA.

 

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The Funemployed Gent: Diego Gonzalez-Zuniga

For Man Crush Monday, we are going to start doing some profiles of dope dudes in DC.  This will still be a girls club for the under represented, we’ll just mix in some men from time to time.  Except in March, cause that’s ours.

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DCFunemployment: So… Who Are You?
You can find Diego Gonzalez-Zuniga at the intersection of fashion and community – an accomplished retail professional turned neighborhood advocate and marketer, he spends what free time he has left documenting his (very stylish) love affair with the place he has called home for the past 5 years – Washington D.C.

His blog, Diego Downtown, launched earlier this year to fill what Diego thought was a void in the market – a place for men to find fashion and lifestyle inspiration that felt like the eclectic, curated and homegrown creative community that he lived in. Dedicated to spotlighting local boutiques and makers alongside national brands, Diego’s point of view is always about a sense of discovery and how people truly like to shop – high and low, at the mall and on Main Street. His hope is that one day D.C. will be known not only as a city with government and political influence, but also as one of notable style as well.

Named as one of the “Best Instagram Accounts to Follow” by Washingtonian magazine in 2016, Diego has also recently been featured by Complex Magazine, DC Refined, Made In The District and Fashionista Street Style. He is also regular contributor on several local television networks as a local style expert and is an active member of the DC chapter of The Fashion Group International, where he works to advocate for local brands, makers, and emerging designers.  Most recently named a Top 40 under 40 in the DMV by Washington Life Magazine.

DCF: Why do you love what you do? What makes you funemployed?
DGZ: I’ve always had a strong interest in fashion and menswear. It started in high school working as a brand representative for a large trendy teen retailer and I eventually found myself working for several different iconic retail brands post-college. I was lucky enough to move up to the Washington, DC area with one of those brands when I took over as director of one of their stores in Bethesda, MD at Westfield Montgomery Mall.

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DCF: Who was your first mentor and how did you find them?
DGZ: I wouldn’t necessarily say I had one specific mentor. My parents are my biggest fans and I’ve always been very independent as I was lucky enough to have a strong network of friends that supported and encouraged me throughout my professional career which eventually led me to launching my menswear and lifestyle blog a year ago.

DCF: What experiences in your life prepared you for where you are now?
DGZ: I really think it has a lot to do with the people and culture you surround yourself with. They really help influence and shape the person you are or hope to become. The one key piece of advice I always share with anyone I meet is, work on what your passionate about and the rest will come. You will never achieve the best version of yourself doing something you don’t love or aren’t passionate about.

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DCF: Where do you get your energy?
DGZ: Lots and lots of coffee! I’m a huge night owl and find myself getting lost in my work sometimes. I get so caught up working on a blog post, writing e-mails or typing up a proposal that time sort of stands still when I’m not keeping close track of it. (DCF: As I edit this in the wee hours, I know exactly what you mean!). Time will only work against you if you let it.

DCF: What does balance mean to you and how do find balance?
DGZ: This is honestly something I’m currently trying to work on the most right now. Maintaining a full-time job, a blog, and a personal life is not an easy task. My calendar is how I’m able to keep track of commitments, but also allows me to allocate time for my personal life. Having a personal life is very important. (DCF: Starting to realize I need to schedule my personal time lol!).  I always remind myself that I wouldn’t be where I am today without the help of the people closest to me.

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DCF: A meeting is cancelled and you now have an hour free, how do you spend it?
DGZ: I’ll usually pop into the La Colombe across the street or stumble upstairs to the WeWork to keep working away. Sometimes I’ll stop in to visit some of my favorite local boutiques that carry some of my favorite menswear items such as Federal DC, Redeem, and Whiskey Ginger too.

DCF: What struggles did you overcame to get where you are today?
DGZ: My biggest struggle was actually pushing my blog live. (DCF: YASSSSSS, the struggle is real!).  I got so caught up in the overall design, look, and feel, that I found myself hanging on to the small little details when I should’ve just launched and tweaked and edited as I went. I’ll always remind myself to take a step back and take a look at the bigger picture when working on a project. Don’t get so bogged down by the details that you forget that life is a learning experience and an experiment.

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DCF: What is the early advice you didn’t listen to that you wish you had?
DGZ: Rome wasn’t built in day and success doesn’t come overnight. In today’s digital and real world, you only see the finished product and not the story about how it got there and it’s conception. I love reading and learning about how different projects come to life. It’s the piece that interests me the most. But, again, products and experience take time to grow and aren’t necessarily going to be a success overnight. Be patient. Be persistent. Success will come.

DCF: What was your greatest failure and what did you learn from it?
DGZ: My biggest failure is also my biggest weakness. I’m a “YES” man. In the middle of last year, I found myself saying “yes” to too projects and collaborations and in turn, my personal life suffered. I had to eventually learn and remind myself that it’s ok to say “No”. Your sanity isn’t worth compromising. It affects your creativity, energy, and motivation. It’s all about maintaining a healthy balance and learning to not say “yes” to every opportunity or request.

