Archive for the ‘ Grant Recipients’ Category

August Amber Grant Winner Announced

Monday, September 17th, 2012

WomensNet.net is excited to announce that Valeria Albino, of luxuryrentalsinternational.com,  has been chosen as our Amber Grant Winner for August.  Our judges loved her story.  Valeria took a crisis and turned it into a great business opportunity.  Please take a minute to check out her story below.  And remember that we’re now accepting applications for the WNN AmberGrant for September!
We could be telling your story to the world next month.

VAlbino
WNN: Congratulations on being selected our August Amber Grant winner!…

VA:  Thank you! This is SO amazing!!! I couldn’t be happier!

WNN:  Please tell our readers about your business.

VA:  I’m 24 years old and own a VacationRental business  in Puerto Rico. I started in 2010, when I was a law student and my parents could not afford to pay our house mortgage. My dad had lost his job and my mom was working 2 jobs to compensate. Their income was not enough to pay the monthly mortgage. My family dedicated many years to flipping houses and making a profit out of it. In 2010, the real estate market fell apart and they were left with a big mortgage payment and all of their retirement funds stuck to the walls of a big house. I decided to help them by putting our house in the vacation rental market and welcome visitors to our beautiful island of Puerto Rico. Little did I know, it would be such a success.

WNN: How did your business grow from renting your parents’ home to offering other homes in the Caribbean?

VA:  When neighbors and old friends in the area found out what I was doing, they asked me to rent their properties as well. I realized at the time that I was not only helping my parents get through the economic crisis, but also old friends who found themselves in the same situation. It was a big relief for many property owners at the time. The word spread and suddenly I needed to build an organized business operation in order to continue listing more properties. As the company grew, I built a great website that served as a free platform for advertising vacation rentals in the Caribbean. Lots of realtors and owners in St. Barts approached us with their interest in advertising their properties.. And the rest is history!

WNN: How has your business gone so far?  How many people do you employ?

VA: We continue to grow every day as we constantly add new, amazing and interesting properties to our inventory. We now have close to 200 properties in the Caribbean, a sales office in Las Vegas and a fantastic network of fabulous property owners and amazing vacationers!  We have 5 members in sales and accounting. In Puerto Rico, well, I employed my friends and family 🙂 My brother in the technical support area, my parents in the property management and 3 friends who currently work as sales agents. Total I would say 11.

WNN:  What was your biggest challenge in building the business?

VA: I would say my biggest challenge was going through law school and building the company at the same time. But SO MANY people have had faith in me that I can’t even explain. Most of the owners are very influential people in the island and they’ve trusted us to do the best advertising, property management and luxury concierge service. It’s been amazing having such a great group of people trust our services.

WNN: Tell us more about your plans for marketing your site and business with the Amber Grant.

VA: Our plans are to have villas and destinations worldwide. In order to do that we need to invest in a new and more robust/ powerful website and a strong marketing campaign that targets the most exclusive group of people, both owners and travelers. We plan on affiliating with multiple travel agencies and villa agents to split profit and grow our inventory.This Amber Grant award means more than just the $500. It is an acknowledgment to minority women doing great things and I’m just thrilled to be a part of it!..

WNN: What’s the greatest thing about your business experience?

VA: This business was born from seeing my parents struggle with their economic situation and I’ve been able to help many other owners in the same situation by inviting families and friend create great memories in their beautiful  properties.

 

 

June Amber Grant Award Winner has Humor

Monday, July 2nd, 2012

WomensNet.net is proud to announce our Amber Grant Winner for June, Nicole Shellenberger, from Allentown, NJ.  Nicole and her sister are co-owners of Better Half Bitter Half (www.bhbh.biz), a small business that creates greeting cards focusing on the bitter or more challenging parts of life.  We hope you love her story below as much as we did.  Also, a friendly reminder that we’re now taking applications for the July WomensNet.net Amber Grant.  Please take a few minutes to tell us your story if you would like a chance at winning

WNN:  Our judges were charmed by your business.  Tell us about the inception of Better Half Bitter Half.

