The Funemployed: Maria Moss

DCFWho Are You?
Maria Moss, Owner & Principal Consultant at Phoenix Leadership Solutions, LLC. Our goal is to work with companies to help support employee development through leadership and employee training sessions. We focus on building the workforce through strengthening the interpersonal and intrapersonal skills of all employees.

Welcome to Savannah

DCF: Why do you love what you do? What makes you funemployment?
MM: I love what I do because it is in line with my personal mission of servitude AND I get to do it on my terms! I have been a fan of training and development since my earliest days and was literally a training groupie; attending any and every employee development course offered at my company. Years later the student became the teacher, as I later moved into a training role for several years and then in 2015 started my own consulting company doing exactly what I love everyday on on my own terms. It was not easy taking that leap into entrepreneurship, yet it has been the best decision I have ever made. I walk into a client site and I am usually working with people who are hungry for self-development, ready to learn new skills and improve their careers and lives. I get to not only teach them, but at the same time I get to learn about challenges facing employees in all different types of companies from federal government to non-profit…and everything in between!

DCF: Who was your first mentor and how did you find them?
MM: My first mentor was my first manager when I moved into a training role, Deidre “DeeDee” Williams. It was initially very informal as I looked at her as just my “boss.” Very early on, however, I realized that the talks in her office, the stretch assignments, chats about my future and occasional “blessing out” were all a part of a very valuable mentoring relationship that lasted until she left the company for a VP role in another organization. (DCF: It’s an amazing blessing when people just take you under their wing with no hesitation.) Dee Dee would be the first person I would go to when I was frustrated or excited at work. She would ask the right questions to help me find my own answers and provide lessons by sharing stories about her journey. Once she left we stayed in touch and when I was thinking of starting my consulting business, she was one of my first calls to talk it out and get advice.

DCF: What’s your happy place?
MM: My happy place would be in a room full of learners who are sharing and learning from each other! I don’t mind if I am the student or the teacher, just being in a group of energized minds is my happy place. (DCF: It’s amazing how interchangeable those roles are!)  


DCF: Where do you get your energy?
MM: My daughters! My husband and I have four super star girls who are my motivation and my inspiration for everything I do.  I had our oldest at the age of 18, my senior year of high school. There were so many people counted me out being a teen mom, and that was also my biggest motivation (DCF: So glad you ignored all the haters!). I wanted to make her life one of ease and to be able to say “in your face” to everyone that counted us out. Mission accomplished 🙂 Now, their support, excitement and encouragement keeps me going.  A couple months ago my 3rd grader had entrepreneur as a vocabulary word. She used it in a sentence and said “My mom is an entrepreneur, she has her own business where she is the boss.” I cried real tears because she came home so excited to tell me she used me and that she is also going to be an entrepreneur. That is my fuel on a cold day! (DCF: This is also a great example of why representation matters!)

DCF: What does balance mean to you and how do find it?
MM: Balance to me means having a designated time and place for what I need to be focused on. I realize that when I’m giving 100%, it will not necessarily be evenly distributed 50/50. Sometimes I’m back to back with clients and travel at about 90%, and I can only be a “Facetime mom”which to me is about 10%. I accept that and also know that there will be times where I am home, doing my room mom thing and volunteering at the school at 99% and may only glance over my business emails and plan a time to answer them at a later date which is about 1%. This to me is balance. Knowing that I can be successful at work AND at home life, be amazing at both…just not always at the same time.

DCF: What sacrifices did you have to make to get here?
MM: I would say the biggest sacrifice for me was comfort. I was used to that 9-5 guaranteed paycheck life for so many years. When I made the leap to entrepreneurship, it was after twice losing a job. In college, I was fired from the job I thought I would work at forever for insubordination, by a manager I did not get along with. It was 8 weeks before college graduation and 2 weeks before I gave birth to our second daughter. It was a big shake up because I knew I could not run out and get a job at 9 months pregnant, and yet it gave me the space to mourn that job, celebrate my daughter’s birth, graduate from college and move into the industry I actually was studying for in college. Twelve years later, I was 5 years into my dream job as a Senior Leadership Development Specialist at a Fortune 500 Company traveling the world and leading our training department team, who served all the leadership training needs in a company of 10k employees. I walked in to a staff meeting in Oct 2015 to news that my position, along with several others, were being eliminated as a part of a company wide re-organization. I had the option to apply for other jobs in the company, yet none of them would be doing what I absolutely loved…training and development. In that moment, I again faced what I had come to feel was the myth of job security and comfort. I thought back to 2003 and all that I had accomplished since being fired, and reflected on the risks I would not have taken had that never happened. In that moment, I decided to forgo comfort and step out into my dream with the realization that the worst thing that could happen is I would have to go and get a job. Three years later, I am so glad that I sacrificed comfort for my dream.