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DCF: What was your proudest moment to date?
DGZ: Recently, I think my proudest moment was being featured on the #202Creates “We, the Creatives” website. It’s truly an honor to be recognized as a creative in the DC community. The District is such an amazing city with strong creative & cultural story to tell. I love living in a city where there are so many different kinds of storytellers sharing stories of success and struggles. It’s a close-knit community that grows stronger each day.

DCF: What are you Currently Conquering?
DGZ: There have been so many talented photographers that have reached out to me lately and I want the opportunity to work with all of them. To my previous point, the District is full of creative talent which includes photographers. In the coming months, I’m looking forward to launching a YouTube channel and hope to switch over from static content on my website to content that my followers can engage in! I’ll be hosting “live” video chats, Q&A’s, and other great ways to engage with my followers. I wouldn’t be where I am today without them.

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DCF: Let’s Get Social (Media)!!

Website: http://www.diegodowntown.com

Facebook: Diego Downtown

Twitter/Instagram: @diegodowntown

Snapchat: diego_downtown

Tumblr: Diego Downtown

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

The Funemployed: Claudia Diamante & Andréa Vieira

DCFunemployment: So Who Are You?

Claudia Diamante, nailsaloon, co-founder
CD: I am an optimistic and self-motivated person who wants, essentially, two things in life: to continually challenge myself to be a better version of me, and to have a balanced life close to family and friends. I began my corporate career in Argentina, where I grew up, and eventually moved to the U.S. to get my master’s degree, after which I continued down the corporate path. But I was always intrigued by the idea of having my own business. Prior to nailsaloon, I started a line of leather handbags, but that didn’t turn into a long-term project. The combination of the right timing and identifying an exciting niche, gave Andréa and me the push we needed to act on our entrepreneurial spirit and create the nailsaloon!

Andréa Vieira, nailsaloon, co-founder
AV: I am driven by joy, really. Joy in spending quality time with friends and family, joy in pursuing life’s passions, joy in connecting with the world, joy in the small things… and every once in a while, the really big ones. I am from Brazil, but grew up bopping around nine cities (in four countries) before finally realizing that DC is my home. I chose journalism as my profession, probably because it aligns with what ultimately moves me: getting to know others, hearing their stories and sharing unique life experiences. After 20 years working in broadcast journalism and TV production, I embarked on this adventure with Claudia. It’s funny to realize now that it wasn’t all that big a pivot. As it turns out, owning a business heightens all your senses, experiences and connections. For better or worse!

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DCF: Why do you love what you do? What makes you funemployment?

Funemployment results from having the freedom to decide our own destiny. We love that we can…
Claudia: It means the freedom to decide our own destiny. It means we can choose the path we want for our business, in both growth and impact, whether it’s impact on our team, our clients or our brand. Equally importantly, being funemployed is having more control of our schedule and being one step closer to achieving the balance we so seek.
The path to funemployment happened when we decided we’d work for ourselves. Making the decision and taking that first step – essentially, committing to executing it – was one of the hardest points in the journey. It’s when you assess risk, weigh options and choose to dive. After that, it’s sticking to the task and honoring one of the reasons you did it in the first place: to have greater balance between your available time and your desired quality of life.

DCF: Who was your first mentor and how did you find them?

Andrea: Owning a business takes a village, that’s for sure! But I think we’re both very lucky to have had such supportive friends and family, cheering us on along the way. I, for one, know I could not have done it without my parents, my dear friends, our team and even our very first clients, many of whom are still regulars and who have become a part of our urban family. Our managers are simply put, spectacular. They care about the nailsaloon like it’s their own. Our team is the best in town – in talent, in disposition, in personality. We joke that we’re only “mean” at the nailsaloon about how nice everyone has to be. [Laughs.] “Nice” is part of our brand. We want the nailsaloon to be a place that’s inviting, warm, and friendly and frankly, it’s because we’ve been on the receiving end of that from so many loved ones throughout our lives.

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DCF: What’s your happy place?

Andrea: I think my happy place is around a table with friends or family. Nothing makes me happier in life than sharing a long meal with the people I love, and spending hours – literally hours – after, over coffee, talking about anything and everything.

Claudia: Both Brazilians and Argentines love to turn meals into these very lengthy affairs, where people sit around the table after they are done eating, and drink tea and coffee while they talk non-stop for hours. In Spanish, we even have a name for it. It’s called “hacer sobremesa” which can be translated loosely into “have the post-meal.” The post-meal is where you really just relax into the moment after eating and just hang out. But it can, no joke, go for hours. (DCF: We could use more of this around the world!)

