Last week we announced the April Amber Grant finalists and today we’re elated to announce not one, but two winners.
Please take a moment to check out our interviews with each winner below.
Ashley DeKellis & Samantha Strom
Hazel Lane is a subscription box service that helps people explore the world, without having to leave home. Every month they send a carefully curated box of surprise goodies from that month’s selected city, taking great care to represent that place’s unique spirit and flavors. San Francisco’s box was foodie focused, while LA’s was sun & health. NYC will be fashion-forward, and Austin will be WEIRD!
We asked Ashley & Sam a few questions about their venture, and here’s what they had to say:
1. When spotlighting a new city each month, you must encounter many products. How do you select the items and businesses you feature?
We do find a ton of swoon worthy companies and products in every city. We work with our network, our members, friends, friend-of-friends, bloggers and anyone who wants to nominate a brand. Because we are committed to featuring locally-made, small brands that are eco-friendlier, our pool of products is automatically narrowed down. We also tend to feature a lot of female-founded businesses. Our final decision is usually when we both say “I have to have this and so-and-son would love it too.” It’s very scientific. =)
2. Do you get to go to these places and personally pick out the products yourself?
One day we will. That’s our goal! We’re lucky that we have enthusiastic supporters and members who help out in the meantime. We recently had a subscriber email and tell us she’s sending US a product she thinks we will like from a city she thinks we should feature. It’s a lot of fun to see people get so excited and engaged with the process from start-to-finish.
3. What is your favorite product you’ve found so far?
Oh this is a tough one! We really love everything we’ve put in the boxes so far. The top three are probably: Poco Dolce Chocolate and *plastique from San Francisco & Miss Marissa by Ebba from the Brooklyn box.
4. If you could visit one city in the world, right now. What would it be?
Paris, France! We have wanted to travel to Paris together since college. Ashley was a fashion major and took 4 years of French. With that knowledge under our belts, we can at least say “pardon moi, Ou se trouvé Le centre commercial Le plus proche?
Translation, Excuse me, where is the nearest shopping mall?” That’s all we really need to know, right?
5. Do you have any advice for any other moms out there looking to start their own business?
Yes, It sounds cliche because it really is…”Do what you have a passion for”. There is so much work that goes into starting a business. From web design, pricing, product selection, legalities, budget…but most of all time not spent with your family while working on the business. It’s been a struggle working on something you hope will benefit the future of your family but in turn requires a significant amount of time away from them. I’m still trying to balance work and family and honestly have a hard time finding a happy medium. Just surrounding myself with positive people, asking for help (babysitters, friends and mother-in-laws) and the overall love for my family helps keep the dream alive and flourishing.
ArtInFact Magazine is content platform for entrepreneurs, creative thinkers, and independent brands in New York City. It was created to provide early adopters with coverage of creative startups and micro-trends.Their chief goal is to empower independent creatives and small-scale entrepreneurs who have not been able to garner press attention, but have incredible products and services.
Here’s what Semmi had to say:
1. How well did the ladies on your team know one other before starting ArtInFact? How did you meet?
We first met each other four years ago at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. None of us are originally from New York City, so we quickly bonded. Getting adjusted here can be tough at first, especially when you don’t know anyone. But we really lucked out! We collided over a common interest in not only building our profiles as entrepreneurial, creative storytellers, but also supporting the endeavors of the people we feature. After graduating, we kept in touch. Despite working for different channels and media platforms, we continued to cheer each other on and support one another. We all had big dreams before coming to the city, and our friendship has empowered us to continue achieving them. Knowing each other is a real privilege; we are basically like family!
2. What inspired you to launch a magazine together?
We were inspired to start ArtInFact Magazine because we realized that so many entrepreneurs and creative professionals in this city could not get their stories told. In our day jobs, we kept noticing how independent brands and startups couldn’t get the same kind of coverage or attention as mainstream brands. New York is a city built and run by entrepreneurs from all different sectors. Yet the startups that get routine coverage are often tech ventures or companies that have major investment backing. We wanted to create a platform for those who don’t have a celebrity cosign, but truly care about their work and have a remarkable product. We are here to capture the independent spirit of New York.
3. Once you’re officially registered as an LLC, what will be your first plan of action?
Once we are registered as an LLC, we plan to roll out ads and take ArtInFact Mag into the real world with events, pop-up sales, and partnerships with independent brands. Although we are a content platform, one of our top priorities is to empower creative startups beyond telling their story. We are dedicated to building a community, not just an audience. Our events will also be linked to a mobile app where startups and creative professionals can register their company and get noticed!
4. Do you have any advice for those who are in the startup business in NYC looking to get in touch with you?
We are always on the hunt for new startups or ideas. If you are based in the NYC area, all you have to do is pitch us via our contact page. In your pitch, don’t be afraid to get personal. Tell us about your work and what inspired you to get started. And it doesn’t matter if you haven’t sold millions of units or are just starting out − we want to know about you! As we’ve learned in our own journey as a startup, the most important thing is to just do it. By working consistently, producing a lot of work, and putting yourself on a deadline, you will reach new heights.
5. What’s the most rewarding part of owning your own business?
To have full autonomy over the quality of work we produce and to be able to tell the stories of people we feel truly play a vital role in our communities is a great feeling. As entrepreneurs, we have put ourselves in a position to empower others. The most rewarding feeling is when a reader reaches out and tells us how a story impacted them or when an entrepreneur we’ve profiled expresses thanks. We understand how tough it is to get noticed and we are constantly in awe of underdogs. That’s who we are here for. Starting your own business involves so much risk, every story we publish is an opportunity to encourage other like-minded spirits to keep going! Failure only happens when you quit.
We’re honored to be able to help each of these fantastic businesses in a small way! Stay tuned for more inspiring applications and winner interviews, and don’t forget – the deadline for our May Amber Grant will be here before you know it!