NS:  Our stationary business started when my sister went through a divorce and I couldn’t find a funny card for her. We talked about how there aren’t cards to help you through the bitter times in your life and make you laugh when you want to cry. Hence we came up with Better Half Bitter Half. We focus on humorous cards for the better half of your life with engagement, marriage, pregnancy and then break up, divorce, plastic surgery, unemployment, coming home from war, battling cancer and much more. After we printed our first round of cards, our mother was diagnosed with stage 3C ovarian cancer. We have focused our business on the cancer cards, car magnets and t shirts –and have been partnering with foundations so we can raise money and awareness.

WNN:  Who comes up with the copy for the cards?  Is it a brainstorm session?  Any alcohol involved?!

NS: Gina and I write the cards. Sometimes we will think of something randomly throughout the day and call the other person, sometimes it is over drinks and sometimes it just comes when we least expect it! Gina’s daughter (my Goddaughter) is 17 years old and our artist.

WNN: Which card is your favorite and why?

NS: Our favorite card is the Birthday card with the cake on the front that reads, “I order shots in honor of your birthday” on the outside and “Please select from the menu” on the inside and gives choices of cheeks, eyes, forehead and lips. We like it because we are in our early 40’s and this is when you start to feel like you look older and make jokes about getting botox. We also love our two cancer cards because they are now close to our heart since our Mom was diagnosed.

WNN: Do you sell your cards anywhere other than online?  What is your marketing plan at this point?

NS: We sell our cards in several local stores as well as in Colorado, Virginia and Georgia. We went to the National Stationary Show in New York City in May and had a great success. Our marketing plan is to focus on the cancer aspect and to work with non-profits. We are currently partnered with the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition, the Sarah Parvin Soccerfest and Girls Love Mail. We bought the domain sites www.knockingcancerout.com and www.knockcancerout.com. We want to get these up and running and offer cards, t-shirts, journals and car magnets to create our business and to also give back. We will also continue to sell our thirty other cards that focus on the Better and Bitter times in life.

WNN:  Do you envision your business turning into something bigger than Hallmark?!!

NS:  We want our business to be huge and mostly because we want to bring a smile and some hope to those battling cancer. We want our boxer character to be associated with “Knocking Cancer Out.” We want to work with non-profits and to have our boxer become a logo that is recognized and associated with cancer and beating the disease. Our idea is to eventually change the color of the boxer so it will be teal for ovarian cancer, pink for breast cancer, etc.

WNN:  How is your mom doing?

NS: Our Mom will get her 6th and hopefully final round of chemo at Fox Chase in Philadelphia on July 11th. Our Mom is a beautiful woman inside and out. She has been an amazing role model our entire life but the way she has handled this disease is remarkable. She has lived her life and stopped in for chemo when needed. The battle became a bit harder after her 4th treatment but she is determined and doing well. We are encouraged by her strength, inspired by her attitude and grateful that she is our Mother.

May 2012 Amber Grant Awarded to Tri4Freedom.com

Wednesday, June 6th, 2012

We’re thrilled to introduce you to the WomensNet.net Amber Grant winner for the month of May. Paula Heron is the head of a non-profit, Tri4Freedom, Inc. Below is a short interview with Paula. We hope you’re as inspired by her story as we were. And as a quick reminder, yes, we are now taking applications for the June Amber Grant. It only takes a few minutes to share your story with our judges.

WNN: Can you tell WNN readers about your business?

PH: Tri 4 Freedom is about using the sport of triathlon to do three main things: create awareness about human trafficking, promote fair trade in sport, and help support people who are survivors of human trafficking. Tri 4 Freedom has only been going for 6 months. In this time we have hosted an indoor triathlon which raised funds for trafficking survivors in Kentucky. We also set up at fair trade events and running/triathlon events and sell T-shirts made by survivors in India. In a few days, I – along with 4 other athletes — will endure a 27 hour triathlon to represent the 27 million people enslaved worldwide. The finish of this triathlon will coincide with a fair trade festival where vendors and organizations will showcase their efforts in combating human trafficking.