DCF: Where do you get your energy?

Claudia: Seeing the vision we had for our company come to life, and witnessing our brand gradually become a strong part of the DC landscape is more rewarding than we can describe. My daughter inspires me to be a better person, a better mom, and to leave a legacy of impacting others in a positive way. My husband inspires me to bring about change one step at a time. And Andréa is a strong source of inspiration and positive energy, especially when things don’t go as planned. We joke that in times of despair, we have to take turns to cheer each other up. We’ve been lucky that when one of us is down, the other is usually up enough to carry the weight for both of us. [Laughs.]

Andrea: It’s true. [Laughs.] Claudia and I are mega-complementary in that we are different, but have a very solid sense of how to find the middle ground, and even more than that, do it laughing. Claudia helps me see things from new perspectives, and pushes me to be a better person. I’ve learned a lot from her and I’m so grateful that we can still have a good time together, whether we’re reviewing spreadsheets, or kicking back as friends, over a glass of wine, after having put a moratorium on work talk. I also want to mention something that has been an unexpected source of inspiration. We wanted to open up the cleanest, freshest and friendliest nail salon in the city. But we didn’t realize we were building, in some ways, an oasis for people, that third space that’s not home or work where everyone can experience something unique. We are shown every single week that people come see us because they love the feeling they get when they’re at the nailsaloon. And honoring that feeling is a tremendous source of motivation and what keeps us on our toes, more than anything else. (DCF: What a beautiful thing you have built, it must be incredible to hold that space for people).

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

Claudia: For me, balance means being grounded and having harmony in everything I do. It means that I devote my time to being a better version of myself and it also means spending quality time with those I love. I also meditate, exercise and try not to take things too seriously.

Andrea: I think balance is a daily exercise. I have a dear friend who, instead of doing new years’ resolutions, picks a word that she uses to frame her entire year. I often join her and this year I chose “presence.” In a way, it’s mindfulness, with an added burst of energy… because it’s about staying in the moment, but also, showing up for life in a bigger way. For me, that’s been a personal challenge, but I am determined to staying present so I can have more balance this year. (DCF: I love that idea, picking a focus word is a wonderful way to shape your year!)

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

Claudia: Opening the nailsaloon was not easy. Our operation is larger than we expected, more complex than we imagined and we had tons of hiccups along the way, as most business owners do when they’re opening their first store. The challenges are constant, and the sacrifices are many: time, resources, vacation, sleep. [Laughs.] In the first year, it’s a lot of trial and error in an unknown territory. After you pass that first year, you have a good sense of the terrain. But you never let up.

Andrea: Yeah. There’s no such thing as “the business manages itself.” That’s a bit of a myth. Now, we didn’t think we were going to get a free lunch…but that’s probably a good thing, because there is no free lunch to be had, that’s for sure. [Laughs.] (DCF: Nothing runs without fuel and maintenance so yeah that’s a total myth!)

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

Andrea: It’s interesting. I used to avoid certain labels. Yes, I’m a woman, Latin American, and I’m an immigrant but I never wanted to believe any of it would prevent me from having an equal seat at the table. This experience, however, has showed me first-hand that women still have to face a lot of things men don’t. I can’t tell you how many times mansplaining comes into play in our world. Even from male friends who, mind you, are not business owners, randomly giving us advice on how to run our business. When we never asked. Once in an important meeting, while one man was disagreeing with us but being really condescending, I had to interrupt him and say: “Please treat me like I’m one of your male colleagues, not like I’m a little girl at the schoolyard.” No joke. And he got it right away. I still can’t believe I ever had to say that. (DCF: Unfortunately I’m learning sometimes you have to teach people how to treat you and it sounds like you took him to school!)

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

Claudia: One piece of advice that has stuck with me is “Always follow your heart….when there’s doubt, there’s no doubt.

Andrea: It’s true. She’s said that for a very long time. Even when we were roommates, in our 20s. It’s solid advice.

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DCF: What was your greatest failure and what did you learn from it?
Andrea: I have worked in quite a few places and, naturally, every job has had its good and bad. But the last job I had before coming back to DC to open the nailsaloon was, in particular, really tough. I had amazing colleagues, but worked for an organization that left me quite faithless. From the outside, it was a cushy, glitzy, sexy job. From the inside, the place was making me pretty miserable. I failed fast…and knew that accepting that reality and leaving was going to be the quickest way to find my joy. I’ve never looked back.
Claudia: Yeah, we’re big believers in accepting sunk costs. If it doesn’t work, recognize it, stop pouring resources into it and go in a new direction.

DCF: What was your proudest moment to date?
Claudia: When we got our first checks from the nailsaloon! It proved that our idea had officially materialized into a working business, and that the future we envisioned was closer than we thought!