Moss Wall

DCF: What struggles have you faced as a women in your industry?
MM: My industry is consulting and it was historically dominated by middle aged men, who moved into consulting roles after years of corporate work, and are often retired from at least one career. I’m coming in to consulting as a 30-something female who doesn’t have 20 plus years at an organization to fall back on as the basis for my expertise. I also tend to work a lot with manufacturing organizations, some of which provide military contracting and manufacturing work on planes, submarines and ships. This makes for interesting interactions as I have routinely held training sessions for as many as 50 people, where I was the only female in the room. In these instances, I do quickly work to build a connection and usually within the first two hours things are flowing smoothly. I often feel that I have to work against the misconception that I am not qualified to consult at some of the high levels, such as those of the C-suite, because I am younger and less career experienced than a lot of my peers. Several times I have had to tell that little voice to “shut it” and focus on showing up like I was supposed to be there. I am constantly learning to stay abreast of new business trends, working on my own professional development and I have gone back to school for my MBA with a concentration in International Business in order to stay competitive.

DCF:  What is the early advice you didn’t listen to that you wish you had?
MM: Some early advice that I wish I had listened to would be from my English teacher the late Mrs. Lula Bass. She always told me I was smarter and better than I thought I was. She never let me slack and she pushed me like no other. I think had I left my AP English class with Mrs. Bass’ firmly words firmly planted in my mind, I would have gone a lot further a lot quicker than I did. It goes back to what was comfortable and every time I got comfortable, I think I was also limiting myself.

DCF: What was your greatest failure and what did you learn from it?
MM: My greatest failure I would say was getting fired from that insurance job in 2003. I think from it, I learned that I needed to better temper myself towards the outcome I wanted. As much as my manager and I did not get along, had I had better emotional intelligence I could have navigated that situation better and possibly left on my terms which is what I was planning for after the birth of my daughter and graduation. From that failure I also learned that I can survive and bounce back from ANYTHING! That was a huge lesson as I really hit a low during that short period of about 8 weeks, both personally and professionally (lost job, baby on the way, partner arrested and sent away for 8 months, good friend died unexpectedly.) I was able to keep pushing and come through on the other side better than ever. In hindsight I am so thankful because that whole situation taught me resilience!


DCF: What was your proudest moment to date?
MM: My proudest moment to date was when I was starting my consulting business and after coming up for air, realizing that my daughters (ages 12, 10 and 6 at the time) had been watching me and had started some businesses in the neighborhood at the same time (babysitting and dog-walking). It was the realization that they watch me even when I am not thinking they are, and I am their model in every form. When I worked at the Fortune 500 company, they said that was where they were going to work when they grew up. When I decided to start a business, it expanded for them their version of what was real and possible. Now they talk about businesses and entrepreneurship all the time as a new option. I was so proud because despite the awards I’ve won, travel I have done, magazines I have been in….my legacy is the most important thing to me and seeing that entrepreneurship spark in my girls so early let me know I was on the right path to raising some truly amazing game changers.

DCF: What are you Currently Conquering?
MM: I am currently working on developing a Business Training Program for high school students. Having had the opportunity to work with some pretty amazing organizations both domestic and abroad, I want to help students develop some of the skills they may not be taught at home to help them be successful. Right after college I went into working with troubled juveniles and noticed that a lot of the challenges they faced were not necessary around intelligence but more around life and relationship skills. (DCF: There are multiple types of intelligence, troubled kids are often very smart, just underexposed).  Things like how to communicate their frustrations effectively, business etiquette, interpersonal communication, emotional intelligence or even simple things like how to shake hands and or dress for an interview. These are invaluable life and business skills that a lot of schools near me are asking for, so this year I will be running my first pilot at Beach High in Savannah, GA with the support of several staff members and we hope to grow it from there.