WNN: And what is your business model in terms of funding this effort?

PH: My goal with Tri 4 Freedom is to eventually develop a line of fair trade triathlon apparel that will not only help empower survivors or women in impoverished communities but will reinforce the importance of the principles of fair trade and make people aware of the growing rate of human trafficking.

WNN: Would it be fair to say that you want to use your entrepreneurial skills to support a cause as opposed to simply making money for yourself?

PH: Yes, most definitely. Tri 4 Freedom is a social enterprise that exists for the sole purpose of improving people’s lives. People who, because of their circumstances are vulnerable to being exploited, or have been freed from a trafficking situation and are trying to re-build their lives. I have endless energy and passion for this cause and my new entrepreneurial role is one I take very seriously.

WNN: The judges were moved by your idea of a cause-related apparel line. Can you tell us why/how you were drawn to the cause of human trafficking – and how it melded with triathletes?

PH: My awareness of human trafficking came from a movie. But I didn’t know just how prevalent human trafficking was all over the world, including the United States. The form of human trafficking that plagues my mind, in particular, is sex trafficking of women and children. The trickery involved in luring women into this trade and the subsequent brutality I find deeply disturbing and horrifying. I think of my own journey moving away from my home country of South Africa to pursue my dream career, and that victims of human trafficking are just like us – yet vulnerable because all they want is a better life for themselves and their families. Targeting triathletes in my passion for fighting human trafficking was a natural fit for me because of my involvement in the sport and the uniqueness of what I am trying to accomplish. The causes that do have a presence in the triathlon arena are mostly health-related, rather than human rights. Triathlon is a growing sport and I think is an effective platform to not only raise awareness about human trafficking but I believe to potentially be a powerful driving force in promoting social and environmental sustainability.

WNN: Tell us a bit about the notion of “fair trade in sports.”

PH: The availability and consumer awareness of fair trade items is increasing. The most common of which include goods such as coffee, chocolate, clothing, jewelry and crafts. While some fair trade sports apparel does exist, it is very limited and does not include triathlon apparel. I applaud the move toward the use of more Eco-friendly fabrics in performance apparel but to date I am unaware of any fair trade certified triathlon-specific apparel. Fair trade in sports goes beyond apparel and includes examples such as having fair trade coffee served at races, using fair trade chocolate in sports nutrition products and using ethically made sports products in general. With regards to human trafficking, sports items made by trafficking survivors in particular would help empower them to re-build their lives and raise awareness about the travesty of this issue. Racing events are already shifting toward going “green” signifying environmentally friendly – the same should be true for ensuring people friendly. Triathletes, and sports men and women in general, have the power to drive social change just by challenging and altering the status quo.

WNN: What are your plans for the Amber Grant?

PH: I’ll use it to buy fair trade coffee. Typically at a small local triathlon has as many as 200-400 athletes compete. What I do is set up a Tri 4 Freedom tent at these races to display our shirts and give out information about what we do. One way to engage the athletes and spectators is by having coffee available that attracts them to the tent. I did it this past weekend and I had bought coffee and all the supplies and was selling it for $2 per cup. The idea didn’t work. Folks who came by wanted coffee for free. Our financial situation, being so small, won’t allow for us to do this. The Amber Grant will allow me to give cups of coffee free to people who came by our tent and still allow me to pass out information on human trafficking and fair trade. The flyers, posters and stickers on human trafficking we get free from the US Department of Health and Human Services.

April Amber Grant winner is Brown Girl Surf

Sunday, April 29th, 2012

We’re excited to announce the WomensNet.net Amber Grant winner for March… Farhana Huq of Oakland, California… Congratulations to Farhana. We were inspired by her story – and we’re sure you’ll be inspired by what she shared with us below.

As a quick heads up, we’re now taking applications for the April WomensNet.net Amber grant. Please be sure to tell us your story if you want to be considered for our women’s business grant.

And now here is our latest grant winner, Farhana Huq.