Andrea: Yeah, that was pretty great. I’d also add when Yelp flew us to go to San Francisco for a conference with 99 other business owners, from companies all over the U.S. that they deemed “model.” That was really validating. And humbling. And all-around fantastic.

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DCF: What are you Currently Conquering?

Claudia: We are so happy to have just launched our brand new polish line, called “O by nailsaloon.” Our polishes are 5-free, cruelty-free and vegan, and we are so excited by our formula – it took us more than a year to get it just right. The coolest part though, is that all our colors were carefully curated, then named after our wonderful team. We had a party last summer and each colleague got to pick the color that would have their name. You can see some pictures by following us on Instagram (@thenailasaloon) and liking us on Facebook. (/thenailsaloon) Or, by coming in for a mani-pedi.

Let’s Get Social (Media)!!
Instagram: @thenailsaloon
Facebook: /thenailsaloon
Twitter: @thenailsaloon

Thanks for reading!! This week we partnered with nailsaloon to offer a fun thank you for checking them out this week.  To enter to win, comment below with what you love most about the nailsaloon – either from a visit or from their interview, follow the nailsaloon and follow DCFunemployment.  For extra entries – share on twitter, facebook or instagram with #nailsaloonOnDCF.  Winners will be randomly selected for a manicure at the nailsaloon!!

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Posted in Art, Artist, Beauty, bestofDC, GirlBoss, GirlPower, TheFunemployed | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

The Funemployed: Joi-Marie McKenzie

DCF: Who Are You?

My name is Joi-Marie McKenzie and I’m the Entertainment/Lifestyle writer for ABC News. I’m also a brand new author — my debut memoir, “The Engagement Game,” hit bookshelves recently (DCF: WHOOOOO!!). It tells the story of why I ultimately walked away from a relationship after playing tons of games to secure a marriage proposal. People say it’s hilarious and I believe them.

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DCF: Why do you love what you do? What makes you funemployment?

JM:  I’ve always been a writer. I’ve kept a diary since I was eight years old so to say that I love writing would be a severe understatement. My love of writing led me to start my own blog, DC Fab!, which became an instant success in Washington, D.C. We’re actually celebrating our 10 year anniversary, which is crazy to even say. Thankfully, that blog eventually led to my job at ABC News and later my book deal. I’m funemployed because — and I probably shouldn’t say this on the record — but I would do my job for free if I had to (DCF: Shhhhh girl don’t tell em!! But I know exactly what you mean!!). I get to interview celebrities and go to velvet rope events and parties and then write about it! It doesn’t get any better than that.

DCF: Who was your first mentor and how did you find them?

JM: It sounds cliché to say but it was my mother, Vashti McKenzie (DCF: Mom’s can be the greatest!!). She has said since I was a teenager — when she found a short story I had written — that I had two or three books inside of me. So she encouraged me very early on to pursue writing as a serious career option. When I initially graduated from the University of Maryland, College Park I didn’t go into journalism. I didn’t even want to go into journalism. My mom was a journalist, my grandmother was a journalist. My great-grandfather was a newspaper publisher. I really dreaded being predictable and going into the “family business.” But as my mother likes to say, “Your gifts make room for you.” So eventually, my starting a blog led me to journalism. There was no escaping it (DCF: Sometimes it’s in your blood, as I found out more about my middle namesake, Charlotta Spears Bass, and her passions, including journalism, my journey made so much more sense).

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DCF: What’s your happy place?

JM: Because I live in New York City now, I sort of have to create little happy places all over town. My bedroom is happy place number one (DCF: As it should be, your home should be your sanctuary!); I value sleep a lot and I’m not one of those people who can pull all nighters. I also created a happy place in my neighborhood coffee shop, Lenox Coffee. And my new facial go-to, Heyday Spa. I sound like such a cliché!

DCF:  Where do you get your energy?

JM: As you likely can tell, I place high value on treating myself all of the time whether it’s a facial, ordering that glass of expensive champagne, taking a long walk in the park with my miniature dachshund or splurging on a pricy manicure. Now, I don’t do that all of the time but I think we as women are taught to prioritize everything else in our lives before ourselves. (DCF: I had to hit that with the bold, underline, AND italics! We need to treat ourselves, love ourselves, and put ourselves first because we cannot help others if we don’t have our stuff right!). I reject that idea. Oh! And I read a lot…a whole lot. I probably read two to three books a month (DCF: YASSSSS MORE OF THIS!! People do not read anymore). I love memoirs particularly because you can uncover how people think. This is super important for me since I live in New York, where people rarely have in-depth conversations; they’d rather be polite. So books allow me to drill down deeper.

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

JM: Balance? Where are you balance? I’m looking for it! Balance is that sweet spot between doing what you have to do and doing what you want to do.  Right now, I’m not doing so well balancing because of my career. I still make time to prioritize my relationships, but it is a daily power struggle.