My other passion is travel and so I am also working on travel goods and services targeted at the “Girl’s Trip” travelers! To launch in the Spring of 2018, GirlzTrippin will initially provide recommendations and assistance with booking excursions, later moving into travel goods and full service travel booking.

Forsyth Park

DCF: What’s Your Social Media!!
IG:  @Phoenix_leadership
Twitter: @PhoenixLead1
LinkedIN: Maria Moss
IG: @GirlzTrippin

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The Funemployed: Dr. Ashley Elliott

DCF: Who Are You?
Dr. Ashley Elliott. I’m the owner of Vivid Innovations Consulting, LLC. I am a mental health clinician, author, and motivational speaker. (DCF: Drop that wisdom on us!)

DCF: Why do you love what you do? What makes you funemployment?
AE: I love being able to make an impact in someone’s life. People trust me with their personal histories. They come to me and reveal their ups, their downs, their struggles, their vulnerabilities, their fears, and their dreams. I’m always honored to be allowed into such a personal space with clients. To be so raw and uncut with your emotions and thoughts, and then allow me to help you acquire the tools you need to live the life you desire, that’s huge. (DCF: Vulnerability is such a beautiful and fragile thing, I love how you describe it.)

image_6483441 (1)

DCF: Who was your first mentor and how did you find them?
AE: My first mentor was my first clinical supervisor when I began my clinical externship in grad school. Dr. Trina Powell was so genuine and very empathetic. She taught me how to trust myself in a room full of others who are older than me, of a different ethnicity, or just don’t see the world the way I did. She help me be comfortable with being a young clinician.

DCF: What’s your happy place?
AE: My happy place is any place that includes the people I love. I love spending time with my loved ones. It keeps me grounded. Life is so short and when you’re working on building your professional brand, days can pass by in a blur. Spending quality time with my family and friends slows the world down. (DCF: That’s so true, spending time with people that I love can make the whole world stops and nothing else matters but us laughing together.) 

DCF: Where do you get your energy?
AE: My daughter keeps me going. Anytime I’m ready to explode or I feel discouraged, I think of her. She’s a pure source of joy. (DCF: Oh yeah, you can see it in that smile and those dimples!! She’s a light!)


DCF: What does balance mean to you and how do find it?
AE: Balance is the ability to effectively manage different aspects of your life without constant burn out. Honestly, I’m still working on finding true balance. It takes practice! It is so easy to feel like you’re too work focused, or you’re procrastinating. I’ve learned to listen to my body more. Stress takes a toll on my body and spirit. When I start feeling spiritually, emotionally, or physically drained, I try to fix it as fast as I can.

DCF: What sacrifices did you have to make to get here?
AE: I was pregnant with my daughter during my last academic year of grad school and gave birth to her a few weeks before going on internship. I had to go back to class a week after having her. Toward the end of internship I was doing 52 hour weeks and still bringing work home. I missed her first crawl. Her first birthday was a Monday. I went into internship sullen because I just wanted to spend time with her. I left work 15 minutes early and got into an accident (not my fault!) just as I was preparing to turn onto my street. I remember crying in the ambulance because I missed spending the entire day with her. I was on bed rest for weeks. After that experience, I’ve tried to minimize sacrifice when it comes to my loved ones, especially my baby girl. (DCF: Wow that sounds like a lot to push through and lessons learned but you never let it stop you and that’s important!)


DCF: What struggles have you faced as a women in your industry?
AE: I’ve been told by advisors that I had to choose between being a good mom and a clinician. I’ve been told I wouldn’t be chosen for internship because I was pregnant. I’ve been told that I shouldn’t mention my child at work. I was actually told by a potential supervisor that if I planned on being a mom with appointments and weddings and “all that”, I need not apply. Oh, the stories I have are endless! (DCF: I’m regularly amazed at how far we still have to go but I’m so happy that none of that stopped you from pushing forward!)

DCF: What is the early advice you didn’t listen to that you wish you had?
AE: My mother always pushed me to be great, and I always pushed for perfection. How many times has my mother told me that it is “ok to no be perfect” ? That push for perfection created some killer anxiety. I’m still working on it. (DCF: That drive to want everything to be perfect is so real but I’m learning that sometimes failing is just as great as getting it right!)