WNN: What has inspired you to be self-employed?

FH: For the past 11 years, I started and ran a non-profit called C.E.O. Women (Creating Economic Opportunities for Women). I founded it when I was 24 years old and started it with $1,000. It served over 2,000 low-income immigrant and refugee women by providing them with training, support and access to capital needed to start their own small businesses. I founded it after being inspired by seeing one of my aunts in my family start a salon business in the front room of her home as a single mother of three children with little economic opportunities. I have always believed in women’s economic self-sufficiency and independence as shown through my 11+ years of work supporting female entrepreneurs.

On December 21, 2011 due to the very difficult economy, we closed C.E.O. Women. After helping other women for the past 11 years achieve their dreams, I felt it was time to go after mine. I love to surf. I love to travel. I believe in the empowerment of women and girls around the world. And so on February 15, 2012, I launched Brown Girl Surf TM.

WNN: Wow, that’s a great story… Tell us about Brown Girl Surf TM.

FH: Named in honor of the first female surfers from Polynesia, Brown Girl Surf TM is a journey to find, support and share the stories of trailblazing women and girls from around the globe – starting with the world’s first female surfers: The first girls in the Gaza Strip are taught to surf amongst dropping bombs and flying bullets. A 22-year old journalism student becomes India’s first female surfer. These are the extraordinary stories of Brown Girl Surf TM.

Simultaneously, in California, a woman in her 30’s leaves her career after 11 years to pursue competitive surfing (that’s me!). As Brown Girl Surf’s TM narrator, I share my own crazy journey of trying to go pro in the midst of my search. Supported in part by a Brown Girl Surf TM T-Shirt line and sponsorships, the mission of Brown Girl Surf TM is to elevate the historical significance of these unique women and girls, and to connect them with resources and support (and each other!) so they can continue making waves of change in their communities now and for generations to come.

I have partnered with PhDs, ocean scientists and other friends to help me with documentation of the communities and female trailblazers we meet along the way. I have also partnered with key ocean activists so Brown Girl Surf TM can also serve as an effective platform from which to be active about issues that affect the ocean. You can read more about this on the website. www.browngirlsurf.com

I am focusing on building a strong platform for Brown Girl Surf TM by sharing my journey to find trailblazing women and girls around the world. This includes building a following and a strong online presence which I’ve been focusing on for the past month. At the moment, I am focused on cultivating followers and supporting the journey through Brown Girl Surf TM T-shirt line.

WNN: We read on your website that you learned to surf at age 26 — and that you have traveled to more than 40 countries. There has to be a story there somewhere on how you first learned to surf. Can you share it with us? And what is the favorite country that you’ve visited?

FH: In my initial years in California, I met a good friend who surfed and would always hear him talk about it. I had always wanted to learn. So, at 26 I took my first surf lesson on a trip to Maui, becoming the first woman in my family to really ever attempt a board sport. I remember my father as a reluctant bystander wondering why his daughter was trying surfing at this age when he thought I should probably be getting married and settling down. I’m usually a very good beginner at things, but as the first lesson proved, I was horrible! I felt a little intimidated learning a new sport in which most of the participants were men. I remember my dad giving me a lecture after seeing me struggle to paddle and barely get up on the board. He basically said that surfing was not for me, and that I had to be much more “acrobatic” in order to do it. I think he was also convinced it was a sport for young, short boys only given that the man showing me couldn’t have been more than 5’2″. Even with my years of martial arts and dance training, it was the hardest sport I ever had to learn. I tried a few more lessons over the years but was left feeling pretty discouraged.