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

JM: The biggest sacrifice is quality time with friends and family. I often have to cover an event or a screening in the evenings, and a friend may want to get up for drinks or something and I just can’t. I try to circumvent that by inviting friends to come along, when possible. (DCF: The plus one is such a blessing and a curse, I love being able to take friends along but I have having to pick and choose.)

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

JM: The great thing about journalism and publishing is that women are the majority. Even better still, my editor and managing editor are women and so they have a certain perspective that is beneficial to me. Still, there are, sort of, cracked glass ceilings that still exist. I’d love to see more women, especially women of color, on our board and in the higher rungs of management.  If I’m being honest, though, I’m always mistaken for having less experience than I do. I tend to use people’s lowered assumptions about me to my advantage; they never see me coming!

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

JM: Learn how to ask for help. Women, we feel we can do it all and because we’re not used to asking for help, it’s super hard to do. This is especially true for black women. We’re sort of taught the trope that black women are strong and if you can’t handle it all you sort of think, “What’s wrong with me?” Everyone else is out here being a strong black woman — Beyonce! Michelle Obama! Oprah — and I can’t deal. But in this process of releasing a book, I’ve had to learn to get over being afraid of asking for help. I need all of the help all of the time! And so I wish I had been smart enough to lean on a few people from the gate.

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

JM: I write about what I perceived to be my greatest failure in my memoir, The Engagement Game. At the time, I had been in a five year relationship with a man I just knew I’d marry — and it didn’t happen. And because I saw myself through his lens for so long, without him just didn’t make sense. Thankfully, that break up led me to writing about that break up, which led to this book deal…do you see where I’m going with this? The break up was the best thing that’s ever happened to me. Not only did it propel my writing career but it also freed me from a lot of childhood and patriarchal assumptions that I was putting on myself. That break up allowed me to discover who Joi-Marie really is, without trying to shape shift and gain approval from men.

DCF:  What was your proudest moment to date?

JM: My proudest moment was securing my book deal. This was a childhood dream of mine and I before I got my book deal I had been trying to write a book for 10 years; I just didn’t have a story to tell. So when I finally got the call that my publisher wanted to release my book (mind you, this is only after I submitted 50 pages!) I was ecstatic. I’ve never had dreams come true like this. Now I feel that anything is possible…with God’s help.

 

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DCF: What are you Currently Conquering?

JM: My debut memoir, The Engagement Game: Why I Said ‘I Don’t’ to Marriage and ‘I Do’ to Me is out now. Please pick it up for yourself, or your girlfriend, or your bridesmaids!

Join the Fab Empire as they celebrate the debut memoir of The Fab Empire creator Joi-Marie McKenzie on Tuesday, March 28 inside Busboys and Poets (2021 14th Street NW) on U Street. It’s called The Engagement Game! The evening, hosted by famed bookstore Politics and Prose, will be moderated by Emmy Award-winning reporter and anchor of “Good Morning Washington” Jummy Olabanji. – More detail here.

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DCF: Let’s Get Social (Media)!!

Twitter: @DCFab
Facebook: JoiMarieMcKenzie
Instagram: @DCFab
Website: JoiMarie.com

Posted in Bloggers, DC, Founder, GirlBoss, TheFunemployed, Washington, Washington DC, Women, Writer | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

The Funemployed: Amanda Nelson

DCF: Who Are You?
Amanda Nelson, owner of Whistle & Wild – an online clothing boutique!

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DCF: Why do you love what you do? What makes you funemployment?
AN: Multiple reasons, the biggest being the creative process and flow that I can achieve from working for myself. It’s challenging but rewarding and I wouldn’t have it any other way. (DCF: Nothing better than being boss!)

DCF: Who was your first mentor and how did you find them?
AN: My many bosses within retail management, always pushing me to meet goals or hire great people. But most importantly my husband, who pushed me to start Whistle & Wild. If it wasn’t for my support system at home (including my parents and other family) I wouldn’t have quit my job and taken that leap. (DCF: It pays to surround yourself with people that see your vision!)  

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DCF: What’s your happy place?
AN: A bottle of wine, good music, nature, and shared laughs with friends. All accompanied with good food (I’m such a foodie it’s ridiculous) … the more cheese the better 🙂 (DCF: I’m a Whole 30 girl & my only struggle is quitting the cheese… it’s always soooo good!)

DCF:  Where do you get your energy?
AN: A full night of sleep, some restorative yoga, and a strong cup of coffee. (DCF: Yoga keeps me sane!!)

DCF:  What does balance mean to you and how do find it?
AN: Being able to multitask without sacrificing your personal wellness. I’ve worn myself way to thin before and it’s just not healthy. I try to find that hustle and that relaxation everyday. (DCF: Sprint and then rest, it’s a daily struggle.)