DCF: What was your greatest failure and what did you learn from it?
AE: My greatest failure was the moment I was told my dissertation would not be signed. It meant I had to wait a whole year for the next cohort’s graduation. I was devastated! My dissertation chair told me I needed to take my time, graduation would come. He kept telling me to be a mom. So I did! I took those extra months to be the best mom I could be. I grew so much! Six months later, I became Dr. Ashley and a more confident mom.  (DCF: Sometimes failure is a gift in disguise.) 

DCF: What was your proudest moment to date?
AE: I will never forget the hug my daughter gave me after my graduation. She told me I did a good job. All I want in life is for her to say, “My mom did a good job. I’m proud of her. That’s my mommy!” (DCF: You did a great job and you keep doing more!!)

Screenshot 2018-02-14 14.22.39

DCF: What are you currently conquering?
AE: I’ve just released a book, “In My Safe Space” (DCF: Buy it!!). It is a collection of poems, reflections, and process writings from the past 12 years of my life. It shows how I processed the world around me, how I got through my ups and downs, how I coped. Writing is one of my favorite coping tools. Writing literally, saved my life. I wanted to share this with the world in hopes that it could inspire someone to find a “safe space”, a positive coping mechanism. Also, I wanted to show people that clinicians are people too! We deal with heartbreak, grief, anxiety, and on and on. I’m all about humanizing roles.

I’m also working on some new partnerships for mental health related groups and professional groups for people of color. I’m working on an innovative subscription service that I can’t wait to launch as well. Book number 2 is being written, new speaking engagements, and new heights to explore.

What’s Your Social Media!?!
Visit to check out my website.
You can find me on Facebook via the Vivid Innovations Consulting, LLC page or my personal page Ashley Elliott. My Instagram is @drvivid and my Twitter account is @vividinnovators.




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Today in Black Fashion History: Elizabeth Hobbs Keckley (1818-1907)

Elizabeth Hobbs Keckley was born into slavery in 1818 in Virginia. As a talented dressmaker, Keckley gained a powerful network of supporters and was eventually able to buy her freedom from her St. Louis owners for $1200 (more than $30K today!!) in 1852. In 1860 she packed up her family and moved to Washington DC, where she was able to establish her own dressmaking business. This is where she first met Mary Todd Lincoln, the future FLOTUS. After President Lincoln was elected in 1861, the FLOTUS hired Keckley to be her personal stylist and dressmaker and the two women became close confidants. While very little consensus exists on which designs can be attributed to Keckley, The Smithsonian and several other collections across the country have a pretty good idea of which dresses are hers due to her simplistically streamlined design style, which was not very common in the Victorian era. Check out this article by The Smithsonian for more information, and stay tuned for my next post about the iconic black designer, Ann Lowe!

madam elizabeth

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Celebrating Black History through Fashion

Happy Black History Month! *Note from Morgan – Alex is a friend of DCFunemployment who is going to take on us a journey this black history month through fashion!! She will be popping in a few times this month to share with us.  Enjoy!!*

While I am always proud of my heritage, I believe this month is especially important for shining some light on black excellence and achievement that otherwise may not receive the recognition it deserves.

To celebrate, I’ve decided to share some of my knowledge throughout the month on black fashion history and influential black designers! If you saw my last post then you know this is something I am extremely passionate about, and I hope to provide some inspiration for other young designers of color so that they know that they do, in fact, have a place in this industry. Let’s get to learnin’!

First, let’s talk about some history. Have you ever heard of the term “Sunday Best”?

While the history of African Americans in this country began through slavery (starting in 1619 when the first African slaves were forcefully brought to the Virginia colony), fashion was still very important.

During the week, slaves wore old simple “work clothes,” often hand-me-downs or clothing that they made from the fabric scraps of slave owners. But on Sundays, they were generally permitted to attend church with other slaves. The role of religion and church and their influence on black fashion began during slavery, but this tradition has continued even into today!

The term “Sunday Best” came from these times. With protestantism spreading in the new colonies, the concept of “saving negroes from their heathen religions” became popular. This was also incredibly controversial at the time, as some believed that once slaves converted to Christianity, they had to be given their freedom. Eventually, slave owners found a way to have legislation passed that negated that idea, allowing them to keep their slaves even after they converted.