A few years later, I happened to see a program on TV about a women’s surf camp. I remember thinking to myself that this was the opportunity I had been waiting for to really try my hand at surfing without having to worry about looking like an ass in front of other male surfers. “THAT is what I am going to do!” I remarked to my mom. So at 30, I took off to Costa Rica for 3 weeks in hopes that I would learn to surf (again). I was still horrible at surfing and afraid of the ocean. I paddled out on my second day. A huge wave came and broke on me and dragged me halfway to shore. My board hit me over the head and left me with a huge bump. I became terrified of the power of the ocean for those weeks but when I came home, something in me could not live without being in it. So I started braving the cold Northern Californian waters and was soon paddling out and catching waves on my own. Before I knew it, I started traveling around the world in search of waves. Something felt so empowering being able to maneuver through the ocean, catch a wave and ride it. Today surfing has become more of a way of life for me. And yes, I still do get bumped on my head from time to time 😉 and still get scared. But part of what makes it amazing to me is the opportunity to face my fears and work through them. It’s a really powerful experience.

As for a favorite country, I absolutely love Fiji for its beautiful people, breathtaking landscape and for the epic surf. I also admire greatly its ability to still hold on to and preserve its culture and land in our age of globalization. I’ve spent some of my happiest days in Fiji and would go back any day in a heartbeat.

WNN: Share with us how you think surfing for women around the world is a means to social and economic change.

FH: I really think the concept of trailblazers as they exist in different societies plays an important role in accelerating social and economic change. Brown Girl Surf TM is a journey focused on finding and studying these trailblazers starting with the world’s first female surfers. I want to see if this theory holds true.

Surfing is emerging as a globalized subculture and there are new surfing communities popping up around the world by the day. This often presents unique opportunities and challenges for females taking up the sport in often male dominated communities. The fact they are doing something so different, and often in cultures where it’s not socially or culturally acceptable for women or girls to be engaging in a sport like this is in itself changing society.

Take Ishita, for instance. She is India’s first female surfer. She is the CEO of her own surf camp and is actually pioneering the way for a future beach and surf culture in her country. She also is playing a key role in educating the local villages on the importance of ocean conservation, potentially altering her community’s relationship to the ocean. Ishita is doing something her foremothers have never attempted before and in doing so, expanding the horizons of what’s possible for women in her culture. Who knows how many other girls will get the opportunity to do this sport because of her, or even be inspired or influenced to go after new dreams. Moreover, the emergence of surfing in new communities might possibly offer economic opportunities for the local population of women and girls to take part in its various sub economies, depending on how that surf culture emerges in that society. But it may also exploit them too.

It’s a fascinating time to follow the emergence of female surfing subcultures. I want to meet these women and girls and see for myself how they are influencing social and economic change. I have partnered with amazing people like Dr. Krista Comer, of Rice University, who will be part of the Brown Girl Surf TM journey. Krista spent ten years of her life studying emerging female surfing communities which culminated in a book called “Surfer Girls in the New World Order,” one of the single most important studies done on women and girl’s surfing (IMHO). We are currently planning our first trip to India to visit Ishita this year.

WNN: Is there any advise you would give to women entrepreneurs who might be struggling with their dreams?

FH: That would depend on what their struggle is I guess. If money is a challenge for you, my advice would be to see how far you can get on your savings first. I’d also suggest researching the web to find sources of capital. There are also all sorts of outstanding resources and platforms to raise money with today like Indiegogo or Kick Starter. You can find capital and resources via non-profits that really work to help women of all backgrounds from low-income women to minority women to women to women with high growth business ideas etc… These can be of tremendous value in helping you work through your struggles and risks as you begin a business. I highly recommend connecting with one of them. I know this first hand because I ran one of them for the past 11 years. Side note: one of my best entrepreneur buddies financed her jewelry company completely on credit cards and loans from family, so be creative.

If it’s lack of time and juggling, I’d strongly advise you to think of your business as a project, and see if you can get a small piece of it up and running first. I don’t always necessarily advocate for a comprehensive business plan until you can get further into your discovery phase and actually get some of your business launched. Things are changing so quickly and the best test to understand your market and your business is to try to get some part of it up and running first. If you can, you’ll be able to get valuable information and data on your market and product or service and can then use that to construct a fuller plan. But that’s just me. Everyone is different and you have to know what will best help you.