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DCF:  What sacrifices did you have to make to get here?
AN: Starting a business isn’t easy especially when you’re not made of money. So I had to sacrifice going out a lot, and financially it was tough at the beginning. Saying no to events, when you’re a social butterfly is hard! (DCF: Tell me about it girl!!) But with sacrifice comes great successes I just know that.

DCF:  What struggles have you faced as a women in your industry?
AN: As a new boutique owner, I have been extremely blessed to have had the support that I have in the local community. Everyone rally’s behind me and it means not having to second guess myself. It means being that much more confident as a women entrepreneur. It means so incredibly much. I haven’t come across any major hard times yet being a female owner, not to say that I won’t one day. But it just makes it easier to have the strong women community here in DC. (DCF: I LOVE the DC creative community, there are so many wonderful people in the area, especially women!!)

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DCF:  What is the early advice you didn’t listen to that you wish you had?
AN: Patience. I’m SUCH an impatient person. I try to practice it everyday but it’s easier said than done… if anyone has pointers I’ll gladly take them! (DCF: Ditto…)

DCF:  What was your greatest failure and what did you learn from it?
AN: Not one comes to mind- I’m sure there were multiple occasions were I fell flat on my face. But throughout all of my failures I’ve drawn strength from the strong as hell women in my family. Never stop grinding, hustling and don’t take no for an answer. I live by those quotes.

DCF:  What was your proudest moment to date?
AN: Since the launch in September- we’ve been published in two magazines and we were just on TV in February! I am so proud of my efforts to network and hustle. More to come 😉

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DCF: What are you Currently Conquering:
AN: Growing the line, adding more diversity within our models. Skin colors, sizes, it’s all about personality. I want that to really show through on the brand.

DCF: Let’s Get Social (Media)!!
Insta: @whistle_wild
Facebook: whistle & wild
Website: www.whistleandwild.com
Email: contact@whistleandwild.com

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The Funemployed: Kelly Ferenc

DCFunemployment: Who Are You?
Kelly Ferenc, Bishop Boutique, Small Business Owner & Mama of Four & Wife & Master of Chaos & Drinker of Straight Up Martinis & Lover of all Things Fun & Eternal Optimist with a Splash of Realism.

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DCF: Why do you love what you do? What makes you funemployment?
KF: Every single day, I get to live my dream come true. I get to be the ultimate girls girl. Not everyone gets to help women prepare for their first interview, a magical anniversary or a trip they have planned and saved for for over a year. I hear my customers ups and downs, their struggles and successes — Bishop has become a place of friendship, shopping and fun. I understand the luck plus all the hard work that I have put into my shop to allow myself this life treasure. It is never lost on me — not everyone is this lucky.

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DCF:  Who was your first mentor and how did you find them?
KF: My parents, the hubs and my family have been my backbone throughout this adventure. They are just beyond. Also, my bishop girls. They allow me to manage the shop and my children all at once. They are unbelievable. (DCF: Good support is soooo important!! You have some awesome shop girls!)

DCF: What’s your happy place?
KF: Anywhere with my children. (DCF: I could stare at little baby faces for hours so I can only imagine what it’s like when you made them!)

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DCF: Where do you get your energy?
KF: Coffee.

DCF: What does balance mean to you and how do find it?
KF: No such thing. (DCF: You must be doing something right cause you seem to juggle all the things!! I’m sure there are many moments we don’t see and we know no one is perfect so keep rocking!) 

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DCF: What sacrifices did you have to make to get here?
KF:  To own a small business means everything falls on you. I have given up so many fun weekend getaways, family events, and holidays. As disappointing as that can be, to have a successful business is very validating. (DCF: You are a champion!!)

DCF: What struggles have you faced as a women in your industry?
KF: As a mom, it is very difficult to find a balance between work and owning a business.

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DCF: What is the early advice you didn’t listen to that you wish you had?
KF:  Always trust your gut. Always. (DCF: That is sooo important, I try to listen to my gut on everything!)

DCF: What was your greatest failure and what did you learn from it?
KF: My greatest failure came from not trusting my gut. Always trust your gut.

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DCF: What was your proudest moment to date?
KF: Bishop’s five year anniversary! (DCF: So proud of you for making it to 5 years!)

Currently Conquering:
Bishop Boutique Baby Bet (Times 2) – Enter to win $1000!!! $1 per entry

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What’s Your Social Media!!
www.bishopboutique.com
facebook: bishopboutique
Instagram: bishopboutique
twitter: bishopboutique
snapchat: bishopboutique

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Posted in Business, Entrepreneur, Fashion, FashionShow, Founder, GirlBoss, TheFunemployed, Women | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

The Funemployed: Angela Luna

DCF: So… Who Are You?
Angela Luna, ADIFF, Founder & CEO
Angela Luna is the Founder and CEO of ADIFF. She is a member of the Forbes 30 Under 30 Class of 2017, winner of Parsons‘ 2016 Designer of the Year Award, and winner of the Eyes on Talents Innovation Award. She is a solution-based designer, committed to creating products and services to better the world.