In order for slave owners to be considered “good Christians,” their slaves had to have at least one good outfit for church on Sundays. Slave women who were able to sew would often use scrap materials to fashion their own pieces for themselves and their families for church. This became an opportunity for black women to differentiate themselves using clothing during church, which was the only time they were permitted to be social. This tradition of “Sunday Best” can still be seen today through beautifully-made formal outfits for women, often accompanied by ornate hats in church.

While this is most common in black Baptist churches in the south, black women from all over the country put on their “Sunday Best” every week, showcasing their gorgeous styles with the pew aisles as runways. Some of my fondest memories growing up are of my late grandmother bringing my sister and I to church with her, and pretending to pay attention when I was really just mesmerized by the beauty around me. How could you not be?!

*Note from Morgan, I grew up with this fabulous hat lady!!

Thanks for reading along and learning with me! I can’t wait to share my next article for Black History Month where I’ll be writing about Elizabeth Hobbs Keckley (1818-1907), a slave-turned-designer who bought her own freedom and became the personal dressmaker and stylist for Mary Todd Lincoln. Stay tuned, and stay woke!


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The Funemployed: Jihan Thompson of Swivel Beauty

DCFunemployment: So… Who Are You?

Jihan Thompson, co-founder and CEO of Swivel Beauty, a new app that makes it easy for black women to find the right hairstylists for their hair type (natural, relaxed, braids, locs, etc). Prior to starting the company (with my best friend Jenny Lambert), I was a magazine editor for nearly 10 years, working at publications including Glamour, Marie Claire, and O, The Oprah Magazine.

JennyJihan Photo

DCF: Why do you love what you do? What makes you funemployment?
JT: Swivel has always been a passion project of mine. I’ve always wondered why it was such a struggle to find the right stylist, whether I was new to a city, traveling, or just wanted to switch up my look. (DCF: Seriously, it’s like trying to find the holy grail).  So, finally, after getting fed up, I decided to create the solution I wish existed. This is my dream business, which means every day feels like funemployment. (DCF: Thank you! Cause we were all struggling/suffering with this one!) 

DCF: Who was your first mentor and how did you find them?
JT: I’ve had so many great mentors. But the first was probably one of my first bosses early in my magazine career. She was a dynamic, natural leader and she saw my potential early on and encouraged me to me to take on assignments that might have appeared above my title or position. As a result, I learned to take risks really early in my career and they always paid off. (DCF: Taking risks is so important otherwise it’s very easy to get stuck and never try anything new.)

SWIVEL_Salon Directory

DCF: What’s your happy place?
JT: My happy place: Working on Swivel. Seriously. Sitting on my couch, brainstorming ways to grow and build this business makes me incredibly happy(DCF: I love that you are doing what you love and also helping out black women). Starting a business is tough, but I love what I’m creating.

DCF: Where do you get your energy?
JT: Talking to our customers! Every time someone tells us about a really great hair day they had because of a stylist they found on Swivel, I’m instantly recharged. We’re doing this to fill a need we know black women have — so when we get feedback, it pushes up to keep going and growing. Also, sleep. 🙂 I try to prioritize sleep (not always successfully-see below), because I’m not the type of person who can do well on just a few hours. When I sleep well, I’m fired up the next day. (DCF: Sleep is so important, we all definitely could use more of it!)


DCF: What does balance mean to you and how do find it?
JT: Let me get back to you on that. 🙂 (DCF: Hahaha touche!) As a first-time founder, I’m honestly still learning how to find balance. There’s always more to do, even if the deadlines are self-imposed. We have big dreams for Swivel, so it means long hours are required right now. But I will say, it’s great to have a cofounder. We check in with each other and make sure we can cover when one of us needs time off to recharge. It’s important to take time for friends, family, and self-care, so I feel my best when I can work a full, productive day, but still call it quits and do something unrelated for a few hours.

DCF: What sacrifices did you have to make to get here?
JT: I read somewhere, that when you’re launching a company, you can only pick three from this list: work, sleep, family, friends, and fitness. I think that’s so true, it’s impossible to give your all to every category because launching a company consumes so much of your time. Time is so precious so I really try to prioritize my family and friends, but that often means sleep and fitness take a hit. (DCF: You’ve got the right idea, balance where you can!)