If it’s lack of drive, I’d advise you to reconsider your idea. If your idea doesn’t keep you up until odd hours of the night working away, you may want to reconsider it. Passion drives everything in early stage businesses and you need that energy to keep you going when you don’t have the resources at your disposal to accomplish your goals. Passion is a function of many things but often is a function of how interesting something is to you. Sometimes you may know what your passion is but you just don’t know how to shape it into a business. In other instances, you may be struggling to figure out what your passion or calling is. Working with an executive coach that can help you explore this can be very valuable. They will be able to ask you the right questions and give you things to work on that can help you better get in touch with your passions.

Lastly, I’d advise all female entrepreneurs to just keep doing what they are doing if they are passionate about their idea, and to evolve it according to the things they learn along the way. I’ve seen entrepreneurs grow their business from just a single product hobby with no website and no marketing collateral into a web based business with multiple product offerings that supports them financially. It can take time though. So make sure you love what you do and could see yourself doing this for a few years. And also, always have an exit strategy for yourself. You never know what opportunities or life shifts you may experience on your path but if you are a true entrepreneur, chances are you might get bored after some years (or decades) in your business and you might feel the need to give birth again down the line to second or a third enterprise. So try to think about how you would exit your business down the road if you were to run out of money, you lose passion for it, your leadership becomes obsolete or you decide to focus on some other aspect or project in your life.

Rabun Manor in Georgia owned by former US Marine wins Amber Grant

Friday, March 16th, 2012

We’re excited to announce the February winner… Ginger Isom owner of Rabun Manor in Dillard, Georgia… Congratulations to Ginger.  We fell in love with her story – and we’re sure you’ll be inspired by what she shared with us below.
As a quick heads up, we’re now taking applications for the March WomensNet.net Amber grant.  Please be sure to tell us your story if you want to be considered for our women’s business grant.
And now here is our latest grant winner, Ginger Isom.

WNN: What motivated you to become a self-employed woman?

I’m a former United States Marine.  I was a comptroller at the Headquarters of II MEF in Jacksonville, NC for 4 years. I also served an additional tour in Iraq where I supervised a platoon of marines and managed a detention facility.  For the last 10 years, I’ve been in the Executive Protection field as a close protection agent.  My clients have been varied – Heads of State, foreign diplomats, Fortune 500 individuals.  A year ago, I began looking for property in the Tennessee/Georgia areas to purchase that would serve as a kind of home base for me. During this search, however, I came upon a number of properties that would allow me to open a retreat/event center — a dream of mine for many years.  A dear friend, Nancy Childress, a Methodist pastor of 25+ years in Great Falls, Virginia, has walked with me through this process and in doing so, has realized that this has been a life-long dream of hers as well.  We teamed up to purchase an incredible property—Raburn Manor – in Dillard, Georgia in June of 2011. Since acquiring the property, we have been making trips from Great Falls, VA to Dillard working primarily on the grounds. We will be permanently moving to the property this spring.

WNN: Tell us about your business.  We were very intrigued by your story. 

Thanks… Rabun Manor is a 3-acre piece of property located in Northern Georgia in the middle of 3 national forests. The main building is an 11,000 square foot structure consisting of an 1850’s house and 2 new additions. The addition to the left of the old house is a 2-story event center (7,500 sq.ft. — seats 250). The addition to the right is a private dining room (seats 25). The old house has 6 bedrooms and 6 baths, a living room, library, and large foyers. Since the new additions are ready to use, we are currently booking events for that space. The old house, however, needs much repair and work. We hope to gradually make these repairs so these areas can be used for overnight guests. Nancy and I want to offer our accommodations to a variety of people groups. Our goal is to provide an event/retreat setting for various healing/therapeutic opportunities to people seeking wholeness in their lives.

WNN:  You said, “Our goal is to provide as event/retreat setting for various healing/therapeutic opportunities to people seeking wholeness in their lives.”  Please expound on that some more.