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DCF: Why do you love what you do? What makes you funemployment?
AL: This might sound ridiculous, but I love problem solving (DCF: That’s not ridiculous, that’s awesome!), and that is all I do with ADIFF. Finding ways to use design to help others is incredibly important to me, so I absolutely love what I’m doing.

DCF: Who was your first mentor and how did you find them?
AL: Yvonne Watson, the Associate Dean of Fashion at Parsons. She was my senior thesis professor and actually put me through hell while I was working on my project, but she knew I could take it. From the beginning, she gave me the tough love I needed to succeed and has continued to be a guiding mentor ever since. (DCF: All my favorite teachers were the ones who got me and pushed me).

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DCF: What’s your happy place?
AL: I’ve been doing a lot of headspace lately, so I find that with concentrated meditation, my happy place can be anywhere! Even on a crowded subway. (DCF: Yes, I wish everyone could understand and appreciate the power of meditation).

DCF: Where do you get your energy?
AL: I get my energy from connection with my end users. It doesn’t happen every day, so when I get the opportunity it is always monumental. Before I had visited refugee camps in Greece, I was feeling very disheartened about everything wasn’t sure if I should keep pushing on with the startup. But then I met the people I was designing for, the people I was fighting for, and I knew I had to keep going. These people gave me the strength to keep pushing – because it’s not for me, it’s for them. This whole brand isn’t about me, it’s about them. (DCF: When you have a mission, work shifts to purpose and it makes getting it all done a little easier and a lot more meaningful!)

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DCF: What does balance mean to you and how do find it?
AL: I feel like I am still trying to find balance. I’m a very “all or nothing” person, so when I set my heart to my something, I’m all in. Balance is all about proper time management, which I am normally very good at! But I’m horrible about prioritizing my work over my personal life. (DCF: That’s a struggle I think we can all relate to).

DCF: What sacrifices did you have to make to get here?
AL: I gave up most of my nights, weekends, social life, (and surprisingly) physical fitness to get here. It’s hard to fit in hanging out with friends or going to the gym when you’re working 14 hours a day. I definitely need to take my own advice about balance! (DCF: We’re often better about giving advice than taking it).

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DCF: What struggles have you faced as a women in your industry?
AL: I have had meetings where I felt like my ideas were being undermined because I am not only a woman, but a 22-year-old woman. But that’s how you know that you shouldn’t work with someone. I take these struggles as lessons in character.

DCF: What is the early advice you didn’t listen to that you wish you had?
AL: “Go with your gut.” (DCF: BEST ADVICE). I’ve worked with some people who when I first met them, they seemed aloof or unreliable. My mind said that I would be okay, and the pros outweighed the cons for working with this person. But my gut thought it wasn’t. And it turns out, my gut was right! I ended up wasting so much time and energy on these people. First impressions are usually right, and actions always speak louder than words.

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DCF: What was your greatest failure and what did you learn from it?
AL: I have had a lot of failures or disappointments where I was so upset something didn’t go well or happen. But then in a few days, or months, or years, something even better comes out of it. My overall lesson from all of my failures has just been to keep going, because everything will work out in the end.

DCF: What was your proudest moment to date?
AL: It’s definitely a tie between winning the Parsons Designer of the Year Award, and being on the Forbes 30 Under 30 list. When I was 10 and first learned about Parsons, I told myself that I wanted to be the designer of the year when I graduated. (DCF: Visualization is a powerful tool. In the back of your mind you have always been working towards this and you did it!!) During my time there, I laughed at my childish idea that I could ever win the award. But I did.

Making the Forbes list was also a fantastic surprise. It was amazing to be recognized as someone who is actually creating worthwhile change within the fashion industry.

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DCF: What are you Currently Conquering?
AL: Right now, we’re working on getting an investment so we can start releasing some new products. We have received close to 1500 online order requests for our tent jacket, which isn’t even available for purchase yet. We’re working on getting things together with an investor so we can produce and start making these sales.

Let’s Get Social (Media)!!

www.adiff.com

FB: @adiffstartup

Insta: @adiffbrand

Twitter: @adiffbrand

Kickstarter: ADiff

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The Funemployed: Karen Bate

DCF: Who Are You? Why do you love what you do? What makes you funemployment?

Karen Bate, Founder and President of KB Concepts P.R.