Swivel Screenshots2

DCF: What struggles have you faced as a women in your industry?
JT: I don’t have to tell you that women, and particularly women of color, are less likely than men to get funding for their tech startups. We’re now beginning to raise money for our company, so we have to be aware of the obstacles we might face.

DCF: What is the early advice you didn’t listen to that you wish you had?
JT: I wish I had started my company sooner. It’s easy to say, “Oh, I can’t leave my job..I can’t do x, y, or z.” But now that I’m on the other side, I so wish I had taken the leap earlier. (DCF: We often get in our own heads with these things but I’m so proud of you for making the leap!)

DCF: What was your greatest failure and what did you learn from it?
JT: This is a tough one! I’ll get back to you on it.

New York Times Screenshot

DCF: What was your proudest moment to date?
JT: Swivel was profiled in The New York Times last December (DCF: see above). A total pinch-me moment. So many people have ideas, but to see it come to life and to get that level of validation is still one of my proudest moments.

DCF: What are you Currently Conquering?
JT: SWIVEL is growing in DC soon! We’re actively signing on stylists and salons. So, if you know anyone good, have them fill out this survey! Thank you!

DCF: Let’s Get Social (Media)!!
Instagram: @swivelbeauty
Twitter: @swivelbeauty
Facebook: SwivelBeauty

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The Funemployed: Leslie Wong and Alexis Jenkins of Burgundy Fox

DCF: So… Who Are You?

Leslie Wong and Alexis Jenkins are the co-founders of Burgundy Fox, an e-commerce brand on a mission to empower and celebrate all women. (DCF: Yasss to more of this in 2018!). After experiencing how uncomfortable and antiquated it was to shop for intimate apparel, they started Burgundy Fox to create an inclusive approach to beauty and a seamless shopping experience. They have a collective 15 years of background in marketing and customer experience for consumer facing brands and creative facing businesses including Rising Tide | HoneyBook. They are the hosts of a weekly iTunes podcast, Seamless, that shares the stories of women who inspire mind and body confidence in us all. Leslie lives in Chicago, loves listening to business podcasts and can finally handstand (on a good day). Alexis lives in NYC, is an avid follower of fashion and was a competitive tap dancer (as a child). Connect with them through @burgundyfoxco, @lesliewong15 or @officially_alexisjenkins.

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The Funemployed: Cara Peterson

DCF: Who Are You?
Cara Peterson, Badass Creative/The Effortless Perfection Myth, I am an artist and aspiring author. My art is mainly linoleum printmaking and collage, and my book is about the gender issues millennial women face while in college.

womens march

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The Funemployed: Riley Sheehey

DCF: Who Are You?
Riley Sheehey, Make Things Co. (more than likely soon to be Riley Sheehey Illustration) (DCF: Both are great name!) Freelance watercolor artist/illustrator.

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The Funemployed: Michelle Breyer

DCF: Who Are You?
Michelle Breyer, co-founder of Named one of the 50 Most Influential People in the Multicultural Market by Women’s Wear Daily in 2015, Michelle Breyer is a visionary entrepreneur who, in 1998, took a personal frustration over out-of-control curls and built it into the largest social media platform for hair. Today, TextureMedia – the parent company of NaturallyCurly – reaches 16 million people per month and influences more than $1 billion annually in hair product spend. What started as a hobby now includes two consumer digital sites, an ecommerce platform and a consumer Insights division. Michelle has consulted with such iconic brands and companies as Unilever, L’Oreal, and Paul Mitchell to help shape their textured-hair business plans, and also worked with dozens of entrepreneurs to launch their brands for the textured-hair market. She now is executive vice president of strategic partnerships. (DCF: Way to turn a “problem” into a passion!)


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The Funemployed: Rachel Rosenthal

DCF: Who Are You?
Rachel Rosenthal, Founder/Owner of Rachel and Company. I’m a Bethesda-native, wife, and mom to identical twin girls. My business – Rachel and Company – is a professional organizing firm in the DC-metro area specializing in home organization, closet design, and home moves. Since launching Rachel and Company nearly 10 years ago, we’ve helped over 1,700 families get organized! I’m also creator of The Playbook, an organizing how-to guide for every area of your home.


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