Nancy and I have a desire to reach out to hurting people.  The setting at Rabun Manor is so beautiful – it lends itself to healing.  We are both well networked with a community of experts in all fields of wellness.  Between the two of us and this community, we plan to offer people a wonderful place to rest, to restore, and rejuvenate.
Among the people we would like to help at Rabun Manor are:  returning veterans (and spouses) from Iraq and Afghanistan, married couples, ministers and their spouses, people who have experienced loss, parents of handicapped children, divorcees, and those recovering from addictions.  There will be 2 components:  1) organized teaching sessions with experts in various fields of healing – conducted in small group settings, and 2) the royal treatment – gorgeous rooms, comfortable furnishings, nature at its best, delicious food, and the kindness of our staff throughout the time visitors are with us.

WNN: How do you plan to use the Amber Grant money?

One of our first projects is the downstairs bedrooms of the old house. This area is handicapped accessible, and we think it’s the most critical to get ready for overnight guests.  A group of men who have been friends of Nancy Childress for many years, have volunteered to come to the Manor in May. These men are all professionals in the construction field and have offered to give 3-4 days to getting these areas ready to use. The grant would be used to purchase materials for this renovation. Specifically, we would purchase: sheet rock, paint, molding, and bathroom fixtures.

WNN:  Can you tell us a little bit about the history of the Manor?

Rabun Manor was formerly named The White Hall Inn.  The house was built in 1853 in Athens, Georgia.  It was purchased by the White family who used it as a school for the children of their family.  The house was moved to Dillard at the turn of the century.  It was loaded onto a train in three pieces, and then hauled by mule to its current site.  The Whites lived in the house until the mid-1980’s when they sold it to a local restaurant owner.  He added a two-story event center with 2 commercial kitchens, and opened a full restaurant.  He also ran a Bed & Breakfast in the old house.  The decline in the economy took its toll on the owner, and he lost the property about 4 years ago.  It had been sitting these years until Nancy and I purchased it in June of 2011.

WNN:  If you had to give women entrepreneurs one piece of advice, what would it be?

We would tell women entrepreneurs to never give up, never lose hope, and never stop praying!

WNN: Anything else you would like to add?

Nancy and I are extremely excited about our venture. We both love people and are especially sensitive to those that are hurting. We believe we have the ideal setting for retreats of all kinds. We just need assistance in getting our facilities up to par so they can be offered to these special people groups. We appreciate the Amber Grant.  We enjoyed reading about other grantees — quite a variety of women making a difference!  We’re proud to be among them — making contributions to our community and region every day.

January WomensNet Amber Business Grant Awarded to Kavalena.com

Wednesday, February 8th, 2012

We’re excited to announce the December/January Amber Grant winner… Valorie Nash owner of Kavalena Clothing in Rosellle, Illinois… Congratulations to Valorie. We fell in love with her story – and we’re sure you’ll be inspired by what she shared with us below.

As a quick heads up, we’re now taking applications for the February WomensNet.net Amber grant. Please be sure to tell us your story if you want to be considered for our women’s business grant.

And now here is our latest grant winner, Valorie Nash.

WNN: Valorie – congratulations on being our latest Amber Grant winner. We were wowed by your application.

VN: Thank you! This grant means a lot to me, not just because it would immensely help my business, but the reason for the grant is the same reason I started my company. When I was 19 my dear friend Kate Vaudrey (also 19) died suddenly of a brain aneurism. She was the most vivacious, loving, caring, and wonderful person I ever knew. She lived life by the motto of “Don’t waste a minute of your life,” and since the day she left us I have strived to live my life the same way! Kate truly lived, and left a lasting impact on everyone that ever knew her. Her life’s legacy has far outlived her, and still lives on. I started Kavalena because I want to do something with my life that will outlive me, and I believe helping people by providing for their basic human needs will do just that! I don’t know how many days I will have on this earth, but I do know that I will dedicate every second I am here to helping and loving the people around me and the people around the world!


WNN: We saw on your website that 50% of your profits will go to helping the needy and underprivileged. Please tell our WNN readers
what inspired you to start Kavalena?