With more than 25 years experience in nonprofit and corporate communications, Karen Bate, Founder and President of KB Concepts P.R., rebrands companies and nonprofits; positions organizations to achieve their public policy and fundraising objectives; manages the design and use of websites, publications and videos; garners key media placements; and harnesses the variety of social media tools to tell her clients’ stories and inspire others to support them. Karen is also Founder and Chief Inspiration Officer for Awesome Women Entrepreneurs (AWE), a networking group supporting women business owners with more than 100 members in Arlington, VA, and new chapters forming throughout the Washington, DC region. She co-hosts a weekly radio interview show, Awesome Women Entrepreneurs (AWE), at wera.fm.

Karen served on the board of the Arlington Food Assistance Center (AFAC) for six years, and continues as a member of the Development Committee. She also serves on the Board of Advisors for Amman Imman: Water is Life. KB Concepts won an Arlington Chamber of Commerce Best Business Award in 2012, and Karen is a proud graduate of Leadership Arlington, Class of 2010.

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Posted in AWE, Entrepreneur, Event, GirlBoss, GirlPower, TheFunemployed | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Funemployed: Astra Armstrong

DCF: Who are you?!

Astra Armstrong, Creator of STAND TALL AND RISE, an outreach center for children who have incarcerated parents.

Sophomore Business Management Major. Astra plans to open a performance theater for unaccompanied youth and children who have parents that are incarcerated. In March 2013, Astra had the chance to perform her own work alongside the late Maya Angelou, who was reciting her poem Still I Rise. After the performance, Astra lives by three words: “pride, determination, resilience”. Astra now teaches school aged children, at the YMCA, the importance of performing arts. In her free time she volunteers at the city of Norfolk Juvenile Detention Center. She looks forward to a bright future and hopes to become a motivational speaker so she can encourage other young people with similar circumstances.  She wants others to aspire and achieve more than what surrounds them to overcoming drugs, homelessness, neglect, poverty, and much more. She has won numerous awards for performances throughout the DC area for her phenomenal outreach within her community and her passion for the arts. She plans to study abroad in South Africa this May 2017 where she will teach underprivileged children the history of the arts as well as complete a community service based project. Astra embodies all these and more as a writer, a performer, and a dreamer. (DCF: I knew we all needed some hope so I am so proud to present the future!!)

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DCF: Why do you love what you do? What makes you funemployment?

AA: I love to promote outreach and motivation through the arts by having different events. I enjoy doing these things because I believe that if I can change one life than I know my job as well as my purpose in life has been accomplished.

DCF: Who was your first mentor and how did you find them?

AA:  My first mentor was my 9th grade high school teacher Davie Yarbrough.  I found her becoming my mentor (DCF: yeah she grows on you and for those that do not know, Davie is my homegirl!!) because I was one of those children who really didn’t believe in myself.  She pushed me to become a better writer and to change the way I carry myself as a young lady.

DCF: What’s your happy place?

AA:  My happy places comes from giving back to my community and seeing smiles on other people’s faces. It brings me to tears when people tell me how much of an inspiration I am.

DCF: Where do you get your energy?

AA:  I get my energy from listening to gospel music. The motivation in gospel keeps me happy. (DCF: Won’t he do it!!) 

 

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

AA:  I use 3 planners one for school , one for work and one for extra activities. (DCF: Way to be ahead of the game, I fought the planner for years, now I can’t live without it!)

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

AA: A sacrifice that I had to make was when during my freshman year of college, I wanted to transfer schools but I didn’t want my credits and other things to get messed up so I stayed at NSU.  Instead of leaving, I started to have events and things to make the school the way I wanted it and give it more of a performance arts feel. (DCF: Sometimes we have to make our own homes.)

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

AA: Learning how to start a successful business and still get paid doing what I love to do. (DCF: Girl I am JUST getting this one!)

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

AA:  The death of my mom was the hugest failure because she was all I really had. I never aspired to be a mom but sometimes I felt I was more of a mother than she was to me. Once she had passed, I knew that I had to get my life together and go down the right path or else I would become another statistic. (DCF: I’m so proud of you and the path you have chosen but please always remember, You are NEVER just a statistic, not matter what you chose to do in life or what happens next, you are a wonderful person who has a beautiful purpose, don’t ever let anyone put you in a box!!)

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DCF: What was your proudest moment to date?

AA:  My proudest moment is to be producing and directing an original one act play called Super Predator: this play is about the mass incarceration system. How Hillary Clinton once identified us as that. The term means black, broke, fatherless. So the story is centered around 4 inmates who all deal with things that we face in the black community. (DCF: This is such an important issue and conversation that needs to be had, so glad to have your voice in the mix.)

DCF: What are you Currently Conquering??

AA: I am dropping my logo and brand STAR this Thursday at the opening of the play. S-stand Tall And Rise. This is the brand I will use once I open my theater as well as when my entertainment group travels. We are looking for places to tour this play and bring more awareness to the school to pipeline statistics.

Let’s Get Social (Media):

Facebook : Star Armstrong
Instagram : @flymoney_trapstar
email: astraa8@gmail.com

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