 

VN: Kavalena has been in business for a little over 3 months now. When I graduated college I was excited to get into the corporate world and make my mark. However, the economy had a little different plan. After searching and searching for a job and having no luck I decided I would hire myself and
start a business I could be proud of. I had visited an orphanage in China over a Christmas break, and was gripped by the wonderful work they were doing. It was an orphanage for children with severe physical and mental disabilities. The children were so sweet and the founders of the orphanage were doing
the very best they could on the limited budget they had. After meeting those children and the founders of the orphanage I knew I wanted to help them financially, but had no idea how. Now, over a year later, I knew exactly what I wanted my company’s purpose to be “to help provide for the basic needs of
as many people around the world as possible,” starting with the children at the orphanage! Now everything I do with this company is based on that goal. I love waking up every morning and getting to do work that is directly going to help feed, educate, and strengthen the children at the orphanage, and
eventually children around the world. I am excited to use this grant money to grow the company so we can continue to expand our reach to help provide for the needs of people around the world!

WNN: Tell us about your business. We love the scarves you create…

I’ve combined my love of fashion with my knack for sewing to create hand-made infinity scarves for both men and women. You can order them directly from the kavalena.com website. We’re working hard to build Kavalena into a brand the whole world can get behind so we can make a real dent in world-wide problems like starvation, deaths from preventable diseases, and children having no access to clean water or education. It is an uphill battle, but every time I look at the pictures of the children I met in China a year ago and remember all the children I saw with bloated bellies because of hunger I know every challenge, struggle, and all the hard work is worth it!

WNN: Have you always had a passion for owning a business? We ask this because we
are true believers that companies that are built on passion, survive over those that
people just do for “a job.”

VN: I have always wanted to own my own business. Growing up I watched my dad start and grow his heating and electrical repair company. He loved what he did, loved the variety of every day, and especially loved being his own boss. Now owning my own company I feel the same way. I love learning new things every day, working hard to accomplish my goals, and then being able to see all my hard work pay off. Kavalena is literally a dream come true for me. I love the work, but even more than that I love being able to help others through my company. Every time I get to write a check to help meet a food,
water, health care, education, or freedom need my heart jumps with joy knowing that someone’s life is better because of my company and everyone that purchases from us. 3. What have been great business decisions that you have made and what were the results?
WNN: What has been your best business decision?

VN: Seeking out advice and knowledge has been one of the best things I have done since being in business. The more I learn the better equipped I am to make smarter business decisions that help the company grow. I’ve discovered how willing people are to share their knowledge and experiences,
and have learned immensely from each of the informational meetings I have had with experts in the industry. After each meeting I usually leave with a long list of ideas, people to talk to, ways to market more efficiently, and so much information I almost don’t know where to begin. The knowledge I’ve gained from talking to people who have already been through my situation is one of the most valuable things to my company, and has helped grow our marketing, improve the quality of the goods we sell, connected us to important business leaders, and even helped with legal advice.

WNN: With the above being asked, we have to ask….what have been your worst business
decisions?

VN: All of my worst business decisions have come out of hasty actions. I’ve learned that if it is a good idea today it will still be a good idea tomorrow or even months down the line. Every time I have rushed into something, and not thought it through, looked at the market, or done research on the topic, it has
backfired on me. When I first started my company I was so excited about it I wanted to expand right away, so I launched a line of crocheted headbands. I came up with my own pattern and style without looking at the trends for headbands right now. I bought all the materials, made up the headbands, and
put them on the market. Only one sold. Needless to say, that was a huge flop, and taught me a rather pricy lesson to do the research and not jump right into anything without thinking it through beforehand.

WNN: What will you use the $500.00 Amber Grant for?

VN: $100 of the grant will be used as prize money in a logo design contest for college students majoring in graphic design, art, or marketing. $200 will go to purchase a surger machine. This machine will give our products a finished, professional look, and will give a higher quality feeling to every item we
sell. The final $200 will go to purchase the materials needed to create a mini-line of clothing goods that will go on sale this summer. This line is what will generate profit to sustain the business, as well as provide for food, water, health care, educational, and freedom needs of people around the world.